The study of end-time prophecy can be many things. It is fascinating to some. It is frightening to others. Some find the study of it to be an irresistible, life-long challenge. Others see it as an impossible puzzle and refuse to try to master it. One thing we find in the Thessalonian letters is that eschatology is an easy tool to use in deceiving these new believers. Paul tries once again to give a simple explanation to set the record straight and ease their fears.
In the Bible there are many jewels or verses of profound truths that sparkle with foundational insight. Second Thessalonians chapter two is one of those gems. It contains a few details found nowhere else in Scripture. It provides a key to understanding future events – like a light shining in the darkness.
Also this chapter is the passage that unlocks the central points in understanding the need for this second letter. The false teachers had created a doctrinal error regarding future events and had promoted this fallacy in the Thessalonian church. It had created confusion that led to wrong lifestyle choices. Paul will correct their theology in chapter 2 and deal with wrong living in chapter 3. Wrong theology leads to wrong living even today.
DAY ONE: PAUL EXPOSES FALSE TEACHING.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2
A. PAUL REASSURES DECEIVED BROTHERS.
Paul’s prior teaching on the Day of The Lord should not have come as a surprise to the Jewish believers in Thessalonica. The Old Testament prophets had repeatedly spoken about this time when God will bring great judgment and great blessing on the whole earth in a greater way than ever before. (Isaiah 13:4-9; Zephaniah 1:14-18) In the Old Testament the Day of the Lord has two outcomes: (1) the blessing of God’s people and (2) the punishment of the wicked in the entire world. This was all new teaching to the Gentile believers and was exciting news along with the good news of the gospel.
However, when Paul mentioned that the Day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2); it opened the door for false teachers to deceive them. They had obviously been told that Jesus had already secretly come in and now the Day of the Lord had begun.
B. PAUL MENTIONS SEVERAL WAYS THAT FALSE TEACHING COULD HAVE OCCURRED.
- Some person in the church fellowship might have claimed to have received a “word of prophecy” directly from the Lord. It is hard to refute a person who claims that the Lord has spoken directly to them and has shown them something new. All we have to confirm our beliefs is what God has already revealed in the Scriptures. They could have checked Daniel’s timeline to refute this teaching. It is our responsibility to remain grounded in the inspired Word.
- Some person may have come to visit with a report from some renowned teacher with new insight regarding the Second Coming. Today we have new books coming out annually with new thoughts or new interpretations of Scripture. Anything new must not contradict what is already revealed in the Scriptures.
- Some person may have claimed that he received a letter from Paul’s team saying the Day of the Lord had already come. False teachers or false prophets will go to great lengths to spread the lies of Satan in order to gain a following. The Bible warns repeatedly to BEWARE of these people who use pure deception for their own gains.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What does the Bible say about the source of lies? (John 8:44)
2. What effect could the false teaching have on the Thessalonians? (v. 2)
3. Why do you think believers can be so easily deceived?
4. What did Peter say about knowing what we believe? (1 Peter 3:15)
5. Where does most false teaching come from today?
6. Would you say that you are (1) gullible (easily influenced), or (2) a doubting Thomas, or (3) watchful like the Bereans in Acts 17:11)?
7. When have you diligently researched a spiritual subject to gain a better understanding of God’s will?
8. What Biblical topic do you currently need to study for that reason?
DAY TWO: PAUL TEACHES ABOUT EVENTS PRIOR TO DAY OF THE LORD.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
A. REBELLION WILL COME.
God has a timetable for His coming events. He knows the beginning and the end. He has revealed much to his faithful followers. At a point in time, there will be a great apostasy in the world and in the professing church (1 Timothy 4:1). It will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. There has always been apostasy in some places, but this will be widespread (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
This could be a time when many will begin to follow a new world leader who promises peace through a one-world government and a one world religious system. We are already seeing much apostasy in the Western world today.
B. THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS WILL BE REVEALED.
Another event that will take place before the Day of the Lord is the coming of the man of sin. A political leader will come out of one of the nations of the old Roman Empire and grow to great popularity as a peacemaker. He will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27). In the middle of the seven years he will break the treaty and will begin his campaign to rule the world and be worshipped.
C. PAUL DESCRIBES THE LAWLESS ONE.
Paul uses different phrases to describe this world leader:
- Man of lawlessness or man of sin – He will be the opposite of the righteous Messiah, the true Christ, who will one day rule the world.
- Doomed to destruction – He will eventually be sentenced to eternal destruction in the lake of fire at the coming of Jesus (Revelation 19:20).
- Adversary of God – He will exalt himself to a position of worship, even setting himself up in God’s temple in the middle of the tribulation (Daniel 9:27b).
Antichrist is a tyrannical leader who opposes God’s people through political power. At a point in time he will become indwelt by Satan and will seek to counterfeit Christ by ruling the world and receiving worship. He is called “the beast” in Revelation 13:5-8.
The spirit of antichrist has always been at work, causing people to name certain evil rulers as possibly being this man of lawlessness. But no one has fully fulfilled the prophecies in Scripture. We still await this terrible leader.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What does 2 Timothy 4:3-4 say about the last days?
