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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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).
- Make sure that you do not put yourself or your name above the name of God. Serve Him first.
- Do not be surprised when you see evil seeming to win. It will not always win. Christ will return.