MP3: The Tribulation Road Thru 2 Thessalonians 2
Hosts: Nathan Jones & Vic Batista
Welcome to The Truth Will Set You Free podcast teaching series titled “The Tribulation Road!” Nathan Jones and Vic Batista have been your guides since the very first installment, going verse by verse through the Bible’s prophetic book of 2 Thessalonians. We will now move on to tackle chapter two, which some claim seems a troublesome chapter as it relates to the teaching about the timing of the Rapture.
The Big Picture
Vic Batista: We are continuing down the Tribulation Road with our verse-by-verse study of the book of 2 Thessalonians. Today we find ourselves in 2 Thessalonians 2 as we learn about the Man of Lawlessness. Just who is this lawless one? When will he appear? And, will the Church know who he is, or be raptured away before he makes his big entrance?
We are tackling a very important subject matter as it relates to today. We as a nation are finding ourselves yet again in the middle of a political debate as our country faces another election. We have different individuals who are rising to power. There’s a lot of talk regarding who these people are and who they could possibly become once in power. World events are lining up prophetically, so we need to be aware of how today’s political movements fit into God’s plan for the end times.
Upon entering 2 Thessalonians 2, we will also need to correct some errors and misunderstandings about the timing of the Rapture of the Church. Since we have already covered 2 Thessalonians 1, let’s first provide a quick synopsis of some of the things we have learned from chapter one.
Nathan Jones: Second Thessalonians is Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica. Though Paul and his evangelism team had planted this church in Thessalonica, he wasn’t able to stay very long, maybe a few weeks to a few months, before the Jewish people in the city had driven him out. But, Paul was still able to send messengers back with letters he’d written to continue to teach the new church about Jesus Christ.
What we have here with this second letter concerns Paul teaching the Thessalonians in chapter one about God’s final judgment and His future glory. Paul was trying to console this young church because they were facing severe persecution for their new-found faith, and so Paul wanted to provide them with the big picture. He wanted them to know how God’s plan would turn out, about how Jesus will be victorious, and that Satan will be defeated and sent to Hell. It is very important to have this big-picture view of God’s plan for the ages because when we grasp the big picture view our daily troubles appear so minor in comparison. Knowing the big picture puts life back into the proper perspective. That’s what Paul’s is attempting to accomplish with 2 Thessalonians.
Vic Batista: The good news about the return of the Lord Jesus Christ was meant to be a great word of encouragement to struggling Christians.
The Rise of the Lawless One
Nathan Jones: The big question of 2 Thessalonians 2 revolves around the timing of the Tribulation, that seven-year period when God is going to pour out His wrath upon the world as He did in the Flood. Paul will provide the frightened Thessalonians some signs of the end times, just as Jesus had done in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, that would let all Christians know when they were getting close to the time of the Tribulation and the inevitable return of Jesus Christ.
Let’s start with the first four verses, for if we tackle too big of a section all at once then it will be just too much to cover. Each of these verses is just packed with information. We will now cover 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.
“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. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
Vic Batista: The Apostle Paul in this passage introduces us to the coming of the Man of Lawlessness. When it came to the timing of his arrival and that of Jesus Christ, this young church had misunderstood the events surrounding their arrival. Paul was obviously writing to correct some erroneous teachings because in those opening verses the Thessalonians were “shaken in mind or troubled.”
Nathan Jones: This young church had clearly gotten scared that they had found themselves living in the time period called the Tribulation. The daily sufferings that they were facing in the name of Jesus Christ they were confusing with the capital “T” Tribulation. The prophet Daniel had called the Tribulation the Seventieth Week. During this seventieth week prophecy, God will pour out His judgment upon the world for its sins in order to bring a remnant of people to accept Him as Savior. At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return to set up His Davidic Kingdom here on this earth. We learn from Daniel’s prophecy that the Tribulation will last for seven years and that the Tribulation remains in the future because it is related to certain events which have yet to occur, such as the arrival of the Man of Lawlessness.
Paul had heard that the church due to some “spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us” was believing that because of their daily sufferings and persecutions they had become the Tribulation Saints and so were enduring the Tribulation. Even today there are believers who look at all the sufferings that Christians are enduring around the world and conclude that we must be living in the Tribulation. But, are we really? No, not according to Paul.
Vic Batista: If anyone wants the details of what life will be like during the Tribulation, they need only to look at the book of Revelation from chapter six and on. Jesus revealed to the Apostle John exactly what will happen during the Tribulation. Nothing like what Revelation describes is happening today. Yes, many Christians around the world are suffering persecution, and terrible events such as terrorist bombings and famines and plagues are occurring. Terrible things are happening and terrible times are upon us, but today’s sufferings are nothing compared to the catastrophes written about in the book of Revelation from chapter 6 and on.
