Letters to the Thessalonians (7)
Evidently Paul wrote this second letter to the Thessalonians soon after his first letter, about AD 51 or 52. Maybe the response of the Thessalonians to the first letter caused him to write this one. Paul had written extensively about Christ’s Second Coming. Evidently they had gotten the impression from his first letter that Jesus would be returning very soon. Some had stopped working in order to wait for His return. Also someone had started rumors that a prophecy, report or letter had come from Paul and his associates saying that the Day of the Lord had already come. II Thess. 2:1-2 It seems that Paul wrote this letter to correct such errors. The theme is the same as the theme of I Thessalonians: the end times and the coming of Christ. In fact, over one third of the verses in this letter are about this subject. Paul wrote this letter to help them better understand about the events surrounding the time of Christ’s coming, and to instruct them to faithfully continue on with their lives, serving the Lord until His return.
I. Their perseverance, faith & love
A. Once again Paul mentions that the letter is not only from him, but from Silas and Timothy as well who were with him in Corinth when he wrote. He regarded them as brothers and all three as members of a team. Obviously, Paul was the leader, but he didn’t write independently of his co-workers. We don’t know, but probably he discussed the letter with them before sending it. Once again Paul addresses them as “the church of the Thessalonians”. He acknowledges them as “the church in God our Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ”. He also blesses them from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no question that Paul understood the Trinity. He obviously considered the Father and Son as 2 separate Persons. Unless we are in the Father and also in His Son Jesus Christ we are not part of the church and there will be no grace or peace for us! Those who do not believe in the Trinity or do not come to the Father through the Son are not part of His church.
B. Paul once again thanks God for them as He did in his first letter. Evidently he had sent his first letter to them with a messenger. It seems that the messenger returned to Paul with a report of the church there because Paul knew certain things about them when he wrote this letter. He knew that their faith was growing more and more. Our faith is to grow, not just remain static. We should be trusting God more than we did in the past – knowing that He will not fail and that He will fulfill all His good purposes in us and through us. Phil. 2:12-13 But it was not only their faith that was growing. Their mutual love for one another was increasing as well. True faith in God and love for God will result in love for the brethren. If our spirits are more critical than loving, we need to ask ourselves why.
C. That report must have encouraged Paul. He needed to correct their errors regarding the Second Coming and the Day of the Lord, but first he commended them for their faith and love and then corrected their mistaken ideas. We need to be sure to encourage others for what they are doing that is right even while we teach them where they are wrong. Paul said that he and his co-workers had even been boasting about the Thessalonians among God’s churches. What did they boast about? Their perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials they were going through. Their faith was growing in the midst of, and possibly as a result of, their trials. I Peter 1:6-7 They were not ready to quit or give up. They persevered through it all, holding tightly to faith and love.
II. God’s judgment is right
A. Paul writes that their increased faith and love along with their perseverance give evidence of the fact that God knows what He’s doing. Phil. 1:27-28 His judgment is right! It might seem wrong that they are being persecuted, but God knows what He’s doing. Why does God allow trouble and persecution? First, He is producing precious things in their lives by what they are going through: faith, love and perseverance. Second, because they are growing and faithful, they will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which they are suffering. If we suffer for Christ we prove that we are His and belong in His kingdom. These Thessalonians will fit into the kingdom because of the kind of people they are becoming.
B. The benefits that come to them because of their faithfulness in suffering are contrasted with the trouble that will come to those who make them suffer. Thirdly, we see that God is just even though He allows trouble and persecution. His justice will win out in the end. He will pay back trouble to those who trouble us. God knows what He is doing in us – and what He will do to those who mistreat us! The fourth thing we have to remember about this problem of suffering is that it will not go on forever. Because God is just, fair and wise, He will give relief to all who are troubled. Col. 3:25 We can completely trust our all-wise, just and faithful God. Those characteristics are who He is. We need to learn to leave all judgment with God instead of condemning others.
