You Are Not in the Day of the Lord, Part 2

In our message, DO NOT BE SHAKEN OR TROUBLED (2 Thes. 1:11-2:9), we looked at Paul’s correction to the church of Thessalonica who had started to believe the lie that they were in “the day of the Lord” (2 Thes. 2:2-3 NET; 2 Tim. 3:16-17, etc.). But before focusing on the main point of this book in the Bible, Paul prays again for the church there to continue to walk “worthy of [their] calling” in the light of all God has done for them saving them by grace and all He is going to do for them in grace when He returns (2 Thes. 1:11; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:13; 2 Thes. 1:10 -see also Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thes. 2:12, etc.). He does this wanting “Jesus Christ [to continue to] be glorified in [them]… ACCORDING TO THE GRACE of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:12 – caps, my emphasis). This call for Christians to walk today in such a way as “to please God” points us back to our accountability to Him at “the judgment seat of Christ” (1 Thes. 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; 1 John 1:9; 2:28; 1 Cor. 11:31-32; Heb. 12:28-29; 1 Cor. 3:13-15; 4:5, etc.). “Believers are determining today, by what they do with the grace that has been given them, the extent to which they will be worthy to glorify Christ in the reign to come (2 Tim. 2:12).” -Dr. Radmacher, House, and Allen.

God had just told the church they would be removed in the Rapture “to meet the Lord in the air” before “the day of the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:15-5:3, 9-11; Rom. 5:9, etc.), but as the Thessalonians continued to experience intense persecution, they found themselves unable to distinguish between their present troubles and the events prophetically promised to occur when the Lord turned His eyes back on Israel in the “great tribulation” period (Matt. 24:21-22; Rev. 6:16; 15:7; 16:1; Jer. 30:7; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-15; Dan. 9:22-27; 12:1; Luke 21:24; Zech. 12:10, 14:4; Rev. 19:11-21; Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:6-7; 1 Thes. 5:1-2; Ps. 89:3, 34-37, etc.). This was made worse as they had been shaken and disturbed by false prophets and probably false apostles who contradicted what God had just said with their spiritual visions, prophecies, and teachings declaring “the day of Lord has already begun” (2 Thes. 2:2 NLT). These liars even produced a forged “letter” apparently, they claimed to be God’s Word written from the Apostle Paul himself (1 Thes. 5:20-21; 2 Thes. 2:2, etc.).

What false messages today do we have in our church echoed from multiple sources that contradict the Bible? (Gen. 3:1, etc.). We need to rest in His Word alone as it is a light to our path in dark times (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19-21, etc.). Paul knows this, so to CALM DOWN the anxious Christians there who were “shaken in mind [and] troubled,” he gave them a good dose of truth (2 Thes. 2:2).

He starts with the Rapture: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” (2 Thes. 2:1). “Coming” here is Parousia meaning ‘presence.’ It is the time when Jesus will be physically present with His bride, the Church, catching us into the air to be with Him forever (1 Thes. 5:13-18; 2 Thes. 2:1, etc.). And “our being gathered to Him” also refers to the same event (2 Thes. 2:1). At that time “in the twinkling of an eye” all the church- both those who have died “in Christ” and those who are alive on the planet when He comes will be GATHERED TOGETHER TO HIM forever (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 2 Thes. 2:1, etc.). Paul then contrasts this with “the day of the Lord” which had not yet come in their time and still has not yet come in our time as I write this summary today (2 Thes. 2:2 NET- note the KJV/NKJV will read “day of Christ” here but the best manuscripts show us it is “the day of the Lord” God is talking about as He also mentioned in 1 Thes. 5:1-3). “Let no one deceive you by any means” or in any way; that is, “don’t be fooled!” (2 Thes. 2:3a). CHURCH, YOU ARE NOT IN THE DAY OF THE LORD!

God then gives us some truth here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 about the end times revealed nowhere else in the Bible. Specifically, He tells the church there are three events that must occur BEFORE the day of the Lord even begins. While the Rapture is a sign-less event that is imminent and it can happen at any instant (1 Cor. 15:51-52, etc.), the day of the Lord has multiple signs associated with it both before and during its occurrence (2 Thes. 2:3, etc.). God, the Lord who knows the future, states, “that Day [i.e. seven-year period of tribulation- ‘the day of the Lord’ Rev. 6:1-19:21; 1 Thes. 5:1-3, etc.] will not come unless [#1] the falling away comes first, and [#2] the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thes. 2:3b).

“Falling away” here is apostasía in the Greek where we get the word apostasy from in English. It means a departure or abandoning of a position formerly held and the context shows us here it is in opposition to God- one’s Creator. Notice in verse 3 it says this apostasy or rebellion against God will happen “first” (2 Thes. 2:3). That is, in the future, BEFORE the tribulation period starts, there will be a worldwide rebellion and departure from Judeo-Christian values and the things of God. There has always been a rebellion against God ever since Adam & Eve sinned in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-10), but this is speaking of a future global departure from one’s Creator of such magnitude and proportion that it is distinguishable and identifiable. If we are honest, I think we see evidences of this movement in our culture and the world today as things are done in our time that we would have not fathomed a few years ago, but it has not been finalized yet. This “falling away,” once again, is a revolt, a departure, an abandoning of a position formerly held- against one’s Creator- against God, the good things He has made from the beginning like family, marriage, etc. -Many theologians will argue it is only non-Christians that can be affected by this global departure from God’s truth, but throughout the ages the church has always been affected by the culture that surrounds it. This deception and apostasy will only grow worse as the day of the Lord approaches so we need to be careful we are not like the church of Laodicea- that last church spoken to by God in Revelation before He takes His bride off the planet (Rev. 3:14-22). God wants us to be alert and living for Him when He comes for us (1 John 2:28; 1 Thes. 5:6, 10-11, etc.).

