Sunday, July 5, 2020
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
The Victorious Lord
I just finished reading a book about a missionary who went to the Philippines in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The book is called, “And the Word Came with Power,” by Joanne Shetler.
Shortly after arriving there, Joanne realized that the Balangao tribe with whom she was working had more than one spirit medium, a man or woman who was possessed by demons. And these spirits wreaked havoc to those mediums and to the entire tribe.
Joanne was learning how to deal with the demonic, and she was sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with many others.
One old woman named Chalinggay was a spirit medium and was under the control of the spirits.
But an encounter with Christ was coming.
Let me pick up the story.
“The doors flew open and Chalinggay burst in, running as best as a crippled old woman can. Sweating profusely, her face twisted in pain, she was bent over and clutching her stomach as if she were being stabbed repeatedly.
Her body was going stiff in the jerky shakes that accompany spirit possession.
“They’re killing me, they’re killing me!” she screamed. “Send them away, they’re killing me!”
Then Joanne said,
“Chalinggay, the trouble with you is, you’re not God’s child. If you would repent of your sins, and ask God to make you his child, then God could protect you.” I knew God had to help us in this battle.
“Chalinggay didn’t wait for me to pray…; she just threw her head back and shouted up at God, “God, it is true, I am wicked.”
She looked down and muttered curses at the spirits, threw her head back again and continued, “But even though I’m old, just a remnant of me left, make me yours and nobody else’s but yours alone.”
“Instantly the shaking stopped and the pain vanished; the spirits had fled. Wonder and awe filled us all.”
This story reminds of encounters Jesus had in the gospels with demonized people. This story from the Philippines is just a taste of a day coming soon when evil will be brought to an end and justice will reign completely. The person of Jesus Christ will triumph over all evil.
We are in a sermon series going through a letter written by the Apostle Paul.
One of his main topics is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth. When he comes again, he will rescue all who believe in him, and he will bring all evil to an end. He will throw down even Satan himself and all his demons.
Jesus Christ is our Victorious Lord, and he is coming soon.
If you have a Bible, turn to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.
Honestly, the passage we are about to read is a very difficult passage to understand. Friendly debates have been engaged for years and even centuries by many students of the Bible.
As we read it, parts of it will make us wonder what Paul is talking about. And we wonder how it all fits into the scores of prophecies about Christ’s return. I’ll be honest, I know we pastors need to study this entire topic of the Second Coming out much more thoroughly.
We are considering having an in depth study this Fall and Winter. We are not experts in this.
Yet some things from this passage are clear. And there are some clear implications for us.
First, let’s read through with brief explanation. And then we’ll examine how it relates to us today.
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 (ESV)
1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,
2 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.
Vs. 1 Paul seems to refer to his first letter, chapter 4:15-17. The Lord comes, the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, those Christians still living on earth will be “caught up” with the others and meet the Lord in the air. That’s reflected here in vs. 1.
Vs. 2 indicates that one or more people or rumors or false letters were misleading the church. Confusing them about the Second Coming. Perhaps they thought the Lord had already come back and they had missed it.
Whatever they had thought, Paul commands them, “Don’t be alarmed.”
Then in vs. 3 he continues with his reasons why they shouldn’t be so easily deceived.
3 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,
4 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.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
In vs. 3-4:
The coming of Christ (mentioned in vs. 1) cannot happen until “the rebellion” happens first. And this “man of lawlessness” is revealed. So the Thessalonians didn’t need to worry if they missed Christ, for this time of rebellion was going to come first.
Now we’re into something that is not entirely clear. Who is this “man of lawlessness,” this “son of destruction”?
Is he a religious leader? A political leader? Military? Is he “the Beast” mentioned in Revelation 13? Or as some would call him, “the Antichrist”? Perhaps so.
Whoever he is, he doesn’t merely want power. He wants to be worshiped as God.
Vs. 5: Paul had told them these things a year or so before, during his short stay there until he was kicked out of the city due to persecution. So what Paul is telling them is not new. But they had either forgotten or had been duped by some rumors and lies.
6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
7 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.
