The Latter Epistles – 2 Thessalonians 2

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.  Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.  He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?  And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.  For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.  The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works.  He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ‘Coming of the Lord’: “In the church of Christ, the teaching has always been that Christ is coming quickly and that teaching must never be withdrawn, for he is coming quickly, as he said to John in the Revelation.  At the same time, this teaching has given an opportunity to certain presumptuous people to prophesy that at such and such a time Christ will come.  They know nothing about it, and their prophecies are not worth the breath they spend in uttering them.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 ‘The Day of the Lord and the Man of Lawlessness’: “Because 2 Thessalonians was written shortly after 1 Thessalonians and touches on many of the same issues addressed in the first letter, there must have been some interchange between Paul and the Thessalonians in between the letters.  In reference to the doctrine of the rapture (verse 1), confusion had arisen, for some in the church body thought they were in the ‘day of the Lord’ (verse 2).  Yet the ‘gathering together to Him’ referred to the rapture, which had not yet happened and about which Paul had written (1 Thessalonians 4).  He writes that they should not be so ‘quickly shaken’ or ‘disturbed’ in thinking that the Day of the Lord had come.  The verb ‘had come’ … could be translated ‘has been installed, been put in place.’  Apparently some false apostles were opposing Paul’s teaching and were going about saying that the church was in the Tribulation!  These deceivers were disturbing the church through a false spirit, or attitude, and sending false messengers and letters. …
“One of the key signs that the Day of the Lord has come is that ‘the apostasy comes first’ (verse 3).  The Greek word
apostasia means ‘to stand away from’ in the sense of moving away from the truth.  This apostasy will be a climatic revolt and an aggressive departure from God that will prepare the world for the appearance of the ‘man of lawlessness,’ the Antichrist.  Since this apostasy comes first, before the revelation of the Antichrist, it must take place toward the end of the church age.  Though the rebellion of the Antichrist is already at work in the world in seed form (1 John 4:1-3), a specific period of tribulation is yet to come.  Paul twice made it clear that believers would be delivered from the Tribulation wrath (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 ‘the falling away’: “The Day of the Lord cannot occur until as deliberate abandonment of a formerly professed position, allegiance, or commitment occurs (the term was used to refer to military, political, or religious rebellion).  Some have suggested, on questionable linguistic  evidence, that this refers to ‘departure’ in the sense of the Rapture.  Context, however, points to a religious defection, which is further described in verse 4.  The language indicates a specific event, not general apostasy which exists now and always will.  Rather, Paul has in mind THE apostasy.  This is an event which is clearly and specifically identifiable and unique, the consummate act of rebellion, an event of final magnitude.  The key to identifying the even is to identify the main person, which Paul does, calling him the ‘man of sin.’  Some texts have ;man of lawlessness,’ but there is no real difference in meaning since sin equals lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  This is the one who is called ‘the prince who is to come’ (Dan. 9:26) and ‘the little horn’ (Dan. 7:8), whom John calls ‘the beast’ (Rev. 13:2-10, 18) and most know as the Antichrist.  The context and language clearly identify a real person in future times who actually does the things prophesied of him in Scripture.  He is also called ‘the son of perdition’ or destruction, a term used of Judas Iscariot (John 17:12).  ‘The falling away’ is the abomination of desolation that takes place at the midpoint of the Tribulation, spoken in Daniel 9:27; 11:31; and Matthew 24:15. …  This man is not Satan, although Satan is the force behind him (v. 9) and he has motives like the desires of the devil (cf. Is. 14:13, 14).  Paul is referring to the very act of ultimate apostasy which reveals the final Antichrist and sets the course for the events that usher in the Day of the Lord.  Apparently, he will be seen as supportive of religion so that God and Christ will not appear as his enemies until the apostasy.  He exalts himself and opposes God by moving into the temple, the place for worship of God, declaring himself to be God and demanding the worship of the world.  In this act of satanic deification, he commits the great apostasy in defiance of God.  For the first three and one-half years, there is Tribulation, he maintains relations with Israel, but halts those (cf. Dan. 9:27); and for the last three and one-half years, there is great tribulation under his reign (cf. Dan. 7:25; 11:36-39; Matt. 24:15-21; Rev. 13:1-8) culminating with the Day of the Lord.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

