April 24, 2005
Pastor Brian Shimer
"Yes, Jesus is coming back"|
2 Thessalonians 2
1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not 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. 3Don’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. 4He 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.|
5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For 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. 8And 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. 9The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you£ to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings£ we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
16May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
A dear friend wrote that his church was having a 48 hour prayer vigil this past week. He was thrilled with the experience and wrote: "My heart is to eventually have 24/7 prayer and worship non-stop until Jesus comes."
One reviewer said No wishy-washy "spiritualism" is enshrined here -- these guys want to focus on Jesus. Characters actually use His name, and not as an exclamation. They're not talking about the mushy Jesus of the Jesus Seminar either -- meek and mild and mythical -- but the majestic Jesus of end-times speculators, the literal Son of God who is coming in Judgment with a capital "J." Revelations presupposes that there is going to be a historic supernatural conflict culminating in Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ.
The return of Jesus is big business, even Hollywood is getting into the act now with a new miniseries called Revelations which chronicles the supposed end of the world.
Now, I am not endorsing the show, for it is filled with bad theology, saying that people can somehow control the day of the Lord. But what it is doing is bringing to stage center the reality that Jesus will return. There will be a day of his coming. What it does not do is announce the corollary that since He is returning, we as Christian believers are called to anticipate the day of his coming, look forward to that day and speed its coming, wrote Peter. "Even so, come Lord Jesus," the apostle John penned at the end of the Book of Revelation. (Marc T. Newman, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president of MovieMinistry.com -- an organization that provides sermon and teaching illustrations from popular film, and helps the Church use movies to reach out to others and connect with people.)
The hope in the Second Coming is not a belief that is just mentioned in isolated places in the Bible, but throughout the Word you find the promise that the One who came once will return in greater triumph. The Day of that coming will be something huge and cataclysmic. It's not something anyone could "miss". Paul had taught clearly about this coming day while with the Thessalonians, but still folk had come into town and disrupted their faith, even insisting that Paul had said that Jesus had already returned and they had missed his coming.
So Paul wrote his second letter to them, to encourage them, saying:
"Don't be quickly shaken!"
"Don't go jumping to conclusions!"
"Don't become unsettled or alarmed!"
"Don't let anyone deceive you…"
And then Paul proceeds to give them some of the signs of the Lord's coming. Two particularly visible signs will precede his coming:
First, the apostasy will come, or as the NIV writes, the rebellion.
What is this rebellion?
This speaks of something happening particularly in the church world. There will be a turning from belief in Christ.
Paul writes this to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3, saying:
"In the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving, they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Peter writes about this apostasy in his second letter as well, writing that there will be "false teachers among you, (who will) secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves." Peter says these are people who follow the "corrupt desires of the sinful nature," who will "entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity-for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him" (2 Peter 2:1,10,18-19).
Before his election, in the address before the people, the new Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the need for the church to stand firm in her faith, saying: "We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires."
He is speaking of the general state of the world, but such relativism is also in the church. We have people saying Jesus did not rise from the dead, but his bones were dug up and eaten by dogs; that the cross is not necessary to salvation, that there are many ways to God, that sexual license is a way to spiritual growth. The list of false teachings goes on and on.
The international movement toward one world religion - that all "religions" would be melted into one world faith- is a part of this same rebellion.
Could this one world religion possibly be a saving faith? No, for religion is man centered. It is based upon our works to keep some law and thus get closer to God. It could never suffice or Jesus would never have come. Instead God says, "…no one comes to the Father except through Jesus" and "there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved" (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
So we can see evidences of the apostasy - but as John wrote in his first letter, this lawlessness has always been evident. It will just become worse and worse.
Second, is the arrival on the world stage of the long prophesied Anti-Christ.
Now in contrast to the apostasy, this second sign is more particular. To date we have seen no world leader who has done what this leader will one day do. In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 it says 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." A man claiming to be God in God's temple has not happened.
This sentence alludes to another sign of the coming of the Lord. The temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt.
