The End Times: An Exegetical Study on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

 

The Text on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

(1) Moreover, we urge you brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him (2) not to be quickly shaken in mind or in a constant state of being troubled, neither by a spiritual gift of prophecy, nor a spoken word, not by a letter, as if from us, saying that the Day of the Lord has come. (3) Do not let anyone deceive you in any way, because it will not be until the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition, is revealed. (4) He is the one who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself that he is God. (5) Do you not remember that when I was with you, I was repeatedly telling you these things? (6) And as to the present, you know that which restrains him, that he may be revealed in his time.  (7) For indeed the mystery of lawlessness is already working, only the one who now restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way (8) and then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the breath of his mouth and will bring to an end by the glorious appearance of his coming; (9) whose coming is by the powerful influence of Satan, in all power–both signs and wonders of falsehood (10) and in every deceit of unrighteousness for those that are perishing, this is because they did not love the truth so that they might be saved. (11) And for this reason, God sends them an inward working of delusion to believe what is false, (12) for the purpose that all may be judged, having not believed the truth but delighted in unrighteousness.   

The Interpretation

(2:1)Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοίPaul introduces a change from thanksgiving and prayer in the previous chapter with the preposition δὲ in the phrase Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφο Moreover, we urge you, brothers. This epistolary section is addressed to new believers in Thessalonica in the first chapter, indicating an urgency to listen to the teaching they are about to receive from Paul because false teaching has infiltrated the community (v.2). Furthermore, the Greek preposition ὑπὲρ regarding further clarifies that the members were concerned about whether Jesus was coming soon or not. Paul is going to correct these errors from the Gnostic teachers.

The two nouns, coming τῆς παρουσια and being gatheredεπισυναγωγης are only governed by one article with the conjunction καὶ and are therefore considered to be the same event. This gathering is argued by post-tribulationists to explain both nouns have the same referent because of the TSKS construction. However, some scholars argue that this is a misinterpretation of Sharps rule because the nouns of the verses are impersonal substantives. Therefore, both nouns might not be referring to the same event but could be separate as dispensationalists would argue.

(2:2) εἰς τὸ μὴ ταχέως σαλευθῆναιThe object in this construction, εἰς τὸ μὴ of ερωοτωμεν has two infinitives: σαλευθῆναι, an aorist that looks at the action without completion and θροεῖσθαι, which defines the action as continual: we urge you not to be quickly shaken in mind or in a constant state of being troubled. This suggests that the Thessalonians have either had trouble doctrinally before or Paul is trying to prevent them.  

In the next phrase, μήτε διὰ πνεύματος μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε διἐπιστολῆς “neither by a spiritual gift of prophecy, nor a spoken word, nor by a letter, these three nouns are functioning as genitives of source. They all clarify the two infinitives σαλευθῆναι and θροεῖσθαι as being the reason for the difficulty in the Thessalonian church. Moreover, the instrument or means διὰ by which these two infinitives are effected by stands together in negative correlation with the triple μήτe being due to μηδὲ.

Paul is stating the teaching they received through the spirit, the word, and the letter did not come from him but false teachers. Through the spirit, πνεύματος, was by means of a spiritual gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:12; 1 Th. 5:19-20). Whatever medium this life giving spirithad on the community, allegedly it had Pauls authority just as the Thessalonians said about the spoken word and the letter they received. Paul intends to correct this mistake.

The construction ἡ ἡμέρα is most commonly used with the meaning the period between sunrise and sunset.However, the construction τοῦ κυρίου is added here as an appointed day for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The verb ἐνέστηκεν is used by Paul to negate that it is present and argue for a future day of trouble. Paul describes in the following verses what events must first take place.

(2:3) μή τις ὑμᾶς ἐξαπατήσῃ κατὰ μηδένα τρόπονPauls language here is emphatic: Do not let anyone deceive you in any way.”  First, the verb he prefers ἐξαπατήσῃ, is in the subjunctive, referring to Satans subtle deception (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14). Second, ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθῃ “because it will not be if not shall have come is a rare expression of the Aorist subjunctive with the negation μή. This elliptical condition is incomplete because the corresponding apodosis does not follow. Paul could have been using a rhetorical device known as anacoluthon to emphasize his urgency to warn.

