In the first chapter Paul has been encouraging the dear believers to look up and look on to that blessed day that is coming, when God will deal with this world in judgement, when our wonderful Saviour is going to be glorified in this scene where He was crucified, and when we too who have believed on Him shall share in that glory, to the admiration of all. What a contrast to the dark days through which these saints at Thessalonica were passing, and during which they were suffering much persecution. In this chapter, he is reminding them that there are two comings, and they are not to confuse them, because they are two separate events.
In these opening verses he is appealing to them. It is a strong word he uses, ‘we beseech you, brethren’. He wants them to be clear in their minds concerning these future events, for it is important that they do not confuse these two comings. Sadly, there is a lot of misunderstanding concerning Christ’s return, which has even caused division among the people of God. So, he stresses the importance of knowing the distinctiveness of His coming to gather His own to Himself. I love that phrase ‘together unto him’, v. 1, and the day he speaks of here as ‘the day of Christ’, v. 2, will be Messiah’s Day, when all the promises of God to Israel in the Old Testament will be fulfilled and when Christ will come to set up His glorious kingdom for 1, 000 years. This is the day he is now going to speak about in more detail, for there will be very clear indications, and manifestations that will take place leading up to that day of glory. He is beseeching them not to be deceived, not by any means, not by spirit, word or even letter supposedly from Paul and his companions (so subtle is the enemy that some were claiming that Paul has said that the day of Christ had already come!). How we need to be on our guard, beloved.
He shows here that after the rapture of the church and our gathering together unto Him, one of the outstanding proofs that the day of Christ’s coming in power and glory is drawing near is that there will be ‘a falling away first, and that man of sin [shall] be revealed’, v. 3. There is a great falling away even now as we look around us. But this is nothing compared to the total breakdown of all law and order that will take place after the church has gone, and this man of sin, also called the son of perdition, is revealed. This is the antichrist.
The titles that are given here are sufficient in themselves to describe what kind of man he is. He is ‘that man of sin’, v. 3. He revels in sin and lawlessness and opposes everything that is good and of God. What a contrast to our blessed Lord and Saviour, who loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Antichrist is spoken of as the son of perdition, that is, son of destruction, and this is his business and destiny, like his master Satan, to kill and destroy, and be destroyed. But not only does he oppose everything that is of God, he also exalts himself ‘above all that is called God’, v. 4, that is, anything that God has His name upon. So that he alone is to be worshipped as God.
Even to the extent of sitting ‘in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God’, v. 4.
600 years before Christ came, Daniel the prophet spoke of this very thing, He ‘shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous [monstrous or unheard of] things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done’, Dan. 11. 36. Our Lord taught His disciples of this very thing, showing this would be an awful turning point in the history of His people, Matt. 24. 15, 16, ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains’. Our Lord goes on to say, ‘For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened’, Matt. 24. 21, 22.
The apostle then says, ‘Remember … that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things’, v. 5.
What is holding back this great swell of rebellion against God that we see already in this world today? For if antichrist has not yet appeared surely the very spirit of antichrist is all around us, even in the United Kingdom, once a so-called Christian country. Well, says Paul, you know what the answer to that question is! The One who is holding back this invasion of evil, headed by the antichrist, until the time appointed, is the Holy Spirit, who is restraining this evil until the day God has appointed for its arrival. Remember it was, ‘when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son’, Gal. 4. 4. It will all happen in God’s time and not ours, nor Satan’s. The mystery of iniquity does already work, we see the evidence all around us, but God, by His Spirit, is withholding this deluge of evil, for, in His great mercy, He is still giving humanity the offer of salvation through His Son. But when this Day of Grace has run its course and the Holy Spirit of God has completed His wonderful work, then the church, which has been salt and light, will be snatched away, and the Spirit of God too will be taken. ‘My spirit shall not always strive with man’, Gen. 6. 3. Then the terrible day of tribulation will begin.
This section opens with the words, ‘then shall that Wicked be revealed’, v. 8. The word translated ‘Wicked’ here means ‘lawless one’, without regard for God or mankind. Little wonder we are immediately told that his time is short, and that he will be destroyed by the very One who gave the law he totally disregards, ‘whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming’. Interesting to observe that the One who by His word brought creation into being is the same One who will destroy this lawless one by His word at His coming. Lovely to see that the coming of our Lord to earth is described as brightness. What a contrast to the scene to which He will come, so dark. He truly is the Light of the world, and then all mankind shall see it.
We might ask ourselves, who is this lawless one? We are told in verse 9, ‘whose coming is after the working of Satan’. He is Satan’s stooge, front man, so to speak, one of the trinity of evil, namely Satan, Antichrist and the False Prophet. We are also told here his methods of working, ‘with all power and signs and lying wonders’. Notice the signs are all a con; a pretence - lying wonders to delude.
Who, then, are those who are going to be taken in by him? Those who ‘did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved’, v. 10 NKJV. ‘God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’, Gal. 6. 7. Remember this is not the Day of Grace but the day of vengeance of our God. So, for not laying hold of the truth that would bring them salvation, ‘God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie’, v. 11. It is not simply that they did not believe the truth, but they ‘had pleasure in unrighteousness’, v. 12. They loved evil, wilfully turning from God’s goodness in the way of righteousness that was set before them. They will receive the due reward of their deeds - God’s judgement upon them.
They rejoice and give thanks to God that these dear believers are not included in the foregoing company. It is not God’s judgement that is going to fall on them but salvation, sanctification, and glory. Notice they are spoken of in endearing terms, ‘brethren beloved of the Lord’, v. 13. How did they come to this place of being beloved? ‘Because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation’. But how? ‘Through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth’. But how did that happen? ‘He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’, v. 14. Paul makes it very clear in Romans chapter 8 verse 29, ‘For whom he did foreknow, [He knows the end from the beginning] he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son’. The image of His Son - the glory that is His, is going to be ours too. Says the Apostle John, ‘we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is’, 1 John 3. 2.
In view of the wonder of their and our sharing in this glory of our Lord, they are now encouraged to ‘stand fast, and hold the traditions [instructions] which ye have been taught’, v. 15. Do not be moved from the things you have been taught from us by word or letter. Paul is emphasizing the utmost importance of the scriptures we now have in our hands. They are the very oracles of God. Writing to Timothy, Paul states, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works’, 2 Tim. 3. 16, 17.
Here, he then draws to a close with a beautiful doxology of praise and prayer, thanking our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, for their love towards the Thessalonians, their abiding consolation, and good hope through grace. Praying also that their hearts may be comforted, and that they might be strengthened ‘in every good word and work’, v. 17. What an all-sufficient provision has been made for us by our God.
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