Fearless (2 Thessalonians 2)
Fearless (2 Thessalonians 2)
Chris Booth / General
Thessalonians Day of the Lord; Man of Lawlessness; Gospel 2 Thessalonians 2:1–17
Keep Calm, the day of the Lord is yet to come! Therefore, keep fighting.
2 Thessalonians 2
Fearless (2 Thes 2) [SLIDE]
Be Fearless for the Day of the Lord is yet to come. Therefore, keep fighting.
September 11 is marked on everyone's calendars as a day when the world changed.
I remember when September 11 happened. Mum woke me up before school. I was in high school at the time. Mum was particularly brave as I was going through a phase of life where pyjamas were "optional". But she came into my room, woke me up, and I just remember her saying "America has been attacked."
I couldn't get my head around it. What? [SLIDE]
So we walked out into the lounge room and saw what was happening on the TV. It was horrific. I remember seeing people jumping out of the buildings to end their life quicker. I remember seeing the second plane hit. The confusion. The tragedy. The sadness. The anger. It was all swirling around, and I spent the rest of that day just—worried. To be honest, I had no idea what was happening in the world. Was this the end?
Our belief in how the world should be going was blown up. Shattered. And the people doing it? They did it in the name of God.
In the wake of these attacks, the world was shaken.
We find a similar situation of fear in Thessalonica as we read 2 Thessalonians 2. As we read, we will be reminded to be Fearless for the day of the Lord is yet to come.
1. Fearless in Chaos (2 Thes 2.1-2) [SLIDE]
Let's look at 2 Thes 2.1-2. [SLIDE]
2 Thessalonians 2:1–2 NIV
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.
There is Chaos in Thessalonica. The essence of what has happened is that someone has come into the church and started shaking people up saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Look at verse 1 (and 1 Thes 4) 2 Thes 2.1 [SLIDE]
2 Thessalonians 2:1 NIV
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters,
This day of the Lord—this day of judgement—involves us being gathered to Jesus. For those who put their trust in Christ, the day of the Lord is the day when we will be called home. Therefore, we are not be unsettled or shaken about this day. [SLIDE]
Now some think that this lie that was being spread was that the day of the Lord was a literal 24 hour period so they were living on absolute tenterhooks about all the persecution they were facing. They thought they were suffering because that very day was the day of the Lord.
Others believe that it was more the Jehovah's witness idea. The JW's believe that the Day of the Lord has already come, and Christ has already returned in some spiritual sense. The falsehood of the JW's is sadly historically well documented and leaves their reputation as intellectually and theologically corrupt.
In the end we aren't sure exactly what lie they were being sold. What we do know is that the Day of the Lord is the day when God will ultimately act in judgement. He is coming to make all things right.
Just before in 2 Thes 1.6-10 Paul described what will happen on that day. [SLIDE]
2 Thessalonians 1:6–10 NIV
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 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. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
So if you are in in the church in Thessalonica and someone says that this day has already come - how are you feeling?
You might be a little confused. If the day has already happened, why are we not gathered to Jesus in glory? Where are my angels?
You might be a little worried. I mean, this was supposed to be the day and nothing seems to be the way we thought it would be, so maybe we believed a lie.
Maybe this Christianity thing isn't legitimate. Maybe the one's committing the terror attacks are right. Maybe it's their God that is the right God. [SLIDE]
Paul needs to correct this issue. This the one appointment, as Tim said a couple of weeks ago, that we cannot miss. Paul wants to make sure that we are rock solid on this truth. Either people will believe these lies that are being spread and:
a) Relax and become idle, or
b) Continue to suffer and conclude that Jesus is a lie.
And this is just as much an issue today. So let us not get sucked into chaos such as this. Let us know, in the midst of chaos, that there is a God. That he is good.
Let's look at how Paul corrects this chaos. [SLIDE]
2. The Correction to be Fearless(2 Thes 2.3-12)
Paul begins at 2 Thes 2.3-4 [SLIDE]
2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 NIV
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Paul says that you couldn't have missed the day of the Lord because before that day comes the rebellion will occur, and the man of lawlessness will be revealed. [SLIDE]
2.1—The Man of Lawlessness (2.3-4)
This Man of Lawlessness or Antichrist will oppose God and try and convince people that he is the one to follow. (For OT allusions see Isa 14.13-14; Dan 11.21,36.)
The Man of lawlessness is bad news.
He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything.
He will set himself up in God's temple.
He will claim to be God.
This 'Man of Lawlessness' is textbook Satan stuff. Think back to the very first lie. [SLIDE]Genesis 3.1
Genesis 3:1 NIV
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
So this Man of Lawlessness is bad news. He is Satanic. But we need to say that THE man of lawlessness has yet to come. [SLIDE] See 1 John 2.18, 22
1 John 2:18 NIV
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
The temptation in this section here is to read Scripture and tell the Bible who the man of lawlessness is. We want to say it is Hitler. We want to say it is Bin Laden. We want to say; it was this person and that person.
When I joined the Army, the anti-Christ for us Army folk was Bin Laden. We were the generation that went to school scared and was ready to go and make sure that the world would be a safer place.
I remember sitting in Army lecture theatre when we got the news that Bin Laden was dead. It was weird. Here was a man who had defied the law, any law, and rebelled for years, killing countless and terrorising the masses. And now he was dead. What did we do? Celebrate? No. Because the war was still on. The enemy was still fighting, and before you know it, another person steps up as our new man of lawlessness.
We could sit here and go down the rabbit hole about who this man is and exactly what will happen—but that would be missing the point. The point is that THE man of lawlessness hasn't come yet. Because the Man of Lawlessness is being held back at this stage, we can be certain he is not yet in the world. [SLIDE]
2.2—The Restrainer, Satan & The Perishing (2 Thes 2.5-7)
We hear that THE man of lawlessness hasn't come yet because 2 Thes 2.6-7 [SLIDE]
2 Thessalonians 2:6–7 NIV
And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 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.