Afterwards, Paul states the day of the Lord will not come until three events occur: the apostasy, the man of lawlessness is revealed, and the restrainer removed (v. 6-7). Although the temporal adverb πρῶτον helps to clarify the sequence of events in which the apostasy would be followed, the absence of ἔπειτα (then) verifies these events will occur simultaneously. The difficulty is interpreting how long these events will transpire before the end.

Paul and other New Testament writers express that this time of apostasy will be an increase of wrongdoing and opposition to God (Matt 24:10; Mk. 13:5; Lk. 8:13; Jude 18; 2 Tim. 3:1-9). The leader of this rebellion, ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, can be translated as the man of sinor of lawlessness(Ps. 89:22). He is identified as the son of destruction ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας not only because he opposesGod but because he exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped (2 Thess. 2:4; Dan. 11:36-37).

Moreover, this genitive of relationship ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας “son of perdition is paralleled to Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, The Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16). Christ will be revealed in all his glory and the Antichrist (1 Jn.2:18) will be followed by his destruction in the lake of fire with the rest of Gods enemies (1 Thess. 5:3; Rev. 17:8).

Daniels prophecy in 11:30-45 and Pauls teaching in 2:3-4 are clearly paralleled. They both state that the man of sinwill influence the world with smooth words and deceive those who forsake the holy covenant by acting wickedly, fulfilling the apostasy in 2:3. Then, he will persuade others to become godless and persecute those who remain loyal to Gods covenant ( Dan. 11:32-35).

Finally, this lawless one who will (2:4A) ὁ ἀντικείμενος καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενον θεὸν ἢ σέβασμαoppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship,will meet his end under Gods judicial judgment (Dan. 11:45; 2 Thess. 2:8) when he sets himself in the temple as God.  λεγόμενον θεὸ refers to would be gods and the true living God. Paul articulates this phrase to prevent believers from placing the true God in the same position with the idols of the pagan world.

(2:4B) ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσαι, ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτὸν ὅτι ἔστιν θεός… Next, the lawless one commits the greatest blasphemy so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself that he is God( Is. 14:14; 47:8; Ezek. 28:9). This is known as the abomination of desolation ( Dan. 9:27; 11:31; Matt. 24:15-16; Mk. 13:14). Scholars interpret this event in (3) ways: Occurred during first and second temple Judaism before its destruction in AD 70, the current rebuilt temple under the new covenant, the church (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16), or Gods heavenly temple (Ps. 11:4; Acts 7:49; Heb. 8:1-2).

First, since Paul has already stated in his letter that the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed (v. 3, 6-8), we can eliminate first and second temple Judaism of the past. Second, the noun ναὸν (temple) is made definite by the article and the possessive genitive τοῦ θεοῦ (of God). This explains a physical building was intended, not believers who are the temple of the living God (1 Cor. 6:19). The best clue in the text is the conjunction ὥστε with the infinitive. It indicates tendency or purpose not realized. Therefore, the lawless one will attempt to dethrone Gods heavenly throne not in a physical place, but through the powers of this dark world and through the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12).

(2:5) Οὐ μνημονεύετε ὅτι ἔτι ὢν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ταῦτα ἔλεγον ὑμῖνThis is now the fourth time in these two letters where Paul expresses the first person singular and the fourth of six instances where Paul exhorts them to remember what they had been taught (1 Thess. 2:9; 3:4; 4:1; 5:1-2; 2 Thess 3:10). The first person implies that he felt personally responsible for the instruction he gave to the Thessalonians and the writing of the letter (1 Thess. 5:27), even though it was written with the assistance of Timothy and Silvanus. Pauls authority implies that the church already accepted apostolic authority.

Moreover, Paul applies a stative verb ἔλεγον (I said) with a transitive preposition πρὸς(with). πρὸς is the only preposition whose force is overridden by the verb, making it static or an undefined duration: Do you not remember when I was yet with you, I was repeatedly telling you these things?The imperfect tense of ἔλεγον also verifies the view Paul was in Thessalonica longer than the three Sabbath days (Acts 17).

