KEY TEXT: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 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.
KEY THOT: Even in the early church, Christians were looking for Christ’s return within their own life-time. In fact, every true believer is looking to the Day of the Lord to take place in their lifetime. The Day will be for them a day of redemption, not judgment. On the other hand, for those who reject the truth, the Day of the Lord will be a Day of Terror--the outpouring of divine wrath that would ultimately destroy the whole earth. So, for unbelievers, the Day of the Lord is a fearsome day, not one they hope will happen in their lifetime. Naturally the Thessalonian believers were alarmed when they were told that Christ had already come and yet they were not “gathered to him”. In other words, if what was taught is true, then they were truly "left behind". But Paul assures them that this is a false teaching, that Christ would not come until two events have taken place (verse 3):
(1) "rebellion": the Greek word for rebellion is apostasia, literally “a falling away, defection, apostasy” (Thayer’s Lexicon). NASB translates this word as "apostasy" while NKJV translates it as "falling away". This first sign refers to worldwide falling away of believers from the faith, a defection from the truth of the Gospel. Why it happens may be due to the second sign of lawlessness.
(2) "man of lawlessness": the Greek word for lawlessness is anomia, literally "the condition of one without law, contempt or violation of law, iniquity, wickcdness" (Thayer's Lexicon). The man of lawlessness will exalt himself to status of a god and will desecrate the temple in Jerusalem after it has been re-built. As his name implies, he will promote lawlessness to subvert biblical morality and authority. His activity is inspired by Satan himself: “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” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). He will be able to perform "false signs and wonders." His agenda of lawlessness will be pushed through the 3M’s of modern communication--the Media, Movies and Music via the Internet.
These two end-time signs of apostasy and lawlessness are also mentioned by Lord Jesus himself: “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:10-13). As believers, we are called to “endures to the end” and not to compromise our faith because of the pressures or pleasures applied by the anti-Christian world. We are to stand firm in our faith and not succumb to fear: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter” (v. 15).
Paul reminds us that the only protection against apostasy and lawlessness is to hold on to the teachings of God's spoken or written Word. The widespread apostasy is possible because believers are ignorant of God's word so are easily deceived by these false teachings. In order to resist this satanic deception, we need to go deep in the study of God's the truth of God’s Word, We must not become lazy and content with "canned food" generated by mass-appeal preachers on TV or otherwise. If we have shallow knowledge of Scriptures, we will be easy targets of false prophets who will lure us into apostasy and lawlessness.
To be committed to God is to be committed to His word. Jesus said: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:7-8). True disciples of Christ are characterized by their commitment to follow Jesus' teachings, not just some man-designed doctrines, no matter how pleasing and pleasurable they may sound.
Father, help us remain faithful to Your truth and Your Word, for Your word is truth. Amen.