Friday, January 25, 2019 -
This morning, I read II Thessalonians, and frankly, it seemed to be written just for me. It’s really a follow-up letter to I Thessalonians, which apparently had somewhat confused some of the Thessalonians pertaining to the day of the Lord (His return). The suddenness of Christ’s imminent return was interpreted as the immediacy of His return, and hence there was no point in continuing their work. This is seemingly the main reason for Paul writing this letter, as they are two of three main themes, the third being dealt with in Chapter 1 – the persecution which the Thessalonians were having to endure.
Throughout the short book, Paul praises the Thessalonians for the perseverance and faith in the midst of persecution (1:4), and their good works (3:4-5; 13).
Paul explains how the persecutions and afflictions that they must endure are a test of their worthiness (1:5) and is indeed why they are suffering. Yet Paul comforts the afflicted Thessalonians that God Himself, a just God (1:6), will provide them relief (1:7) and repay those who afflict them with God’s affliction – “the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
I remember being in Thessaloniki not too long ago with Kathie, and they had recently discovered and excavated the underground hiding places (catacombs) of the Christians below what now is a Greek Orthodox church. Yes, it was that bad for the Thessalonian believers during Paul’s time! And we think we have it bad!
But our hope today is in God, and Christ’s return in glory. In the meanwhile, Paul prays for them “always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:11-12).
This indeed has been the prayer I have prayed many times since I’ve been in prison. Everyone tells me I am here for a purpose, to carry the gospel to a dark place – yet I feel extremely unworthy and unqualified to be selected for such a task. Hence I solicit your prayers, as well, that God will use me in spite of myself, through the power and movement of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit will move this place, but only if I am faithful in holiness and the demonstration of God’s love to my fellow prisoners. Christ died for each one of them, and it is a tall order for them to change their own lives apart from God’s Spirit. In fact, it is impossible for any of us! This is what I want to convey to them through my own life – but I feel unworthy to bring them this message. But they, one by one, are noticing the difference between me and other men, and commenting about it and asking questions. In my heart, I know it is a process that takes time, which is frustrating to me. I miss my wonderful wife and want to be with her, so I’m ready for my task here to be finished with. But I must also repent of that because that is the selfish desire of two who are in love and have been together for nearly 38 years.
II Thessalonians chapter two is dedicated to the coming of the day of the Lord (2:1). Apparently, some of the Thessalonians believed it had already come (2:2). But Paul says this is a deception. Christ’s second coming will not come until, or unless the “apostasy,” or falling away from the faith, comes first, and the man of lawlessness, or anti-Christ, is “revealed” (2:3-4). Paul told the Thessalonians “the mystery of lawlessness (iniquity) is already at work.” In other words, it operates in secret, the root word from which mystery is taken being múо – to close or to shut. Its function (that of evil) is a mystery to the believer, yet Paul warns that wickedness “deceives” and will result in damnation (2:10). It is clear in verse 6 that the Holy Spirit is restraining the evil and many little antichrists in the world, but in verse seven, the Holy Spirit will lift His restraining power from the world, giving Satan and his antichrist free reign over the earth. It is at that point the antichrist will be revealed (2:8). Then Christ will return, and this will reveal or uncover that which has previously been hidden – the power and glory that Christ now possesses will be unveiled and disclosed to the world (I Peter 4:13).
Yesterday, I heard on the radio, and Kathie told me last night, how the New York legislature, after passing a bill “legalizing” the murder of babies born alive in a botched abortion, stood up and applauded. God help us! Yet we are warned right here in II Thessalonians, “And with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish because they did not receive the love of truth so as to be saved. And for this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2:10-12). Is this deluding influence not more prevalent today than at any time before or since Christ, when not only “those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). This is exactly what happened in our media, our government, our laws, our courts, our entertainment, our educational institutions, social media, the ubiquitous internet and smartphones in everyone’s pockets. Such deception has even become prevalent in many of our churches in this country – where seeker-friendly churches cater to the wants of the masses and avoid the truth of God’s Word when it comes to preaching against sin and Satan’s deceptive influence. It is no wonder the majority of these teens from Christian families turn completely from the faith after their first year in a secular university. They are ill-equipped to handle the deception thrust at them, having little to no training to face the wiles of the devil. The praise of evil and sinful behavior in our society has become the norm, and Satan’s influence, fostered by modern technology and political rhetoric has even infiltrated many Christian homes and evangelical churches – often under the guise of “biblical mandates” such as love for all mankind, feeding the poor and rescuing the downtrodden.
So much is being taken out of context today simply because those sitting in the pew fail to read their Bible and ask for the Holy Spirit’s direction of their life. Instead, they buy into the world’s false rhetoric and make excuses for their sinful behavior. I too, have been guilty, and must repent of such deceptions, as I have given credence to them, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance and studying God’s Word for the truth and protection against the great deceiver – Satan himself! We must pray daily for strength and protection from the evil one (3:3) and from perverse and evil men (3:2). We must rely upon God to keep our hearts steadfast (3:5) and avoid (keep aloof from) those who are unruly or act undisciplined (3:6-7). Those are pretty broad adjectives encompassing an enormous group of individuals – even in our churches!
Paul also admonishes the Thessalonians to work for their own living (3:8-12), not relying on others (or government), as this will, in turn, lead to undisciplined life and turn you into a busybody (3:11). Therefore, “do not grow weary of doing good” (3:13) and admonish those who fall away (3:14-15), Paul concludes.
It’s interesting how God brings to my attention the hope of Christ’s return when that’s exactly what Kathie and I have been conversing about over the last day or two! Wouldn’t that be the most glorious ending to our current dilemma – being taken up to meet the Lord in the air? I look forward increasingly to that day! Maranatha!