(2:6A) καὶ νῦν τὸ κατέχον οἴδατεκαὶ νῦν τὸ κατέχον οἴδατε, εἰς τὸ ἀποκαλυφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ…“and as to the present, you know that which restrains him, that he may be revealed in his time. The church knew about Pauls previous teaching concerning the apostasy and the man of lawlessness. Also, they knewthe unnamed restrainer (v. 6-7) as either the Roman government, the archangel Michael, an angel of Satan, the Holy Spirit, or the pre-tribulation church.

In Greek, the usage of the neuter gender κατέχον is an abstract expression where a singular appears when one would naturally look for a plural. This verse is synonymous with ὁ κατέχων in the next verse, implying the same object or person. Therefore, the best explanation is this person is Michael and his angels fighting against the adversary (Dan. 10:13; Rev. 12:7). Lastly, this restraint is placed on the man of lawlessness for a purpose that he should be revealed in the time that is right for his revealing.This shows God is in control and the lawless ones fate is determined.

(2:7A) τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίαςτῆς ἀνομίας is the descriptive genitive in subordinate relation to the subject of the clause τὸ μυστήριον. The text would therefore be rendered: For indeed the mystery of lawlessness is already working.Though this mystery is presently at work in the world, it wont be fully revealed until the second coming of Christ for at least two reasons: God is concealing this truth to harden unbelievers (Rom. 11:25; 2 Thess. 2:11-12) and transform Christians at the appointed time (1 Cor. 15:51), or the mystery is too difficult to grasp because it transcends human understanding.

(2:7B) μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μέσου γένηται…“only the one who now restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.” There is an ellipsis in this passage. μόνον is related to ἕως and identifies a limitation involved with the mystery until the object is removed and the Antichrist is revealed. Though we can only speculate on who this restrainer is, the text implies that the end was not immediate (v. 2). Paul clarifies “the one who restrains” is still actively present in the world, further justifying the parousia has not yet come.

(2:8) καὶ τότε ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος, ὃν ὁ κύριος [Ἰησοῦς] ἀνελεῖ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ καὶ καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ...The conjunction καὶ and adverb τότε denote that Paul is no longer referring to the present but to the future when the lawless one will be revealed and destroyed by the Lord. The phrase τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ is referring to the passage in Isaiah 11:4: “And He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked (NASB).”

Moreover, καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ declares that God will not only destroy the evil one with the breath of His mouth, but also with the appearance of his coming. τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ refers to an unexpected personal appearance of hidden divinity. It is used both of Jesusincarnation (2 Ti. 1:10) and his appearance in judgment (1 Ti. 6:14; 2 Ti. 4:1; 8; Tit. 2:13). This defeat is not only focused on the man of sin but also the destruction of all evil (1 Cor. 15:24), culminating in the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

(2:9) οὗ ἐστιν ἡ παρουσία κατἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ σημείοις καὶ τέρασιν ψεύδουςThis passage speaks about the coming of the Antichrist. Paul uses the same word ἡ παρουσία from verses 1 and 3, and οὗ is the relative pronoun that refers to the lawless one in verse 8. The παρουσία means the state of being present at a place (1 Cor. 16:17; Phil. 2:12). When Christ returns at the end of the age, he will make his presence felt by the revelation of his power to judge the world (Mt. 24:4; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Pet. 3:4). The lawless one will mimic Gods power under the influence of Satan, bringing false power, signs, and wonders to the Earth upon those who are perishing. Since the unrighteous will have no love for the truth, they will be deceived and follow the strong delusion that God permits from Satan (Col. 1:21; Eph. 4:17-19; Rom. 1:25).

Some scholars suggest that πάσῃ and δυνάμει are connected with all three nouns (power, sign, and wonders) and that ψεύδους is to be taken with all three substantives, rendering the phrase: in all power, signs, and wonders of falsehood.Others restrict the adjective πάσῃ and translate the two nouns: In all power–both signs and wonders of falsehood. The latter interpretation is more correct because only God is all-powerful, and Acts 2:22 and Hebrews 2:4 specifies that only Jesus has this unique power: δυνάμεσι καὶ τέρασι καὶ σημείοις οἷς ἐποίησεν διαὐτοῦ ὁ θεὸς ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν, καθὼς αὐτοὶ οἴδατε.