III. The Lord Jesus comes to punish
A. When will the Lord set things right, paying back trouble to those who have persecuted His people, and giving relief to His suffering saints? It will happen at His coming. He will be coming to rescue all those who love Him and are faithful to Him. Will this be some quiet, secret coming of the Lord? No! Paul writes that the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. Jude 14 Of course, to those who are unprepared His coming will be like a thief breaking into the house at night. But suddenly everyone “in the house” – on earth – who are not expecting Christ will wake up with a great shock. Wow! This will be the most shocking thing that has ever happened to this world. Of course, the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection were shocking but most of the world was not even aware of those. In that day, everyone will be aware! Matt. 24:27, 30-31
B. The first thing mentioned is how the Lord Jesus will pay back trouble on those who have mistreated His people. Maybe Paul is describing those to be punished with 2 different descriptions. But it seems that there may be 2 groups that will be punished. The first are those who do not know God. In Rom. 1:20 Paul writes that they have no excuse because they have had the witness of nature and of their own conscience. What seems to be a second group are those who do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Maybe they have known God but are no longer obeying, who have not continued to trust and believe. It seems that Paul is referring to 2 groups. One is unbelievers and the other disobedient and unfaithful believers. II Pet. 2:20
C. What will be the punishment of these godless and disobedient men? They will be punished with everlasting destruction. Destruction sounds like something that totally destroys people and places. But this destruction is everlasting. It never ends. I can’t even imagine that! The second part of their punishment is to be shut out from the presence of the Lord. That is very scary! To be shut out from God’s presence is to be shut out of life, light, hope, love, goodness, joy, compassion, grace. It is what happened to Jesus on the cross when He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” The third part of their punishment is to be shut out from the majesty of His power. Those who turn their backs on Him will never see His glory or enjoy the majesty of His power.
IV. Jesus comes to be glorified in His people
A. On the other hand, what a glorious day that will be for the people of God when the Lord comes to be glorified in His holy people. He will not only be glorious Himself. His glory will be seen in His people who have stood true to Him through all their trials. No wonder Peter told us to be holy as God is holy. I Peter 1:15-16 Our holiness and commitment to Him will glorify God when Christ returns. He will also be marveled at among all those who have believed. I can just imagine that we will stand around or fall on our faces in awe and amazement at the appearance of our marvelous Lord. Paul assured the Thessalonians that they would be among those marveling at Him because they believed the testimony of Paul, Silas and Timothy. What an amazing thing! Looking at Jesus, believing in Him, and loving Him puts us into a totally different category than the rest of the world.
B. This passage of scripture seems to be a strong argument for the Post Tribulation theory. It seems clear that Jesus will come in an unexpected way to the faithless. I Thess. 5:2 In one coming He will both judge and punish those who have turned Him down and will rescue His faithful ones from the suffering and persecution they are going through. God is wise and He knows how to use troubles and trials in our lives to perfect our faith. But we must learn to trust Him in everything because trials can also tempt us to turn away from God. The strong message of the Holy Spirit in God’s Word is that we must stand firm to the end. Matt. 24:9-13 Because He is a just God He will take vengeance on those who have persecuted His people, in His time and His way.
V. Prayer for them
A. Paul faithfully prayed for all the various churches he knew about. The Thessalonian Church was no exception. He mentioned how his team was praying for them in his first letter. I Thess. 1:2-3 Here he writes that they were constantly praying for the believers in Thessalonica. What did Paul, Silas and Timothy pray for them? First, they prayed that God would count them worthy of His calling. Is it possible that we could be counted unworthy of His calling, like the invited guests in Jesus’ parable who refused to come to the banquet and so were counted undeserving? Matt. 22:8 I think we can only be worthy of His calling when we answer and respond to His call with love and obedience.
B. The second thing Paul and his team were praying for was “that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” Notice that it is the Lord’s power that fulfills the good purposes in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit in our lives will receive the power-backing of our God. Our power and strength is nor sufficient to carry through on those good purposes even though we are responsible to choose the good. It is Christ in us who helps us carry out the acts that our faith leads us into. Why was Paul praying like this? It was so that the name of the Lord Jesus might be glorified in them. We Christians have the potential of bringing glory to Jesus’ name or bringing shame to it. That’s why it is so sad when we see people who claim to be godly and yet are bringing shame and disgrace on the name of Christ either through false teaching or false living. How can Jesus be glorified in us and we in Him? It is by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s all of grace!
I think it is very important for us to be praying for one another in this difficult time in which we live. Paul’s prayers are a good example to us. Let us pray for one another that we will grow in grace and bring glory to our Lord. Let’s pray that we will be obedient to what the Holy Spirit is showing us, even when it’s hard. Let’s pray that nothing and no one will be able to take us away from the Lord and His will for us. And as we pray for others, let’s be faithful to live out these things in our lives. I can’t think of anything worse than being shut out from the presence of the Lord. That will never happen to us if we love and obey Him and stand firm to the end with His power behind us.