The man of lawlessness is being held back at this moment. Once again, we could go down a rabbit hole on this one with theories as to what is going on here, but I think what we can see clearly is that by God's sovereign decision, the man of lawlessness is being restrained.
In the grand plans of God, this final Man of lawlessness, Satan's best sidekick, is being held back by God.
We read that God is holding him back but 2 Thes 2.7 we read that the power of lawlessness is already at work in the world now. [SLIDE]
2 Thessalonians 2:7 NIV
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.
We see this, don't we? We don't have to look far. We don't have to access long forgotten memories. Lawlessness is everywhere. In the words of the OT, 'everyone is doing as they see fit' (Judges 21.25). We think of the evil of September 11. We think of the terror since then.
People buy into lawlessness because to them they doubt that God exists. And this is the real chaos of this world. It is not just people perishing on earth. It is people dying in eternity.
So Brothers and sisters, do not be shaken by all the terror in the world. It is horrific, but THE man of lawlessness is yet to come. He is not in this world now, but the Gospel is. Satan has his defeated menacing evil spirits crawling this earth now, but we have the victorious news of the Gospel. We must remind ourselves that this Gospel is victory. [SLIDE]Paul says in 2 Thes 2.16 that the God we are looking to is the one who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope...This grace that Paul refers to isn't a fluffy concept. The commentators point our that the word of Grace is 'gift' and the 'gift' that Paul wants us to have is that of Jesus Christ who died and rose again from the dead victorious as Lord and Saviour. We have this Gospel now! So do not be shaken. Be Fearless.
This Man of Lawlessness will not descend on the earth until the time when God removes what is holding him back. God is in control, even over the evil. Therefore we must not be shaken.
Paul then continues to uncover what the Day of the Lord will look like. 2 Thes 2.8-12 [SLIDE]
2.3 The Delusion (2 Thes 2.8-12) [SLIDE]
2 Thessalonians 2:8–12 NIV
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. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
We see God's control here, and the sad truth that some are perishing in this world.
The day of the Lord, as we said before, is a time of judgement. God will judge the world. Verses 9 and 10 points to the ultimate judgement of the wicked on the day of the Lord. [SLIDE] 2 Thes 2.9-10
2 Thessalonians 2:9–10 NIV
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
When God calls time on this creation, there will be those who trust Christ and those who do not. And part of God's judgement of the wicked is handing them over to this man of lawlessness.
The truth of the Gospel is on offer and when the day of the Lord comes there is no longer time for second chances. God says: If you don't want the truth, then here is a lie for you. Here is a powerful delusion. Because you are perishing.
And the most sickening thing about this lawlessness is, verse 12, [SLIDE]2 Thes 2.12
2 Thessalonians 2:12 NIV
and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
People will delight in the wickedness. This is the sad reality of this world.
Motivated by this truth, we are to push on and be comforted.
Despite not know exactly who the man of lawlessness is, we know how he will end.
The day of the Lord, when the man of lawlessness is revealed and deludes those who are perishing, Our Lord Jesus will [SLIDE]2 Thes 2.8
2 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV
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.
...'overthrow him with the breath of his lips.
Now I have it on good authority that Jesus had great dental care so he wasn't coughing up garlic breath on the Man of Lawlessness. This is the power of the Lord.
So while this world may be crumbling, we still have hope. For we know that the day of the Lord hasn't happened yet because we know that Christ has yet to return.
So do not be shaken. Christ is yet to return. But Christ is returning. [SLIDE]
3. The Comforting Command to Stay Fearless (2.13-17) [SLIDE]
We are now at the final part of this chapter and point three of the outlines, 2 Thes 2.13
2 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
What a beautiful end.
We have been elected, chosen by God to be saved. To believe in him.
Because of no worth of anything we have achieved, God chose us to be saved.
And as saved people, we do not wait, and idly suffer through this lawlessness. No.
We are being sanctified by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
What a polar opposite to the mystery of lawlessness and his lies.
This is no mystery. This is the person—the Holy Spirit— the third member of our triune God, and he is sanctifying us. The work of the Spirit is to continue to convict us to the truth. To mold us to be the people of God he wants us to be.
And this is no abstract idea. We are called to live through the truth.
So then, what are we to do about all this. [SLIDE]I suggest three things fall out from today:
1) Be clear on the day of the Lord – live as if you know how the world will end. Because you do.
2) Be clear on the certainty of the gospel – for this is the opposite to the lies of the devil.
3) Live in light of 1) and 2). Consider each day a precious opportunity to share this gospel and rip apart the mystery of lawlessness. Manage your time well and prioritise the most important thing – the truth.
On September 11 I went to school. Our science teacher was a lovely lady. She cancelled class for us. Instead of biology, she got us all to get a paper out and look around the room. We were to write one nice thing about everyone else in that room. Tear them off and take them to the front. Then she gave us our piles of lovely comments.
I still have them, and they remain very precious to me. The taught us that day to hold onto hope when the whole world was crumbling. Brothers and sisters, we have something much greater than nice things to say about each other.
We have the Gospel. When we go out this week, will we be caught up in the chaos? We will spend our days wondering if this world is getting worse or better? Or will we be caught up in the Gospel? The vision we are to be captured by is that of Christ returning on the last day.
This morning we have learnt that we don't know when the day of the Lord will be, we don't know who the man of lawlessness is. But we know it hasn't happened yet. Despite the lawlessness in the world, we will not be shaken as we use what precious time we have left to make, not just nice comments known—but as we make the gospel known.