About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
2 Thessalonias 2
Thessalonians, chapter 2, is one famous passage when it comes to
prophecy, especially for Prophetic Futurists.
In Acts 17:1 - 9 we see Paul visiting Thessalonica.
It appears from the text that he is only in that city for three
weeks. It appears that he
must have spoken much about the return of Jesus to earth because both
this letter and his first letter have much to say on the subject.
That would tell me that prophecy was important to Paul.
begins chapter 2 with the words “concerning the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him…”
This gathering together of all Christians to meet Jesus is what
Paul spoke about in his first letter when he said that the dead in
Christ would rise first and those who are left would rise to meet Him in
the air. See 2 Thessalonians
4:13 - 18.
here that there are two aspects spoken concerning the return of Jesus
that Paul is addressing. They
are; "Jesus' coming", and the saints "being gathered
Prophetic Futurists see the saints being gathered as the rapture of the
church, or Christians, before the tribulation period that ends this age.
This is definitely a rapture.
The question is just, when does this rapture take place.
Some believe it takes place before the last seven years of the
age. Some believe it will
take place at the middle point of the tribulation.
Others believe it will take place at the end of the tribulation.
other point Paul makes here concerns the coming of our Lord Jesus back
to earth. There is no debate
over that fact.
2 implies that there had been someone, either through a prophecy, or
some other kind of report, which includes a false letter from Paul,
saying that “the day of the Lord has already come.”
Someone was trying to tell these people that the gathering
together of the saints and Jesus' return had already happened, and they
had missed it. Paul is
discounting these rumors in the following verses.
that Paul speaks of the Day of the Lord.
In Biblical terms, the Day of the Lord can be seen in at least
three ways. One way is the
exact day when Jesus returns to earth to set up His kingdom on earth.
Another way is the Day of Judgment, otherwise known as the Great
White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20.
Then, the Day of the Lord is often seen the time of jedgment
known as the Great Tribulation.
verse 3 Paul goes as far as to say that whoever is spreading such
teaching is trying to “deceive” these people of Thessalonica.
Paul’s instruction here is to clarify certain facts about the
second coming of Christ.
know from various Scriptures, Revelation 20:1 - 3 for example, that
satan is the one who ultimately deceives people and nations.
I would not be surprised if Paul believed the deception was
straight from the devil.
goes on to say that Jesus will not return to earth until “the
rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed; the man doomed
to destruction”. Remember,
Paul, when he had visited these people told them all about the second
coming of Jesus. Here in
this letter he only reminds them of a few of the facts; not all of the
facts. In verse 5 he says,
“Don’t you remember that when I was with you, I used to tell you of
these things”. I wish that
Paul had of reminded them of more of these particular facts in this
letter. It would have
clarified many questions that Christians have asked over the years. It
would have ended so many debates.
need to ask two questions. What
does the rebellion mean? Who
is the lawless man? In this
particular letter Paul does not explain his words concerning some kind
of future rebellion. People’s
theology on this point comes from their interpretation of other
Scriptures that they link to this verse.
believe the NIV makes the rebellion a bit vague.
In my Greek text it states a falling away that must
"first" come. The
Greek word translated as "first" in some translations does not
appear in the NIV, although some will say it is implied.
One might think that the lawless one leads the rebellion, when in
fact that rebellion, or the apostasy, must come first.
The rebellion or apostasy paves the way for the lawless one to
appear on the scene.
is how I presently see this. Christian
influence slowly disappears from society, as it is doing now.
This is the apostasy or the falling away.
Then, when there is no longer a Christian consensus, the lawless
one will have an easy time coming on the scene and taking over.
There will be little opposition to him because of this apostasy,
because there will be little to no Christian influence.
This is what is clearly happening in the world today.
the lawless man appears in the world he will further the rebellion
against God. The rebellion
against God won't appear to be a rebellion against God right away, but
as is seen in the book of Revelation, the final fight will be against
lawless one, popularly known as the anti-Christ, has no respect for
God’s laws. That's why he
is called the lawless one. In
verse 4 we see that he is “doomed to destruction”. Before
he is destroyed, he will lead this rebellion. “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
verse 4 we see that this lawless man will oppose not only God, but
everything that is called God. He
will set himself up as the chief religious leader in the world.
That means he would take control of not just the Christian
church, but the Catholic church, Muslim's, Hindus, and every other
religion. You can see things
shaping up for such a take over now.
Back in the 1960's Time Magazine pronounced that God is dead.
Well, He has now been resurrected because much of the talk in the
news these days concerns religion and religious struggles.
There's lots of talk about God these days.
