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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


After having pointed out in the foregoing chapter, the order and several other circumstances of the Resurrection, the Apostle tells the Thessalonians in this, that there is one circumstance of the General Resurrection, which it is neither necessary nor possible for them to know at present; that circumstance is, the precise time at which it will occur (1). They know from faith, that it will come unexpectedly, and will bring sudden destruction on the wicked; but it will not surprise, nor will it come unawares upon, the just, so as to find them unprepared, since, as children of light, they are always on the alert, always employed in the works of light, in hopes of the Lord’s coming (2–8). He exhorts them to correspond with the designs of God in their regard, putting on the breast-plate of faith and charity, and the helmet of hope—to live in the expectation of salvation from the goodness of God, who gave us his Son for Saviour (9, 10, 11).

He inculcates, with regard to the people, the necessity of discharging certain duties towards their Pastors; while, to the latter, he points out the duties which they in turn owe their people (12–15).

He enjoins on all the faithful to cultivate and exhibit spiritual joy—to practise assiduous prayer—to employ the gifts of the Holy Ghost with profit and discernment, and to abstain from all appearance of evil (16–22).

Finally, he beseeches God to grant them the gift of perfect sanctity both of soul and body, and recommends himself to their prayers; he salutes them all, and adjures them to have this Epistle read to all the brethren. He concludes with the usual form of Apostolical benediction.


1. But as to the periods of time or precise moments at which this great event shall take place, it is not necessary (nor indeed is it possible) that I should write to you.

2. For you know yourselves full well, from the principles of your faith, that the day of the Lord shall come suddenly and unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.

3. For when the impious shall say, peace and security, i.e., all things are quite secure; then, shall sudden and unexpected destruction come upon them, as the throes of child-birth come upon a woman with child, from which they will not be able to escape.

4. But although this day may come unexpectedly, like the approach of the nightly thief, still, it will not surprise you unawares, who are not unprepared for it, having been enlightened by faith, and free from the darkness of infidelity and sin.

5. For, how could you be in darkness, you, who are the sons of light and the sons of day? For, we Christians, are not the children of night nor of darkness.

6. Let us, therefore correspond with our calling, and not be, like the infidels, engaged in the works of darkness, regardless of the coming of our Lord but, like men who are called to the works of light, let us be on the alert, and let us be sober.

7. For the time suited for sleep and drunkenness is the night; hence, those who indulge in sleep and those who indulge in drunkenness, do so in the night (we should, therefore, not indulge in sleep or drunkenness, which are unsuited to our vocation, or to the time of our actions, i.e., the day).

8. Let us, therefore, who belong to the day (abstaining from these deeds which are signified by sleep and drunkenness), be vigilant and sober, putting on faith enlivened by charity, as a breast-plate, and the hope of salvation, for a helmet.

9. I say, we should put on the helmet of hope. For, God has not destined us for damnation, but for eternal salvation, to be acquired through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.

10. Who died for us, in order that, whether living or dead, we may live with him here a life of grace, and hereafter a life of eternal glory.

11. In consequence, then, of these cheering motives of your hope—viz., the death of Christ to bestow on us eternal life, continue to console one another, to edify one another, by word and deed, as indeed, you are already doing.

12. But we implore of you to reverence and respect those who are labouring amongst you in preaching the gospel, and who preside over you in a spiritual capacity, and admonish you of your duties.

13. And treat them with more abundant honour by administering to their support in consequence of their labours amongst you, and this from a feeling of charity. Be at peace with them.

14. But, we entreat you, brethren, who preside, to correct the disorderly, who are causing disturbances, to console the faint-hearted under afflictions, to prop up the weak who may be easily scandalized, accommodating yourselves to their weakness, and to be patient towards all.

15. Take care that no one, in a spirit of vengeance, render evil for evil to any man, but always endeavour to do good to all men whomsoever, whether brethren or unbelievers.

16, 17. Under all circumstances spiritually rejoice. Pray without ceasing.

18. Give thanks to God in all things (whether in prosperity or adversity), for, this is the will of God, that you should all do so, through Jesus Christ.

19. Do not extinguish the Holy Ghost in his gifts, by altogether prohibiting the exercise of spiritual gifts.

20. But especially do not despise the useful gifts of prophecy.

21. But examine all matters proposed to you by those who have the gift of prophecy, and retain what is good.

22. Fly everything that has even the appearance of evil.

23. May God, the author of peace, perfectly sanctify you, so that your entire being, your soul, considered both as to its sensitive and rational part, and your body, may be preserved without reproach, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall render to every one, according to his works.

24. God, who called you to sanctity, is faithful, and he will perfect what he has begun, by giving you the grace of perseverance.

25. Brethren, pray for us.

26. In my name, salute all the brethren in a holy kiss, the symbol of charity.

27. I conjure you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to have this Epistle read in a public assembly of all the faithful.

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


1. The word “times,” denotes longer periods, such as years; “moments,” shorter terms, such as months, days, hours.

“You need not that we should write to you,” as if to say, it was necessary for your consolation, that we should explain to you the order and the other circumstances of the Resurrection referred to already; but the time you need not, nay, you cannot know.

