(2 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
Introduction: Last week Paul told us that the end to suffering will come with the Second Coming of Jesus. Recall that Paul previously told the Thessalonians that, at the Second Coming, they would see their loved ones who had passed away. Naturally, they wanted to know more about the timing of the Second Coming! But, instead of giving them precise details, Paul told them ( 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2) that he did not need to tell them because they would be surprised. What kind of answer is that? Apparently, the Thessalonians had the same kind of reaction because Paul is back on the subject of the timing of the Second Coming. They must have told him they wanted to know more. I'm interested in the timing of the Second Coming! Are you? If you are, let's dive in together to find out what Paul has to say about the events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus!
- Steady Now
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. What problem is Paul addressing? (The Thessalonians have become alarmed about the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus.)
- What is the reason for the alarm? (Someone said it already happened. They missed it!)
- Why would the people think that they missed the Second Coming? (Apparently, rumors were invented a long time ago. The rumor the Thessalonians heard was that they had missed the Second Coming - and the source of that statement presumably came from Paul.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Why doesn't Paul say, "I never said any such thing?"
- What does he say instead? (Paul is not satisfied with a simple denial. Instead, he shared details of the Second Coming to show that it could not have already taken place.)
- How can we get a better fix on the timing of the Second Coming? (A rebellion comes first. A man of lawlessness (a man of sin) is revealed. This man is "doomed to destruction.")
- How can a person be "doomed to destruction?" I thought grace was available to all who were willing?
- Read John 17:12. If you need to read the context to understand this statement by Jesus, do so. Who is Jesus calling "the one doomed to destruction?" (Judas. The Adam Clarke commentary notes that the Hebrew equivalent for this phrase was used by the Rabbis to refer to Satan or Adam after his fall. Judas, Satan and Adam all made a terrible choice. Thus, this man which Paul has identified has chosen destruction.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:4. We need to note carefully the characteristics of this man doomed for destruction. What are they? (He opposes God. He exalts himself over God. He sets his headquarters in God's temple. He proclaims himself to be God.)
- We previously compared him to Adam and Judas. What does this person do that sets him apart from Adam or Judas? (Proclaimed his superiority to God, proclaimed himself to be God. Judas might have thought that he was a superior thinker to Jesus, and thus would force Jesus' hand to proclaim that He was King. But, Judas never proclaimed himself to be God.)
- What stands out in this text as a clear historical marker? (This person "sets himself up in God's temple.")
- What is God's temple?
- Paul would believe that only the temple in Jerusalem was "God's temple," right?
- The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed after this. Has our historical marker vanished? (Perhaps the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt.)
- Read 2 Corinthians 6:16, 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians 2:21-22. What different possibilities do these texts create for understanding the phrase "God's temple?" (That the church members are God's temple.)
- Read Revelation 3:11-12. What does this add to our picture of God's temple? (Even in the midst of the New Jerusalem coming down to earth, God still refers to His people as being part of the "temple of my God.")
- It would have been very tidy to simply look for this doomed fellow to show up in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. But, these other texts open up the possibility that this antichrist sets himself up over God's church.)
- Look again at 2 Thessalonians 2:4. This doomed man, this antichrist proclaims himself to be God. Have we seen someone who sets himself up over God's church and proclaims himself to be God? (Barnes' Notes, a prominent Christian commentary, says "How can it be doubted that the reference here is to the papacy?" Barnes was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadephia. Pastor Barnes died in 1870. It was common for Protestants of his time to believe that Paul referred to the Pope. However, even Barnes could not find any proof that the Pope claimed to be God. He had to find this in the writings of other Catholics.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7. Paul has apparently told the Thessalonians a secret that he has not shared with us. What do you think is this "secret power of lawlessness?"
- What do you think is "holding him back?" (Paul does not tell us. But, whatever theory we construct for this antichrist, this spirit of thinking we are superior to God, this spirit is being constrained by some divine power.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Will there come a time when this antichrist is revealed? (Yes. At some point the antichrist is freed to reveal himself.)
- How does the antichrist end? (This is important. This antichrist comes before Jesus' Second Coming and is defeated at Jesus' Second Coming. The timing here is very clear.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10. What is our clearest proof (other than timing) of the end-time antichrist? (He does all sorts of miracles, signs and wonders. He cooperates with evil.)
- Why does he do all sorts of miracles, signs and wonders? (He does them to deceive Christians.)
- Deceive us about what? (If you review what we have read, the clear suggestion is that this end-time antichrist intends to make us think he is the coming Christ. He is attempting to imitate the Second Coming.)
- Does that sound like the Pope? (No. As those who read this lesson know, I'm not dogmatic about the meaning of prophecy. Instead, I think it is most important for us to be alert, and test current events against the Bible. Unless something happens in the future, no past Pope satisfied either the timing or the displays described by Paul. No Pope ever said, "I'm the Second Coming of Jesus.")
- More importantly, it is always problematic to point fingers at fellow believers in Jesus and call them the "antichrist." This is especially true when we look at the religious composition of the world. There are 1.6 billion Muslims and 2.2 billion Christians. Why would Christians call each other the antichrist when there is a huge portion of the population that is undisputedly opposed to the idea that Jesus is God?
- The Muhammadi Trust, an Islamic group, shares this statement about the 12th Imam who comes at the end of the world:"The world will not come to an end," said the Prophet Muhammad, "until a man from my family (Ahlulbayt) and of my name shall be master of the world, When you see a green ensign coming from the direction of Khorasan, then join them, for the Imam of God will be with the standards who will be called al-Mahdi."
- If you want to read more about Muslim belief in the coming Mahdi, read the Wikipedia entry about it. Not too many Christians understand that the Islamic view of last day events looks forward to a coming Mahdi just before what Muslims call the Day of Resurrection.
- Re-read 2 Thessalonians 2:4. If "God's temple" is His church, how does that fit with the theory the Mahdi is the end-time antichrist? (It doesn't fit.)
- What should we conclude from this? (This gives us a very good clue about what we should look for in the future. If the Mahdi sets himself up in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, then Paul was speaking about an actual temple. Otherwise, we need to look for an end-time antichrist who claims to be the head of Christianity.)
- Read 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Paul starts out warning the Thessalonians against being decieved. What should we do to avoid being deceived by the end-time antichrist? (We must have a converted heart. We must believe the truth. Those who are deceived are those who "delight in wickedness" and "refuse to love the truth." Those who are not deceived are those who love God and His truth.)
- Friend, where do you stand? Do you love the truth of God? Are you willing to seriously study your Bible and keep your eyes open for this end-time deception? Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you discernment and convict you of God's truth! But, when this antichrist comes, rejoice that Jesus is coming next!
- Next week: Keeping the Church Faithful.