2 Thessalonians 2:3, 9-12 The Great Apostasy

Paul wasn’t surprised by the reality of apostasy. Paul had notified the Thessalonians that there would be a great rebellion against the gospel before Christ’s return. “Let no one deceive you in any way,” Paul wrote. “For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first” (v. 3). One of Satan’s chief goals, especially through the future “man of lawlessness,” is to induce people to abandon Christianity. Paul therefore knew that some people who profess faith in Jesus Christ will later renounce that faith, to their own destruction.

The Greek word translated in verse 3 as “rebellion” is apostasia. This word refers to the turning away from a former position or the abandonment of prior loyalties. It can be used of a political rebellion, however, in the Bible the word is used to describe a turning away from the true faith. Apostasy reflects an evil heart that embraces unbelief after previously professing faith. Does apostasy, however, describe a person who once truly believed and was saved, and who then, by losing his or her faith, lost salvation as well? The answer to this question is No. The Bible clearly teaches that those who possess a true and saving faith cannot be lost, for the simple reason that genuine faith results from the grace of God, and God never loses any of those whom He has saved. Jesus said of His true sheep: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

If believers in Christ can never be lost for salvation, then what is an apostate? An apostate is a professing believer and outward member of the church who, having never truly believed, falls back into unbelief and condemnation. John explained: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that they might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). How then, do we tell that a professing believer is really an apostate? In most cases, it is difficult if not impossible to tell until he or she actually abandons the faith. It seems, for instance, that the other disciples never suspected Judas Iscariot of his falseness even up to the night on which he betrayed Jesus to His death.

If professing believers may fall away, how can a Christian know that his or her faith is genuine and therefore eternally secure? Should believers worry that their faith is actually false and that sometime in the future they might apostatize? John addressed this issue in his first epistle, when he wrote “that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). According to John, there are three tests of a true, saving faith. One is a doctrinal test, focused on faith in the person and work of Jesus: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (v. 1). Another is a moral test: “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (2:5-6). This doesn’t mean that true Christians never sin or are as perfect as Jesus is. Yet true Christians have taken up the calling to follow Jesus in practical godliness, turning from sin and pursuing holiness. Third is the test of love: “everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (5:1). True Christians are drawn to other believers and gain a love for the church that reflects the family love of God. According to the Bible, these three tests – dealing with theology, ethics, and love – provide Christians with a testimony from God’s Word as to the assurance of their salvation.

This understanding of apostasy shows why Paul was so pleased with the news that the Thessalonians were holding fast to the gospel and embracing a lifestyle of godliness and love (2 Thess. 1:3). They were steadfast in faith under persecution, as their worldly goods and even their lives were threatened (v. 4). According to Paul, this confirmed that they were “worthy of the kingdom of God” (v. 5); that is, their lives manifested a true and saving faith in Jesus.

Yet the day will come, Paul warns, when a great apostasy will fall upon the church. Christ will not return “unless the rebellion comes first” (2 Thess. 2:3). Having understood the doctrine of apostasy, we learn from verses 9-12 that a great apostasy will occur in the end, both by the working of Satan and by God’s sovereign judging of unbelief. In verse 3, Paul had linked the great apostasy to the coming of “the man of lawlessness,” often known to Christians as the Antichrist. In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, the apostle makes it clear that the rebellion is the work of this evil person: the great apostasy by which multitudes of professing believers abandon the Christian faith and turn against the church results from “the activity of Satan” in “the coming of the lawless one.”

Paul makes three statements relating the coming Antichrist to the great apostasy that he inspires. First, the man of lawlessness comes as a counterfeit of Christ. Paul indicates this by applying to the Antichrist the same word that he has frequently used of Christ’s coming. Just as God the Father has ordained the coming of His Son, Jesus, back to earth, Satan has planned the “coming of the lawless one.”

