Sunday School Bible Survey:      II THESSALONIANS

Theme: Second coming of Christ

Key verse:
"When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day" (1:10).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle Paul (1:1)

DATE: Second Thessalonians was evidently written very soon after Paul's first letter to that church. The occasion may well have been the return of the bearer of the former Epistle and his report.

THEME: The Thessalonian converts were "shaken in mind" and "troubled," supposing, perhaps on the authority of a forged letter as from Paul, that the persecutions from which they were suffering were those of the "great and terrible day of the Lord," from which they had been taught to expect deliverance by "the day of Christ, and our gathering together unto him" (2:1)

The present letter, then, was written to instruct the Thessalonians concerning the day of Christ, "and our gathering together unto him" (I Thess. 4:14-17) and the relation of the "day of Christ" to the "day of the Lord." First Thessalonians had more in view the "day of Christ"; the present Epistle the "day of the Lord."

The Epistle is in five divisions:

  1. Salutation (1:1-4)
  2. Comfort (1:5-12)
  3. Instruction concerning the day of the Lord and the man of sin (2:1-12)
  4. Exhortations and apostolic commands (2:13—3:15)
  5. Benediction and authentication (3:16-18)

NOTES & OUTLINE from J. Vernon McGee:

  1. Persecution of believers now; judgment of unbelievers hereafter (at coming of Christ), Chapter 1
  2. Program for world in connection with coming of Christ, 2:1-12.
  3. Practicality of coming of Christ, Chapters 2:13 — 3:18


The first letter to the Thessalonians gave rise to further questions, and Paul is attempting to answer these. There was circulating in the Thessalonian church a letter or report, purported to have come from Paul, which was inclined to disturb the Christians. This false report claimed that Christ had already come and had already gathered out the church to Himself and that the world was then living in the judgments of the "day of the Lord." Their present persecutions confirmed this false report. Paul attempts to allay their fears by stating definitely that "our gathering together unto him" is yet future (II Thess. 2:1) and that "the day of the Lord" has certain forerunners which must first come. The apostasy and the "man of sin" must come first; and the removal of the remnant of believers at "our gathering together unto him."

Every era of persecution or trouble has given rise to the false impression that the church is going through the time of judgment which Christ identified as the "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21). This period has been so clearly identified by Christ that there is no reason for getting panicky or being stampeded into an unwarranted position. Christ said that there is coming a small interval which will be blocked off by "such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21). Nothing like it has taken place before, and nothing like it will ever take place afterward. Has there ever been such a period of unparalleled trouble? The answer is obvious.


The first epistle to the Thessalonians deals with the Rapture, Christ's coming for believers. The second epistle relates the return of Christ to that phase where He returns to the earth in judgment and where one of the accomplishments is in connection with the "man of sin," whom He "shall destroy with the brightness of his coming" (II Thessalonians 2:8). These two aspects are clearly delineated. The interval between these two phases is the Great Tribulation, which can be further identified with the 70th week of Daniel 9 as a period of seven years.

The Day of the Lord:

This is a phrase that occurs in the writings of the Old Testament prophets where it relates to the future kingdom promised in the Old Testament. The day of Christ is a New Testament expression (2:2; cf. I Corinthians 1:8); it relates here to the future of the church. The day of the Lord is connected with the coming of Christ as it relates to the setting up of the kingdom. The day of Christ is connected with the coming of Christ for the church. Whatever else is implied in these two statements, certainly this is basic.

The teaching in I Thessalonians is that the saints who have died will have part in Christ's coming for His living saints; in II Thessalonians it is that the saints who are alive will not have part in the Great Tribulation. The return of Christ has a peculiar and precious meaning for His saints.

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —