Friday, February 19, 2010

Wait For #Christ: Believers Should Not Be Troubled By The Day Of The Lord: 2 Thessalonians 2

Theme: Wait for Christ

1. Reasons
     Because believers do not enter the tribulation (2:1-12)

2. Ways
     By holding fast Bible doctrine (2:13-3:5)

*Apparently some had been teaching, and even forging letters as if from Paul, that the persecution the Thessalonians endured for their faith meant they were in the Day of the Lord, or tribulation. This thought troubled them greatly. To put them in a settled frame of mind, Paul explained why they could not be in the tribulation, and encouraged them to stand fast in what they had been taught.* 

Believers will be gathered to the Lord before the tribulation (1). 

Paul besought the Thessalonians "by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him", that they not be quickly shaken from their composure or be disturbed by the idea that they were in the Day of the Lord. This is a reference to the rapture of the church from earth, which Paul sharply contrasted to the events of the Day of the Lord, or tribulation, in 1 Thess. 4:13-5:1. It seems, then, it was their hope of being raptured by the Lord, that was to keep them from being troubled by the idea they were in the tribulation. Believers will be gathered to the Lord before the tribulation (1). 

In 1 Thess. 4:13-18, Paul said the rapture of the church was something which the Thessalonians had never heard of. In chapter 5, however, he made a sharp change of subject, and said that they did know about the events of the Day of the Lord (which begins with the seven year tribulation period). The church was a "mystery" in the OT. The OT prophecy regarding the tribulation pertains to the nation of Israel, and not to the church. This is why the Thessalonians had heard of the Day of the Lord, but not the rapture of the church. The rapture of the church is a separate event from the Day of the Lord, and the tribulation applies to the nation of Israel, but not the church.

In 1 Thess. 5, he changed the subject from the rapture of the church, to the Day of the Lord, and made a contrast between them as believers, and the unsaved who would enter the tribulation. He told them they were not appointed to that wrath, but salvation, and this hope was to encourage and build them up. Now, in 2 Thess. 2, he again uses their knowledge of being gathered to the Lord, to keep them from being troubled by the idea they might have entered the tribulation. 

The events of the tribulation had not yet begun (2:2-12).

The Bible prophesies that certain events will take place, during the tribulation, before Christ will return to earth (as opposed to just the "air", for the church [1 Thess. 4:13-18]). Daniel 9:24-27, and Revelation give more details on these events. 

First, there will be an apostasy (3). This could mean a departure from faith by professing christians who were never saved in the first place, particularly with reference to their believing a lie, and worshipping the anti-christ as if he were God (11-12). Or, the "apostasy" could be a reference to the departure of the church from earth, at the rapture. The "apostasy" had not yet occurred to the extent of people worshipping the anti-christ, or the departure of the church from earth, and therefore they could not be in the Tribulation. 

In addition, the man of sin must be revealed. Daniel 9:24-27 gives further details about this "prince". In the OT, the church was a mystery. The prophecy regarding the Day of the Lord, specifically the seven year tribulation, was given to the nation Israel and referred to as the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7). It applies to that nation, and the Gentiles who will be living after the rapture of the church from earth. 

The seven year tribulation will begin when the man of sin makes a peace treaty with the nation Israel (Dan. 9:26-27). Half way through this, he will break the covenant, and set himself up as God, in the temple of Israel (9:27; 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:5-17). This act is called the "Abomination of desolations" (Daniel 9:27; Matt. 24:15). 

During the second three and one half years, the judgments Christ pours out on the inhabitants of the earth will increase in intensity, as will the control of people by the man of sin (Rev. 13:5-17). Jesus called this the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21). The man of sin would have been revealed if the Thessalonians were in the tribulation. 

The restrainer will be removed first (2:6-12). This "restrainer" is referred to both in the neuter voice ("what restrains"), and with a masculine personal pronoun ("he who now restrains"). This person was restraining "now", in the time of the Thessalonians, but will not be taken out of the way until just before the man of sin is revealed. Who else could restrain the general principle of lawlessness on earth over this many thousand years, but the Holy Spirit, who indwells believers during this church age (cf. Eph. 1:13-14)? 

After the restrainer is removed, people who refused the love of the truth, will be deceived by the man of sin, who will perform Satanically energized signs and false wonders (9; cf. Rev. 13:5-17).  
These things will demonstrate people's worthiness to be judged by God, fattening them for the final slaughter when Christ returns to earth with the church (2 Thess. 2:9, 12; cf. Rev. 19). Since the restrainer had not yet been removed, the Thessalonians could not have been in the tribulation.

God called believers to salvation (2:13-14). In 1 Thess. 5, after describing the manner in which "they", the unsaved children of darkness, would be overtaken by the events of the tribulation, Paul said God had not destined "you", children of light, for wrath, but salvation (5:9). Here, too, after describing the events of the tribulation, and the ultimate judgment of the unsaved, Paul contrasts that, "God has chosen" "you, brethren beloved by the Lord" "from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" (13). Church age believers look forward to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, rather than the tribulation judgment of Christ (14).  

Since they would be raptured by Christ rather than enter tribulation, since tribulation events had not yet begun, and since they were chosen to salvation rather than these troubles, the Thessalonians should not be shaken by the idea they might have entered the Day of the Lord.

Believers should hold fast Bible doctrine (2:15-3:5) To keep from being troubled by false doctrine about the tribulation, and to encourage them to wait for Christ to rapture the church, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (15). This letter was written before the Bible was complete, so telling them to hold fast these things would be like telling us to hold fast those same words which have been recorded in the Bible. Bible doctrine will keep us from being troubled, like the Thessalonians, by those who teach things contrary to what the Bible says (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2).

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