Chapter 2

2 Thessalonians 2  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Paul, Silas, and Timothy, now turn to the subject of the letter that had been written to them, which was troubling their minds. The letter had purported to have been written by the authority of the Apostles. Paul writes positively to deny it. He beseeches them by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the fact of the gathering of the saints to the Lord Jesus when He should descend into the air, not to be troubled by such a letter, as if the day of the Lord was already come. The letter seemed to have had as its subject that, on account of the great tribulations the saints were going through, the day of Christ was present. The great tribulation that the Lord had spoken of must have come (cp. Matt. 24:2121For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)). But that, as the Apostles had shown the saints in the first chapter was coming on the world not on the church; the church in that day would be at rest with the Lord. In this chapter they show the saints that it could not have come for two reasons,
1st, on account of the Lord’s coming, and gathering of the saints to Him in the air; which had not yet taken place;
2nd, that before the day of the Lord, the man of sin would be revealed. That day shall not come the Apostle says, except there come first an apostasy, and the man of sin be revealed;
1st then Christendom must apostatize;
2nd, a man was to appear in the midst of the apostasy, who should, as God, sit in the temple of God, saying He was God.
Sad and solemn news for the young saints to hear, yet re-establishing to their souls, for if the day of the Lord had come, and they were left, where was the promise of His coming into the air for them, which they had been taught would take place before that day?
Paul had already told them of that apostasy and manifestation of the man of sin when he was with them. There was a power withholding, hindering the manifestation of this evil. The mystery of iniquity, alas, was already working in the church, but the Holy Ghost was there, the great hindering power to its development, and He would let, until the Church with the Holy Ghost in it was taken to glory; then should that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord should Himself destroy with the spirit of His mouth and with the brightness of His coming, literally “Epiphany of His coming,” i.e., the 2nd stage of the Lord’s coming that we have spoken of. Now, before I go on, I wish my reader to notice the Apostle’s sketch of the history of Christendom. It is a solemn seal put on the universal history of man’s departure from God. The Church, as Israel was to fail as God’s witness on earth. The mystery of iniquity had already begun to work in the days of the Apostles, which has since developed in Popery and rationalism. The Holy Ghost’s presence in the church would hinder the full development of the apostasy and man of sin, until all that belonged to Christ’s real body and bride were gathered out, then He and they would be taken out of the way by ascending to glory. Then would follow universal apostasy, then the man of sin would be revealed, sitting in God’s temple literally at Jerusalem, as God; then the Epiphany of the Lord’s coming would destroy him. Alas, alas, for man, it is his universal history: tried without law, he proved himself lawless; under law, a law-breaker: when Christ came he rejected Him; when the Holy Ghost came, he resisted Him; when He is taken out of the way he will set himself up as God in the earth. Dear reader, nothing can stand in the current of this universal departure from Christ as is pictured here, but Christ and known union with Him by the Holy Ghost. May our increasing cry be that Christ’s glory may be known, and that the saints may know their union with Him, standing as we do amidst the wreck and ruin of Christendom.
What a picture this gives of man’s boasted progress! Why, my reader, it is progress backward, not forwards! The professing church is going back from Christ, and redemption, and union with Him by the Holy Ghost, to law, idolatry, rationalism, ritualism, and to Anti-christ! When Christ returns He will find all this full blown. Progress, indeed! Is this what your peace prophets are prophesying of, talking of a silvery line of progress into a golden millennium? Let God’s word tear away the hypocritical veil, and show man up in all his horrid deformity! Let it unveil to him his Man-God sitting in Jerusalem’s temple, energized with Satan’s power and signs and lying wonders, working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved: sitting in the midst of apostate Christendom united with apostate Judaism, declaring himself to be God! My reader, say not you will not be deceived in that day. If you are not a real Christian, and, consequently amongst the happy ones, who before this day of tribulation, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, you will be found amongst those whom God will hand over to a strong delusion to believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believe not the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
I am aware many godly men since the Reformation and before have branded the Pope as the man of sin and the Anti-christ. But, much as I respect them as men of faith and power far above most of the present day, I cannot coincide with their judgment on this point. First, notwithstanding all the departure from the faith that there has been, up to the present day the foundation of God standeth sure. Even in Rome and Greece they confess a true Christ, God and man, as the foundation of the church. But the rise of the man of sin in this chapter coincides with an apostasy that is to take place (see ver. 3). The foundations will be given up, and man will take the place of God and Christ upon the earth, not merely the place of being His vicegerent as the Pope does now. Second, the letting, hindering power to the mystery of iniquity is still on the earth. The advent of the lawless one does not come till after the removal of this hindering power, which I have no doubt is the presence of the Holy Ghost working in the real people of God on earth now. Third, the Anti-christ will deny the Father and the Son, as John says (chapter 2). This, the Pope has not done yet. Fourthly, he does not rise till after the re-formation of the Roman empire, which has not taken place yet. ( See Rev. 13:1-111And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 2And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 4And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? 5And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. 6And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 9If any man have an ear, let him hear. 10He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. 11And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. (Revelation 13:1‑11).) That the Pope is an Anti-christ I have no doubt. That he blasphemously assumes the place of the Holy Ghost on earth, particularly since the dogma of Infallibility has been proclaimed, is most palpable. But that he is the Anti-christ is impossible, for the four reasons I have mentioned before. The Anti-christ of John, the wicked one of this chapter, the second beast of Rev. 13:1111And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. (Revelation 13:11), the false prophet of Rev. 19:2020And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20), and the wilful King of Dan. 11:36-3736And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. (Daniel 11:36‑37), I believe coincide. The latter chapter seems clearly to show that he is a Jew, who will appear in the Land of Canaan after the temple is re-built, head the apostate Jews, and cause them to submit, and worship the image of the 1st beast of Rev. 13:1515And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Revelation 13:15), who is the last head of the revived Roman Empire. Babylon, or the Apostate harlot Church of Rome, will still for some time keep her seat in the West, till the ten kings destroy her. All Christendom will be deluded to believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
From this dark picture the Apostle turns to give thanks to God for those beloved young saints because that from the beginning He had chosen them to salvation from all this, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, unto which He had called them by their gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ had ascended into glory before His return, so would they be translated in the same manner before the day of tribulation and judgment of ungodly men to meet the Lord in the air, and to be introduced to the glory which is His. We are called to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must obtain that before ever one drop of judgment falls on an apostate church or world. In this salvation, present to their souls and future to their bodies, they were to stand fast, holding the traditions they had been taught, either by word or by Paul’s epistle. He ends up by saying, Now our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, which hath loved us and given us everlasting consolation and a good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and stablish you in every good word and work. Surely the hope of obtaining the glory of Christ was enough to comfort them amidst their tribulations, and the possession of the certainty of the salvation, was establishment itself to their souls.