End Times Warnings From the Apostle Paul
[2nd Thessalonians chapter 2]
As I wrote when I closed out our study of Second Thessalonians chapter one, “God always protects and he never fails”. Today as we plunge into the refreshing waters of the writings of the apostle Paul we will examine chapter two in detail. As I wrote last week, it is here in chapter two that Paul goes into detail about the end times after only giving this a quick mention in chapter one. So let’s begin chapter two of Second Thessalonians starting at verse one.
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 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 is already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2nd Thessalonians 2,verses 1-4, NIV)
Remember what Jesus said when he taught his apostles about the end times in Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 21 (among others)? “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” So here we can clearly see that Jesus prophesied what Paul would write decades before Paul did so. There are also a few misguided individuals and denominations (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses) who teach that Jesus has already returned. As we can see from this bit of Scripture, these sects, or more accurately cults, have been around since the dawn of Christianity. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way”, Paul wrote, which is nearly identical to Matthew’s gospel, chapter 24 and verse one where Jesus said, “Watch out that no man deceives you”. I love it when I find two seemingly unrelated chapters and verses within the Bible that have these hidden similarities, because I find it so fascinating! In short, I have fallen in love with God’s Word, and I hope you have too. But Paul continues on, making two references to the antichrist by calling him “the man of lawlessness” and “the man doomed to destruction”. Then he elaborates on what he means starting in verse 5.
“Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance of the works of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perished because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 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.” (2 Thessalonians 2, verses 5-12, NIV)
“And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.” The first thing Paul makes abundantly clear is that the antichrist has not yet come. It was not “the proper time”, and it still isn’t. I have seen one example after another of modern-day phony messiahs claiming to be Christ (such as David Icke and others). Have nothing to do with these people. If you turn on your TV and someone is on your screen saying, “I am the risen Christ” or that the path to God can be found only in and through that person who is on your screen, turn the channel immediately! These people are nothing but incredibly evil deceivers, so avoid these people if at all possible and keep on seeking Christ. Continuing on, we find a reference to the book of Revelation, which had not yet been written, regarding “the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.” So here we have something truly prophetic by the apostle Paul because he was specifically mentioning this quote from Revelation, which is as follows: “The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’. And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.” (Revelation 9, verses 13-15, NIV) This passage of Scripture was written at least 3 decades after Paul’s death by execution in Rome.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance of the works of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perished because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” Have you ever watched a “faith healer” on TV or seen one at church? You know what I’m saying, you can spot a phony preacher if you watch them closely and carefully evaluate their words. The point is that Paul wrote about these shameless hustlers long before the advent of television. He prophesied their coming of age 2,000 years before it occurred. That’s what the real prophets look, act and sound like, not those con men on “Christian” TV. (I should also point out that there are also some TV preachers and teachers who are not only very good, but they are clearly anointed by the Holy Spirit. It’s our job to sort them out, so don’t stop watching Christian TV! But that’s exactly what is happening today. People are being led astray by all kinds of teaching from supposedly “anointed” people who often have no business being in a pulpit to begin with. Followers of these unscrupulous individuals, together with their financial backers, will perish because they don’t love the truth. Only the truth can set us free, just as Jesus himself taught us. And so, “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie”. What powerful delusion was Paul writing about here? This has been debated by Bible scholars and ministers from diverse backgrounds and faiths for centuries. Some say Paul was writing about Islam, others say it’s the Catholics, while the Catholics say it was the Protestants. But I don’t think it’s necessarily commenting on religious denominations as it is regarding the world in which we live, with all its trappings, temptations, sin and empty materialism, not to mention its predatory and greed-based Capitalist economic system. That would qualify, I think, as the ultimate delusion. The endless acquisition of riches, fame and fortune, and investments and fine collectibles as an end unto themselves is the biggest delusion of all. Having said that, let’s close out today’s study beginning at verse 13.
“But we always ought to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our Gospel, that you might share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we have passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 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 deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2, verses 13-17, NIV)
“… from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” When Paul wrote “from the beginning”, he meant the very beginning of time as we know it, from the creation of the universe itself. As it was above, so it is here, which is that the apostle Paul having knowledge of the beginning of creation from a scientific as well as a Spiritual perspective was and is a prophetic statement. As most of you know, the universe as we know it was created about 13.7 billion years ago. The earth, on the other hand, is known to be around 4.4 billion years old. How did Paul know that the universe had been around for 9.3 billion years before the earth was made? Is this not what he is referring to? It could only have been by revelation of the Holy Spirit, there is no other explanation. “Belief in the truth”, on the other hand, is very likely a reference to a few of the early churches that weren’t teaching the truth of the full Gospel. Paul has made ample mention of the apostasy of those churches elsewhere in his writings. So when Paul wrote, “He called you to this through our Gospel”, he meant the genuine true Gospel that he was preaching and teaching, the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified, died and resurrected, and his twin gifts of eternal life and the Grace of God.
“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we have passed on to you”. The same thing applies today, and every day of our lives. Stand firm, stand with Christ and he will stand with you. “If God is for us”, Paul wrote elsewhere, “then who can be against us?” Hold on to the teachings of Jesus! The best starting point for this is to simply start reading your Bible regularly. For those who may not yet be doing this, I recommend starting with any of the four gospels, with Mark’s gospel being the shortest. The other thing we can all start doing is to sever our ties with the world. Unplug your TV, especially your cable service, pocket the money you save each month like I do, and begin streaming Christian content from the internet instead. I have been doing this for years, and I encourage all who read this to do the same. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should all become hermits or recluses. On the contrary, we should have no reservation whatsoever about letting our Christianity show by putting our faith to work. Going to church is not enough – not if we are serious about following Jesus. Giving a beggar your spare change or buying them a sandwich, fries and a drink, spontaneously assisting a blind or disabled person, taking in a foster kid or two, and giving to charity are only a few of the things we can do that don’t cost much. Please don’t forget to give to the church of your choice as well. It doesn’t always have to be a lot, but the Bible reminds us that “God loves a cheerful giver”. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father… encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” Those are exactly my words that I extend to you as I close out this lesson. Be encouraged and strengthened, because that is God’s will for your life. And once you learn to tap into His will and utilize the courage and strength of Jesus Christ you will be a truly empowered individual, which is what having a relationship with Jesus Christ is about.