2 Thessalonians Jewish Bible New Testament and comment David H. Stern
1. But in connection with the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and our gathering together to meet him, we ask you, brothers,
2. not to be easily shaken in your thinking or anxious because of a spirit or a spoken message or a letter supposedly from us claiming that the Day of the Lord has already come.
3. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For the Day will not come until after the Apostasy has come and the man who separates himself from Torah has been revealed, the one destined for doom.
Misinformation can come from a spirit other than the Holy Spirit (see 1 Th 5:19-22, 1 Yn 4:1, 1 Kings 22:22-23), a spoken message, that is, a sermon or teaching, or a letter supposedly from us but actually a forgery (see 3:17&N for Sha'ul's authentication of this letter). Alternatively, if this last phrase is translated "a letter from us, supposedly claiming..."then Sha'ul is referring to a genuine letter of his, perhaps I Thessalonians, which was being misinterpreted to imply that the Day of the Lord has already come. While a similar error is reported at 2 Timothy 2:14-18, it is hard to see how Sha'ul's message of I Th 1:10,3:13 and especially 4:13-5:4 could be misunderstood in this way. In any case, don't let anyone deceive you (compare 2C 4:1-2&N).
4. He will oppose himself to everything that people call a god or make an object of worship; he will put himself above them all, so that he will sit in the Temple of God and proclaim that he himself is God (Ezekiel 28:2)
The man who separates himself from Torah will sit in the Temple of God (compare Mt 24:15). Although there are those who consider the Temple spoken of here to be metaphorical (individual believers, IC 6:19; or the Messianic Community as a whole, 1С 3:16), that seems unlikely tome. After all, Sha'ul wrote when the Second Temple was still standing, and nothing in the passage suggests that his intent was other than to be taken literally. For this prophecy to be fulfilled, then, there has to be a Temple; but there hasn't been one since Titus destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
The seventeenth benediction of the 'Amidah, recited thrice daily in the synagogue, includes these words:
"...Adonai, our God,,., restore the worship to the Holiest Place in your House.... Blessed are you, Adonai, who restores his Sh'khinah ["glorious presence"! to Zion."
This implicit prayer that God rebuild the Temple is made explicit in a meditation after ihe 'Amidah:
"May it be your will, Adonai our God and God of our fathers, that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days."
Reform Judaism, on the other hand, has no interest in a rebuilt Temple now or ever and doesn't expect one; neither does it expect a personal Messiah. Since the seventh century, the site in Jerusalem which God authorized for the Temple has been occupied by the second most important mosque in Islam, the Dome of the Rock. Just how this particular piece of real estate might become available for Temple-building is not a topic on which I care to speculate. Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem, writes in his autobiography,
"I receive about twenty or thirty letters a year, mainly from Fundamentalist Christians of various churches, urging us to build the Temple, because they regard this as a prerequisite for the return of Christ. At press conferences I am often asked whether we plan to rebuild the Temple. I usually reply that according to Jewish tradition, the Temple already exists and will come down from heaven to its proper place when the Messiah comes — and that's a chance everyone has to take." (For Jerusalem, p. 230)
The Third Temple is the one which the man who separates himself from Torah will sit in, but il will probably last only a short time before it is destroyed. After that, the Messiah himself may build a Fourth Temple according to the pattern of Ezekiel 40-45. My city's distinguished mayor is partly right: something "will come down from heaven"— not the Temple but the New Jerusalem (Rv 21:2); it will have no Temple building, since the Temple will be God himself (Rv 21:22).
5. Don’t you remember that when I was still with you, I used to tell you these things?
6. And now you know what is restraining, so that he may be revealed in his own time.
7. For already this separating from Torah is at work secretly, but it will be secretly only until he who is restraining is out of the way.
Sha'ul wrote to the Thessalonians, "And now you know what [in v. 7, "who"] is restraining." They knew, but we don't. According to Ernest Best (The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, pp. 295-302), interpreters have suggested various candidates for the "restrainer": God. the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, the Roman Empire, the preaching of the Gospel, and some force hostile to God. There are arguments against all of these, but the last makes most sense to me, since the phrase, "is out of the way," can reasonably be applied to the Adversary, Satan, who holds sway in the world now (Ep 6:11-13, 1 Ke 5:8, 1 Yn 5:19) but will be dealt with in the future by God (Revelation 12-13,20). At that time Satan will send forth the "'man who avoids Torah" (vv. 9-11 &N). Ernest Best offers this interpretative translation of vv. 6-7:
"And now you are aware of the hostile occupying power so that the man of rebellion will be revealed at his proper time. For the mystery which is rebellion is already at work; only until the hostile power at present in occupation is out of the way. And then the Rebel will be revealed."
