2 Thessalonians 2 – Antichrist

Read 2 Thessalonians 2

While this is the first time that Paul directly addresses the notion of an “antichrist” figure, labeled here as “the man of lawlessness,” it isn’t original to him.  In fact, the first mention of such a person, a sort of human embodiment of evil that comes with the power of satan, is in the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel.  Here this figure comes as the vision of a horn on a beast.

This figure shows up again in Daniel 9, 11, and 12 as well as the extra-canonical book of 1 Maccabees.  In each of these cases, this person, empowered by satan himself, comes to deceive and to claim the place of God in the world.  He/She does so by desecrating all that is seemingly holy and stop the worship of God, replacing it ultimately with the worship of him/herself.

Jesus also picks up this theme, directly referenced in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, with a more indirect reference in Luke 21.  All of these references, from Daniel to Paul, are directly related to eschatological (end times) discussion.

Throughout history, however, it has happened at least twice that a ruler from a foreign land has attacked Jerusalem, laid waste to the Temple of God causing the sacrifices and worship to stop, and desecrated the Temple in some way.  This happened after the life of the prophet Daniel, in 168 BC, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes sacrificed a pig on the altar of burnt offerings.

Later it would happen when the Roman military, led by Titus (a different Titus than the one Paul traveled with) attacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and raised it to the ground.  Several of the Roman Emperors in that time proclaimed themselves as “gods,” though none, I believe, did so in the Temple of God.

Over the years there have been many “antichrist” figures that have risen to power.  Each of these, in their own right, have fulfilled parts of what Daniel, Jesus, and Paul all warned the people of God about.  Yet none have lived up to the true “antichrist” described in Scripture either.

Honestly, though, finding the real “antichrist” is beside the point.  Christians have spent far too much time trying to determine who this person is.  Perhaps this president, or the next one.  Maybe it’s the Russian president or the Pope?  If we’re spending all of our time looking for who it is, or is going to be, we’ve missed the point of Paul’s teaching here.  The fact is that there are many who will come, evil people who will seek to defame and destroy God and his people, setting him/herself in God’s place… but only for a time.

This “antichrist’s” time is already numbered for, as much power as satan can give him, it as nothing before the power and might of our conquering Savior.



Day 287: Matthew 23-24; Teaching on the "End Times"

With the release of the “Left Behind Series” and other associated books, the craze of thoughts and speculation about the end of the world has been at an all time high.  Associated with this, the amount of theories about the end of the world has also been on the rise leading to a great deal of Christian bickering and generalized disagreements about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the second coming of Christ.   I would dare say that, though the fad that these books were is dissipating into the cultural abyss, the continual talk of war, the seeming increase in catastrophic natural disasters, and the decline of morality in culture have all spurred on these conversations as well.  Often times we see these discussions get heated and passionate as people try to defend their understanding of the end of time.  On the other hand, some people in churches have opted for a don’t ask/don’t tell policy.  I don’t necessarily think that this is a good idea either.  As we see in our reading today, this isn’t necessarily something that Jesus avoids due to its controversial nature, but rather tackles head on in His teaching before the Passover.

I really do not think that a single blog post that is meant to cover the reading of Scripture for a day is a good place to start a debate around the differences in millennial kingdom views or the reasoning behind why dispensationalism as theology is a very poor reading of the whole of Scripture.  However, as a person of the Reformed Denomination of Christianity, my views are colored by how I have been taught and what I (and a great many others) feel is a more dutiful and faithful reading and interpretation of the whole of Scripture, not just certain verses here and there.  As I have said before, this is not a code that we are to decipher with some hidden meaning that God only wants us to have if we look hard enough.  Scripture is God’s REVELATION of Himself and His work throughout history which means that He is revealing it to us; it is an open book and we need to make sure that we read Scripture within the context of itself.

Anyway, enough of that soap box.  Perhaps we can take up that discussion some other time.  Jesus’ teaching today primarily covers the end of time when Jesus will return and the restoration and consummation of creation will be complete.  If I were to venture an opinion here, I would say that for as often as we talk about the end of time, we so often get the focus of Jesus’ teaching here and in other places wrong.  Jesus doesn’t necessarily talk about the exact events leading up to it.  Yes, he says that there will be natural disasters and wars, but all this, He says, is “the beginning of birth pains.”  To say that any one war or disaster is what Jesus was talking about would be foolish.  There have been hundreds of wars and even more natural disasters since the time that Jesus was taken to heaven.  We cannot be so egocentric, ethnocentric, geocentric, or even temporal-centric to think that our time, place, and people are more important somehow than any others.  We cannot assume that Jesus was talking about America or the Nuclear bomb.  What we have to understand here is that Jesus is saying that these things are the beginning of the end… and the end has been beginning since the beginning.

So what is Jesus’ main point here?  Perseverance.  Jesus says that His followers will be persecuted, even unto death.  He says that many will come claiming to be ‘the Christ’ but will not be.  Times will be hard, wickedness will increase, but those “who stand firm to the end will be saved.”  Jesus is saying to His followers, to all believers, “Keep the Faith!  Don’t turn from me just because its difficult.  By this you will be a testimony to me throughout the whole world.”  He goes on to quote from Daniel, referencing again a great evil that will destroy much.  Some say this was fulfilled by the son of Emperor Vespasian, Titus, who erected an idol over the destroyed Temple in 70 AD.  Some would say that Jesus was offering this reference to the Jewish people because they would recognize it as the event when Antiochus Epiphanes IV sacrificed a pig on the alter of God.  Yet there are many that would argue that this is something yet to be fulfilled.  I wonder if all three of these could be right.  These two events represent a great evil in our world, the unfettered, unhindered rebellion against God.  Perhaps there have been many more of these events?  Could Hitler be an abomination that causes desolation?  I think he certainly fits the bill.  But does that mean that Jesus is coming soon?  Well… Jesus has been coming soon since the book of Revelation was written, since He left this earth… so… yes, Jesus is coming soon.

The truth of the matter, however, is just as Jesus states it:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,  and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.  Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”