Letters to the Thessalonians (8)
The Man of Lawlessness
II Thess. 2:1-8
In chapter 1 Paul encouraged and commended the Thessalonian Christians for their growing faith and love. They had persevered through all their trials and persecutions. But what was happening to them was not the end of the story. God who is just will count them worthy of His kingdom. The time will come when He will pay back trouble to those who had troubled them. They could look forward to the time when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His angels. On that day He will punish evildoers and at the same time be glorified in His holy people. For some that will be a great day of rejoicing. For others it will be a day of mourning. Now in the second chapter Paul reveals even more details about that Day of the Lord.
I. False prophecies, reports and letters
A. Paul continues his theme of these 2 letters: “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “our being gathered to Him”. The gathering and resurrection of His own is explained in I Thess. 4:13-18. Paul has made it clear in chapter 1 that God will eventually avenge those who have suffered for Him. He will punish those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel. But He will also be glorified in His people. The Thessalonians believed Paul’s teaching and they were expecting this coming of Christ. In fact, some of them had quit their jobs and were waiting idly for Jesus to come. I don’t know how Paul knew so many details about the Day of the Lord, but since he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, he must have received this information by direct revelation.
B. Paul was pleading with his brothers in Thessalonica not to become alarmed or unsettled by misinformation or false teaching. Evidently Timothy reported to Paul after his trip to Thessalonica that the believers there had received a prophecy, a report, and even a letter that was supposed to have come from him. It was happening then as it’s happening now – people becoming confused and misled by things like false prophecies and visions. It seems that the devil is using these lies more now than at any other time in history. How many are believing false reports made in the name of the Lord! Then there are those who purposely deceive others by writing letters or making reports to look like they are from some respected Christian leader like Paul.
C. What did this prophecy, report and letter say? It said that the Day of the Lord had already come. This kind of false teaching has been going on ever since that time. Today many leaders in the church are teaching Preterism and Amillennialism. They claim that the Day of the Lord has already come and we are in the Millennium. They try to explain these things through historical events and figures, but their explanations fall short. We have not yet experienced the Great Tribulation, nor has Christ come to reign here on earth. Through dreams and prophecies they say they have a “new word from the Lord” – new revelation which is added to the Bible. We have to be very discerning about such things. Some of these people are being deceived by demons or are themselves deceitful. We must stick closely to God’s Word and compare any “prophecy” or “report” with what the Bible says.
A. Paul told the Thessalonian Christians to be on their guard so that they would not be deceived in any way. Jesus warned of the same thing. Matt. 24:24 Today false Christs, false prophecies, false teachings are rampant, and lots of people are being deceived. How could they know that the Day of the Lord had not already come? How can we know? Paul wrote that that day will not come until certain things take place. First, the rebellion will occur. What kind of rebellion is this referring to? The word means falling away, or apostasy. Isa. 59:12-13 It is a departure from the faith like a wife who leaves her husband to go with another man. Matt. 24:10-11 So this terrible turning away from the faith and the Lord will take place before the Day of the Lord. It seems pretty clear to me that we are presently in that time of apostasy as Christians are being deceived and deceiving others. Ii Tim. 3:12-13
B. The second thing that will happen before the Day of the Lord is that the man of lawlessness will be revealed. Why is he called that? He will be a law unto himself, refusing to believe and live under God’s law and the Bible. He will choose to go his own way and will try to force everyone on earth to go his way. His judgment is described along with his title. He is doomed to destruction! This is the description of the Anti-Christ, called the Beast in Revelation. How will we know him? First, he will head up the rebellion or apostasy. Second, he will be lawless – refusing to submit to God and His Word. Third, he will oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped. Dan. 11:36 He will follow exactly in Satan’s footsteps, opposing God and exalting himself over anything to do with God, including the Christians, echoing the words of Lucifer in Isa. 14:13-14.
