Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 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 perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 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 way. And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. II Thessalonians 2:1-12 NKJV
This morning I was in the study and asked my wife a question. She was in the kitchen washing the dishes or so I thought. I went in there and there was the sink with dishes, soapy water and dish rag, but no Susan. I called out to her, but no response came. I went into the bedroom calling her, only silence replied. I looked in the half bath, and dining room, called out to Susan, but there was no reply. The house was silent as a tomb. It is in those moments that you wonder; did I miss something? I can see that the people of Paul’s time might have wondered if they missed Jesus coming the second time, just as the Jews missed His coming the first time. Inattention, distraction, busyness keeps us from picking up on needed details and we feel a bit lost. A few minutes before I went into a panic, she came in from the back yard, having been there checking on the chickens, brining with her the calmness and assurance that she always brings into my life.
But the message of Paul to those in Thessalonica was to calm and reassure, and we also should read these words should also feel comforted by reading them. But all too often, someone wanting to sell a book or draw crowds at a church service, use this very topic to generate wonder, worry and some erroneous things are taught about the Lord’s second coming. I have heard the various opinions about eschatology and can see how each is arrived at. I have my own view that I see very clearly in the Bible, realizing that there are problem texts with my view, just as those who have opposing views have problems texts for theirs. When it comes to Bible interpretation, one must use the entire text to arrive at a consensus of what it teaches. It is too easy to read into the Word what you want to see, or perhaps what you want others to see.
I was reading this text one day and saw some very interesting things that just jumped off the page at me, that I think was inspiration from the Holy Spirit. I was hoping to share these with you, not that you need to agree with my conclusions, but I ask that you have an open mind. I’m not looking to change your mind, but share what the Lord showed to me.
Looking at Paul’s introduction to this chapter, it appeared to me that He was talking about two events; “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “our gathering together to Him.” I suppose I have looked at this before thinking that they were the same, but now it became clearer that he could have intended to reveal two events instead of just one. Did Paul think in this way? Could he look at the “gathering together to Him” as the rapture of the church? We know there will be an event we call the rapture, Jesus Himself spoke of the rapture in Matthew 24:36-44.
I was talking to another Baptist preacher, who was at the time serving with me as a Chaplain in the Navy. He was convinced that the rapture would take place after a time we call the Great Tribulation. Many hold this view. I remember that my view, even from my childhood has been that the rapture would take place before the Great Tribulation. I recall a time in seminary when a visiting preacher from South Africa who held that the rapture would happen after the Tribulation like my chaplain friend, and I responded quite angrily. But having had more opportunity to think about it, in my conversation with him I was more reasoned and calm. I asked him that, if the rapture happened as he thought; after the tribulation period; what was the rationale for the rapture? Since all the events of eschatology had now transpired and why did Jesus describe the rapture in the terms he gave in Matthew? What would believers be raptured from?
Now, brethren, concerning
the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and
our gathering together to Him,
we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
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 perdition,
who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or
that is worshiped,
so that he sits as God in the temple of God,
showing himself that he is God.
But if Paul was talking about two events, a rapture of the church and a tribulation period, could it be that the pre-Tribulation rapture now makes more sense of these passages? True that Paul lists the coming of the Lord Jesus and the gathering of the church in that order, but the way Paul describes the eschatology, seems to take shape that Jesus will appear, the rapture of the church, the Tribulation period, the final judgment of the Antichrist and those who reject Christ and the Lord.
Paul describes the Antichrist by his actions and beliefs. I read a book that outlined the ways in which the Antichrist aligned with that of the Mahdi, the coming 12th Imam in Islam, who will do exactly what the Antichriost does in revelation. In fact, Muslims point to the same passages in revelation that we use to identify the Antichrist, as the ones that identify the Mahdi. Islam is a faith that is Antichrist, and this man will unite the Muslim world bringing a time of total, worldwide domination of the Islamic faith.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 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 way.
What tells me that Paul is talking about two events is this passage. Paul so clearly describes the sequence when this Antichrist would appear. Some look at Paul’s first assertion and leap to the conclusion that the Rapture happens at the end of the Tribulation, but clearly Paul is not finished with his description of what must occur before God allows him to appear. Satan cannot do anything without the Lord’s approval and consent and Here Paul is stating God’s ultimate authority, even as seemingly Satan has full control. We should be comforted that even as we endure tribulations in our lives as believers, God is always in control.
