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2 Thessalonians 2

"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"

1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ {NU-Text reads the Lord.} had come.

3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin {NU-Text reads lawlessness.} is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God {NU-Text omits as God.} in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He {Or he} who now restrains will do so until He {Or he} is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

You have heard somewhat similar words before. Indeed, just back at the end of September Nigel spoke on the following verses, also to the Thessalonians, also written by Paul in chapter 4:

1 Thessalonians 4: 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. {Or those who through Jesus sleep} 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day.

So why is he writing again to them, on something he has already written about? I think that the first line of the second reading says it in part - "I do not want you to be ignorant brethren," and in the verses we will look at today, we read "Let no one deceive you by any means". The Word of God repeats many things, and the more that they are repeated, the more important they must be, for God would never waste a word, and He knows of our ignorance, and our ability to be deceived, so we have a need to read much of the really important theology many times. On the other hand, just because a subject is touched on only briefly, it is not to be ignored, rather it is either such a plain and simple fact, that it need not be repeated, or it is something God is giving us a taste of, and more will come when we are able to understand it, for example the new Jerusalem as described in Revelation.

To demonstrate its importance, though one is inclined to think that this is in part to quell our curiosity, as living holy and humble lives should ready us for anything God would do, after all it is His business, ours is to obey, but God in His Word not only has Paul give us the facts on the Lord’s return in this and other books. Peter gives us the promise as well, and John writes a whole book describing events of the end of the ages. For example, Peter writes in 2 Peter chapter 3:

1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour,

3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

So, to return to the first paragraph of this chapter, what is Paul’s message?

1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ {NU-Text reads the Lord.} had come.

Here it is clear that Paul is writing to a group of people who appear to believe, or have doubts in thinking that maybe the Lord has already come, that the saints had already to be gathered. Paul is being very firm in his statement. Look how he notes that they are not to be shaken in mind, nor be troubled, and these feelings cannot be in spirit, that is within themselves, or to be talked about, nor to be written about, as it is not true. The Lord had not returned. The same is true today. We to must not be shaken, though in today’s world, it more of the length of time since the death and resurrection of Christ our Lord, rather than whether it has already happened that turns people to doubt. Many people no longer believe in a return of the Lord, some for what ever reason, including not believing in God, others, often so called Christian in their faith, not believing that the Lord will return in their time, and really have no concept related to this truth. Complacency in the modern world appears to be strong towards not expecting the imminent return of Christ.

The next two verses are somewhat more difficult ones to reconcile.

3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin {NU-Text reads lawlessness.} is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God {NU-Text omits as God.} in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

The biggest hurdle here is that of the word "Day". However, in reading this, in the context of the subject, it seems clear that the Day as mentioned here, is the time following the rapture, when all Christians are removed from this world, prior to the son of perdition coming to the fore. McDonald and Farstad explains this passage in this way, indicating that this text refers to the period following the rapture, and the period also known as the tribulation begins. McDonald and Farstad state:

The Scriptures contain many descriptions of important personages who will arise during the Tribulation, and it is difficult to know when different names apply to the same person. Some commentators believe that the man of sin will be a Jewish Antichrist. Others teach that he will be the Gentile head of the revived Roman Empire. Here are the names of some of the great rulers of the end times:

... the man of sin and son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3)

... the Antichrist (1 Jn. 2:18)

... the little horn (Dan. 7:8, 24b-26) ... the king of fierce features (Dan. 8:23-25)

... the prince who is to come (Dan. 9:26)

... the willful king (Dan. 11:36)

... the worthless shepherd (Zech. 11:17)

... the beast out of the sea (Rev. 13:1-10)

... the beast out of the earth (Rev. 13:11-17)

... the scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 17:4, 8-14)

... the king of the North (Dan. 11:6)

... the king of the South (Dan. 11:40)

... the false prophet (Rev. 19:20; 20:10)

... Gog, of the land of Magog (Ezek. 38:2-39:11) [not to be confused with the Gog of Rev. 20:8 who arises after the Millennium]

... the one who comes in his own name (John 5:43)

The man of sin> has been given an intriguing variety of identifications down through the years. He has been equated with the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, the Roman Empire, the final form of apostate Christendom, Judas reincarnated, Nero reincarnated, the Jewish State, Mohammed, Luther, Napoleon, Mussolini, and the embodiment of Satan.

2:4 He will violently oppose every form of divine worship and will enthrone himself in the temple of God in Jerusalem. This description clearly identifies him as Antichrist, the one who is opposed to Christ and who sets himself up in the place of Christ.[1]

Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15 show that this blasphemous action of the Antichrist takes place in the middle of the Tribulation Period. Those who refuse to worship him will be persecuted and many will be martyred.[2]

"For that Day" is not referring to the day Christ returns for His saints. Rather this is the day that Christ returns to earth, the second coming. This is the best verse that tells us that we shall not be here during the tribulation, when the earth with be in massive upheaval and destruction. This is clear here, as Paul is telling the Thessalonians thus: if you have missed out on the coming of the Lord in the rapture, as seen in 1 Thessalonians, then you should see this man of perdition coming to the fore. This is not occurring, so therefore, the rapture has not occurred. Therefore, we are raptured before this period, and thus before the Tribulation, as we will not see the man of perdition rise to power.