C. Fourth, he will set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. He will not only oppose God and exalt himself over the godly. He will say that he is God and will require everyone to worship him. The mark of the beast will be the sign in a person that he belongs to this evil god and will cooperate with him and worship him. Rev. 13:16-17 The title “Anti-Christ” means “in place of Christ”. We could also call him Anti-God because he tries to take the place of God in the world. How terrible is his rebellion against God, His Word and His people! It will be a time of great persecution on earth for true believers who refuse to take the mark and worship this false god. Matt. 24:9
III. The One who holds him back
A. Paul had evidently taught the new believers in Thessalonica many things in the short time he was with them. He wanted them to know all the essentials of the Christian faith and at least a basic outline of future events. Paul explains that something or someone is holding back the “man of lawlessness”. The Anti-Christ is being held back so that he may be revealed at the proper time. It’s a little like the incarnation. Jesus came at the “right time” though His coming had been promised for 4000 years. Rom. 5:6 So the Anti-Christ’s coming has been prophesied for 2000 years but he has not yet been revealed because the “proper time” hasn’t arrived. Satan is not in control of the times on this earth. God is! So we must conclude that the Anti-Christ is being held back by God Himself, probably in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
B. It may mean that the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians is holding back this lawlessness, rebellion and the Anti-Christ. However, the secret power of lawlessness was already at work at their time and is even more powerfully at work in our time. It’s interesting that it is called a “secret power”. Today there are many secret agendas going on. They are well hidden because generally people would not accept them if they knew the whole truth. But there are also ways in which we can see this rebellion against God and His rule. It can be seen in those who teach evolution, in those who accept homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, in those who sell drugs and even young girls as prostitutes, and in those who lead people astray with their false teachings. When Christians are faithful and stand up for God and His truth, the Holy Spirit in their lives sometimes defeats the promoters of rebellion against God and His Word.
C. The Holy Spirit, who holds back the full revelation of evil and the Anti-Christ, at some point will be taken out of the way. Some people believe that this refers to the rapture of the church. At this point I don’t think we can know for sure. But we do know from I Thess. 4 that the church will be raptured, both the living and the dead, and that we will be given resurrection bodies at that time. The removal of the Holy Spirit out of the way does not have to mean the removal of Christians. Evidently the time will come when the Father withdraws the Holy Spirit who has been continuously blasphemed, and allows this terrible evil and secret power to have full sway. If there are any true Christians alive at that time, the Holy Spirit will not forsake them. But the protection of the Holy Spirit over this world will be removed and all hell will break loose.
A. Finally the lawless one will be revealed. I’m not sure if this means that he will be revealed by taking his place as great world leader or if it means that his evil will be revealed as people finally recognize his true nature. Perhaps up to that time he will deceive people into accepting him and following him. It’s interesting that Paul repeatedly uses the words “lawless” or “lawlessness”. The Greek term here is “without law, unlawful, wicked, transgressor of the law”. I believe this refers not only to his refusal to follow God’s law, but to actually become a law unto himself. Having gone through World War II I tend to think of Adolf Hitler. He was a law unto himself. He was not controlled by laws like our President is. He made and changed the laws as he pleased, always to accomplish his personal agendas. He put himself above his government and above God!
B. What will be the final destination of the lawless one? The Lord Jesus will overthrow him by the breath of His mouth. That is the Lord’s secret weapon! Nothing and no one can stand against the Lord’s breath. The Anti-Christ will rule the world and claim to be God. Jesus will come as the true Ruler – King of kings and Lord of lords. Rev. 19:11-16 He will overthrow the Anti-Christ and his false government. How will the Anti-Christ himself be destroyed? By the splendor of Christ’s coming. It’s as if Christ’s presence is so bright and so powerful that the Anti-Christ can’t stand it and is destroyed. In Rev. 19:20 it says that he will be thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Christ will come as the true Owner of this earth and all those involved in the rebellion of the Anti-Christ will be destroyed.
We must never forget that God is in control of everything. He is sovereign! Sometimes it seems that Satan is in control, but he can only do what God allows him to do. In order for mankind to have a choice between good and evil there has to be a Satan, and his servant, the Anti-Christ. All men are on trial. What will we do with our lives and all the blessings God has given, even to the life of His precious Son? Will we love and honor God or go the way of the world which is an enemy of God? James 4:4 Following Satan, the Anti-Christ or the world means that we join with God’s enemies. We must beware of the spirit of Anti-Christ as well as the person himself. The secret power of lawlessness was already at work in Paul’s time and it is at work today. The false teachers we see on TV have become a law unto themselves, making up the rules as they go along because they are unwilling to submit to God and His Word. What if we become a law unto ourselves? Won’t we then be operating in the spirit of Anti-Christ?