Second, Paul says that these false signs employ “all wicked deception for those who are perishing” (v. 10). If we wonder how people can be deceived by false miracles, we need only consider the many examples that abound today. For example, in 1858 a Roman Catholic woman named Bernadette Soubirous claimed that the virgin Mary had appeared in the French village of Lourdes. Today, five million pilgrims journey to Lourdes each year, seeking miraculous healings, so that the town of fifteen thousand residents boasts 270 hotels, second in France only to Paris. In light of the power of many imaginings and frauds that happen today, consider how great will be the deception of the Antichrist when he appears with satanic power, performing genuine wonders so as to deceive the unwary, foolish and needy. Paul’s warning of Satan’s deception points out how perilous it is for anyone to neglect the saving truth revealed in God’s Word. Jesus stated that these wondrous deceptions will be so powerful that “if possible, even the elect” would be persuaded (Matt. 24:24). How much success then, Satan will have with those who have rendered themselves vulnerable by rejecting biblical truth.

Paul’s third statement regarding the satanic strategy in apostasy states that his victims are deceived “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (v. 10). Though Satan is unable to undo the salvation of true believers, his targets inevitably accept the deception because that is all that is left to them once they have rejected the truth. When Paul points out that Satan’s targets refused to love the truth, he inevitably includes worldly malice toward Jesus Christ Himself, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). They hated the gospel because it offended their self-righteous pride and threatened their lifestyle of cherished sins. For those who reject the gospel truth of Jesus Christ, there is no salvation from God but only a path leading away from Him, to Satan, and with Satan to eternal condemnation.

When Paul considers God’s purposes in the great apostasy, he says that in the coming of the Antichrist, “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (vv. 11-12). Here Paul observes that the unbeliever not only refuses to love the saving truth that God sent through the blood of His Son, but also delights in the things that transgress God’s law and give offense to God’s holy person.

The Bible’s prophecies of the end fit the pattern both of what the early Christians faced and of the tendencies that will challenge the church throughout her history. John wrote: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The coming of the lawless one will put an exclamation point on what takes place throughout the present era, which Hebrews 1:2 calls “these last days.” Thus, Paul’s teaching about the great apostasy and the man of lawlessness warns all Christians and provides an agenda for our watchfulness in faith.

2 Thessalonians 2:3, 9-12 Study Questions:

Paul connects the “man of lawlessness” with the presence of Satan. Describe how Satan works in the world in verses 9-12.

What is another name for “the man of lawlessness” often known to Christians?

What is the relationship between God’s activity and mankind’s choice that is alluded to in verses 9-12?

2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 The Man of Lawlessness

In our previous study of the chapter’s opening verses, we saw that Paul’s eschatology agrees substantially with Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. In considering the Antichrist, we should note as well the correspondence between Paul and the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. Remembering that Scripture is always the best interpreter of Scripture, it may be helpful to consider the general portrait given by those prophecies as a safeguard for our interpretation of Paul’s portrait.

During Israel’s Babylonian exile, Daniel was shown a vision of beasts that symbolized four great empires in ancient history (Dan. 7:1-8). This succession of beasts led to the appearing of “one like a son of man,” who conquered and “was given dominion and glory and a kingdom…that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14). In this way, Daniel saw how wicked earthly kingdoms will rise up one after another, only to have their idolatry and violence swept away by Christ’s glorious appearing.

Reading Daniel, it might have been tempting to believe that Rome was the last of the beasts to come upon the earth. Yet the book of Revelation employs similar imagery, at one point describing “a beast rising out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1) that combines features from all four of the beasts from Daniel’s vision. Like the beasts of Daniel, Revelation’s beasts are violent rulers that destroy and oppose God’s kingdom. As a composite of Daniel’s four beasts, Revelation 13:1’s beast depicts the phenomenon of violent worldly powers that recurs throughout history and finds ultimate expression in the final days. Paul speaks of “the lawless one” who is empowered “by the activity of Satan” (2 Thess. 2:9). Revelation likewise states that the “beast” receives authority from “the dragon,” an obvious image of Satan (Rev. 13:4).

The book of Revelation was probably written over forty years after Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, accurately describing what the early Christians would endure under the regimes of Roman emperors. Like the beasts of Revelation, the emperors wielded terrible violence against the church, exhibited satanic evil, and demanded worship of themselves as gods. Through its portraits of the dragon and his beasts, Revelation accurately describes the combination of government persecution and idolatrous demands for worship that would try the faith of Christians in the years after Paul’s letter.