2 Thessalonians 2:5-6 ‘the coming apostasy’: “Some instructions about this eschatological revolt against God had been included in Paul’s teaching while in Thessalonica.  ‘Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?’ (2:5).  Apart from 3:17-18, this is the only instance in this letter where Paul uses the first person singular.  He had taught the Thessalonians about the Parousia, but they had not remembered that the great rebellion and the revelation of Antichrist would take place before Christ returns.
“’And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time’ (2:6).  Paul’s readers knew because they had been told; we are not so fortunate and so have to make informed guesses at what it is that restrains the Antichrist from coming into the open.  Implied is that God determines the time, and not the lawless one.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

2 Thessalonians 2:7 ‘mystery of iniquity’: “But sin is loose in the universe and this I do not understand.  It is called ‘the mystery of iniquity’ and it is said that it already works.  This mystery of iniquity I do not understand.  I do not know why a Holy God could allow to let loose in His world this iniquitous thing.  But I know that God contains it and I know that God’s plans took it into account.  And I know that when God laid His plans in heaven and earth and the creation of Adam, He knew about sin and knew about its wild, fugitive presence in the universe, so He took it into account.  Though this outlaw called sin is now in the heavens, it can no more change the purposes of God or frustrate the plans of God than an outlaw hiding in the wilds of Canada can prevent the work of this nation.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attribute of God II

2 Thessalonians 2:7-10 ‘not receiving the love of the Truth’: “This is the last sin of all – that ungodly men do not receive ‘the love of the truth.’  If they were themselves, true, they would love the truth of God.  If the grace of God were in them, his own precious truth would be prized by them above everything else!  But when men finally reject the truth by which they might be saved, God visits them with terrible judgments.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Thessalonians 2:8 ‘’: ”Greek ho anomos – literally ‘without law,’ points to a man consumed with rebellion.  This evil figure is also called ‘the Antichrist’ (1 John 4:2, 3) and ‘the beast’ (Rev. 13:1).  He stands in direct defiance to Jesus Christ, the embodiment of righteousness.  Yet, in the end, this man will be conquered by the Sovereign Ruler of the universe.

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 ‘choosing to believe a lie’: “God has planted truth inside every human being, yet some choose to believe the lie.  So God gives them over to a powerful delusion, and those who willfully delight in wickedness remain mired in the lie, until their self-deception and self-destruction is complete.  The coming of Jesus, the Son of Man, who will destroy the destroyer, will destroy the lie – and all those who believe it.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

2 Thessalonians 2:13 ‘brothers and sisters’: “We might often find comfort and relief from gloomy apprehensions by associating with those who are ‘brothers and sisters loved by the Lord.’  Contemplate your true standing in the sight of God that you may be uplifted from the dunghills of your complaints.  Shake off the ashes of your doubts, unwind the sackcloth of your fears, put on your beautiful garments of holy rejoicing, and sing aloud unto him through whose grace you are made worthy to be called ‘brothers and sisters loved by the Lord.’”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Thessalonians 2:14, 16 ‘The Glorification of Believers’: “The Apostle Paul is grateful for the Thessalonian believers because of the Lord’s sovereign work of bringing them to salvation.  From the beginning God called them to salvation ‘through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth’ (verse 13).  Both the work of the Spirit and the human response by faith are mentioned.
:The calling came through the gospel given by Paul and his companions.  The result of this call, and the goal, is that they ‘may gain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (verse 14).  ‘’May gain the glory’ is actually a prepositional phrase meaning ‘into the acquisition and possession of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.’  What the Lord determined in the past was carried out in history so that the future will grant them a share in the exaltation of Christ.  Paul had earlier written of this divine act when he penned, ‘God … calls you into His own kingdom and glory’ (1 Thessalonians 2:12).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ‘the source of blessings’: “There is the source of all our blessings.  The source of our present comfort and of our future perseverance is the fact that Jesus Christ is ours.  We must look at him now with the adoring eyes of our reverent contemplation, in his glorious deity and his perfect manhood.  Being divine, he is omnipotent, and that almighty power he wields for us.  Being divine, he is omniscient, and those sleepless eyes of his are always on the watch for us.  Being divine, he is immutable, and that eternal love of his that knows no shadow of a change is fixed on us.  Enlarge your thoughts concerning the Lord Jesus.  Think most highly of him.  Extol him with our heart and with your tongue.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ‘Do not forget Jesus’: “Are you still in love with Jesus?  Before you remember anything, remember him.  If you forget anything, don’t forget him.
“Oh, but how quickly we forget.  So much happens through the years.  So many changes within.  So many alterations without.  And, somewhere, back there, we leave him.  We don’t turn away from him … we just don’t take him with us.  Assignments come.  Promotions come.  Budgets are made.  Kids are born, and the Christ … the Christ is forgotten.
“Has it been a while since you stared at the heavens in speechless amazement?  Has it been a while since you realized God’s divinity and your carnality?
“If it has, then you need to know something.  He is still there.  He hasn’t left.”