The Letters to the Thessalonians (9)
II Thess. 2:9-15
In our last lesson we learned much about the man of lawlessness. Tonight we begin with more information about him and the end time. The Thessalonians had been told by false teachers that the Day of the Lord had already come. Paul explained that the Day of the Lord will not come until the rebellion occurs. This is a rebellion against God – a turning away from Him or apostasy. Then the man of lawlessness or Anti-Christ will be revealed. He will not only oppose God and exalt himself. He will actually set himself up in God’s temple, claiming that he is God. When the Lord Jesus comes He will overthrow him with His breath and destroy him with His splendor. So the Holy Spirit through Paul describes those who will follow this false Christ.
I. Counterfeit miracles
A. The lawless one or Anti-Christ will be in accordance with the work of Satan. We see from his description in Revelation that Satan plans a kind of counterfeit Trinity to deceive mankind. Satan himself will be like God the Father, the Anti-Christ will take the place of Christ, and the False Prophet will substitute the Holy Spirit. In Revelation Satan is called the dragon. The Anti-Christ is a beast that looks like a leopard with the feet of a bear and a mouth like a lion. Rev. 13:2, 5-6,8 The False Prophet is another beast with horns like an innocent lamb, but the voice of a dragon. He is the one who will perform great and miraculous signs. He is also the one who will force people to take the mark. Rev. 13: 11, 13, 16-17
B. We see from this counterfeit Trinity that Satan will be hard at work deceiving people – his primary goal since he first deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden. And how will he do it? How will he convince people that they should follow the Anti-Christ? By displaying all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. These miracles, signs and wonders will appear real at the time, but they are not. They are like counterfeit money which looks good and seems to have value, but actually it is worthless, and only deceives those who lust for it thinking that they are now rich. This is obvious in the counterfeit revivals going on here and there. The miracles and signs being done by Benny Hinn and others are not real in the sense of being of any spiritual value. People think that they are spiritually rich when they are “slain in the spirit” or “anointed”. But are they? Matt. 16:4
C. People today seem to think if they see a supposed miracle, sign or wonder that it must have come from God. So they follow the man who seems to be able to do these things. But Satan’s people have always been able to do amazing things. Witches, witchdoctors, shamans, and mediums in every society in the world can do what seem to be miracles. They may not be real at all or they may be done with Satan’s power. In Micronesia, people are made sick and made well, they are caused to “fall in love”, and they are put under a curse which seems to cause sickness and sometimes death. None of this is from God!
D. Actually they have been deceived, and end up with something worthless or very dangerous. Accepting and using counterfeit money will put you in trouble with the law and maybe in jail. These counterfeit signs and wonders are not just foolishness. They are extremely dangerous! Paul goes on to add: “And in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing”. Here Paul labels these miracles, signs and wonders as clearly evil. Of course, they must be evil because they come from the Anti-Christ and False Prophet in league with Satan. But why are people so easily deceived by these foolish counterfeit signs? The miracles deceive those who are perishing. People heading for destruction are deceived. Matt. 24:4-5, 24
II. Love the truth or believe the lie
A. But why does God allow people to be deceived? The Lord has given us the gift of choice – a free will. And He has given us the truth so that we can choose between the truth and lies, or deception. Our choice today is exactly the same as the choice Adam and Eve had. The Lord gave them the truth and they could choose to obey the truth or be deceived by the lies of Satan. From their day till today people perish, not because God hates them but because they refuse to love the truth! Are these people Paul writes about perishing because they never heard the gospel? It seems that they had the chance to know the truth. “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved!” Knowing the truth is not enough. Only loving the truth and committing our lives to Him who is the Truth will save us from perishing.
