2 Thessalonians Sermon Series:
Return of the King
“Don’t Be Deceived”
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Isaiah 55:10-13 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
What are we to make of a thorn becoming a cypress, and a brier becoming a myrtle? If I go out in my backyard and water the thorns, I get bigger thorns, but not God’s Word. The purpose of God’s Word is that it is transformational – it turns thorns into cypresses, turning a sinner to a saint. It is God’s Word that we base our lives upon, but what if we get it wrong? What if our understanding is skewed? How does that affect our lives? What if our doctrine is untrue?
The Doctrine You Hold (vv. 1-3a)
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way.
In the ESV is says, “we ask you” and is later in the verse, but in the Greek it says more empathetically, “we beg you” and it is first thing in the sentence. This is a vital matter, it is vitally important that they not be shaken or alarmed.
The new church had been taught falsely that “the day of the Lord has come” or is present. The Day of the Lord is a “fearful period of divine judgment” described at the end of 1 Thessalonians. It is the period of time predicted in the Scripture when God will deal directly with human sin, and “it includes the tribulation time preceding the second advent of Christ as well as the whole millennial reign of Christ. It will culminate in the judgment of the great white throne. The Day of the Lord is therefore an extended period of time lasting over one thousand years.”
They were confusing the difficulty they were experiencing with what was supposed to happen after Christ’s return and rapture of the church.
Why is it such a big deal if they believe this? What is the danger of them believing this false belief? To begin with, some within the church believed that they had missed Jesus’ return. Paul was clear in his first letter to the church would meet Christ in the air, and that the dead in Christ would be raised first. Paul was addressing their concerns about their loved ones and what happens to them, this false belief causes that fear to return.
Jesus evens deals with false teachings in Matthew 24:4-8 “And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” In this chapter Jesus goes on to outline what will happen at the end of time.
Another danger of false teachings is that they lead us to have fears and concerns that are not real. No one wants to be left behind.
Paul says, if you are claiming that God has revealed this to you, someone claiming a new revelation, then you are wrong “by a spirit,” or someone else has told this to you, then you are wrong, “or a spoken word,” and Paul flatly denies that he had written them a letter teaching this, “a letter seeming to be from us” or a forgery.
“Let no one deceive you in any way.” – the word for deceive here means an intentional purposeful deceit. Why is doctrine important?
Correct doctrine is important because it addresses the difficulties in our lives with truth. Having false answers to life’s hard questions is of no value, it doesn’t help you. A life based on a lie is foolishness. Paul even said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only (if Jesus were not raised), we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:10). Holding to the truth anchors us in the storms of life.
First Things First (vv. 3b-5)
For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
The church could not be experiencing “the Day of the Lord” because certain things have to happen first, Paul says, “For that day will not come, unless . . .”
There will be what Paul calls “the rebellion” – this is a worldwide “anti-God” movement. “This Greek word apostasia is transliterated into English as “apostasy.” It is also called “falling away.” It is used in classical Greek for revolt or rebellion. It seems to refer to a growing rebellion against God by unsaved men. It is as though Satan will push all his forces into one last despairing effort.
During this time a figure “the man of lawlessness” will emerge embodying everything opposed to God, and he will proclaim “himself to be God.”
“This individual “opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped.” His direct and determined opposition to the true God will be a leading feature on the continuing “rebellion.” It will be especially marked by the removal of the symbolic articles from the Jerusalem temple. The man of lawlessness will occupy the holy precincts in order to accept and even demand worship that is due God alone. This evidently is a Jewish temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem in the future.”
“The man of lawlessness” designates a false prophet, probably to be identified with the second beast of Revelation 13. His primary function will be to preside over the religious apostasy in cooperation with the beast of the sea (Rev. 13:1 ff.) who leads political opposition to God. Paul wrote these things as if they were going to happen in the future, so the Day of the Lord had not arrived while he was writing the church. 
“It is important to note, in this connection, that just like the apostasy will not be merely passive but active (not merely falling away from but also a rebellion against God and His Christ), so also the man of lawlessness will be an active and aggressive transgressor. He is not called “lawless” because he never heard God’s law, but because he openly defies it!”
Then Paul says, “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (like in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) Paul had been with them for about three weeks before he had to leave them. In that time he worked, probably making tents or the fabric tents were made of, and the church people had to work.
