Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians …don’t be easily Troubled

Thessalonians

Sunday 10/17/21

Series: Maintaining this hope

Message – Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians …don’t be easily Troubled Pt. 1

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Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians …don’t be easily Troubled Pt. 1

As I told you the other day, Paul’s letters to the church of Thessalonica were not corrective in nature but were both written for encouragement and instruction.

I also told you that the return of the Lord was a foundational teaching in the early church. Paul was not with the Thessalonians very long at all before persecution sent them to Berea, just a little over 3 weeks really.  This further emphasises how terribly important understanding the Day of the Lord was and is! 

To put this in perspective…being honest with yourself, if you found yourself in the enviable position of being the first person to evangelize an area and you immediately came under opposition so that by three weeks in, you had to leave or your life would be in jeopardy…what do you believe would have been to focus of your instructing them?

I have to tell you, before this year, I doubt very much that the return of the Lord – MUCH LESS – all the other events in Revelation, would have been even on my list as more than a passing note.

Quite contrary to my former light treatment of this topic. Paul not only taught them on these truths during those 3 weeks, but then he dedicated   nearly half of his first letter to them regarding it and now, in this second letter it is the primary focus of all he says to them. 

THIS is important stuff!!!

You know when I was young and in a Southern Baptist church, they did actually talk quite a bit about the return of the Lord, but as far as I can remember, it wasn’t really attached to anything. It was just some nebulous, albeit exciting, future event, but it’s importance in my daily life was never mentioned so far as I can remember. So it always seemed to me to be a subject that got traction because of its spectacular, supernatural wow factor. I mean, everything else which was supernatural in the Bible was taught as something in the past – not something current for today. So, teaching on the rapture of the church, kinda snuck the supernatural back into the modern church as an event we would all participate in, and for this reason people liked it! For me, it seemed impractical and for that reason I took it kinda lightly. What I wanted to know is how to live successfully for Christ in the here and now, not a gospel about a future escape hatch from this life. Little did I know at the time that teaching regarding the rapture would do exactly that, if it was taught correctly!

Now early on in the year I told you 4 of the most used words associated with the return of the Lord. 

They were: 

  • Parousia – General, umbrella term
  • Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus
  • Epiphaneia – An appearing (used in many ways)
  • Apokalypsis –  Includes not merely that Jesus would be seen, but that He would be understood to be Who He really is! It is a type of unveiling!

Now, beginning in 2 Thessalonians the 1 chapter, we will see this topic mentioned almost immediately!

2Thess. 1:1-12, 

“(1) Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy: To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

(2)  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

(3)  We must always thank God for you, brothers, which is fitting, since your faith is flourishing, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.  

(4)  Therefore we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches–about your endurance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you endure.  

(5)  It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering,  (6)  since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,  (7)  and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. 

…and here comes our first word regarding the return of the Lord, and that is Apokalypsis… 

This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels,  (8)  taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”  

We need to see this in context of spiritual reality and the Kingdom of God.

From God’s perspective – that is to say, in reality – Mankind was made in God’s likeness and had perfect communion with Him from the beginning.

We fell from that heavenly relationship of fellowship and became subjects of a new lord – that of satan…who due to our actions and the position we held in creation, was promoted to the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that was now going to be working in all sons of disobedience.

Of course we know that God already had the plan for salvation through Christ in hand and told us so in prophetic words. He then began to establish His kingdom in the hearts of all who would submit to Him.

Fast forward to the cross and resurrection – now mankind can officially defect from satan’s kingdom and lordship, which immediately places a red ‘X’ on us while still behind enemy lines.

Due to our truly knowing God, we value Him above all other things, but the enemy tests our resolve in an attempt to cause us to defect once more to our total ruin. So we endure hardship, persecutions, scoffing and even death for the sake of our Lord and His kingdom of which we are now a part.

So it is only natural and healthy and consistent with God’s character to wrap up all earthly things with rewarding His dear children First, which of course requires that we be judged first. 

Then, He visits the trouble the sons of disobedience oppressed us with – back on their own heads. This IS the righteousness of God at work!

Also know that this is one reason why Paul was led to make a big deal of the ‘Day of the Lord’ among these Christians, because they received the message WITH persecution! 

Both the Spirit and Paul wanted these precious believers to know that their faith and labors of love, along with Paul’s labor in bringing the message to them in the first place were NOT in vain! It would all be rewarded and God would repay our self-designated enemies with destruction. 

So let’s read that last bit again before going on…

(4)  Therefore we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches–about your endurance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you endure.  

(5)  It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering,  (6)  since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,  (7)  and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. 

This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels,  (8)  taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”  

“(9)  These will pay the penalty of everlasting destruction, away from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength,  (10)  in that day when He comes to be glorified by His saints and to be admired by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed.  

(11)  And in view of this, we always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith,  (12)  so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now he said all of this by way of an introduction. So he starts addressing the real issues and reasons for this letter in chapter 2.

2Thess. 2:1-17, 

“(1) Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him: we ask you, brothers,  (2)  not to be easily upset in mind or troubled, either by a spirit or by a message or by a letter as if from us, alleging that the Day of the Lord has come.”  

As we will read in a little bit, all throughout the Old Testament, the Day of the Lord was presented as something which was TO COME and which was very, VERY scary if not understood in context. So, these poor people were being told, it was already here and it caused some concern & confusion! These people were under constant threat and persecution, so no doubt they interpreted the idea that the Day of the Lord was already here as if they were on the wrong end of that stick!

The passage begins with, Now concerning the Parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him.

The word “NOW” indicates a change in subject from Apokalypsis to what we would call Mara natha.