The second event that the Bible says must occur before the day of the Lord even begins is the revealing of “the man of sin… the son of perdition” (2 Thes. 2:3). This is “the Antichrist”- a real human being, mentioned in Scripture probably more than twenty times that will come upon the world stage in the future during “the day of the Lord” when God turns His eyes back on Israel (1 John 2:18, etc.). He has multiple names to include “the beast” in the book of Revelation (Rev. 13:1-10; 17:8, 16; 19:19, etc.), and will be accompanied his wingman, “the false prophet” (Rev. 19:20, etc.). When the Bible says the “the man of sin [AKA Antichrist] is revealed,” the verb tense for “is revealed” is speaking of a decisive act that will take place at a moment in history (2 Thes. 2:3). I agree with many other Bible teachers that this will be when Antichrist makes a covenant with the nation Israel bringing in a temporary false peace over the planet which starts the day of the Lord (i.e. the seven-year tribulation period) as the book of Daniel prophesies (Dan. 9:27; 1 Thes. 5:1-3; Rev. 6:1-2). This temporary false peace Antichrist makes in an attempt to mimic Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace, is short lived however as God removes peace from the earth in this time period when He begins to pour out His wrath on the planet in His indignation of sin (Rev. 6:3-4, 12-17; 1 Thes. 5:3, etc.). Anti- the Greek prefix- has two meanings: against and instead of. Not only will this man of lawlessness attempt to mimic Jesus through a false peace, he will go “in the temple of God” in Jerusalem (which has not been built yet) in the middle of the tribulation period (a second decisive act identifying him as who he is to the world in that time) and declare “that he is God” (2 Thes. 2:4; Dan. 9:27, etc.). This is also the future “abomination of desolation” that Jesus spoke of when asked about this time period by His disciples (Matt. 24:15-22, etc.). Antichrist’s true colors will show at this time as he demands the worship of all on the planet and all who refuse to do so within the scope of his authority will be killed (2 Thes. 2:4; Dan. 11:36; Rev. 13:15-17, etc.).

Paul then reminds them of a third event he had already told them about that must occur BEFORE Daniel’s 70th week of years (i.e. the day of the Lord) even begins. He writes, “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thes. 2:5). And then he states, “YOU KNOW what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time” (2 Thes. 2:6- caps my emphasis). Now we were not there to hear the conversations Paul had with the Thessalonians when he visited them and told them multiple times apparently of this truth, and we have no footnote here in the book of 2 Thessalonians tell us what it is. What is today “restraining” or holding back evil- the day of the Lord- in our time? (2 Thes. 2:7).

Church historian and one of my professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Michael Svigel, studied the early church writings to see what they thought restrained sin. Apostle Paul visited and started multiple churches in the first century, so it seems reasonable the restrainer of sin would have been echoed in their writings. Some people will say the restrainer of sin is human government and Tertullian did cite the Roman government as a restrainer of sin (this was the only reference for government restraining sin that could be found in the early church writings). But Tertullian also mentioned the church as the restrainer of sin declaring, “God gave Christians to the world… [in] restraint of the world’s wickedness.” This thought is echoed all over the first and second century world. Consider: Ignatias’ Ephesians, “The church… praying… waging war… against the powers of Satan…”; Theophilus of Antioch, “God has given… holy churches… the doctrines of truth… to escape the wrath and judgments of God.”; Epistle to Diognetus, “Christians… in fact, hold the world together.”; and Arnobius of Sicca, “after the name of Christ… [wars] not increased but they… were diminished by the restraining” of the church. Dr. Svigel correctly notes, “All over the place, in the early church, there’s this view of the church’s role in praying and spiritual warfare and living as righteous citizens, that they are responsible for holding back not just wickedness, but the day of wrath itself, their very presence.” So as we look to the third event here in 2 Thessalonians that God says must happen before the day of the Lord begins we see again it is the rapture of the church: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thes. 2:7). This was already explained in the book of 1 Thessalonians (1 Thes. 4:15-18) and it, with the support of church history, is being repeated here. Lawlessness is presently working, but what keeps it from running wild in the world is the Holy Spirit’s ministry through Christian men and women whom He indwells (Col. 1:27; Eph. 1:13-14, etc.). There will come a time when “He [-capital ‘H,’ -the Holy Spirit/God] is taken out of the way” in the Rapture of the church. This is a reference to the removal of the church as a form of judgement on the earth itself. It will be “then the lawless one will be revealed” 2 Thessalonians 2:8 tells us- not before (Christians would do well to not try to guess the identity of this person because the Bible says it will not be until after the church is removed that the Lord will reveal him).

The Bible then says at the end of the tribulation period, “the Lord [Jesus will return consuming Antichrist and his armies]… with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thes. 2:8b; Rev. 19:11-21; Zech. 14:1-9, etc.). “The coming of the lawless one [Antichrist] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thes. 2:9). That is, he, like Judas who betrayed Jesus- the other “son of perdition” will be possessed and empowered by “Satan” (2 Thes. 2:9; Rev. 13:2; John 17:12; Luke 22:2-4, etc.). When people worship him as the ‘instead of and against” Christ, they are actually worshipping Satan who gave him his authority and power which is what the Devil wants (Rev. 13:2-4). As a liar and counterfeiter of truth, Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet form an “unholy” trinity of deception, if you will, that will ultimately perish forever in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10, etc.). All who worship the beast in the tribulation period, the Bible says, will be eternally lost (Rev. 14:9-11, etc.).

This brings us back to the Gospel today: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—” (Rev. 14:6). “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).