Tuesday, February 7, 2017

In the End, Jesus Wins!

Part 13 of A New Hope

Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12




And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming (v. 8). 


Who Will Win?

[This sermon was preached on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday.] Tonight is Super Bowl LI. The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will battle for football supremacy. Who will win? According to a report by Public Policy Polling, 52% of football fans think the Patriots will win, but only 27% want them to win.

Biblical prophecy is often difficult to interpret. But there’s one thing that’s absolutely clear: in the end, Jesus wins!


The Day of the Lord

For some reason, the Thessalonians had come to believe that the day of the Lord had already arrived (v. 2). The day of the Lord will take place when Jesus returns to earth (“the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him” v. 1; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

In verse 3, Paul writes that two events must occur before the day of the Lord: (1) “the rebellion” and (2) the revelation of “the man of lawlessness.” The man of lawlessness is presented in Scripture as the Antichrist (“you have heard that antichrist is coming,” 1 John 2:18) and the “beast” of Revelation 13. The Antichrist is a future world leader who will put himself in the position of God (“proclaiming himself to be God, v. 4; cf. Dan. 11:36-37).

Paul writes, “Let no one deceive you” (v. 3). The Thessalonians had been deceived. We must not believe everything we hear! We must make sure that we don’t believe any teaching that’s contrary to Scripture.


Huh?

For centuries, people have tried to identify the Antichrist. In the 1980s, some people thought that Mikhail Gorbachev was the Antichrist. The birth mark on his forehead was thought by some to be the mark of the beast (cf. Rev. 13:16-17). Other people thought that President Ronald Reagan was the Antichrist. Reagan’s full name was Ronald Wilson Reagan—six letters in each name…666 (cf. Rev. 13:18). Those two examples illustrate how wrong our speculations about biblical prophecy can be.

In this passage, there are several interpretive challenges. What does Paul means when he writes that the man of lawlessness “takes his seat in the temple of God” (v. 4)? [1] What is the identity of “he who now restrains” (v. 7)? Sometimes we need to have the humility of Augustine, who wrote, “I frankly confess I do not know what [Paul] means.” [2]

What we do know is that the Antichrist will be no match for Jesus: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (v. 8). The lawless one is called “the son of destruction” (v.3), which means that he is “doomed to destruction” (NIV).


Now Is the Time to Believe the Truth

The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment (“the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” 1 Thess. 5:2). Those who will face judgment will be those who “refused to love the truth” (v. 10). [3] “Our fate then will be determined by how we respond to the truth of the gospel now.” [4]

Is it fair for God to send people “a strong delusion” (v. 11)? Yes, God is simply giving them what they want. They hate the truth and love breaking God’s law (“had pleasure in unrighteousness,” v. 12). They want to believe a delusion (like a person wants to believe an ugly rumour about someone they don’t like). People are responsible for their own fate.


It's All About Jesus

When it comes to biblical prophecy, we can commit several errors. When we went through 1 Thessalonians, I shared two errors we need to avoid: (1) not talking about biblical prophecy due to the fear of controversy; (2) making a particular interpretation of biblical prophecy a test of orthodoxy. Today I want to address a third error we must avoid: not making Jesus the focus of our study of biblical prophecy.

Does anyone remember the backmasking controversy of the 1970s and 80s? Backmasking is a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward onto a track. There were allegations from Christian groups that backmasking was being used for Satanic purposes by rock musicians. For example, it was claimed that when you play Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” backward, you can hear the message “Here’s to my sweet Satan.” After the backmasking controversy erupted, many musicians deliberately used backmasking on their songs to poke fun at it. The Christian rock group Petra used backmasking on their song “Judas’ Kiss.” When you play the song backward, you can hear the words “What’re ya lookin’ for the Devil for, when ya oughta be lookin’ for the Lord?” I think that’s a great message for those who study biblical prophecy.

It’s sad that when we give more attention to a doomed Antichrist than to the victorious Christ. We must not lose sight of what biblical prophecy is all about: in the end, Jesus wins! 

What we believe about the future should influence how we live in the present. We should live with hope in our hearts. How would living that way affect your daily life?


Victory! 

I never get tired of watching the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX—the Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks. With only seconds remaining in the game, the Patriots are ahead by 4 points, but the Seahawks are on the Patriots’ 1-yard line. A Seattle touchdown and victory seem to be a foregone conclusion. The ball is hiked to the Seahawks’ quarterback. He throws the ball toward one of his receivers for the winning touchdown. Seattle wins, right? Wrong. Amazingly, the pass is intercepted by Patriots’ defender Malcolm Butler, sealing a Patriots’ Super Bowl win! As I like to say, the Butler did it! I love watching that game because I know that in the end, the Patriots win.

In the end, Jesus wins!

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[1] There appears to be a connection between what Paul writes here and “the abomination of desolation” that Jesus mentioned (Matt. 24:15; cf. Dan. 11:31).
[2] Saint Augustine, The City of God, 667.
[3] “The truth to which the author refers is not some abstract concept but rather the gospel itself…” (G. L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 323).
[4] Michael W. Holmes, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 243.