2 Thessalonians 2v1-12
God’s always triumphs! God’s enemies always ultimately fail!
ILLUS.: This past week we have seen the conviction of Dr Harold Shipman for the murder of 15 of his female patients – and there could be many more.
We are shocked by such things – and there is much pontificating and wringing of hands by the public in general and media in particular. Someone described Dr Shipman as “evil through and through”. BUT as Anne Atkins who presented the Thought for Today on Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday this week pointed out “There is within everyone of us the potential for such things”.
You would have to live with your head in the sand not to see moral decline in our society – and less and less regard for the law. The attitude of many is not, “Is it right?” but “Can I get away with it?”
The question is, “Is our age any different to previous times in history where there was decadence and disorder – Or is this the beginning of the end?”
Are we living in the end times? Yes and Maybe! Yes because we are always living in the end times – and maybe because Jesus could come tomorrow or in another 2000 years. We simply do not know when.
What we do know is that Christ will return and when he does he will deal with all those opposed to him and will vindicate his own people.
God always triumphs! God’s opponents always ultimately fail!
This is Paul’s main point – There was some confusion amongst the Thessalonians as to the nature and timing of Christ’s return – coupled to which they were under pressure from persecution.
In his 1st letter emphasised Christ’s 2nd Coming. Referred to often as “The Day of the Lord” / “That Day” / “Judgement Day”.
- 1. Has the ‘Day of the Lord’ already arrived?
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. (NIV)
The issue is fairly straightforward at this point that on the basis of some prophetic utterance or teaching or false claim of another letter from Paul himself some were claiming that the Day of the Lord had already come.
Paul then response to these reports by writing another letter – which he signs with his own hand / read last two verses of letter / and assures them that the ‘Day of the Lord’ had not come. The reason being was that certain things had to happen prior to Christ’s return and these things had not yet happened. This is what he spends the next 8 or so verses explaining.
NOTE: These next 8 or 10 verses are some of the most difficult in the NT to understand.
- Paul is replying to reports and question from the Thessalonians and we do not know what those were – we can only guess what they might have been from the answers given.
- Part of Paul’s answer is to remind them of what he taught them when he was with them 2 Thessalonians 2:5 5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? (NIV) One of the reasons we struggle with this passage is because Paul takes for granted that the Thessalonians know what he is talking about. He simply gives them a cryptic reminder.
- Why the ‘Day of the Lord’ has not yet arrived.
Paul gives two reasons why the ‘Day of the lord’ has not yet come.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 3 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, ……. (NIV)
1st – there will be a rebellion
2nd – the rebellion will be led by a rebel – the man of lawlessness.
Is this rebellion to be political or religious? Likely both with the emphasis on the religious.
Is this ‘man of lawlessness’ the antichrist? It certainly seems to be the same person about whom John writes in 1 John 2:18 18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, …. (NIV)
All this Paul taught them when he was with them and he reproaches them for their forgetfulness in v.5.
There are three basic questions we need to answer from this text – with help from other parts of scripture.
- Who is this rebel?
- What form will this rebellion take?
- What will be the outcome of the rebellion?
- Who is this rebel?
As we said earlier this man of lawlessness is also called antichrist. Paul describes him in 4 ways:-
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 3 … the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (NIV)
- The one who is Lawless. [v3 & v8]
- The one who is doomed.
- The one who opposes God
- The one who exalt self
He will be one who disregards all laws – civil and moral. All in the name of freedom. Jesus predicted this – Matthew 24:12 12 Because of the increase of wickedness [same word – lawlessness / anomia], the love of most will grow cold, (NIV)
This rebel is not only intent on creating anarchy but also wants to establish himself as the object of worship. He wants to usurp God’s place. He wants to dethrone God and enthrone himself.
What he means by the temple is uncertain.
- Is it a reference to the physical Temple in Jerusalem – destroyed in AD70?
- Is it a reference to the Church – often called God’s temple?
- Is it simply a figure of speech to indicate the rule of God and the worship due to him?
At various points in history there have been those who have shown no regard for God and his people and who have tried to set themselves up as gods.
The theme of opposition to God goes back to the Garden of Eden.
The King of Babylon – Isaiah 14:13-14 13 …”I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;…
14 …I will make myself like the Most High.” (NIV)
The Ruler of tyre – Ezekiel 28:2 2 ……”I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god..
In the 2nd C BC the Syrian King Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) Enter the most holy sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem and erected a stature – probably of the Greek god, Zeus, and then proceeded to sacrifice a pig on the altar.
This is the one who Daniel call the ‘little horn’ and said Daniel 11:31
31 “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. (NIV)
In 63 BC the Roman General Pompey entered Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple.
This was the ‘abomination of desolation’ referred to by Jesus in Matt.24 but he also clearly indicated that it still had future significance. Jesus was probably referring to the Jewish wars of AD 66-70 when the Roman armies seized Jerusalem, took the emperor’s image into the Temple courts and offered sacrifices there. The Temple was then destroyed.
During Paul’s time Roman Emperors claimed to be god – coupled with fierce persecution of Christians.
The apostle John wrote about antichrist / and the spirit of antichrist.
So who is the ‘man of lawlessness’ / ‘antichrist’?
It seems that in the end there will be one man. However, speculation about his identity seems to me to be a waste of time. Many have tried through the centuries – there is a long list including:-
- Roman Emperors
- Numerous Popes
- Martin Luther
- Napoleon Bonaparte
- Hitler – Mussolini – Stalin.