“(3)  Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

What day? Well most likely it means ‘the Day of the Lord’, which we will see as we continue, has some very bad things associated with it. Paul is here telling them it hasn’t come yet, and it wont until certain things happen first, beginning with the apostasy and the debut of the son of destruction.

Presumably, one of the things which leads to the apostacy is judgment beginning in God’s house. Those who have lived a comfortable and lazy Christian lifestyle will be challenged by God towards devoted passion and required to forsake their other loves. If they refuse, their hearts will harden and we are reading on Wednesday nights in Jeremiah, where that leads. 

“(4)  He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is God.  (5)  Don’t you remember that when I was still with you I told you about this?  (6)  And you know what currently restrains him, so that he will be revealed in his time.”

At this point the Thessalonians probably took a deep breath of relief, since they knew this had not yet happened! Paul next tells them that the process of bringing him forth is already at work, but he has not yet been revealed.

“(7)  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; but the One now restraining will do so until He is out of the way,  (8)  and then the lawless one will be revealed. 

The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and will bring him to nothing with the brightness of His coming [Parousia].”

Now, here is the first point on which we could get confused. The way it is presented here almost makes it sound like We wont get picked up until this wicked dude makes his debut, but as soon as Jesus comes to get us he will be destroyed. Making this guys career exceedingly brief. Thus is the difficulty in reading Jewish writing sometimes. This is NOT saying one will IMMEDIATELY precipitate the other, just that one will take place before the other.

The term parousía refers to the Second Coming of the Lord, but the Second Coming does not appear in scripture as if it were just one event taking place at a particular time, but rather a series of events which build on one another. 

Really it is the word ‘day’ that throws us off. The word day, in this context real means the time of the Lord… or the time when the Lord begins to judge His creation and bring things to a closure. 

Now, the way we can grasp which event is being referred to by ‘the day of the Lord’ in any one place is only by a careful examination of the context in which these various Greek terms parousía or érchomai ([G2064], to come) occur.  

“(9)  The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders,  (10)  and with every unrighteous deception among those who are perishing

They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved.  

(11)  For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false,  (12)  so that all will be condemned–those who did not believe the truth but enjoyed unrighteousness.”  

Here we learn a few important things.

  1. The coming (or parousía) of the lawless one is with false miracles, signs and wonders. These are not technological in nature… they are supernatural. 
  2. The target of these lying wonders are those who are perishing
  3. They perish because, in effect, they did not want to know God (sound familiar)?
  4. The reason they did not want to know God is because they loved their sin!

This is why it is hard to get me too worked up over the lost. They aren’t lost, like one who gets turned around through no fault of their own. They are lost and blind to the truth, because they did not want to know truth

They wanted their sin! 

I know we say it is a choice, but then we sometimes get suckered into feeling sorry for them like they didn’t know. But they didn’t know, because they didn’t want to…and THAT really is the point! They did not want to know God. Romans 1 says, 

Rom. 1:18-20, 28, “(18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness,  (19)  because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  (20)  For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.”

Continuing in 2Thess. 2:13…

“(13)  But we must always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  (14)  He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is through misunderstanding what Paul said here and in other key places that the doctrine of predetermination or unavoidable grace came from, but that is so obviously NOT what Paul by the Spirit is saying that it is downright embarrassing that such a doctrine has ever gained traction.

Based upon what did God, from the beginning, choose for these people for salvation?

It says in the very verse we are reading and it is by means of the complete opposite that God turned the ones in Romans 1 over to a debased mind. 

These people not only HEARD the call or the invitation, but they wanted to hear AND they believed it! It was due to God’s foreknowledge of these things that He chose them for salvation. 

“(15)  Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, either by our message or by our letter.  

(16)  May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, Who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace,  (17)  encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word.”

Now, you already know that eschatology just really isn’t my bag. 

I’ve never been particularly interested in it and I have often found it more than a little confusing. However, since the beginning of this year, this is changing thank God because I am beginning to understand that the early church placed a premium on it AND because we now understand why! 

It is because as we maintain our hope – our favorable expectation of His return, that we find our hearts moving in the direction of purification.

All that being said – some of it is still somewhat confusing. 

One reason for this is because of the very Jewish way in which these things are written. For example…when mentioning them, they are not always presented in a chronological order and sometimes they even seem to bounce back and forth between two or more of the events, with little segue to let you know it is happening. 

I also don’t believe I am in bad company, since the scriptures say phrases like “may the reader understand” or “may the reader have wisdom” or “it takes a mind with wisdom to understand” many times regarding this topic. So clearly, an accurate understanding of these things is not simply laying about on the surface for anyone to immediately grasp.

Just to offer you an example, in brief, which we will circle back around to in detail later. Consider what we’ve already read when we were in 1 Thess. 4 & 5

Paul told them that when Jesus comes for His church, those who have died in Christ will rise first. Then, those who are alive will join with them, to meet the Lord in the air. 

He also said that this event will be sudden and unpredictable but will not catch us off guard since we are children of the light and children of the day. 

Finally Paul said that it will happen because God has NOT appointed US for wrath. Which would indicate that the time of tribulation where God pours out His wrath on the world of the ungodly, will happen after we leave…that is, after the rapture.

However, when you go to the book of Revelation, it appears that the tribulation is already in full bloom when the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place. So, it can get a little confusing. 

In the end though…I believe there is more in scripture which seeks to commit to a rapture before the tribulation than afterwards, and that those places where it seems out of order, is because it is in fact presented outside of chronological order.

Now, I told you a few minutes ago that the Second Coming of the Lord  does not appear in scripture as if it were just one event taking place at a particular time, but rather a series of events which build on one another. 

To me, they all to fall into one of about 5 separate events, three of which have already happened. 

We’ll take a look at them next week…

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!