SURE SIGNS OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 29, 2019
1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 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. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
— 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, ESV
Who would like to see some sure signs of the second coming of Christ? The second chapter of Second Thessalonians shows them in several splendid scenes. Look down at the text, then you will want to start looking up.
Chapter one made certain two things: Jesus Christ is coming again; and, when He comes all of humanity will be divided in two, believers and unbelievers, the saved and the lost, those who will spend eternity in Heaven and those who will be condemned to Hell. Chapter two goes further. It reconfirms the second coming as a sure doctrine of the church, then reveals a few interconnected things that will be counted down before the final revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Second Coming
Paul writes plainly about “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him.” He promises that it has not happened yet, but it certainly will. When it does, everyone will see Him and believers will be taken up to be with Him, forever.
The word Paul used for the second coming is parousia, a common Greek work with a commonly known English transliteration. It means coming, arrival, advent, or just showing up. We celebrate Advent at Christmastime to celebrate the first time Jesus showed up, and the Bible plainly teaches He will show up a second and final time at the end of time.
Parousia is found twenty-four times in the New Testament when either men or God show up, physically and visibly. Matthew, Luke, Paul, James, Peter, and John all use the word to describe the second coming of Christ and link it with “the end of the age” (ref. Matthew 24:3) or “the day of the Lord” (ref. vs. 2; Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Peter 3:10). So while it cannot be known with certainty when Jesus will come again, it can be known with great confidence that Jesus will come again, and all true believers will be grabbed and gathered by God, like a loving Father welcoming His eternal children home.
We do not know when that day will be, but we can know what the days will be like before that great day.
The Great Apostasy
Paul said, “That day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first.” He uses another Greek word which has been transliterated into our language, apostasy. Rebellions have existed since sin entered the world, and all sin is rebellion against God. But there is a specific sin, a specific rebellion, known as apostasy.
Apostasy is falling away from a previously held position. Apostates are former professing Christians who no longer profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Joshua Harris and Derek Webb are two contemporary apostates, one kissed Jesus goodbye after cashing in on his famous book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and the other now boasts about not knowing God after making a beautiful remake of Isaac Watts’ “I Boast No More.” Their infidelity is tragic, disturbing, and fresh.
But let’s go back a couple of millennium. Apostates were found in the early church, particularly when pressed with the Roman sword. For the most part, however, the early church was purified by persecution before it was seduced by the state. When Constantine made Christianity legal, unbelievers trotted unbridled into the church, only to leave when forced to make a choice between God and mammon. Throughout church history, though, heretics were much more problematic than apostates, as the church divided more than it faded.
But in our lifetimes, the church is falling away fast. Early in my ministry I heard a renowned Baptist claim the Bible was not authoritative and the virgin birth must not be important since only two of the four Gospel writers proclaimed it. Midway through my ministry I read of Methodists gathering for a re-imagining conference in which the Scriptures were systematically attacked, Paul was crucified, and God was called “mother.” Lately I read where the oldest Presbyterian seminary in America hosted a chapel service in which plants were placed on the altar and students repented to them for violating their being. Every week we read more and more about the rise of the nones, young people whose families for generations believed in Jesus Christ but now their heirs claim no religious belief or affiliation at all. The great apostasy is among us, and it has a nasty coconspirator.
Now Paul hits a more ominous note. Just before Jesus Christ is revealed at His second coming, “The man of lawlessness is revealed.” Who could this be?
Scholars with slightly different views of endtimes agree on this character. He is the antichrist, even though Paul does not use that name. John is the only New Testament writer who actually used it, and he did so five times in 1 John and 2 John. Let’s take a brief look at John before going back to Paul.
John taught that the antichrist was present in the first century, and would be with us throughout all centuries. Since Jesus had famously said, “Whoever is not with me is against me,” (ref. Matthew 12:30), anyone who is not a follower of Jesus Christ is against Christ or an antichrist. But even John hints at a particular person or persons or movement that is seductive and successful in pulling people into the great apostasy and antagonism towards God. How could such a thing happen?