Revelation’s dragon and his beasts not only depicted what Christians faced in the late first century and would continue to face all through history, but also supported the futurist understanding that these events will come to an ultimate expression when the final Antichrist arises before the return of Christ. Not only does Paul summarize Revelation’s later portrait of the Antichrist, with his violent persecution and idolatrous demands, but Paul also makes it particularly clear that the final Antichrist must be taken as an individual human being in service to Satan.

Focusing on this final, ultimate, and individual Antichrist, Paul offers four descriptions. First, he is “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:3). In Satan’s cause, the Antichrist will rise up against the ruling rights of God as expressed in His law. Daniel 12:9-10 foretold that in the end “the wicked shall act wickedly,” and Paul indicates that the Antichrist will be their champion in flouting God’s rule. Second, the Antichrist is “the son of destruction” (v. 3). Jesus used the same description for Judas Iscariot, who alone of His twelve disciples would be lost (John 17:12). This comparison suggests that Paul’s Antichrist is doomed to hell.

Third, the Antichrist is not content with rebellion and destruction, but demands worship: he “opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or worship…, proclaiming himself to be God” (v. 4). In place of God, the man of lawlessness demands religious veneration for himself. The word that Paul uses for opposes (antikeimenos) is also used in 1 Timothy 5:14 to describe Satan as “the adversary” of the church. The man of lawlessness opposes true and saving faith so as to secure worship for himself. This is precisely what Roman emperors of the early church demanded, as their Christian victims would have recognized in reading the book of Revelation. More recently, imperial worship finds its analogy in the deified secular state, whether in the Communist tyrannies of the East or the Socialist democracies of the West. The spirit of antichrist demands that its subjects look to the state and its ruler for provision and deliverance rather than to God. Today’s anti-Christian politicians employ science and popular culture to push God and His rule out of society. This same historical impulse will come to a final and ultimate expression in the tribulation imposed by the Antichrist.

The fourth description shows that the Antichrist will seek not only to persecute but also to control the church from within. Paul takes up the language earlier used by Daniel and then by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, saying that the Antichrist “takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (v. 4). The question is raised as to what Paul means in saying that the Antichrist “takes his seat in the temple of God.” Dispensationalists take this statement to refer to a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, which the Antichrist will physically occupy for personal veneration. The problem with this view is that not once in all his writings does Paul use the word temple to describe a rebuilt temple structure.

A second view believes that Paul’s reference to the Antichrist seated in the temple is metaphorical. The point would be that just as one might go into the temple and physically take the place of God, the Antichrist will similarly demand worship for himself. While this is a possible interpretation, a third view makes better sense of Paul’s usual use of the word temple. Paul sometimes speaks of the individual Christian as a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). But predominantly Paul refers to the temple in terms of the Christian church as a whole. The church, he says, is “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” and “grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-21).

With this in mind, we note that Paul’s forth statement regarding the Antichrist indicates that he will pursue his idolatrous agenda not only through government power but also from within the formal Christian church. Paul concludes: “Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I told you these things?” (v. 5). According to the apostle, it was important for Christians to realize the pattern at work in history and to be aware of how the great tribulation of the end will take place. Empowered by “the activity of Satan” (v. 9), the Antichrist will rebel against God by seizing both worldly power and religious authority, using them to bring tribulation on believers and gain worship for himself on Satan’s behalf. We cannot now be certain how the Antichrist will manipulate religious authority, but it is likely to involve the worldly corruption of church offices, and it will certainly involve the spread of false teaching. Christians can thus oppose him now by upholding biblical standards in the ministry, the spiritual focus of the church, and above all the defense of sound biblical doctrine.

Paul’s description of the Antichrist, who not only will appear before Christ’s return but will be represented in the spiritual warfare of every age, along with the insights that we have gained about Satan’s approach to war, points to some applications for us today. First, Christians are forewarned not to be surprised at opposition to the gospel both from the world and within the church. Contrary to postmillennial eschatology, which sees Christ returning only after a golden age in which the church has triumphed over the world in Christian faith and culture, Paul’s teaching on the Antichrist urges us to anticipate such a concentrated expression of satanic power that only the sudden appearing of Christ can save the church from destruction.