Paul had previously told the Thessalonians what or who this restrainer is. Unfortunately, we do not have that information.
For some reason, the Lord has not told us.
There are countless speculations as to who this “Restrainer” is.
- Some have said the Holy Spirit.
- Some have said an angel, specifically Michael the archangel.
- Others have said the Roman Empire.
- Even a few have wondered if it’s the proclamation of the gospel and Paul himself, that he will preach the gospel all over the world, and then he is finished.
In the end, all we can do is speculate. We simply do not know.
8 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.
Vs. 8: When Jesus Christ returns to earth the Second Time, he will defeat all his enemies, including this “man of lawlessness.”
All evil will be brought to justice when Jesus Christ returns… from this passage and many others.
And Christ will conquer all his enemies, including the last enemy, death (1 Cor 15:26).
9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,
10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Vs. 9-10: Whoever this lawless one is, he is satanically inspired and empowered. He is incredibly deceiving towards all who do not know the Lord.
And Satan does have great power.
–The story I read from the Philippines shows that.
–And in the gospels, people who were demonized.
–Scriptures show that. Scriptures like Job 1 and 2. And in Exodus with the magicians of Egypt who mimicked some of the plagues from the Lord.
And Paul uses very strong language to describe these people: They are deceived and they are perishing. And, “they refuse to love the truth and so be saved.”
Evil has a stronghold on this world.
Even for those of us whom God has graciously saved through Christ, we can look back to our previous life, and we wonder, “Why was I so stubborn?” I know I wonder that about myself.
God offers life, and we can be so stubborn and proud. In one way, it simply doesn’t make sense. What is not to love about God’s kindness in Christ?
But when we have a sound theology on sin, we understand it completely. We are all stubborn, blind, and deceived.
If not for the mercy and grace of God, no one would ever be saved.
Paul’s goal is not to give some “calendar” about the Second Coming that gives a month by month or year by year detailing of all the events.
But he does give an order to at least one thing: “The rebellion.” Whatever this time of rebellion is, it will precede Christ’s coming. So he wants them to “stand firm” in the faith (vs. 15), and not be deceived by lies and deception.
So, because of their refusal to love the truth and so be saved….
11 … God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,
12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Vs. 11-12: God sends them a delusion so that they believe what is false.
What does this mean? Is God an evil deceiver like Satan? Not at all.
In vs. 10, the people were already “refusing to love the truth and so be saved.” They refused to love the gospel of truth about Jesus Christ. And so in vs. 11, God gives them more of what they wanted. This is a judgment on them for their sins.
It’s the same thought from Romans 1:28.
Romans 1:28 ESV And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
One author described that as, “Sin is the punishment for sin.”
God’s judgment over our sin begins not just at the end of all things on the Judgment Day. His judgment can and does occur even now.
Here is a summary of what we just read:
The Thessalonians were under heavy fire. Severe persecution, yet so far they had walked by faith and remained strong in the Lord. Their hope had been in the return of Jesus Christ to rescue them.
But now they had some doubts. They had heard rumors and lies about Jesus Christ and his imminent coming. And it seems to have shaken them. They appear to have lost heart.
Perhaps they wondered:
- Was he coming back?
- Would there be justice?
- Did they somehow miss out on him?
- Was it actually going to work out?
- And apparently some even may have wondered if they weren’t saved, for Paul reminds them in 2:13-14 that God has indeed called them to himself.
The foundational problem is they had forgotten clear instruction Paul had given them.
So Paul is reminding them of some core truths about Jesus, his coming. He is reminding them of events (and a person) that would precede Christ’s return. He is reminding them here and in his first letter that ultimately Jesus Christ will triumph as an overwhelming Victor over sin, death, Satan, and all his followers.
In the end, this passage is difficult to understand. There are apparently details we simply are not given.
And more than one commentator I read said that this is one of the more challenging passages in the entire NT!!
So we should study this with patience and humility.
So I want to finish up by answering the question, “So what?” What do I do with this?
Our circumstances today at Stonebrook are considerably different than this church’s. We are not being severely persecuted. We are not hearing the same rumors and lies about Christ’s coming as they were.