8. Then the one who embodies separation from Torah will be revealed, the one whom the Lord Yeshua will slay with the breath of his mouth (Isaiah 11:4; Job 4:9) and destroy by the glory of his coming.
The breath of his mouth. Or: "the Spirit from his mouth."
9. When this man who avoids Torah comes, the Adversary will give him the power to work all kinds of false miracles, signs and wonders.
10. He will enable him to deceive, in all kinds of wicked ways, those who are headed for destruction because they would not receive the love of the truth that could have saved them.
11. This is why God is causing them to go astray, so that they will believe the Lie.
The Adversary is Satan (Mt 4:1&N), the ultimate evil force who, as confirmed in Revelation 13, empowers the man who avoids Torah with supernatural powers to deceive, in all kinds of wicked ways. Eastern cults, pseudo-religious movements and drugs are some of these wicked ways. Although the scientific ideology of our age might be expected to inoculate against gullible acceptance of such panaceas, there has been over the past three decades a revolt against scientism accompanied by a naive and uncritical recourse to anything that claims contact with "the beyond."'
According to an interesting book by McCandlish Phillips, The Bible, The Supernatural and the Jews, such quasi-religious movements contain Jews very much in disproportion to their numbers in the general population. He suggests as the reason for this well-documented phenomenon the fact that, no matter how much secular education we Jews may have or how alienated from our religion we may be, we are aware at some level that we are part of God's chosen people, and thus we are aware that there is indeed a "beyond" to be experienced. Since non-Messianic Judaism does not fill that inner craving for direct contact with God, and belief in Yeshua and the New Testament are considered forbidden, young Jews searching for the truth end up investigating all kinds of strange belief systems and experiences. Even if they abandon such weirdness for more "normal" escapes, such as materialism or politics, they are headed for destruction because they do not receive the love of the truth that can save them. (And all of this is no less true of Gentiles.) Messianic Judaism offers the solution to this problem — full acceptance of Jewishness coupled with full acceptance of the supernatural, but in God's way, not Satan's. For Jews and Gentiles alike this is the best prophylactic against going astray and believing the Lie.
12. The result will be that all who have not believed the truth, but have taken their pleasure in wickedness, will be condemned.
There is much speculation over exactly what this passage is talking about, since the events it speaks of have not yet occurred (in the view of Premillennialists; see 1 Th 4:15b-17N). The Thessalonians knew better what Sha'ul meant than we do, because he used to tell them these things (v. 5). Nevertheless, there is no shortage of opinions, all contradicting each other and all copiously supported by quotations from Scripture. My advice to those interested in pursuing these theories is first to read 1С 13:8-12, then to examine books on prophecy that present an overview of the The proof that the Day of the Lord has not come is that the Apostasy (or "the rebellion": Greek ё apostasia means literally "the standing away") has not come and the man who separates himself from Torah, who is destined for doom (KJV: "the son of perdition"), has not been revealed.
On this Apostasy which precedes the second coming of Yeshua the Messiah, see 1 Ti 4:1-5&NN; on the moral decline which is part and parcel of such rebellion, see 2 Ti 3M-9&NN. On the false teachers who will spearhead this evil movement, see 2 Ke 2: 1-3a&NN and Yd 4-16&NN; and on the attitudes of those who welcome them, see 2 Ti 4:3-4&N. But already such false teachers are present; in fact, as Sha'ul himself said later, the Messianic Community itself spawns them (Ac 20:28-31). Yochanan agrees and calls them Anti-Messiahs (1 Yn 2:18-23,4:1-6; 2 Yn 7), examples in advance of the final Anti-Messiah, whom Sha'ul here calls the man who separates himself from Torah. In such false teachers, who have "the spirit of the Anti-Messiah" (1 Yn 4:3), "already this separating from Torah is at work secretly" (v. 7).
The man who separates himself from Torah. Greek о anthropos tes anomias means, literally, "the man of lawlessness" or "the man of wickedness." The two parts of the word "anomia" are "a-" ("apart from") and "nomos" which in a Jewish context does not usually refer to law in general but the Torah in particular. Obviously a man who sets himself apart from God's Torah is lawless and wicked as well. His separation from Torah (here, vv. 7-8) or avoiding Torah (v. 9) should not be understood narrowly, as if his sins were things like eating shrimp or driving on Shabbat. Here "Torah" means all of God's teaching, God's way of ordering the universe, and he wants none of it. He is truly anti-Torah in the broadest sense.
Who is this man who separates himself from Torahl Clearly an evil figure, indeed, the very embodiment of evil. Such an apocalyptically evil figure is mentioned elsewhere in both the Tanakh and the New Testament. Isaiah speaks of a self-exalting individual (Isaiah 14:13-14), Daniel of the "little horn" and "the abomination that causes desolation" (Daniel 7, 9, 11-12); Yeshua of "false Messiahs" (Mt 24:4-28&NN, Mk 13:5-23, Lk 21:8-28); Yochanan not only of "Anti-Messiah" (1 Yn 2:I8-19&N, 4:3) but also of two beasts and a false prophet (Revelation 11-20&NN).
