Further Sojourning…Now Through 2 Thessalonians, Pt. 4

Further Sojourning…Now Through 2 Thessalonians, Pt. 4

Study Guide, May 12, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

In thinking about previews of Heaven, I was thinking about that feast the Chapel had for the Town employees Thursday. Not only was it a great feast, but ‘feasts’ themselves are previews of the ‘feasts’ of Heaven. Why, even the Millennium starts off with a great feast…the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! I’ve been putting in my requests for the feasts of Heaven for some time now…so go ahead and put in your requests. God will either say yes or no, or “You’ve got to be kidding!”

But ever since we started our sojourning through the letters to the Thessalonians our minds have been filled with the wonders and the anticipation of Heaven and the things related to preparing for Heaven. Over and over the Apostle Paul tells us that these prophetic teachings are to be great encouragements for us all, for even though God’s people will always have to deal with troubled times and trouble makers in this short life, knowing more and more about the things to come for God’s people in God’s Kingdom equips us both to better deal with whatever comes our way now, and to also thrive in our victorious faith in the midst of it all.

So this brings us to one of the most significant and revealing prophecies in the Scriptures concerning the events of the End Times. Let’s look: 2 Thess 2:1-6- “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.” NASU

Is this a boatload of prophetic cargo here or what? And there is no flotsam or jetsam here! That would be good names for twins, don’t you think? This is ‘Flotsam’ and this is ‘Jetsam’. I was recently watching a program where they were on a boat talking about that. ‘Flotsam’ refers to the floating wreckage of a ship. And ‘Jetsam’ refers to cargo that is thrown overboard to lighten the load of a ship in danger of sinking. So, maybe those wouldn’t be good names after all. Anyway, I just thought you would like to know that for when you’re out talking some ‘boating lingo’.

Anyway, in this short passage the Apostle speaks of the Return of the Lord, the Rapture of the Church, the Day of the Lord, the revealing of the Antichrist, the Abomination of Desolation, the change of the present ministry of the Holy Spirit to return to pre-church ministry, and…and a reference to what could be the answer to the question of: Just what is the end game of AI…what will be the culmination of the activity of Artificial Intelligence in relation to Humanity? This passage deals with all of that? It certainly does. So let’s sojourn before we adjourn.

Remember, in Paul’s first letter to these Thessalonian believers he encourages them with the revelation of the Rapture of the Church. But in the meantime, others had discouraged them by writing and talking about the events of the End Times in such a way that they thought something was wrong, as though the Tribulation times had already begun. And thus, Paul lays out this picture of End Time events to both calm their fears and to fill in this prophetic picture even more.

Now then, his wording of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” is very important, as it gives us a contextual clue to the other revelations he gives. Like what? Well, historically there have always been two scenarios given as to what was meant when Paul said this: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” And the reason there have been two different scenarios is because the Greek word for ‘apostasy’ can be translated two different ways.

In the first scenario the Greek word for ‘apostasy’ or ‘apostasia’, can be translated as ‘a falling away’…even ‘a rebellion’. So in this sense Paul would be saying that the times of the tribulation, which is the beginning of the times referred to as ‘the Day of the Lord’, which is a period of time following the Rapture of the Church and even to the final conflict of the Millennium…he says this will not happen until there is a great falling away from the faith. Now this word ‘apostasia’ is more than just a wholesale neglect of truth or just the historical distortion of beliefs about God and the habit of people to follow their own ways in disobedience and ungodliness. For that has characterized mankind since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden.

Rather, this ‘apostasy’ points to an ‘abandoning of a position that was once held’. It is a particular rebellion that takes place within the professing church. It is characterized by so called Christians or professing only Christians, but not possessing Christ, replacing Biblical doctrines with cultural preferences. We see this described in 2 Tim 3:1-5- “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” NLT

Paul is pointing out that this ungodliness in both beliefs and behaviors is coming not only from within non-religious settings, but also from within ‘religious settings and from people who profess to be religious…from within the bounds of what is called ‘Christendom’. We have seen much of this happening especially from the early 1900’s on, where Universities and Seminaries and Churches that once held Biblical worldviews have drifted off and have fallen away into Humanistic teachings and immoral cultural behaviors. And this drifting of doctrines continues to worsen in our own country and around the world. In Barna’s research, their findings show that less than 10% of professing Christians even in Evangelical churches have a clear Biblical Worldview that defines the way they believe and the way they conduct their lives.