He is no longer dead in the minds of many.
This lawless man will get tired of this talk and declare himself
as the chief over all religions. You
see this in Revelation 13. He
will appoint a false prophet to represent him in the world of religion.
4 also says that the lawless man will set himself up in the "
Futurists believe, because of Daniel 9, that the anti-Christ will help
Israelis rebuild their temple. In
the middle of the last seven years of this age, he will go against the
Jews and defile the temple with his presence, proclaiming that he
himself is God.
this is the case, we should realize that this temple is not God's will.
It is man's will. You
might then ask why Paul would actually call it the
verse 5 Paul reminds these people that he told them all about these
things when he was with them, and he was not with them long; only three
weeks as seen in Acts 17. Again,
Paul must have believed that end time teaching was important enough for
him to teach these people all he knew on the subject in just three
weeks. As I said before, I
wish I had the notes from Paul's "in person" teaching on these
things. Most of what we
debate over concerning end times as Christians would be answered is we
had such notes.
verse 6 Paul says, “Now you know what is holding him back so that he
will be revealed at the proper time”.
These people knew what Paul was speaking about because he taught
them about it. I'm sure they
knew who was holding this lawless one back.
Paul didn't seem to feel the need to remind them of that.
That's too bad. It
would have cleared up many problems if he had have reminded these people
who the one was holding the lawless one back.
The things that are not said here by Paul are probably designed
by the Lord. It makes us
trust Him, as well as it makes us keep our eyes open.
verse 6 the pronouns "him" and "he"
refers back to this lawless man.
The lawless man is a "he" and not a nation or a world
system as some think. The
lawless one is also not a she, as in a female.
the phrase "proper time",
God has a timetable of events.
Nothing happens to soon or too late.
The anti-christ will appear in the world exactly when God wants
him to appear. We note in Revelation 11:9 that the beast is allowed to
come out of the Abyss. Prophetic
Futurists believe the beast to be the anti-Christ.
In Revelation 13 we see that the beast, or, the anti-Christ, at
this moment in time gets his authority, power, and abilities from the
devil himself. I'll come
back to this.
think the word "reveal" might mean something here.
To reveal something is to unveil something that has been in
existence but now is being shown. I
think God is the one ultimately responsible for revealing or unveiling
the anti-christ because he is a tool to bring about God's judgment on
the earth and the end of this age. That
being said, it might be implied in Revelation 13 that it is satan who
does God's work for God. It
appears to be satan who tells the beast, or the anti-Christ, to come on
verse 7 Paul says that even now, before these upcoming events “the
secret power of lawlessness is already at work”. In 1 John 2:18 John
says something similar. He
speaks of the anti-Christ that will come, yet at his writing, the spirit
of anti-christ was already working in the world.
This most likely is what Paul is getting at here.
The spirit of the lawless one, most likely meaning the devil, is
at work in the world right now as Paul was writing these words.
word "secret" implies that the spirit of anti-christ can't be
seen. He is working behind
the scene. Of course, that
is true. The secular man
can't see what is happening, but the intelligent Christian can.
rest of verse 7 says, “But the one who now holds it back will continue
to do so till he is taken out of the way”.
The previous verse uses the impersonal word “what”, that is,
some thing is holding this lawless man back.
This verse says that “one”, a personal pronoun, suggesting a
person is holding the lawless one back.
The word “it” in the verse is impersonal, most likely
referring to the “secret power of lawlessness”, not the “lawless
man”, but, what does the pronoun “he” refers to in this sentence.
That is to say, “one” is holding “it” (lawless power) back until
“he” is taken out of the way.
Who is “he”? The “he” is referring to the one dong the
restraining, because Paul goes on to say, “and then the lawless one
will be revealed”. When
“he”, the restrainer is taken out of the way, then the lawless one
can appear in world history, until then, only the secret power of
lawlessness is at work.
majority view among Prophetic Futurists is that the presence of the
church is holding the anti-Christ back.
These people believe that there is a Great Tribulation period to
come and at some point before it begins, the church will be raptured
away to escape the troubles of that day.
So, they believe the "he" refers to the church.
Prophetic Futurists say the "he" who is restraining the
anti-Christ is the Holy Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit holding the man of
sin back, but how can the Holy Spirit be taken out of the way.
God is everywhere at all times.
So, how can He be removed from the earth?
combine these two ways of thinking by saying the Holy Spirit within the
church is holding him back and
when the church is raptured the Holy Spirit is raptured too.
We have the same thinking here with the absence of the Holy
Spirit. The Holy Spirit
cannot be taken away from anywhere.