  • Max Lucado, Six Hours One Friday

My Thoughts

As for Christ’s coming, a lot has been written and a lot has been speculated.  We will all instantly know when Christ returns.  Jesus will be up close and personal.  Since people live in all 24 time zones around the world, you may wonder how is that possible that one person could do that.  I have heard that Jesus will speak to us through our cellphones, but this notion is ridiculous.  Not everyone on earth has a cellphone.  But regardless of the mechanism, Jesus is God, and He can pull it off.

But before that happens, the theme of this chapter is that the Antichrist or as stated in the NIV, the man of lawlessness, will come and rule the entire earth.  What does the Scripture say?  The Antichrist will oppose God and everything that is God.  He will set himself up in the “Temple.”  He will claim to be God.

We have had many that oppose God.  Some of these people have been very influential, powerful people.  This person does not need to be a political figure or a religious figure.  Some of the present richest people on earth have been rumored to wield power behind the scenes, and they have never been elected to anything.  But as for political figures, if the United Nations succeeds at a world government, the Secretary-General might assume that role.  Since every large nation on earth owes China a lot of money, they could call in their loans, bankrupting the major powers on earth, and the General Secretary of the CCP might be the answer.  But we could go far afield and way off the track by guessing anyone.  The CCP has rewritten the Bible so that the major conclusion is that the CCP takes precedence over God, even portraying Jesus as a zealot for the party.  That is starting to sound like absolute apostasy, but for now, only in China and then real Bibles can still be smuggled into the country,

As the Scripture suggests and the Baker Commentary suggests, God sets the time, not the lawless one.

How can anyone, who is doomed to destruction, play the role of the loser in this cosmic battle?  Just look at the despots of the past.  Their hubris had no bounds.  They do not believe that there is a God.  Otherwise, why would they think of setting themselves up as God?  And the cloud of delusion will pass over those who do not serve the Lord.  They will gladly buy into the lies.  As God confused our speech to spread humanity across the globe, He will allow this delusion to unite the world.  Could this be Climate Change, the UN’s excuse for wanting a One-World government?

But for the Man of Lawlessness?  To occupy the temple, we need a temple.  Some claim that the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt.  Others have postulated the Vatican, the UN, or other structure.  Yet, it must be a location where the Man of Lawlessness can claim divinity and the requirement for everyone to worship him.  Some of the alternate locations may affect global rule but not global worship.

It seems we have the elements of apostasy in this world now.  In talking with some people who are firmly in the secular camp, they do not feel that we are in the post-Christian era.  Why?  They have not been allowed to kill any Christian on sight.  When that happens, they will be satisfied, but I think the absolute apostasy of the church is when it becomes so secular, so corrupt, that no one could become a Christian by worshipping there.  The world may have gone mad, embracing the lies as this Scripture suggests, but it is still possible for people to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Which brings us to Paul’s final encouragement to the Thessalonians, and to us, with a prayer to encourage us and give us hope. There will be hard times ahead, but with Jesus in our hearts, we will be victors.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. In contrast to verse 10, what do you think would be the result of choosing to ‘love the truth’?
“2. What do we need to do today to be morally alert?
“3. What encouragement do verses 13-14 give you as you need encouragement and strength from God now?
“4. Put Paul’s prayer [vv. 16-17] in your own words and pray it for one another this week.

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Again, the Serendipity Bible has an interesting final “question.”  Whether you are using this as a small group study or a personal Bible study, we need to pray for one another.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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