Advent 2020: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

The Text

13. And for this we ourselves give thanks continually to God, that you welcomed what you heard from us not as human words, but as it truly is – the word of God – that is active among you who are believing. 

14. Brothers and sisters, you became mimics of the churches in Messiah Jesus in Judea, because of the things you suffered from your people, just as they did from the Jews.

15. And these people, the ones who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out, are not trying to please God. They are against humanity. 

16. They hindered us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they might be saved. The fullness of their sins always comes, which will be wrath to them at the end. 

17. But we were orphaned from you, our brothers and sisters, for a little while, physically but not emotionally. We eagerly desired to see your face more than ever.

18. We wanted to come to you, I, Paul, tried one and twice, but was blocked by Satan. 

19. For what is our hope, joy, or crown of boasting if not you, and you before our Lord Jesus at his coming? 

20. You are our glory and joy. 


The theme of mimicry emerges again, a holdover from 1:6. The difference is who is imitating whom. The church in Thessalonica is imitating, not by choice or pleasure but by necessity, the mother church in Jerusalem. Just as that church was persecuted by Jews, by their very people, so too the Thessalonians were persecuted by their own people. I wonder if this stung Paul to write, because he was the Jew of Jews who took such zeal in persecuting the primitive church? Was there a similar Paul-figure who ferociously persecuted the Thessalonians but then, saw the light, and turned, and became a Christ-follower? That would be some serious mimicry.

Paul describes these persecutors as being against humanity. The text is literally “all people” or “all human beings” with the word ‘anthropos’. I almost translated it as “against everyone” but decided humanity had a nice ring to it, for they are not just opposite of an idea, they are against human beings.

Paul wants to visit them, but Satan has blocked him. Satan has blocked Paul. That sounds incredibly personal. There is a school of thought out there that teaches evil is not a personification, that it is a great power but it is impersonal, like gravity or friction. But Paul did not see the universe that way. He understood there was an adversary who had lined up against him to stop him from doing certain things. I agree with Paul. I know there is an enemy out there and he is in stark opposition to me.

Questions For Application

  1. Is the word of God active in your life? Serious — does it have verbal powers to move and to change you, or is it just a noun that lies there?
  2. If you could imitate any church you’ve ever seen, which one would it be? Why? Now that you’ve done that exercise, how much persecution and pain has that church gone through? Are you wiling to go through that, to suffer, and to sacrifice?
  3. Is Satan blocking you right now? What are you going to do about it? (Note: Paul wrote this letter as a solution)
  4. Who is your glory and joy?


The second week of Advent finishes what was started in week one and then adds all of 2 Thessalonians.  There is no significant change in voice, as Paul uses the same vocabulary and continues the same basic voice as he emotionally exhorts this beloved congregation.  There are a couple of things, though, worth noting before you begin reading my translation.

First, and this is a bit of personal pastoral theology here, but for Paul, in 1 Thessalonians, tradition is a positive thing, not a bad thing.  The way he uses the word, “paradosis” it can almost mean ‘body of teaching’ but I have kept with the word tradition in my rendering.  When he uses the word paradosis in other places it tends to mean ‘ritual actions’ and as such it is almost always negative.

Second, please note that the verb “to walk” continues to be used extensively as euphemism for live.  It does not translate as well in 2 Thessalonians, but I have tried ot make it fit anyway because I still like the ‘spiritual journey’ metaphor for our lives.  (C/f 2 Thessalonaisn 3:6 for how the awkward fit.

Third, I find myself in a bit of disagreement with most English renderings of the confrontation between the Lord Jesus and the “person of wickedness” in 2 Thessalonians 2:8.  Most English renderings want to make the splendor in the text be about Jesus and somehow they make Jesus defeating the person of wickedness with his splendor.  However, the way I read the text, with the adjoining mentions of false signs and wonders, is that the Lord will “annihilate” the “false splendor” or the anti-christ figure.  I have included a note to denote this.

Okay, besides, that enjoy!  Remember, I’ve broken it down so that you can read the sections as your daily devotions, just like in the Advent lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

1. Brothers and sisters, you do not have a need for us to write about the times and the crucial moments

2. for you yourselves know perfectly well that the Lord’s day will come as a thief in the night.

3. When they will say, “Peace” and, “Safety” then suddenly destruction itself comes upon them, like birth pangs do to a pregnant woman. They will not escape.

