by Rev. Ian Arnold
Have you ever felt misunderstood and, subsequently, have seen the need to correct an impression you have left people with? Surely, most of us have.
In a nutshell 2 Thessalonians is Paul, realising he was misunderstood and, now, seeking to correct an impression he had left people with. It is an Epistle that followed – relatively –hot on the heels of the first one. Paul hadn’t wanted to waste time
In his first Letter, or Epistle, to the Thessalonians, he had touched on the subject of the expected and assumed to be imminent return of Christ (the “Parousia”). Some of the members of the Church in Thessalonica had taken this as reinforcing their sureness that this second coming would happen at any moment. But sureness that it would take place was not, Paul wrote, sureness was not to be confused with immediacy. In any case, it would be preceded by “the falling away”, and by “the man of sin” being revealed. Some people, clearly, had even downed tools and were refusing to work, since (as they had come to believe) this “Parousia” could take place at any day. “If anyone, wrote Paul, will not work, neither will he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.” (Chapter 3, verses 10 & 11).
All things considered, it can’t be wondered at that there quickly came to be widespread expectation of the Lord making his second Coming and that it was imminent. The Lord Himself spoke so extensively about this (See Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21).As well, and critically, we have His words – indeed, promise – that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things pass away.” (See Matthew 24, verse 34 and Mark 13, verse 30) So quickly and so strongly embraced, as this promise was, that it is believed to have been the reason why nothing, so far as we know, was written down – Gospel wise – in the years immediately following the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection.
So what, from a New Church point of view, are we to make of this?
Firstly, we have the teaching that all revelation manifests in appearances of the truth, accommodated to the apprehension and reception of the people amongst whom it is first received. So, and taken literally, this was the Lord resorting to appearances of truth because this made necessary connection with, and meaningfulness to, His early followers.
Secondly, within the letter, or the literal sense of the Gospels (as with the Word as a whole) the Lord is teaching us about states of the Church both generally and with regard to the state of the church in us.
The thing is, within all that the Lord taught about His second Coming there is an underlying message, that there would be an end and a new beginning. It would not be the end of the world but the end of a spiritual Age, or “Church”. We can think of the ancient Jewish Church and of the old-style Christian Church, both of which came to fall into disconnect with heaven. There is always survival, of people or of good and truth within us, right through until the old passes away. “This generation will not pass away until all these things come to pass.”
I urge you read and reflect on, “Arcana Caelestia” (“Secrets of Heaven”) 10497.