2Thessalonians: Chapter 2
After addressing the judgments of the Lord upon those who oppose Him in the previous chapter, Paul now deals again with the “day of the Lord” and seeks to set them straight and remind them of what he taught them before. He assures them that they are not in the end times.
|1-2||Addressing a forgery|
|3-4||Two events before the day of the Lord|
|13-17||Words of thanks, establishment, and encouragement|
The main subject of 1Thessalonians was the Day of Jesus Christ, the snatching away (rapture) of the church, 1Thessalonians 4:13-17. He also addressed the concern of the Thessalonians about those among them who had died and were believers in Christ Jesus. As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul spent time on the Lord’s return in the clouds to retrieve all believers since His resurrection to Himself, and we are therefore to encourage one another with those words, 1Thessalonians 4:18.
The elapse in time between when the first and second letter to the believers in Thessalonica, is not definitively known, but it could have been a few short months. Paul likely wrote this letter in response to a report from Silas and Timothy when they returned the second time from Thessalonica. The occasion for this letter was to:
- Encourage the church, which suffered from increased persecution since believing in Christ Jesus, John 15:20
- Further teach the church on what the “day of the Lord” is
- Confront a false teaching that claimed that they were in the “Day of the Lord”
With the new news from the church in Thessalonica, the subject directed at the day of the Lord, or the seven years of tribulation. 2Thessalonians is the only place in Paul’s epistles where he writes about the Day of the Lord, the judgment on the world, and some of the events that are part of that time period. Though Paul received his education at the feet of Gamaliel, Acts 22:3, and would have known the perfect manner of the law, and understood all the prophetic passages concerning the end-times, he counted that life before Christ as dung, Philippians 3:8. However, after he received the revelation of the gospel of grace from the Lord Himself, Galatians 1:11-17, he counted those things he gained before believing in Christ as loss for the for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:4-10. For the reason of showing the promises of God to the Body-of-Christ, he directed the attention of believers in the Body-of-Christ to His coming appearing in the clouds, and all the events that would follow on the day of Jesus Christ and beyond. The circumcision by hands, Israel, were the ones whom God said would go through the tribulation, Daniel 9:21-24. That is why Paul spent no time talking about the tribulation, because the Body-of-Christ will not suffer God’s wrath, Romans 5:9, 1Thessalonians 1:10, 1Thessalonians 5:9. So, Paul avoided the subject of the tribulation, except for this one occasion, to respond to the concern by the Thessalonians that they were present in the tribulation.
Paul first refocuses their attention on what he already taught them, 2Thessalonians 2:1:
- The coming of Christ in the clouds
- The gathering of the church to His calling
In 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul taught them of the rapture of the church (see 1Thessalonians 4 in this site for more information on this subject). This teaching on the rapture was to comfort the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, since it would occur before the wrath to come.
This is immediately followed by the false teaching the Thessalonians received from some other source, that the day of Christ is at hand, (KJV). Paul asked them to not be shaken in their minds, or troubled in their spirit, nor by word or letter that was a forgery, said to be from Paul, 2Thessalonians 2:2. Paul would later redress this issue when Hymenaeus and Philetus spread the false teaching that the resurrection already occurred, which had the affect of overthrowing the faith of some, 2Timothy 2:16-18.
As an aside, there is much debate concerning the term “day of Christ,” Paul used in this verse. Some have confused this with the “day of Jesus Christ,” and not the “day of the Lord.” But context would show, because of Paul’s attempt to assure them of Christ’s first coming in the clouds, and the response by the Thessalonians, they the subject is the “day of the Lord,” as the Thessalonians thought. Due to the increasing persecution of the church, it is easy to see why the Thessalonians reacted the way they did to this forged news. They were confused and concerned they missed the rapture and, in the tribulation, John 15:20. The apostle John wrote that we are to test the spirits, or validate that the information we receive is from God by aligning it against His word, 1John4:1-3.