Second, since Satan aims to provoke apostasy from Christ and idolatrous worship for himself, Christians must never swerve from the gospel and an exclusive devotion to God alone through faith in Jesus Christ. Third, Christians should face every form of spiritual opposition – whether it is outward persecution or inward corruption in the church – with a joy that flows from complete confidence of victory in the soon appearing of Jesus Christ. We should make every effort to absorb what Paul and other biblical writers say, while at the same time modestly admitting that full clarity about the Antichrist is not provided to us in Scripture. But when it comes to the return of Christ, we have detailed knowledge of the sure salvation that He is coming soon to bring: He will raise the dead, gather His people, overthrow all evil and darkness, justify those who have believed His gospel and condemn unbelievers in the final judgment. And in the eternal reign that follows, “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

The issue, therefore, is not what we know about the Antichrist but where we stand with respect to Jesus Christ. Are we worshiping false gods such as money, pleasure, power, or self? However the events are moving forward to the Antichrist, Satan always seeks to lure the unwary into worshiping things over which he wields influence, rather than honoring God alone by surrendering our lives in faith through Jesus Christ. Despite all present evil and dark clouds of darkness on the horizon, the way to live in joyful security is to commit yourself in trusting service to Jesus Christ, who will come on the clouds to save all whose hearts are devoted to Him.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 Study Questions:

What events described in verses 3-8 does Paul see ahead in the future?

In this context, what are the characteristics of the “man of lawlessness” Paul describes?

What parallels or examples do you see in our own society of people or institutions living out the characteristics of the “man of lawlessness”?

Weekly Seed of Faith 3/18/23

Seed of Faith – Salt and Light   By Pastor Dave  

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16


Dear Faithful Seed-Sowers,

It is my prayer that you are staying healthy and are walking with Jesus as you season your world.

This a two-part message. This week will talk about being a little salty. Next week, we will see how light can shine.

In the days of Jesus, and for many centuries thereafter, salt was the most common preservative used. There were no refrigerators, no deep freezers in ancient times. Salt was used to keep things from going bad and becoming rotten, particularly meat. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot” Jesus was telling His disciples that they were called to be the preserving agent in a decaying world.

This simple principle from Jesus is that you and I are called to be a preserving force in our world–wherever we are called to live, work, play and worship.

Think of it this way — salt that never leaves the box on the shelf will do no good in preserving anything. To be effective, salt has to be rubbed into the meat. Have you gone into the grocery store and looked at all of the “rubs” they have for seasoning your steak? In this same way, we must allow God to use us as flavorful seasoning (rub) for our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, families, and churches. A small amount of love and kindness goes a long way in making our world a better place.

Sodium is an extremely active element found naturally only in combined form; it always links itself to another element. Chlorine, on the other hand, is the poisonous gas that gives bleach its offensive odor. When sodium and chlorine are combined, the result is sodium chloride–common table salt–the substance we use to preserve meat and bring out its flavor.

Love and truth can be like sodium and chlorine. Love without truth is flighty, sometimes blind, willing to combine with various, contrary doctrines. On the other hand, truth by itself can be offensive, sometimes even poisonous. Spoken without love, truth can turn people away from the gospel. But when truth and love are combined in an individual or in a church then we have what Jesus called “the salt of the earth,” and we are able to preserve and bring out the beauty of our faith.

The other day I went to the grocery store to do some shopping. I went to buy juice for home communions, I came across an insight on flavoring. I was holding a bottle of Blueberry Pomegranate Juice. There was a picture of a ripe pomegranate spilling its exotic, glistening seeds onto mounds of fat, perfect blueberries. I read the ingredient list: “Filtered water, pear juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, grape juice concentrate.” Where was the blueberry? Where was the pomegranate? Finally, I found them, fifth and seventh in a list of nine ingredients.

By law, food ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. Meaning a product contains the greatest proportion of the first ingredient on the list and successively less of those farther down the list. According to the jug in my hand, it contained mostly water—a few other juices, with just enough blueberry and pomegranate for flavor and color.

