Summary: Who comes first, Christ or antichrist? This message lays the groundwork upon which we can build.
Yes, there are apparent contradictions in the Bible. A number of them! (I said apparent, not actual!)
Ever tried to reconcile Divine Sovereignty with human free will? Justice with mercy? A Divine yet human Saviour? Ever struggled with the place of grace vs works in salvation?
And then there is eschatology, the study of the things that shall come in the last times. Are you pre- post- or a-millennial? Will Jesus come 2 more times, or just once? Do we have to go through the coming Tribulation?
I have written of these things before. In fact, this work is closely aligned with my study on the placement of the rapture, a work I entitled, "Caught Up, But When?" I make the same point in this book from a different angle.
Are you looking for Christ? Or are you daily searching the news to see if antichrist is near? Perhaps you are one who sees antichrist in the Papal system known as Romanism, or Catholicism?
Those are usually the options given when those opposed to the message of this book confront it. You are either a Pope-hater, or a conspiracy-monger, or perfect in every way: looking daily for the return of Jesus Christ.
Never hesitant to burst a bubble, especially in not-so-old theology, I quickly jab that fantasy with a fact. This fact is as conclusive to the question of who comes first as Matthew 24 is to the study of the rapture. Once the fact is stated, all theology must be built around it... even the tough verses.
That's what I propose to do in the following pages: Present the incontrovertible fact, given by an inspired apostle, and proceed from there to answer the issues that other verses only seem to suggest.
2. THE FACT
Thank God for the church in ancient Thessalonica. Oh, it was a cruel trick someone played on them, to be sure. But through Paul, they got it all straightened out, and in the process, Paul put down a series of thoughts that forever settled the order of events of the last days.
Fact is, most of the New Testament was written to correct first-century errors. In the wisdom of God, the early church suffered just enough problems to give us, through apostolic corrections, a perfect handbook for living the Christian life and building the Christian church.
What was the error, the trick?
Well, someone, or some group of teachers or prophets, was circulating the notion that the day of the Lord had already come. "You've been left behind," was the sad implication of the heresy. The rapture has come, the true saints are in Heaven, and you second-class guys better get it together before the world ends for real.
There is a group among us today selling the idea - quite successfully - that the top-notch believers will be caught up first, followed, seven years later, by the "tribulation saints" who finally woke up, put their lives together, and made it to the final catching up. (Yep, that's two raptures...)
Don't believe it? Go see the movie. Surely the movie would not try to deceive...
The history I just related is from II Thessalonians 2, verse 2. Check it out before we move on. Don't want you thinking I'm making stuff up, too. This really happened. There was a liar spreading his theories among the Thessalonians and probably others. And these poor believers, new in the faith, wanting to believe anything that seemed to come from God, bit.
Also sound familiar? Sound like all the prophecy theories and "words" from "prophets" circulating among us, some even backing up their words with a supposed [in many cases] visit to Heaven or Hell?
I say "in many cases" because I do not want to come against anything genuine. But write it down: if the teaching doesn't agree with what the Spirit has already given, it is anathema and must be shunned and ignored and rebuked.
These evil men, and we will call them men for now, though we don't want to leave out the women when it comes to spreading false doctrine. It can come through a child. These evil men, I say, took one more step, showing their corrupt nature: they signed Paul's name to their letters.
Today, sometimes, it is even worse. How many people are saying "The Lord told me..." when the Lord didn't tell them? Better to say, "I had this thought come to me while I was praying. Do you think it is the Lord?" Better that, than to bind your audience to make a decision about you immediately. Either you are very false or very true, when you say "The Lord told me." If I have to make a decision right now, well...
So why did Paul bring up the subject of these particular false teachers? Well, he had brought up the subject, "The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him," in verse 1.