Summary: The sermon covers one of the most difficult chapters in the New Testament. Even though it is difficult to understand, there are some very important lessons we can learn from it about standing firm.
A. Rumors are an interesting phenomenon – once they get started, they can have a life of their own.
1. It has been said, “Some people will believe anything if it’s whispered to them.”
2. We hear about Elvis sightings around the world, alligators in NYC sewers, and Madelyn Murray O’Hare circulating a petition to ban religious broadcasting from TV.
3. These kinds of rumors peak our interest, create fear, or indignation.
B. After Abraham Lincoln’s death there were rumors that he was alive and that the body buried in his coffin was not his.
1. So, in 1887, 22 years after his death, Lincoln’s coffin was exhumed and the body was verified as Lincoln’s.
2. Even more amazingly, 14 years later a rumor circulated again that Lincoln’s coffin was actually empty.
3. The furor so gripped the land that the only way to silence it was to dig up the coffin again.
4. This was done and a handful of witnesses viewed the lifeless body of Abraham Lincoln.
C. Unfortunately, tabloids like the Examiner and the National Enquirer often create or perpetuate rumors to sell their newspapers.
1. Today, the internet is even a more convenient way to spread rumors than newspapers.
2. I’m thankful for internet websites like urbanlegends.com and snopes.com that research and debunk many rumors that get circulated.
D. The reason that I’m starting with a discussion of rumors is the fact that the Christians at Thessalonica had somehow been led to believe that the Day of the Lord had occurred and that they had somehow missed it.
1. This faulty conclusion of the Thessalonians was based on either a misunderstanding of what Paul had written in the first letter, or some misinformation they had received from someone claiming to be Paul.
2. So Paul immediately wrote them this second letter to clear up the misunderstanding, and to put to rest this rumor.
3. Paul’s primary concern was not with how the claim reached them, but with its content.
E. Let’s work our way through this passage and see what lessons we can learn from it.
1. This chapter is one of the most difficult in all the Bible.
2. Commentator William Barclay wrote: “This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult passages in the whole New Testament; and it is so because it is using terms and thinking in pictures which were perfectly familiar to those whom Paul was speaking but which are utterly strange to us.”
3. After working with some of the verses in this passage, the great Theologian Augustine said: “I frankly confess I do not know what he means.”
4. One of the reasons I like to preach expositorily through entire books of the Bible is it forces me to work with difficult passages like this one.
5. In spite of the fact that this is a difficult section to interpret, there are some helpful and powerful things for us to learn from it.
I. Understanding the Text
A. Paul begins the chapter with these words: Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. (2 Thess. 2:1-2)
1. Paul started by clarifying the topic – concerning the coming of our Lord and our being gathered to him – you will remember that he addressed both of those topics in his first letter.
2. Then Paul gave them an admonition – don’t be disturbed.
a. He encouraged them not to be easily unsettled or alarmed.
b. The word literally has to do with being easily shaken, or blown to and fro.
3. Next Paul pointed to the thing that had alarmed them – they had been alarmed by some prophesy, report or letter that had supposedly come from Paul.
a. What had this message/rumor been about?
b. The prophesy, report or letter said that the day of the Lord had already come.
c. That certainly would have been unsettling and alarming news.
d. In the first letter Paul had given them information about what would happen when Christ returned – the dead would be raised and those still alive would be caught up in the clouds to live with the Lord forever.
e. You can imagine why they may be upset if they had been told that Jesus had returned and they had been left out or left behind!
B. So Paul began with saying, “Don’t be disturbed” and then told them “don’t be deceived.”
1. Look at verses 3and 4: Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.