In 2Thessalonians 1:1-2, Paul's greeting to the church continues to strengthen the joint relationship that he shares with the believers at Thessalonica in the Lord. This is illustrated in this greeting where Paul says "in God our," which was “the” in 1Thessalonians 1:1, and continues with ...Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This greeting shows an intimate relationship between the Church and God, and the identification of Paul with the believers at Thessalonica, by the use of the word 'our.’ The second verse likewise, in comparison to the first letter to the Thessalonians, is showing greater identification between the church and God, by showing that grace and peace are from God (as interpreted by the New International Version (NIV)).
- Grace and peace are from God to the believers in Christ
- Paul began all of his epistles with this phrase in the same order
- God had to first extend His grace to settle the sin question for the world, Romans 3:24, John 3:16-19
- We receive peace with God by accepting His free gift, His Son; Jesus died and shed His blood for our sins according to scripture, was buried, and rose from the dead the third day according to scriptures, for our justification, 1Corinthians 15:1-4
Paul gives a stern warning to the believers at Thessalonica, not to be deceived by any means. Then he delves into two topics that the Thessalonians were deceived about, regarding “that day.” The term “that day” refers to the tribulation, which follows sometime after the day of Jesus Christ; the tribulation does not immediately follow the day of Jesus Christ. This is in context with 2Thessalonians 2:2, and the general subject of this epistle, to assure the Thessalonians they did not miss the snatching away (rapture) and are in the presence of the tribulation. The first event is the “falling away,” the second is the man of sin is revealed.
The first topic, “falling away,” 2Thessalonians 2:3, is a very difficult passage to interpret or apply in understanding what happens to the Body of Christ in the end times. This term is plagued with centuries of debate on the proper meaning of “falling away first… .” The reason for the debate is the translation, or transliteration of the Greek word, apostasia, which is found in the Blue Letter Bible.
Looking at this verse as written (literally) in the King James Version (KJV). There will be apostasy (or a falling away from the faith) first, as an event observed in the Body of Christ that Paul warned Timothy about, 1Timothy 4:1-3. Concerning apostasy, we are warned of the apostasy that will attempt to creep into the church, Jude 1:1-25. Similarly, Paul made a dramatic contrast of those in the light against those in darkness, in 1Thessalonians 5:4-11, see 1Thessalonians 5, and on 1Thessalonians 5 timeline for more information. This was observed immediately in the U.S., following the attack on 9-11. The churches were full of people, but very soon, maybe days, the numbers of people attending church rapidly dwindled back to normal attendance. As Jonathan Cahn observed and wrote about, there was a recognition of God, enough to flee toward Him, but very soon afterwards the cares of this world took hold. There was no repentance, or change in heart to accept Christ Jesus as their savior and follow after God’s ways.
The debate that exists today, is whether apostasia means falling away from the faith, or the departure of the faithful, that is the snatching away (rapture). More on this part of the argument, the departure, is given on this site in the introduction to the mystery of iniquity.
In either case, whether the right usage of apostasia is falling away or departure, the New Testament church will not be present during the tribulation. Either there will be a falling away and then the departure, or just the departure. It is important to note that the New Testament church is in the throne room of God, worshiping and praising Him during the seven years of tribulation on earth.
After the apostasia, the man of sin is then revealed, or the son of perdition (this is only used one other time to describe Judas the traitor, John 17:12).
The man of sin who is to be revealed, 2Thessalonians 2:4, is the Antichrist, which the Apostle John wrote of, that there are many antichrists in the world, but THE Antichrist, Satan’s man, will not be revealed until the church is taken away, 1John 2:18-19. There are many men through history who were evil, but the one yet to come will be like Judas who betrayed Jesus, whom Satan indwelt, John 13:26-27. This future Antichrist is the same person that Daniel spoke of in Daniel 7:25, and is typified by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Daniel 8:23-25, and whom John spoke of in Revelation 13:1-6.
