I read the text several times, still I couldn't understand what she meant. In one way this text message felt like a direct assault on me personally; then it felt as if the sender were attacking my entire family. I sat with it for several minutes. Finally, I decided it best to ask for clarification before continuing this conversation. The harmony of my family hinged on my reply and I wanted to make certain I understood what the sender was saying!
Clarity. There are many times in life we need to be absolutely sure we have clarity on an issue. We need clarity on what career path to choose, clarity on where to live, who to marry, or what job to take. We also need clarity on what we believe, clarity on what the Bible says about certain topics. This is the reason Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians. They were unclear as to the 'Day of the Lord' Paul had spoken of in his first letter.
Paul begins chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians with the phrase: "...let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet Him." Evidently someone claimed to have a prophetic word from God saying this day had already happened. As a result, the believers were unsettled and alarmed, afraid they had missed Jesus. Paul tells them in essence, "Keep calm, you'll know when Jesus comes again."
Many people try to set dates and times for Christ's return forgetting that Jesus said only the Father knows the time.
"However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself. Only the Father knows." Matthew 24:36
As believers, we are to live ready for Christ's return, but we are not to be worried about it or idle in our work. We are to keep calm and go on with the Father's work until the day we see Jesus coming on the clouds. Scripture makes abundantly clear the fact that Jesus is coming again and when He does the whole world will know!
"But in those days, following that distress, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory."
"'Look, he is coming with the clouds,' and 'every eye will see him, even those who pierced him'; and all the peoples on earth 'will mourn because of him.' So shall it be! Amen." Revelation 1:7
Paul reminds the Thessalonians that certain things must happen before Jesus comes again. He must have covered this topic in detail when he was with them in person. He felt no need to repeat himself by giving those details again; this was simply a reminder of what they had already heard him preach and teach.
A lot of mystery surrounds the second coming of Christ. To gain clarity on this topic we need to look to Scripture rather than human thoughts. What we learn from
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 is:
1) A great rebellion will occur within the church. The word used here is "apostasia" and it literally means "the falling away". Before Jesus comes again many within the church will abandon their faith in God and their belief in Jesus and His Word. This is why many times in Scripture we are told to "stand firm" in our faith.
2) A man of lawlessness will be revealed. This is a real person who will be completely opposed to God, His Word, and the Church. He will be an agent of Satan himself who, like Satan will appear as an "angel of light", someone who will seem to be speaking truth and deceive many into following him.
3) This "man of lawlessness" will claim to be God and set himself up to be worshiped as God. From the very beginning, Satan has wanted to be God. This desire is the reason he was cast from heaven, this was his temptation to Adam and Eve in the garden, it is his temptation to us today; in end times, Satan's agent will deceive many into believing he is God.
As God's children we must do as Paul admonished the Corinthians:
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." 1 Corinthians 16:13
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 is:
Be clear, Jesus is coming again and when He does the whole world will know!
What do you know about the second coming of Jesus? Where have you gotten your information? Read Matthew 24 and list the things Jesus said will happen before He comes again.
"What's the world coming to?"
"The worlds going to hell in a handbasket!"
These are phrases we've all heard and maybe even said. Evil has persisted since the first sin in the garden. Satan has been trying to kill, steal, and destroy ever since he posed that first question: "Did God really say...?" His tactics do not change. If he can cause us to doubt something God has said he knows he can cause us to disobey God. Peter tells us:
"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8
Satan is pure evil. He wants to be God. He wants to defeat all who belong to God. His evil fills this world; so much so, we often wonder how things could possibly get worse. Yet we are told they will. Though evil is rampant now, in end times evil will prevail more and more. Every day we hear of people killing others. Every day people steal from each other. Every day people destroy the property, even the reputation, of others.
Evil is at work in this world. But so is God's Spirit. God's Spirit at work in the world restrains evil, keeping Satan from displaying the full extent of his power. But one day God will step aside and allow Satan full reign in the world. This is the truth Paul is conveying in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7. God's Spirit is in the world now because He is in believers, we are His holy temple. The Spirit of God is working out God's purposes through His church. When the church is raptured, the Spirit will remain on earth but God will remove His restraints on Satan and evil will prevail. This is known as the "great tribulation" in Revelation 7:14. Jesus said of this time:
"For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." Matthew 24:21-22
The time of great tribulation will be followed by Christ's triumphant return to earth with His bride. When Jesus comes back with His church, Paul says He will defeat Satan with "the breath of His mouth and the splendor of His coming." (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
The breath of Jesus is powerful enough to destroy the Antichrist. His glorious presence will be enough to disarm and debilitate the forces of evil forever!
