Also available as MP3: 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 – A Spiritual Oxymoron
The word “fast” (v.15) can mean firm or secure, as in how God set the mountains securely in place (Ps.65:5,6). So when Paul tells us to “stand fast” in the knowledge that God has chosen us to salvation from the Tribulation (v.13,14), we should stand in that truth as firmly as a mountain. Did you know Paul always told people to stand fast in things in which they weren’t standing fast.
He told the Corinthians to “stand fast in the faith” because they had departed from the faith when they ceased believing in the resurrection (ICor.15:32). He told the Galatians to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal.5:1), the yoke of bondage being the Law of Moses. They had forgotten that “we are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom.6:15). The apostle told the Philippians to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil.1:27), because two ladies were feuding (4:2) and the church was taking sides. But Paul told the Thessalonians to stand fast in the knowledge of the pre-tribulation rapture because they weren’t standing fast in it, due to a letter that someone wrote them and signed Paul’s name to (2:1,2).
When Paul told them to “hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (v.15), Rome uses this verse to enforce their position that the oral traditions of the church are equal in authority with Scripture. They also point to II Timothy 3:14, where Paul tells Timothy to continue in things he had “learned” apart from “the holy Scriptures (v.15).
But the danger of following oral traditions can be seen in one that got started in the Lord’s time (John 21:21-23). Rome claims her traditions should be obeyed because they go back to the early church, but this one goes back earlier than that, and is still wrong!
The Pharisees accused the Lord’s disciples of breaking their tradition (Mt.15:1-3), but He pointed out that their tradition transgressed God’s Word. Traditions that contradict the Word are transgressions.
The only reason Paul told Timothy to continue in the things he learned apart from Scripture was because Timothy knew he learned them from Paul (IIITim.3:14,15). Before the Bi-ble was complete, oral traditions of the apostles were equal with Scripture, but when the Bible was complete they were incorporated into the Word. No tradition today outside the Word can be trusted. So the “word” of II Thessalonians 2:15 that they were to hold was the word of Paul.
The word “tradition” just means things delivered (Rom. 6:17). Paul expected the Thessalonians to keep the doctrinal traditions delivered to the Romans, and to all seven churches he wrote to, just as the Lord told each of the seven churches in Revelation 2,3 to obey the information in all seven letters (Rev.2:l7,11,17,23,29; 3:6, 13,22). Paul actually uses the word “delivered” for the doctrines of salvation (ICor.15:3,4) and the Lord’s Supper (11:23).
A “consolation prize” is what you get when you don’t receive the main prize, but “everlasting consolation” (IIThes.2:16) refers to the main prize of the comfort of the pre-trib rapture. Paul uses the word “comfort” for this doctrine over and over (IThes.3:1-3; 4:17-5:11).
That’s why he goes on to talk about “good hope through grace” (IIThes.2:16). Israel’s hope under the Law was to go through the Tribulation to enter the kingdom, but our good hope under grace is to be raptured before it.
There are other differences in our hope. Israel will be “comforted in Jerusalem” (Isa.66:13). “He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden” (Isa.51:3). God won’t comfort saved Jews by taking them to heaven, He’ll bring heaven to Jerusalem for them.
Paul says the knowledge of the pre-trib rapture will “stablish” us (IIThes.2:17). Of course! It’s part of Paul’s gospel (Rom.16:25). This is different than how Israel was established, only after suffering the Tribulation (IPe.5:10).