by Mike Ratliff
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15 ESV)
Last evening I watched the movie “The Nativity” instead of writing. I needed the break I suppose. I was somewhat tired and felt quite beaten down. However, as I watched the story of the advent of my Saviour as a helpless baby into this fallen, evil, and cruel world, I pondered the grace, the incredible love our Lord has for His people that He would become the atoning sacrifice to save them from their sins. This encouraged me as I put into perspective that temporal focus of most professing Christians this time of year as opposed to the call for each of us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow our Lord. At the urging of a dear sister in Christ, I also listened to a sermon by Paul Washer. This more than confirmed what I had learned as I listened to the Holy Spirit during the movie.
The crux of the message I have been receiving from our Lord over the last several weeks is that genuine Christianity is vastly different than the religiosity and Churchianity all around us. I remember as a much younger Christian as I studied eschatology, that we always assumed that the attacks on Christians during the close of the end of this age would come from the secular, from the evil that is opposed to everything about our faith. However, over the last several years as I have battled in the truth war and studied the writings of the reformers, Puritans, and men such as C.H. Spurgeon, it has become clear that the visible church is mostly anti-Christian. On the other hand, God has His saints in the invisible Church kept secure and is continually growing them in maturity, transforming them through continual mind renewal through immersion into His Word.
Our enemy has counterfeited Christianity, coming up with a blend of elements from the religions of fallen man all mixed together and packaged in such a way that those false believers in the visible church will fall for the lies hook, line, and sinker. In this, they will worship the coming “messiah” who is the culminating avatar in a long line that has sought to create unity in the world and usher in an age of peace. Read about this here. I suggest you watch both videos, especially the one in which Benjamin Crème gives us his summary of these things.
I do not know when the end of this age will be, but these things sure make it appear that we are getting very close. In light of this, let us look at a passage from 2 Thessalonians 2 in which the Apostle Paul gives us some detail about the coming end of this age and what is expected of us by our Lord as these events unfold.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 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. 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, 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. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 ESV)
1ερωτωμεν δε υμας αδελφοι υπερ της παρουσιας του κυριου [ημων] ιησου χριστου και ημων επισυναγωγης επ αυτον 2εις το μη ταχεως σαλευθηναι υμας απο του νοος μηδε θροεισθαι μητε δια πνευματος μητε δια λογου μητε δι επιστολης ως δι ημων ως οτι ενεστηκεν η ημερα του κυριου 3μη τις υμας εξαπατηση κατα μηδενα τροπον οτι εαν μη ελθη η αποστασια πρωτον και αποκαλυφθη ο ανθρωπος της ανομιας ο υιος της απωλειας 4ο αντικειμενος και υπεραιρομενος επι παντα λεγομενον θεον η σεβασμα ωστε αυτον εις τον ναον του θεου καθισαι αποδεικνυντα εαυτον οτι εστιν θεος (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 WHNU)
We ask but you, brothers, on behalf of the presence of the Master of us Jesus Christ and of us bring together on him for the not quickly to be shaken you from the mind but not to be disturbed neither through spirit nor through word nor through letter as through us, as that was present the day of the Master; not some you might thoroughly deceive by no one manner. Because if not might come the standing off first and might be uncovered the man of the lawlessness, the son of the destruction, the one lying against and lifting himself beyond on all being said God or object of worship , so that him in the temple of the God to sit showing off himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
I deeply desire the ingathering of the saints to the Lord. I pray that you do so as well. This is a joyous thing, however, the Thessalonians were grieving because someone had told them in some way that the Day of the Lord was upon them, but they had missed this ingathering of the saints for whatever reason. Paul is seeking to assuage their grief. How does he do it? He gives them the correct sequence of events, showing them that the Day of the Lord could not have possibly come already because other events that must precede it have not occurred. The first of these events is ‘the rebellion.’ What is this? The Greek word translated here as ‘the rebellion’ or ‘the standing off’ is αποστασια. We get our English word ‘apostasy’ from this word. This describes a deliberate abandonment of a formerly professed position, allegiance, or commitment. The context here must refer to a ‘religious defection’ of some sort. Also, the grammar clearly shows us that Paul is not referring to a general apostasy that we have been concerned about for some time in the visible church. No, this is some sort of specific rebellion or event. In other words, this is ‘The Apostasy’ that marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord. What triggers it?
