Last week we looked into Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. He prayed that they would be found worthy of the calling of God, that they would fulfill God’s goodness with faith. He prayed that Jesus would be glorified in them and them in Jesus.
Today, we’ll see that Paul shifts gears to address Christ’s coming.
I hope you’ll take the time to read 2 Thes. 2:1-3a. You can listen to the accompanying podcast here.
The first thing that we see is the false teaching. Paul taught very clearly in his first letter to the Thessalonians about the coming of the Lord. Remember in 1 Thes. 4 there was confusion about people of the church that had died or those that were asleep. Paul took the time to clear that up by describing what was to happen. I encourage you to go back and read 1 Thes. 4:13-18 so that you have a good context for what Paul addresses. Paul’s teaching is pretty clear.
So what are these verses in 2 Thes. talking about? Paul makes it clear in v. 1. It is the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him. So what is the coming and what is the gathering? As we have said before , we need a proper understanding of this so we won’t be confused. The second coming of Jesus has been a hot topic for years. If you Google it, you’ll get almost 3 million hits. The book Left Behind was written in 1995 and that sparked renewed interest in prophecy. A new book in the series was released every year with the last one being the Glorious Appearing. The books in the series have sold over 60 million copies.
So what’s all the fuss about? Paul was concerned enough about the confusion in the church to address it in this letter. Here’s Paul’s teaching. Coming is from the Greek word parousia that emphasizes both the coming and the presence of the Lord. Gathering together is from the word that means a complete collection. So is this verse talking about two different events; the coming and the gathering, or is it two different descriptions of the same event? We don’t know for sure. All we know is that Paul talked about the coming and the gathering together then he talks about the day of the Lord. With the teaching in 1 Thessalonians and the teaching here, all we know is that there was confusion about this event.
Why was there confusion in the church? Look at v. 2. Apparently there was some letter or some piece of information that caused problems that was attributed to Paul. It caused problems for them because of what Paul taught in 1 Thes. 4 particularly 4:15. Somebody was teaching that the day of the Lord had come. There are some great word pictures in this verse. Paul tells them, “don’t be quickly shaken from your composure.” Shaken comes from the word that is used to describe ships that are ripped from their mooring lines due to the pressure of a storm. Composure means the mind. Disturbed indicates they were in a state of anxiety or nervousness. They were freaking out – think September 11, 2001. We were ripped from our thinking that America was untouchable to an act of terrorism that great. We didn’t know what would happen next and America was freaking out.
What were the Thessalonians freaking out about? They were freaked out because of a “spirit or letter or message” that was in direct conflict with what they had previously been taught. Paul said don’t let anyone tell you differently that the day of the Lord has come. If anyone makes this claim, ignore it, don’t be concerned about it, you know the truth. It doesn’t matter how you get the word, if it’s different, don’t listen to it.
False teaching leads to confusion which leads to deception. Paul says, “Let no one in any way deceive you.” This is a pretty clear command. Paul is talking specifically about the day of the Lord, but the instruction has a broad application. Deception is widespread in Christianity today. The greatest deception, in my opinion is easy salvation. All you have to do is make a simple profession of faith. Whether or not that profession of faith produces anything Christ-like is irrelevant and judgmental. The church has lost her influence in the world not because Jesus isn’t who He said He was, but because we have people claiming to be followers of Christ who have no desire to be Christ-like. John says it pretty clearly in 1 John 4:5, “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” We’ve got people in the church that pay more attention to celebrities than they do their pastors. We’ve got more people that follow their feelings rather than the Word of God. Matthew Henry said, “Errors in the mind tend greatly to weaken our faith, and cause us trouble; and such as are weak in faith and of troubled minds are oftentimes apt to be deceived, and fall a prey to seducers.”
Deception is easy to combat if you can recognize it. Think 2 Timothy 2:15. It’s not good enough to have studied (past tense). This is supposed to be happening right now, not something you used to do, studying God’s word is what we are to be doing. This really shouldn’t catch us by surprise because Paul told Timothy, , “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4) In other words, people will ignore good, biblical teaching in favor of teaching that makes them feel good. People will find teachers that line up with their lifestyle. Teaching that says, you’re okay and God loves you just the way you are. Teaching that ignores or reclassifies sin.
One other passage. Referring to rebels Isaiah 30:10-11 says: “Who say to the seers, ‘You must not see visions’; and to the prophets, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions. ‘Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’” I think that’s pretty accurate for today. And finally, Paul says in Galatians 1:9, “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”
False teaching, confusion, and deception. This is a recipe for disaster in the church. What can we do to stop it? We can, “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 3) We can, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Tim. 4:2) We must, “Hold[ing] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (Tit. 1:9) As for me, I will “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” (Tit. 2:1)