4. But brothers and sisters do not be in the dark and let that day seize you like a thief would.

5. For you all are children of light and children of the day, we are neither of night nor darkness.

6. So we should not sleep as all the rest but we should be alert and sober.

7. The ones who go to sleep at night sleep and the ones who drink at night get drunk

8. but we who are of the day should be sober, wearing a breastplate of faith and love and a helmet for hope of salvation.

9. Because God did not appoint you for wrath but he obtained salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

10. the one who died for us so that we might live with him together, whether we keep alert or whether we have fallen asleep.

11. Encourage one another and strengthen each other, just as you do.


1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

12. Brothers and sisters, now we ask you to value those who labor and lead among you as they advise you in the Lord.

13. And to have a high regard of them in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

14. We encourage you brothers and sisters to warn those who are undisciplined, cheer the sorrowful, stand by the weak, and show patience for everyone.

15. Make certain you do not repay anyone bad for bad but always pursue good for one another and for everyone.

16. Rejoice always.

17. Pray constantly.

18. Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

19. Do not hinder the Spirit.

20. Do not despise prophecies.

21. Test everything and hold onto the good things.

22. Avoid all types of sexual immorality.

23. May the God of peace himself make you completely holy—perfected and called—faultlessly kept in your spirit, soul, and body until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24. The one calling you is faithful and he will do it.

25. Brothers and sisters, pray for us.

26. Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.

27. I insist by the Lord that you read this letter to all the brothers and sisters.

28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

1. Paul, Silas and Timothy to the Thessalonian church in God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Grace and peace to you from Father God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. It is proper that we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, because your faith flourished and the love each one of you has for everyone and one another increases.

4. We ourselves take pride in you, the church of God, because of your patience and faith in all the persecution and distress you endure.

5. It is evidence of God’s righteous judgment that your suffering makes you worthy of the kingdom of God.

6. Yes, indeed, it is just for God to repay those who afflict you with affliction

7. and bring relief to those suffering affliction with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven with his powerful angels

8. in flames of fire, giving our punishment to those not having known God and those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

9. For those it is just that they pay with eternal doom, away from the presence of the Lord and away from the glory of his strength.

10. On that day, when he comes, he will have his glory acknowledged among his holy ones and be marveled at by all those believing, those who trusted in our testimony to you.

11. We always pray this for you, that our God would make you worthy of the call and fulfill all good intentions and the work of faith in power

12. so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ might be glorified among you and you be glorified in him, according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.


2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

1. Now, about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together with him, we ask you brothers and sisters

2. to not be easily shaken or disturbed in your mind, not by a spirit nor by a word and certainly not by a letter claiming to be from us saying that the Day of the Lord has come.

3. Do not let anyone deceive in you in anyway. It is not until the apostasy comes first, then the revelation of the man of wickedness–the son of destruction–

4. the one lying and exalting himself over everyone saying, “Worship me as a God,” and then who sits down in God’s temple claiming that he himself is God.

5. Do you not remember how I kept telling these things to you when I was with you?

6. You know who is retraining him until it is time for him to be revealed

7. for the wicked man’s activities are a secret until the one restraining him is off the scene.

8. Then the man of wickedness will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and annihilate his splendor [trans. Note—the splendor is that of the wicked man, not Jesus—this is a departure from most English translations, but I think it is the correct one.]

9. which Satan worked at his coming with all kinds of false power, signs, and wonders.

10. And so in evil deception those who are perishing did not love the truth nor accept it to save them.

11. So God sends them an enticing lie to believe.

12. So that they will all be judged for not believing the truth but enjoying evil.


2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

13. We ourselves ought to give thanks always to God for you, brothers and sisters, loved by the Lord, because he chose you as the first fruits for salvation in holiness of the spirit and a belief in the truth.

14. For which he called you by our gospel, and so obtaining the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15. Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep the traditions you were taught, whether by our words or by our letter.

16. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our father, who loved us and gave us eternal encouragement and good hope in grace

17. encourage your hearts and strengthen every good work and word.

3:1. Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, that the word of the Lord might grow and might be honored like it did with you

2. and so that we might be delivered from perverse and evil people, for not everyone has faith.

3. But the Lord is faithful. He will strengthen and guard you from evil people.

4. We are confident about you in the Lord, that you do and will do the things we commanded you.

5. Now may the Lord direct your hearts in the love of God and in the patience of Christ.


2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

6. We command you brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to avoid every brother or sister walking worthlessly and not according of the tradition they received from us.

