by Mike Ratliff
8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 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. (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 NASB)
When I was a young Christian I was a Dispensationalist because that was what the churches I belonged to taught. 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 that eschatology or that the Church would be secretly Raptured away and miss the Tribulation or that the “Tribulation,” as it was being presented by those Dispensationlists, was Biblical. Why did I have these issues? At that time I did not really have any knowledge of other views of eschatology so I was more than a little concerned about these things. These eschatological teachings with which I had issues are structured to be popular and they are presented in a way that tickles the itching ears of the many rather than on what is Biblical.
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 we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NASB)
Then Paul explains the order of things:
3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 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. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 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. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 NASB)
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!