by Mike Ratliff
9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ESV)
Back when I was a Dispensationalist I remember listening to Hal Lindsey or some of the teachers at the church I was going to at that time teach on these things, but I never quite sunk my teeth into it. I remember never being fully convinced about the Eschatology or that the Church would be secretly Raptured away and miss the Tribulation. I heard a comment by R.C. Sproul the other day say that he isn’t sure which Eschatological view is correct, but he did know of two that he was totally convinced were not correct and were in fact terrible error. The two he spoke of that he was sure that were wrong was Full Preterism and any view that incorporated Dispensationalism. He was fine with Partial Preterism, Postmillenialism, and Amillenialism. Why? Each is Biblically based rather than based in what people want to hear.
There is much speculation about what the lie or delusion is that God sends upon those who refuse to love the truth. To discern what this lie is we need to study this passage from 2 Thessalonians 2 in context. Who is Paul writing to in this book? He wrote it to believers in Thessalonica. Some of them were shaken because someone had lied to them about the coming of the Lord and the gathering of the Saints unto Himself.
1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV)
Then Paul explains the order of things:
3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 ESV)
Now, let us ask some questions of this passage. First, what is the lie that God actually sends out? Whatever it is it has to do with the Second Coming of our Lord and the gathering of the saints (v1). Whatever the lie is it is concerning the gathering of the saints before the tribulation begins. Second, Who are the recipients of this lie? This is speaking of some sort of doctrinal error that people want to hear and it comes from God. Therefore, those who believe this lie are professing Christians. Look at v3. Who would be deceiving the Thessalonians but other Christians teaching doctrinal error? Therefore, God is sending a lie upon professing Christians who do not love the truth. Third, Why would God send out a lie to His own people for them to be deceived? The answer is in v10. These are professing Christians, but they are not genuine because they do not love the truth. Instead they are in idolatry and God sends upon them a spirit of stupor so that they will believe that lie. He is giving them what they want and love, but it leads to destruction.
So what is the doctrinal error? Whatever it is, it is very popular and deeply believed by vast numbers of professing Christians. It is so popular that when any Bible teacher stands against it he is persecuted, smitten, ostracized, and made an example for all to see. The lie is taught by most of the pastors and teachers in the Church today. This is what people want to hear so they preach it. Satan is not doing this. God is doing this. Why? It is to separate His people from those in the Church who are not His people.
What is the doctrinal error? Does it mean that all who believe it are condemned? We must pray for God to give us wisdom and discernment so that we will know what the truth is. We live in a time of great deception. There are very good and popular preachers who are deceived in this, whatever it is. Another clue for us is that the majority of professing Christians believe this lie and only the few do not. Let us pray that God will open our eyes and give us the boldness to tell the truth. Perhaps those in this error will be drawn into the light. God’s will be done. Soli Deo Gloria!
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