“To the called out Thessalonians in God our Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:1).
Paul starts his first and second letters to the Thessalonians with an almost identical address. He is writing Thessalonians who were called out, who are now in God and Jesus. Called out of the world and into the Father / Son, you in I / I in you relationship. Right off, Paul is addressing them as those who live, move, and have their being in God and in Jesus.
This anticipates Paul’s comments at the beginning of chapter two: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering into Him: We ask you, brothers, not to be easily upset in mind or troubled, either by a spirit or by a message or by a letter as if from us, alleging that the Day of the Lord is present” (2 Thess. 2:1-2). The Thessalonians are already in God and in Jesus. Even if the day of the Lord had come, it wouldn’t change their state in the Lord. Spiritually, they are gathered in Him, and He is present in them. That said, these realities are not apparent to the naked eye.
The coming of which Paul speaks in chapter two is the unveiling or manifesting of the reality which opens chapter one. This is no less true for us than for the Thessalonians. We are in God, in Christ, and they are present in us. This is what will be seen when creation’s veil is pulled away.
Paul calls Christ’s return a revelation or unveiling in 2 Thessalonians 1:7. One way to conceive of Christ’s coming is as the manifestation of all that is spiritually true in Him. In Christ’s coming, all that is invisible becomes visible. During creation, everything in God’s mind came into being through the Word: God spoke light, land, and creatures into existence. Christ is the Word. All reality in God’s mind will manifest through Him at His coming—a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Peter 3:13).
Paul talks about the judgment coming on those who don’t know God or obey the gospel of Jesus (2 Thess. 1:8). This goes hand in hand with the glorification of those who believe and are His (2 Thess. 1:10). Yet Jesus said, “Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God” (John 3:18).
Judgment and mercy are already realities depending on our response to Jesus. When Christ returns, judgment and mercy will be visible and revealed. Jesus said, “For nothing is concealed that won’t be revealed, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). What is—what truly is—will be shown, regardless of appearances now.
In both his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul addresses anxieties about the coming of Christ. The Thessalonians were apprehensive about it. Like his first letter, Paul’s aim in writing is pastoral. He wants to calm their fears. Part of his approach is to point out that nothing will be revealed on the day of the Lord other than what is already true. The Thessalonians were already called out into God and Christ. That is also what will be manifest in the revelation of Christ. They need not fear that day because it will disclose only what already is.