Sunday School Lesson 11- 2 Thess. 2:9-17 - THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in 2 Thess. 2:1-8, we heard Paul explain the ''Day of the Lord'' as an event from which Christian believers are exempt. He did this to clear up the Thessalonian's mistaken idea that the Tribulation period had already started. Paul sharply commanded them to disregard any teachings or rumors to that effect, regardless of the source. He assured them that the day of the Lord had not yet come and would not commence until certain future events took place, such as a time of great "apostasy," followed by the emergence of the "man of lawlessness," who was now being restrained by the Holy Spirit. He informed them that that the "mystery of lawlessness" was already at work in the world and that the lawless one would be later revealed as the Antichrist, who would seek to establish his rule in the role of God. Today, in 2 Thess. 2:9-17, Paul we'll hear Paul continue his instruction on the end times as he explains that once the "Restrainer" is removed, it will be followed by the "coming" of the "Man of Lawlessness, who will rise to power as the Antichrist (vv. 9-12). Paul will end the lesson with a beautiful prayer in which he exhorts the Thessalonians to stand firm and hold on to the truth (vv.13-17).
Read 2 Thess. 2:9-10 - THE ONE COMING WITH THE POWER OF SATAN
9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved.
BACKGROUND: Our final verse last week told us that once the lawless one is revealed, "the Lord will eliminate [him] with the breath of His mouth" (2 Thess. 2:8b). Today we'll learn what will take place between the time the lawless man is revealed and the time when he's finally eliminated. We know from Rev. Chap. 7, that millions will come to know Christ during the Great Tribulation from the proclamation of the gospel by the 144,000 evangelists from the 12 Tribes of Israel. For them, the Day of the Lord will be a time of glorious blessing; however, the world as a whole will be in stark rebellion and will follow the man of lawlessness-the Antichrist-in blind obedience and worship, and for them, the Day of the Lord will be a time of judgment.
v. 9: "that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders" - Notice that the Antichrist will be revealed with his own "coming" (Gk. parousia), which will be a perversion compared to the Coming of Christ. He comes "with the activity of Satan," who will be the real "power" behind the Antichrist. Although they are false, the Antichrist will display "signs and wonders" that will lead people to believe that the Antichrist is God. As spiritual forces, Satan and his demons have the supernatural power to perform miracles. These signs and wonders will be designed to deceive-they are all lies. In contrast, the miracles performed by Christ, the prophets, and the apostles, all authenticated the message of God's truth.
v. 10: "and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved" - The Antichrist will use every form of deception to delude "those who perish," which is a reference to all the people who heard the gospel during the Age of Grace but rejected it. Formerly, these people might have been saved, but now they have been taken- in by the false miracles of the Antichrist. Their minds have been perverted and their understanding darkened. The only option now left to them is death, the ultimate final death. What we need to understand about these people is that they aren't destined to perish simply because they are wicked; no, they are condemned because they had no love (key word) for the truth-the gospel of Christ.
Read 2 Thess. 2:11-12 - A DELUDING INFLUENCE
11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
v. 11a: "For this reason" - The "reason" is that these people were given the opportunity to respond to God's call-the gospel-but made a deliberate choice to reject the love of Christ. Although Christ showed love for them by His sacrifice, they refused to love Him in return. Jesus summed it up in the Parable of the Wedding Feast when He said, "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Mt. 22:16)
v. 11b: "God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false - Because of their hardened unbelief, God will execute judgment (note that this is final!) on them in the form of a strong delusion (Gk. plané [plan'-ay], lit. pictures a wandering, unstable mind) that will obscure their ability to distinguish between the truth of the gospel and the falsehoods being spread by Satan. We need to recognize that God does not cause their unbelief in this situation. By comparison, an undercover cop doesn't participate in evil when he sets someone up to be trapped in the crime that they were already predisposed to commit. Moreover, genuine Christian believers living in that time cannot be influenced by these delusions because they are protected by the truth of the Holy Spirit that indwells them.
v. 12a: "in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth" - These people have sealed their destiny by, in effect, rendering themselves "unsaveable." They don't know it yet, but they are like condemned criminals on death row awaiting the execution of sentence-final death.
v. 12b: "but took pleasure in wickedness" - This describes the deluded followers of the Antichrist who have risen to a whole new level of rebellion against God. And they will be identified as allies of the Antichrist-enemies of God-at the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Great Tribulation. (Note: the people described in foregoing verses are those who became passionate followers of the Antichrist and worshipped him as their god. They are distinct from the millions of people who will positively respond to God's message and be saved during the Great Tribulation. People today who are on the fence-unsure of the gospel and don't understand the ultimate consequences of being lost-should carefully ponder what Paul is teaching today.
