“The Lord Will Triumph”
Lesson Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, 8-17
Background Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2
Devotional Reading: Titus 3:1-7
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, 8-17 (KJV)
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 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.
3 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;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
13 But we are bound to give thanks alway 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:
14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
16 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,
17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
To understand Paul’s exhortation to reject the deception of false teachers while remaining confident in the Lord’s ultimate victory at His return.
To rely on the Lord for help to stand firm in the faith.
To know that Jesus comforts believers through His presence and the promises of His Word (John 14:15-17).
Time: A.D. 51
Place: from Corinth
Author: The Apostle Paul
The technical word for the field of Bible study that deals with end-time prophecies is eschatology. Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament are used often as primary sources for information in this area. A number of Old Testament passages speak of the “day of the Lord” (examples: Isaiah 13:9; Ezekiel 30:3; Zephaniah 1:14). Many of these predict the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Babylonians (which happened in 586 B.C.), but there is often a sense of additional fulfillment beyond that catastrophic event.
Jesus himself spoke of events associated with the end of time, particularly in the Olivet Discourse (also called the Apocalyptic Discourse) in Matthew 24, 25; Mark 13; and Luke 21. We can see in Jesus’ words certain predictions of the destruction of the temple in AD 70, but there are elements within the teaching that speak of the end of time as well. Jesus speaks of a period of great suffering that is followed by His own triumphant appearance (see Mark 13:24-26).
This great period of suffering and persecution is often called the tribulation; some scholars identify this as a well-defined period in the future that necessarily precedes the coming of the Lord. Several places in the New Testament speak about one or more figures who are to personify evil and opposition to the kingdom of God (see Revelation 13:1, 11; 16:13; 1 John 2:18, 22; 2 John 7). Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica, today’s study, also discusses a figure of evil.
The letter of 2 Thessalonians begins with Paul offering support to Christians for the “persecutions and tribulations” they had been enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Details of this persecution are not given. We can guess, however, that it may have involved pressure from the envious Jews of Acts 17:5, 13. They might have been upset with fellow Jews who had accepted Jesus as Messiah. The distress could have taken the form of social pressure, economic pressure, even physical intimidation (Acts 17:6).
At this point in his second letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul returned to one of the subjects he had discussed in his first letter (1 Thess. 4:13-18): the second coming of the Savior (see 2 Thess. 2:1). At the same time, the apostle expanded on the subject of the coming judgment of God (see 1:7-9). Paul was seriously alarmed by a report-supposedly from him-that was upsetting the church at Thessalonica. He told the people there to recognize that what others told them was false (2:1-2), to know what must happen before Jesus’ return (vs. 3-4), to learn about the restrainer of evil (vs. 5-7), to be aware of spiritual counterfeits (vs. 8-10), and to accept the truth of God’s judgment (vs. 11-12).
The False Report (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)
1. Why does Paul need to comfort the “troubled” Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)?
At this point in his second letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul returned to one of the subjects he had discussed in his first letter (1 Thess. 4:13-18): the second coming of the Jesus, and our being gathered “together unto him” (see 2 Thess. 2:1). Apparently, a disturbing “prophecy, report or letter” (v. 2) that certain false prophets had made, which supposedly had come from him saying, the second advent of Jesus had already occurred, and the Thessalonians had missed it. This caused uncertainty within the congregation.
The apostle firmly declared that nothing he had ever said or written could be correctly interpreted to mean that the second coming had already occurred. The Thessalonians, rather than being shaken, or troubled, could hold onto what the apostle had taught them. He had clearly said that they would not miss the return of Christ (see 1 Thess. 4: 17).
Who hasn’t received one of those e-mails from Nigeria that promises millions of dollars for helping with a monetary transaction? The details of the e-mails vary, but the theme is consistent: someone needs confidential assistance in making a money transfer, and you can help by providing your bank account information. After the millions are transferred into your account, you will be allowed to keep a certain percentage for your trouble.
This deception works because it appeals to a certain aspect of human nature. But those foolish enough to give out bank account numbers quickly discover that it is their own funds that end up being transferred! The FBI’s Web site warns of numerous variations of this scam.
Paul warned the Thessalonians not to believe letters fraudulently claiming to have come from him. The frauds could be persuasive by appealing to what the Thessalonians “wanted” to be true. Even so, the frauds could be identified by their contradiction of what Paul preached or the letters he himself had written. The warning to the Thessalonians still applies!—C. R. B.
The Man of Sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
2. What did Paul say had to happen before Jesus returned (vs. 3-4)?
To help the Thessalonians stand firm, Paul declared some signs preceding the Lord’s return (Luke 21:31). To be sure, there has been great debate among students of the Bible concerning when these inevitabilities will occur. Paul introduces one such sign in this half-verse: “a falling away” (literally, “apostasy”).
Concerning this “falling away” Thomas Constable wrote, “This is a revolt, a departure, an abandoning of a position within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future” (Walvoord and Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Cook).
This kind of news is troubling in any case, for we want to think that all of our Christian brothers and sisters will remain faithful to the end. But this is not the picture given in the New Testament (see Matthew 13:20, 21; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:10).
3. Who is this “man of sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3b- 4)?
Another great sign preceding the Lord’s return will be the rise and revealing of a powerfully evil person, pictured as having a worldwide impact. He will set himself up as a false god, a rival to the Lord God himself. This is portrayed dramatically as the deceiver going so far as to occupy “the temple of God.”
Paul gives this evil person two descriptive titles. First, he is “that man of sin,” which points to someone who violates God’s laws with impunity and arrogance. Second, Paul calls him “the son of perdition,” meaning the one whose future destruction is sure (Revelation 17:11). Presumably, this person will be the leader of the rebellion. He will defy everything considered to be holy or sacred and even claim that he himself is God (2 Thess. 2:4; see Isa. 14:13-14; Ezek. 28:2-9; Dan. 11:36). Despite his bombastic assertions, this person is destined for destruction (2 Thess. 2:3).
