are we THERE YET? (Parts 1 and 2)

Scripture Study:  2 Thessalonians 2:1-8

– PART ONE –

The imminence of Christ’s return

Christ’s return has been written about almost exhaustively over the years, so I hesitated about my own investigation regarding this topic found in Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica.  The topic has been taken to a point where certain Scriptures are now just ignored and that’s sad.  It’s better to see imminence as a personal thing, which it is!

What is the truth?

From this point on, I’m assuming that Paul spoke the truth when he gave the fact of 2 Thessalonians 2.  And that Peter also spoke the truth when he told his people to look for Jesus, though many things were coming first.

Looking back at 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, we find many truths found nowhere else in the Bible.  It’s the KEY to understanding future events and central to the letter.

The church at Thessalonica found itself, much as we are at times, in a state of confusion over the return of Jesus.  So Paul here begins dealing with a doctrinal error concerning the return of Christ that had crept into the Thessalonian church.

The Day of the LORD!

Paul had instructed the Thessalonians concerning the Day of the Lord when he preached to them in person.  The Day of the Lord is the period of history mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament in which God will bring JUDGMENT [and Millenial blessing] on the people of the earth in a more direct and really drastic way than ever before (Isa. 13:6, 9; Zeph. 1:14-16).  

With other New Testament revelation concerning this period of time, it’s believed that the Day of the Lord begins after the Rapture of the church, including the Tribulation and the Millenium.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he taught them that the day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  Misinformation ran rampant regarding this event.  To some, it sounded like the day of the Lord had already come.  After all, the persecution they were experiencing seemed to be what the prophets of old had predicted with great calamities coming on the world in “that day”.  Apparently, the church members in Thessalonica even had received instruction from other teachers that the judgments they were going through were during the Day of the Lord, that is, the Great Tribulation.  But if this was true, how could Paul’s previous instructions, that they would be caught up (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and escape the wrath of God coming on the earth be true?

Paul wrote this section (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8) to clarify the matter:

So the church had not been excluded from the Rapture nor was it the Day of the Lord, for other events must occur before the great gathering of God’s people and the Great Tribulation.  Not only that, but believers will not go through the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

VERSE 1 is an urgent request for them to understand properly the events around the Coming of the Lord.

Paul ow dives into the subject of the return of Jesus on which he has just referred to in his letter (1:5-10).  The brethren are begged to correct the confusion on the return of their Lord and Savior.

There are two phrases in the verse relating to the Second Coming.  The first is “regard to the coming” (NASB); “concerning the coming” (NIV), and the second is “our being gathered to Him”, which refers to the Rapture.  Both phrases are generally interpreted as referring to the coming of Christ.  The parousia (Grk.), or coming, had been used in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 & 4:15; the gathering out of God’s people event.  The gathering together is a reminder of 1 Thessalonians 4:17,  with both those in Christ who have died and those still living, will be “caught up together” to meet the Lord, and will “always be with the Lord.”

Just a side-note here.  I want to point out that “parousia” also is used for Christ’s return after the Tribulation (Matthew 24:37-39).  We still look for and await this great assembly together in the sky!

The Day of the Lord (Vs. 2)

VERSE 2 addresses the alarms that twisted teaching had brought about the cause of their present tribulation.

They were “shaken”, “unsettled”. “alarmed”, “disturbed” by false teaching about being in the Great Tribulation.

They were told that the persecution they were enduring was because the Day of the Lord had arrived!  The “Day of the Lord” was well known from the Old Testament and probably with Paul’s teaching as well.  In the Old Testament, the expression “Day of the Lord” occurs 20 times; “last days” 14 times; and“in that day” 100 plus times.  It will be a time of God’s special intervention in the affairs of the world (Isa. 2:1-2, 9-12; 4:1-2, 12; Joel 2:4-11; 30-32).  God has appointed a DAY that Christ the Lord shall return and remove His holy people, and they will be gathered to Him.

WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY THAT WILL BE!

Following the Rapture, is the period that’s identified as. “THE GREAT TRIBULATION” (see Revelation 7:14)

“The Day of the Lord” refers to a period of unprecedented judgments poured out successively on the earth and done so for a period of seven years.  However, even during that terrible period, God will receive any who turn to Him in faith.  Tragically, most of mankind will curse the God of Heaven rather than turn to Him in faith (Revelation 16:8-21).

I can’t help from thinking that it’s not much different from the situation that’s prevalent today when people are too wrapped up in pursuing their own desires to think of God or their relationship to Him.  For most of mankind, “self” is the center of their lives.

Apparently, the theory that the Thessalonians had accepted. was the day of the Lord had come through three channels: “by spirit, report or letter,” indicating that the day of the Lord had already come.  Because of the sources, the Thessalonians were more inclined to accept it as authoritative truth.

The reference to “spirit” probably indicates that some of this teaching came in the form of prophecy, utterances in public worship, purporting to be given by the Holy Spirit.  In addition to prophecies, there had also been “words”.  That probably means by normal conversation and dialogue.

A third form of the false teaching came in some kind of a “letter”, claiming to have been from Paul, which he denies responsibility for any such “letter.”

