Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

2nd Thessalonians and the Future of this Age

As I have written in preceding posts, I believe the prophecies of Daniel and Jesus had a fulfillment during 0 – 70 A.D. But, as I showed in the most recent post, prophecy is not confined to a particular period of time. The spiritual factors at play in the first century are still at play today, and will continue to be so throughout this age. So, the question becomes, in addition to the first century fulfillment, are there any other fulfillments prior to Christ’s return that are specifically addressed in Scripture? Although I am not really dogmatic about this matter, I do find some evidence for a future fulfillment.

First, let’s revisit 2nd Thessalonians.

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 (2 Thess. 2:1-8).

There are several things important to note here. The first is that Paul opens the chapter by mentioning the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and then tells the church not to worry about rumors that the “day of the Lord” had already come. Thus, the context seems to indicate that the “day of the Lord” is synonymous with the Rapture and associated events,  described in Chapters Four and Five of First Thessalonians.

Paul writes that two events must precede the Day of the Lord. The first is “the rebellion.” I consider this rebellion to have been fulfilled in the first century. Many of the late-New Testament writings describe a serious departure from the Gospel taking place in their day. For example, in 2nd Timothy Paul writes,

You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me (1:15).

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds. You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! (4:14-16)”

Also note some passages from the epistle of Jude:

Jude 4: “For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

16-19: “These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage. But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.’ It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions.

But now, what about the “man of lawlessness” that Paul describes, who “takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.” In light of all the other prophecies we have looked at, and the events of 66-70, it is tempting to say that the man of lawlessness was the Roman General Titus, who led the destruction of Jerusalem and was worshipped in the temple by other Roman officers. However, a “problem” for this interpretation comes in Paul’s statement that the man of lawlessness would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s return. Since Titus did not die in 70 A.D., and Christ did not physically return, could these prophecies be awaiting a future fulfillment?

First, keeping in mind that Bible prophecy is not strictly confined to certain eras, I consider it a valid interpretation to say that, while the physical person known as the man of lawlessness lived and died in the past, the spirit which drove that person to do the things he did is still alive today, and has infected various individuals throughout history. That spirit will not be destroyed until Christ returns and establishes a new spiritual order.

I also find Scriptural evidence for this interpretation. For example, the Apostle John wrote,

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world (1st John 4:1-4).”

John depicts the antichrist as a spirit that was alive in his own day, inspiring false prophets. This suggests that the concept of antichrist in Scripture is not limited to a single, physical individual. Undoubtedly, this spirit will find its way into some evil individuals at the time Christ returns, just as it has throughout history. Now, the big question is, does the Bible say anything about a specific person who will be possessed by this spirit at the time Christ returns? I believe that evidence of such a person may be hidden in the text of Daniel 7. In the next post, we will examine that in detail.

Being a Real Christian – Part 5

In Part 1, I mentioned what often happens when we try to change our ways. Although a small percentage of us will succeed, most will not see a meaningful, sustained difference. And I think that in Romans 7, Paul describes why that is the case. It took me many years as a Christian to see that Paul is actually admitting the difficulty that we all face when we try to change ourselves. It was too hard to believe that the Bible was acknowledging these things.

Look at Romans 7:4-5, “In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.”

Notice that Paul mentions “sinful passions aroused by the law.” This is why changing one’s lifestyle through self-motivation can be impossible. You set rules for yourself, but when you push yourself to follow the rules, desires to do the opposite are also energized, so the net result is little or no change, or even a negative difference. The “just do it” mentality breaks down.

Some have said that when Paul refers to the law, he is only referring to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, and that he is not referring to Biblical morality. If we were talking about the epistle to the Galatians, that is probably the right interpretation (I may write an article on that later). However, in Romans, the concept of law encompasses more than religious rituals. The problem that Paul addresses of law stimulating desire to do the opposite, thus nullifying one’s efforts, applies to laws of any type, and I think subsequent passages in Romans 7 make this clear.

Paul writes, “What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” (Romans 7:7-8).

More evidence that trying to follow laws can keep us trapped in bad habits comes when Paul has to address the misconception that the law itself is sin. If Paul were not saying that good laws can trigger bad psychological reactions leading to sin, why would anyone come to the bizarre conclusion that the law itself is sinful? Also notice that Paul uses the law forbidding coveting as an example. This is the ultimate proof that, in Romans, Paul’s references to law are not confined to ceremonial rituals.

Looking at verses 19-20, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Here Paul is describing a human condition which further explains why the “just do it” mentality can fail us. Notice that Paul says, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” Notice that he used the word “cannot.” Some people say that we should stop using the word “cannot.” But Paul used that word! Many think that if we fail it’s because we’re not trying hard enough. In a sense, that may be true. However, if we’re under a mentality of law, antagonistic parts of our minds will eventually cause us to stop trying. At least, this is what my personal experience has shown.

So, if imposing rules on ourselves causes these problems, should we stop trying to follow those rules and just do whatever we are inclined to do instead? I think we need to find a balance between two situations, the first being insistence on doing what’s wrong even if the temptation to do it isn’t all that strong. This approach makes existing problems worse. The other situation is forcing ourselves to continue noble but vain efforts that contribute to a vicious cycle. I think that Romans 8, which we’ll look at next time, has some clues for how to find a balance between those two situations.

Ashamed?

Romans 1:16-17 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

When Paul says that he is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” I assume that there must be a real reason why someone would feel ashamed to be preaching the true Gospel. In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul had to remind Timothy to not be ashamed of the Gospel. The word “Gospel” may seem like a mysterious word, but the practical meaning is “good news.” The New Living Translation (a respected, slightly-paraphrased Bible translation) renders it that way. Why would somebody be ashamed of preaching good news?

The particular word “ashamed” is significant. It’s one thing to be afraid to preach the gospel due to fear of persecution. It’s one thing to feel embarrassed or awkward preaching the gospel because it makes you look weird. But, ashamed?

The primary definition for ashamed from the World English Dictionary is “overcome with shame, guilt, or remorse.” So, to be ashamed to preach the Gospel is not to be afraid of persecution or simply feel socially awkward, but to potentially feel guilty for preaching it, or to feel like you are a bad person for preaching it.

If the Gospel really is “Good News,” would it seem too good to be true for many people, and therefore seems irresponsible? Could it make you feel like you are giving a false hope? Could it make you feel naïve about the dangers of evil and sin? Or, could the Gospel make you feel like you are unjustifiably condemning other people?

Whatever the cause of shame is, Paul says that we should not let it bother us. But here’s where things get tricky: sometimes people may feel guilt because what they are preaching is false doctrine and the Holy Spirit is convicting them of that. But even the true Gospel can apparently produce feelings of shame if it is not properly framed in one’s mind. So, the challenge is distinguishing the Holy Spirit’s conviction from the feelings coming from our own minds. This is a lifelong challenge, and I invite you to share your experiences and feelings about the Gospel and how you relate to Paul’s statement in the Scripture above.