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February 15, 2009


Background Passage: II Thessalonians 2:1-17

Lesson Passage: II Thessalonians 2:1-17




After a warm, gracious introduction to this epistle (Chapter One), Paul turned his attention to his central concern, the return of Christ.  The Thessalonian church had experienced a troubling upheaval because of certain misinformation about the Parousia, and, for the second time, Paul wrote to correct the theological errors. 


The first epistle strengthened the faith of those who feared an unfavorable fate for those believers who had died before the Lord’s return (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18).  Apparently, Timothy travelled to Thessalonica, and he returned with a good report about Paul friends.  However, after Timothy’s departure, false teachers may have stirred controversy again.  Verse Two, for instance, indicates that some form of false doctrine threatened the church, either a spirit (some kind of supernatural revelation), a spoken word (perhaps refers to some false accusation about the teaching of Paul), or a forged letter (someone may have written a letter to the Thessalonians and forged Paul’s name to the document).


This time, the controversy arose over the timing of the Lord’s return; indeed, some had claimed that Jesus had already returned, and, somehow, the Thessalonians had not known of his coming.  It proves very difficult to piece together the exact nature of this false teaching; however, it appears to have failed at the point of balance.  Paul taught that the Parousia would come quickly and unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, but, he also insisted that certain events must occur prior to the return (the great apostasy and the rise of the man of lawlessness).  Bible students must hold these two principles in balance.


The Bible, as I understand it, predicts that, at the end of the age, an evil man of great influence will arise to international prominence.  The apostle John referred to this man as the antichrist (See I John 2:18 and 4:3) and the Beast (See Revelation 13:1-18).  I John claimed the spirit of this evil man was already at work in the world.



Lesson Outline:


I.                   Important Commands for Those Confronted with False Teaching (vv. 1-4)

A.    “not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled” (v. 2): Paul made clear that the Thessalonian believers will gather, with the Lord, when Christ returns.  In light of this observation, the apostle directed these friends to refuse to allow false teachers to shake their faith.  “Shaken” translates a word taken from nautical terminology, a word that describes a ship tossed by violent storms.  Note that Paul highlighted the mind as the potential venue of this distress.  Furthermore, Paul did not want his readers to be troubled (this word denotes a continual state of agitation) by the things they had heard.  As stated earlier, Paul identified three possible sources of deceitful information: spirit (perhaps a false claim that Paul had received some revelation that preempted his previous teaching), by word (perhaps an indication that some teacher had challenged Paul’s doctrine through errant preaching), and or by letter as from us (this phrase seems to indication that someone had written a letter that he attributed to the apostle Paul).  Whatever the means of communication, these false teachers claimed that Christ had already returned.  Unfortunately, we do not know the exact nature of this heresy, but the Thessalonians were deeply troubled by what they had heard.

B.     “let no one deceive you by any means” (vv. 3-4): Paul anticipated the rise of “the man of sin” and a period of great apostasy as precursors to the return of Jesus.  The term “man of perdition” reflects Paul’s conviction that this man is doomed for destruction. The audacity of this man will reach its crescendo when he defiles God’s temple (perhaps a reference to his efforts to despoil the church) and sets himself up as God. 


II.                The Nature of the Great Apostasy (vv. 5-12)

A.    The man of sin: Paul had already taught the Thessalonians about this man, and he encouraged them to remember what they had previously learned. 

1.      at the moment, the man of sin was being restrained (v. 6): The text does not make clear what force restrained this evil.  Perhaps the text means that God’s sovereign purpose will prevent the antichrist from rising to prominence until the Lord’s appointed time. 

2.      the mystery of lawlessness is already at work (v. 7): In New Testament terminology, a mystery is something that humans cannot understand without divine revelation.  The power of evil, already at work in Paul’s day, will be revealed by God who restrains evil. 

3.      the Lord will, by the breath of his mouth, destroy the man of sin (v. 8): The Lord Jesus will defeat the antichrist at the time of the Parousia. 

4.      Satan stands behind the authority and power of the antichrist (v. 9): The man of sin is not Satan; rather, he is a man who operates in Satan’s power, a power that manifests in miraculous deeds—powers, signs, and lying wonders. 

B.     a brief description of those who fall victim to the antichrist’s deception (vv. 10-12)

1.      they will perish because they did not love the truth (v. 10): This phrase does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament. “The truth’ here must refer to the gospel, which these men despise and reject; therefore, they will perish by sharing in the destruction of the man of sin. 

2.      God will send them a strong delusion that they may believe a lie (vv. 11-12): These men, of course, will be responsible for their rejection of the truth, but God will remove all restraint from their unbelief and essentially seal them in the delusion and condemnation.


III.             Paul’s Prayer and Admonition (vv. 13-17)

A.    Paul’s prayer (vv. 13-14): The apostle provides a fascinating summary of the application of God’s redemptive work.

1.      “beloved by the Lord”: God’s saving work issues from the Lord’s character, his deep love for his people.

2.      “he chose you for salvation”: This phrase reflects the glorious and mysterious doctrine of God’s election.  The Lord did not leave his people in the throes of their in; instead, he chose to act in their behalf to bring them to grace.

3.      “through the sanctification of the Spirit”: In my judgment, this reference to sanctification does not refer to the believer’s progressive growth in holiness; rather, it denotes the Spirit’s work in setting aside the believer as a regenerate child of God.

4.      “and belief in the truth”: The child of God is not completely passive in the economy of salvation.  The Spirit animates the heart, and men respond to the Lord’s work by believing in the Lord Jesus. 

5.      “to which he called you by our gospel”: The Lord calls his people by the powerful operations of the gospel, and they believe the Lord’s revelation of Christ.

B.     Paul’s admonition (vv. 15-17): Once again, the apostle called the Thessalonians to steadfastness and perseverance.  Circumstances conspired to stager them, but Paul assured them that, by God’s grace, they could withstand the hardship.  He encouraged the Thessalonians to remain faithful to the traditions they had received.  To a modern audience, this reference to tradition may seem odd.  In this context, it refers to the sum of Christian teaching they had received from Paul, both oral (preaching) and written (I Thessalonians).  As we observed in our study of I Thessalonians, Paul wrote of the Parousia with the aim of bringing comfort and encouragement to his readers.