2 Thessalonians 2, The Gathering Together to Christ

INTRODUCTION: Paul is very much aware that waiting for the return of Christ while in the midst of severe persecution can be very difficult, but confidence in the Lord's promises should sustain our hope for our future with Christ. Christians should have no concern that the day of Christ has come about in some secret manner since Paul has taught that the event will be unpredictable as to when it will come, but also unmistakable when it happens. Therefore believers should continue in good works as they wait patiently for the Lord's return.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


A - CONCERNING THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

2 Thessalonians 2 "1 Now, brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him, we ask you 2 not to be quickly shaken in your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by letter as from us, saying that the day of Christ had come."

COMMENTS: Paul now turns his attention in this letter to the core of the concern that motivated his second letter to the Thessalonians. He does not want them to be troubled by their own thoughts and rising doubts about the timing of the coming of the Lord that will result in the gathering together of Christians to him. Whether there is something in their own spirit, or something they heard from someone else, or even if they had been told that Paul had written about this in another letter to them; he wants them to now have a letter that they can be assured had come from him. Somehow the word had started spreading among them that the day of Christ had already arrived. This would be especially distressing to those who remained in the same day to day struggles of life, if they believed somehow they had missed the gathering together with Christ at his coming.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians he encouraged them to continue bearing fruit up to the day of Christ. Philippians 1 "10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ; 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Our opportunity in this world for bearing the fruit of righteousness through Christ will be complete at the day of Christ, and this is the hope that needed to be reassured in the hearts of the Thessalonians.


B - THE FALLING AWAY MUST COME AND THE MAN OF SIN MUST BE REVEALED

2 Thessalonians 2 "3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 he who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself up as God. 5 Don't you remember that, when I was still with you, I told you these things?"

COMMENTS: Paul puts into writing things that he said he had told them while he was with them, and he wants them to have complete confidence that none of those things previously taught by him have been nullified. The departure, or falling away, will come first, and then the man of sin will be revealed. This will be the man of destruction, who opposes the true God. He will exalt himself to take the place of all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he then sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself up as God. The Thessalonians may not have been able to easily determine whether the specific falling away was present, or whether the man of sin was at the temple which was a good distance from them; but they did know that they had not yet been gathered together with the Lord, so their time to bear fruit for him was still in operation.

Paul wrote this second letter while there was still the temple of God at Jerusalem as the place of the God of the Jews, and Paul made no allusion in his letter that there would be an alternative to that man of sin using the very temple of God at Jerusalem for this heinous purpose. The first temple built by Solomon had been destroyed by the Chaldeans during the final carrying away to Babylon, and then rebuilt over a period of decades after the seventy year captivity ended. That temple stood for centuries to see the first coming of Christ.

A temple in Jerusalem is a key element for the appearing of that specified man of sin. This factor about the temple now has different significance since the second temple was also destroyed, probably within several decades after Paul had written this letter to the Thessalonians. Those Christians who read Paul's letter today need not be concerned about when the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, because the "gathering together" will take place despite any other events that are in opposition to God.

Though we cannot know what Paul taught in person, he had written some detail about the second coming of Christ that was included in his first letter to the Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians "4:15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God's trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. 5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 3 For when they are saying, "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape."

Even with the earlier assurance in the first letter, of meeting the Lord in the air, and that Paul had said they did not need something written about the timing since it would come without warning like a thief in the night; he addressed in his second letter the need to again refute the deceptions of the enemy of our souls. This is just as true for the believers of today who need reminders from scripture about their security in Christ. When the Lord comes all those who have died in Christ, and all those who are alive and have trusted Christ, will be gathered together to be with Christ forever. That is why Christians can comfort each other with this truth even if there are periods of time that hold great difficulty and suffering in this present world.

Paul also wrote this, Romans 8 "16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us."

There are other scriptures, including some from other apostles, that speak of the promise reserved for those who belong to Christ, who will enjoy that promised gathering together at the time of his return. Paul wrote that same message to other churches. Colossians 3 "4 When Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory." 2 Timothy 4 "8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."

Peter provided the same expectation in his first letter. 1 Peter 1 "7 that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ: 8 whom not having known you love; in whom, though now you don't see him, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory - 9 receiving the result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." In Hebrews we have a clear prophecy of a second appearing of Christ. Hebrews 9 "28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without sin, to those who are eagerly waiting for him for salvation."


