We have noted that Paul writes to the Church at Thessaloniki in order to encourage them in the light of the trials and persecutions they were enduring at the hands of ungodly people. These people, he asserts, if they do not repent, will end up in everlasting destruction after Jesus comes a second time in great glory, attended by mighty Angels and in flaming fire. He furthermore asserts that it is on this day that the faithful Church will be resurrected and raptured to meet Him in His on-coming glory and majesty. This is clearly stated.
In chapter two the Apostle now turns his attention to another issue that was facing the local Church in that there were some in the Church who were destabilizing it by claiming that Jesus could return at any time. They were so convinced of their position that they were living unruly lives by refusing to work etc. Paul therefore puts pen to paper to correct their misguided theological position and to urge them to sober up and earn a living as the signs that have to take place in the world heralding the soon return of Christ were not yet evident. This essentially means that the doctrine of anytime imminence, as relating to Christ’s coming, and which is still taught in segments of the Church today, is false!
This is in fact a ” no-brainier ” as Jesus in His “Olivet Discourse” clearly taught that He would only come again once certain signs, including that of the revelation of the Abomination of Desolation, were evident in the world. So, having set this background let’s examine the text before us:
Words of introduction
Paul begins by headlining the subject matter that he now intends to address:
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and
our gathering together to Him, we ask you…………”
2 Thessalonians 2:1
In other words, he makes it clear that he is now going to address the subject of the Second Coming of Jesus and the rapture, here referred to as, “our gathering together to Him.”
Words of caution
He then goes on to urge them not to believe fanciful ideas about the rapture whether presented by people who claim to have Holy Spirit revelation on this matter or who preach powerful sermons or who write books on the matter, because Jesus will not come again a second time for His Church until they witness a great falling away from the faith and the actual rise of Antichrist.
“Let no one deceive you by any means, for that Day will not come unless
the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of
2 Thessalonians 2:3
In actual fact, the deception of which Paul warns has happened, in that the idea of a secret rapture seven years before the “great falling away” and the rise of the ” son of perdition” has effectively taken root in many churches and has consequently undermined Paul’s words of caution. The truth is, the rapture of the Church at the Second Coming of Jesus will only take place, according to Paul, once we witness a huge falling away from the faith and the rise and deeds of Antichrist. Paul is very clear about this!
As an aside, it must be placed on record that the writings of the early Church, demonstrate that the first century Christians took the position that Paul takes on this matter and that the so-called pre-tribulation rapture teaching was never taught. Indeed, to be honest, it was embraced because of a prophecy that a woman gave in a Closed Brethren Church in Scotland in 1830! Sadly, as Paul warns, many have been deceived by it.
Words of instruction
Paul now seeks to equip them with truth so that, if the Son of Perdition, arises in their lifetime they will be able to identify him. This means that most certainly the Church is going to have to endure his antagonism and troubles! We need to know this more than ever as we see the day of his evil rise to power approaching. So then the Son of Perdition will be characterized by the following:
1. He will oppose God
2. He will sit in a rebuilt Third Temple
3. He will claim to be God
4. He will show, that is demonstrate by supernatural powers, that he is God
5. He will be inspired by satanic power……and,
6. He will be destroyed by the second coming of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:4;8-10
Paul, having underlined these things, then doubles down by saying, “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (V5) So, the question has to be asked, “Why would he treat this matter with such urgency if indeed they would be raptured before all of this? Or, to put it another way, how could Paul ask them to look for something that they would not be around to witness and therefore unable to see? Indeed, he told them these things to forewarn them, and us, as to what we should look for before Jesus comes a second time. That, and that alone, is the context!
Words of explanation
“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed
in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,
only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the
2 Thessalonians 2:5-6
Paul also tells them that the rise of Antichrist, one of the validating signs of Jesus Second Coming, is regulated by the sovereignty of God. That is a “restraining factor”, is prohibiting this evil to arise before its time. This “restraining factor”, in context, cannot be the Church because he has just affirmed that the Church is to look for a great falling away and the deeds of the son of perdition as heralds of Jesus’ coming. How can the Church do this if she is raptured beforehand? To believe that the Church then is the restraining factor is therefore irrational! So, then, what is this restraining factor? It is Angelic! That is, the only restraining agents in the Bible are angels. Consider the following:
1. They restrained evil at Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-21)
2. They restrained evil in the defense of Israel (2 Kings 6:16-18)
3. They restrained the advance of the Media-Persian and Greek Empires (Daniel 10:10-17)
4. They restrained the spiritual attacks of the powers of darkness against Jesus (Matthew 4:11)
5. They restrained the attempt by evil rulers to murder Peter (Acts 12:5-11)
6. They are presently restraining the Kings from the East from crossing over the river Euphrates (Revelation 9:13-15)….and,
7. They are restraining the rise of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:5-6)
Words of exhortation
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren
beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you
for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the
truth to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the
glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
In closing this section of his teaching Paul reminds them that they could be deceived by the supernatural deeds and signs of the son of perdition if their lives are not anchored to the truths of God’s word. Thus he adds another troubling sign to the coming of Christ by stating that deception will be rampant in the Church. Jesus said the same thing. They are to be watchful as, again, God will allow this strong delusion to test the Church. These days, I believe, are upon us and the true remnant is being separated from those that are false.
He moreover gives thanks for them because he knows that they have been elected by Jesus Christ to know the truth and to live it out through the process of sanctification. They must stand firm in the truth knowing that it has the power to transform them into the glory of God. Moreover, as they live out and stand in the truth, God by Jesus Christ, will comfort, established and bless them in their good works.
May these things be true of us!