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2 Thessalonians 2

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19

SCRIPTURE: 2 Thessalonians 2

After Paul spent the first chapter encouraging the Thessalonians to stand firm in their time of increasing persecution, he directs his attention to teaching some important truth in the second chapter.

I mentioned yesterday that the Thessalonians kind of got their timeline of the last days confused.  As a result, they were afraid they had missed the rapture.  So, Paul addresses this issue with great truth.  By the way, truth is the only real way to deal with confusion. 

Although there is no way I can present a thorough timeline of the last days in this limited space, let me say there are two significant events that we need to be aware of.  The first one is the rapture of the church that we read about in 1 Thessalonians 4.  That event ushers in the Great Tribulation, a 7 year period of unprecedented events.  The Great Tribulation will end with the Second Coming of Jesus.

A huge part of the Great Tribulation will revolve around some significant characters.  One of those is who we often call the Antichrist.  In verse 3, he is referred to as the man of lawlessness and the son of destruction, or as some translations accurately read “the man doomed to destruction”. 

In verse 4 we read about some of what the Antichrist will do.  One thing he will do is set himself up against not only the one, true God but also the gods of all the world religions.  The Antichrist will be vehemently opposed to Jesus but he will also be opposed to any other religious activity as well.  His desire will be to be the only one worshipped in the world.  As verse 9 says, he will be empowered to do all kinds of “miracles”.

Verse 4 says he will take his seat in the Temple of God.  This necessarily means the Temple will have to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.  Otherwise there would be no seat for the Antichrist to take.  The reference to the seat is actually pointing to the mercy seat which sits upon the Ark of the Covenant which sits in the Holy of Holies in the Temple.  In other words, the Antichrist will not only claim to be God but will take the place reserved for God in what will be the newly rebuilt Temple.

In verse 7, Paul says this mystery (the NIV calls it the “secret power”) of lawlessness is already at work.  In other words, the world is on an unalterable crash course with the end times.  Every day more and more things come in line that point to the inevitability of the appearance of the Antichrist and eventual return of Jesus.

The question would be why hasn’t it happened already.  The answer is all of this happens on God’s timetable.  He is in complete control of all of it.  As a result, as verses 6-7 allude to, there is a restraining force at work that is holding all of this back until the exact moment God has decided for it start.  There are a variety of ideas about who or what this restraining force may be.  I am convinced it is the Holy Spirit holding back the flood of evil that will sweep the world once the church is raptured.  At the appropriate time, the Holy Spirit will turn loose and all the eschatological dominoes will begin to fall.

It is important that you don’t miss the truth of verse 8.  Jesus wins.  As unsettling as the teaching of the last days can be, always remember that Jesus wins.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

2 Thessalonians 1

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

MONDAY, DECEMBER 18

SCRIPTURE: 2 Thessalonians 1

The Thessalonians were grateful for Paul’s first letter but it really didn’t change anything.  The persecution they were enduring continued to increase to the point that some of them thought they were living in the time of the Great Tribulation.  To make matters worse, they received another letter claiming to be from Paul (It wasn’t.) that said they were living in the Day of the Lord.

The result of all of that was two-fold.  One, as you might imagine there was a lot of confusion.  The eschatology (doctrine of the last days) that Paul gave them in his first letter to them seemed to be contradicted by growing circumstances.  Two, some were convinced the return of the Lord was so close they quit their jobs and waited.  That increased the burden on those who were working to provide for the growing financial burden of the church.

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians spoke directly to these issues.  He begins the letter in a very Pauline style.  He introduces himself and his fellow ministers.  He names the church that he is specifically writing to.  And then he speaks of “grace and peace”.  As I said Sunday morning, God’s amazing grace always precedes His promised peace.  We will never know His peace until we have accepted His grace.

From there Paul goes on to brag on the folks at Thessalonica.  He spoke of their growing faith.  Indeed he said their faith was growing in an extraordinary way.  He also spoke of their growing love for one another.  I don’t think this order is any more of an accident than the “grace and peace” thing in verse 2.  What I mean by that is love, agape in the Greek, is such a supernatural thing that we are only capable of expressing it as a result of our faith.  Let me see if I can muddy this up a little bit more.  Faith is the basis for our relationship with God.  So as our faith grows our relationship with God deepens.  As our relationship with God deepens, we become more like Him.  That means that a greater faith is absolutely necessary for a greater love.  Our love for others grows only as our faith in God grows.

In verse 4, Paul speaks of how he is continuing to use the Thessalonian church as an example to other churches.  There is something important at work here.  Every church is an example.  The question is what kind of example is it.  Is it a good example of faithful, loving, steadfast folks who are making a difference in the world?  Is it a bad example of fighting, fussing, mean spirited, judgmental folks who could care less about their church’s testimony in the world?

Thankfully, the Thessalonian church was a good example.  Part of their example was their willingness to endure growing persecution and affliction.  Problems and attacks on the church were growing.  It would have been harder and harder to maintain a vibrant connection to the church and even to Jesus.  And, yet, this church was doing just that.

Part of Paul’s encouragement to the church begins in verse 5 and following.  Part of that encouragement was that God considered them worthy to go through the hard times.  Part of that encouragement is that God knew who was responsible for persecuting His church and that He would rightfully judge them and punish them with an eternal punishment.  Those who refuse the Gospel and reject Jesus will face an horrific eternity.  But all of that is God’s business because vengeance belongs to Him alone.

Our job, like the Thessalonians, is to live even in the midst of trouble in a way that brings glory to Jesus.  Indeed one of our greatest testimonies may very well be living a God honoring life in the face of persecution.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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