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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am Svc, 2014-11-16

Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 

The year-end vacation for primary and secondary schools and JC1 students officially began yesterday. This is the time of year that many people look forward to. Students are probably thinking about how they will spend the next 6 weeks. Working adults look forward to a much needed break and to receiving their year-end bonus. Families and friends look forward to enjoying an overseas vacation together. Those in the commercial world look forward to the increased business they usually have at Christmas time. But there is something far better that we should all be looking forward to much more than these things, and that is the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Bible provides a lot of teaching on this. Do you know that there are over 1,500 prophecies of Christ’s Second Coming in the Bible? For every prophecy of His first coming mentioned in the Old Testament, there are eight predicting His Second Coming of Christ. It is also mentioned once in every five verses of the New Testament. All this teaching on the Second Coming has been given so that we may be well prepared for this great event. One particular passage where such teaching is given is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8. This passage consists of two parts.  The first part helps us to understand... 

1. Why We Need to Know the Signs of His Coming 

The apostle Paul had given the Christians at Thessalonica much teaching about the signs of the Lord’s second coming. He had done this during the time he spent with them at Thessalonica (v.5), and also in his first epistle to them (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4-5). But despite all that Paul did, the Thessalonians were easily shaken in mind and troubled because they did not apply what he had taught them. The words “shaken in mind” in v.2 convey a picture of a boat that is tossed to and fro in a storm. Something had caused them to be confused and very anxious, and it added on to their affliction, as we had seen in the previous chapter that these Christians were already suffering from persecution at that time (1:6). Paul’s pastoral love for them moved him to write this epistle in order to calm them down. This gives us the first reason why we need to know the signs of our Lord’s coming: 

a. It helps us to avoid confusion and anxiety (v.2a). 

Much unnecessary confusion and anxiety comes from our ignorance about the unknown. The future in particular is a big unknown and this often makes people fearful and even panic when ominous things start to happen. For example, many people changed their travel plans this year after the two Malaysia Airlines disasters. “What if the plane I travel in disappears or is shot down?” The recent news of beheadings by the Islamic State have made many people anxious about the future, especially when their leader just issued a call yesterday for ‘volcanic eruptions of jihad” all over the world. “What if this movement continues and cannot be stopped? What if they were to come here?” 

Are you worried about the future? Please be assured that the Lord knows the future. Here in His Word He has provided us with sufficient knowledge about the future, including the signs that will precede His coming. They are designed to help us, not harm us. They are designed to quieten our troubled hearts by giving us the calm assurance that He who holds the future cares for us and will definitely take care of our needs. Besides that, the signs of His coming are also designed to…

b. It keeps us from being deceived (vv.2b,3a) 

This is the second reason why we need to know these signs. In next week’s message we will learn about the great End-time deception. But there have been deceivers within the church since the time when Paul wrote this epistle to the Thessalonians. Paul warned them about this in v.3 – “Let no man deceive you by any means…” These deceivers used various means to shake the faith of God’s people. For example, they used prophecies that supposedly came from the Holy Spirit. They used hearsay and teachings which were distorted. And v.2 mentions that they even used forged letters to deceive the Thessalonians. There is only one way to deal with all these methods of deceptions: Use knowledge about Christ’s return which comes from the right source – the only reliable source, which is God’s Word! 

Please don’t be taken in by anyone who claims that he knows exactly where and when the Lord Jesus will return. Many have been deceived through using the wrong sources of information, e.g. the prophecies of Nostradamus, a cryptic death note left by a Jewish rabbi, the Mayan calendar, the ‘four blood moons’ and apocalyptic traditions from different parts of the world. Today, there are hundreds of websites, books and movies about the end of the world. Those who read and watch them may be end up being really ‘shaken in mind and troubled’. They present so many different scenarios that people end up becoming more confused and anxious! 

In v.2 of our text we see that the Thessalonians ended up in a state of confusion and anxiety because of a false teaching that the Day of Christ had already arrived. Although our English Bible states what the deceivers were saying as ‘the day of Christ is at hand’ the verb used here is in the perfect tense, which implies completed action. Thus they were saying that the Day of Christ is already here. 

