First the Falling Away, Then the Antichrist
INTERESTING FACTS : Gunning Bedford, MILITARY OFFICER; MEMBER OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS; SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION; FEDERAL JUDGE
"To the triune God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost - be ascribed all honor and dominion, forevermore - Amen"
Daily Reading : 2nd THESSALONIANS 1- 3
TEXT : 2Th 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2Th 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 2Th 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 2Th 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2Th 2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 2Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 2Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the LORD shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 2Th 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 2Th 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 2Th 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 2Th 2:12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
THEME : APOSTASY & ANTICHRIST
Introduction to 2 Thessalonians
For a general view of Thessalonica: of the establishment of the Church there; of the character of the Church, and of the design for which the Apostle addressed these letters to it, see the introduction to the First Epistle.
This Epistle appears to have been written soon after the First Epistle, and from the same place - Corinth. See the introduction to the First Epistle, 3. The proof of this indeed is not certain, because there are no marks of time or place in the Epistle by which these points can be determined. The probability rests upon these grounds:
(1) That the same persons - Paul, Silas, and Timothy - are associated in both Epistles, and are mentioned as being together at the time when they were written 1Th_1:1; 2Th_1:1. However, since there is reason to believe that they did not continue long together, it is to be presumed that one Epistle was written soon after the other.
(2) Paul refers to an error which had grown up, apparently in consequence of a misunderstanding of his First Epistle 2Th_2:1-2, an error which he regarded as of great magnitude, and which was producing very unhappy results 2Th_3:11-12, and it was natural that he should hasten to correct that error as soon as possible.
(3) there is some probability, as Benson has remarked, that the Epistle was written before the troubles came upon him at Corinth under the administration of Gallio Act_18:12-16, and yet that he saw that the storm was approaching, and hints at it in 2Th_3:2, "And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men." If so, this Epistle was written only a few months at the most after the First Epistle. We may regard the evidence, therefore, as sufficiently clear, that this Epistle was written at Corinth sense time during the latter part of a.d. 53, or the beginning of a.d. 54.
There is little doubt as to the design for which it was written. Either by a false interpretation of his former Epistle, or by an epistle forged in his name and sent to them, the opinion had become prevalent in the Church at Thessalonica that the Saviour was about to appear, and that the end of the world was at hand; see 2Th_2:2, compare Hug's Introduction, section 94, and Stuart's Notes on the same passage, pp. 741ff. Correct this impression was the leading purpose of this Epistle. Some people had become alarmed, and were suffering from unnecessary apprehension 2Th_2:2; and some, under the natural belief that labor then was useless, and that property was of no value, had given up all attention to their worldly concerns 2Th_3:10-11; and it was of the utmost importance that the error should be corrected. This was done in this Second Epistle, and in doing it. As usual, Paul intermingled several other topics of importance, adapted to the condition of those to whom he wrote.
This Epistle, though short, has great permanent value, and is indispensable to a proper understanding of the great doctrine of the Second Advent of the Redeemer. It was written, indeed, to correct an error in a single Church, and at a particular time, but history has shown there is a tendency toward that same error in all ages, and that there was need of some permanent inspired statement to check it. It was inferred from the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, that he meant to teach that the day of judgment was not far off. If this Second Epistle had not been written to correct that false interpretation, and to show what Paul's true belief was, it would have been charged to Paul that he was mistaken, and then the inference would have been naturally made that all the prophecies respecting that event were false! The distance between this and absolute infidelity, it is easy to see, is very small. Paul, by his prompt explanation, arrested that danger, and showed that he intended to teach no such doctrine as had been drawn from his first letter to them. There this Epistle is of importance to show:
(1) that the Apostle did not believe, or mean to teach, that the end of the world was very near. There are many expressions, indeed, which, like those in First Thessalonians, would seeM to imply that the Apostle held that belief, but the explanation of an inspired Apostle of his own sentiments at the time, settled that matter. No one now has a right to charge that belief on him, or on others who then used the same language. No one can pretend that they held the opinion that the end of the world was very near. There is no stronger language on that subject in any of their writings than occurs in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, and Paul in the Second Epistle expressly says that he held no such opinion, and meant to teach no such thing.
(2) this Epistle is a standing rebuke of the kind of interpretation which attempts to determine the time when the Saviour will come, and of all those theories which represent "the day of Christ as at hand." The declarations in the Scriptures are positive and abundant that the time of his appearing is not made known to mortals (Notes on Act_1:7), and it is not possible now to make out a stronger argument to prove that that time is near, than could have been made out from the First Epistle to the Thessalonians; and yet Paul deemed it necessary to write them a second letter, expressly to show them that the interpretation which they put upon his language was unauthorized. The truth is, that it was not the design of God to make known to human beings the exact time when the LORD Jesus will return for judgment; and all attempts since the time of Paul to settle that have failed, and all will doubtless continue to fall, as they always have done. (Albert Barnes)
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "FIRST THE FALLING AWAY, THEN THE ANTICHRIST."
