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.