What is this Day? It refers to the future time when God’s wrath will be poured out on all unbelievers of the world as judgment for their sins. This day had been mentioned in Malachi 4:5– “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” This day corresponds to the seven bowl judgments mentioned in Revelation 15:7; 16:1– “And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever…And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.” 

Now the Thessalonians were being told that this Day had arrived. They were in it. This was terrible news. They were already bearing great persecution from men (1:4,5). As if that wasn’t bad enough, now they would have to bear the awful wrath of God as well. But in his first epistle Paul had told them that God had not appointed them to wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9) and that the Day of the Lord will only overtake the children of darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:2-5). Paul had assured them that believers who are still alive would be raptured, caught up to meet the Lord in the air, before this awful Day of the Lord comes. (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

But now, they were told something entirely different – the Day of the Lord has already come and they were now in the thick of it. This made them confused. “Didn’t Paul tell us that we would be removed before this comes? Has he taught us wrongly?” The forged letter mentioned in v.2 made them believe that Paul had changed his teaching and said,“Sorry brethren, I’ve got really bad news! There is no rapture. The wrath of God has come on the world, and now we believers just have to endure it.” What a disappointment this was for them! No wonder they were so shaken in mind and deeply troubled. 

In order to clear up their confusion and allay their anxiety Paul now assured them that his teaching on this had not changed at all. Hence he mentions the rapture right at the beginning (v.1 – “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him…”) Then he goes on to tell them of three events that must take place first before the Day of Christ. Since these events had not happened yet, they could not be in the Day of Christ. These events and all the things that lead up to them would be observable as signs that the Rapture and the Day of Christ are approaching. This brings us now to consider: 

2. What We Need to Know of the Signs of His Coming 

Now, before I begin to explain these signs, let me first say that they been interpreted in different ways by good Bible-believing scholars. It is not easy to say whose interpretation is correct. There is no disagreement at all on things that are clearly taught in the Scriptures like Christ’s coming, the Rapture and resurrection of believers, and the judgment of all unbelievers. The disagreements are only on the exact sequence in which the events take place, and the identity of those involved in these events. Whenever we study prophetic passages concerning the last days, we cannot be absolutely dogmatic and insist that our interpretation is 100% correct. What I am going to show you now, is what I believe to be the most reasonable interpretation of these signs. The first one that is mentioned here is: 

a. The Rebellion of Apostate Men (v.3) 

This is mentioned in v.3 as “a falling away”. The words ‘falling away’ are translated from the word ‘apostasia’ from which the word ‘apostasy’ was derived. It bears the idea of a rebellion against God, or a movement away from God. The same term is used as a verb in 1 Timothy 4:1-2– “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times someshall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.”  The words ‘shall depart from the faith’ here refers to the falling away that will take place in the end time rebellion. 

More details about this rebellion are given in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 – “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…” Rebellious attitudes like these have existed in every age of history. But they will grow to unimaginable proportions in the last days. All this is already happening today. People are becoming increasingly desensitised to sin and evil Many believe that there are no moral absolutes and that everything is relative. Things that were once regarded as being wicked and sinful are now accepted as normal. The prevailing thought is that the end justifies the means. Anything can be done for success. 

Our Lord Jesus described the same phenomenon in Matthew 24:12– “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” As the End draws nearer, sin will increase and love for God and for one’s fellow man will decrease. The only love that will increase a lot is self-love, which is expressed today in individualism and self-worship. This will eventually lead on to the next event, which is … 

b. The Revelation of the Antichrist (vv.3,8) 

Who is the Antichrist? Here in v.3 of our text he is called “the man of sin, the son of perdition.” The first term describes his character – He is the Man of sin. In v.8 he is called ‘that Wicked’. There have been many wicked men in history, e.g. Nero, Adolph Hitler, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But this man will be far worse than all of them because he will reveal the full character of Satan himself. He will therefore be the ultimate rebel, murderer and deceiver all combined into one. 

