~by Randy Bushey
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way…(2 Thessalonians 2:1,3).
To be gullible is to be easily deceived, cheated or exploited.
Paul was concerned that the Thessalonian believers – probably only a matter of months in the faith – had gullibly accepted an errant report of dubious origin warning that they had missed the return of Christ.
And when the report reached the Apostle informing that these infant believers may have been duped by false teaching, his counsel brought relief.
His caution: 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 (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
Then to prevent further confusion and distortion, he built on the foundation of what had already been taught (Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? v.5) to these nascent Christians by giving them 3 events to watch for – 3 signals – leading up to the return of Christ and the Day of the Lord:
1) Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the
rebellion occurs (v.3). The first in this trinity of historic markers will be massive rebellion.
The old KJV translation uses the phrase falling away; however, most modern translators recognize that the force of the Greek word apostasia – from which our English word apostasy is derived – is much more dramatic signalling a massive, head-turning defection.
But from what will people defect or retreat?
Probably from the true Gospel.
Possibly much like has been witnessed in the western world over the last century-plus, beginning with the liberal theological movement in western Europe in the late 1800s.
The common theme was a push toward naturalism – the denial of that which was supernatural. Consequently, students of the Bible were encouraged to shuck the husk of mythology for the kernel of truth therein.
The upshot of this: the majority of seminaries, theologians and churches in the west have forsaken the authentic Gospel. And the drift continues, aided by the yearning to make the message of Christ more relevant – and less offensive – in a sexually permissive culture.
2) …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 worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (v.3,4).
Although his ascendency to maximal power may not occur until later, the keen biblical observer will recognize one who walks on the world stage, fitting the profile – unparalleled power, a palpable hatred of the true Gospel, and an insatiable narcissism that will see him proclaiming himself to be God – with the potential to become what John in Revelation labels “the beast”.
And one other repugnant quality identified by Australian theologian Leon Morris (died 2006): “Many commentators from the earliest times have pointed out how the ‘man of lawlessness’ will at many points counterfeit the Christ.”
Given current global fears for personal safety and the threat of imminent financial calamity, is it possible the circumstances are ripe for the meteoric rise of such a figure?
3) Paul’s 3rd historic signal is somewhat enigmatic: 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 (v.7,8).
The interpretive puzzle has triggered several interpretations – even from the earliest days – to explain what the Apostle means by what is holding him back. Some have suggested that what restrains the torrents of hell on earth is human government in general. Early church fathers pointed to the power of Rome and Emperor Claudius in particular. Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield earlier in the 20th century posited that the curbing influence was supplied by the Jewish state.
However, whatever its identity, this restraining force was correctly recognized and known by these relatively immature 1st century believers. Paul asserted with confidence, And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time (v.6).
But notice the pronoun here: till he is taken out of the way (v.7). Is this limiting force actually a Person? And so the very credible option of the Spirit of God – maintaining the forces of evil on a leash in every era – was advanced as the One who will continue to do so until the Church of Christ is removed through rapture to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Because in that sudden and dramatic action, the Spirit who indwells Christ-followers will vacate the globe as well.
And then – for the first time in all of history – the forces of the evil one will be unrestrained on the earth. To utilize a common, but useful, phrase: all hell will break loose.
But that is not the conclusion of the story for the man of lawlessness.
At the apex of human authority and supremacy, he will be effortlessly overpowered by the Cosmic Christ: whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming (v.8).
Takeaway: like the believers of the 1st century, contemporary Christ-followers need to be vigilant, watchful, alert – and biblically informed.
We have reason to exude confidence and anticipation rather than uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.
Because, the Day of the Lord may be imminent!
~graphic from freebibleimages.org