Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Search Of Truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10


Well, I was finally able to finish this and post it. Sorry again for the delay. And now on to our quest for the truth:

Paul spends some time clarifying a few details regarding the return of Christ. It sounds like the Thessalonians were in danger of being influenced by bogus ideas that came in a supposedly supernatural package or ordinary teaching. ("Supernatural is indicated by the word used for "prophecy" or "spirit" in verse 2, and ordinary teaching by the word for "message".)

This points out something interesting. Just because something is truly spiritual, does not make it truly true. Miracles and other supernatural events can be flags that get our attention, but because two different sources both produce miracles does not make them equally valid. The Bible tells us to test everything, using our rational minds by implication, to see what is true and what is not. (1 John 4:1, 1 Thess. 5:21) If we want to know what's really real, we can't check our brains at the door. The Bible commands us to keep our minds fully engaged in our search for the truth.

Back to some details about the future. First off, Paul affirms in verse 1 that Christians will be "gathered together" with Christ when he returns. (1 Thess. 4:17) He also makes it clear that Jesus has not returned yet. He hasn't returned "spiritually" or "symbolically", either. In fact, Paul says that a few things will happen first that we can "check off" our list so that we don't think that he has come when he really hasn't.

First, there will be an "apostasy"(verse 3, NASB). This English word means "abandonment of a former loyalty", but the Greek word used here doesn't mean the exact same thing. Instead it means "to place oneself away from or to stand away from someone." This could easily refer to someone who associates themselves with Christianity, but then separates themselves from the movement and its followers. They wouldn't have to have been a genuine follower of Christ in order to do this. So this "Apostasy" will likely be a strong rejection or separation from Christianity by those who were considered, and may have considered themselves, Christians. It's also likely that many others who were never Christians will more strongly express their separation from Christianity at this time.

Then, a "man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction." Since there is no indication that this is a symbolic reference, we should assume that this will be a real individual. (This same person is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, if you'd like to explore him some more: 1 John 2:18, 4:3, 2 John 7, Daniel 7:7, 8, 21, Matthew 24:15, Revelation 13.) He will put himself above not just Jesus, but all religious systems and spiritual philosophies (v. 4).

Verses 6 and 7 imply that the wheels are already in motion for this figure to appear on the scene. The "lawless one" does not necessarily exist yet, but human nature makes his appearance inevitable. One day, our race will produce this horrific human being. For now, "the restrainer" has kept this prophecy from taking place. Although there is some debate about who the "restrainer" is (government/political rulers/the church), everything is subject to God, and so we can ultimately say that God, the Holy Spirit, is the restrainer of the "man of lawlessness."

And we can thank God that the Lawless One is being restrained. When he comes on the scene, he will be part of Satan's plan and will be given power by Satan to do incredible supernatural things that will mislead a huge number of people. However, the responsibility will still be in their hands. No one needs to be misled by this person. Those who are misled will be misled because they haven't developed a love for pursuing truth. (verse 10)

That's why truth is so important to everything and everyone. Truth leads us to Jesus, because he is the very definition and source of all truth in existence! And the good news is, even though the Lawless One will do some ugly things, he will be wiped out just because Jesus shows up! Look at verse 8. You can almost imagine Jesus appearing over this maniacal tyrant's shoulder and saying, "Hi, I'm Jesus.", and watching as the Lawless One melts into goo just from being in the same room with God!

We'll see the value of truth emphasized some more in the rest of this chapter, but that will have to wait until next time!

Coffee House Question

Why do you think people are so interested in "The End Of The World?"

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