In the bottom corner of the front label in small, easy-to-miss, were the tell-tale words: “Flavored juice blend with other natural ingredients.” The enticing pictures and clever labeling were decoys used to sell a diluted, blueberry-pomegranate flavored product convincingly disguised to look like something it was not. I put the juice back on the shelf. I chose the juice that was more costly—but it had more of what I was looking for.

So What?

That jug of juice made me think, what if we had an ingredients list printed on us?

Would Jesus be the main ingredient?

If not, how far down the list would He be?

Would our “label” accurately represent our contents?

Or would we falsely project a misleading outward-appearance that cleverly masked our diluted ingredients? Our packaging may be convincing. We may look and sound like the real thing but what if someone came looking for Jesus and found something else?

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertaker.” (Today In The Word, June, 1988, p. 13).

More than a hundred years ago the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche reproached a group of Christians. Nietzsche said: “Yuck, you make me sick!” When their spokesman asked why, he answered, “because you redeemed don’t look like you are redeemed. You are as fearful, guilt-ridden, anxious confused, and adrift in an alien environment as I am. I am allowed. I do not believe. I have nothing to hope for. But you people claim you have a Savior. Why don’t you look like you are saved?” (Brennan Manning, Souvenirs of Solitude, 2009, Colorado Springs, NavPress)

Every Sunday my loving wife prays for me before church. Every Sunday she concludes with the same prayer, “Lord, help Dave to be funny. Let him reflect the peace and joy he has in knowing you. Amen.” Knowing Jesus really is the best part of my life. And Jesus wants us to be SALT to our world. He wants us to RUB off on others. It only takes a small amount of salt to flavor whatever we are using it on; the same way with us—it only takes a small amount of the love of Jesus to rub off on those in our tiny sector of the world. That’s our job: to be the SALT of the earth.

I leave you with your “SO WHAT?” homework:

  • Am I the SALT of the Savior? Divide my life into who I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going—and let’s spread the love of God everywhere we are.
  • What if I had an ingredients list printed on me? Would Jesus be the main ingredient? What do I need to do in order to be more like Christ?

My prayer for you today: Be funny! (Just kidding.) Seriously, let’s take some time to sit with this SEED OF FAITH. Let’s look at our lives. If I’m the SALT of the EARTH, am I RUBBING off on those I live with? work with? worship with? Everywhere I go, am I seasoning others with God’s tremendous love? “Dear Father, I want others to know you and to experience your grace and love and forgiveness. Help me to fill my heart, mind, soul, spirit, body and strength with your living words of life so that I can be a living, walking, talking gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t want Jesus to be the last ingredient on my label; I want Jesus listed first. Help me to be more like Jesus. Amen.” 

See you Sunday! 

God loves you and so do I,

Pastor Dave


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2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 End-Times Dangers

Together with the book of Revelation and Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians provide the most detailed New Testament teaching about the events preceding the second coming of Christ. As we begin our study of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, it may be helpful to recap Paul’s teaching so far on this subject.

The apostle first mentioned Christ’s return because of believers who had died. He taught his readers “not [to] grieve as others who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13), since all believers will be rejoined with Christ forever when He returns. His second point taught that Christ will return “like a thief in the night”; the second coming will be unexpected by the world but anticipated by His people (1 Thess. 5: 1-5). Third, Paul began his second letter by encouraging Persecuted believers to trust Christ to “repay will affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you” when He comes again in power (2 Thess. 1:6-7). Christ’s return, Paul insisted, is the ringing of good news for His people and the knelling of doom for the evil world.

Paul’s fourth and final teaching on Christ’s return came in response to false report that the Lord had somehow already come: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind and 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” (2 Thess 2:1-2). Word had spread, perhaps by a misinterpretation of Paul’s first letter or a message falsely ascribed to him – Paul indicates that he does not know exactly how this word has spread – saying that Christ had already returned. The apostle therefore wrote to assure his readers that they had not missed out on Christ’s coming and the consummation of their salvation.

From this statement, we learn that the Thessalonians suffered not only from outward persecution but also from false teaching from inside. False doctrine disturbs God’s people, which is why it must be corrected by true biblical teaching in order to bring believers to peace. Paul’s concern on this occasion points out a problem common to end-times teaching, namely, that many are “shaken in mind” and “alarmed.” This effect happens when end-times schemes make Christians fear that they might somehow miss out when Jesus returns, having failed in some way to rightly anticipate the end. One way to avoid being wrongly disturbed about Christ’s return, Paul emphasizes, is to know the Bible’s teaching about the events associated with the second coming.