2. What did Peter say would be said about the second coming? (2 Peter 3:3-7)
3. Who has been suggested as possibly being this man of sin throughout different periods of history?
4. Give a portrait of Antichrist from the following Scriptures:
Daniel 7:11, 24-28 and Daniel 11:36-45.
5. Which Bible author actually used the name “Antichrist?” (1 John 2:18)
6. How does it make you feel to know that God sees history before it happens?
7. What attribute of God describes this knowledge?
8. How would you personally describe the Antichrist?
DAY THREE: PAUL SPEAKS OF RESTRAINT OF EVIL.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7
A. PAUL’S TEACHING IS UNCHANGING.
Paul reminds the church that he has already taught them about these events. Perhaps he is reminding them that his teaching is from a divine source and will not change when some new idea from man comes along. How fortunate we are to have absolutes in Scripture to help us guard against false teaching.
B. PAUL SPEAKS OF GOD’S TIMETABLE.
The Thessalonians had a rough life with continuing persecution. It was so bad that they could easily become convinced that the terrible Day of the Lord had already come. Now Paul tells them that evil is being restrained until the right time. Although the Devil is always at work, he is limited until God is ready for the man of lawlessness to be revealed. Antichrist will have seven years to conquer the world and try to defeat God’s plan.
Who is the restrainer? Since a personal pronoun is used, some scholars have assumed that it is a person. He would have to be a person of incredible power in order to restrain the Devil and his agents. Many have struggled with the question of his identity. There are several ideas that have been put forth by scholars.
- One suggestion held by many is that he is is the most powerful force on earth – the Holy Spirit.
- Others believe that it is the church. The indwelling Holy Spirit is working in a mighty way through the true church. We know that the church will be removed from the earth at God’s appointed time (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Holy Spirit will be operative in another way during the tribulation, bringing many Jews and Gentiles to saving faith.
- Other scholars believe it is the removal of the human governments set up by God. Antichrist’s government will be characterized by absolute rule and absolute evil.
Whatever or whoever the restrainer is, the removal of restraint will usher in a period of unparalleled evil on earth.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Read Daniel 11:36-44 about the reign of Antichrist. Jot down some facts about his person or his reign.
2. What impresses you or surprises you about his evil leadership?
3. Who do you think the restrainer is?
4. What stands out to you about the power of Antichrist?
DAY FOUR: PAUL DESCRIBES ANTICHRIST’S WORK.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12
A. ANTICHRIST COUNTERFEITS JESUS.
Paul now begins to further describe the power and program of Antichrist. He will begin as an ambitious and powerful political leader, but he is ruled by the power of another.
At a point he will sell himself out to Satan (Revelation 13:2). Antichrist as the counterfeit Christ will be empowered by Satan to work all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. They will amaze many people.
He will practice all sorts of deceptive evil to increase his following.
B. MANY WILL BE DECEIVED.
The majority of the people on earth are looking for a way to refuse the truth and do away with God. They are vulnerable to Satan’s lies in whatever form they take. These are the people who will embrace Antichrist. Eventually God turns them over to their own choices. They have refused the true Christ so now they will embrace the counterfeit. They will choose to worship and follow him because they have loved their wickedness.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. What is the dictionary definition of counterfeit?
2. What position of rulership and worship has been promised to Jesus Christ? (Revelation 19:11-16)
3. What position does Antichrist covet?
4. How easily might you be deceived by counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders?
5. Pray for supernatural discernment for yourself and your loved ones as we move toward a time of great deception.
DAY FIVE: PAUL PRAYS FOR BELIEVERS.
READ: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
A. PAUL SALUTES HIS BROTHERS.
Paul ends this section with assurance that they are a part of God’s eternal kingdom. They are called brothers and are told that they are loved by the Lord. Rather than being”left behind” by the secret coming of Jesus, they are here for a great purpose. They are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. They are now a part of God’s chosen people because they believed the truth. They will share in the great glory of Jesus Christ. What a future God has for these beloved brothers and sisters. Paul has restored their peace and joy.
B. PAUL PRAYS FOR THEIR SUCCESS.
They are admonished to stand firm. They are to believe the truths Paul has given them and reject the lies of Satan’s false teachers.
Paul follows his usual pattern of prayer for their continued success by the power of the Lord Jesus and God their Father. All can expect comfort and encouragement from our God whose very character is love and grace.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
1. Look up the definition of peace in a dictionary.
2. What did Paul say about unrest in Philippians 4:6?
3. What disturbs your peace?
4. How have you used Scripture to restore peace when you are anxious?
5. Pray this ending prayer for someone you know who is troubled at this time.
Paul is thrilled to be able to help his suffering brothers by giving them truth about the future and the present. We are to live lives of peace and joy, not fear and anxiety. This is accomplished by complete trust in the God who loves us infinitely and helps us to succeed. He is the God who is in complete control of our present lives and of future end time events.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
A basic understanding of prophecy will help prevent us from being deceived.
Stay in the Word in order to be comforted as you see the end times approaching.
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