B. These verses are centered on our attitude toward truth: “refused to love the truth”…”believe the lie”….”have not believed the truth”. Here is a willful choice regarding the truth. They refused. When you refuse you say, “No! I will not love the truth!” Then they make the choice to believe the lie. “Yes, I will believe the lie!” Instead of believing the truth they have chosen to delight in wickedness. God has given us free will. With it we choose the truth or the lie. We love God and His truth or we lust after and enjoy wickedness, which in this case includes fake miracles, signs and wonders. We can only be saved, both now and eternally, when we choose to believe and love the truth. It takes a love of the truth and God to protect us from Satan’s deception. It’s easy to see how the counterfeit signs and wonders being done today in the name of God are preparing the way for the great miracles done by the False Prophet to convince people to worship and commit themselves to the Anti-Christ. John 4:48
A. Because they will choose the lie instead of the truth, God will send them a powerful delusion. This is God’s final test for mankind. It reminds me of Pharoah and King Saul. Pharoah hardened his heart against God again and again. Finally God hardened his heart! King Saul turned against God and disobeyed Him, so God took His Holy Spirit from Saul and sent him an evil spirit. So man’s refusal to believe and love God’s truth will open the door for Him to send them a powerful delusion. A delusion in Greek means a wandering that causes people to be led astray. God is not playing games with people. He has given Himself so that we can have life – now and eternally. If we do not love that wonderful good news and all the other truth God has given us, we have no place in the family and kingdom of God. How can we be saved if we do not love the God who died for us?
B. Not believing the truth leaves man open to lies. Hasn’t God done enough? Can’t Jesus save and satisfy us eternally? Or do we need counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders along with every sort of evil? A delusion is imagining something to be true that is not true. Men’s refusal to believe, love and obey the truth God has already given will lead them to have imaginings of things that seem powerful and yet are counterfeit and deceitful, not true. I believe that some of the false teachings today are delusions. I don’t know if they are the final powerful delusion God will send, but they certainly are leading up to it. People think they are drunk in the Holy Spirit when actually they are under the influence of evil spirits. They believe that the gods they worshipped in the past are the Lord God with different names. So they return to the worship of demons. So Satan and his demons are being worshipped and loved by people who think they are Christians worshipping God! What a terrible and powerful delusion! John 8:44
C. The lie is the same that Satan told Eve: God has robbed and deceived you of the best. He’s trying to keep you from being all that you can be. You can be like God. Gen. 3:4-5 What is the end result? “So that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness”. It comes down to a question of what we believe and love. On one side are those who believe and love the truth and the One who said, “I am the Truth.” On the other side are those who believe the lie which leads them into delighting in wickedness instead of in God and His Word. God’s gate is narrow and His way straight. We cannot choose to believe anything we like and then love the things or people we choose, and expect God’s blessings. If we choose the lie and wickedness, God Himself will send a powerful delusion that will lead to our condemnation. How can we keep ourselves from being deluded and deceived in this way? By believing and loving the truth and learning to discern what is biblical and from God and what is not.
Read II Thess. 2:13-15
IV. God chose you
A. In spite of these dire predictions and warnings, Paul gives thanks to God for them because they were loved and chosen by Him to be saved. They were among the firstfruits from among the Gentiles. How were they saved? “Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and their belief in the truth”. Paul goes back to the importance of belief in the truth. That was their part. God’s part was setting them apart for Him by the work of the Spirit. As with prayer and everything else in the Christian life, it is a shared thing.
B. God is at work and we are at work at the same time or maybe together. Phil. 2:12-13 It is not only God or only us. Of course, the major part is God’s because He is Creator, Redeemer and Sovereign Lord. But without our belief in the truth we remain lost as most of the world is even though Christ died for all men. God, in His grace, has chosen us through the gospel. Paul calls it “our gospel” because he, Silas and Timothy were the messengers who brought it. What a gracious God He is to want us to “share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” What an honor God gives us!
V. Hold to the teachings
A. Paul was thankful for the fact that they had been chosen and called by God, but he knew that a good beginning is still only a beginning. To go on with the Lord requires a carrying through to the end. So Paul admonished them and us to stand firm and hold on. I Cor. 16:13, I Thess. 3:8 Because the spirit of the Anti-Christ was already in the world, there was only one way they could survive. So it is with us today.
