These small group studies of Thessalonians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-17 Inductive Bible Study
People Deceived (9-12)
Encouragement and Blessings for the Thessalonians (13-17)
I. Verses 9-12
What does this verse teach us about Satan?
Why will many perish? What factors would keep them from accepting the love of the truth?
How can we understand verse 11? What is this deluding influence? Why would God send it?
What can we learn in this chapter about God’s sovereignty? How can we understand God’s sovereignty as we see the evil that will happen?
What will happen to those who don’t believe the truth?
How do these people view wickedness? How about you? Do you ever take pleasure in it?
1. Verse 9 – This verse teaches us a few things about Satan:
A. Satan has a plan. He is not asleep. He is not like a criminal on death row locked up awaiting his execution. Instead he is like a convicted felon who is a fugitive. He is being tracked, but he doesn’t know it. While he suspects he will one day be caught and punished he tries to wreak as much havoc and destruction as possible first, arrogantly thinking maybe he escape the fate he deserves.
B. Satan is powerful. It is his power that will bring about the coming of the antichrist and the one-world government he will rule. The antichrist and the false prophet will be able to do supernatural things (Revelation 13:2-4, 13, 15). This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Satan is supernatural. He is a spirit being and was one of the most magnificent creatures in God’s creation prior to his corruption and fall. If one angel can slay all of Egypt’s firstborn or 185,000 men in the Assyrian army (Isaiah 37:36), imagine what Satan can do.
C. Satan will deceive people with false wonders. Miracles are a powerful tool. Jesus used miracles, which showed people His power and convinced many to believe in Him. Satan is probably the world’s best copycat. He knows that signs and miracles convince people and he uses these as one of the weapons in his arsenal to deceive. A lot of people will look at the miracle and believe the message that is preached because of the miracle. 2 Corinthians 11:14. We must not believe someone or something just because of a sign. A dream, a vision, or a healing is not enough to guarantee that what is happening is the “Lord’s work.” How can we know if it is God’s work? We must evaluate the message that is being taught and compare it to the Word. This doesn’t mean we should automatically reject miracles either. God is still at work in the world and does miraculous things. But we must learn to do as John tells us in 1 John 4, and that is to “test the spirits.”
Application: We must realize that we are in a war. Soldiers cannot become complacent or relaxed or they may be victims of a surprise attack. Instead they must be “sober and alert,” just like Paul warned the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:6. Satan is not idly waiting for his final judgment. He is active. He and his minions want to attack the church and you. We must do what James tells us in James 4:7. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Do not give Satan the satisfaction of claiming victory in your life. Do not believe his lies. John 10:10. Believing his false promises will only lead to despair and destruction. Instead choose the narrow way and follow Christ and He will fulfill you.
2. The man of lawlessness’ deception – We touched on this in the previous verse. Satan’s entire plan is centered on deception. John 8:44 shows us that Satan is the father of lies. The truth is not important to him. He will use any and all means to trick people into worshiping him instead of the one true God. From the beginning of man’s history, Satan has twisted God’s Word and spread lies. What lies did he tell Eve? And yet throughout all of human history people still believe Satan. Why?
We can see in this verse that Satan’s deception is limited to those who perish, who did not receive the love of the truth. This means that true believers will not believe the antichrist’s lies. We too must ask God for a discerning mind and passionately pursue the truth as found in God’s Word. We can train ourselves to have a healthy skepticism about what we hear. This doesn’t mean that we automatically reject what others say, but it means that we should think through it carefully to see if it agrees with the Word. We should be especially wary of believing people who are already seduced by Satan’s worldview including many in the media, Hollywood, or atheist teachers and scholars.
3. God will send upon them a deluding influence – Many are confused by this verse and it has been the source of much debate and controversy. What do you think it means? Why would God do this? Some have said this means that if people rejected Christ prior to the rapture, then God will delude them after the rapture to take away any possible second chances. Do you agree with this view? I will admit that this verse could mean this, but I don’t think it does. As I said there is a lot of controversy about this verse so I will share my opinion and freely admit that I might be wrong.
