2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 NASB (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,”
This kicks off with Paul writing to the Thessalonians, a body of believers, which seem to be in a panic because someone has sent a letter to the effect that the day of the Lord has already come. They are convinced at this point, that they have missed the bus. Considering how intense life will get immediately after the rapture happens I could understand why they might go into panic mode.
A thought as I make this introductory statement. Almost two thousand years after this letter was written, I can boldly say, they were not thrust into the time of wrath, spoken of in Revelation, but, if their lives were anything like what we have seen in the Middle East and North African nations, life tends to get real ugly at a moments notice.
What is the day of the Lord?
- The day that he comes in the clouds and we go up to meet him in the air.
- The other would be his physical return to the earth as the avenging Messiah.
Hoping to escape some nightmarish time of tribulation, as a believer, my understanding would be the one that applies most closely to me. This appears the same understanding that the Thessalonians applied. But we have a problem; it is one of those glaring arguments, like the one pointed out to me recently, in which God never promised us that we would not have tribulation. Jesus made this clear when he said, in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world [John 16:33]. So really, the problem is one we created when we assigned the word tribulation to a period in which the specific purpose is the pouring out of wrath (judgment) upon the nations and Israel for their rejection of the Lord.
All you have to do is mention end times or Revelation, and immediately the mind screams out the word tribulation. Hostile theological debates rage on a daily basis about whether we are destined to be pre, post, or mid tribulation believers (as if it is not happening as we speak). All you have to do is ask the saints that are survivors of Islam’s murderous onslaughts in the Middle East what they think. I wonder how they would classify it. If the question was, when will the church be raptured, pre, post or mid tribulation, they would probably tell you post tribulation. It really is relative is it not?
Most of us here in the United States do not have a clue about what deadly tribulation looks or feels like; many still believe that our government will protect us. Our naivety and complacency will allow vast numbers to be killed unnecessarily. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 Moffatt NT (6) “Well, you can recall now what it is that restrains him from being revealed before his appointed time. (7) For the secret force of lawlessness is at work already; only, it cannot be revealed till he who at present restrains it is removed.” Something is undeniably missing from this formula, and that is the clear definition of what it is that restrains him (the anti-Christ) from being revealed. However, we have a huge clue in that Paul calls this restrainer ‘he’. A quick round-up of possible suspects:
- The Holy Spirit – the problem with identifying the Holy Spirit as the restrainer is that we see the activity and evidence of the Holy Spirit on the earth after the church is gone.
- Christ himself – that does not work for Christ’s work is completed, and he is sitting at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us
- There is no one person that fulfills that role – sorry to disappoint fans of the pope.
- Therefore, the only reasonable explanation left is the church. What makes that more plausible is that Christ is in us. Colossians 1:27
Therefore, it is possible that the main player in holding back the anti-Christ is Jesus living in us. That tends to push us to the forefront because we are his hands and feet on this earth. Given the time and space, one could back this concept up with Jesus words multiple times. I will give you one, from the mouth of Paul.
Ephesians 2:10 ISV “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in the Messiah Jesus to perform good actions that God prepared long ago to be our way of life.”
Considering what I see in the less-than-mainstream news (There is much they will not show you on television, the reasons vary.) The level of violence against the common man is rising exponentially on what seems like a daily basis. Our President has intentionally opened our United States borders and allowed not only Islamic extremists, but also every form of violent offender. There are diseases that have come across the border on infected people who will have a deadly and widespread impact similar to the plagues in Europe, but again, the naive mind says that is not happening.
We, the blind sheep of the church, see these things that make us uncomfortable as tribulation, and they are, but the time referred to in Revelation as the seven-year period, are an mind-boggling time of wrath. An acquaintance of mine recently said, in trying to divert the conversation, “Besides, the first three and one half years of this period, nothing really happens.” Wrong, it is non-stop destructive punishment, escalating at the midpoint, as some entity begins a methodical slaughter of anyone not in compliance with worship of this thing called the beast. I suppose you have already figured out that this is Islam, for wanton slaughter of infidels, those outside of Islam, is their trademark.
So much for introductions:
I want to understand this passage [2 Thessalonians 2:2-3], so I have to stick with what scripture tells me, not theory, or conjecture, but truth and comprehension. Based upon what I have seen from Paul’s response, these people were seriously distressed that the rapture had taken place, but any clarity I had rapidly dissipates because of the terminology, “the day of”. This phrase shows up 163 times in 152 verses throughout scripture. If I narrow it down to “the day of the Lord”, it shows up 27 times in 26 verses. This particular phrase, “the day of the Lord” is decisively addressing Jesus return to the earth as the avenging Messiah.
