2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 – The Consequences of Persistent Unbelief

2 Thessalonians 2v1-12

The Consequences of Persistent Unbelief.


Whenever Christians talk about what the bible teaches about hell many people become quite annoyed.

  • “Why should God send Aunt Mabel to Hell? What has she ever done to offend him?”
  • “There are so many who are good, upright, honest people how can God punish them?”
  • “I can understand God punishing bad people – but not good people.”

This kind of thinking arises from two basic misconceptions:

1st – that a God of love should not punish.

2nd – that people are basically good.

It is true that God is Love. It is also true that God is Just.

No one would agree that a parent who allows a child to always do only exactly as he/she pleases is a good parent. Nor would we say that a govt. is caring if it allowed its citizen to do exactly as each pleased. We expect there to be discipline and punishment for law breaking. These illustrations are limitedand some what simplistic but makes a point.

According to the bible people are not basically good.

Jeremiah 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure —

[desperately wicked]

Romans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (NIV)

Therefore because we are not basically good, but in fact are sinners,  God …… commands all people everywhere to repent. – and believe the gospel Acts 17:30 – Gospel being the truth in Jesus Christ.

If humans ignore God’s instructions to repent, to love God with all heart, mind, souls and strength, to love neighbour as self then can they complain if God carries out his promise to punish the unrepentant.

This really is what vss.10-12 are about

Those who wilfully ignore God / are opposed to God / are indifferent to God and are determined not to respond to his offer of salvation in Christ then he lets them go the way they choose with the inevitable consequences.

We talked last time about the ‘man of lawlessness’ who is the instrument of Satan to destroy and deceive. This Lawless one / antichrist will seek to take the place of God in people’s lives and hoodwink they to believe anything except the truth about God.

While it appears that this Lawless one will be a historical figure in the end times and there will be spiritual, moral and social decline it is also true that the devil’s “secret power of Lawlessness” is always at work in the world. [v7].

When we think of opposition to God and lawlessness and rebellion we tend to think of riots and anarchy – and while that is part of it – often however, it is a persistent undermining of God’s order of things.

When there is a moving away from God / His ways then there is moral decline; there is social breakdown; then is an increase in antagonism and intolerance towards God’s people. There may be much religion – Satan is not opposed to religion, he is opposed to Christ. He is called the antichrist NOT the anti-religionist. After all he seeks worship of himself or anything / anyone else so long as it is not the one true God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

So those outside of Christ / not his people need to hear Jesus’ offer of how to come into relationship with God as Father.

Those in the church must be careful not to be duped by false teaching / false Christs / false prophets…

Matthew 24:24 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible.

Satan is called – “the god of this world” – “a roaring lion seeking to devour ..” – “ masquerading as an angel of light seeking to deceive” – anti-God/anti-Christian attitudes and actions come in many guises.

So Far…..

In the section Paul unfolding an historical process – there is a time of restraint in which the secret power of lawlessness is held back. Next will come a time of rebellion when the lawless one will be revealed.  Then there will be the retribution during which time Christ will come and destroy the antichrist and all who believed his lie.

This time of rebellion at the end will not necessarily come suddenly. It may well come subtly and gradually so that we could be easily dupe if we are not on our guard. The devil-controlled antichrist will have great power – he will display miracles, and signs and wonders – counterfeit but not fakes – counterfeit because their purpose is to deceive rather than enlighten.

God’s signs and wonders are to point us to the truth – Satan’s signs and wonders are designed to deviate us from the truth. It is those who are perishing who are deceived by these things.

It is vv10 –12 that cause us some anxiety.

How can God send delusions to cause people to believe a lie and then condemn them for believing the delusion?

  1. 1.     The Perishing are Deceived. The Deceived are Perishing.

Both believers and unbelievers observe what is going on around them. They see the same phenomena – miracles, signs and wonders – but those who are perishing are the ones who are deceived. Paul is talking about the period of the end times but this is not exclusive to the end. This has been true all throughout history.

1 Corinthians 1:18         18 for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 4:3 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. (NIV)

The question is ‘Why’ and ‘How’ are they deceived?

2. They refuse to ‘love the Truth’

They are deceived because of their refusal to love the truth.

What is meant by the expression ‘love for the truth’?

Jesus calls himself ‘The Truth’. The message of the gospel is the truth. It is the rescue package that God offers to estranged sinners. God is in the business of reconciling wayward human beings to himself. The way that this reconciliation takes place is when in response to God’s offer of repentance and forgiveness through Jesus – of peace and reconciliation with God – people accept that offer, believe the truth of the message and come to love the Truth in the person of Jesus Christ.

In a very real sense we are all perishing until we come to Christ.

