Evening Bible Study
The church in Thessalonica was started under difficult circumstances. (Acts
Paul had been there maybe a month when the Jews of Thessalonica rose up against
Paul and drove him out of town.
The new church continued, but they were under constant persecution.
In a way, they’ve been going through their own “tribulation”.
Paul wrote his two letters from Corinth to deal with some of the situations
he had been hearing about from Timothy who had been visiting the Thessalonians.
We think that this second letter was written shortly after the first,
perhaps as soon as a year later.
In this second letter, Paul deals with two issues:
1) Bad teaching about the Lord’s return.
2) Paul was also concerned about a growing group of people who had quit
their jobs and weren’t working.
This area of the Lord’s return was a concern for the Thessalonians because
someone had been telling them that they had “missed it”.
Last week Paul said they couldn’t have missed the Lord’s return because
before Jesus comes back, the antichrist has to appear on the world scene and
declare himself to be “God” in the Temple and demand to be worshipped.
We now continue with more about the antichrist.
2:1-12 The antichrist
:9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of
Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
:10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they
did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
:9 according to the working of Satan
working – energeia –
In the NT this is used only of superhuman power, whether of God or of the
We might say the antichrist’s coming is according to the “energizing” of
John describes this energizing in the book of Revelation where the
antichrist and his kingdom as referred to as the “beast”:
NKJV) —1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up
out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns,
and on his heads a blasphemous name.
This is a symbolic picture of the antichrist and his kingdom coming from
the area of the Mediterranean.
2 Now the
beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a
bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power,
his throne, and great authority.
This comparison of the antichrist with these animals hearkens back to
Daniel’s visions of the same thing (Dan. 7).
The “dragon” (Satan) is “energizing” the antichrist.
3 And I saw
one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was
healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4 So they
worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the
beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with
The antichrist will have some sort of death/resurrection experience, and
the world will fall in love with him, even to the point of worshipping the beast
and the power behind him.
:9 with all power, signs, and lying wonders
signs – semeion – a sign,
This is something that is supposed to provide credibility to anyone
claiming to represent God.
Jesus was often asked for a “sign” by the Jews in the Gospel of John.
wonders – teras – a
prodigy, portent; miracle
Paul simply adds the adjective “false” (pseudos)
to this word to make it “lying wonder”.
Pay close attention to Paul’s use of the words “signs and wonders”. Both words speak of some kind of amazing
thing that give people a reason to turn to look beyond themselves either to
God, or some other supernatural power.
In the Old Testament, the parallel Hebrew expression was used to describe
what God did in Egypt when He brought the Israelites out of slavery.
NKJV) and the Lord showed
signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh,
and all his household.
In the New Testament we see the same phrase used to describe the miracles
of Jesus and the apostles:
(Acts 5:12 NKJV) And through
the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.
And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.
Yet Jesus warned that not all things that can be categorized as
“miraculous” are from God.
NKJV) —24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs
and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have
told you beforehand.
Miracles and Deception
Many people have the mistaken idea that if something miraculous occurs, it
must be of God.
Some folks will critique churches based on whether or not they see
miraculous things happening.
People have interesting ways of judging whether they think God is moving in
Some judge things based on whether the music is loud enough, hands are
raised, and maybe a little dancing too.
Video: Blues Brothers – James Brown
– The Old Landmark
I kind of like that!
Others look to whether people are speaking in tongues during the service,
people are being healed, or prophecies are being given.
While miracles may be from God, the miraculous itself does not prove that
God is involved.
God warned Moses:
NKJV) —1 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he
gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you,
saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve
them,’ 3 you shall
not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know
whether you love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Note: I’m talking
something that is verifiably supernatural.
Some supernatural claims are nothing more than scams.
God may allow the truly miraculous to happen when it’s not
Him doing the work.
Why would God do that?
As a test to see whether you are serious about following Him or in
seeing a miracle.
How do I know the difference?
Pay attention to what is being said.
Is the person or miracle pointing you to the true God of
the Bible, or are they leading you astray to follow something different.
This doesn’t mean that we want to ignore signs and wonders. Some churches go so far as to say they don’t
happen today, when in fact they do.