- Mikhail Gorbachev – the birth mark on his forehead allegedly being the mark of the beast.
- Ayatollah Khomeini
- Henry Kissenger
All through history there have been false teachers / lawless people / opposers of God. History repeats itself and prophecy often has multiple fufilments. All these evil leaders through history have been forerunners and anticipate the final ‘man of lawlessness’ who is an end-time figure yet also historical.
- What form will this rebellion take?
Paul says to the Thessalonians:-
– The Day of the Lord has not yet come
– because the man of lawlessness has not been revealed nor has the rebellion taken place
– This is because there is something/ someone restraining him – 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 …. the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (NIV)
– When the constraints are removed the rebellion and its leader will be revealed – it is the same word used to describe the revealing of Christ / Satan is the master counterfeiter. Many will be deceived by this because of the miracles, signs and wonders that accompany the ‘man of lawlessness’
– The antichrist’s power will not last
– Because he will be overthrown by the authentic Christ at his revealing. The power and position of the Lawless one will wither and be proved insignificant when compared to the awesome splendour of Jesus Christ.
What is the something / someone that Paul refers to as holding back this evil lawlessness?
Ä Some think that Paul is referring to himself and his preaching of the gospel –
Ä Others think it is the church and the Holy Spirit – No doubt the Church is to be salt and light and the Holy Spirit is present in the Church and at work in the world. However, there is no hint in the Bible that at the end times the Holy Spirit will “be taken out of the way”.
Ä It seems Paul may have in mind the Rome and the power of the state – By extension that applies to every state as the guardian of law and order / of public peace and justice. The bible clearly teaches that these civil authorities are God’s agents to hold society together and to restrain evil men.
It seems that state becomes the instruments of Satan at the end – Rev.13.
BUT isn’t this precisely the point – we see lawlessness in places were civil authorities are corrupt and Law and Order breaks down. Rwanda / Bosnia / Cambodia / – We see it is nation states and in society in general – This is what Paul says 2 Thessalonians 2:7 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; …..
What will happen in the end when the ‘man of lawlessness’ is revealed will be an increase in lawlessness both in intensity and extensity. There will be greater lawlessness and it will be world-wide.
Evil is inherently and fundamentally deceptive. Sometimes it comes as a frontal attack but most often it is a creeping undermining of God’s order of things.
It comes often not as an open invitation to do evil but as a camouflaged invitation to do something that appears to be good but isn’t. 2 Corinthians 11:14 14 .., for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (NIV)
Satan uses this “secret power of lawlessness” to disrupt and corrupt all that is good and godly. His anti-law, anti-God, anti-social movement is now suppressed and held back but we can detect its subversive influence around us today.
Þ Legitimate concerns for quality of life are used to hide the reality of euthanasia.
Þ The language of personal privacy and choice are used to mask the destruction of life by abortion.
Þ Under the guise of freedom we have cheapened that sanctity of marriage, sex and family life.
Þ When criminals get away with little or no punishment for their crimes and their victims are charged for protecting their own property. ILLUS.: Businessman in USA who fired an employee for stealing – taken to an industrial tribunal and lost. Reason- stealing from the company was not expressly forbidden in his terms of employment.
Þ When big businesses in the name of greater profits for their shareholders exploit their workers in sweatshops and hazardous working condition for pitiful wages.
Were it not for the remaining restraints which preserve a measure of justice, freedom, order and decency these thing would break out much more. And one day they will when the restraints are withdrawn and the secret power of lawlessness becomes and open rebellion under the leadership of the lawless one who will be revealed.
At that time we can expect a period of unprecedented political, moral, religious and social chaos. The true God and Law will be largely ignored – chaos and anarchy will abound BUT SUDDENLY … the Lord Jesus will overthrow him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendour of his coming.
It is true that we need to be aware of the Devil’s scheming – we need to hear what Paul is saying about the Spirit of Lawlessness and the revealing of the Lawless one.
The Focus of our interest must be Christ and not antichrist! Far too often people have become obsessed with the timetable of the End Times and who the antichrist is.
Paul point to the Thessalonians is that while they need to be aware of these things they need to take confident assurance from the fact that in the end Jesus wins He is the truth and the focus must be on him. The only way anyone is not going to be duped and destroyed by the Lawless one is to belong to Christ. In the end God’s opponents are always defeated and God always wins!
If we are not going to be deluded we must keep the focus on Jesus!
Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace. Helen H Lemmel
God’s always triumphs!
God’s enemies always ultimately fail!
2 Thessalonians 2v1-12
Has the ‘Day of the Lord’ arrived? v1-2
No! The ‘Day of the Lord’ has not yet come. v3
Ä Because ~ the ‘man of lawlessness’ has not
yet been revealed. v3
~ the ‘Rebellion’ has not yet happened. v3
These have not yet taken place because there is something / someone holding them back. v6-7
Who is this Rebel?
- The one who is Lawless
- The one who is Doomed
- The one who opposes God v3b-4
- The one who exalts himself as a god
What form will the rebellion take?
- It will be a period of unprecedented political, moral, religious and social chaos and anarchy. v9-10a
- Throughout history there is ‘lawlessness’ and ‘wickedness’ v7 – a foretaste of the time of rebellion.
What will be the outcome of the Rebellion?
- The power of the ‘Lawless One’ / Antichrist will not last ~ Christ will destroy all his opponents at his coming v8
- Jesus will come suddenly but not unexpectedly.
KEEP FOCUSSED ON JESUS!