A. Them – God will send upon them a deluding influence. Who will he send it on? He will send it on those who perish. In other words God will send it on unbelievers. Which unbelievers? Unbelievers who never accept the love of the truth and are never saved. There is nothing in this verse which clearly identifies a certain subset of unbelievers (those who rejected the gospel prior to the rapture) as those whom God wills end a deluding influence on. I should point out that this doesn’t mean no unbelievers will accept the gospel. Those who accept the gospel were not subject to the deluding influence.
B. God will send a deluding influence – Remember that a major reason for the tribulation is for God to send His judgment upon the world for rejecting Christ. God will do many miraculous signs, and yet people will still not believe. I believe they will reject God on their own multiple times and then after going past the limits of God’s patience God will delude them so that they will be judged for their own willful rejection.
It might help to remember the story of Pharaoh. If you look through the first few chapters of Exodus you will notice that God told Moses He would harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to judge the Egyptians. Then as you read through the story you will see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart multiple times. After these multiple times of self-hardening, the Bible then says that God hardened his heart. In other words Pharaoh was completely culpable for his own actions. It is not the picture of someone who desperately wants to turn to the Lord, who vengefully says, “Never!” See John 6:37. Instead it is the picture of someone who hates and despises God, willfully rejecting revelation over and over again. Then finally God says, “Enough is enough. You will be punished.”
I believe that this deluding influence in the time of the tribulation will be very much like what happened to Pharaoh. In both cases people will on their own willfully reject the Lord multiple times. Finally after crossing an invisible line (to us), God’s patience will run out and He will decide to judge these people and make sure that it happens.
4. In order that they may be judged – Here we can see one of the key reasons for the tribulation. It is during this period that God will pour out His judgment on all who do not believe the truth. Judgment is not one of the most attractive teachings in the Bible, and yet it is one that is repeated over and over and over. God is willing to extend His grace to people. But His patience only extends so far. After squandering the chance God has given them to repent, people will be finally judged. Jesus Himself talked about the uselessness of throwing pearls before swine. If people do not receive His gift, He will eventually stop offering it.
5. Took pleasure in wickedness – We can learn a core difference between believers and unbelievers from this phrase. Both believers and unbelievers will commit sin (wickedness.) But unbelievers enjoy this sin. They revel in it. They take pleasure in it. Believers, on the other hand, should feel repulsion toward sin. When they sin, they should feel guilt and shame and try to change and repent. If you keep on doing some sins and get enjoyment from these sins, there is a serious problem.
Application: See 2 Corinthians 6:2. Now is the day of salvation. Never willfully sin or reject God’s message thinking that you will repent or follow Him better in the future. You don’t know what the future will hold. You don’t want to be one of the people who God pours out His wrath on. There will be no escape for those people. At the same time, be urgent when you share the gospel. Pray for and beseech your friends and family to believe in the Lord before it is too late.
6. God’s sovereignty – A key lesson from this entire passage is God’s sovereignty. At first glance that is confusing. After all, we are reading about Satan’s plans, schemes, and power. Where is God in all of this? Yet verse 7 shows us that ultimately it is God who allows Satan/antichrist/false prophet to be revealed. One can assume that Satan has tried to fulfill his plan many times in history and God has stopped him. He will keep stopping him until the right time. What time is that? One reason for the seeming delay in Christ’s return is so that the gospel can go to more people. As powerful as Satan is, he can only operate within the restrictions that God has set for him. Now these restrictions keep Satan from wreaking even more havoc in this world. During the tribulation those restrictions will be largely but not completely taken away. Satan will be allowed to do a lot of evil things including persecuting saints. Yet finally God will avenge these saints and Satan will be slain. Even in the tribulation God will use Satan for His purpose of bringing judgment and condemnation to those who didn’t believe in His Son.
God never participates in any evil. But He does somehow use evil people to bring about His righteous and just plans, illustrating His own sovereignty.
II. Verses 13-17
How did God feel about the Thessalonians?