(2:10) καὶ ἐν πάσῃ ἀπάτῃ ἀδικίας τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις, ἀνθὧν τὴν ἀγάπην τῆς ἀληθείας οὐκ ἐδέξαντο εἰς τὸ σωθῆναι αὐτούςThis verse describes the trickery of the lawless one and how it affects the deceived. Not only does he come with false signs and wonders, but also with any other plan to forward his deception. The word for deception, ἀπάτῃ, expresses the idea of seduction that comes from wealth (Mt. 13:22; Mk. 4:19), empty deceit (Col 2:8), pleasure that involves one into sin, or deceptive trickery from an outside force (2 Thess. 2:10). Clearly the wicked will perish not only because of the schemes of the devil, but because they did not have a love for the truth.      

There is only one passage (Lk. 11:42) where ἀγάπην τῆς ἀληθείας the love of the truthis used with the objective genitive and the adverbial negation οὐκ. This means they did not love the truthrather than the truth did not love them.  Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Truth, has a love for his creation, desiring that no one perish but all come to repentance in faith (2 Pet 3:9). However, when He came to His own people (Jn. 1:11), they did notreceiveἐδέξαντο Him to be saved σωθῆναι. This infinitive communicates the purpose of the main action which we recognize by the preposition εἰς τὸ. Consequently, Paul is declaring that since they do not receive this truth to be saved, their only other option is to perish (1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; 4:3).

The verbal participle ἀπολλυμένοις describes the unbelieving world as experiencing destruction by being put to eternal death (Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:32; Rom. 14:15). This death is described as being lost, fading from beauty and splendor, (Js. 11:11; Rev. 18:14) and of the way of the godless, which is lost in darkness (Ps. 1:6). Moreover, it emphasizes the failure to obtain what one anticipates, such as heavenly rewards (Mt. 10:42; Mk. 9:41) or lose their connection with God just as wine that has lost its flavor or sheep that have gone astray from their shepherd ( Jer. 27:6; Ezek. 34:4; Jn. 6:12).

(2:11) καὶ διὰ τοῦτο πέμπειαὐτοῖς ὁ θεὸς ἐνέργειαν πλάνης εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι αὐτοὺς τῷ ψεύδει[And for this reason, God sends them an inward working of delusion so they believe what is false]. Since they have rejected the gospel, God begins to execute judgment upon them by sending a strong delusion so they cant distinguish between the truth of the gospel and the falsity of Satan. Paul comments in other passages where God allows sinners to indulge in the sin and errors they have approved (Ps. 80:12-13; Rom. 1:24; 2 Tim. 4:4) by giving the man of lawlessness the ability to propagate these lies.

God will πέμπει “sendthis strong delusion: The idea here is someone, whether human or transcendent, is dispatched to communicate a message (Lk. 20:11; 2 Cor. 9:3). In the context of this passage, the sending is an idea of moving from one place to another. It takes on the meaning to instruct, commission, or appoint. Therefore, God has appointed this strong delusion just as he did when he hardened the Israelites in the Old Testament (Isa. 6:9-10). For example, God sent a spirit to energize false prophets before Ahab and Jehoshaphat to bring down their alliance (1 Kgs 22:19; 2 Chr. 18:18-22).   

The next phrase, ἐνέργειαν πλάνης, is the only occurrence in the New Testament where πλάνης is a genitive of the object and signifies the aim of active inward energy: the state of being deceived.In addition, the nominative subject ὁ θεὸς, is emphatic, suggesting the reality it is God who is working out his moral purposes through the evil agencies to bring this strong delusion.

Its important to recognize that God does not cause their unbelief, but he sets the stage for them to demonstrate it. For example, an undercover cop doesnt participate in the evil of setting someone up, he simply pretends to follow so that the trap is set to capture the evildoer. Genuine believers will not be deceived in this way because we have been saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (NASB v.13).

(2:12) ἵνα κριθῶσιν πάντες οἱ μὴ πιστεύσαντες τῇ ἀληθείᾳ ἀλλὰ εὐδοκήσαντες τῇ ἀδικίᾳ…[in order that all may be judged, having not believed the truth but delighted in unrighteousness]. The purpose of πέμπει in the previous verse is contingent upon the purpose in εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι. Therefore, the ἵνα κριθῶσιν πάντες clause depends on εἰς τὸ: that all might be judged.Most scholars syntactically agree that this is a purpose clause because God is sending the delusion to fulfill the destiny of both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Furthermore, the aorist active participle πιστεύσαντες “having believedis used eight times to describe believers (Mk. 16:16; 2 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 4:3), and negatively, of those who did not believe (2 Thess. 2:12; Jude 5). Its considered an independent substantival, with the aspectual force of gnomic and continual: everyone who continually does not believe.

