A few months after his First Letter to the Thessalonian Christians Paul wrote to them again from Corinth. This is our Second Thessalonians. His vocabulary is in places similar to his first letter and the themes are familiar too: steadfastness in face of continuing persecution, trust in the justice of God, who will repay everyone according to their deserts, defence of his own ministry as entirely selfless and exhortation to each believer to get on with his or her own work instead of busybodying about other people’s. Most remarkably, Paul’s account of the coming of Christ introduces a quite new element compared with the First Letter: the Lawless One, restrained until now, whose appearance and ultimate destruction remind us of the pictorial panorama in the book of Revelation.
Some scholars have concluded that both the similarities and the differences from First Thessalonians point to a different and later authorship. But there is no need to assume this to make good sense of what is said. Our 21st century atmosphere is not an abode of devils in human form, but the forces of evil within the human heart are no less real. The point about chapter 2 is not to give a forecast of the End, still less a timetable, but to counsel against an excited assumption that the Day of the Lord was imminent. Paul’s instruction is the same. Get on with good works and godly living and leave the Last Things to God.