Let’s go back to Paul in 2 Thessalonians and notice that Paul calls him literally the “man of no law.” Did you know that civilized culture for two thousand years has been greatly influenced by the laws and commandments of the Bible? Did you know that in our generation, these influences and laws have been systematically stripped from culture and ruled invalid. The stage is set for some world leader our movement to make this laws not only invalid, but illegal, and we see this already in the rise of certain so-called hate crimes.
Did you know that most states in America used to have a laws against fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and abortion? But a movement has already succeeded in wiping them off the books. Not only are these laws now invalid, it is illegal in certain sectors to speak against certain sins even when quoting the Bible, the word of God.
Daniel prophesied about the antichrist when he said, “He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law” (ref. Daniel 7:25). Someone has moved our cheese, changed our culture, and wiped away our moral laws off the books. Who is this cat?
When the great saint Augustine was asked who was the antichrist, he firmly declared, “I have no idea.” Neither do I, but I think he or she or they or it is already among us. As we go forward we will see more and more laws which reflect the word of God disappear from our government and cease to be taught in our seminaries and churches.
The Absence of Truth
Not only will there be virtually no law when Jesus Christ returns, but there will be almost a total absence of truth. When one attacks or even disbelieves the gospel, it is like taking the heart out of the word of God. Without the heart, the word dies and the parts are dismembered. When the standard of mortal truth in western civilization for two thousand years is removed from the public square, you are left with a virtual absence of truth. People call it postmodernism, but it is really post-biblical and post-truth.
The influence of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Holy Bible, is in Paul’s terms “What is restraining [the antichrist], … only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.” In other words, antichrist, anti-law, and anti-truth cannot take over until all vestiges of biblical truth and morality are wiped away and declared irrelevant. We are living in that day.
Let me ask you a question. If you were the leader of a political party who controlled the presidency, both houses of congress, and the supreme court, what would you do? Would you make sexual sin and indecency illegal again? Would you outlaw blasphemy against Christ? Would you exile all Muslims, or at least those who showed any propensity for radical action against Americans? A Christian might want to do these things, but probably would not do so for the sake of freedom.
But Christians have no such freedom in China, where Bibles are banned, crosses and churches are torn down, and the Apostles’ Creed has been replaced with a pledge of allegiance to the communist dictator. Christians and Christianity are not warmly welcomed in Muslim-dominated countries in the Middle East and Africa. And when truth is finally considered absolutely irrelevant in America, so will Christianity, if it is not already.
Pontius Pilate asked a question when faced with Jesus Christ, “What is truth (ref. John 18:38)?” In these times when we are faced with the removal of Jesus’ face from the public square, I ask, “Where is truth?”
The Unholy Spirit
Rounding out the key influences of the great apostasy is the unholy spirit. Just as God has sent forth His Spirit, “The Spirit of truth,” (ref. John 14:17, 16:13), so He will send out an unholy spirit in the last days. Paul says it like this, “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”
Before Christ comes again, there will be a great apostasy, which we see happening now. Before Christ comes again there will be an antichrist, whose influence we feel now. Before Christ comes again, truth will be replaced by falsehood bordering on the ridiculous, because people refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit and take their cues from unholy spirits of deceit and delusion. Could this be happening in our lifetime?
Did you think twenty years ago that a man could marry another man and that such ceremonies would become staples celebrated in so-called Christian churches? Did you think ten years ago that a man could compete in collegiate track meets against women and win, just because he feels like a woman? Did you think five years ago that colleges founded by Christian denominations would kick Christian ministries off their campuses for the audacity of believing the Bible and expecting leaders of their Christian organizations to be Christian? Boys now believe they are girls, girls now believe they are boys, and some believe they are no gender at all.
Welcome to our world! It is a world of apostasy, anti-Christianity, absence of truth, and unholy spirits. In the words of the famous Stephen Sondheim song:
“Don't you love farce? My fault, I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want,
Sorry, my dear!
But where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here!”
The clowns are here. And remember, first come the clowns, then the second coming of Jesus Christ. We’d better start warning others, watching out, and looking up!
Copyright © 2019 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org