He is everywhere and at all times.
That is the very nature of who God is.
people also say the
way of thinking that is not so popular, but I believe does have some
validity. That which holds
the anti-Christ back is the Abyss as seen in Revelation 14.
Greek word translated as "holing back", or,
"restrain" is translated from a word meaning "to fasten
too". In Revelation 13
we note that the beast, that is, the anti-Christ comes out of the Abyss.
In one sense of the word, he is fastened to the Abyss.
Here in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 Paul says that the
"one" holding lawlessness back must be taken out of the way
before the anti-Christ can come onto the world scene.
The word "one" is a neuter noun.
It's not a masculine noun. You
can easily say, "That which holds lawlessness back. Since
the noun is neuter, it is a thing that holds lawlessness back, and, that
thing might well be the Abyss, that is seen holding the anti-Christ back
in Revelation 13.
do know that something, or someone, is preventing this lawless man from
appearing in the world and creating the ultimate rebellion, until “the
proper time” comes. THE
use of the words “proper time” suggests that God has a proper time
for these things to happen and that He is in charge of these events.
This means that God Himself has power over this lawless man and
the rebellion that he will instigate is part of God’s plan of
judgment. Really, God is
using this lawless man for his own purpose.
God often uses His enemies as an agent to have His will come to
pass on earth.
see in verse 8 that the lawless one is revealed, then Jesus Himself will
destroy him, simply by His return to earth, and with “the breath of
His mouth”, or “spirit of His mouth.
The Greek word “pnuema” is the word translated as
“breath” here, but is also the word we translate as “spirit” in
the New Testament. There
won't be a big fight between Jesus and satan.
It's all over for the anti-Christ and satan in a split second.
verse 9 Paul continues by saying “the coming of the lawless one is in
accordance with the work of satan”.
This tells me that the lawless one is not satan, but one who
works with satan, which would fit the description of a man, an
anti-christ. Again, this is
clearly seen in Revelation 13.
lawless one Paul says will do many spectacular miracles and will
“deceive those who are perishing”.
This is important when we are trying to figure out who the
anti-christ really is. When
a man of power begins to do miracles, then you will know.
Note that it is the unbeliever that will be deceived.
We as Christians should not be deceived.
verse 10 Paul says that “it is every sort of evil” that will deceive
those who are perishing. This
man will have the power to promote every kind of evil activity, maybe
more than we have ever known in world history.
Those who are perishing will be caught up in this evil and will
not see the truth of the gospel. Most
Prophetic Futurists don't believe Christians will be around to be
deceived by the anti-Christ. Either
we will have been raptured prior to the last seven years of this age or
in the middle of the last seven years.
Prophetic Futurists believe the first seal that is open in Revelation 6
is the anti-Christ, but he is the anti-christ without the power and
authority of the devil. That
comes in Revelation 13.
verse 10 Paul says “that they are perishing because they refused to
love the truth”, that is, the truth of the gospel of Jesus.
We as Christians should have a real love for the truth of
Scripture, but in our post-modern church, this is not the case.
11 is interesting. It says,
“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”. We see God Himself
sending people a “powerful delusion so that they will believe the
lie” of the lawless one. God
is actually encouraging these people, and even helping them to follow
this man of sin, as the KJV version calls him.
The reason why God is doing this is because previously these
people chose not to follow the truth but gave themselves to wickedness.
It is God’s prerogative to do what He wishes to do with His
creation, and in this instance He chooses to influence sinners to
believe the great lie of the lawless one. Some may suggest that this is
a reason for a pre-tribulation rapture, since God would do such a thing.
Why would He condemn people while Christian activity is still on
the earth? Why would He
condemn someone while we are trying to save the same people?
Once again, the text does not say this.
This way of thinking would only be speculation.
We should stick to the words of the text.
case you are wondering why God would cause people to believe a lie, Paul
addresses this in Romans 1. Paul
basically says that if someone wants to persist in his sin, God will
just hand the person over to his sin and the person will reap God's
judgment. Here in 2
Thessalonians, if someone persists in not believing the truth, God will
simply hand that person over to satan's lie.
In other words God will hand people over to their sinfulness, if
that is what they want. God
says, "if you want to sin, go ahead, sin all you want and as often
as you want. Just remember,
there are consequences."
This shows us how important the love for the truth is.
12 says that "all will be condemned", that is, "all who
have delighted in wickedness."
Note here the word "delight'.
Mankind delights in doing wicked things.
This will be the nature of man at the end of this age, as it is
fast becoming now. Men and
women throughout the world are delighting in all sorts of ungodliness.