We just need to be discerning and not just assume that because the
miraculous has happened, that God is behind it.
:10 because they did not receive the love of the truth
Paul is talking about the future when the antichrist has come onto the
The Bible says that during the Tribulation period, people will be
encouraged to take the mark of the antichrist and to worship him, or face
The antichrist will have a partner in crime, an individual we refer to as
the “false prophet”. He may be some sort
of pseudo religious figure. He will make
an “image” of the antichrist…
13:15–18 NKJV) —15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the
beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would
not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 He causes all, both small and great,
rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on
their foreheads, 17
that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the
beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number
of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Even though this false prophet has the authority to put
everyone to death who does not take the “mark”, in the end not everyone is put
to death because we know there will be some people alive at the end who made it
through the Tribulation without taking the mark.
What is the “mark”?
The number 666 may have some sort of symbolic
significance, or could be the actual mark.
There have been TONS of suggestions over the years. Everything from credit cards (70’s) to RFID
There are serious consequences to taking this “mark”.
NKJV) —9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If
anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his
forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which
is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be
tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the
presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they
have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever
receives the mark of his name.”
Those who take this “mark” will suffer eternally in the lake of fire.
In our passage, Paul says they “perish”.
Many folks are afraid that they might accidentally take this “mark” without
Throughout the book of Revelation, the “mark” is
associated with the worship of the antichrist.
Nobody accidentally takes the mark without knowing they
are choosing to worship this individual we call the “antichrist”.
You may be wondering how in the world somebody would ever in their right
mind follow the antichrist in the first place?
Loving the truth
truth – aletheia – what is
true in any matter under consideration
The word is derived from the verb lanthano
(“to hide”) and the prefix “a” which
means “the opposite”. Truth is what is “not
hidden”. It’s how things really are.
Those who are deceived are those who do not “love the truth”.
At the very least this is talking about those who do not
love the truth about Jesus Christ and believing in Him for salvation.
Yet I think it is broader than this.
This last year we added a new phrase to our collective vocabulary: “Fake
We have learned over this last year that you can’t really believe
everything you see on TV news, or read in newspapers or the internet.
We have learned (gasp) that at least some if not all news providers have an
agenda, and they may tend to either filter what they pass on, or even color it
to change what’s actually happening.
I am not secretly trying to tell you to all turn off CNN
and start watching Fox News.
I am not trying to tell you to not pay attention to the
“mainstream media” and believe everything our President says.
Fake news is everywhere and frankly I’m not sure who to
trust. I think on most matters we will
have to learn to wait things out to see what happens.
I do find it fascinating that so many men are having their secret lives
exposed – men who have connections to the media we consume, whether it’s in
movies, news, or politicians.
Exposing what’s really below the surface is how we define
Though this verse is at least talking about people not loving the truth
about Jesus Christ, I see in our society a tendency to put blinders on when it
comes to the “truth” about many things.
Do you want to know the truth about things?
Or do you only want to believe the things that make you feel good or things
that fit into your narrow way of thinking?
:11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they
should believe the lie,
:12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had
pleasure in unrighteousness.
:11 God will send them strong delusion
Because the people of the Tribulation had no “love for the truth”, God will
allow them to be greatly deceived and condemned.
God desires salvation
If you’re not careful, you can get the wrong idea about God when it comes
God isn’t happy when wicked people die and are condemned.
(Ezekiel 33:11 NLT)
surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord,
I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from
their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people
of Israel! Why should you die?
God wants people to be saved.
(1 Timothy 2:4–6
NKJV) —4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth. 5 For there
is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ
Jesus, 6 who gave
Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,
God wants all to be saved and to find the “truth”.
The truth is that God has provided only one way to be
saved – Jesus. Jesus is the only one who
died to save us from our sins.
When Peter is talking about what is taking Jesus so long to come back, he
(2 Peter 3:9 NLT) The Lord
isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is
being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants
everyone to repent.
God wants people saved.
Who will be deceived? Those…
:12 who did not believe the truth
Love Truth Now
God wants you to believe the truth about Jesus now. Believing in Jesus and His death for us
brings us eternal life.