How did Paul feel about them?
The previous verses tell us something about Satan’s plan. What do we learn in verse 13 about God’s plan for the Thessalonians? When did He form this plan?
What did He call the Thessalonians for?
What does it mean that they may “gain the glory” of our Lord Jesus Christ?
What kind of traditions was Paul referring to? Does this show us that traditions such as holding hands for prayer, lighting a unity candle for a wedding, or Christmas Eve services are important? Why or why not?
What has our Father done for us?
1. We should always give thanks – Do you give thanks for the things you should give thanks for? What is something you should give thanks for but don’t?
2. Beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you – Paul has given the Thessalonians a preview of the single darkest time the world will ever face. It is a bleak picture. And yet he reassures them. They will not experience this judgment because they have a relationship with God. Simply put, the Lord loves them. Why? Why would God stoop to love them?
The answer is also found in verse 13. It is not because they are good. It is not because they deserve it. In fact it is not for any reason within themselves. It is because God chose them. It is that simple. God chose them and because He chose them He chose to love them. Here is the ultimate proof that love is not a feeling but a choice. How will you respond to God’s choice to love you?
Application: Do you make this same choice to love others around you, even when they don’t deserve it?
3. For what? – What did God choose them and us for? He chose us for salvation. Because it was His choice that ultimately determined our salvation we cannot hence lose our salvation. He also chose us for sanctification. These two concepts are connected at the hip. There is no sanctification without salvation and vice-versa. It is His Spirit that brings about this sanctification, but we are also involved as we must respond with faith in the truth. Are you being sanctified? Are you more like Christ than last year?
4. Verse 14 – Why did He call you? He called them (and us) so that we may gain the glory of Christ. What does that mean? It means that be raised up like Christ was, that we may become like Him. Glory is similar to the meaning of exalted or raised up. Christ was never as low as we are. Yet we too will be raised up like He was. We are raised up to a high position of becoming a child of God (and a brother/sister of Christ.) See Romans 8:17.
We have been chosen and called for a reason. God doesn’t want us to wallow in our sin like a dog returning to his vomit (Proverbs 26:11.) Imagine if a king adopted a boy who was the village thief as his own son. Wouldn’t he expect that this boy would stop stealing? How would the king feel if the boy refused to live in his new home or wear his new clothes or respond to his new education or fulfill his new duties and instead repeatedly ran away from the palace to steal? The king would obviously be very disappointed. The boy would also be the laughingstock of that whole country. He would rightly be called a fool. What fool would give up his position as son of a king to steal half-eaten apples? And yet this is exactly the choice we are making when we disregard God’s laws and return to the same sinful habits that we engaged in before turning to Christ.
5. Stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught – When we think of traditions we may think of candles, special days of the year, festivals, etc. The Jews likely thought of hand washings and the like. But these are all man-made traditions. Man-made traditions are fine to follow as long as they are biblical and we realize that not everyone has to adhere to the same traditions we do. But nonetheless this is not the kind of tradition that Paul is talking about. Paul is referring to the key doctrines which they taught to the Thessalonians. These “traditions” would have included things like Jesus’ divinity and humanity, His bodily resurrection, His second coming, etc.
Remember that Satan is the father of lies. He tries to work against whatever God is doing. This means when the gospel enters an area Satan won’t be far behind distorting truth and spreading false teaching. Believers everywhere must be aware of this. We must practice discernment and stand firm against compromising the Word of God even one iota. Little compromises lead to big compromises. Little lies lead to big lies. So don’t start down the slippery slope and stand firm on the solid rock.
6. Verses 16-17 – Here we see more about the relationship we have with Christ. He loves us. As a side note, next time you are feeling depressed remember that Christ loves you unconditionally. He wants to comfort you in the middle of whatever trials you face. When you feel down come to His Word and pray to Him for comfort and He will answer.
We too can be encouraged in the middle of the good works which we are doing. God is with you. He sees what you are doing. He will be pleased by it and He will strengthen you to finish what He has called you to do.