Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 1, deals with the exclusion from God’s presence of those who do not obey the Gospel. It also commends the church for their growing faith, increasing love and faithful endurance in the face of trials. David explained that the next chapter, 2 Thessalonians 2, is so perplexing that it has given rise to some extravagant speculation.
He began with the last five verses (vs.13-17) in the chapter, because they capture Paul’s heart for this church and reveal his reasons for writing about these complex subjects. The verses show that these believers (and, by extension, we) are a cause for constant gratitude. We are the focus of God’s affection. We were chosen from the very beginning of time to experience salvation. This happened to us through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and through our belief in the truth of Jesus. Furthermore, we were called to this so that we might actually share in the glory of Jesus, which never ends.
This is who you are, says Paul, so hold tight to these truths in the midst of the persecution, false teaching and questions you may have. Stand firm!
The Thessalonians are not alone as they suffer for their Lord (and neither are we). God’s comfort and strength are available for our everyday living. Now Paul – not for the first time – tackles the subject of Christ’s second coming.
It seems that false teachers, claiming to speak for Paul, were saying that the day of the Lord (his return) had already come. Naturally, this was distressing the Christians in Thessalonica. Paul explicitly states that Jesus would not come until certain things happened. First, ‘the rebellion’ would occur and second, the ‘man of lawlessness’ would be revealed. What is meant here?
‘Apostasy’ is probably a better translation than ‘rebellion’. It signifies a turning away from God which, along with lawlessness, has been evident since the Fall. It is seen in some of Israel’s kings, who attempted to put themselves in God’s place and receive worship and reverence. It is seen in Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. Daniel goes on to prophesy further rebellion, writing of a person who would actually exalt himself in the Temple’s Holy of Holies. (Many believe this person to have been Ephiphanes, desecrator of the Temple in about 170 BC.)
When Jesus teaches about the destruction of the Temple and the end times, he quotes Daniel’s phrase ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ (Matthew 24:15). In our text, Paul uses similar language in describing the man of lawlessness (v.4). Paul appears to be referring to a future historical figure.
In the centuries since this was written, a large number of people have been postulated as this individual. However, none was
…OVERTHROWN WITH THE BREATH OF HIS [JESUS’] MOUTH AND DESTROYED BY THE SPLENDOUR OF HIS COMING. (v.8)
This suggests that he has not yet appeared.
An important and encouraging fact about this diabolical figure is that there is a restrainer, holding this man back (v.6). Who or what is this? We cannot know with certainty. Whatever the answer, the important fact is that he ‘will be revealed at the proper time’ (v.6), i.e. God has all of this under His control.
The other critical feature here is that this mysterious man of lawlessness, this antichrist, will be destroyed by the breath from the Lord Jesus’ mouth and the splendour of his coming. Via his very breath, this hellish character and all he represents will be eradicated, such is Jesus’ power. Jesus should be our focus, along with our blessed identity in him, as outlined earlier.
We must hold tightly to this and stand firm.