Restraint of the “Wicked” (2 Thessalonians 2:5-7)
Our lesson text skips over verses 5-7, but we should summarize what Paul says there: the person of evil being discussed is currently restrained. Yet there will come a time when this restraint is removed so that the final events may proceed in the plan of God. The removal of restraint on that “Wicked” person allows him to be “revealed,” to be out in the open. This will be followed by the Lord’s coming, which will bring down the man of sin. The picture is one of instantaneous destruction.
The glorious coming of the Lord will overpower any and all opposition. The result is Jesus’ unquestioned reign (Matthew 25:31).
4. What kind of tactics will the “man of sin” use to deceive (2 Thessalonians 2:9)?
Paul now explains that the source of this great wickedness is Satan. Does this mean that the “man of sin” is Satan himself? Or is Paul referring to two individuals—Satan and a man of sin who is in league with Satan? Scholars have argued for both positions. Either way, what we see here is a powerful pattern of deception (compare Matthew 24:24). The greatest of these lies is for this satanic figure to set himself up as if he were God (2 Thessalonians 2:4, above).
Paul provided a graphic description of the wicked one’s powers. He will have the ability to perform counterfeit miracles through Satan’s power. Because of these powers, the world will stand in awe of this person who claims divine power and demands worship.
The tragic outcome will be destruction for people who allow themselves to be duped by this Satan-inspired miracle worker. People will fall into this snare because they find no place in their hearts for the truth of the Gospel, the acceptance of which leads to salvation (v. 10). The Good News must not only be acknowledged, but also upheld. Those who have rejected Jesus will not be saved when He returns.
Sending of a Delusion (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
5. Why will God send a “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)?
On the surface, these two verses are very challenging, for Paul seems to be saying that the ultimate source of deception is God himself—that God causes some to believe a lie. Yet we know that Satan, not God, is the great deceiver, the father of lies (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4). We also know that God doesn’t tempt anyone with evil (James 1:13).
What Paul is saying here is that for those who refuse the truth and be saved, God will use their sin a punishment against them. They have already made up their minds. He will let them continue in their profane ways so that they are fooled into believing an assortment of lies. Why? Because they “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12).
Relying on the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)
6. What did Paul give God thanks for concerning the Thessalonian believers (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)?
Paul now leaves the gruesome picture of the unbelievers’ future to give thankful comfort to the Thessalonian believers. Paul is confident that they are not among the deceived. Because of their response to the gospel, they are among the chosen (God’s foreknowledge).
Paul gives several reasons for their hope of salvation. First, the Thessalonians are “beloved of the Lord.” Everything begins with God’s love for us (John 3:16). Second, they have been sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit. Third, God knows that they have a confident “belief of the truth.” As they hold fast to the things Paul has taught, their salvation is not in question. Holding fast means they won’t be deceived by a “man of sin” figure.
Fourth, the Thessalonians have the hope of salvation because of the gospel. This is the good news that Jesus died for their sins, rose from the dead, and will return to gather all of His people (whether dead or alive at the time) to be with Him forever. This is the picture of “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” a glory that all believers will have the privilege to witness and to share (1 John 3:2).
Standing Firm in the Faith (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17)
7. What did Paul urge the Thessalonians to hold on to (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17)?
In light of the Thessalonians’ decision to trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation, Paul urged them to remain steadfast in their faith. This included standing firm on the biblical truths Paul and his colleagues had imparted to them (v. 15).
Paul ends this section with a prayer asking that God continue to safeguard the faith of the Thessalonians. There is unity between the Father and the Son (John 10:30), so there is a unified purpose in the strengthening and encouragement of these believers.
Worthy of note are the three “goods” Paul lifts up: good hope, good word, and [good] work. Paul has not taken up this much space in these two Thessalonian letters to address the second coming of the Lord simply to provide details for those fascinated by the intricacies of prophecy. Paul’s purpose in teaching about Christ’s return is to give his readers excellent expectations, a good hope concerning what the future holds. Having this hope should result is goodness in the believers’ lives, whether in speech or deed. If our hope is in the Lord, our lives will bear His fruit.
What Do You Think?
How will your service for Christ this week be influenced by your expectation of His return?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In your witness at work or school | In your faithfulness in worship and Bible study
In your family relationships | Other
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Let us rely on the word of God in any moment of distress and uncertainty (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; Acts 17:11).
2. We must stand firm in what we believe, and trust that God will fight our battles (2 Thessalonians 2:4-8).
3. We must be aware of Satan’s tactics, so that we will not be led astray (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).
4. More than intellect is involved in accepting the Gospel. In scripture, belief always includes the will and the emotions (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).
5. We are encouraged and compelled as Christians to stand firm because of the glorious love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).
Restraint, Rebellion, Reward — John Stott describes Paul’s scenario in 2 Thessalonians 2 as “Restraint, Rebellion & Reward.” For a time, the power of evil is restrained by God. At some point, this restraint is removed, with the result of rebellion among those who reject God’s truth. This is followed by just and sure rewards from God for those who have embraced the hope of the gospel!
Throughout the history of the church, there have been those who have interpreted the events of their day as indicators of the Lord’s soon return. This continues today. The modern interpreters may be as wrong as those of previous centuries, or they may be correct. Christ may return very soon, or He may delay for thousands of years. For believers, it does not matter. We have a blessed hope, whether we live to see Christ return in power or go to be with Him when we leave this earth.
Lord God, may we continue to trust in You when evil gains power and when others reject the truth. May Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians be ours as well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Celebrate Christ’s past, present, and future victory.