Paul makes clear that not only must there be a falling away, which is a mass departure from faith in God to lawlessness, the Spirit must be taken away. Paul says that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the world is the restraining factor that keeps lawlessness a bay. The Muslims cannot achieve total world domination, they cannot insert sharia law, they cannot purge Christians and Jews from the earth until the Holy Spirit is, as Paul describes, “taken out of the way.” This demonstrates that God is in total control.
I watched a video of a professor who assured his class that evil was in the world, that God created everything and therefore God was evil. In one statement, this supposedly learned man postulated that God existed and didn’t exist in the same sentence. A small boy stood and corrected the professor stating that although we experience cold, it did not exist because cold was merely the absence of warmth. Also darkness does not exist, although we experience it, but darkness according to the laws of physics cannot be measured, but was in reality the absence of light which can be measured. Therefore evil was like darkness and cold, that although we experience it, it is merely an absence of the love of God in the human heart. The little boy was supposed to be Albert Einstein. The Holy Spirit, the presence of God in believers must be removed before lawlessness can take hold.
The Holy Spirit was ushered in at Pentecost in grand fashion at the dawning of the existence of the church. The Holy Spirit’s existence in the world is because of the presence of God’s people in the church that restrains against evil and the mystery of lawlessness. Although it has been working in the world since before Paul’s time, and since Paul’s time, it cannot take hold until the person of the Holy Spirit is taken away. The church and the Holy Spirit are linked together, because the church is made up of believer’s who possess the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives. Since this is true, it is therefore philosophically, theologically and rationally plausible that when the Holy Spirit is “taken out of the way,” the church of Jesus Christ, His believers, will go with Him!
It is not my hopeful opinion, it is not wishful thinking on my part; it is not my hope because I do not want to endure the Great Tribulation, the Word of God through Paul makes clear, the rapture occurs before the “man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God!” If you can show me in God’s word how the Holy Spirit can be removed from the believer’s heart, how this gift of God that is given to everyone who believes in the Name of Jesus and be devoid of His presence, I will revise my views to fit the appropriate biblical view. But since that is impossible because Jesus said He would never leave us; I suggest that you align your views with God’s word. It is not my opinion that counts, but God’s infallible, inerrant word that does.
But we should be encouraged by Paul’s words here, as he wished for us who read his word should be. Paul goes on to tell us the fate of the Mahdi, the Muslim Jesus and Satan, the unholy trinity along with those who reject Christ. Although he will be powerful, influential, and seemingly the answer to the world’s problems, his destruction is certain.
And then the lawless one will be revealed
whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and
destroy with the brightness of His coming.
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan,
with all power,
lying wonders, and
with all unrighteous deception
among those who perish,
because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And for this reason God will send them strong delusion,
that they should believe the lie,
that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth
but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
But interestingly the ones that follow him will be ones that willingly accept his deception. Because they have rejected the Lord and His Holy Spirit’s leading, God will give them a “strong delusion” Paul says. It will be as if God gives them what they hoped for. They reject God, they reject God’s word and God gives them their desire, an existence without Him and His influence and protection. I think of the world today. Liberals reject the sanctity of life because they want open and free sexual relationships without the results of their actions. Homosexuals reject the natural order of things because they crave the strong desire for sex; men with men and women with women. I’m told the desire is so great they will go to any length to find satisfaction.
One day, when I was younger I was a Sailor with a ship visiting Ft Lauderdale near Miami. I had to get back to the ship late one night to meet muster time. I was walking on the road when a man stopped to give me a ride. They told us that the residents of this town were friendly toward Sailors, so I accepted. After a short time he asked me if I wanted homosexual sex. Frozen in fear, I told him I was not like that. He softened some and told me he understood, but he had to let me out, abandon me on the road because he HAD to find what he was looking for. I think of him often and pray that he found Christ, not what he was looking for that night. But thats the thing, isn’t it? Paul says that God will give them what they are looking for because they strongly desire to have these appetites fulfilled.
The problem is that these desires can’t be satisfied. Without God, we cannot find true satisfaction. A young man on our Homeschool basketball team told me one day he was not saved. I told him it was ok, but I would not stop praying for the day he accepted the Lord. With Jesus we find our true identity. Not the one we think we are, but the one God thinks we are. It makes us better children, better parents, better on the job, even better basketball players. This is my desire for whoever reads this. Take comfort in Christ. In Christ we can find the desires of our heart. We can know what it means to be satisfied and complete. With Jesus we find who we really are and what we were created to be.