The day of the Lord
Lesson Text: 2 Thessalonians 2
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 5/3/09
The subject of “end times” has in the past few years taken off we have books and movies and study bibles and all kinds of other products promoting a certain fantasy type of “end times”. Much of what people push as biblical “end times” theology is not biblical. It is often misinterpreting and misunderstanding much of what the bible has to say on the subject and often people placing fanciful ideas on the bible.
How to Catch a Porcupine
An old woodsman gives this advice about catching a porcupine: “Watch for the slapping tail as you dash in and drop a large washtub over him. The washtub will give you something to sit on while you consider your next move.”
Bits and Pieces, September, 1989
The idea is that catching a porcupine is difficult. There are some things in the Bible that are difficult or hard to understand. Peter speaking about Paul’s writings says:
2 Peter 3:16 …There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
This is week three in our looking through the letter of 2 Thessalonians. We are starting in chapter 2 this week. I want to say up front that this is a difficult passage of scripture, somewhat like catching a porcupine. It’s not only difficult due to the different views of eschatology, “end times” but it is difficult to understand from the original language. Translators have a hard time understanding this passage. So I have a handout for everyone with a different translation than the one we had read this morning and I believe this is a better way to understand this passage. Follow along as I read it. :
2 Thessalonians 2:1-10
2:1 Now concerning the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters,
2:2 not to be easily upset from your calm or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter supposedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.
2:3 Don’t let anyone trick you in any way, because unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is exposed, the son of destruction.
2:4 the one opposing and exalting himself over everything that is called ‘God’ or an object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God.
2:5 certainly you remember that I used to tell you these things while I was still with you.
2:6 And you know what prevails now, so that he will be exposed at his time.
2:7 The mystery of lawlessness is already at work only until the one who prevails is taken out of the way
2:8 so that he may be exposed at the proper time, the Lord will consume him with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his appearing.
2:9 The presence of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders,
2:10 and all deceit of unrighteousness, aimed at those who are perishing, they did not receive the love of the truth so that they would be saved.
The day of the Lord and End times:
From the time when Jesus took on flesh we have been in the end times the time of God’s fulfilling his promise of redemption, the last days. The death burial and resurrection are the major point in history and we are living in the end times now, since the coming of God in flesh we have been in that period of time. And it’s important to remember that Paul said we don’t know the time of the coming of Christ and the resurrection it could have been in Paul’s day or it could be in our day or in 1,000 years from now.
1 Thessalonians 5:1 ¶ Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
So keep this in mind when we look at this passage that Paul is not giving us a detailed account of events leading up to the end because he told us no one knows the time. What Paul wants to tell the Thessalonians is that the day of the Lord has not already come.
Someone somehow has given these Christians the idea that the day of the Lord has already come or is present. They were worried, concerned, or upset about this. It could be that they think they might have missed the resurrection somehow or maybe they were worried about their family members who had not come to Christ yet and that they might be doomed. Whatever the worries they had Paul wants to address this.
Paul says don’t be upset about this don’t be disturbed. He will tell them that the Day of the Lord will not come unless the rebellion comes first.
The rebellion vs 3:
What is this rebellion? What is this apostasy? Well some think that Paul is talking about a future rebellion where many Christians will fall away from God. But Paul isn’t making any reference to a period of time. It might seem that way when we read this passage but he’s not. What he is saying is before the day of the Lord comes there will be a falling away from God.
The nation of Israel had a long history and if you read the book of Judges in the Old Testament you will see how the nation of Israel fell away from God, rebelled or apostatized and then they went into captivity or server persecution and then they would cry out to the Lord and he would send them a judge to save them and then they would have a period of time where things were calm and peaceful. But then they would rebel and this was a cycle that happened over and over again. So God’s people in the past had rebelled at different points in history. But what is Paul talking about here?
Was the nation of Israel holy and separate unto God, were they his chosen people, sanctified? They were. When Jesus came to his own people the Jews, did the majority of them accept him or reject him? They rejected him. The crowd of Jews outside of Pilate’s palace cried to crucify Jesus. This is a falling away of the people of God. The Nation of Israel, the holy people of God, by and large rebelled against God by rejecting the Messiah. That’s what Paul is talking about.
Remember the context here, the historical context. Paul planted this church in three weeks and then the Jews forced Paul to leave the city and he went to a different city and the Jews followed Paul and caused him trouble in that city. These Thessalonian Christians were mostly Gentiles there were some Jews but think about the questions in their minds. Why are the people of God rejecting their Messiah? Why is the nation of Israel rejecting Christ? That is the rebellion Paul is talking about and it was a present reality that would continue in the future but it was present. So the rebellion comes first.
Man of lawlessness revealed:
The next question we want to ask is “who is the man of lawlessness”? Many people think this will be a future person of history who will have political and religious power. Some believe this is that same as the Antichrist but is that what Paul is saying? Let me clear one thing up first there isn’t just one antichrist in 1 John 2:8 we are told:
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
The idea of antichrist is anyone who is against Christ. I don’t believe that this “man of Lawlessness” and the “antichrist” are the same. Paul gives us a description of this “Man of Lawlessness, the son of destruction”. And what does he say? He says, he is the one opposing and exalting himself over everything called God or worshipped, he takes his seat in God’s temple, showing himself off as God.
Let me ask you a question, who has from the very beginning exalted himself, who has placed himself as god and wanted to be worshipped? Who has told others they could be gods, or said to Jesus “I will give you all these things if you will bow down and worship me”? Satan. This is another way of describing Satan. Now in verse 9 it seems that the lawless one and Satan are two separate beings but that verse is more describing the evil in the world and the Evil one Satan but there is not a separation here and this passage makes complete since when we understand Paul saying that Satan is this “Man of lawlessness, the son of destruction”. You see he will be destroyed but he also causes all who follow him to be destroyed. His end will be destruction as will everyone who follows him.
Paul tells us that the Man of lawlessness will be revealed in his proper time that is everyone will know that Satan is behind the evil in this world. This is not saying that there will be a future human to come into power and rule as some want to believe, to be revealed has to do with being shown to all. For example we are told in verse 7 that Jesus will be revealed from heaven and in Philippians 2 that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. But isn’t Jesus in control now, isn’t Jesus Lord and Judge and ruler now? He is but not everyone knows it and one day he will be revealed to all as the Lord just as one day Satan will be revealed to be the one behind the wickedness in the world.
The destruction of the man of lawlessness and evil:
Paul tells us that lawlessness and evil and in fact the evil one Satan will be destroyed when Jesus comes. No more evil and wickedness when the day of the Lord arrives.
The main point is: When the day of the Lord does come evil and Satan will be no more. So if there is still evil in the world the day of the Lord has not come. And as we said last week God wins in the end.
What are the main points of this text?
1) If there is still evil in the world and if Satan has not been revealed to all as the forced of evil behind the wickedness we see then the Day of the Lord has not come yet.
2) When the day of the Lord arrives Satan will be destroyed by Jesus and wickedness will be no more.
3) And as we said last week God wins in the end. When the day of the Lord comes there will be joy and peace.
Let me give you this warning. Don’t get wrapped up in the whole “end times” “Left Behind” fairytales. It’s good as a move or book but it’s not biblical. Don’t be drawn away by that nonsense.
Do the details of this passage matter? They do only in the sense that this is the word of God but if we can understand the major points then we don’t need to worry too much about these hard to understand details.
Be confident in the Lord Jesus Christ and let us partake of the Lord’s Supper rejoicing that Jesus will one day show everyone that he really is Lord.