Summary: Four ways to face rumors about the end of the world with confidence.
One of the biggest threats to confidence in our lives is rumors. Just ask office workers when a rumor starts that the company is going to have to lay people off. Before most of the workers were confident and secure in their jobs, but that rumor produces uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. That kind of rumor can destroy morale and productivity in the workplace.
Or ask a married couple about the impact of rumors when the wife hears a rumor about her husband spending a lot of time with a female co-worker. Whereas their marriage might’ve seemed strong before, that kind of rumor can cause distrust. Soon the wife is looking at her husband with skepticism and fear.
Or ask church members in a congregation there’s a rumor of the pastor not getting along with the elder board. Soon the sense of security and spiritual confidence in the congregation is replaced with gossip. The unity of the congregation starts fragmenting, with people aligning with various factions.
It’s been says, "Some people will believe anything if its whispered to them." But rumors on a larger scale can cause even greater insecurity. Think about the panic that came from H. G. Wells’ radio broadcast "War of the Worlds" on Halloween in 1938. Some people were persuaded that we really were being invaded by Mars. Hysteria has a way of overcoming reason, and lots of people panicked.
The Christian community over the years has been very susceptible to rumors about the end of age. Every generation of Christians from the first century through the 20th century have had to confront rumors about the end of the age. Many church historians have chronicled this phenomenon. This century, rumors about the end of the age have intensified. The rumors on a larger scale can shake people’s spiritual confidence.
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians called LIVING CONFIDENTLY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES. In this series we’ve been learning about God’s strategies to face uncertainty with spiritual confidence. Today we’re going to talk about rumors about the end of the age. How can we respond to rumors about the end of the age with spiritual confidence? Today we’re going to look at four specific ways we can respond to rumors about the end of the age with spiritual confidence. So today we’re going to look at four ways to face rumors about the end of the age with spiritual confidence.
1. Keeping Our Head (2 Thess 2:1-2)
Paul starts his discussion in vv. 1-2 by directly confronting the rumor that was circulating among the Thessalonian Christians. Paul describes the end of history several ways here. He calls the end of the age the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The Greek word for "coming" here is the word parousia, and it describes the personal arrival of Jesus at the end of history. The Latin equivalent to this word parousia is "advent," so Christians sometimes speak of the second advent of Jesus. This is the word Jesus himself used when he said, "As lightening flashes from the east to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt 24:27).
Paul also talks about "our being gathered together with him" which is probably the rapture of the church (Frame 244). This word describes an "assembling" together of a group, and it’s the same word used in Hebrews 10:25 of Christians assembling together for worship. Personally, I suspect that this rapture or assembly is what Jesus was referring to when he said that after the great tribulation he would send his angels to "gather together" his elect (Mark 13:27). Now the way these two phrases are written suggests that they’re describing the same event in two different ways (Morris 213).
But Paul also calls the end of history "the day of the Lord" in v. 2. We looked at length at this phrase when we looked at 1 Thess 5, but just to review, the "day of the Lord" in the Bible describes the end of the age from the perspective of God’s judgment on sin. So "the day of the Lord" is that time when God answers evil, judges evil, and ushers in God’s kingdom.
Now we learn here that there was a rumor circulating among the Thessalonians that "the day of the Lord" had already arrived. According to this rumor, this second advent of the Lord Jesus, this gathering together of his people, this judgment of God on rebellion and evil had already occurred. Yet here the Thessalonians found themselves still suffering from government oppression for their faith in Jesus, still rejected by family and friends, still a persecuted minority in a largely pagan culture. The origin of this rumor was a prophecy, a report or a letter from Paul. Prophecy refers to someone standing up in their worship service claiming to have a special message from God. The word report is probably a sermon or teaching. The "letter" here is probably a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of Paul’s first letter, 1 Thessalonians (Frame 246).