B. The spirit of lawlessness is everywhere in our world, and soon the man of lawlessness himself will be revealed. There is only one way to survive. We must stand firm on the foundation where our Christian lives began. That meant for the Thessalonians that they must hold to the teachings which Paul and his companions had passed on to them whether by mouth when they were in Thessalonica or by letter – I Thessalonians. For us it means that we must hold to the whole Word of God that we have in our hands. Heb. 3:14
It is clear from Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 24 and in the writings of the apostles as well as the Book of Revelation that many people will be deceived in the end time. Some teach that Christians cannot be deceived, but the Bible says the opposite. Matt. 24:4-5. 9-12 What will we do when the persecution starts and most people believe in the powerful delusion? We must be overcomers as Jesus wrote through John to the 7 churches in Revelation. The Lord is our Helper and He will strengthen us and never leave us alone, but we must stand firm to the end! Matt. 24:13
The Letters to the Thessalonians (10)
Don’t Get Tired of Doing What’s Right
II Thess. 2:16-3:18
Our last lesson was a little scary. We studied about the counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders that will be done by the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet. Paul warned the Thessalonians that they must either love the truth or they will end up believing a lie. God will test His people by sending a powerful delusion. Many Christians will be deceived as Jesus warned His disciples in Matt. 24. In order for us to stand in our faith and be overcomers in these end times, we must stand firm and hold on to what we have learned from the Word of God.
I. Encouragement and hope
A. We can easily see that when things become confusing and discouraging for those of us who love the Lord, we will need His special help. So Paul ends this chapter about the Anti-Christ with a wish which is a prayer. He prayed that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself might encourage them. Jesus was the One who was central to Paul’s life and teaching from the moment of His revelation on the road to Damascus. Christ won the victory in the life of Paul who was a Christ-hater and murderer of God’s children. Once again suggesting the Trinity, Paul refers as well to God our Father. God had not always been Paul’s Father. He was like us, adopted into the family of God.
B. How do we picture the Father? He is the One who loved us and by His grace gave us encouragement and hope. God’s grace alone can give us encouragement and hope. Without His grace we are eternally lost and in darkness. And the encouragement He gives is not just temporary, but eternal. And the hope He gives is good hope! So Paul’s prayer for them and my prayer for you is that as you consider the dangers of the end times, you will know that the Lord cannot fail anyone who trusts and obeys Him. I pray that He will encourage our hearts and strengthen us in every good word and deed. With the Lord as our Helper, we can stand firm and not be afraid. Heb. 13:6
II. Pray for us
A. Even though Paul always wrote in his letters about how he was praying for the Christians in each of the churches, he often asked for their prayers also. I Thess. 5:25; Eph. 6:19-20 We must be careful about giving the impression that only certain people are qualified to pray for others. Even though Paul was a godly missionary and a faithful prayer warrior, He also needed prayer. We must pray for one another in the body of Christ. What were Paul’s requests for himself and his working partners? First, he wanted them to pray that the message of the gospel might spread rapidly and be honored there in Corinth where they ministered as it had been in Thessalonica. Second, he asked them to pray that they might be delivered from wicked and evil men. I can imagine that Satan had all his servants working at defeating Paul and his message which he knew would change lives. And it did change the lives of those who had faith, but not everyone has faith! And those who do not have true faith in Christ always become the enemies of those who do.
B. Did God answer this prayer which I’m sure the Thessalonians prayed? God faithfully answered their prayers. He used Paul and his companions to spread the gospel, and He delivered them again and again from evil men. Of course, finally Paul did meet death at the hands of evil men – but only in God’s time and in God’s way! Paul turned then from prayer requests to an affirmation of faith in the God who will also protect them, not only from evil men, but also from the evil one! “The Lord is faithful”. He is the One who can strengthen us and protect us from the attacks of the enemy, not only on our bodies but also on our spirits. To die an overcomer is far better than to live in defeat. Paul wanted them to know that he had confidence in them to continue to follow the ways of the Lord that he had taught them. His prayer for the Thessalonian believers is what we need to pray for ourselves and others: “May the Lord direct our hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” so that we continue on faithfully doing God’s will to the end. Heb. 12:1-3
Read II Thess. 3:6-18
III. Keep away from idle brothers
A. Next Paul launches into a teaching about laziness and idleness that he had mentioned only briefly in I Thess. 5:14. Evidently when Timothy returned from his trip to Thessalonica he reported to Paul that some of the new Christians had become idle and lazy. Some perhaps thought that Jesus was about to return and there was no reason to work any more. Others may have used that as an excuse to stop working. They may have taken Paul’s instructions about helping the brothers and sisters in Christ and used it as an excuse to let others take care of them. Paul used hard words, commanding the Christians to keep away from every idle brother. Why? Because they were not following the apostles’ teaching about hard work and faithfulness. A second reason is in v. 11, which said these lazy people had become busybodies and gossips. This kind of thing can spread like poison in the body of Christ. It’s a good thing to stay away from those who gossip a lot.
