Summary: With all the reports about the nearness of the Second Coming, we must not become alarmed. The Antichrist is also coming and will proclaim himself to be God, but believers have nothing to fear.
The Antics of the Antichrist
One afternoon, when we lived in Mexico City, I was in a McDonald’s restaurant studying Spanish. As I was eating my hamburger with jalapenos (that’s how they do it in Mexico), I suddenly became very dizzy and disoriented. I wasn’t too concerned at first because this was a common occurrence whenever I worked on my Spanish! When I looked up from my verb chart however, I noticed that the other tables around me were moving back and forth. It was then that I realized that I was in the middle of an earthquake! The other customers didn’t seem too bothered by it, in fact some were even laughing. I was totally freaked out, felt sick to my stomach and suddenly became very concerned for Beth and the girls who were at our house, which was located about 20 minutes away.
I ran out of Ronald’s place and jumped on a bus. When the bus dropped me off I sprinted up our street to make sure my family was OK. I opened the front door and screamed for everyone. Beth wondered why I was wigging out because they hadn’t felt a thing. I was greatly relieved but still a bit queasy and worried about any aftershocks. I had heard about the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City that killed up to 30,000 people and I was frankly frightened that another big one was on the way.
Friends, there is a coming cataclysmic, earth shattering event that will make the strongest earthquake feel like the Chicago Bears offense. The tremors of the Great Tribulation period will shake people to their core. Thankfully, those of us who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will not go through this terrible time of tribulation. But tragically, if the Rapture were to happen today, most of the people you and I know will.
As we move toward the conclusion of our series called, “Don’t Be Left Behind” from the books of First and Second Thessalonians, we’re going to see that the church at Thessalonica thought that they somehow had missed the Rapture and were left behind to face the horrors of God’s holy holocaust. As we established last week, the main reason that Paul wrote two letters to the believers instead of one is because they were bewildered. In 1 Thessalonians 4, the believers were comforted with the fact that those who have died in Christ, and those who are alive, will not miss the Rapture but will meet the Lord in the clouds. In chapter 5, Paul made it very clear that believers would not be here when the Day of the Lord comes at the end of the seven-year tribulation period.
But, because persecution had begun to permeate this young group of Christ followers, they wondered if they had missed something. Maybe they had been left behind. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul tells them that while they were experiencing some terrible tremors, the great quake had not yet struck. They would definitely not be left behind to face the frightening fury of the final days. They could bask in the reality of the Rapture that would release them from the unimaginable carnage to come.
As we’ve emphasized several times, the purpose of prophecy is not to give us a calendar of coming events but to build our character. But, because the Thessalonians were perplexed about the persecution they were experiencing, Paul lists four major events from 2 Thessalonians 2 that make up God’s prophetic timeline.
The Rapture will deliver believers (1-2)
The Rebellion will deceive many (3a, 7a)
The Revelation of the Antichrist will dominate the world (3b-6)
The Return of Christ will destroy evil (8-12)
The Rapture of Believers (1-2)
Verses 1-2 set the topic for the chapter and the theme for the entire book. The rest of the letter either prepares for, or flows out of this section: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 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.” Notice the two words “coming” and “gathered.” Paul here is referring to the truth that he established in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” When Jesus comes, believers will be “gathered” together to meet Him in the air.
The Thessalonians had already been taught this but they had become easily unsettled and alarmed. The word “unsettled” means that they were wavering and filled with agitation. The idea is something moving back and forth, like a building shaking during an earthquake. To be “alarmed,” suggests that they were extremely frightened, or “jumpy.” They were deeply disturbed and filled with fear because they thought they had somehow gotten their wires crossed and were entering the Tribulation. Paul quickly clarifies that there is nothing to fear because they won’t be here when God’s judgment is unleashed.