Yet, on the other hand our situation has similarities. We are suffering, too….. not so much directly from persecution, but from the presence of evil in our world. Evil is all around us, and we suffer for it.
Like Lot, Abraham’s nephew:
2 Peter 2:7–8 CSB …[the Lord] rescued righteous Lot, distressed by the depraved behavior of the immoral (for as that righteous man lived among them day by day, his righteous soul was tormented by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)…
I can relate to that. We are trying to walk with the Lord, but everywhere we turn, there is sin in our faces. Hatred, immorality, division, strife. In the home, in the city, in the government, in the workplace. It wears on our souls. And even torments us, like it did Lot.
We can have similar questions like the Thessalonians may have had.
- Will it all work out?
- Will we survive?
- Will there be justice?
- We might even wonder if we are truly saved.
So in all this, we can lose heart and lose hope… because we forget what Paul has taught us:
- that Christ is coming back,
- that he will reign victoriously,
- that sin will be conquered,
- that death itself—the final enemy—will be completely defeated by the Lord.
So… to help us not lose heart and hope in our suffering, and to keep standing firm before the Lord and longing for his return….. here an action point.
Remember Christ and his coming overwhelming victory.
His First Coming was a glorious victory. He lived, died, and rose from the dead to give life and light to all who believe in him.
This is glorious and victorious beyond description.
But much more is to come. So remember him. Remember he is coming a Second Time with power and victory.
Yes, we may not understand all the details and the timing of his return and all the events leading up to it and surrounding it.
But we can all know and must not forget the foundational truths:
- He is coming back with victory and power to lead his children into eternal glory with resurrected bodies.
- He is coming back with fierce, righteous justice to punish all those who have rejected him and hated him.
- He is coming back to strip Satan and his demons of all their power and evil plotting.
One significant theme from the book of Revelation is that Christ is victorious. He is the Great Conqueror over sin and death and enemies.
Revelation 5:5 ESV And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
- The Alpha and Omega
- The Way, the Truth, and the Life
- The Resurrection
- The Light of the world
- The Lamb of God
- The Lion of Judah
- The King of kings and Lord of lords
He has conquered sin and death through his own death and by rising from the dead into immortality and glory.
He will assuredly rescue his children and grant them glorified, eternal bodies. He will conquer all his enemies, including the last enemy, death.
If you are in Christ, remember that you are on his side. And he wins.
Billy Graham said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible; “it’s all going to turn out all right.”
So we must remember Christ.
How do we remember?
Let us be students of this book.
Read the beginning, in Genesis to understand where we came from and what has happened to this world.
Read the end of the book, the last 4 chapters that point to the future glory we have in Christ.
Read everywhere in between.
Study the Second Coming.
Like the Thessalonians needed to do. We must pay attention to what we have been taught. We must believe what we have heard. We must obey what we have believed.
Read the Bible daily and carefully. Read it with others. Pray for understanding. Take notes.
Hate sin, love good.
In the end of time like in vs. 11, those who love evil and hate what is good will be the ones who will quickly succumb to the deception of the devil and his workers.
Sometimes we can play with sin like it is a cute little kitten. But we forget that it is actually a ferocious lion that will eat us alive.
Romans 12:9 CSB Detest evil; cling to what is good.
Abhor evil. Detest it. Hate it. Kill it. Instead we are to cling to what is good. Hold fast to it. Never let it go.
One reason, this is just right. God is worthy of it.
Two, this will keep us from being deceived. For as we walk in the truth, we are more alert to lies.
Pray for your longing to increase.
Philippians 3:20 CSB Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray for this eagerness. Pray that you would know Jesus better so that you would see how beautiful and glorious and awe-inspiring he is. The Second Coming is so essential to our Christian walk.
Remember Christ, the Victorious King of kings. So we need not fear. And we need not lose heart.
We can be comforted and strengthened for today as we anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus.
The Lord is victorious over all. Victorious over these frail bodies of ours that are headed to death.
Victorious over all his enemies, even the power of Satan and his deception.
So may God grant us his grace and power to stand firm in faith until he returns.