by Mike Ratliff
5 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NASB)
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 such as William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and John Calvin; Puritans such as John Owen and John Bunyan; and men such as Gordon H. Clark, 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. As I write this the Republican National Convention has ended and the Democratic National Convention is about halfway done. If you are a mature Christian with eyes on the prize what is going on in both of these political parties as well as the growing evil all over this world becoming more and more manifest, it can become a bit unsettling. 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.
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. 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. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NASB)
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.
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 2:5-12 (NASB)
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. The Greek states that they ‘received not the love of the truth.’ What does that mean? The words ουκ εδεξαντο, translated here as ‘they did not receive’ 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?
13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren 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 gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
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. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 (NASB)
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!