Since we are told by our Lord Jesus to expect Him soon, we can understand why Christians are anxious to be certain about their salvation when Christ returns. Paul describes Christ’s coming as the time of “our being gathered together to him” (2 Thess. 2:1). What a tragedy it would be to live for Christ and even suffer for His gospel, but somehow to miss out on Christ’s return and not be gathered into His glory! The primary answer to this concern is the inseparable link between faith in Christ now and our future gathering to Him on the day of the Lord. Jesus made it clear that to believe on Him in this life is to gain eternal life in the next (John 6:37-40). Therefore, a true and saving faith in Christ now assures the believer of being gathered to Christ for salvation on the day of His return.

Paul asserts that we can be certain that Christ’s coming has not yet happened by knowing the signs that precede Christ’s return. He explains: “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3).

In considering Paul’s teaching on the events preceding Christ’s return, we see that he is drawing on Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. Jesus gave this teaching shortly before His crucifixion. Seeing His disciples gaping at the splendor of the temple buildings, Jesus predicted their destruction. In reply, the disciples asked, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). Jesus’ answer followed the order of these questions, first predicting the fall of Jerusalem and then telling about His second coming.

Paul begins the material in 2 Thessalonians 2 with a concern that the believers should not be “quickly shaken in mind or alarmed” (v. 2) by false reports of Christ’s coming. He points out the signs of Christ’s coming that had not yet been fulfilled. In concluding this introduction to Paul’s teaching on the delay of Christ’s return, we can note additional dangers and draw applications on how rightly to await the return of our Lord.

The first danger when it comes to the signs that precede Christ’s coming is the wrong idea that we can be certain when He will return. Jesus warned the Jewish leaders that it is easy to miss the signs of His coming (Matt. 16:3), which shows that the signs might not be obvious in their first appearing. We should observe, by way of analogy, how hard it would have been to make precise sense of the prophecies of Christ’s first coming: He would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), “out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1), and “he shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23). Similarly, a precise calculation of the events preceding Christ’s second coming is impossible before their fulfillment.

With this in mind, our first attitude in awaiting Christ’s return must be patience. Just as many great Christians (i.e., Augustine, Martin Luther, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards) were mistaken in the certainty that Christ would come in their time, the same conviction today is potentially mistaken. And yet, on the other extreme, we should never assume that Christ is not coming simply because certain signs seem yet to be fulfilled.

Another danger pertaining to the signs of the end involves our need to be prepared. Thus, in addition to a posture of patience, Christians must maintain readiness for Christ’s coming. It might or might not be possible for us to immediately recognize the final events before Christ’s coming, but we can know how we should always respond to such occurrences. Christians must never betray our Lord despite persecution; we must never follow any false christs who claim to have come; and we must never worship any government or church leader in the place of Jesus our only Lord. The message is that we must always keep our faith vibrant, in communion with Christ through the Holy Spirit, by means of God’s Word and prayer. “Watch therefore,” Jesus said, “for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13).

Can we know when Christ is coming? No, although we learn much form His prophecies about what to expect both now and at the end: signs of salvation through the spread of the gospel; signs of judgment through wars, famines, and disasters; signs of opposition through persecution and apostasy. Christ’s people should expect all of these without dismay. And while we patiently wait for our Savior to come, He calls us to maintain the readiness of a living faith and to occupy the time He has given us in the work of His kingdom. By being faithful to Jesus, we can be certain to hear from Him, whenever He returns: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 Study Questions:

What do verses 1-2 suggest might be the reason that Paul writes this second letter to the Thessalonians?

Obviously, if by “the day of the Lord” (v. 2) Paul meant “the end of the world,” the Thessalonians wouldn’t have had to be informed by letter that such an event had already occurred. The Old Testament prophets used “the day of the Lord” to refer to catastrophes that befell Jerusalem within continuing history. So, what might Paul be referring to by using this Old Testament phrase?