Friday, October 10, 2014

2 Thessalonians 2: The Man of Lawlessness



2 Thess 2:1-12 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

It's the hope of every generation of believers since the apostolic era that Jesus Christ would return in their life-time. The "signs of the time" are often present in every generation: "For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains."

Someone has told the Thessalonian church that the Lord has already come--and they had become alarmed and anxious. But Paul tells them the Lord could not have come until the "man of lawlessness" first appears. Paul says that Christ's coming must be preceded by two events: the apostasy of believers and the rise of the "man of lawlessness."

  • Apostasy ("the rebellion comes first"): The first sign of the second coming of Christ takes place within the Body of Christ. The word "rebellion" in Greek is apostasis (literally, "falling away" or "defection from truth"). The falling away from true faith is a result of believers being deceived by demonic teachings: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons" (1 Tim 4:1). While we are not sure what these "teachings of demons" are, apparently, believers are the ones being deceived, not unbelievers, resulting in their departure from the faith. It also creates a sense of rebellion against God's truth. The strange thing about deception is that we always think our church or denomination is the one with the true faith; it's the "other church or denomination" that is "apostate." If you are being told that your church is the only one with a monopoly on biblical truth, beware! You may be in danger of deception. The Spirit of Truth is not found only in one church or denomination. There is no one church that has it 100% correct. Even Paul admits he only knows "in part" (1 Cor. 13:12). However, the best protection against demonic deception is not looking for the "right" church to attend, but to become thoroughly familiar with the Word of God. And that means reading the Bible inductively from Genesis to Revelation, not just selecting texts that reinforce a particular doctrinal or theological position. The only protection against deception is to know the whole counsel of God. Half-truths are half-lies.
  • Man of Lawlessness ("the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction"): This "man of lawlessness" is also known as the "Antichrist" (1 John 2:18). Many preachers and bible teachers have attempted to identify this "man of lawlessness" with contemporary political and religious leaders: first it was Stalin, then Hitler, then Gorbachev, then Ronald Reagan, then the Pope and now of course, it's Obama. But before we publicly declare that we have identified the Anti-Christ, let's make sure this person meets the following criteria: (1) he "opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship": meaning, he opposes all religions because he wants to be the supreme object himself of mankind's worship; (2) his seat of government is in Jerusalem where he "takes his seat in the temple of God"; (3) he will unashamedly claims to be God: "proclaiming himself to be God"; and (4) he is able to perform "false signs and wonders." So far, none of those who have been publicly vilified as the Antichrists has sought mankind's worship, or seated themselves in the temple in Jerusalem (not up yet) or asked to be addressed as the Deity or performed signs and wonders. So, the Antichrist has yet to be revealed.
But we should remain alert, especially with the rise of global religious fanaticism, wars and pestilences (Ebola, AIDS, malaria), and a looming economic crisis arising from Europe. The four horses of the Apocalyse seem to be on the march (Rev. 6:1-8): (1) white horse - religious deception; (2) red horse - war; (3) black horse - economic troubles (4) pale horse - death by sword, famine and pestilence.

But the Church needs to guard herself against demonic deception that distorts truth in the name of Christ, especially doctrines that result in lawlessness, a disregard for the law of God.

Father, help us to stay alert and not be sleeping. Guard us against demonic deception through Your Word. Amen.

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