The time Paul is describing in 2Thessalonians 2:4, is the midtribulation when the Antichrist will proclaim himself as God. Jesus spoke of this time during the Olivet Discourse, Mark 13:14, where the Lord connected His statement with the passage in Daniel 9:27. The Apostle John wrote of this time in Revelation when the false prophet would erect an image of the antichrist in a room in the tribulation temple in Jerusalem, Revelation 13:12. In Daniel, world events would enable the antichrist to occupy Jerusalem, and setup his camp there, Daniel 11:45, see the page on this web site on Daniel 11 timeline for more information.
In 2Thessalonians 2:5-6, Paul is pointing the Thessalonians to the teaching he gave them while he was physically present with them. He is indicating that they now know who is holding back THE revealing of THE Antichrist, which is the Holy Spirit working through the Body-of-Christ, 1Corinthians 12:12-13. The purpose for holding back the revealing of the Antichrist is that it is reserved for a specific time in history yet to occur, which will be the worst time the world will ever know, Matthew 24:21-22. This is similar to the sixth trumpet when the four angels held in the area of the Euphrates are released for a specific time, Revelation 9:13-15.
In 2Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul points out that it is the Holy Spirit that who restrains the mystery of lawlessness, which is already at work, but is unable to fully manifest the desires of Satan. As long as the Holy Spirit is working through the Church to spread the gospel, the enemy has no authority or power to stop the church, Matthew 16:17-18, Luke 24:44-49. Again, as shown above, the Apostle John wrote that there are many antichrist's in the world, and were around in John's day, 1John 2:18-25. However, there is only one that will attain the full power and indwelling of Satan, as described in Daniel 7 (the little horn), in Revelation 13 (the first beast from the sea), and many other references to show that he will rule over the world for a season. Only after the removal of the church will THE Antichrist will be able to be revealed, and come into his full satanic power for only a short period of time. This is the Antichrist whom will be destroyed by the Lord’s breath, Isaiah 11:4 (the Davidic kingdom), Revelation 19:15 (the return of Christ), and John 18:4-9 (the arrest of Jesus). The Antichrist and his kingdom will be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord's return, 2Timothy 4:1 (judging at His appearing), Exodus 40:33-35 (the Shekinah glory), 1Kings 8:10-11, Revelation 1:16, and Matthew 17:1-3 (shinning like the sun).
2Thessalonians 2:9-10 lists the characteristics of the Antichrist:
- He will be in perfect harmony with Satan’s will, Matthew 4:8-10
- He will have all Satanic power, Revelation 13:2
- He will demonstrate false signs and wonders, Revelation 13:3 (Antichrist), Revelation 13:11-14 (the false prophet)
- Those that follow the Antichrist will perish, 1Corinthians 1:18-23
The results of unbelief of those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ today is shown in 2Thessalonians 2:11-12. During the tribulation, they will incur the following:
- God will send them a deluding influence, 1Kings 22:18-23
- They will believe what is false, 2Timothy 4:3-4
- They will be judged for not accepting the truth but took pleasure in their wickedness, Romans 1:28-32
This is similar to God’s judgement on His people, that started from within the temple, Ezekiel 9:2-6, and their blindness, Romans 11:5-12:
- The Lord recompensed Israel's iniquity and sin double, Jeremiah 16:17-18
- The Lord sent Isaiah and other prophets to make the peoples ears heavy and to shut their eyes, Isaiah 6:8-10
- Paul said that this would continue until the fulness of Gentiles has come in, Romans 11:25
In 2Thessalonians 2:13-17, Paul is now focusing on their present time and the conditions the Thessalonians were facing. Paul again thanks the Lord for them because God chose them from the beginning for salvation, Ephesians 1:4-9, and that they were sanctified by the Holy Spirit and faith. 1Thessalonians 5:9. Because of this, they were called through the gospel and they gained the glory of Jesus Christ, 2Thessalonians 2:14.
In 2Thessalonians 2:15-17, Paul is now encouraging the church in light of this recent incident of the forged correspondence. He encourages them to stand firm and hold to the traditions they were taught, and that they are in his prayers for their comfort and strength in every good work and word through God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 2Thessalonians 2:17, Matthew 5:13-16.