Wednesday 21st October 2020 – 2 Thessalonians – The Coming of the Lord
2 Thessalonians 2: 1 – 12
As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming.
The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
This is not the language of most URC sermons. The Elders’ Meeting is more likely to be agitated about M&M contributions to central funds than the Second Coming. Our Church Meeting minutes rarely mention Satan.
But try reading the passage again treating “lawless” not as literally meaning breaking Parliament’s laws but as meaning a disorderly environment, where the usual rules have stopped applying and the things that give us a secure framework within which to run our lives have been snatched away. Then Paul could be talking about a year dominated by Coronavirus. There is a clear battle to be won, against a virus that showers death on us. In the midst of the turmoil, we can be “shaken” and “alarmed”, even stop gathering round Jesus, but Paul assures us that one battle is not the war and God’s ultimate sovereignty remains certain.
Possibly Paul was actually thinking of the political turmoil in the Roman Empire around the assassination in AD41 of the horrendous Emperor Caligula, whose treatment of the Jews was especially despicable. So we could also hear in this passage a recognition that sometimes the world suffers leaders with unlimited capacity for self-deception and self-promotion, who imagine they have the wisdom of gods. In fact they create instability that can infect the lives of millions with anxiety and worse. Such leaders will not have the last word either.
Then there are the more subtle empires of thought patterns. Those who are “lawless” by hiding the reality of God through claiming that God does not exist and that to be responsible in education or broadcasting we have to base work on the assumption there is no God. Paul reminds us there is a battle to be fought there just as much as against a virus or an evil empire.
How we long for your Kingdom to come.
But while the “mystery of lawlessness” surrounds us:
save us from being engulfed
show us the battles we need to fight
strengthen us for what we are called to do
give us peace about the battles we need to leave to you.
Your Kingdom come and your will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.