2 Thessalonians 2:1
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”
One of the primary themes of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church is the return of Jesus Christ. Paul lived with the expectation that Christ would return in his lifetime, and urged others to always be on guard. He had warned in his first letter that, “the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Looking around at the condition of the world they lived in, through the lens of Biblical prophecy, had caused some of them to be alarmed, and even gripped with fear. Paul mentions how they were shaken in mind and troubled. The term ‘shaken’ would describe a ship being tossed to and fro by the raging seas. The word ‘troubled’ carries the idea of crying out for help. Paul had written to a group of Christians facing turbulent times, with the purpose of encouraging them with the “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Yet the message designed to give them hope, had actually robbed them of peace, filled them with fear, and was causing them to cry out in despair.
In my experience, this response is all too common. We look around at the present world conditions, and realize the sun is setting, and the day of the Lord is approaching. Because we do not fully understand what that entails, we are often gripped with fear, instead of being filled with expectancy, joy, and a new vigor to share Christ with friends and family. The Thessalonians were shaken and troubled because they misunderstood the Bible’s teaching regarding the return of Christ. Some thought it had happened and they had missed out. In an age without satellite TV, Google, or cell phones, news did not travel in real-time; rumors of what had taken place in a distant land could take weeks to verify. Paul wrote to assure them the return of Christ is imminent, but still ahead.
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…”
“The coming” is a translation of the Greek word “parousia.” This word was used to describe the visit of a king or dignitary to a city, in order to show his magnificence to the people. Paul is stating, King Jesus is coming back in all His glory to set up His kingdom and rule in righteousness. He assures them that before this event can happen, another ruler must appear on the scene. This ruler is called “the Man of Sin”, who will exalt himself as God. The Bible uses many different terms to describe this individual; the most well-known is the term Antichrist. Paul explains, before Christ comes back as King, the Antichrist will be revealed. If this verse stood alone, we might conclude that we should not be looking for the return of Jesus, but for the reign of this Man of Sin. Our eyes would be taken off Christ and His Word, and we would be searching the news feeds for information on world leaders. But this verse does not stand alone. Paul adds,
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
Notice the words “And then the lawless one…” it is after the restraining force in the world is removed, that the Antichrist is revealed. It is after this event that Christ will return from heaven, with a shout and set up His earthly reign. It is believed by many, that the restraining force Paul refers to, is the church. Paul is reminding us, the next event we should be looking forward to is the sudden and instant removal of the church from earth, and into the presence of the Lord. He described this event to the Corinthians as something that would happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).
Rather than being filled with fear, we should be living in expectancy; looking forward to the trumpet sound when Christ will call His church home to heaven.