Nathan Jones: Quite correct! Revelation describes 21 judgments from God that will befall the world. These judgments will be so horrific that the people when will know without a doubt that they are living in the Tribulation. They won’t be wondering if they’re living in the Tribulation; they’ll know for sure.
If the first-century Thessalonians had been living during the Tribulation, then Paul would not be consoling them not to be shaken in mind or body. In other words, Paul’s saying, “Don’t worry about it.”
Paul also ties the Tribulation to the biblical teaching about the Church being gathering together to Christ, that being the Rapture of the Church, which Paul had taught them about earlier in 1 Thessalonians 4. When it comes to the Rapture, on that day Jesus will come and He will take those who have accepted Him as Savior off this earth, and we will meet Him in the clouds, and there we will live with the Lord forever. Paul is saying to the effect then, “Don’t worry! We’re clearly not living in the Tribulation. You would know if you were living in the Tribulation because Christ would have come first and taken us Christians off this earth before that time period begins.”
Unfortunately, there are people today who worry that they are living in the Tribulation. I often encounter people who believe that either we are now living in the Tribulation, thanks to the errant teachings of certain prophecy teachers such as Irvin Baxter and others, or that Christians will live into the Tribulation because the Rapture could not happen beforehand.
Now, how do they come to that conclusion? Because they misread verse 3 where Paul provides two events in which to look out for. The verse again reads, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.”
Paul heralds the Tribulation with two main events. One, a great “falling away” must come first. And, two, the “man of sin,” also known as the “son of perdition” will be revealed. This Man of Lawlessness we know from John’s teachings to be another name for the Antichrist.
Paul goes on to describe in verse 4 what this Man of Lawlessness will go on to do during his short career. He is the one “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” The Antichrist will actually have the audacity to exalt himself above God. He will even set himself up as God in the newly rebuilt Third Temple in Jerusalem and demand the world to worship him.
Decades later, the Apostle John in Revelation was provided with more details as to this event, when the Antichrist enters the Temple and set himself up to be God. The Antichrist’s False Prophet will set up a “living image” of the Antichrist and order this image to be worshiped at the threat of death, and in doing so will cause what is called the “abomination of desolation.”
We know from the Revelation timeline that the Antichrist will claim to be God incarnate at the Temple at the very mid-point of the Tribulation, so 3.5 years into the seven-year Tribulation. Jesus also talked about this event in Matthew 24, and Daniel talked about the Antichrist as well. The Antichrist’s claim of godhood is well taught in the New Testament.
Here’s where the Thessalonians and people today get their timing confused. Some people will immediately jump to the conclusion that since the Antichrist proclaims himself to be God halfway into the Tribulation, that means Christians will have to live through at least the first half of the Tribulation before they are raptured. If we were to solely take 2 Thessalonians 2 as the only portion of Scripture that teaches about the timing of the return of Christ for the Church, and you didn’t read any other scriptures, then you will certainly come to the conclusion that there must be what’s called a Mid-Tribulation Rapture.
Vic Batista: This is exactly why Christians differ on the interpretation of the timing of the Rapture. And so, I tell people that the Church of God doesn’t need to be divided over this, because we know we are going to know for sure when we are finally raptured. People can have different viewpoints, but bear in mind that not all of the viewpoints can be correct, for many are based on misunderstandings from incorrectly interpreting the Scriptures. It’s so easy to make conclusions on biblical concepts when verses are taken out of context or when we read things into them that are just not there. We can fall into the fallacy that the Thessalonians had fallen into, because they had not learned yet from the whole of Scriptures.
Nathan Jones: Wonderfully said! This other sign Paul provided, this “great falling away,” has been interpreted as the Church going apostate. Certainly today we are living in the time of the Laodicea Church, prophesied in Revelation 3 which told of the final phase of the Church as in a weak and apostate condition. Some have interpreted this passage to mean that a great falling away of Christians from the faith proceeds the time when the Antichrist will be revealed.
The secular world has been really pushing society forward towards a one-world government, and that means a one-world leader. They may think they’re getting a savior, but we know from the Bible that they will instead be installing the Antichrist. We’re getting very close to his installation, so we know that the Tribulation is near, at least nearer than it was for the Thessalonians.
If we were to look at this 2 Thessalonians 2 teaching about the rise of the Antichrist as it relates to the timing of the Tribulation and the Rapture, and take it all by itself, then yes, it could be misconstrued that the Church will be living through at least the first half of the Tribulation before the Rapture occurs. But, I want to debunk that idea by reading through verses 5-12, because they are going to provide us with more information. Once we read through those verses, we can safely go back and show that Paul isn’t saying that Christians will be living through at least half of the Tribulation. No, he wasn’t saying that at all.
In the sixth part of our travels along the Tribulation Road and our verse-by-verse study of 2 Thessalonians, we will see if the Apostle Paul was teaching anything but a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.