We have seen some names are that given today, as it would have been back in Thessalonian times, but none fit the descriptions found in Revelations. In Revelation we know the period will be seven years in length, as seen in Revelation chapter 11 verse 9 and verse 11, repeated, so emphasized, the time frame of 3/12 years that follow the preceding three and half years, and these are times being spoken of by Paul. I won’t go into this today, it gets pretty violent, and we know that these prophecies have yet to come, and we will not be here, so we need not fear. However, the point is made to the Thessalonians, the saints can’t have left yet, as none of this is occurring, despite what some may say. We can rest in the same peace the Paul is emphasizing for the Thessalonians. To reiterate: the bottom line of these few verses are this:

The Thessalonians were concerned that the Lord had already returned for His saints.

Paul tells them that if that had happened they would be seeing the rise of the son of perdition;

That was not occurring

Therefore, the Lord had not returned;

Therefore, Paul is stating that the Lord will come back for His children before the son of perdition rises. If it this was not the case, I do not know why Paul talks of this non-event, as a sign that the Lord had not returned for His saints. This is clear to my understanding, that Paul was talking of a sequence of events, and by looking at these we can continue to wait for the events of 1 Thessalonians.

Let us move forward as these next few verses are interesting, as to the nature of the Thessalonians. Paul writes

5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?

The poor Thessalonians have a memory problem much like our own. Paul reminds them that he has already told them these things face to face. But he sees the need to re-emphasize this point. As God sees fit to state these points for our own benefit. I don’t think we can lift our heads any higher than the Thessalonians on this point. We too hear, we read, we doubt.

Paul, has more to say though regarding this whole point being discussed here, in Christianity:

6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He {Or he} who now restrains will do so until He {Or he} is taken out of the way.

This is an interesting statement, and commentaries don’t appear to be too agreeable on exactly the meaning of verse six, though the rest is clear enough. So, what does this word "restraining" mean here? The first thought appears to be that of the Lord’s coming for us, that the Lord is restraining Himself, so that His return is at His own time, so that as we saw in 2 Peter 3:9 - "not willing that any should perish". There is nothing wrong with this thought, however, verse seven gives us a greater clue as to the meaning of these verses as put to the Thessalonians by Paul, the context of this writing.

The Holy Spirit is what convicts a person of his own sin. The Holy Spirit enables a conscience to work towards knowing God and understanding ones’ own sin. We see this in 1 Corinthians 2:12 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy {NU-Text omits Holy.} Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned".

In this context, the Holy Spirit can be seen as the restrainer, of sin going into complete lawlessness. We note that the "mystery of lawlessness" is already at work, and those of you may nod at this with me, can be reminded by God that - using the old adage - "we ain’t seen nothing yet" if we think that the world is bad right now. Remove the restraint and see what happens. This present world evil will seem like fun at the children’s playground - a squabble here and there, but on the whole quite a pleasant place to be. I am not trying to trivialize the current level of sin in this world. The world is indeed an evil place. But looking around the room, we all live in a state of abject peace, and comfort, compared to some poor souls in this world. When this time comes, there will be no peace, no comfort (anywhere on the planet). We can be thankful for this placement that God has given us, and that we will be taken from it before the Tribulation.

Paul however does not dwell on this period of earths terrible history. He moves quickly to the conclusion of the matter, Paul writes:

8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Paul moves right into the destruction of the lawless one, and all those who follow him. We can see in John 5:43 a further warning to us, as there are many who will be there when the lawless one comes. Jesus tells the people: "I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive." This is the meaning of verse 11, but as a finality in this setting in Thessalonians. The same state can also be seen in the dire warning of Ezekiel 14:4: "Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: "Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols".

The same statements apply today, as much as it was relevant back in Ezekiel’s day, we saw what happened to those Jews that refused to follow God’s way, the consequence of worshipping at the wrong altar. It is a solemn warning for all today worshipping at the altars of the modern world: money; capitalism; sexual immoralities, this latter point we see as a key discussion point in our own government; the equal rights of the homosexual community; to the far more subtle use of sex as the selling tool for things from cars to holidays. Paul writes of the condemnation of those that are in this situation on that Day.

Our time is fast coming to a close, so we need to move on into the closing verses of the chapter, and what a contrast these verses are, what a blessing for those who believe! Take these words in and meditate on them as you leave here today. This is how we must be, and where we must sit in our relationship with God, and be thankful not just for ourselves, but be able to look at each other in this room, and our fellow Christians anywhere and be able to say:

13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

Here is the good part. Here is the part of encouragement for all believers. Here is the words for those who have not accepted the delusions, who have not surrounded themselves with a multitude of idols, who have turned their hearts to God, and have chosen to accept salvation.

God can comfort our hearts. Time is still on our side, the rapture has not come, we need not worry. Our future is secure. God tells as this, because He loves us, He has given us eternal life through His Grace, we have Hope, and last of all, He will guide us through what we should be concerned about, doing His will, His work, with holiness and humbleness. As we read in Revelation: 3:11 "Behold I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown"

 

[1] (2:4) The Greek preposition (here a prefix) anti has both the meaning "against" and "in place of." Both meanings fit the Antichrist.

[2] MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. 1997, c1995. Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments . Thomas Nelson: Nashville.

Stephen Simon
Thessalonians/2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 (SBS)