It's been said that Judaism is the only religion that has in it a commandment to the believers that they 'remember?. In Deuteronomy 8:2 it states, 'remember how the Lord your God led you on this long journey through the desert these past forty years.? It isn't just a call to remember for the sake of information, it is a call to remember and then live by what you remember. Interestingly, in the New Testament there is another call to remember, except this time we are encouraged to remember the future, to live in the light of what we know will come to be. A good father will seek to direct his children in anticipation of the things that will come, whether that be in finances, relationships or work or faith. Paul the apostle was this kind of father figure to a number of young Christians, it was he who encouraged the Thessalonians to 'remember the Future.? In 2 Thessalonians 2, verses 1 -5, he seeks to assure them of God's deliberate and securing hand upon them even as ruin comes upon the world. In this mornings message the main context is the assurance we can have in Christ, a context that does not come readily clear until verse 13. The bulk of the subject material that will catch our attention is a character that is clearly against God, has tremendous influence and is used by God as a punctuation mark in the panorama of redemptive history. Turn with me to 2 Thessalonians 2 as we look at the assurances that Paul offers the young
I. Remember the Future When The Present Becomes Clouded With Doubt.
Have a look at verse 5 again, everything that is in the first four verses they have heard before from Paul, these are things they already know about, regarding what is to come. But they are being shaken from their composure, it refers to the fact that their ability to judge soberly, calmly and impartially is being reduced. They are being disturbed, and what is it that's disturbing them? Paul says it is a variety of forgery, either a person prophetically speaking or a person teaching or preaching or a person who has written an epistle supposedly from Paul, all saying Christ is coming tomorrow. In all cases they are forgery for they have no value. That is the essence of what doubt is, it's holding something that is a forgery alongside something which has great value and being unsure of which is which. The effect upon the Thessalonians was not just confusion though, it was also an error in interpretation. They had read Pauls? first letter and now some were interpreting it as though the day was right at hand, at any moment. Paul had said that Christ would return 'suddenly?, the error was in interpreting this as ?immediately?. People were not working at their jobs because the end of time was at hand they thought. If that doctrinal error was not quickly corrected there would be all kinds of other fallout as the time passed and Christ did not appear. Last summer we took a boat down the
II. Remember the Future and That the Events Which Lead To It Come At God's Timing.
It's ironic that Paul comforts the Thessalonians with news of impending apostasy and persecution, telling them that the day of the Lord will not happen until these things happen first. Look at what Paul says lies ahead.
1. There will be a time of great apostasy?. In some translations it uses the words, ?a falling away?, the actual Greek word is ?apostasia?. It doesn't refer to the attack of non-Christian ideals and peoples upon Christian, it refers to a great defection from within the church itself. A great number who would claim Christ as their God and Savior will turn from Him, they will be deceived and will abandon their faith for any number of pressing issues. The church today is building up at a rate unprecedented in its? history, it has been estimated recently that there are about 3000 people coming to Christ each hour of each day. At that rate in twenty more years there will be at least 5 billion people claiming Christ. The time of apostasy will be when there is a great abandonment of belief in Christ from within the church because of deception. They may create a new Christ in their desire to accommodate social issues, they may create a new Christ that will fit better politically, whatever occurs, many will fall away. The point to remember here is that this too will be an event which occurs at God's timing.
2. There will be revealed a man of lawlessness? there will be a point in our future history when apostasy is reaching a climax that a man will step into the spotlight of world attention. He is described as, ?lawlessness? and, 'the son of destruction?. Certainly we have had political figures in the past that embodied these traits, but this one presents himself in a global arena as not just a world leader but also a spiritual entity, he exalts himself above every god or object of worship known to mankind. Never before has any human leader done what this one will do as he opposes every expression of worship previously held. The term lawlessness speaks of an awareness of law, specifically God's law, and a direct rejection of it. The term son of destruction or son of perdition refers not just to the havoc he will wreak but particularly the fact of his own ultimate destruction.
3. There will be an ultimate self declaration as god? there's much been said about the term temple, is it the temple of Jerusalem in days of old, is it a new temple that needs to be rebuilt before all this can occur, is it a figurative term referring to the church of Jesus Christ today, for your body is the present temple of God. Which ever interpretation you lean towards, even the latter one, the issue at hand is the attempted deification of a man to godhood, one claiming ultimate deity. We know that this person is not Satan, who is an angelic order being, a spiritual being not a human being. We also know that Satan desires to claim this very thing for himself too, that he would be god. We would conclude that the man of lawlessness is Satans? version of Christ, his counterfeit, his forgery. It would seem that whatever God has done in perfection and which He uses to glorify Himself, Satan in turn seeks to copy and do counterfeit of. Above all these things don't miss the word, 'revealed?, in verse 3. It is something which is exposed, something which occurs at God's timing and within the limits of His permissive will.
And so Paul exhorts them to remember the future, remember and act upon the things which we know will be, the fact that those who Christ calls to be His own He does not loose, the fact that He will gather us together to Himself, that He will be aware of apostasy and of the forgeries of Satan and that He will bring these things to an end. These were the assurances of a godly father to his spiritual children, they are also our assurances to our children as they remember the future.
Next week we?ll look at the man of lawlessness in greater detail and examine some of the sources of where Paul developed his understanding of this character we have come to call 'the antichrist?.
Rev. Spence Laycock pastors at Church of the Open Bible, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.