7. For you yourselves know how important it is for you to mimic us. We were not “worthless” among you.

8. Neither did we eat free bread from anyone. Instead, we worked in labor and toil night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you.

9. Not because we were lacking authority but because we gave ourselves as an example for you to mimic.

10. For this very reason we commanded you when we were with you that if anyone does not want to work neither let him eat.

11. For we hear some walking among you are worthless, people not working but who work at nothing.

12. We command and encourage people like this, in the Lord Jesus Christ, work quietly and eat your own bread!

13. Brothers and sisters, do not let yourselves become weary by doing what is right.

14. Now pay attention to anyone who does not obey our word in this letter and do not associate with them for they are worthless.

15. Do not, though, regard them as enemies, but advise them as you would brothers and sisters.

16. May now the Lord of peace himself give you peace, in every way to all of you.

17. I, Paul, write in this way. It is my own signature as in all my letters.

18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.



Each year during the Advent season I translate the Greek New Testament as part of my daily devotion.  In previous years I have worked mostly from the gospels–which always tend to be the frightening Olivet Discourse.  This year I am working through epistles. 

I take the readings from the Daily Office Lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer.  This year is Year One, as I understand it, and that makes the epistle readings from 1 Thessalonians for the first week.  I started a week early so that I could post them before the actual assigned readings.  I hope to stay a week ahead.

Before you begin to read the translation, please note that my translation style is, I think, unique.  My overall goal is to maintain faithfulness to the text but a secondary goal is to make the reading as smooth and modern as possible.  This is not  always easy.   I also try to keep verbs as verbs and nouns as nouns, but that too is tricky, especially given the persistent problem of slipper Greek infinitives and participles.  I also tend to want to keep subjects and verbs as close together as possible.   That is very hard in light of Paul’s writing style or putting the subject wherever he wants and shoving the verb at the end and oh, while we’re at it, let’s cram as many phrases and prepositions as possible.

In these particular texts from 1 Thessalonians, I’d like to observe that the verb “to walk” is an idiom for “to live.”  Many translations go ahead and translate it that way (NIV) but I have decided to maintain the  verb “to walk” even if it is archaic.  Our lives are not spent walking like the ancients.  However, I decided to keep it because it maintains the concept of life as a journey.  I also call your attention to Paul’s constant use of “just as” in this letter.  He does this as an affirmation of positive thins the Thessalonian believers are doing, but he does it right before he gives them exhortation to improve in that area.  It should also be noted that this is a very emotional letter and Paul’s writing style here is, to me anyway, choppy.     

Two other things to note.  One, I cleaned up the beginning of most of the verses.  Paul always seems to begin with a “for” or “but” or “therefore” for every sentence.  It makes for good Greek, but lousy reading in English.  Second, when possible, I try to use inclusive language for human beings–i.e. “brothers and sisters” where the Greek  “adelphoi” is found because that is the way I understand the word’s usage in the plural.  However, I do not use inclusive language for the Lord.  However, in these readings, note Paul uses both feminine and masculine imagery to describe his relationship to the Thessalonians.

I have broken the text up into the six daily readings (the BCP lectionary Changes on Sundays) so that, if you desire, you could use this translation as your daily devotions for each day of the week in order. 

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

  1.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy—to the Thessalonian church, grace and peace to you in Father God and Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. We always give thanks for all of you, continually remembering you in our prayers
  3. remembering before our Father God your faithful work and good labor as well as your patient hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. We know as brothers and sisters how you have been loved by God as the elect
  5. because our gospel came not among you only in wonders, but in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction.  You know this is just exactly how we came among you, and it was for your sake.
  6. You became mimickers of us, receiving the word of the Lord in the midst of great distress with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
  7. So much so that you became an example to all those who became believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
  8. The word of the Lord resounds from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has spread to many other places to such a degree that I have no need to tell it anymore.
  9. For they themselves report to us the kind of acceptance we had with you and how you converted to God from idols to serve the living and real God
  10. and await his son in the heavens, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, the rescuer from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