2. He shall come unexpectedly. This is true of the death of each one, when the day of judgment for him shall have virtually arrived; and, although Antichrist will precede it, this, however, shall not be a sign so much of the precise time of Christ’s coming, as of the approaching end of the world; and so far as the signs in the sun and in the moon, &c., are concerned, these may occur, probably on the very day of Judgment.

3. “For when they,” the impious, “shall say peace,” &c., because as it happened in the days of Noe, so shall men be eating and drinking, &c., at the coming of the Lord.—(Matthew, 24:37).

“For,” is omitted in the Greek. The example of the woman with child is frequent in the SS. Scripture. As she knows that she is to bring forth, but knows not the moment in which she may be suddenly seized with the throes of child-birth, so neither will the wicked know when the final destruction shall come upon them.

4. “Overtake,” i.e. catch by surprise, so as to be unprepared for it.

5. “Children of Light,” i.e., called to perform good works, suited to appear in open light, and not followers of the works of darkness. “Light” and “darkness” are frequently used in the SS. Scripture, to signify good and evil. Christians are called “children of light,” in allusion to the light of faith which they received, and because they are called to good works, forsaking the darkness of infidelity and sin.

6. From the metaphors of light and darkness, the Apostle takes occasion to exhort them to good works, to live up to their Christian profession, which will avail them nothing, but rather deepen their damnation, if, like Pagans, they indulge in the works of darkness. “Sleep as others do.” The Vulgate has sicut et ceteri, “even as others do.”

7. We should watch and be sober, in consequence of being children of light, because the opposite characteristics—viz., sleep and drunkenness—are peculiar to the night. On this account it is that men select the night for indulging in sleep and drunkenness. Hence, as these deeds are unsuited to our calling, or to the time of our action, we should wholly abstain from the works signified by them.

8. We should, therefore, as children of the day, perform the works represented, or signified, by vigilance and soberness; but, in order to do so, we should be cased in the Christian panoply; for otherwise, although sober and vigilant, we will not be able to make a stand against the powerful enemies with whom we have to contend. “The breast-plate of faith and charity.” In the panoply of the Christian soldier (Ephes. 6). The Apostle calls “justice” the “breast-plate,” but it does not differ from this—for, faith animated by charity is “justice.” “And hope of salvation for helmet;” since hope will raise and elevate our thoughts on high. Three things are necessary for us—vigilance, sobriety, and armour. St. Chrysostom excites to vigilance in the narrow way of salvation, which is beset on all sides with dangers and precipices, by the example of rope-dancers, and of those who walk on the brink of precipices, all whose senses are awake and on the alert; so ought it be with us in the way of salvation. We ought to be sober, free from all vicious affections; and for armour we should have faith, hope, but especially active, operative charity towards our neighbour.

10. “Watch,” in this verse, means to be in this life, and “sleep,” to be dead; hence, they have a signification different from that which they have in the preceding verses.

11. “Edify one another;” for the meaning of this word, see 1st Epistle to Cor. 8:1. “As you also do,” he adds these words of well-timed praise with a view of rendering his exhortation more agreeable.

12. He here addresses the people, and inculcates reverence and respect for their prelates and the ministers of the gospel.

13. “Have peace with them,” i.e., have no difference with your pastors. In the Greek it is, have peace among yourselves; a reading which is preferred by some, Estius among the rest.

14. He now addresses those who preside: “Be patient towards all men,” whether they be “unquiet,” “feeble-minded,” or “weak.”

15. “But ever follow towards all men.” This is perfectly conformable to the precept of our Lord in the gospel, commanding us to love all men, not excepting our very enemies.

17. “Pray without ceasing.” This, of course, is to be understood in this sense, that we should frequently and at certain times pray, and that the intervals of labour should be consecrated to God by prayer, and that our actions should be of such a nature as to be referable to his glory.

18. “This is the will of God;” is referred by some to the three preceding precepts of spiritual joy, prayer, and thanksgiving; by others, it is confined to the precept of thanksgiving.

19. It appears that many pretended to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, prophecy, miracles, &c., who had them not, and that to prevent altogether, any such practices of imposition, the heads of the Church wished to prohibit the exercise of these gifts, in every instance. Of this the Apostle disapproves. Others interpret the verse, do not expel from you the Holy Ghost; thus, as far as you are concerned, destroying him. The word “extinguish” has reference to the form in which the Holy Ghost is frequently exhibited in SS. Scripture—viz., that of fire.

20. For the meaning of “prophecies,” see chapter 16, 1st Epistle to Corinthians.

21. There is question here of private prophecies, and of doubtful matters, which had not been defined by competent authority,—and the Apostle is addressing the rulers, whom he authorizes to judge of such matters, and reject or retain them, as they may think fit. Hence, this passage contains no argument against the Dogmatic Decrees of Councils; for, in them, there is question of quite a different matter altogether, a matter defined by a competent authority.

23. “Your whole spirit and soul.” He considers the human soul under two different respects, and as exercising different faculties. “Spirit,” is the rational soul guided in its judgment by reason, and exercising the higher faculties of intellect and will. “Soul,” the sensitive, concupiscible part, guided by sensation, common to us with the beasts. So that your mind, your will, and all your senses, external and internal, be preserved from the stain of sin.

The Greek subscriptions add: The First to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.

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