Romans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (NIV)

Romans 6:23 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (NIV)


John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

Behind the great deception lies a great refusal… John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects……

2 Thessalonians 2:10… They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

This is not simply failure on an intellectual level as though someone has made an honest mistake. This goes hand in hand with taking pleasure in unrighteousness / delighting in wickedness [v12]. These words seem harsh – Aunt Mabel is a sweet old lady, not wicked surely. BUT remember wickedness / unrighteousness is basically living without God – doing what I want!

How are they deceived? Because of their refusal to accept God’s offer. The cause of their perishing lies not in God but in themselves.

3. They bring destruction upon themselves.

Paul, in vv11-12, gives us the grimly logical process that ends in the condemnation of the unbeliever. This is a very sobering passage of scripture.

Faced with the choice of God’s offer or Satan’s they choose the latter.

Do people go around deliberately and consciously choosing to follow Satan’s lies? No but that is the subtly of the deception. In refusing to accept God’s truth they accept Satan’s deception by default.

By persistently refusing to accept the Truth God eventually confirms them in their chosen course of action by sending them a powerful delusion.

ILLUS.: Remember the story in the OT of Pharaoh and the Israelites. The Jews were slaves in Egypt. Moses goes to Pharaoh to ask him to free the Jews. Pharaoh hardens his heart and refuses. After repeated requests we read Pharaoh hardened his heart. Then Exodus 9:12 12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron…..

Pharaoh refused, and refused, and refused until God stepped in and he couldn’t but refused.

This same principle is taught by Paul in Romans 1

Romans 1:18-32

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 ..  24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator ….26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, …. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them. (NIV)

The crux of what Paul is saying is that God will honour the moral choices of individuals. Those who embrace a particular lifestyles will find that God gives them over to the consequences of their choices.

One of the ways in which God punishes us for our sins is that he leaves us to wallow in them – allowing a dissipated lifestyle to takes its inevitable consequences upon us.

ILLUS.: This past week I was watch TV News while I ate my lunch. I flipped channels and there was a woman’s programme. Someone asked the panel of 4 if any would consider having a fling / affair. They all said ‘NO’ – one elaborated by saying her parents had been part of a group who 20 years ago swapped partners BUT her parents never would. Then added all the coupled except her parents were not divorced.

Our choices have consequences. When people stubbornly refuse to acknowledge God and resist all God overtures of love and forgiveness he eventually confirms them in the choices.

God says, “If that is what you want, that is what you will have!”

4. They ultimately perish.

The ultimate consequence of persistent unbelief is to be condemned by God. The Bible describes it as Hell / eternal punishment / being cut off from God / receiving the wrath of God ….

It is an extremely sobering teaching.

It is not popular – even many Christians avoid talking about it. It is not something that is preached about much these days. We like to talk about God’s love and forgiveness and to make everybody feel happy. We want to come to church and be told heart-warming stories and sing uplifting songs – And there is nothing wrong with that!! Of course it has a place. The praises and Promises are great!!

BUT it must be balanced with the warnings. We ignore what the Bible teaches about hell to our peril.

It is no trivial matter to harden our hearts against the truth of God, to have no welcome for Jesus Christ, who is himself the truth.

When we refuse God we step onto the slippery slope that leads to condemnation.

Those who refuse Christ stand condemned already [John3] and will on the final Judgement day receive the due condemnation which they have chosen instead of the truth.

God created the world and everything in it, including us humans. Surely the designer and maker of the universe knows what is best for his creation. He has revealed to us that a personal relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ, is best for us. In spite of humans damaging this relationship God has done everything possible to repair the damaged the we, not he caused. If we refuse his offer it is a slap in the face – it is telling him that we puny creature know better – what an insult.

The person who goes to hell can never blame God – if we go there it is because we have chosen NOT to accept God’s love for the truth. God has done in Christ and is still doing all he can do to give us his truth BUT he will not force us.

5. The way of escape.

The only way to be protected from being deceived and condemned is to love goodness and truth. God gets no pleasure in condemning people.

John 3:16-17 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (NIV)

This is God’s pleasure and delight –he longs that sinners come to him. He delights to give us good gifts. He longs that we know and love him. It is not his desire that any should perish but that everyone should come to a knowledge of the truth.

There is no reason for anyone to be condemned – WHOEVER believes in JESUS shall not perish but have eternal life – BUT the sober warning is that rejection of God’s gift of His Son results in God’s judgement.

The Consequences of Persistent Unbelief.

2 Thessalonians 2v1-12 (Part 2)


Verses 1-12

      …characterised by 3 things

  • Restraint
  • Rebellion
  • Retribution


Verses 10-12

      The Perishing are Deceived…

…The Deceived are Perishing.


Ä   because

They refuse to ‘love the Truth’

They bring destruction on themselves


Ä   therefore

They ultimately perish



                  Now there is a way out…


                        WHOEVER believes in Jesus shall not

perish but have eternal life” John3v16


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