It is a sign of the time. Our
hedonistic lifestyles are exactly what Paul is talking about here.
is a summery of this chapter. Before
Jesus can return there will be “the rebellion”, a forsaking of the
ways of God, which paves the way for the lawless one.
After that the "lawless one” will be revealed to those on
earth. Yet there is “one
holding” the “lawless one, and the power of lawlessness” back at
the moment. At some point
“he”, (the one holding the lawless one back) will be removed, which
releases the lawless one to work miraculous signs and wonders along with
doing great evil, deceiving those who are perishing.
He will try to set himself up as God in God’s temple, yet at
the return of Jesus he will be destroyed with everlasting destruction.
this lawless one who I believe is the anti-Christ; we need to
understand, from a variety of other passages, that he is like an angel
of light. He is a very
attractive and well liked man. What
he promotes will be logical and loving for our world.
He will come in the name of love and unity, something we all
want. His message will be
readily accepted by the world, because it is what the world will
desperately need at the time. My
point here is simple. The
anti-christ will not appear as an evil man.
He will appear as the savior of the world, and most in the world
will be glad to see him come.
verse 13 Paul says that he thanks God for these people. The reason he
gives for this thankfulness is that “from the beginning God chose
you”, meaning, the Thessalonians.
What does Paul mean by the words, “from the beginning”?
It is my thinking that these words refer to time prior to
creation. We see Paul use
such language in other of his writings.
This brings up the subject of predestination.
Does God choose certain people and not choose other people?
a detailed explanation you can refer to
says that these people are saved “through the sanctifying work of the
Spirit and belief in the truth”. “Belief
in the truth”, means faith in Jesus and His gospel, or trusting Him
alone for our salvation. Belief
in Scripture means more than simply mentally agreeing with the truth,
but actually giving yourself to the truth, that is Jesus Himself.
Once you have given yourself to the truth, God’s Spirit comes
to reside within you, beginning the sanctifying process.
This is a process, not a one time experience as some claim.
It lasts a lifetime.
goes on to say in verse 14 just how God “called” these people.
The way in which God called the Thessalonians was through the
preaching of "our gospel".
Once again, referring back to Romans, in chapter 10, it is clear
that preaching is extremely important.
It is the preaching of the gospel that God uses to bring people
to Him, as foolish as that may seem.
once people have given themselves to the gospel, “they will share in
the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
There is a partial present day glory to share in, yet as we have
seen in the last chapter, and in Paul’s first letter to these people,
the real glory comes when Jesus returns for us.
“He will be glorified in His people”. (ch. 1:10) We will
share in this glory.
the words "our gospel". Some
have made too much of these words. They
believe that Paul had his gospel. Peter
had his gospel, and each apostle had their own gospel.
This is far from the truth. There
is one gospel, and that is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
All the early apostles, including Paul, spoke Jesus' gospel.
Those who say that each apostle has his own gospel say this in
order to also say that those under the authority of a particular apostle
must submit to everything their apostles says, that might differ a bit
from the apostle down the street to whom others must submit to.
verse 15 Paul speaks about their salvation that culminates in their full
salvation at the return of Christ, Paul asks these people “to stand
firm”. He also tells them
to hold on the teaching that he has passed on to them, “whether by
word or letter”. I am sure
that Paul did more teaching by word than he did by letter.
I wish he had recorded more of his words in letter form.
the words "passed on". This
tells me what really happened with the gospel he calls "our
gospel". He simply
passed the gospel on that he had heard from Jesus.
He did not make his own gospel up.
He heard from Jesus and passed it on to others.
It is as simple as that.
In verses 16 and 17 Paul ends this chapter by saying, “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 word and deed”. Paul knew that he had limitations in helping these people grow as Christians, but God Himself had no limitations. God, through His Spirit can give these people the encouragement and strength they need in the midst of their trials. Yet this encouragement and strength was not merely given to get them through the trials, but to help them do good works in the midst of these trials. We often feel that we need help to simply get by, but Paul says that there is help for us to do more than just get by, but to do good things no matter how hard our lives are. Paul was a living example of this. Jesus does not want us to stop doing good when we find ourselves in the midst of trials.
Notice that Paul is saying that both God the Father and Jesus is able to encourage the hearts of these people who are under great stress. I often hear people saying that we must be accountable to others who can admonish and strengthen us, and to a degree this is true, that is, as long as such admonitions aren't dictatorial. That being said, human encouragement has its limitations. Only God, only Jesus, through the Spirit of God, can reach into the heart, where encouragement is needed most. In the final analysis, no one, no man or woman, can take the place of the Holy Spirit in this respect.