"The enemy runs at the sound of Your voice. When you stand up, the nations flee!"
Our Lord is more powerful than all the forces of evil. He defeated Satan once for all time by rising from the dead. When He returns to earth He will claim His victory by casting Satan and his evil forces into the lake of fire where they will be eternally tormented.
But before this final judgment, the Antichrist will deceive many with his lies. Satan is a liar and his agent will be as well. He tells many lies because he cannot speak the truth. Jesus said: "When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44c
In 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Paul uses the singular word for lie.
"For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie."
There is one lie Satan has told since the beginning: You will be like God. This is the lie many will believe in the end. This lie tells us we can be our own god, we can live as we please because we do not answer to anyone. This lie keeps us bound by a heart hardened to God and unsubmissive to His Lordship. This lie appeals to our pride. Paul worded it this way in Romans 1:24-25:
"Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin], because [by choice] they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." AMP
Choosing to believe the lie of Satan and the Antichrist means rejection of God's truth. When Christ returns in judgment all who have rejected God's truth will be sentenced to eternal separation from God. John says in Revelation 22:15:
"Outside the city are the dogs - the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie."
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 2:6-10 is:
Be clear, Jesus will judge all who reject God's truth.
What lies of Satan have you believed? What truth of God counters that lie? Write out the lie you are believing, then look up Scripture that speaks against that lie. This exercise helps keep me grounded in what God says about me or my circumstances rather than bound by Satan's lies!
In the final verses of 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul turns from his instruction about the Day of the Lord to a prayer of thanksgiving for the Thessalonian believers. He is thankful for their salvation and for the fact that they believed the truth of God. Paul states a few truths of God in these verses.
God loves. God chooses. God saves. God calls. God glorifies.
"See how very much the Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don't recognize that we are God's children because they don't know Him." 1 John 3:1
"Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Colossians 3:12
"God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God." Ephesians 2:8
"For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because it was His plan from before the beginning of time - to show us His grace through Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 1:9
"For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with Himself. And having given them right standing, He gave them His glory." Romans 8:29-30
When we believe the truth of God and accept Christ Jesus as our Savior we have several responsibilities toward that truth. We must protect God's truth in our own hearts. This is what Paul means when he emplores: "...stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you..."
We protect God's truth when we study God's Word and hide it in our hearts.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." 2 Timothy 3:16
"I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11
We protect God's truth when we stand on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ as the source of all truth.
"Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me." John 14:6
"Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ."
We protect God's truth by refusing to be held captive by man's ideas and thoughts about God and His Word.
"Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ." Colossians 2:8
Standing firm and holding fast to God's truth requires work on our part. We cannot simply sit in a pew week after week and expect our faith to grow stronger. We must put forth the effort of reading and studying God's Word for ourselves. Then we will be prepared when Satan aims his fiery darts our way. Then, should we still be living when Jesus comes, we will be counted among the faithful.
Paul's prayer ends with the request for God to encourage the hearts of these believers and to establish them in good works. God has good works for all of us to do.
"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10
One of the most important works God has for each one of His children is that of disciple-making. No matter who we are or where we live or how confident we are in our ability to share the gospel, God desires we all actively tell others about Him and His plan of salvation. We tell with our words and with our ways.
We've all heard the old adage: "Talk the talk, walk the walk." As Christians, it is imperative for our talk to match our walk. We cannot say we believe in God and go live any way we please. In the book of John, Jesus explains what a true child of God does:
"Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, 'You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." John 13:35
"When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father." John 15:8
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 is:
Be clear, the true disciples of Jesus will stand firm until the end.
How firm are you in your faith? In what ways does your walk match your talk? Where is this not true of your life? What can you do to ensure what you say and how you act send a consistent message about Jesus?
Clarity. We all need to be clear on our beliefs. We all need to be clear about the fact that Jesus is coming again and we need to be ready!
Praying we all gain a little clarity this week about our eternal destination and what we need to do now to prepare for then!
Until next time keep gathering manna, growing deeper, and gaining intimacy!
God bless and keep you,
1) Read 2 Thessalonians 2. Mark all key words or phrases.
2) Prayerfully answer all questions in this lesson.
3) Read the following Scriptures and list what you learn about the Antichrist:
Daniel 9:24-27; Revelation 6:1-2; Revelation 13:15-17; Revelation 19:11-21