With differing details, such a figure is also found in other early Jewish apocalyptic literature. For example:
"The last leader of that time will be left alive. His entire army will be put to the sword; but he will be bound, and they will take him up to Mount Zion, and my Messiah will convict him of all his wicked deeds and will gather and set before him all the works of his armies. And after these things he will put him to death...."(2 Baruch 40:1-2)
As early as the first century (in Targum Yonatan, Isaiah 11:4) there is reference to an anti-Messianic figure called Armilus (Romulus, Rome). But it is in the post-Talmudic midrashim where one finds a sensational picture of the Anti-Messiah. In Pirkei-Ha-Mashiach he is called "Satan Armilus. whom the Gentiles call Antichrist."
He is six yards tall; his eyes are crooked and red, the soles of his feel are green, and he has two heads. This decidedly not jolly, green-footed giant claims to be the Messiah and God, rules the earth, gathers the world's armies against Israel, fights with ten kings over Jerusalem, kills Mashiach Ben-Yosef, and makes the stone impregnated by Satan from which he was born into an image for the Gentiles to worship. But God defeats him in the battle of Gog and Magog at the Valley of Arbel, and Mashiach Ben-David comes with deliverance for oppressed Israel. These fanciful accounts gained a significant place in medieval popular Jewry. See Encyclopedia Judaica 1:476-477, 11:1412-1415; and Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts, pp. 156-164.
The evil and hubris of tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin are well anticipated by New Testament passages such as this one, yet these villains do not completely fulfill the prophecy of Anti-Messiah. Anyone who thinks the prophecy is fulfilled by the Pope must be reading his own anti-Catholic prejudice into the text. Who, then, is the man who separates himself from Torahl He will "be revealed in his own time" (v. 6).
13. But we have to keep thanking God for you always, brothers whom the Lord loves, because God chose you as firstfruits for deliverance by giving you the holiness that has its origin in the Spirit and the faithfulness that has its origin in the truth.
By giving you the holiness that has its origin in the Spirit and the faithfulness that has its origin in the truth, Greek en agiasmd pneumatos kai pistei aletheias, literally, "by holiness of spirit and faithfulness of truth." The Revised Standard Version renders this, "through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." But the constructions in Greek are parallel, and there is no reason why "pneumatos" should be a genitive of origin but "aletheias" an objective genitive. See Ro 3:22N and Ga 2:16cN for the necessary background in understanding this point of Greek grammar. Furthermore, as explained there, I have found a systematic misreading of genitives as objective instead of subjective when related to the word "pistis" ("faith" or "faithfulness"), resulting several times in the rendering, "faith in Yeshua the Messiah." where it ought to be "Yeshua the Messiah's faithfulness."
14. He called you to this through our Good News, so that you could have the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
15. Therefore, brothers, stand firm; and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, whether we spoke them or wrote them in a letter.
Hold to the traditions. Both Christianity and Judaism have traditions which are not stated explicitly in Scripture. It is wrong to say, as some Protestants do, that Judaism has traditions but Christianity is free of them, as if this were a virtue. Not only is such a notion itself unscripturaJ, as proved by this verse, but, as a matter of fact, false, indeed impossible. A church group may have an ideology that upholds "Scripture only" and opposes tradition of any kind; but any observer— he need not be a professional sociologist— will have no difficulty discerning its traditions. Life without traditions simply does not exist.
Nevertheless, holding fast to traditions does not necessarily imply letting rigor mortis set in, failing to deal with new situations. While traditions conserve the wisdom of the past, the degree to which they should be modified to fit circumstances of the present is always a topic for discussion. This issue is at the root of the differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism. Messianic Judaism too, which upholds some non-Messianic Jewish traditions and some conveyed by the writers of the New Covenant Scriptures, has yet to join this debate in a productive way. It will have to do so because all religions, including both Judaism and Christianity, are rooted in tradition. Messianic Jews will have to make the point that believing in Yeshua does not imply giving up Jewish practices but may imply modifying them to take into account New Testament truth.
The traditions you were taught by us, by Sha'ul and his companions (1:1; compare 1С 11:2,23). Sha'ul's authority, as the one who brought the Thessalonians to faith in God and the Messiah, is to be obeyed, both here and at 3:4. In neither place is he domineering over them; rather, this expected obedience is in the context of his fervent prayer for them and his reassurance that God is faithful (vv. 16-17; 3:3,5).
16. And may our Lord Yeshua the Messiah himself and God our Father, who has loved us and by his grace given us eternal comfort and a good hope,
17. comfort your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed.
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