Summary: PENT 23C: Part 1 of a two-part series on learning to live as end-times Christians ought to live.
Theories on when and how the world might end have surfaced for centuries. Consider these:
1. In 960 Bernard of Thuringia, a German theologian, calculated 992 as the most likely year for the world’s end. As the time approached, panic was widespread.
2. German astrologer Johann Stoffler predicted a catastrophic flood on February 20, 1524. Believers started constructing arks. A mob allegedly trampled a man to death attempting to board his specially built vessel. When nothing happened, Stoffler revised his calculations and gave a new date—1588. That year also passed without any unusual rainfall.
3. Solomon Eccles was incarcerated London’s Bridewell Prison in 1665 for striding through Smithfield Market carrying a pan of blazing sulfur on his head, proclaiming doom and destruction. The end of the world did not follow, but the Great Fire of London did, in 1666.
4. In 1874, after studying both the Bible and the mystical messages of the Great Pyramid, Charles Taze Russell, founder of the cult known as Jehovah’s Witnesses, concluded the Second Coming had already taken place. He declared that people had 40 years (until 1914), to convert to his faith or face doom. He later modified the date to "very soon after 1914."
5. Herbert W. Armstrong, publisher of "The Plain Truth" Magazine declared that Jan. 7, 1972, was absolutely the date to watch. The utter failure of his prediction did not diminish his zeal.
6. The 16th-century seer Nostradamus apparently favored 1999 as the year of a Martian invasion, while 18th-century French prophetess Jeanne Le Roger, established the year 2000 as the definitive one.
…and here we sit this morning.
1. According to scripture, the Parousia [pa-roo-see’-a] (second coming of Christ) sets in motion the end of the world, as we know it. Jesus told his disciples that no one, including he, knew the day or time of his return but God the Father.
2. Despite Jesus’ warning about those who claim divine knowledge or authority (cf. Mt. 24), many people (even in our day) continue to fret over these ridiculous claims.
3. So it was in Thessalonica. Paul spoke often about the second coming during his mission there, but it is not clear that the believers there grasped all of his teaching. New converts, full of enthusiasm yet not mature in the deeper things of the faith, went astray in some points in this important but intricate subject.
A. Paul wrote on this subject in his first letter, but this, it seems, did not clear away all doubts. He felt he must deal with the subject again, and indeed, it forms the principal part of the second letter.
B. Some in Thessalonica complicated the situation by claiming Paul’s authority for the view that the day of the Lord had already come (2:2), and it was important that he correct this error.
C. Our big difficulty in interpreting what Paul says is that it is a supplement to his oral preaching. He and his readers knew what he had said when he was in Thessalonica, so there was no point in repeating it. This leaves us with some unsettling gaps, forcing us to approach this passage cautiously as we interpret it.
4. Our goal in this brief series is twofold:  to understand Paul’s theology of the Parousia, and  how we (as 21st century Christians) should live in light of that theology. TWM to 2Thess 2.
III. BACKGROUND: THE PURPOSE OF THE PAROUSIA
1. The purpose of Christ’s second coming is the establishment, in the fullest sense, of the kingdom of God. The kingdom does not exclusively refer a realm, characterized by a geographically bound domain, but rather a reign in the hearts and minds of humankind.
2. Although Christ was a king when he came the first time, relatively few accepted him as such. However, the time is coming (parousia) when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).
IV. PAUL’S THEOLOGY OF THE PAROUSIA (vv. 1-5)
1. The use of the single article shows that the coming of the Lord and gathering of the saints are closely connected. Indeed, they are two parts of the same event.
2. In this passage, the coming of the Lord likely refers to Christ’s literal return to the earth to establish his thousand-year reign. The gathering of the saints refers to the rapture; the time when Christ takes us into the air to meet him.
A. There is enough conjecture among Christians about the events of the second coming to occupy us for a year. Our goal is not to solve the debate, but to hear what Paul is teaching the Thessalonian believers.
3. In any event, the Parousia is yet to come according to Paul. There must first be a rebellion, followed by the emergence of the man of lawlessness (Antichrist).