Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 81: Eschatological Encouragement
2 Thess. 2:1-12
July 8, 2012
Scripture reading: 2 Thess. 2:1-4 (Peter T.)
End time Fanatics
Q How many of you are pre-, post-, pan-millenniumists?
* The whole study of how this life ends is called “eschatology.”
Reading between the lines, end times stuff was a bit of a problem for the Thessalonians. We didn’t have time to read it, but in 1 Thess, they were basically afraid that if a Christian died before Jesus returned, they were sunk.
* That sounds strange to us, since we’ve been waiting 2,000 years, but they were expecting something a little quicker.
But then in 2 Thess, it seems someone had them convinced that Jesus had already come and they had missed it:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.
While the specifics have changed, there is a lot of Christians being “alarmed by prophecy.” It has caused a lot excitement and speculation.
Picking up from the reading:
2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
Let’s face it, this stuff gets a little weird, and it is tame compared to stuff in Revelation.
Doesn’t this sound confusing? It has confused generations of scholars who have to give up and say, “We are not sure what Paul is talking about.”
That however, doesn’t stop many less intelligent people telling us with absolute certainty that they have figured out who the Man of Lawlessness and the Restrainer will be.
Q How many of you know some “End Time Fanatics”?
This doesn’t just mean crazy guys with signs, it also includes the guys trying to figure out who 666 represents. I used to get a newsletter from one of those guys.
* Like everything, people tend to go to one of two extremes when it comes to end times stuff: Wacko or apathetic.
Q Which one are you?
I’m in the latter camp, because I’ve seen the waste of end time speculations. But we can’t ignore it – what you believe about how everything ends has profound implications for how you live.
* Our tendency when reading 2 Thess. may be to skip past the end time stuff, but we are missing some important stuff.
One of the books that has impacted me a lot recently was “Surprised by Hope,” by N. T. Wright. As I read it, I realized just how much our beliefs about the end times affect our lives.
* Not caring for creation is the result of poor eschatology.
* Being too wrapped in this life is the result of poor eschatology.
I don’t want us to be a “Prophecy Hunters” church and I have no interest in ever hosting seminar on the last days, but if the Bible talks about, we ignore it at our peril.
* In 2 Thess. there are at least four vital lessons that we need to learn from its end time warnings.
1. Be Prepared
Q What would you do differently if you knew that you only had 3 months to live?
* “Live every day as if it were your last.” Yeah, right.
I would quit my job, put the church in order, spend time with my family, and finish my book. I would live at an unsustainable pace in hopes making the best use of the time I have.
* The thing is that I may only have 3 months to live – I could get hit by a car without warning.
Just as certainty of death combined with uncertainty of its timing forces us to live always ready to die yet prepared to live, so also our eager anticipation of “the Day of the Lord.”
* We live always ready to go, yet planning to stay.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
* We must never forget that this is not all there is. We always live with an eager expectation for Heaven.
2. Be Eager
Last week we talked about living quietly and minding our own business from 1 Thess. I made the point that from the outside we should look more or less normal, but when they look deeper, we have radically different motivations and attitudes.
We enjoy possessions and the things of this life, yet they do not posses us.
Food and drink bring real joy, yet we don’t use them to fill a void.
We work our jobs and are ambitious, yet they’re not our identity.
At the heart of this, is a deeper truth: We live this life fully, but in anticipation of the next.
A Chasing after the Wind
We know that we could have everything here, but it would not be enough. Nothing here completely satisfies, not even spiritual things. There is a hole in us that nothing (material or spiritual) can fill, because we are not from here.
* We’re made for eternity; all our longings look forward to it.
The reason we are radically normal, as I call it, is that we are eagerly waiting for the fullness of God’s presence.
Our imaginations are defective when it comes to imagining Heaven, so God gives us the joys of earth to help develop our expectations of Heaven.
3. Be on guard
It is vital we understand eschatology so that we be on guard:
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
The point of this passage is “be on guard,” there will be some convincing lies – false miracles, signs, and wonders.
At first this seems like Paul is saying God is out to trick people. But the point is actually, if you really don’t want to believe the truth, you will have a way out.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
If you want to believe a lie, if you delight in wickedness, there is and will be easy way out.
* “He who seeks shall find,” if someone is seeking truth, I think God will lead them to it.
The big idea: Be on guard, not everything that sounds good is.
Q How can we tell? Know your doctrine.
4. Be confident
A proper view of eschatology teaches us to be confident because of God’s justice and power.
His justice because he cares what happens here on earth. He cares about all the injustice and he will deal with it:
2 Thessalonians 1:6-7 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
We shirk from this message because we have not really been troubled. We have not had family members thrown to the lions. We have not lost our livelihood because of follow Jesus.
* This isn’t permission to bitterness, but an assurance that right will win.
Eschatology vs. Evolution
Eschatology is where we see the biggest difference between evolutionary theory and a Biblical worldview, at the end of things, not the beginning.
* I’m not so interested in how it began (God created it; “how” is open to question), but I am very interested in how it ends.
Evolution assumes things are going to get better and better, until we get to a Star Trek-like utopia. I don’t believe that will ever happen. We get better in some ways, worse in others.
* The Bible teaches that “you can’t get there from here.”
Perfection will not be reached, justice will not be seen, love will not rule, all the people won’t be living life in peace – you can imagine it all you want. Not until God comes.
* The Bible teaches that God will bring the curtain down on this scene, but up on the next.
God vs. Satan
Not only do we find confidence in his justice, but in his power:
2 Thessalonians 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
* Because evil appears so strong, tend to think that God is on one side and Satan on the other.
But look at this – all of the power and fury of Satan poured through this “man of lawlessness,” and he is wiped out by the Jesus breath. Not bad breath, just breath.
* It is not God verse Satan any more than it is a bulldozer verse an ant – Satan is only allowed to play a role.
Romans 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The reason why I used to avoid eschatology is because I came to associate it with endless speculation and wasted time. But its real purpose is preparation and encouragement:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
His conclusion is not try to figure out when, pre-trib, post-trib, not to create charts and split churches, but to encourage each other.
I hope you are encouraged:
* This life is good, but it is not as good as it gets.
* Things may get confusing, but if you love God and righteousness, you need not fear.
* God will set all things right.
God will soon crush Satan.