For an introduction to this series, click here.
October 12, 2007
Paul gets down to business quickly here, explaining what will happen leading up to the Rapture:
"Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God." (2:1-4)
Paul mentions in this passage that the Thessalonians received a false letter from Paul saying the end had already come. Paul says specifically that there will be a "rebellion" first. Now there are several explanations for what the "rebellion" means. Some view it as a political rebellion, but I agree with most that it is a reference to a spiritual rebellion. There is always a spirit of apostasy in the last days, but this will be the great apostasy. Whether we are seeing the beginning of it now or not, I really don't know. I do know that there are things that were never seriously debated in church history that are debated now, such as homosexual marriage. The fact that church leaders cannot understand the clear condemnation of the sin of homosexual acts in the Bible is certainly a sign of something.
Now this scripture seems to indicate that the church will know who the man of sin, or the Antichrist, is before the Rapture. I don't think this necessarily indicates a "mid-trib" Rapture, but it does seem more reasonable based on this passage.
"And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. " (2:6-10)
The wording is a little bit confusing, but if you sit down and analyze it, it becomes clear that the Holy Spirit is restraining evil now during the church age. Who knows how bad things would be today were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit?
"Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter." (2:11-15, ESV)
The worst punishment God can inflict upon this earth is to allow people to follow their own way to destruction. Mankind is predisposed to evil anyway, and if God does not intervene, he will always find himself in a cesspool of his own making. Not everybody stoops to the absolute lowest level, whatever that is, but mankind always becomes worse and worse. This is what it means when it says God will send them "a strong delusion." God does not have to do anything special for man to deceive himself. It comes naturally. It is just that God will choose not to intervene for most people. Now we know that there will be many thousands of people who are saved during the time of the Antichrist, but as a general rule God will not be working to counteract the work of Satan through the Antichrist, and so mankind will suffer like in no other time in history.