2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
These verses seem to cover a period of at least 7 years depending on the viewpoint of when the Rapture occurs. I still hold to the belief, even though I have wavered at times, that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation or at minimum at the very beginning of the Tribulation. One thing to separate, the Bible is clear when the Tribulation starts. That is not included in these verses, but it is when the Anti-Christ brokers a 7-year peace treaty with Israel. Once that deal is done, the clock starts. The Rapture is a stand alone event with no specific timeline.
Nonetheless, these are topics that shouldn’t divide us. The Bible is very clear that those who trust in Jesus will meet Him in the clouds when there is a shout from Heaven, the voice of an archangel, and a trumpet sound. We discussed this in I Thessalonians 4. The Bible is also clear on the Tribulation, its events, its timeline, and that Jesus will literally come down to destroy His enemies at the end of the Tribulation and have a millennial (1000 year reign here on earth), followed by a new heaven and a new earth. Chuck Missler, speaking about the Tribulation and Millennial Reign, points out in his Daniel’s 70 Weeks book that, “Unquestionably, this is the most documented period of time in the entire Bible.”
It should be noted that Paul is writing this portion of letter as the Thessalonians thought they had been left behind, the Rapture had already taken place, and they were living in the “Day of the Lord”, i.e Tribulation when God’s wrath is poured out on the earth. Paul is reassuring them here that it was not the case. This is also good for our eyes to read and our ears to hear. His first challenge: let no one deceive you (verse 3). This is a great challenge in and of itself as Satan is wicked and is always seeking to stray us from truth. Fear does not come from the Lord, therefore, it comes from Satan. The Thessalonians were fearful they were left behind. Paul goes on to say that Day (again, “Day of the Lord”) will not come unless there are two things: a falling away and the Anti-Christ is revealed.
There are many references to the “Day of the Lord” in the Bible. It is referring to, as discussed above, when God’s wrath is poured out on the world. You will see it referred to as the Tribulation sometimes Great Tribulation or Time of Jacob’s Trouble (NOT Time of the Church’s Trouble which is another clue those who were Believers will not be present) which is specific to the last 1260 days or 3 1/2 years before the Millennial Reign. The falling away is a great deception of many that leads to apostasy. This is the world taking the Anti-Christ as God and worshipping him. There is no doubt we experience the groundwork being laid for deception in general and many churches and Christians believing lies. Mysticism is a huge aspect of this stronghold in churches across our country and world. There is a departure from Biblical-Doctrine, but we do not see the absolute fulfillment of this as described here. We should be grounded enough in the Word, though, to be able to identify these lies even though some are so very subtle.
Paul refers to the Anti-Christ here as the “man of sin…son of perdition.” Chuck Missler also points out in the same book noted above there are 33 titles in the Old Testament and 13 in the New Testament that all refer to the Anti-Christ. Verse 4 concludes a descriptive list of what the Anti-Christ will do. In short, he sets himself up as God in the Temple. Major note here: there is no Temple at this time. There is a lot that can be said about that. The Temple was destroyed in AD 70, but it is very ready to be rebuilt today. That will occur before the Anti-Christ sets himself up as God which is also the marker of the mid-point of the Tribulation. There are some who argue the Anti-Christ was described and fulfilled in prior history. That is simply not true. One has to consider this passage, Daniel and Revelation when referring to the Anti-Christ. Use Scripture to interpret Scripture is a theme here.
Verses 5 through 8a refer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Restrainer. The Holy Spirit was poured upon Christians at Pentecost and seals those of us who Believe. The Holy Spirit will be “taken out of the way” at the Rapture. That doesn’t mean people will not be able to choose Jesus during the Tribulation. It just means it will be more like Old Testament times. If people couldn’t choose Jesus during the Tribulation, there would be no point to the Two Witnesses, the angel speaking from the heavens, or the 144,000 Jewish men sealed to proclaim the name of the Lord. These are all found in Revelation.
In short, what Verses 1-8a are saying is “Settle down, you are not in the Tribulation since God is not pouring his wrath out upon the earth, there has not been a great falling away, and the Anti-Christ has not been revealed.” The rest of verse 8 refers to the end of the Tribulation when Jesus rides down on His horse with all the saints to destroy those who gather against the Lord in the Valley of Megiddo, ie Armageddon. This is literal and not fanciful.
Satan does have power and the ability for signs and lying wonders. Satan counterfeits God. The Dragon (anti-God), the Beast (anti-Christ), and the False Prophet (anti-Holy Spirit) are the counterfeit trinity. We can also read in Exodus when Pharaoh’s magicians were able to make their staffs as snakes. These are just a couple examples. Nonetheless and like never before, Satan will be allowed to deceive. The reason for this is they did not receive the love of the truth, verse 10. Again, we see love and truth coupled together. Because they did not receive the love of truth, He will send them strong delusion. This is hard to understand when we live in an age of grace. I will again refer back to Pharaoh in Exodus. Because of Pharaoh’s continued defiance, God hardened his heart. There will come a time when God will be done with this world. He has done everything He can. He will send his Son to snatch up those who believe, remove the Holy Spirit, and pour out His wrath upon this world in order to cleanse it for the Millennial Reign. Unfortunately, there will be another falling away at the end of the Millennial Reign but will usher in the New Heaven and the New Earth. We get to choose today how we will participate in these events.