Summary: The Christ-follower will be challenged to examine their lives for areas where evil has taken root and learn to resist evil by trusting Christ’s sovereignty and by standing firm in community, salvation and God’s truth.
Open your Bible to 2 Thessalonians and as you are doing so let me remind you of why this Harley and scooter are on the stage. Last week we used these items as an analogy to describe our faith journey in Christ. The scooter represents a Christ-follower who is playing it safe and being rather passive in their followership of God. Someone who is going somewhere with God but not very effectively. The Harley, on the other hand, represents the Christ-follower who is going hard and fast with God. They hear God’s call on their lives and engage their world with the gospel of Christ and let the chips fall where they may. So we concluded last week by asking the question, is it worth it to live in Christ and live out Christ even if it means we may be persecuted.
This morning the text before us demands that we ask a different question; is it worth it to resist evil? And if it is then how? Before we dive in let me talk with you honestly about what chapter 2 is going to set before us. Chapter 2 is one of the most difficult to understand passages in the Bible and its implications will be hard. For a portion of our time this morning we are going to talk about evil…that is not a pretty, feel good subject. There is no way to make the subject of evil fun or pleasant. In fact the more I thought about it the more I realized that to present the real nature of evil in all its ugliness may be one of the most counter-cultural things we could do.
But the news is not all somber for we are going to transition away from a discussion of evil to a discussion of Christ. We are also going to see the majesty of Christ and will in fact will conclude with Him and His commands for following Him more vibrantly. There is indeed good news for us Christ-followers.
So here is what we must do this morning and we are going to have to be diligent. I want us to read the chapter once and then take three snapshots of it. First we must simply apply our minds to understand what Paul is saying. Let’s make sure we grasp what Paul means. Second, let’s consider the passage from what it will tell us about the nature of evil. Finally, let’s look at the chapter again and highlight Christ for that is our highest call.
Read chapter 2.
In our first snapshot we need to understand what Paul is saying. Paul begins by saying that someone or some document had come through the church at Thessalonica that misled them about the return of Christ. As a result, the Thessalonians feared that Christ had returned and they had missed it. One could understand how this would cause quiet a bit of consternation. Christ came. I’m still here. I thought Paul said something else. So Paul explains the order of events that will lead to the return of Christ in order to comfort the Thessalonians. Paul also introduces us to one of the most evil people who will ever walk planet earth: the Man of Lawlessness. The person will be the embodiment of evil. So let’s consider the flow of events that will lead to Christ’s return and then offer some clarifications about things and people mentioned by Paul.
Flow of Events Leading to Christ’s Return
1. The secret power of lawlessness is at work even now: vs. 7.
2. The power of lawlessness is somehow being restrained or held back: vs. 7
3. At some future point a great rebellion against God will occur coinciding with the appearance of the Man of lawlessness: vs. vs. 3, 6, 8
4. At some future point as determined by God, Christ will return and overthrow and destroy the Man of Lawlessness: vs. 8
A few clarifications.
1. What is the secret power of lawlessness that is at work today? The word “secret” is better translated “mystery”. Usually in the New Testament the word is used to speak of the mystery of the gospel that was revealed in Christ. Here Paul uses the term ‘mystery’ a little differently to communicate that there is a mystery side of sin that we cannot fully understand but that is actively at work. Men and women, we see evil in our world but let’s not think that we truly grasp the depth of sin and evil. That is a pit too deep for us to search out. So while evil continues to thrive the physical manifestation of evil as expressed in the Man of Lawlessness has not yet been revealed.
2. Who is restraining this evil? To answer this I appeal to an ancient writer and a contemporary writer.