Sunday, July 20, 2014

Troubling Times

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.      2 Thessalonians 2:1-2  NKJV

I find this passage of scripture interesting in that with all that is going on in the world today, some are repeating the same error the Thessalonians were making during their time of trouble.  The question many watchers have had over the years is just how much are we going to see and experience before Jesus returns to take us home to be with Him?  As things get progressively worse, and wars and rumors of wars take center stage, it is possible some might believe we have already entered the seventieth week of Daniel.  That is just what the Thessalonians were thinking, and so today I thought I would look back at this blog from a few years ago which seems rather relevant considering the situation we find ourselves in today.

As we look at the passage from Thessalonians, I'm going to use a tool I came up with that I use when I study the scriptures. I call it the rule of three w's. What, why, and whow. ( Yes, I know, whow is misspelled but it's easier to remember the rule of three w's than two w's and an h!  Remember I teach high school students; it works, trust me. )

So what is the problem in the church at Thessalonica? Paul tells us immediately in verse 1 that the subject of the letter is about the rapture ( parousia ) of the Church when Jesus comes to take us home to be with Him. Then, according to verse 2, Paul says they were "shaken" and "disturbed". This is one of those times where I think it's really important to look closely at the meaning of the words Paul uses. Shaken is saleuō in the Greek and means "agitate" or become "insecure" in mind. Disturbed is throeō in the Greek and means "clamor" or "tumult". So the picture Paul gives us is that the believers in the church are in an uproar, really agitated because they have become insecure in something they believed, but now have doubts about, and obviously it has to do with the rapture. Paul then identifies the reason at the end of verse 2 when he refers to someone claiming by "spirit, message, or letter" that the day of the Lord had already come.

This brings us to the why question. Why were they so shook up? This is the part I think gets missed most often when studying this passage of scripture. They were shook up because they had been told by someone that the tribulation had already begun, and they had missed the boat! They were still on earth! This passage is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. You see, if Paul hadn't taught the pre-tribulation rapture, these folks wouldn't be all shook up now would they? They were in an uproar because they were under the impression Paul had taught them wrong, or they had done something wrong to get left behind. You see, at the time of this letter, the Church was undergoing persecution from Rome and it was easy for people to believe that the bad things they saw happening all around them fit the picture of events that take place during the Tribulation. Unfortunately, all it took to shake them up was someone to suggest that their belief in the pre-tribulation rapture was wrong. So it's up to Paul to set them straight again.

Whow does Paul go about doing this? Simple really. He just reviews the main points he taught about Jesus' return when he started the church, and then later in his first letter. What Paul chooses to "re-teach" is this. One, he differentiates between "the mystery of lawlessness" and "the man of lawlessness". The mystery of lawlessness is the evil in this world produced by Satan and his angels. The man of lawlessness is the coming world leader, or anti-christ, who will be revealed at the beginning of the tribulation. Paul makes the point that although evil forces were at work already, they are being held in check by "he who now restrains".

And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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.                                               2 Thessalonians 2:6-7  NKJV

We know that Paul is referring to the work of the Holy Spirit, alive in the hearts of believers today, and I like how Paul gently reminds these believers that they too "know" what is restraining. Paul goes on to say that even though the works of evil were occurring, the man of lawlessness had yet to appear, and could not appear until the Church had been "taken out of the way".

How often do we too need to be "reminded" of what we have already been taught, yet somehow begin to forget or doubt? I know I'm guilty of that, so I sure can't get down on these poor folks. I'm sure there are plenty of believers today who may be in the same position those in the church at Thessalonica. We see all the terrible things going on in the world around us, events we know are the signs Jesus said would occur at the end of the age, and I'm sure there are those saying we have already entered the tribulation period. But you know something, we can't have entered the tribulation because as Paul so simply said, the church is still here!

Evil is present, but so are we; the Church, the body of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that we are as close to leaving this world as we can possibly be. If you find yourself in the same position as those believers back then, the best advice I can give you today is the same advice Paul gave the Thessalonica church:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.                2 Thessalonians 2:15-17  NKJV

He is coming soon.

Keep watching.