Some people say they aren’t going to get serious about following Jesus
until they see more of these end times thing start to happen. Maybe they’ll wait until after the rapture.
In other words, they aren’t going to get serious about Jesus Christ until
they see the antichrist.
If you do not believe the truth about Jesus Christ now, while the
“restrainer” is holding back the unveiling of the antichrist (vs. 6), what
makes you think you’re going to believe the truth about Jesus when the full
deception of the antichrist is running rampant on the earth and you face death
for not worshipping the antichrist?
2:13-17 Stand Fast
:13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved
by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through
sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
:14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of
our Lord Jesus Christ.
:13 chose you for salvation
chose – haireomai – to
take for oneself, to prefer; to choose by vote
Some struggle with the concept of God “choosing” us, but I rather like it.
I like the idea that God wanted me.
How does a person know if they are “chosen”?
Respond to God’s invitation and you’ll find that God has chosen you.
:13 belief in the truth
Unlike those who will one day be deceived by the antichrist, the
Thessalonians were people who believed in the truth.
As a result, they followed Jesus.
:14 to which He called you by our gospel
God used Paul’s preaching of the gospel to “call” the Thessalonians to
2:13–14 NLT) —13 As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and
sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be
among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the
Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. 14 He called
you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were
taught, whether by word or our epistle.
We’ll come back to this exhortation of Paul at the end…
:16 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,
:17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
:17 comfort your hearts and establish you
Paul ends this chapter with a short prayer for the Thessalonians.
God has loved us and given us eternal comfort and hope through His grace.
Paul asks that God would “comfort” and “establish” them.
The word for “comfort” (paraklesis)
is the same word translated “consolation” in vs. 16.
establish – sterizo (“steroids”)
– to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix; to strengthen, make firm
These are good things to pray for someone who is going through difficulty
like the Thessalonians.
Pray that God comforts and strengthens them.
:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast
stand fast – steko – to
stand firm; to persevere, to persist
Paul wants to encourage them not to quit.
Specifically, he wants them to keep doing the things they’ve been taught.
This is the church that was started in difficult times, and has continued
to experience difficult times.
I don’t know about you, but recently I’ve been hearing myself say more than
once that I’m ready to quit.
I’m not sure it’s edifying that you hear about my list of complaints or the
things that I’m just tired of.
But I do know that I’m not the only one who has been facing difficulty
I know many in our church have been facing great difficulty.
Many are facing incredible health issues.
Others are facing great difficulty at work.
Others are watching relationships fall apart.
There are more than a few who are being tempted to “quit”.
We aren’t holding on to some sort of “good in this world”, we are holding
on to the truth that Jesus is coming back.
We are holding on to Jesus.
The letter to the Hebrews has some parallels to the Thessalonians because
the author is writing to believing Jews who had been going through great
difficulty, and had been tempted to quit following Jesus.
In Hebrew 11, the author reminds his readers of the great men and women of
faith who faced great difficulties, but who made the choice to do the right
things by faith – by trusting in God even when they didn’t see or understand
what was happening.
NLT) —1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of
witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us
down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with
endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates
and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross,
disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s
throne. 3 Think of all
the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and
A few weeks ago Greg Bird likened the life of the
Christian to running a marathon – just as the writer does here.
In running any long race, you need to be smart about the
weight you’re carrying.
If you are carrying excess weight you may not finish the
race. Slim down.
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to get rid of the
things that slow us down, including sin in our lives.
In running a long race, you also need to keep your eyes on
the goal, on the finish line.
Our finish line is in heaven, but there’s someone waiting
for us at the finish line, and that’s Jesus.
We keep our eyes on Him.
We look to Him. And we run.
Eric Liddell was one of the great runners in history, who
would eventually go into full time missionary work in China. He would die in a Japanese prison camp in
1945 five months before the end of the war.
He learned some of his lessons of life during his early
years as a runner.
Video: Chariots of Fire: Get Up Lad!
Sometimes we too stumble in this race called life.
As long as you are alive, your race isn’t over.
We need to get up and get back in the race and run.