So, yes, the world has been falling away from faith and obedience to the Lordship of Christ since the days after the Fall, but now, in these Last Days, there is a falling away and a rebellion against even the inerrancy and the authority of the Bible from within Christendom itself. So, again, this scenario is very apparent even now, and will become even more apparent as we see the Return of our Lord getting nearer and nearer. And there are many solid Bible teachers and commentators who support this explanation. However, there are other solid Bible teachers and commentators that explain that this scenario can also be included as a part of an even greater picture of what the Apostle is revealing to the Church here. And by filling in the rest of this picture, it reveals an even greater reason for encouragement and inspirational living for all those who are looking for the Blessed Hope, looking for ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.’ Let’s look at this!

Again, the Apostle told these Thessalonikans this: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” Now, in the other fifteen times in the New Testament that this word of ‘apostasia’ is used, three of them refer to a falling away from the faith, and the others refer to a ‘departure’ or a ‘disappearance’. It’s remarkable that the first seven English translations of the Bible, like the Wycliffe Bible, the Tyndale Bible, the Geneva Bible, and such all translated this word as either ‘departure’ or ‘departing’.

So, what we have in this second scenario is a scene where in the context of both of these letters, Paul is still talking about the Rapture. In Paul’s first letter he revealed to these believers that they were to be encouraged over the fact that a great gathering of the Church…the Church’s departure from the Earth, was being prepared for by the Lord Jesus. It would occur before the period of the ‘wrath of God’ which is coming upon Earth in the end times. Again, because of some influence they were confused about the timing of this, so in this second letter Paul reminds them that this ‘gathering unto the Lord’ would come before this period of the ‘Day of the Lord’. In fact, he said, it will not come until a particular sign came first. Yes, a ‘falling away’ from faith would be a sign…but that is pretty general by itself, and it has been going on for a long time and in various ages and stages. But what would be definitive enough to constitute a clear sign? If this ‘apostasy’ was referring to the ‘departure’ of the Church, as Paul had been talking about in his first letter and now his second letter, then that would be as clear a sign as could be, as well as being as encouraging as could be for all believers.

Therefore, if when these Thessalonian believers read this letter as: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the departure (the Rapture of the Church) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” then their fears would have been completely relieved, and their faith completely encouraged! And, so is ours, if we include this scenario in this revelation. The remarkable thing is, either way, the Rapture is still going to precede the appearance of the Antichrist and the Tribulation period upon the Earth. What great hope and daily encouragement this gives God’s people as we watch a world decaying before our eyes morally and mentally and physically and spiritually. You know, when Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, we know that the Disciples wanted to go with Him. Well, one day, soon and very soon, we all will!

So now, following this gathering, this catching away, this Rapture of the Church, yes, then the man of lawlessness is revealed. As to how soon after the Rapture the Antichrist shows his hand…that timing is not specified. And the reason there could be some period of time in between is because of Ezekiel’s prophecy of a war in the Middle East he calls ‘Gog and Magog.’ This is not to be confused with the final world-wide conflict of Gog and Magog at the conclusion of the Millennial Kingdom. That is the final rebellion before the Eternal Kingdom is ushered in. So keep this in mind, that there are two ‘Gog and Magog’ battles ahead. And each of these require their own studies, so we’ll just point out that in Ezekiel’s prophecy what is very striking is that he points out that this victory will have an impact on some of the people of Israel, but on others…well, let’s see. Daniel informs us that something happens between Israel and this man of lawlessness that Paul speaks about, and it is this: Dan 9:27- “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” NASU

So here we have a covenant that the Antichrist makes with Israel, then a break in the covenant in the middle of that period of time, and then the abomination of desolation occurs. In Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks, he not only reveals the timing of the death of the Messiah, but also the timing of the final years of tribulation upon the Earth. And he also reveals something that begins the timing of the period called ‘The Tribulation Period’. And what begins it is not the Rapture of the Church, which certainly precedes it…and then it soon follows the Rapture…but what starts the countdown of the 70th week of Daniel, and the specified number of days that the Apostle John points out in the book Revelation, which equals 7 years, is this covenant that the Antichrist makes with Israel. Once this covenant is signed, then…the final countdown of these 7 years of Earth’s history begins before the King descends to where He once ascended from on the Mount of Olives.

How amazing indeed! Plus, how just like our Lord Jesus to physically return to Earth exactly to the very place He physically left the Earth! Zech 14:4-9 “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.” NASU

Oh yes! The King is coming! As sure as we are sitting here today, the Lord Jesus is going to stand again on the Mount of Olives when He returns to Earth with both His angelic army and His raptured saints. In the meantime, we are to be getting ready for His return…getting ourselves ready, getting our families ready, getting our churches ready, and helping whosoever will in our communities get ready for the return of the King. As we like to say, every day is training time for reigning time…even days like Mother’s Day. And Mothers love prophecy…they are really good themselves at predicting things, so I thought they would be okay with us continuing our prophetic study here…

We’ll explore those other prophetic wonders that we pointed out further in our next study.