Is it impossible for the Jewish temple to be rebuilt? Actually, the Jews have all the furnishings for that temple already made and waiting in Jerusalem. If you visit Jerusalem you can go on a museum tour and see them all. I saw the huge golden Menorah displayed while there in 2001. They await the temple. Now how that will come about, when, and where exactly it will be built (for there is some argument as to the location of the Temple Mount) we will wait to see.
But, still, this world leader will be instrumental in the rebuilding. He will masquerade as a friend of all. Satan will work counterfeit miracles through him to deceive people. People will tell you-- "See what a good man he is? Look what he has done." But, this lawless man is doomed to destruction. He will be overthrown by Jesus at his return.
This is where Paul's word: "Do not be deceived" needs to be heeded. Look, there are signs of his coming. The Bible has clearly predicted he will come. So, will we see this one in our lifetimes? Well, since we only have today, I don't know.
So, if these are two of the signs of the Lord's coming, the great apostasy and the revealing of this Man of Lawlessness, what are we to do with this? Other than looking forward to the fact that Jesus will conquer evil and punish the evil doer when he returns; other than looking forward to the plans He has for eternity, how should our lives respond to his promised coming?
In this passage, Paul uses two words to answer that question.
When I was a child my family would travel to Santa Cruz for vacations at my grandparent's cabin located in the Mt Herman area. Once there we would go at least once to the Boardwalk - a coastal amusement park with the most wonderful old roller coaster I have ever known called the Big Dipper. Made of big old wooden creaking timbers, this was a highlight of our trip to the coast.
I would get into one of the cars on the roller coaster and the bar would be brought across my lap. I was secured in that seat by that solid bar. I would not be foolish enough to try to crawl out from under the bar as some have done at that park and gone to their deaths because of it. Indeed it took me years to even begin to lift my hands from their white knuckled position on the bar across the front of the car. You could say, in my seated position, I was standing firm, nothing would move me.
Paul writes his friends telling them first to stand firm. This is a word Paul has used before. He is saying to stand firm in the Lord - don't lose sight of who Jesus is to you. Stand firm in your faith, know what you believe, and be settled in relationship to Jesus. Stand firm in one spirit. We learn from the Bible that our standing in the faith is related to our relationship with others in the body of Christ - we are not standing alone, but standing firm in the Lord as one with many others. (See: 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 thessalonians 3:8; Philippians 1:27 & 4:1; Galatians 5:1). On the Big Dipper I was not alone but was hooked onto many others who rode along with me.
Now Paul's second word also applied to my Big Dipper experience. He says, to hold on to what I have told you, hold on to the traditions I gave you. On a ride there are many rules you get to read before you get on. Then the man who hooks you into the car will invariably tell you: "stay in your seat" "hold on" etc.
So, holding on is something we are familiar with.
In life there are many other situations requiring similar action. Karen tells me she discovered three days into our marriage that this was going to be quite a ride, so since then and I believe even before, she has known to stand firm and hold on for the ride.
What teachings did Paul want the brethren in Thessalonica to hold onto? Well, his teachings about the second coming of Christ. Book after book in the New Testament speaks about Christ's return, but nowhere are we told to try to calculate the date of his return. To date there have been more than 200 dates established as the sure time when Jesus would return. But the Bible is "oh so clear" that "NO ONE" knows the day or the hour, not even the Son but only the Heavenly Father (Matthew 24:35-36).
So what are we left to do? Stand firm in the One we have believed. Sit down securely in Jesus. And Hold onto what is true about Him -- hold onto the fact that signs will precede his coming, and hold onto the glorious hope of His return.
Talk about a great ride - life with Jesus is a huge adventure and just knowing Him and growing in Him takes all of our energies.
A missionary sharing with a people group in India, spent time to share stories of other people groups in other regions and countries who are embracing Christ. The group he was speaking to found this part of the sharing the most significant. Here was their response:
"We can see now that this Jesus is greater than all other gods. All the other gods we have ever known have been the gods only of a village, a tribe, a region or the nation of India. But this Jesus he has followers from all over the world. Why should we follow small gods when we can follow the greatest God of all."
Stand Firm in Jesus and Hold onto Him… He is the greatest God of all.