So in the late afternoons and evening Paul, Silas, and Timothy would gather the church together and teach them. One of their core teachings was the end times (eschatology). He also expects them to remember his teachings on these topics because later he doesn’t go back over the material for later readers (v. 6)
Studying doctrine is important because we don’t always get it the first go around.
What You Love Determines Your Destiny (vv. 6-12)
6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
When Paul says, “And you know what is restraining him now,” he is referring to a previous time when he taught the church on this topic, but since we were not present for that lesson, we don’t know what he is talking about. There is someone “restraining him [the lawless one] now so that he may be revealed in his time”
There are different ways to interpret this passage; 1) This is the work of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost (Acts 2) the Holy Spirit entered into the church and empowered them to do the work of the church, and continues to empower and guide the church in its’ work. But at this point in history, the Holy Spirit is still working.
2) It may be a change in government. Now, government restrains and tempers individuals from seizing worldwide power. Something will happen that will remove this restraint and they are then able to seize control of the entire world, and the government established will be powerless to stop him.
With regard to these verses, Augustine says, “[Paul] was unwilling to make an explicit statement, because he said that they [the Thessalonians] knew [what he was referring to]. And thus we, who don’t know what they knew, desire to understand what the apostle referred to, but even with hard work are not able, especially as his meaning is made still more obscure by what he adds [i.e., vv. 7-8a]. Augustine is basically saying, I don’t know what he is talking about.”
Those that have “fallen away” during this time are given a strong delusion from God so that they keep on believing the lies. God hardens their hearts. “When Pharaoh hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 7:14; 8:15, 32; 9:7), God hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:12).
In Exodus 8:15 God sent the plague of the frogs, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.” Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Exodus 14:8 “And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly.”
There is a season when you have a choice to harden your heart toward the things of God, but there will be a day (and it is up the Lord when that is) when God will remove that option – he will permanently harden the direction you have chosen.
“because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” Who believes a lie they know to be false? Those that “had pleasure in unrighteousness.” “The love of the truth or the gospel is in contrast to the lying and deceit of Christ’s enemies. They believed them rather than Christ (John 8:44-47).” You can only be saved by committing yourself to him who is truth. Truth brought salvation; falsehood, lies, and deception resulted in eternal separation from God.
Then, God will give them over to their own deliberate choice to reject the truth of the gospel and their love of unrighteousness. “God’s actions are a response to, not the cause of, their actions.”
Romans 1:24-25 says, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” God is giving them up to their ultimate choice. “The beginning of sin is to forsake God; the end of sin is to be God forsaken.”
The sad part of this teaching from Paul is that the great “rebellion” will be from the churches. There will be people who claim to be Christians, go to church, go through the motions, but when times get difficult, and there is an option to turn from Christ to the Anti-Christ they will leave in huge numbers – only a small remnant will remain.
Why is doctrine important? It guides us to the truth which ends in eternal life, and keeps us from lies which leads to eternal separation. True doctrine is the engineer sitting in the Engine of the train that pulls us to our ultimate destination. What you believe is incredibly important; it is worth the time to sit down and figure out what you believe – because your doctrine directs your actions. Your decisions determine your destiny.
"Doctrine is the engineer sitting in the Engine of the train that pulls us to our ultimate destination." pic.twitter.com/eM9138DfXA
— DrewBoswell (@DrewBoswell) March 20, 2022
Satan will use the same lie at the end of time that he used at the beginning of time, Genesis 3:5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” You determine what is good and what is evil, you determine what is true and what is a lie – not the Creator, not God. If someone follows this lie, and loves sin more than the gospel then Paul says, “in order that all may be condemned.” In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve had the freedom and nobility of choice – we choose to follow God in truth, or follow Satan and his lies. And for a season here on earth we have a chance to follow Christ, accept His gospel, and live for God. Do you know Him? It’s still your choice.
 Clifton J. Allen, The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 11 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Publishing, 1971) 290.
 John F. Walvood, The Thessalonian Epistles (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Dunham Publication, 1968) 116.
 Walvood, 117.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ’s coming occurred on October 1, 1914, but was invisible rather than public and involved a change of location in heaven (Holmes, 237).
 The Expositor’s Bible, Volume 11 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1955)326.
 Allen, 291.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1978) 322. See also, Daniel 9:26, 27; 11:31 (cf. Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14).
 Rev. 13:11 ff; 16;13; 19:20; 20:10.
 Gaebelein, 323.
 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of 1 &2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1987) 170.
 Michael Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary, 1 & @ Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1998) 234.
 Hendriksen, 186
 Holmes, 236.
 Allen, 294.