Take the time to look up some these verses:
Joel 2:11… For the day of Jehovah is very great and terrifying, and who can endure it?
Amos 5:18… The day of Jehovah is darkness, and not light.
Zephaniah 1:8 … in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, …
Zephaniah 2:3 … it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.
1Thessalonians 5:2 “…the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”
2Peter 3:10 …But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;.. the heavens shall pass away
The phrase “the day of Christ“, may convey something completely different, as it is inaccurately translated. At least, that is what J. Vernon McGee said. Let us take a moment to see what we find.
2 Thessalonians 2:2 KJV (2) “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”
ChristG5547 G5547 Christos; from G5548; the Anointed One, Messiah,
The implication then is that Paul has referenced the coming of Christ as the Messiah, not his return in the air to remove the church from the earth. This would change the meaning in terms of timing, for with my traditional understanding it appeared that the main person involved in opening the door for the seven judgment years, would already be revealed, and that would tend to indicate a mid-judgment (tribulation) rapture. Everything I see in scripture indicates a pre-judgment rapture. Do you see how critical it is to use your brain, consider the context, and study out the words in their origins and grammar?
I said we have to consider the context, so that requires that we look at the entirety of Paul’s thought. In chapter one of 2 Thessalonians, Paul addresses the persecutions and tribulations that they are already enduring. These troubles are evidence of God’s righteous judgment. I know that terminology is hard to take, but it is our cross to bear. (Figure it out.) Paul explains the whys of the previous verses with, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 KJV (6) Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; (7) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: There is nothing about this passage that conveys Christ return to gather his own to him.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB (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,”
Compare this with: 2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV (3) “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”
The NASB assumes that they can call, what they obviously do not understand, it. The KJV placed the words, “that day shall not come” in italics, indicating that they are added for clarity.
If I do a rewrite, without the added words, how does it change the meaning?
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for… except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”
‘for’: hoti; conjunc. from neut. of G3748; that, causatively because.
‘except’: ean mē; see G1437 and G3361. ean; contr. from G1487 and G302; provided. mē; a prim. particle; not, that…not, lest (used for qualified negation). if not, that is, unless.
Clarified -provided that.
‘there come’: erchomai; a prim. vb.; to come, go.
‘a falling away’: apostasia; Feminine of the same as G647; defection; apostasion . Neuter of a (presumed) adjective from a derivative of G868; properly something separative, that is, (specifically) divorce: from G868; defection, revolt.
‘and’: a simple word in the Greek. Kai, a primary particle having a copulative and sometimes a cumulative force; and, also, even, so, then, too, etc. So this verse could just as easily have said, then that man of sin be revealed,
Again, look at the verse with alternate wording:
Let no man cheat you by any means: because… provided that there come a separation first, and that man of offence takes off the cover, the son of ruin;
Is God divorcing us? You might think so based upon the word separation. No, we are engraved upon the palm of his hand.
If we focus on a separation as the definition, then we are looking at the Church (followers of Christ) separating from this earth. The only separation I am aware of would be the removal of the church. Yet, we could be looking at the church separating from God, or to a less dramatic extent, sound doctrine (P.S. I hate that phrase because it has manipulation built into it.)
2 Thessalonians 2:4 continues to expound on this son of perdition, or ruin. There is only one entity that gives any sense to this at all, and that is Islam.
“…and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 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.”
Is he (this man of perdition) here yet?
Absolutely, the problem is that most of us, with our (naïve) western mentality, do not have a clue about who this person is. As a heads up, many within Islam have stated that they are channeling the Mahdi, and a few have openly declared that they fulfill that role. The important thing to understand is that the things necessary, prescribed in scripture, have been fulfilled, but the things – Islamic prophecies describing his advent and the cataclysmic destruction that brings him on the scene – are happening before our eyes.
There is a 2005 video in which a young man tells of a dream he had of the rapture and associated chaos that ensues (he had the dream in mid-eighties). “I Saw the Tribulation” – Ken Peters; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2owHVfZlDg (This video immediately registered in my spirit and made my hair stand up.) In the dream he spoke of things he could not understand (Everyone seemed to have small, white devices upon which this man’s face appeared [this makes sense now as so many have Iphones and Ipads]. There were large monitors every where that people gathered and along the freeways, something we could not have imagined in 1980’s, and they all broadcast this man’s face and speech.) There was a power outage that lasted several weeks; but it seems the biggest impact was to computers and their ability to communicate (This may well have been the internet going down, quite possibly from an EMP blast.) When power was restored, a man appeared on everyone’s screen, including screens along the freeway and in public places. Keep in mind that no one had laptops or ‘Ipads’ back then, and none of us had cell phones. The technologically advanced had pagers. Freeways had billboards, but I would have never imagined led screens that have a quality like a television. The man who appeared on the screens spoke smoothly and calmly. He was very charismatic, and told everyone to calm down, and that he had everything under control. People followed him as though they were mesmerized.