  1.  You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, our arrival to you was not empty.
  2. And you know how we suffered and were insulted in Philippi yet by our God we had the courage to speak to you God’s gospel in the face of much opposition.
  3. For our appeal comes not out of error, insincerity or subterfuge
  4. because we have been approved by God to believe the gospel.  So we spoke not to please men but God, who proves our hearts.
  5. You know that we came not with flattering speech nor a pretext for greediness.  God is our witness.
  6. Neither did we seek glory from people—not from you and not from others—
  7. even though we were able to by authority as Christ’s apostles, yet instead we became to you as a gentle mother nursing an infant, as she might cherish her own children.
  8. We longed for you so much that we decided to share not only God’s gospel with you but our very souls, because you became dear loved ones to us.
  9. Brothers and sisters, you remember our labor and toil night and day, working so as not to be a burden to anyone as we preached God’s gospel among you.
  10. You believers are witnesses, and so too is God, of how devoutly, uprightly, and blamelessly we behaved among you.
  11. You know we treated each of one of you as a father would his child;
  12. encouraging you, consoling you, and affirming you to walk worthy as God calls into his own kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

  1.  For this reason we give thanks continually to God because when you received the word you received what was heard not as the word of men but as it is, the word of God, and it really was the word of God among those of you who believed.
  2. You became a copy of the bothers in the church of God in Judea, who are in Christ Jesus, because you both suffered from fellow countrymen; they from the Jews.
  3. After having killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuting us, they displeased God and became hostile to all men.
  4. Hindering us to speak to the nations so that they might be saved—so much so that now their own sins are fulfilled, as sins always do, and wrath finally has come upon them.
  5. Now brothers and sisters, you are in our hearts, yet we miss you because we have been orphaned off from you for a moment in time.  So we very eagerly long for and desire to see you.
  6. Therefore we desired to come to you—I, Paul, on more than one occasion—yet Satan blocked us.
  7. Who is it but you who are our hope, joy, and boasting before the Lord at his coming?
  8. You are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

  1.  When we couldn’t bear it any longer, we decided to be left behind in Athens, alone.
  2. And we sent Timothy our brother and co-worker in the gospel of God and Christ to strengthen and encourage your faith.
  3. So that no one would disturb themselves in these afflictions, which, as you know, we are destined for.
  4. You know that when we were with you, we forewarned that we are about to be persecuted.
  5. That is why I sent to know of your faith when I could no longer stand it.  I thought perhaps the tempter had tempted you and our labor had been empty.
  6. But now Timothy came to us from you and told us the good news about your faith, love and fond memories of us and how you always long to see us, just as we long to see you.
  7. Brothers and sisters, we were encouraged by your faith in our every distress and affliction.
  8. That you stand firm in the Lord enlivens us!
  9. For how can we thank God enough for all the joy and rejoicing about you before our God?
  10. We pray night and day greatly to see your face and to complete your training in the faith.
  11. May our father God himself and our Lord Jesus pave the road between us and you,
  12. may the Lord increase and make rich your love toward one another and to everyone just as he has for us,
  13. and to strengthen your hearts in blameless holiness before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his holy ones.  [Amen.]

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

  1.  Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to walk in such a way that you please God just as you received from us, like you do now, but even more.
  2. For you know what rules we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
  3. It is the will of God, for the sake of your holiness, to abstain from fornication.
  4. Each of you knows how to control his tool in holiness and honor,
  5. not in passionate desires as the heathens who do not know God do.
  6. Do not go too far and take advantage in the affairs of brothers and sisters for the Lord is always an executor of justice in these matters, just as we forewarned and seriously testified to you.
  7. God has not called us to unrighteousness, but to holiness.
  8. Consequently the man who disregards this not only rejects God but the Holy Spirit he gave to us.
  9. Now, about brotherly love, you do not have need for us to write to you, for you yourselves were taught by God to love one another
  10. for you do so to all the brothers and sisters in Macedonia.  But we encourage you, do so even more.
  11. Make it your goal to live tranquilly and mind your own business.  Work with your hands, just as we commanded you
  12. to walk properly in the eyes of outsiders, but also so that you have no neediness.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

  1.  Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to not know about those who have died, because you ought not to grieve as others who have no hope.
  2. If we believe that Jesus died and rose then God will bring those who have died in Jesus with him.
  3. We say this to you as the word of the Lord, that when the Lord comes, those of us who are living—left behind if you will—should not arrive before those who have died.
  4. The Lord himself will come down from heaven as he summons the archangel with the sound of God’s trumpet and then those who are dead in Christ rise first.
  5. Then we who are living—left behind—will all at the same time be carried off into the clouds meeting the Lord in the air and then we will be with the Lord always.
  6. Console one another with these words.