B. Now Paul reminds them again that they should be imitators. I Thess. 1:6 They should imitate the apostles’ example. Paul paid for his own food even though he was their guest. He and his fellow workers worked day and night, laboring and toiling so that they wouldn’t be a burden to the Thessalonians. It wasn’t easy for Paul and his friends to work hard and teach at the same time. Maybe there were times when they were able to teach or reason with people as they sewed tents. But I’m sure they were often tired from walking long distances and not getting enough sleep. Then when they arrived in a place they had to begin making tents to pay for their living costs. Paul writes that actually they had the right to expect help from the people they were helping, but they wanted to be a model of how a Christian should live. If he had expected them to support him, these people who didn’t really know him might assume that his motives for being there were not good. Or they might misunderstand that example and assume that the Christians should support them, too.
IV. Keep busy. Don’t be busybodies.
A. Paul’s command to them and his example before them made a clear statement: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” People would be a lot better off if this rule were followed as it was when I was young. Paul made it clear that he wasn’t scolding all the Thessalonian Christians but only those among them who were idle. Instead of being busy working they had become busybodies, meddling in other people’s lives. This is what happens when people have too much time on their hands. So Paul was not embarrassed to command them and urge them “in the Lord Jesus Christ” to settle down and earn their own bread. He felt free to do that because of the authority Christ had given him as an apostle. They were to settle down – stop wandering around getting into other people’s business. And they were to earn their bread.
B. As for the rest, Paul once again called them "brothers" and encouraged them not to get tired of doing what is right. He told them to stay away from those who refused to obey his instructions. They were to take special note of those who were rebellious about doing their part and earning their own bread. They were not to associate with them. Why would Paul tell them that? He wanted them to feel ashamed so that they would repent and do the right thing. But he didn’t want them to treat these rebels as enemies, but as brothers who needed to be warned and corrected. Their error was not as serious as teaching or following false doctrine, but they still needed correction.
C. Paul’s closing salutation and benediction called on the Lord of peace to give them peace at all times and in every way. Christ is the One who can give us true peace in every circumstance, even the hard ones. John 14:27 Paul signed off by saying that he was writing this in his own hand – the distinguishing mark in all his letters. I think he was making sure that they knew that this was really his letter, not a counterfeit letter like they had received before. 2:2 He wishes them the grace of the Lord as he did at the beginning. 1:2
A. What have we learned about Christ’s Second Coming from these letters to the Thessalonians? In I Thessalonians:
1. When Christ returns, He will bring with Him the spirits of those who have died in Him and been with Him in heaven.
2. He will raise their bodies to join their spirits, and then change the bodies of Christians still living into their resurrection bodies.
3. We will be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and so be with Him forever.
4. The Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night to those who are not prepared, but to the sons of light, that day will not surprise us as a thief.
B. In II Thessalonians:
1. The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His angels.
2. He will punish those who do not know God and those who don’t obey the gospel.
3. At the same time He will be glorified in His holy people and marveled at by those who believe.
4. The Day of the Lord has not come yet as some people say.
5. The Day of the Lord will not come until the rebellion takes place and the man of lawlessness is revealed, who is the Anti-Christ.
6. The Anti-Christ will exalt himself over everything of God and will even set himself up in God’s temple, saying that he is God.
7. The reason the Anti-Christ has not been revealed is that God is holding him back until the due time.
8. Jesus will overthrow the Anti-Christ with the breath of His mouth and His splendor.
9. The Anti-Christ and False Prophet will deceive many with counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.
10. God will send a powerful delusion to those who refuse to love the truth and choose to believe the lie and to delight in wickedness.
As we think about all that the Holy Spirit has taught us through Paul in these 2 letters, we need to remember certain things. First, Jesus is coming back! John 14:3 Second, we should be looking forward to His coming even though we don’t know when it will be. I John 3:2 Third, as we look forward to His coming, we should purify ourselves so that we will not be ashamed before Him when He comes. I John 3:3, 2:28 Fourth, if we continue in His love, we do not need to fear the day of judgment because He will come to save us not to judge us. I John 4:17 Fifth, we should make every effort to be found spotless and blameless when He comes. II Pet. 3:13-14 Sixth, if we go through hard times before the Second Coming, we should be encouraged to know that He who has called us will carry us, sustain us and rescue us in His time. Isa. 46:4