When I try to build this puzzle called end times prophecy, it does not work completely because I, nor you, have all the pieces, but we have enough to get a clear picture of what is coming.
As I tell these things to others, and some of them lead bible study groups, they say things like, “why is any of this important to me, I won’t be here anyway?” Let me answer that with a question, “what, in this instance, is the good news of the gospel, Assurance!
Paul, speaking to the body of believers in Colossi, desired:
“..that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, (3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (4) I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” Colossians 2:2-4 NASB
[The Colossians, to whom this epistle is written, were not the Rhodians, by some called Colossians, from Colossus, the large statue of the sun, which stood in the island of Rhodes, and was one of the seven wonders of the world; but the inhabitants of Colosse, a city of the greater Phrygia, in the lesser Asia, near to which stood the cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, mentioned in this epistle.] John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
I added the commentary by Gill because of the association with the Laodicean church. The Laodicean church is the last church mentioned before the transition into Revelation chapter 4, which opens with, “after these things”, an indicator, in my mind, that the church age has ended. The Laodicean church is also the lukewarm church that is to be spewed out. Consider this in light of Matthew 25 where 10 virgins are invited to the same wedding. Only five of them had an adequate amount of oil, and while they were out shopping for more, in the middle of the night, they lost their opportunity to get in while grace held the door open.
He wanted them to comprehend the full assurance of understanding that comes out of an acknowledgement of the mystery of God and Christ. End times prophecy is a mystery to a huge percentage of the church, why do you suppose that is. I can tell you that I know very few that invest time in God’s word, and of the few that do, many are so entwined in tradition that when they find the truth they do not know what to do with it.
Everything is hidden in him (Him = Christ), an inescapable terminology, not because he wants to keep people from finding it, but instead because He desires that we find it. I believe this is one of the reasons we were told the parable of this man:
“…the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44 KJV
If the implications are that, the truth of God’s word is that treasure, then why do we choose not to pursue it with enthusiasm as this man did.
If you know your biblical stories, then you know about Ruth and Boaz. Following her mother-in-law’s instructions, she lay at Boaz’s feet; effectively saying I am available and willing to marry. Boaz already knew what a treasure she was, regardless of her being an unacceptable Moabitess (according to law). She went back home, maintaining her integrity, and mom tells her, sit tight because this guy will do everything possible to make this happen today, and he did.
I see end time prophecy, and the books of Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, and all the others that are there to give us understanding into what God is doing at this time, as this treasure. Yes, there is the treasure (so to speak) of life with the Father in heaven. Even though heaven excites me, especially since all pain and mental discomfort will be gone, I have come to understand, long ago, that I do not have to strive for this, and therefore rest in that knowledge. I suppose that could make me complacent about heaven, but the knowledge that there is no struggle there gives me reason to relax. I do not feel that we have any room to feel complacent about end-times prophecy. I want and need to understand what God has said to us, and what he is doing in the earth.
I lived most of my life just like all of you, in denial. Mocking the “conspiracy theorists” because it seemed unreasonable that someone would be that blatant about their plans and methods to reduce the earth’s population by any means, while securing elaborate lifestyles for the world’s economically elite, and put everyone under a solitary, global, controlling force (one world government), but there it is, happening before our eyes almost daily.
I have asked myself repeatedly how to deliver messages like this, and how should or could a message like this cause the reader/hearer to want to know my Jesus more. I am not sure, but I know I have to be obedient. Some could see a message like this as a need for fire insurance, desiring to avoid the wrath that is coming upon the world. Others hopefully see a need for a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the one who paid our ransom with his own blood and life upon the cross. It is easy to gain a life in the family of God, merely accept the fact that Christ died to restore you to life and that the life is with the Father in eternity. He desires a relationship of love with you and is willing to take you into his arms as you are.
 John Vernon McGee, Th.D., LL.D, (June 17, 1904 – December 1, 1988) was an ordained Presbyterian minister (PCUS) and later became the pastor of a non-denominational church, a Bible teacher, theologian, and was also a radio minister. He began broadcasting Through the Bible in 1967, and did so until his death.