2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, Paul had made it very clear to his readers what the outcome of the Lord’s return would be: the wicked will be judged and suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, the saints will be glorified. Paul did not give the Lord’s return an exact time because he didn’t know when it would happen. Only “the Father knows” when it will be (Matthew 24:36).
2 “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, regarding the [a]coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your [b]composure or be disturbed either by a spirit, or a [c]message, or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the [d]apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above [e]every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
FOCUS ONE: It appears from how Paul begins this next part of his letter that some people were predicting the timing of the Lord’s return, and quite possibly even stating that the coming of the Lord for His saints, including those who have died up to this point, what Paul was explaining back in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, had already taken place. That caused many to be disturbed, confused and conflicted with what Paul had previously taught them with what they were presently experiencing.
In his first letter to this church, he explained how the day of the Lord would come like a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). With these messages and/or letters (v. 2) saying that the day of the Lord had come, and their thinking back to what Paul had previously taught them, confusion and panic arose. These false teachings stated that they were experiencing the judgments of the day of the Lord, otherwise known as the Great Tribulation judgments! “But if this were true, how could Paul’s previous instruction that they would be caught up and escape the wrath of God coming on earth be true (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)? Paul now writes what we are reading to straighten out the matter.” (1)
Paul’s exhortation for them to remain calm is affectionate (brothers) and respectful (we ask). Paul is concerned they might be easily unsettled regarding the false teaching and wants them to remain calm.
5 “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that he will be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only [f]He who now restrains will do so until [g]He is [h]removed.”
FOCUS TWO: The Thessalonians seemed to have the same problem that you and I are prone to have, i.e., short-term memory issues! In writing these following verses, he points out that he had told them these things before while he was with them (v.5). So, by way of reminder and for their encouragement, Paul brings to light the deception propagated among them (v.3).
The day of the Lord, Paul says, will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed (v. 3). What is this apostasy that is coming, and who is this man of lawlessness that will one day be exposed to the world? They are vital for us to understand because these are two significant developments leading up to the coming of the Lord.
Apostasy (Apostasia in Greek) means rebellion or the falling away. “It can mean either a political revolt or a religious rebellion, or a combination of the two. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) the word is used for rebellion against God (cf. Joshua 22:22; Jeremiah 2:19), and that is apparently the meaning here.” (2)
Some revolt or “departing” from Christ must take place. It seems clear that this departure from the faith and its subsequent rebellion against Christ will occur in the professing church. “It will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word” (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Connected closely to this falling away is the arrival or uprising of the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction (v. 3-4). Paul says that he will “oppose every so-called God or object of worship and even “display himself as being God (cf. Daniel 8:11-14; 11:36-37). The descriptive name “son of destruction” reveals to Paul’s readers this person’s destiny-destruction!
Paul states that something is restraining him until the proper time for him to be revealed (v. 6). That statement shows two things:
- 1. He cannot be revealed until God says so!
- 2. Apparently, they knew something about this restraining influence that we do not. Something taught by Paul when he was with them.
Suggestions propagated for the identification of the restraining power.
- 1. The state with its law and order- Paul respected the state (Romans 13).
- 2. The preaching of the gospel as a restraint to evil. That than could be Paul or other gospel preachers (grace being extended, even now)!
- 3. The Holy Spirit
Even though we may not be able to claim one or the other, one thing is true: God controls the future! He is in control of human history and is working all things out according to His sovereign will.
Paul had taught the Thessalonians about these things when he was with them, as I mentioned before, but they didn’t remember that these things would take place before Christ returns.
8 “Then that lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will eliminate with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His [i]coming; 9 that is, the one whose [j]coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and false [k]signs and wonders, 10 and with [l]all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God [m]will send upon them [n]a deluding influence so that they will believe [o]what is false, 12 in order that they all may be [p]judged who did not believe the truth, but [q]took pleasure in wickedness.”
FOCUS THREE: In these last verses (8-12), Paul mentions two distinct people: the lawless one and the Lord, and one grouping of people, those who perish. Let’s begin with the lawless one. Paul says that his coming is in accord “with the activity of Satan.” Even though evil is restrained, Paul does recognize that to some degree, this lawlessness is “already” at work. Keep in mind that Paul’s already is the time of his writing (v.7)! This “mystery” of lawlessness is a satanic counterpart to the mystery of the gospel. “Implied may also be the notion that unless God opens our eyes we do not see evil for what it really is.” (1) When God’s appointed time arrives, this last restraint will be removed, and the lawless one will be seen for what he truly is.
His power will be displayed with counterfeit miracles and pseudo signs, and these things will deceive those who are perishing—this grouping of people I mentioned earlier (v. 10). Revelation 13:13 say’s that he will persuade people to worship the beast. The sad fact is that those who lack spiritual discernment will fall full-bore into his deceptive schemes and suffer the terrible fate of eternal destruction.
But, there is another personage to mention here, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 8)! Our Lord, Himself, will destroy this evil one with the “breath of His mouth” (v. 8). This language is similar to that used in Isaiah 11:4 and Revelation 19. The Antichrist will totally and unequivocally be destroyed at the appearance of His coming!
For further thought:
- 1. In what other ways can we be deceived? 1 John 4:1; Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Can you find more?
- 2. In verse five, Paul seeks to remind the Thessalonians of things he previously told them. What do these verses remind us to do? Deuteronomy 6:12; Psalm 143:5. Why do we, at least in part, partake of communion ( 1 Corinthians 11:24)?
- 3. What do these verses urge us to do or not do regarding the possibility of apostasy in our own lives? Hebrews 3:12; 2 Peter 3:17; 2 Timothy 3:1-9.
- 4. What do these verses teach us about the Second coming of Christ? Revelation 1:7; John 14:3; Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11.