First Things First Before the End

 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (ESV)
The Man of Lawlessness
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 

Because we have the letter of 1 Thess., we know that this church was concerned with what would happen in end times. They had questions–legitimate ones. And, some of them were “alarmed” and “shaken in mind” by a general attitude of fear (spirit) and by what people were talking about (v. 2) because of a fake letter that had come to them stating that the Day of the Lord had come… that they were going through the Apocalypse and had somehow missed the rapture. To be clear, “the Day of the Lord” is also the same as:

  • “the Great Tribulation” (Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19; Rev. 2:2 & 7:14)
  • “Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer. 30:7; Is. 2:12; Lam. 4:6; Eze. 7:8; Dan. 9:12; Hos. 1:11; Joel 2:11, 31; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-18; Zech. 14:1-2; Mal. 4:1; Acts 2:20; Rev. 6:17)
  • Or, commonly, “the Apocalypse” (Book of Revelation) which will end in Christ’s Second Coming [Advent] to earth (Rev. 19:11-20:6) at the repentance and faith of the Israeli people toward Jesus Christ as their Messiah (Zech. 12, esp. v.10; Rom 11:26).

Here in 2 Thessalonians, Paul is answering a question or set of questions just as specific as the ones he addressed in 1 Thess. From reading verses 1-3 simply, the set of questions were along the lines and progression of:    A) What about the coming of the Lord?   B) What about our being gathered together to him?   C) Has the Lord come already, and so, subsequently are we living in the “Day of the Lord”?   D) We thought you wrote us a letter that said we missed being gathered together to the Lord, and that “the Day of the Lord” (or “that day”) is now here.

Paul’s inspired answers to these questions are:
  1. That day [the Day of the Lord] will not come, unless “the rebellion” (see here) comes first, and the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction (v.3), is revealed.
  2. Paul had evidently told them this when he was with them before (v.5)
  3. That Paul and the other Apostles did not write a letter; it was a fake (v.2)
  4. That the “man of lawlessness” is apparently someone actual and real, because certain things are done in him, by him and to him (vv. 3-9); He has another name–the son of destruction; He will be revealed (literally, “allowed to come forward” or become manifested or uncovered) at a specific time.
  5. The coming of the lawless one, and also the deceptive miracles and false signs he will do, are by the power of Satan (vv. 9-12) [see “Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power”]
  6. He is revealed after the “rebellion” and when he exalts himself above EVERY religion in the world and takes a seat in the future Temple, making himself out to be the only “God”  (vv. 3-4) *This necessitates a 3rd Temple of the Jews
  7. This “man of lawlessness” apparently can happen in any generation and time, except that God is the One who determines that — God is in ultimate control (vv. 6-8)
  8. Jesus will kill this “son of destruction” with His simply showing up [Second Coming, Advent] and “breathing” (speaking the word). (v.8)

Let’s cover the context in more detail. From the first verse, we gather Paul’s audience is saved people (“brothers”)–the Thessalonians. The second thing which is obvious is “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is the subject Paul is dealing with. Then, we see that Christ’s coming is connected by an “and” to “our being gathered to Him.” But, even though “being gathered to him” is mentioned in connection with the Lord’s coming, it does not have to indicate the same event. When the Bible mentions the Lord’s “coming,” there are two possibilities. It is either talking about His feet actually touching down on earth in order to stay a while, as in a Second Coming [ex. this passage]. Or, it can mean He has come to receive believers to Himself, meeting them in the air (John 14:1-4 & 1 Thess. 4:13-18). How do we know for sure which meaning is presented here in 2 Thess. 2?

From Paul’s announcement of discourse, “concerning the coming of the Lord” and “our being gathered to him,” we gather the Thessalonians had apparently asked Paul about the time relationship between the Second Coming and the rapture. I would agree with that these (separate) happenings are complementary parts of the same set of end-times events, of which the Second Advent is the culmination of the Day of the Lord.

However, seeing that the entire context of this discourse is about the difference in timing between the Day of the Lord (which culminates in the Second Advent) and the rapture, we cannot assume the “coming of the Lord” and “his gathering us to himself” speak of the exact same event within God’s end-times program. In short, just because “concerning the day of the Lord” and “our being gathered unto him” share an article (“the”) does not mean we can ignore the rest of the context in order to say this passage speaks only about the rapture and nothing more. Yes, the grammar shows relationship between the two concepts, but the context tells us what is that relationship. The context is namely this: the Thessalonians thought they were going through the Day of the Lord (wrath of God), and that, the coming of the Lord (in wrath and judgement–Second Coming) because they were told by a forged letter that they had somehow missed the rapture. So, in 2 Thess. 2, based on context, the reader can know that “coming” refers to the second advent and “being gathered together to him” refers to Christ’s collecting believers–sometimes called the rapture.

In all the other places where end-times prophecy is addressed in the New Testament, you’ll find the words “faith” and “comfort” and/or “encourage.” In other words, God understands that Satan and our own minds can disturb us Christians about the future, so that our hope is stolen from us. But, this passage and all the other passages are given to us, because our Christian ancestors needed the same answers we need today. As God wanted them to be informed and comforted and strengthened by the truth, so He wants the same for us. God is not about hiding things from us that will help us our faith.  So, again, Paul was answering a question the Thessalonians had, just as he answered their questions in the last letter he wrote them.  In the first letter to the Thessalonians (ch. 4:13-18), Paul answered their question about what happens to believers when they die. He further comforted them by writing that whether we have died or are still alive, there will be a time when both the dead in Christ and the living will “meet the Lord in the air” so that we will forever be with Him…. to go with Him wherever He will be from that point onward. [See also 1 Cor. 15 which addresses the same subject]. The point in both 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15 is that  there is indeed a resurrection of the bodies of dead believers (even thought their spirits are now with Jesus — 2 Cor. 5:6-8), and those who are not dead at the time of that resurrection will be fitted with a new body just the same…. and will be joined together with those who have previously died, so that we all (of the past and present) will be together with Him at the same time. That is comforting to those who were mourning for their deceased loved-ones as those who did not have hope.

In the moment I write this blog, a believer needs not to fear that he/she has missed the time when believers are gathered together to Jesus. The reasons you needn’t fear are the same as were given to the Thessalonians. First, certain things have not happened yet… namely, the “rebellion” has not happened, the “man of lawlessness” has not been revealed and done his evil work… and Jesus Himself has not yet appeared bodily in order to kill him. Evidently, all of this can only happen AFTER believers are gathered together to the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The Apocalypse (Day of the Lord) was not happening to the world of the ancient Thessalonians.  And, the Day of the Lord (the Great Tribulation / Apocalypse) cannot be happening in our lifetime, unless “the rebellion” has happened and the Anti-Christ has appeared as described in 2 Thess. 2.  Secondly, believers will not go through the Day of the Lord because that is God’s promise. “God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain deliverance by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).

I hope this is just as helpful to your faith and comforting as it was to the Thessalonians! If you are not a believer,  then please decide trust Christ for your soul’s pardon and reconciliation to God today. Be assured and at peace with the same hope that believers hold.



Great Apostasy by Got Questions

Four Views on the Book of Revelation by Marvin Pate, et al

Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond by Stanley Gundry, et al

Three Views on the Rapture by Alan Hultberg, et al

Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul N. Benware & Charles Ryrie

The Government on His Shoulder

Dispensationalism and the Rapture

The Kingdom of Heaven and Its Keys

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