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Archive for October, 2016

The Man of Lawlessness

October 31st, 2016

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God. Surely you recall that I used to tell you these things while I was still with you. (2 Thes. 2:3-5, NET)

It has been properly observed that God did not inspire prophetic sections of scripture in order that we may make calendars, but so that He can build character. Every generation of Christians has felt as though they were living in the final days of history before the return of Christ, and this is because the principles of sin and of righteousness are currently at work. In verse seven of the same chapter Paul wrote, “For the hidden power of lawlessness is already at work.”  So the issues that will result in the final showdown between God and the devil are already among us. We are already involved in spiritual conflict, as Ephesians 6:10-20 teaches us.

In the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, Paul presents his teachings on the historical figure he called “The Man of Lawlessness.” He is also known as “the Prince who will come” (Dan. 9:26 and Matthew 24:15), the “Antichrist” (1 John 2:18), and, I believe, can be identified with both the “Beast from the Sea” (Rev. 13:1-10) or the “Beast of the Earth” (Rev. 13:11-18).

In my book, How the Story Ends: Unlocking the Treasures of Revelation (available on amazon.com), I made the following statement:

The benefit to us in gaining this knowledge is that we might know and understand the depth of rebellion against God in this world. There have been many times when Christians have been overwhelmed by the evil in the world, when they were shut out of economic systems, deprived of personal ownership, hunted down and killed, their daughters forced into prostitution, their sons into military service for the persecutors of their parents, horrible things done those who believe in Christ. And we are seeing such things today through ISIS. Whether we are in the midst of the persecution or observing it from afar, let us take this to heart, that evil goes deep within the human race, and that it is inspired by a determined source of spiritual rebellion against God. (David Packer, How the Story Ends, p. 149).

We can take from this teaching of 2 Thessalonians 2, the following:

Evil shall only be completely defeated in a final victory by God. We cannot defeat evil by education, acts of mercy, social programs, or even by warfare. Sin goes deep within human life and regardless of the form of government or the specific leaders of government, sin will still be our reality. Injustices, prejudices, hatred, suspicion, envy, and every other problem that hurts and divides people will persist until the end. We are wise to get the best form of government possible, to elect the finest leaders, to educate and help people all we can, and this will certainly help our society, but it will not make the problems go away.

The problem is not just ours, but there is also a spiritual force of evil in our world. We humans are not the only players in this drama called history. The devil and his angels are also involved in our spiritual rebellion. He works to deceive us and turn our hearts away from God. He tempts, confuses, and lures us away from evil. He inspires hate and anger, envy and suspicion, prejudice and cruelty.

The desire of Satan is to replace God in the world. He tells a future prophecy that comes from Daniel 9:26-27 and was repeated by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, that the man takes his seat in God’s temple, declaring himself to be God. The desire of Satan’s heart was recorded in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Revelation 12:7-12 - he sought to take God’s place in heaven and was thrown down to the earth, “and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:9).

There will eventually become a great rebellion against God on earth. The word that the NET Bible translates “rebellion” is apostacia or apostasy in English. It means a forsaking, a turning one’s back on another. It, therefore, depicts communities and cultures that had traditionally been Christian turning their backs on Christ. It could have applied to the Jewish communities in Paul’s day, for many of them did receive Christ. It would have been a normal and logical thing for them to do so, since He came from and to His own people first. But others rejected Him and in so doing committed apostasy.

But in our day it also would apply to traditional Christian families and nations that turn away from Christ. It could not, in my opinion, apply to a Christian losing his salvation, because I do not believe that is possible. But certainly it points also to a weak and ineffective church leading up to the days of the return of Christ.

Applications:

  1. Be wise in how you deal with temptations. Know them for what they are - demonic perversions of God’s will. The nature of Satanic deception is to convince us that evil is good and that good is evil. Pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
  2. Do all you can to make the world a better place - vote for good laws, help one another, protect the environment, promote justice. But realize that only Jesus can make the world a perfect place.
  3. Do not put too much faith in politics or political leaders. Respect your leaders (Rom. 13), but realize that only Jesus can change the human heart. He will be the only perfect ruler that earth will ever have (Rev. 20).
  4. Make sure that you do not put yourself or your name above the name of God. Serve Him first.
  5. Do not be surprised when you see evil seeming to win. It will not always win. Christ will return.

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Do Not Be Alarmed

October 28th, 2016

Now regarding the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. (2 Thes. 2:1-2 NET)

In chapter two of Second Thessalonians the apostle Paul gives his clearest teaching of the rise in history of the person called the Antichrist. The purpose of his teaching was three-fold: (1) to assure them of the coming of the Lord, (2) to warn them of the dangers of the world - the temptations, etc., and (3) to instruct them about God’s future program of redemption. So, assurance, warning, and instruction were the three goals of this chapter.

Today we will look at the matter of assurance.

A false teaching had circulated in the churches, claiming to have originated from Paul, that the Lord had already returned. Probably the false teaching had envisioned a less victorious return, as though Christ was walking about on earth trying to gain loyal followers. This entire idea was a lie planted by the devil, the diminished the work of Christ, the glory of Christ, and the fullness of our salvation. Paul and the other inspired authors of the New Testament taught consistently that the return of Christ would be of such a magnitude that the whole world would know.

But it was especially important for Christians themselves to be assured in this area for Christ returns to judge and to claim His own. The Spirit of God works to assure the heart of each believer that the Lord will not forget about us. He will be faithful to save and redeem us fully.

The Bible speaks of the return of Christ in two different ways: a secret return just for believers and a glorious return with believers. The secret return we call “the Rapture” and the glorious return is properly called Christ’s Second Coming.

The Rapture: The Rapture is the instantaneous miraculous removal of Christians from the earth. Christ said:

Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left. There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left. (Matt. 24:40-41)

He described this instant removal of believers from the earth that is only possible by the power of God. The word “Rapture” comes from 1 Thessalonians 4 where the Greek word harpazo was used, and it literally means to be “snatched up.”

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thes. 4:17-18)

I believe the Rapture will happen prior to the Great Tribulation and prior to the rise of the Antichrist. I will explain that more tomorrow.

There is nothing else in the preparation of the Return of the Lord before the Rapture. It can happen at anytime, perhaps even right now before I complete this sentence, or before you finish reading it.

The Return of the Lord: Following a seven year period of worldwide suffering, the last three and a half years being called the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21), the Lord will return, as described in Revelation 19. The Return of the Lord will be glorious and witnessed by the whole world. He will then establish His rule and reign on earth for a thousand year period, the Millennium, and during that time the Old Testament prophecies related to the kingdom will be fulfilled (Acts 3:19-21; Revelation 20:1-6, Zechariah 14:1-21).

The Christian Confidence: Those who believe in and anticipate the Lord’s Return live in assurance of His victory. They live confidently for Christ, unworried about what the world throws at them. They also live life for Christ, and not for their lusts or for the world. “And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure” (1 John 3:3). They live also in confident hope in life. They know that death is merely a door through which we walk into eternity.

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