2.1-3a: THE WARNING THAT THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NOT YET PRESENT
With the phrase ‘we beg you, brothers and sisters’ (2.1), ‘Paul’ marks the transition to the body of the letter. His request to the community concerns ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and his gathering of us to himself’, two topics that are very closely united (they have only one definite article in Greek). ‘Coming’ is here the translation of the Greek word parousia, a term that was in use in the Hellenistic world to designate ‘the visit of a human ruler or a high official to a city, with appropriate ceremonies being held and honors being bestowed, or of the visit of a god to an individual or to cultic followers’ (Wanamaker 1990: 125). Early Christians applied the word to Jesus’ eschatological coming in glory (see, e.g., Matt. 24.27, 37, 39; Jas. 5.7, 8). Paul too employs the word in this pregnant sense, especially in 1 Thessalonians (2.19; 3.13; 4.15; 5.23; further 1 Cor. 15.23), and our author borrows it from that letter.
The other topic, ‘his gathering of us to himself’, is also a well-known eschatological theme. In the Old Testament, various prophetic sayings can be found on God gathering his scattered people from their exile (e.g., Is. 27.13; 43.4-7; Jer. 31.8). Later, God is expected to gather Israel for final salvation (e.g., 2 Macc. 2.7, 18; Sir. 36.10); in its Christian version, this expectation concerns the church, as in the prayer in Didache 10.5: ‘Remember, Lord [God], your church…and gather it from the four winds into your kingdom, which you prepared for it’. The task of gathering God’s people can be transferred to God’s eschatological agent. We read, for instance, about the Messiah in Psalm of Solomon 17.26, 28: ‘He will gather a