We have our answer in the same verse. The rebellion or apostasy coincides with the revealing of the ‘man of lawlessness, the son of destruction.’ John calls this man the Antichrist (1 John 2:18; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). Paul tells us that this man is in complete opposition to Christ. He opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. He will perform ‘signs and wonders’ and even claim to be God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 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. 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. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:5-12 ESV)
5ου μνημονευετε οτι ετι ων προς υμας ταυτα ελεγον υμιν 6και νυν το κατεχον οιδατε εις το αποκαλυφθηναι αυτον εν τω αυτου καιρω 7το γαρ μυστηριον ηδη ενεργειται της ανομιας μονον ο κατεχων αρτι εως εκ μεσου γενηται 8και τοτε αποκαλυφθησεται ο ανομος ον ο κυριος [ιησους] ανελει τω πνευματι του στοματος αυτου και καταργησει τη επιφανεια της παρουσιας αυτου 9ου εστιν η παρουσια κατ ενεργειαν του σατανα εν παση δυναμει και σημειοις και τερασιν ψευδους 10και εν παση απατη αδικιας τοις απολλυμενοις ανθ ων την αγαπην της αληθειας ουκ εδεξαντο εις το σωθηναι αυτους 11και δια τουτο πεμπει αυτοις ο θεος ενεργειαν πλανης εις το πιστευσαι αυτους τω ψευδει 12ινα κριθωσιν παντες οι μη πιστευσαντες τη αληθεια αλλα ευδοκησαντες τη αδικια (2 Thessalonians 2:5-12 WHNU)
Not you remember that still being toward you these I was saying to you? And now the one holding down you know for the to be uncovered him in the of himself season. The for mystery already operates of the lawlessness; alone the one holding down now until the middle he might become. And then will be uncovered the lawless, whom the Master Jesus will kill in the spirit of the mouth of him and will abolish in the appearance of the presence of him, whose is the presence by operation of the adversary in all power and signs and marvels of lie and in all deception of unright to the ones being destroyed, against which the love of the truth not they welcomed for the to be delivered them. And through this sends to them the God operation of deceit for the to trust them in the lie, that might be judged all the not ones trusting in the truth but having thought well in the unright. (2 Thessalonians 2:5-12 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
Whom does this deceiver deceive? It is only those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Do you see how precise God’s way is in this? Those who fall for the lie, the deception, and follow the Antichrist to their destruction are a specific group of people και εν παση απατη αδικιας τοις απολλυμενοις ανθ ων την αγαπην της αληθειας ουκ εδεξαντο εις το σωθηναι αυτους (and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.) The Greek states that they ‘received not the love of the truth.’ What does that mean? The words ουκ εδεξαντο, translated here as ‘not they welcomed’ or in the ESV as ‘they refused’ speaks of a deliberate and ready action. In other words, they ‘reasoned’ it out and deliberately chose to follow the lie and accept the Antichrist and reject the truth. His appearing coincides with this apostasy. However, we learn in v11 that God actually sends them a ‘strong delusion’ in order that they will believe the lie and be condemned. Remember, these people love not the truth. They have already rejected it. They may very well be professing Christians. They may very well be pastors of large churches and so-called Christian leaders. They and their followers will turn from all pretense of the truth to the lie and follow the Antichrist to their destruction. They are already being prepared for this. All that needs to happen is the appearing of this false Christ, the delusion, and they are gone.
What are we to do my brethren?
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 ESV)
First, we are in Christ because of the good work of God to save us. We are His firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit. Because of this, we have believed the truth unlike those who are condemned who refused to believe it. We were called through the Gospel. In light of this and by His grace we are to ‘stand firm’ as we ‘hold to the traditions’ which have been taught to us through the Word of God. The words ‘stand firm’ is the Greek word στηκετε. It means ‘to persevere,’ however, this verb is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. This is a command to remain faithful continuously at all times. The word ‘hold to’ is one Greek word, κρατειτε. It describes the action of holding fast to something and here it is also in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. Therefore, as we stand firm in our faith, we will also hold fast to the truth and traditions (παραδοσεις) that we have been taught. In other words, we do not look for new revelation like those seeking their ‘new messiah’ or ‘avatar’ that will bring unity and peace. Oh yes, when our Lord does return, he will change everything, but in between that and now comes the Day of the Lord and it is a time of darkness and deception. We are to hold to the great truths given to us in God’s Word. In place of agitation and change, we remain strong as we firmly stand on the Rock. Those who remain faithful are saved while those who fall away into following the man of lawlessness are deceived and condemned.
Let us resolve to know God’s Word, follow it, live and walk in it, and love our Saviour and one another. Let us love God’s truth and reject any teaching that adds to it or changes it or takes anything away from it. This is why we cannot abide with those who ‘edit’ the Gospel. They have not loved the receiving of the truth so they attempt to change it to please themselves to their utter destruction. This is how we stand firm and will not be deceived while all those others will follow the man of destruction to their doom.
Soli Deo Gloria!