“Say it isn’t so!”

The Thessalonian church, in their suffering, were convinced that the tribulation period was already in progress, even though the Lord hadn’t come to gather them to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  And how about the promises that they wouldn’t see God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9)?

Paul had taught them, a pretribulational Rapture.  But their confusion arose because they couldn’t distinguish their present troubles from those of the day of the Lord.  And people were telling them of Paul’s apparent backing, that any such deliverance wasn’t going to happen.

So Paul needed to reassure them that they had understood him correctly in his first Epistle.  To accomplish this, Paul proceeds to describe features, obviously not yet present, that will characterize that day’s early stages.

THE APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH;  [V. 3a] Amplified Bible

“Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for THAT DAY will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come]”

The antidote to poisonous heresy is a good strong dose of the TRUTH!

So Paul proceeds by referring to three events which must take place BEFORE the judgments of the Day of the Lord took place,

The APOSTASY that Paul is speaking, means a “departure”, and religious apostasy means a departure from God’s TRUTH as revealed in His Word, the Bible.  Paul’s not talking about just any departure, or falling away from the faith, but about a special, particular, and widespread one.  “Apostasy,” doesn’t mean merely disbelieving but rather an aggressive and angry revolt (Hebrews 2:12).  It’s this apostasy that will come before the Day of the Lord.

This APOSTASY is not talking about just a few scattered people, but millions betraying the Scriptures, a dream of liberal churchmen for the establishment of a truly ecumenical church.  That church will be a moral church, teaching doctrine formulated to appease society’s expectations, telling mankind what he wants to hear.  This church will unite all religions under one roof, permitting worship of the Antichrist to be rapidly instituted.  This church is the scarlet whore foretold by John (Rev. 17:1-18).

But the Day of the Lord will not come until this great religious apostasy sweeps the earth!

Can you see it happening today?  Church members said they’ve been saved by the Grace of God BUT…don’t act like they love the Lord.  They have a form of godliness but deny by their action to love God’s people and the sharing of the Gospel of Salvation.  They won’t care for the things that God cares about (Mat. 24:10-11).  If they are not of the Apostasy, they certainly facilitate it!

  • PART TWO –  are we THERE YET?

THE LAWLESS ONE, (Vv. 3b-5)

Another event that must take place before the judgments occur is the revelation of “the man of lawlessness.”

This event will begin the awful DAY OF JUDGMENTS.

His revealing not only includes who he is but also being revealed for what he is, the MAN OF SIN.

He will be fully associated with and characterized by “lawlessness” (Grk., anomias, or “sin,” as some mss. have it).  This person is thus characterized as being opposed to God’s law.  He’s also described as the man doomed to destruction (“the son of perdition,” KJV).  The same spirit that filled Judas Iscariot (John 17:12), making him the son of perdition, also makes Antichrist the “son of perdition.”

Elsewhere in the Bible he’s called the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8); the “prince that shall come” (Dan. 9:27); the “willful king” (Dan. 11:36); the “antichrist who will come” (1 Jn. 2:18).  This man is also called the “beast coming out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1-10).

He is the Antichrist, a pseudo-Christ, hostile to the Savior.

He will be a real human being, not a principle or system or a succession of individuals.  Such a person hasn’t been spotlighted on the scene as of yet.  This person is the ultimate personification of Satan, the culmination of all that is opposed to God.

I don’t believe there’s a need to speculate about who this individual might be, we’re not told, nor is it important that we should know who he is.  He will be revealed at the appropriate time, but his identity will be revealed only after the people of God have been taken out of this world.  This man will be Satan’s showpiece who will usher in the Great Tribulation by his presence.  He will not be revealed until the faithful of the present age are taken into the presence of our Lord at the Rapture.  Jesus is our Savior!

Jesus did say quite plainly in Mark 13:32-33,

2 Thessalonians 2:4 gives us a fuller characterization of this evil person who sets himself up as God.

Revelation 13:5-8 certainly adds to. the picture that the “beast” will tolerate the worship of no one but himself.

So after the “departure” or falling away of the saints in verse 3, Antichrist will demand to be worshipped as God at the temple in Jerusalem.  Is this a literal temple, or is this a metaphor, meaning that he usurps God’s authority?  Both are possible.  The Jewish people are certainly preparing to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  [seeUpdate on the Building of the Third Temple” at Jewish Voice Ministries – https://www.jewishvoice.org update-building-third-temple]

“Wait a minute,” you’re thinking.  “How can THE TEMPLE BE REBUILT if the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock, the third most holy site of Islam sits on the very spot where the temple is to be built?”  The Antichrist will say, “Let me solve this sticky issue, the Palestinian problem, the question of Jerusalem.  Jews, you build your temple on the true site of the Temple.  We’ll build a wall to separate it from the Muslim Dome of the Rock Mosque.”  Ezekiel prophesied this very thing (Ezk. 42:20).  In this way, Antichrist will seem to have solved the problem that has troubled and divided Jerusalem for centuries.