It is not hard to see, in the world in which we live, the coming of the LORD is getting nearer. Many of us have lived long enough to see "the signs of the times," that Jesus and the Apostles spoke about. There are floods, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, wars, and rumors of wars etc. and so forth. They are also many cosmological, ecological, sociological, economical, as well as ecclesiastical (read - religion or religious) signs that are also mentioned as precursors to the second coming of Christ. You are witnessing many of the signs -in reality, almost all of them, that indicates the imminent return of Christ for his Church (the Rapture) as well as the rise of an Antichrist, followed by a seven year period known as The Great Tribulation. The Great Falling Away (the Apostasy) from the Christian faith, that occurs before the rise of a powerful world leader known in the Bible as the Antichrist is the focus of our text.
The subject is -"our gathering together unto him." This is a reference to the Rapture of the Church. The second coming of Christ can be thought of as being in two parts. The first is the coming of the LORD for his Church (the Rapture), and the Revelation of Jesus Christ that occurs once the Great Tribulation is finished. However, before any of these things -the Rapture or the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul reveals there will be a departure from the Christian faith both doctrinally and morally. The restraining influence that prevents the Antichrist from rising up is the Church of Jesus Christ. At least, it has been. Yet, in the last 50 or 60 years, there has been a continual decline inside the Church. Once again, this has been doctrinally (those matters that pertain to the orthodox teachings of the entire Church -Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and all branches of Protestantism), as well as morality and ethics.
There can be no doubt - you are living in the days spoken of by the Apostle Paul in the text above. How far along this Great Falling Away (apostasy) is -no one can be completely sure. Still, the evidence is abundant. All you have to do is read a newspaper or attend a local Church in most parts of this country and around the world, and if you know the orthodoxy of Christian teaching that has stood intact for almost 2000 years, you will immediately notice the departure from The Faith. It is not hard to observe, it is nearly impossible to miss.
The Apostle Paul warns in second Thessalonians that not only will professing Christians depart from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, but they will do so by the influence of "seducing spirits, and doctrine of devils" and the ever increasing lawlessness found in the world. Further, the Scriptures are clear that a person must "love the truth," in order not to be deceived by the spirit of the antichrist that is already in the world. You should know that loving the truth is not always easy. The salvation that is in Jesus Christ is exclusive. That is, Jesus Christ -the true Messiah and the only Savior of the world, has no rivals, peers, or equal. He is the only one. Moreover, Jesus commandments, as well as the commands of the Apostles, are meant to be heeded and obeyed. This is the price of knowing the truth -obedience.
Furthermore, our text states that God will send a "strong delusion," (a delusion is an aberrant belief in the brain or mind that is patently false. Delusions as you know, are most often associated with psychosis or severely mentally ill people), that will permit people to "believe a lie." This judgment of God is similar to the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that stated God had closed the ears of the people so that they could not understand the words of the LORD Jesus or of his Apostles. Therefore, diligence, perseverance, and compliance with the Word of God is critical in the day in which you live.
Once the Church is taken away, and the influence of the Holy Spirit is no longer felt in the world, there will be no more restraint for evil to prevail. Thus, the ascendancy of the Antichrist will take place. Once this happens, there will be a time of "great tribulation," so disastrous that Jesus said there would never have been a time like it in history - either before or after. In fact, this time in history is so significant, that even though it is only seven years long, God dedicated one Book of the Bible to describe it - the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The reason the Book of the Revelation exists is so you will know what is going to happen in the future, and that you may avoid it. In chapter 20 of the Book of the Revelation, God reveals the Final Judgement of humanity, as one person at a time stands before him and is judged for eternity. Known as The Great White Throne Judgment, all who stand before God there do not have their names written in the Book of Life. Because their names are not written in the Book of Life, each person will not be permitted to spend eternity in God's kingdom in heaven. This doctrine is known as "eternal punishment." Most people simply know it simply as "going to Hell." Once again, the truth of the Word of God is not always pleasant. Yet, as stated, you must love the truth in order to be saved. Anything other than a love of the truth, leads to errors in thinking, and in the end - to a great delusion.
No doubt, this great delusion will be associated with the Antichrist. He will be thought to be the man who will solve the world's problems. The complete opposite of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Antichrist will offer a peace he cannot deliver. Further, he will be exceptionally attractive intellectually (perhaps physically, although not necessarily so), and this will give him the appeal to the people of the world the Bible says he will have. He will be the world's most deceptive leader ever, as well as the most ruthless. Promising "change" and a better world, his message and eventually his administration as world leader will give people a false hope. History has seen many leaders like this - that is, men who led people to believe they would change things for the better. Yet, the Antichrist will be the worst of all.
For you, it is critical to understand that you must remain faithful to Christ -doctrinally, morally, and ethically. Your call to a holy life, one that is above reproach, is vital in this present evil world. Your protection comes from the LORD. As a lover of the truth, the truth will make you free, even as Jesus said it would. The truth will not make everyone happy. Yet, once again, it will make you free. Further, it will keep you free. As you walk with the LORD, the Holy Spirit will continually open your eyes to see (sadly) what others cannot see even though it is right before their eyes.
Therefore, during this time of a falling away from The Faith - stay faithful. Remain at your post until you are -"properly relieved." This will not happen until Christ arrives for his Church in the Rapture. Until then, "keep the faith." Many are not. Make sure you are not one of them.
-  Gunning Bedford, Funeral Oration Upon the Death of General George Washington (Wilmington: James Wilson, 1800), p. 18, Evans #36922
-  Barnes, Albert. Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible. Public Domain, 1798 - 1870.
-  1Ti_4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
-  Isa 6:9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Isa 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. ; Mat 13:14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
Mat 13:15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.