1. Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
1. Rogo autem vos, fratres, per adventum (vel, de adventu) Domini nostri Iesu Christi, et nostri in ipsum aggregationem,
2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
2. Ne cito dimoveamini a mente, neque turbemini vel per spiritum, vel per sermonem, vel per epistolam, tanquam a nobis scriptam, quasi instet dies Christi.
1 Now I beseech you, by the coming. It may indeed be read, as I have noted on the margin, concerning the coming, but it suits better to view it as an earnest entreaty, taken from the subject in hand, just as in 1 Corinthians 15:31, when discoursing as to the hope of a resurrection, he makes use of an oath by that glory which is to be hoped for by believers. And this has much more efficacy when he adjures believers by the coming of Christ, not to imagine rashly that his day is at hand, for he at the same time admonishes us not to think of it but with reverence and sobriety. For it is customary to adjure by those things which are regarded by us with reverence. The meaning therefore is, |As you set a high value on the coming of Christ, when he will gather us to himself, and will truly perfect that unity of the body which we cherish as yet only in part through means of faith, so I earnestly beseech you by his coming not to be too credulous, should any one affirm, on whatever pretext, that his day is at hand.|
As he had in his former Epistle adverted to some extent to the resurrection, it is possible that some fickle and fanatical persons took occasion from this to mark out a near and fixed day. For it is not likely that this error had taken its rise earlier among the Thessalonians. For Timothy, on returning thence, had informed Paul as to their entire condition, and as a prudent and experienced man had omitted nothing that was of importance. Now if Paul had received notice of it, he could not have been silent as to a matter of so great consequence. Thus I am of opinion, that when Paul's Epistle had been read, which contained a lively view of the resurrection, some that were disposed to indulge curiosity philosophized unseasonably as to the time of it. This, however, was an utterly ruinous fancy, as were also other things of the same nature, which were afterwards disseminated, not without artifice on the part of Satan. For when any day is said to be near, if it does not quickly arrive, mankind being naturally impatient of longer delay, their spirits begin to languish, and that languishing is followed up shortly afterwards by despair.
This, therefore, was Satan's subtlety: as he could not openly overturn the hope of a resurrection with the view of secretly undermining it, as if by pits underground, he promised that the day of it would be near, and would soon arrive. Afterwards, too, he did not cease to contrive various things, with the view of effacing, by little and little, the belief of a resurrection from the minds of men, as he could not openly eradicate it. It is, indeed, a plausible thing to say that the day of our redemption is definitely fixed, and on this account it meets with applause on the part of the multitude, as we see that the dreams of Lactantius and the Chiliasts of old gave much delight, and yet they had no other tendency than that of overthrowing the hope of a resurrection. This was not the design of Lactantius, but Satan, in accordance with his subtlety, perverted his curiosity, and that of those like him, so as to leave nothing in religion definite or fixed, and even at the present day he does not cease to employ the same means. We now see how necessary Paul's admonition was, as but for this all religion would have been overturned among the Thessalonians under a specious pretext.
2 That ye be not soon shaken in judgment. He employs the term judgment to denote that settled faith which rests on sound doctrine. Now, by means of that fancy which he rejects, they would have been carried away as it were into ecstasy. He notices, also, three kinds of imposture, as to which they must be on their guard -- spirit, word, and spurious epistle. By the term spirit he means pretended prophecies, and it appears that this mode of speaking was common among the pious, so that they applied the term spirit to prophesyings, with the view of putting honor upon them. For, in order that prophecies may have due authority, we must look to the Spirit of God rather than to men. But as the devil is wont to transform himself into an angel of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14,) impostors stole this title, in order that they might impose upon the simple. But although Paul could have stripped them of this mask, he, nevertheless, preferred to speak in this manner, by way of concession, as though he had said, |However they may pretend to have the spirit of revelation, believe them not.| John, in like manner, says:
|Try the spirits, whether they are of God.| (1 John 4:1.)
Speech, in my opinion, includes every kind of doctrine, while false teachers insist in the way of reasons or conjectures, or other pretexts. What he adds as to epistle, is an evidence that this impudence is ancient -- that of feigning the names of others. So much the more wonderful is the mercy of God towards us, in that while Paul's name was on false grounds made use of in spurious writings, his writings have, nevertheless, been preserved entire even to our times. This, unquestionably, could not have taken place accidentally, or as the effect of mere human industry, if God himself had not by his power restrained Satan and all his ministers.
As if the day of Christ were at hand. This may seem to be at variance with many passages of Scripture, in which the Spirit declares that that day is at hand. But the solution is easy, for it is at hand with regard to God, with whom one day is as a thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8.) In the mean time, the Lord would have us be constantly waiting for him in such a way as not to limit him to a certain time.
Watch, says he, for ye know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 24:32.)
On the other hand, those false prophets whom Paul exposes, while they ought to have kept men's minds in suspense, bid them feel assured of his speedy advent, that they might not be wearied out with the irksomeness of delay.