C - THERE IS ONE WHO RESTRAINS UNTIL HE IS TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY

2 Thessalonians 2 "6 Now you know what is restraining him, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness already works. Only there is one who restrains now, until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will kill with the breath of his mouth, and destroy by the manifestation of his coming; 9 even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 and with all deception of wickedness for those who are being lost, because they didn't receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 Because of this, God sends them a working of error, that they should believe a lie; 12 that they all might be judged who didn't believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

COMMENTS: Paul said that the Thessalonians knew what was restraining the appearance of the lawless one, so he must have taught about this while he was at Thessalonica, since there is no clear mention about this in his first letter to them. When this servant of Satan is revealed, he apparently will have only a permitted season, or length of time to operate, after having been previously restrained. The hidden or disguised secrets of lawlessness are already in operation, but the full impact will not be in effect until the one who restrains is taken out of the way. After that happens the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will kill with the breath of his mouth, and destroy by his clear and obvious appearing. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan who will enable him to have ability to create false signs and lying wonders, and to convince with wicked deception those who are being lost. This will happen because they didn't receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Paul says that the Lord will judge those who did not receive the love of the truth from God, by allowing them to receive even more deception to follow their own desires, and this is consistent with the words of the Lord Jesus. John 8 "42 Therefore Jesus said to them, "If God were your father, you would love me, for I came out and have come from God. For I haven't come of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why don't you understand my speech? Because you can't hear my word. 44 You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesn't stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and its father. 45 But because I tell the truth, you don't believe me. The apostle John also wrote this to the Christians. 1 John 3 "8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil."

The Lord's mercy has been rejected over the centuries, and those who refuse the truth will face righteous judgment. 2 Chronicles 36 "15 Yahweh, the God of their fathers, sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 16 but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of Yahweh arose against his people, until there was no remedy." The Lord Jesus, our God, spoke of his desire to gather a people to himself, but most refused. Luke 13 "34 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused!"


D - CHOSEN AND CALLED FOR GLORY IN JESUS CHRIST

2 Thessalonians 2 "13 But we are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth; 14 to which he called you through our Good News, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

COMMENTS: What a beautiful thing to consider that we like Paul, should always give thanks to God for our brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose them. Paul is not writing about a special calling only for the Thessalonians, so we can be assured that we who have faith in Christ were also chosen from the beginning. The Lord has provided salvation by setting us apart from the world by giving us the Holy Spirit, and by bringing us to believe in the truth of the word of God given by his prophets and apostles. Through the scriptures we have an abundance of evidence to maintain our belief in the truth as his Spirit within us continues to reveal it to us. And this is not that we obtained our own glory, but it is for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in another letter, 1 Corinthians 1 "29 that no flesh should boast before God. 30 But of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: 31 that, according as it is written, 'He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.'"

The apostle Peter began his first letter with these encouraging words of hope. 1 Peter 1 "1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen ones who are living as foreigners in the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy became our father again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn't fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, 5 who by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." We can be assured of our inheritance reserved in Heaven because it is not held by our strength or accomplishment, but rather it is guarded by the power of God until it is revealed in the last time.


E - STAND FIRM IN GOOD WORDS AND WORKS

"15 So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. 16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good work and word."

COMMENTS: Because of the things that Paul has covered to this point in his letter, he now encourages the Christians at Thessalonica to stand firm in their faith and remember his teaching, whether it was in person or by letter. Paul wants them to know that it will be the Lord Jesus Christ himself who establishes them in every good work and word. God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, will comfort the hearts of his children.

Other scriptures remind us of the source of our strength to stand strong in our faith. Romans 5 "2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Titus 3 "7 that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Peter tells us to prepare our minds for action. 1 Peter 1 "13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be sober and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 14 as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, 15 but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behaviour; 16 because it is written, 'You shall be holy; for I am holy.'"

Paul wrote to Titus as the leader of churches in Crete. Titus 2 "13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ; 14 who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works." That zeal for good works to honor the Lord should continue through out our lives as we see the day of the Lord approaching. Hebrews 10 "23 let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful. 24 Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching."


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Thank you Lord for the words written by Paul through inspiration of the Holy Spirit so I can confidently share in the comfort the Thessalonians received from his letter. In this day of such rapid and widespread distribution of human philosophies and false teachings, I need a solid source to stabilize my thoughts and my faith. I believe that I can fully trust that your return will not happen without the gathering together of all believers from the distant past and up to the time of your appearing. This guarantees that my inheritance with you is absolutely secure. I do not need to know every detail of how and when the key events will be brought to pass. It is enough for me to know that your coming will be unpredictable as to the time, but also unmistakable for believers when it happens. I thank you Lord that by your grace, I will not be among those who will be drawn in by even greater deception than is already prevalent in the world. While I wait Lord, may I always give thanks to you for my brothers and sisters who are loved by you because they are chosen by God. We have been provided salvation as you have set us apart from the world by giving us the Holy Spirit, and by bringing us to believe in the truth of the word of God to receive our glory only through our Lord Jesus Christ. May I stand firm and hold to the sound doctrine of all of the scripture, and encourage other Christians to do the same. Now I ask Lord Jesus that, as you have loved me and have given me eternal comfort and good hope through grace, that you would continue to comfort my heart and establish me in every good work and word. Amen.

2 Thessalonians Chapter 1 - Worthy to Suffer for Christ
2 Thessalonians Chapter 3 - Pray for the Spread of the Word of the Lord

Published 22 May 2012