Read 2 Thess. 2:13-15 - STANDING FIRM AND HOLDING ON
13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
v. 13a: "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord - Here, Paul expresses genuine gratitude to God for the growing faith and love that is being demonstrated by the believers in the Thessalonian church.
v. 13b: "because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" - In the first 12 verses of this Chapter, Paul described the certain doom of the Antichrist and his followers. Now, by way of contrast, he reassures the Thessalonians that because they have accepted God's call as believers in Christ, it completely confirms that they were elected-that is, "chosen from the beginning"-by God to be saved when Jesus returns. When Paul refers to the "sanctification of the Spirit," he's telling them that God used the Holy Spirit to set them apart from the world, convict them of their sin, and point them to faith in Christ, the truth.
Caveat: I simply want to add here that "election" and "free will" are both Bible doctrines, and its better to believe both, even if our human minds can't comprehend how they both can be true.
v. 14: "It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" - The "call" represents the moment in time when a person believes the truth of the gospel. When Paul says, "our gospel," he isn't saying there are other gospels but that there are many different ways of presenting the one true gospel to different audiences; and in their case, God used Paul's preaching as a vehicle to activate the gospel in them. Because it's complete and active, they now share the "glory of our Lord."
v. 15: "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" - In view of their call as saved Christians, Paul now urges the Thessalonians to "stand firm and hold on to the traditions," by which he meant everything they've been taught by word of mouth from Paul, Silas, and Timothy or from the letters they had received from him as an apostle of Christ, which all taken together, are the Word of God. Before this, in 1 Thess. 2:13, Paul said: "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of mere men, but as what it really is, the word of God, which also is at work in you who believe." By this, Paul is warning them that any traditions-false teaching, rumors, etc.-which are in any way contrary to the Word of God they have received from Paul and his associates were worthless and should be disregarded. For new Christians, the word of God is like a North Star that will always point them in the right direction.
Read 2 Thess. 2:16-17 - GOD'S COMFORT AND STRENGTH
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
v. 16: "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace" - This and the next verse form Paul's benediction, which is a blessing. The main thing he blesses them with is "eternal comfort and good hope by grace." For Christians, hope is the life-giving aspect of faith. People place their hope in all kinds of things like personal appearance, physical abilities, academic achievements, wealth, political platforms, etc. However, for Christians, our hope rests upon the free gift of salvation we received by grace, which transcend and surpasses all the worldly things that people ordinarily place their hopes in. Nothing in this world can begin to compare to the eternal home we will occupy with our glorified bodies.
v. 17: "comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word" - In the next chapter, we will hear that work is a problem in the Thessalonian church. But for Christians, work means more than laboring to make more money to sustain our standard of living: It involves doing "good works" in the form of service to Christ and to others who need the help that only we can provide. Our work as Christians come as a tangible expression for our love of God and our neighbor. Words have the power to injure or to heal-to lift up or tear down. As Christians, God empowers us to speak words of faith, healing words, words that lift up, and words that can enlighten a dark world.
APPLICATION-More About Understanding End-Time Prophecy:
1. False teaching and ignorance of Bible doctrine cause instability in a church. What happened in Thessalonica with their confusion over the Day of the Lord can happen anywhere. Today, we have full Bibles of our own and access to volumes of material about Christian doctrines and theology. In addition to self-study, we hear preaching from the Word, have Sunday school classes that offer Bible-based curriculums, and have access to small-group Bible studies. For the stability of our church, all of us are responsible for having a working knowledge of basic Christian doctrine. The Baptist Faith and Message provides an excellent outline of all the major Bible doctrines and cites the Bible passages from which those doctrines are derived.
2. God includes end-time prophecy in the Bible because He expects Christians to be prepared. God established these events before time began and inspired men to report them in both the Old and New Testaments. Every day the world moves closer to the Day of the Lord. Many theologians and pastors believer this time is drawing near. Just as Paul was preparing these Thessalonian believers, you and I should be equally prepared. Are you?
3. Because the Age of Grace is finite, no living human being can afford to be neutral about the end-times. There are many people sitting in church pews every Sunday all across this land who are still on the fence--unsure of the gospel and ignorant of the ultimate consequences of being lost. They need to know that their opportunity for making a decision is running out, and it could happen tomorrow.