Lesson 15: "That Day Shall Not Come, Except There Come a Falling Away First" (II Thessalonians 2:3)
II Thessalonians 2:1-17
This is lesson #15. Welcome again to our study of n Thessalonians, chapter two. Paul went directly to their doctrinal error in what we call chapter two. Let's read it! Beginning in v. 1 of c. 2, let's read. We'll read down through v. 12. Are you ready? "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means : for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, 1 told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken of the way. And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, That they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
Alright, go back to v. 1 -2 of our reading. Notice that these two verses (v. 1 -2 of ch.2) make up one sentence. That sentence undoubtedly concludes with the most basic statement in the whole book of the doctrinal error that existed at Thessalonica. This statement makes it clear that some were teaching that the Lord would return speedily and perhaps at any moment. Look at the last part of that sentence, "as that the day of Christ is at hand." You will remember, with respect to the coming kingdom. Thus, we get an insight into the meaning of that term. We are NOT given the details on how this doctrine had arisen. You must use your own best skills in trying to visualize the Thessalonian situation. As we examine the sources that suggested in v.2 (i.e. by spirit by the word and by letter as from Paul) one would be inclined to explore the possibility that someone may have taught this error claiming to be a prophet, i.e. by asserting falsely that they possessed the spiritual gift of prophecy. On the other side of the corn; Paul did not dwell on this point which he most likely would have done if that had been the case. Secondly, the 'word' idea may mean that some taught this error claiming it was what Paul and his companions had also taught. Thirdly, some might have taught this error claiming this was Paul's meaning in the first epistle, i.e. by perverting some statement in First Thessalonians. Regardless of how it had been propogated, some, at least, (we don't know how many) were shaken in mind and troubled by that teaching (according to v.2). Even though the teaching in this case was in error; it had nevertheless trouble some, as so often is the case with erroneous teaching. Thus, people are unnecessarily troubled many times, you see, by not knowing truth on some subject. Thus, in this doctrinal error, we discover the primary purpose ofPaul' s second epistle called Second Thessalonians.
Paul had taught, you will remember, in his first letter that "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." (I Thess. 5:2) And Paul said in that same verse that they (i.e. the Thessalonians) KNEW THAT perfectly. In other words, Paul had taught this and discussed this when Paul was with them in person at Thessalonica. We discussed this at great length, when we covered Paul's "thief in the night" statement back in the first epistle. Jesus had said (in Mark 13:32) that the angels didn't know and that Jesus himself didn't know "the day of Christ: as that phrase is used here at the end of v.2, so, doing a take-off on Paul's thought, I think it unnecessary for me to discuss what the New Testament teaches on that subject any further here.
I tend to read into v. 1 -2, here, that Paul was faulting and rebuking them for accepting this doctrine. It indicated (#1) that they had not listened and they had not remembered Paul's teaching and (#2) they had not tested this doctrine as Paul had commanded them in the words "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.: (I Thess. 5:21). Certainly there is a great lesson in that thought for us.
Undoubtedly the most interesting and most enlightening thing that comes to us in this chapter is not THAT the time of the Lords second coming is a deep secret; since we have taught that and have derived that fact from other passages already; but, the fascinating part to us (and for us) is the insight of an inspired man (named Paul) with reference to that which would intervene between the time Paul wrote this letter and the day of the Lord's second coming. Especially, is this important to us, because, we live within that time frame and have the advantage of over 1900 ears of hindsight that the brethren at Thessalonica didn't have. Although Paul said this to them; the prophecy SHOULD BE much more meaningful to us, and, although it's not necessary to understand this prophecy to be a Christian, a little insight here whets our curiosity as much as it must have fascinated those brethren. Beyond that, we have nearly 2000 years of secular history to lay down along side of Paul's statements for more specific identification of events; that they didn't have. Even though Paul gave this prophecy to reinforce the idea that we don't know the times or the seasons when the Lord will come back; however, some have tried by these very statements in modern times to establish the date of the Lord's second coming. We've talked about that and we must not be so naive as to think we can out-calculate and out-figure the Holy Spirit through which the prophecy came to start with: but on the other hand, we must be astute enough to realize: there is a message here for us. Another thing that makes this passage so important to us is the fact that about 4 % decades after Paul wrote these things (approx. Vz century later); the Holy Spirit, through the apostle John, gave another prophecy that has been preserved for us, called the book of Revelation. That book summarized the "things which must shortly come to pass? (Rev. 1:1) and "the things which must be hereafter" (Rev. 4:1). Thus, Paul's prophecy here in ch. 2 of II Thessalonians must be in some way(or in some form) an outline to the same material covered in the book of Revelation, you see, I wish I could tell you I have all of the answers; but, unfortunately, I don't. However, we'll get to the book of Revelation eventually in this study; I hope. So, you need to realize that just as the four gospels are basic to the book of Acts and the book of Acts is basic to what we are now covering hi thessalonians; what we are now covering in this chapter is basic to the Revelation study. Of course, most people don't want to cover it in that order; i.e. they want to study Revelation first. If you'll stay with it; the way your studying, you will be able to comprehend that book to it's fullest. I congratulate you on your study, so hang in there.
