1 & 2 THESSALONIANS STUDY 10
Christ will come – evil will not conquer 2 Thess. 2:1-17
Scripture is consistent in refusing to put a date on the Second Coming of Christ. ‘The end-moment is highly classified information for the Father’s eyes only’ (Dennis Lennon). See Matt. 24:36. So all our thinking is to be subject to that clear statement. Yet there are to be indications of His coming, acting as pointers to keep us on our toes. So we must take the following passages very seriously: Matt. 24:3-8; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; Matt. 24:42-44. What mental pictures and situations do these verses conjure up in our minds? And what responsibilities do they spell out? What was the problem for the Thessalonians (vs. 1,2)? Most of this chapter comprises Paul’s response to their problem.
Note: You may want to carry the latter parts of this study of to next week.
First he writes about:
1. The man of lawlessness
Pick out the references to him in vs. 3-10a.
a. What sort of person emerges – his character? Attitudes? Actions? Note: commentators identify with the antichrist. See 1 John 2:18,22. It’s clear that in addition to the final antichrist, there are others through history who embody his attitudes and spirit. This is the ‘spirit of the antichrist’ (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7). What historical figures seem to fall into this category?
b. The ‘man of lawlessness’ has yet another description: ‘the man doomed to destruction’ (3) or ‘son of perdition’ (AV, RSV) or ‘doomed to perdition’ (NEB), (‘perdition’ and ‘destruction’ mean the same thing). It described the fate of Judas Iscariot (John 17:12) as well as this final figure. What connects the two? Prof. F. F. Bruce also sees a connection with some of the references to the ‘beast’ in Revelation (Rev. 13:5-8).
c. What acts characterise him in v. 4? It’s a pretty ancient attitude. Notice the trap the king of Babylon fell into (Is. 14:11-14). How has it characterised other men of lawlessness? In what ways can we find seeds of this in our own hearts?
d. Think about what restrains him (v.6). What does restrain lawlessness? What happens when lawlessness is no longer restrained? Think about the conditions which developed in history when law and order broke down or were removed. What is happening in varying parts of the world today where the rule of law breaks down? What signs do you see in our own society? What will happen if our crumbling structures broke down worldwide and a man embodying all these lawless attitudes in himself took over? Would it approximate to the ‘last times’ references we’ve already looked at? How does all this fit in with v. 7? And also the first clause of v.8?
Note: Commentators have various views about who or what restrains or holds back the ‘man of lawlessness’. It could have been:
i. The Roman Empire (‘what’ in v. 6 is neuter) – a symbol of law in the ancient world.
ii. The Roman Emperor, who personified the Empire (‘the one’ in v.7 is masculine). Remember how the stand for law and order in the Empire and Emperors gradually crumbled. i. and ii. then became symbols of the way successive governments and rulers will degenerate.
iii. The Holy Spirit. But this seems a strange way of referring to Him.
iv. The principle of law and government. Seen in Rome and through history to the present time.
The inevitable conclusion of the removal of restraint is total anarchy. How does this fit in with the developing world scene? Give examples.
e. In this ghastly scene what certainty does v. 8 hold out?
f. Think about further characteristics and actions of this ‘lawless one’ in v. 9. How does this tie in with Matt. 24:24? Why is it that his essentially evil nature can deceive those who are lost? 2 Cor. 4:4 may give a clue.
2. The followers of the man of lawlessness
Pick out the characteristics of these people in vs. 10b-12. Why is it right for God to act as He does in v. 11? Vs. 10b and 12 give a clear answer.
3. Followers of Jesus Christ (13-17)
As we, along with the Thessalonians, head towards the Last Day note how the believers are described, and the stark contrast there is with the unbelievers of vs. 10b-12.
Why will this difference become more and more accentuated as Christ’s return gets closer?
God knows that we need encouragement, hope and strength as we are confronted more and more by a lawless society. What means does God use to give us what we need?