The second term in v.3 describes the Antichrist’s destiny – He is the son of perdition. Perdition means eternal destruction and misery in hell. This man of sin will be totally devoid of any hope of redemption. No mercy or pity can ever be shown to him. One reason for this is that he has no pity or mercy at all for others. His aim is to drag as many people as possible into perdition with him! 

Though he is referred to here as the man of sin and the son of perdition, the more commonly-used designation for him is “the Antichrist.” This comes from 1 John 2:18 – “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” One meaning of the term ‘antichrist’ is one who takes the place of Christ, i.e. a counterfeit Christ. What distinguishes this final Antichrist from all the rest is that he will not only take the place of Christ, but he will do that by demanding to be worshipped as God in the Holy Temple. This brazen act of self-deification is described in v.4 of our text – “…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.” 

Some of us may think that since the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and has not been rebuilt yet, this act of the Antichrist will probably not happen so soon. However, within the last 30 years a movement known as the Temple Institute has been doing what exactly king David did: making all the preparations for the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (including the detailed plans, materials, the sacred furniture and temple vessels) and preparing the priests and Levites to resume all their services. Everything is now ready to be implemented. 

There is only one ‘show-stopper’ that stands in their way: The Dome of the Rock sits on the site of the Temple, and any attempt to remove it would instantly ignite a global religious war. This place is the most hotly-contested property in the world today. Just last week, a visit made by a group of Jewish MPs to the Temple Mount sparked off a series of riots, clashes and one death. 

It makes us wonder: How can the Antichrist ever get to sit in a Temple that can never be built? Some have suggested that the Temple Mount is not the actual place where the Temple once stood. There is evidence that the actual site of the Temple is about 500 meters south, on Israeli territory. Hence it is believed that when the Jews are convinced of this discovery, they will immediately erect the new Temple there. Others believe that God will send an earthquake or perhaps a stray missile from Hamas to destroy the Dome of the Rock. But even if that takes place, what is there to stop the Arabs from keeping their shrine and rebuilding it? 

Perhaps this is more likely to happen: The Antichrist will use his all negotiating skills and resources to mediate an agreement between the Israelis and the Arabs. In this new agreement the Jews are allowed to rebuild their Temple right next to the Dome of the Rock. By doing this, the he will finally resolve this age-old dispute and bring a lasting peace to the Middle East to everyone’s relief. Perhaps through this and many other amazing feats, the Antichrist will impress all nations so much that they readily elect him to become the first President of the World. 

From Revelation 13 we learn that the Antichrist is the one who will preside over a one-world government. The stage is being set for this: The world is moving now in this direction. The APEC summit was held last in Beijing week, and the G20 leaders are now meeting in Brisbane. Walls are coming down. Economies are becoming global and more interdependent. In a way that has never happened before, nations are holding hands and talking about forming a one world government. A campaign for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) was formed in 2007. As of July 2013 it has received the support of over 850 Members of Parliament from over 90 countries worldwide, in addition to over 350 non-governmental organizations and 16 Heads or former heads of state or government and foreign ministers. The target date to form the UNPA is 2015. The union of the entire world into one is now on the horizon. One day soon the sun will rise on a united world, and the Antichrist will become its bright and shining star. 

Who will he be? Some say he will be the US president, but others claim that he must be the Pope. Some say that he will be a Jew from Europe. No one really knows. But when he has gained sufficient power to do anything he likes with impunity, he will reveal his true colours by sitting in the Holy of the Holies in the Temple and claiming to be God. This is the revelation that is mentioned in vv.3 and 8 of our text. 

According to Revelation 13:16-18, the Antichrist will then require everyone on earth to receive a mark on their forehead or hand, which has to do with the number 666. Those who refuse to receive this mark and worship him will be persecuted in the Great Tribulation. They will not be able to buy or sell anything without bearing his mark. This will be a time of great suffering for all true believers in the world. 

However, their time of affliction will be shortened when Christ comes and the Rapture and Resurrection of all believers takes place. Perhaps we may see this happen within our lifetime. The Antichrist may already be living today, just waiting for the time when he will be revealed. That will trigger off a series of events that end with his demise at the Battle of Armageddon. 