The aorist participle ὐδοκήσαντες and the dative noun τῇ ἀδικίᾳ are an example of the instrumental dative case of cause.The syntactical structure expresses the idea of cause, motive, or occasion and changes between the idea of association and means: delighted in unrighteousness. Unlike believers, who are producing the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5), the wicked are sowing corruption and reaping the consequences. The use of these two aorist participles strengthen the idea that Paul was thinking about the path they had chosen when they rejected the gospel more than the lifestyle that resulted from the choices they made.

These warnings by Paul were a sober reminder to the Thessalonians not to be shaken in mind or alarmed by deception (v. 2-3) so they would avoid perishing with the world. His purpose in admonishing the Thessalonians was to care for their souls. In the remaining verses (v. 13-16), Paul reminds them they have been saved by the truth of the gospel for the glory of the Lord, who loves and comforts their hearts.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barker, Kenneth and Kohlenberger, John. Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

Barton, John, and Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Baugh, Steven M. A First John Reader: Intermediate Greek Reading Notes and Grammar.

Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Company, 1999.

Beale, G.K. 1-2 Thessalonians: IVP New Testament Commentary. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Black, David Alan. Its Still Greek to Me. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Bridges, Linda. Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Macon: Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2008.

Buttrick, George, Knox, John, Scherer, Paul, Bowie, Walter, Terrein, Samuel, and Harmon, Nolan. The Interpreters Bible. New York: Abingdon Press, 1955.

Carson, D.A., France, R.T., Motyerand, J.A., Wenham, G.J. New Bible Commentary. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1994.

Carson, D.A. and Green, Gene. The Letters to the Thessalonians. Vol. 12. Leicester: Eerdmans Publishing House, 2002.

Danker, Frederick William. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early

Christian Literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Elwell, Walter Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989.

Fee, Gordon The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2009.

Frame, James Everett. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the

Thessalonians. Greenwood: The Attic Press, Inc., 1979.

Holmes, Michael. 1 and 2 Thessalonians: The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 1998.

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Longman III, Tremper, and Garland, David The Expositors Bible Commentary: Ephesians-Philemon. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 2006.

Menken, Maarten J.J. 2 Thessalonians. London: Routledge Press, 1994.

Moulton, James Hope, Howard, Wilbert Francis, and Turner, Nigel. A Grammar of New

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Robertson, A.T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research.

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Shogren, Gary Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervans Press, 2012.

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Teaching Handout: Summary of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Introduction: The culture attempts to influence our beliefs about the apocalypse end times.What are some rumors you have heard before concerning the end of the world? How did this make you feel (upset, nervous, skeptical)?

Transition: The Thessalonians had also been alarmed about rumors that the Day of the Lord was already present and Paul writes to instruct them.

Background of 2 Thessalonians:

1.) Authorship: The Apostle Paul [possibly Silvanus and Timothy]

2.) Date: A.D. 52-54; immediately following his first letter to the Thessalonians

3.) Destination of the Letter: To the church at Thessalonica

The Purpose of the Letter:

1.) The persecution from the Jewish mobs and others in the city had grown worse, causing the Christian community to despair. He wanted to write to comfort them in Christ (2 Thess. 2:16-17).

2.) Because of their increased persecution, false prophets were convincing them that the end was already present, even writing a false letter (2:2)

3.) The nearness of Christs return caused believed to neglect their vocational responsibilities. Paul writes to not walk in idleness but to continue in their vocations (2 Thess. 2:11).  

Outline of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: (taken from Michael Martin)

Regarding the Day of the Lord (2:1-17)

 

  • The issue identifies (2:1-2)
  • The Eschatological error corrected (2:3-10)
  • Rejection or acceptance of the Truth (2:11-15)
  • Concluding prayer (2:16-17)

 

Concluding Observations

 

  • How did Paul address the Thessalonians?
  • What misconceptions do we have about the end of the age?
  • Who do you think the man of lawlessness is based on the text?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Thessalonians that we can apply or avoid in our life?

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