1 Thessalonians 2:18-Paul and Silvanus Attempted to Visit the Thessalonians But Were Hindered By Satan Lesson # 35
1 Thessalonians 2:13 And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, which is at work among you who believe. 14 For you became imitators, brothers and sisters, of God’s churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, because you too suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they in fact did from the Jews. 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets and persecuted us severely. They are displeasing to God and are opposed to all people, 16 because they hinder us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they constantly fill up their measure of sins, but wrath has come upon them completely. 17 But when we were separated from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time (in presence, not in affection) we became all the more fervent in our great desire to see you in person. 18 For we wanted to come to you (I, Paul, in fact tried again and again) but Satan thwarted us. (NET)
1 Thessalonians 2:18 contains two assertions.
The first states that Paul and Silvanus wanted to enter into the presence of each member of the Thessalonian Christian community, but Satan hindered them from doing so.
The second is an emphatic parenthetical remark, which is embedded into the first assertion.
Paul emphatically asserts that independently of Silvanus, he attempted to visit the Thessalonians on more than one occasion.
This parenthetical remark reveals that the apostle Paul is author of First Thessalonians and not Silvanus and Timothy.
Now, the first assertion in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, states that Paul and Silvanus wanted to enter into the presence of the Thessalonians but were hindered by Satan and presents the reason for the previous statement in 1 Thessalonians 2:17.
The latter asserts that when Paul and Silvanus were orphaned from the Thessalonians for a short period of time (in presence only, never in heart) they made every effort with great desire to see them.
Now, here in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Satan is identified as the reason why they had never returned to Thessalonica.
Satan hindered these two from visiting the Thessalonians in the sense that he resisted and interfered with their attempts to do so.
We must remember that Satan is a created being.
The Lord Jesus Christ created angels who are moral rational creatures like mankind and the greatest of these was angels was Satan.
Therefore, Satan is a creature (cf. John 1:1 with Psa. 148:1-5; Col. 1:16; Ezek. 28:13) and he is also a spirit being.
Hebrews 1:14 describes angels as spirits and demons are called unclean spirits (Matt. 8:16; 12:45; Luke 7:21; 8:2; 11:26; Acts 19:12; Rev. 16:14).
Furthermore, the fact we are told that “we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12) also suggest that Satan and his demons are spirit beings.
Finally, the fact that Paul describes them as invisible also shows they are spirit beings (Col. 1:16).
Satan is not omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent like God but rather he has limitations since he simply cannot be everywhere at once because he is a creature and for this reason, he cannot read your mind.
Angels, though spirit beings and very powerful, are not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent.
However, as the chief of his demon forces or as the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), he is chief of a vast host of demons who are so numerous as to make Satan’s power and presence seem to be practically ubiquitous or everywhere at once (cf. Mark 5:9).
Therefore, because of this limitation, many references to Satan or the devil include his whole kingdom.
The person of Satan does not personally tempt each of us for he simply cannot do that, however, he is only able to do so through his world system and demon armies.
In his appearance when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord (Job 1:6), in the temptation of Christ (Matt. 4:10f), and the entrance into Judas (Luke 22:3) we surely have clear references to the person of Satan himself, but in many other passages, Satan or the devil seems to stand for Satan’s kingdom (see Mark 3:23; 4:15; Luke 13:16; 1 Pet. 5:8-9; Jam. 4:7).
It is comforting to know that Satan is limited because the promise of Scripture is that “greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
For all his power and hatred against God and man, he could do nothing against Job that God did not expressly allow.
Therefore, he can be resisted and made to flee (Jam. 4:7), but only by the strength of God made available to believers in Christ (Eph. 6:10-18).
The fall of Satan is recorded in Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-14.
The church age believer has three great enemies according to the Scriptures: (1) Satan, our chief adversary, the devil: (1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:12; John 16:11; Colossians 2:15; but note 1 John 2:13-14). (2) The world, a system and arrangement of the affairs of the human and government under the control of the evil one and opposed to God and His purposes for the human race (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4; Ephesians 2:2). (3) Indwelling Adamic sin nature or the flesh and all its corrupting power and life-dominating patterns: (Rom. 7:15; 8:4-8, 13; Gal. 5:16-26).
The leader of the church’s great invisible enemy is of course Satan whose name means, “adversary” because he is the enemy of God.
He is compared to “lion” in 1 Peter 5:8 and described as a serpent (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9), an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), and the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The Christian is not to be ignorant of his schemes and devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).
1 John 2:15-17 prohibits the church age believer from loving the cosmic system of Satan.
Now, this first assertion in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 is designed to assure the Thessalonian Christian community that Paul and Silvanus have every intention of returning to Thessalonica to minister to them.
Paul and Silvanus felt the need to assure the Thessalonians because of the slanderous attacks being waged against them in Thessalonica by unregenerate Jew and Gentiles.
Therefore, this assertion in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and like the ones in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and 2:1-16 were designed to defend the conduct of Paul and Silvanus as well as Timothy.
These three men were concerned that the Thessalonians would be deceived by the accusations made against them by their enemies in the city of Thessalonica.
The contents of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and 2:1-16 suggest that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were defending themselves against their critics and persecutors.
These individuals were composed of non-Christian Jews in the city of Thessalonica according to Acts 17:1-9 as well as non-Christian Gentiles according to 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.
One might ask as to why God would permit Satan to hinder Paul and Silvanus in returning to minister to the Thessalonian Christian community?
One answer is that if God did not permit Satan to hinder these two men when he did, First and Second Thessalonians would never have been written.
The church has benefited from these two epistles for centuries up the present moment in the twenty-first century.
Secondly, Satan’s efforts to hinder these two men from returning to the Thessalonians forced Paul and Silvanus to go to God in prayer, which was for the benefit of their faith.
God was concerned about the spiritual growth of these two men as well as the Thessalonians and this would involve the testing of their faith.
Therefore, though Satan hindered these men, it resulted in the spiritual growth of these two men as well as the Thessalonians who were undoubtedly praying to the Father for their safety and return to them.
Thus, Satan’s efforts backfired on him.
This leads us to the subject of the will of God and the divine decree, which is God’s eternal, holy, wise and sovereign purpose, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be in their causes, courses, conditions, successions, and relations and determining their certain futurition (i.e., that they will certainly take place).
When I say “comprehending” I mean that the omniscience of God is the source of the divine decrees by “determining” I mean that the sovereignty of God chose before anything existed which things would actually become historical events.
Therefore, the omniscience of God comprehended at once in eternity past each and every positive and negative circumstance and decision made by every human and angelic being including Satan hindering Paul and Silvanus from returning to the Thessalonica, thus, He comprehended Satan doing this.
Therefore, the fact that Satan would hinder Paul and Silvanus from returning to minister to the Thessalonians was comprehended at once in eternity past by God.
God also comprehended at once in eternity past the course that these events would take and their conditions and relations and determined that these events would take place.
Therefore, each and every positive and negative decision that every human and angelic being including Satan would make including the decision by Satan to hinder Paul and Silvanus from returning to the Thessalonians was sovereignly determined by God to take place and was known by God in eternity past before anything was created.