And the time when he will be revealed depends on the next sign which is mentioned in vv.6-7 of our passage: “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” The words ‘withholdeth’ and ‘letteth’ in these verses refer to the same thing – something or someone that restrains the revelation of the Antichrist. Thus the sign that precedes the Antichrist is…

c. The Removal of the Restrainer (vv.6-7)

Many have tried to identify this restrainer. Some have suggested that it was the Roman Emperor. They allege that as long as he ruled the empire from Rome, the bishop of Rome had limited powers. It was only after Emperor Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople in AD 324 that the bishop of Rome was able to rise up to become the Pope. However no pope in history has ever matched the description of the Antichrist given in our passage of Scripture. 

In recent times others have suggested that the restrainer that will be removed is the Church. They believe that as long as the Church remains in the world, it acts as an influence against sin and lawlessness (cf. Matthew 5:13-16). As the salt of the earth, true believers everywhere exert an influence that restrains the rapid moral decay in society. As the light of the world, they restrain spiritual darkness from exerting its full power. But after they are removed from the earth in the Rapture, spiritual darkness and moral decay will grow and spread rapidly, until their putrid stench makes the world most ripe for judgment. 

Others believe that the restrainer that will be removed is the Holy Spirit. They say that this explains why the Greek word for restrainer in v.6 is in the neuter form while the one in v.7 is in the masculine form. Since the Greek word for ‘spirit’ happens to be neuter, the word ‘restrainer’ is put in the neuter form in v.6. But since the Holy Spirit is a person and not an object, the masculine form is used in v.7 for the same word. 

All this may sound very technical and difficult for many to understand. But it goes to show how difficult it is to identify this restrainer. However, there is one thing that is very certain – no matter who or what this restrainer may be, God is the ultimate cause of his removal. From verse 6 we learn that God will take the restrainer away at a time determined entirely by Him. And so, God is in control of all things. 

For reasons that are best known to God Himself, He has deliberately left the restrainer’s identity unknown. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us that there are things which are not meant for us to know – “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever...” 

Thus we have seen what Paul used to teach the Thessalonians that the day of Christ had not yet come in their time: The Rebellion of Apostate men, the Revelation of the Antichrist, and the Removal of the Restrainer. This means that they need not be shaken out of mind or troubled any more. The truth has made them free! The same thing is true of us. This truth shall also make us free. Like the Thessalonians we may one day have to face persecution if the Antichrist is revealed within our lifetime. But if this happens we have the comforting assurance of being removed from this world before God begins to pour out His righteous judgments on it. 

From other passages of Scripture on the End times we know that after being caught up or resurrected to meet the Lord in the air, we will receive rewards at the Judgment seat of Christ, and enjoy the delights of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And when the world’s sin and darkness has reached its highest peak, we will descend with Christ to purge the world and to defeat the Antichrist. This will not be a long protracted battle. In fact, it will be over in a matter of seconds as v.8 of our text says –  “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.” All it will take to bring the Antichrist to an end is one breath from Christ. The mere appearance of Christ in power and glory will dissolve all the forces that are arrayed against Him. 

And then Christ’s victory will usher in the golden age of His millennial kingdom on earth! What a glorious outcome that will be. What a comfort this is to all who are now going through trials and tribulations. How glad we should be when we see more and more signs of His coming. Let us watch and be sober. In the days to come there will be more developments in the world and especially in Israel, which will eventually lead to all these events. Dearly beloved, we are living in momentous times – the End Times. This should produce a sense of excitement in us! As Jesus has said in Luke 21:28 – “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” 

But at the same time, all this knowledge should produce a sense of urgency in our hearts: The same kind of urgency we feel whenever a deadline is getting nearer and there is still plenty of work left undone. If the day of our Lord’s Coming is fast approaching, then we should be concerned that there isn’t much time left to do His work. Our Lord Himself was concerned about the shortness of time that He had to do His work on earth. He said this in John 9:4 – “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” Let us all be more fervent in doing His work while we still can.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11