We’re well on our journey through 2 Thessalonians and I am so glad you are on board! We began our journey through Paul’s second letter a couple days ago, and yesterday we peeked over Paul’s shoulder as he penned encouragement to the new believers who were facing severe persecution and affliction. He debunked the rumor spread by a false teacher that the rapture had occurred and they were living in the tribulation. As chapter 2 begins, we will hear Paul tell the believers about the man of lawlessness to be revealed at the time of the tribulation, and he will warn them about deception.
Let’s listen in to Paul’s instruction. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Verses 1-2 clearly lays out the situation. The church at Thessalonica was only about 1-2 years old and someone was deceiving them. Paul was now encouraging believers who were discouraged and losing hope. Doubt and fear had entered in and deception was growing. Paul wanted to draw them back to the truth: believers will be delivered from the wrath to come, and tribulation is reserved only for the unrighteous. Here is the truth Paul had shared:
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10 – communicated in his first letter to the Thessalonians.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 – also communicated in his first letter.
- Luke 21:26 – this was not part of Paul’s letter, but similar teaching by Luke, the apostle.
- Isaiah 26:19-21 – this is a hidden prophecy regarding the rapture, the wedding supper of the Lamb, and the punishment of those on earth during the tribulation. “Entering the chambers and shutting the doors” is emblematic of the rapture, the remaining part of that passage describes the tribulation. More evidence that the tribulation is reserved solely for the unrighteous, as believers will be raptured beforehand!
In verses 1-2 of 2 Thessalonians 2, we find Paul reminding them of the rapture doctrine, and encouraging them not to be shaken in mind or troubled by any word or letter from false teachers.
A word of instruction here about verse 2. Some translations (NKJV, for example) incorrectly translate the phrase near the end of the verse as “the day of Christ,” while others others correctly translate it “the day of the Lord.” (The NKJV makes an adjustment to “Lord” in a footnote.) The Greek word is κύριος, meaning “lord, master.” That is important because the day of the Lord and the day of Christ are very different! The day of Christ (Χριστός in Greek) is a good day for us, as it refers to the rapture. The day of the Lord is actually a time period encompassing the tribulation and the Millennial age. Here, Paul is saying, “Don’t be troubled. You are not living in the day of the Lord (the tribulation).” Paul would not have to tell them not to be troubled about the day of Christ. It is not a troubling day! He is referring to the day of the Lord (The day of Christ is referenced in Philippians 1:6 and 2:16; while the day of the Lord is referenced in Acts 2:20 and 2 Peter 3:10, among other places.)
Back to our passage, Paul provides a countdown to the Second Coming in verses 3-5. Keep in mind, the Second Coming follows the tribulation, which follows the rapture, yet notice how visible these signs are becoming today! First Paul warns of deception. It was a fresh idea for the Thessalonians because they had just been deceived by a false teacher. Likewise, our world is filled with false Christs, false teachers and false prophets today. In fact, we unmasked some of them recently.
According to verse 3, what two things must happen before the Day of the Lord? What do you think the “falling away” (apostasy) is? Who is the man of sin (lawlessness)? The Antichrist has not yet been revealed, but we do see signs of apostasy. Can you identify some of them?
How is the man of sin described in verse 4? This idea and description of the Antichrist was common knowledge in the first century. What warnings does Jesus give about this in Matthew 24:15, 21 and John 5:43? As verse 5 says, He told us these things before!
Now the meat of Paul’s teaching! Read it in his own words, in verses 6-9. Something is restraining the Antichrist, and that is the Holy Spirit at work in believers. He was restraining in Paul’s day, and He continues to restrain in ours! Yet, though the man of lawlessness is restrained, the mystery of lawlessness was at work in the first century church at Thessalonica, and is at work today.
Once the Holy Spirit’s restraining power, at work in believers, is removed, the Antichrist will be revealed. What removes it? The rapture of the church! When believers are no longer here, the restraining power steps aside and evil will no longer be restrained. Wow! Think about the “restrained” evil in our world today. It seems rampant! Yet, the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers is the only thing holding evil at bay today. Oh what a mess this world will be in when believers are in the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit steps aside. Though many of us are sickened by the evil we see, evil is yet to even scratch the surface. But, according to verse 8, what happens to the lawless one? When do you think that will occur? (Hint: there is a big difference between the rapture and the Second Coming. Happy day vs horrible day.)
Verses 10-12 describe the unbelievers’ worst day. The Antichrist is unleashed and delusion becomes the norm. Delusion will destroy unbelievers. Today, God stands at the door and knocks, awaiting to be let in. (Revelation 3:20) One living in delusion may not even recognize a knock. What does John 8:24 say will happen to them?
Verses 10-11 seem to indicate those who have a chance of salvation before the Antichrist is revealed, will likely not have a chance after he is revealed. Notice the verbs in verse 10 are past tense. Those who did not (past tense) receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved are among those who perish because of unrighteous, wicked deception. Therefore (verse 11), God sends a strong delusion (an unwillingness or inability to know truth), and they (those who did not receive the love of the truth) will believe the lie (that one can govern their own life apart from God). Oh, what a dangerous path! Let no one deceive you! Believe and receive the truth that saves.
So, here is the countdown to the tribulation:
- Right now, believers (the church) are still on the earth and the Holy Spirit is at work in them.
- In that work, the power of the Holy Spirit restrains the man of lawlessness, though the mystery of lawlessness is at work.
- At the rapture, the Holy Spirit will escort the church (believers) into the air to meet Jesus in the clouds.
- The Holy Spirit steps aside.
- The Antichrist is released to wreck havoc on earth, while the church (Bride of Christ) celebrates the wedding feast with Jesus Christ (Bridegroom)!
The Day of the Lord cannot begin while the church is still on earth! While the church is still here and the Holy Spirit continues working in us, we must choose our ultimate destination: tribulation on earth followed by eternity in hell, or the rapture and eternal home with Jesus our Lord.
There is Christ and there is the Antichrist.
There is Christ’s direction and there is the Antichrist’s direction.
There is the life lived for Christ and there is the life lived for the Antichrist.
Christ and the Antichrist are mutually exclusive. Which will you choose?
Want to choose Christ? Find out how.
God bless you as we study His Word together! Meet us back here tomorrow as we finish up chapter 2!