Alright, get back to v.3. Let's first try to outline this material, v.3-12. First, notice the sentence structure. V.3-4 is one sentence, V.5 is a short question. V.6-7 are both single sentences. V.7-10 is one big long sentence and V.I 1-12 is another sentence. Now, back up, what's in v.3? (#1) Paul warned them not to be deceived. Why Paul? (#2 thing is) Here's the reason they should not be deceived: [HEAR THIS!] that day will not come except. Except what Paul? Except FIRST, there coma a falling away and except SECOND, the son of perdition be revealed. In v.3 Paul said two things: be careful! Don't get too hasty and misunderstand. And, the Lord will not return until two things happen first. Those two things that will come first, before Christ's return are: FIRST, a general falling away, i.e. of the church. Obviously, the church in the universal sense; not just the congregation at Thessalonica. Undoubtedly there would be some great false doctrine to sweep many, many souls into apostasy. The, SECOND, "that man of sin be revealed." That man is also called "the son of perdition." The word "perdition" means very simply: to be lost or destroyed. Thus, I would conclude this man or person or personality would literally be the personification of destruction itself, i.e. the "son of perdition' would lead many, many souls to be lost.
V.4, the last part of that same sentence is a further description of 'the son of perdition" that would come before Christ's second coming. He will do five th ings, here listed: (#1) he will oppose God, (#2) he will exalt himself above God, and (#3) he will exalt himself above all that is worshiped. (#4) He will sit hi the temple of God and (#5) he will display himself as God and make the claim to be God. Obviously, this has reference to some so-called religious force that would gain following by impersonating God and imitating Christ. Notice that this personality will sit in the temple of God. Paul uses this same figure of speech, "the temple of God" in other places to mean the church or the kingdom of Christ. For example, take a look at I Cor. #: 16-17. The idea of opposing God is obviously in some deceptive or impersonating way also.
The short question in v.5. Paul appealed to their memory that he had already made reference to these things when preaching at Thessalonica. V.6, apparently means that according to God's timetable; the time had not yet arrived when God would allow such a force to operate. However, in v.7, it is indicated that the seeds of that lawless conspiratory rebellion as described in v.4, were already in the world and was then working to some degree. Then coming to that big long sentence in v.8-9-10, the thought is undoubtedly this: although God's timetable would not then permit such, the tune would come when such evil forces would not be restrained. Eventually the son of perdition, here personified as the Wicked one, would be revealed. As Paul presented and described the false prophet in lying impersonation; it seems Paul could not refrain from tossing in (in the last of v.8) that, Christ WOULD overcome. The Lord shall ultimately consume this false prophet by simply giving the command; i.e. by the spirit of his mouth. In verse 9, Paul said the coming of this Wicked one was of the working of Satan; i.e. the arch-enemy of God, and that the powers, sign and wonders would be of Satan, i.e. false power and lying signs and wonders or in other words deceitful so-called miracles. This deceitfulness would be tremendously extensive according to v.10. He gave the reason for such deceit as being the undergirding impure attitude involved; which Paul described at the end of v. 10 in the words: "they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved," but, please notice in this that they COULD HAVE received the truth and they COULD HAVE been saved. The ball was in their court, so-to-speak. However, because they insisted and persisted in such evils; v.l 1-12 informs us, that God permitted them to be deluded, i.e. believe lies because, you see, it said in v.l0 they had no love for the truth. V.l2 makes it clear that those who do not have truth and do not obey truth will be lost.
Let's read v.13-17. Got you eyes on it? Let's read! "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself and "God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort you hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work."
After telling the Thessalonians about the falling away that would take place and the Wicked one that would be revealed before the Christ's second coming; Paul rebounded to explain that they did have the truth. They had been sanctified or set apart by the fact that they had believed and obeyed the truth. They had been taught the truth by Paul and his companions; i.e. Paul said here God "called you by our gospel." What is truth? According to v.14, it "is the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Study that verse a moment. Paul then exhorted the Thessalonians to "stand fast." What does that mean" That means simply to find the truth and obey it. To hold the traditions here, v. 15, was saying very simply; to learn the teaching and instruction and rules which the apostle had delivered unto the, learn it all, learn it well and it didn't make any difference if it came by their preaching or their writing. In v.l5-16, Paul admonished them and challenged them to increase more and more as he said it back in the first epistle. In other words, grow in the faith, grow in; hope, grow in the grace. They would find it comforting to be established in every good word and every good work they had been taught.
This brings us to the end of chapter two. I would encourage you to read it again. There's a lot of food for thought in chapter 2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming back. Look at v.l & 2. It is a sure fact we'll be gathered together unto him. Paul begged the brethren not o be shaken in mind and troubled in spirit. You see, if we keep that thinking up front, it's like steering a boat to a lighthouse. You have to stay focused in on that lighthouse and keep lined up from minute and hour to hour, to get there. We don't know when the Lord will return. We don't know the times or the seasons, but, Paul gave us some things to watch out for along the way. Love of truth and desire to be saved is of great value. It keeps us alert from hour to hour. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." (Heb. 10-35). We'll begin II Thessalonians ch. 3 in lesson #16. Until then, have a good day.