Then, in the midst of his popularity, Antichrist will walk into the Temple and demand to be worshipped, “proclaiming that he himself is God” [Ezk. 28:2; Dan. 11:36, 37.].

Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Don’t be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed…you are not in the Tribulation.  This is not the Day of the Lord you’re in.  You didn’t miss the Rapture because the man of lawlessness–the “son of perdition”–Antichrist–has not come.”

Though the Lord will come “like a thief in the night”–unexpectantly (1 Thess. 5:1-11), Jesus will not come until certain events take place.  It requires no imagination to suggest that events around us are rushing toward the great finale.  It’s entirely possible that Antichrist has already been born; all that waits for the knowledge of this individual is the Rapture of God’s people and then he will be revealed.  At that time, those awful events that culminate and God’s Word to the earth will be set in motion.  We who are Christians are called to live with confidence in this present age, knowing that we are destined for SALVATION and not wrath.  We are responsible for labor at the task of declaring Christ’s LOVE and warning to all who will receive our word to flee from the coming wrath.

Before you finish reading this Bible study in the form of a blog, it’s possible that Christ the Lord will return!  Whether Jesus comes or whether He delays, we are nevertheless called to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

“We must work the work of Him who sent us while it is day.”

We live in the knowledge that time is short; whatever work will be done must be done now, while it’s day.

The Jesus supplemented His explanatory word to encourage us in John 9:4.

Jesus’ words lend to urgency and the need to be busy about His work [“Perhaps Today”, by Michael Stark. Sermon Central.com].

Paul emphasizes that he personally had taught them these prophetic truths in VERSE 5:  “Do you remember”

This teaching was nothing new to the Thessalonians.  Paul had taught them about the Day of the Lord when he was with them in Thessalonia.  He called on them now to recall these previously taught lessons.  Paul didn’t regard prophetic truth as too deep or unimportant or controversial to new Christians.  He believed it was a vital part of the whole counsel of God, so he taught it without hesitation or apology.

WHO IS THE RESTRAINER?  (Vs. 6-7)

Satan has been allowed enormous influence and power, capturing the souls of billions.  Though held back from the full vent of his evil, the power, and energy of wickedness continues to work and build toward the day of the Antichrist’s revealing.  Then and now, the work or energy directed, and this restraining will continue until the time appointed reveals the Man of Sin.  Satan’s desire to take control of the world by the Antichrist will then be allowed.

So then, who is RESTRAINING the satanically empowered movement against God’s law, postponing the revelation of the Man of Sin?

I think the most logical approach to answer that question would be to determine who could possibly hold such power to restrain the powers of Satan.  No mere man could.  So the “one” must also be superhuman.  This places God at the forefront.  Yet, God doesn’t abandon the world when the Antichrist enters the picture.

So the most reasonable explanation as to who holds back the powers of evil is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the only Person with enough (supernatural) power to do this “restraining.”

The Greek word, Katechon (“that which withholds”) is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and is gender-neutral; (“what is holding back”), and so object to the idea of this being the Holy Spirit.  But I found that this isn’t a problem for several reasons:  The “neuter” is sometimes used of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14).  In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the words are masculine; ho Katechon, the ONE who holds back.

How Does He Do It?

How does the Spirit hold back the supernatural working of evil in the world?

A ministry of the Holy Spirit is to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).  The Holy Spirit works on His own, but the Spirit also indwells the born-again spirit of every true believer.  Through Christians whom He indwells and through whom He works in society, He also is holding back, restraining, the swelling tide of lawlessness throughout the land.  Thus, the true Church and those individuals in it, are also a restraining force of God in the world.

Now when the time for the Antichrist comes, the Holy Spirit will depart.  “He” will be taken out of the way.

This “taking out of the way” (v, 7) of the Restrainer seems to refer to the Rapture of the Church when Jesus comes to gather us, to snatch us up to be with Him.  When the Church leaves the earth as the Bride of Christ in the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way in the sense that His unique restraining of lawlessness ministry through God’s people will be removed (Gen. 6:3).  When the Church is raptured out of the way, God’s restraint of evil through His Spirit will no longer hold back the forces of darkness.

So the Thessalonians were not in the Great Tribulation because the Rapture hadn’t yet occurred.  The removal of the Restrainer at the time of the Rapture precedes the Day of the Lord.  Paul’s reasoning is thus a strong case for the pretribulational Rapture.

Being Prepared Is A Good Thing

We also should be daily looking for Christ’s return.  Our attention to spiritual matters can be diverted by many things in this world.  However, the Bible tells us to be PREPARED at every moment, for any day may be the Day Jesus comes for His bride, the Church.  Far too many who are called “Christians,” are content to be religious rather than godly.

Keep the words of the Apostle Paul in mind each day in preparation:

____________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

The Interlinear Bible Of Greek And Hebrew Words.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Commentary:  Bob Faulkner, Caught Up, But When?, May 20, 2015 – SermonCentral.com; Dr. William D. Poovey, 7 Proofs of the Rapture Before the Tribulation,  April 17, 2015.

Bible Translations used in the text:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Bible (NKJV); The Interlinear Bible.