April 5, 2009
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus,
I have been an avid student of the Word of God for thirty years. In that period of time I have spent a great deal of time studying the prophetic Word. God not only moved upon men of old to record what has been, He revealed through His prophets what shall be. One of the greatest proofs for the divine inspiration of the Bible is prophecy. There are 1,817 prophecies in the Bible, encompassing 8,352 verses. Of this number, 1,239 are in the Old Testament, 578 in the New.
Well over 1,000 of those have already been fulfilled to the letter, with no errors. The Bible has always been accurate in the past, and will always be accurate and reliable in the future. What great comfort that should give every child of God. We serve a God who is reliable and trustworthy. You and I can depend on what He says. That is especially reassuring in these days in which we live. God knows the future better than any person knows the past. He knows the future and has declared some things about it in His Word. That is the purpose of these weekly teachings.
When I first began to study prophecy I was taught that in the time right before the rapture of the Church, we would see a massive defection from the faith. It gave me the impression that Jesus was going to return for a primarily back-slidden Church that was barely holding on with only a relatively small remnant still with any faith at all. I read, as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. [Eph. 5:25b – 27 NKJV] As a young minister I thought as I read this, “How can this be?”
Certainly we know that we will see departures from the Christian faith in the last days. Paul wrote, Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. [1 Tim. 4:1 NKJV] We have seen these departures throughout Christian history, and are indeed seeing them today. However, does that mean that we will see massive departures as some have taught? How will Jesus return for a glorious Church if that is the case? I struggled with these questions for several years.
One day I found myself in a meeting in Des Moines, IA with the late Dr. Roy Hicks. In that meeting I purchased a wonderful little book of his entitled, Another Look At The Rapture. In that book Dr. Hicks included a very helpful exposition of 2 Thessalonians 2. Interestingly, this is the very chapter that proponents of the mass defection of Christians teaching point to. Let’s examine this chapter in the light of what Dr. Hicks and great scholars of the past taught.
The rapture revelation in 1 Thessalonians was given to comfort believers who were grieving over the state of their departed loved ones. He revealed to them by direct revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ the great truths of the resurrection and the rapture. The believers were greatly encouraged by this. It seems that Paul needed to write a second letter to “get them off of the ceiling”, as it were.
By the time we get to the second epistle, apparently a letter had been circulating that stated that Paul was teaching that the Day of the Lord had already occurred, consequently they had missed the “catching away”, and were about to face the man of sin and the awful events of the tribulation period. Needless to say they were all worked up again. Enter Paul’s second epistle. He wanted them to know, in our terms, that he was not “mid-trib” or “post-trib.” Further, he wrote to show them it would be impossible for the man of sin to be revealed, as the restrainer, the one keeping him from taking over, would continue to hold him in check until that person was removed by God. Then, and only then, would that person be revealed. He wrote,
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. [2 Thess. 2:1 – 4 NKJV]
Notice in verse 1 that Paul is very careful to distinguish between the Second Coming of Christ mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 10, and the Rapture mentioned here and in 1 Thessalonians 4. Our gathering together unto Him is the key. In Christ’s Day of Judgment and power He will come back with His saints and His holy angels to punish those who don’t obey. [In order to come back, they have to first get to heaven] In verse 2, Paul begins to write about two separate events. The first event is mentioned in verse 1, our gathering together to Him. The second event is the Day of the Lord, which includes the revealing of that Man of Sin.
The “Day of Christ”, as it is called in the King James Version, is understood by all Greek translators to be the Day of The Lord, or The Day of Judgment. Paul never said, as some have taught, that the Church would experience great suffering and Tribulation from the Man of Sin before the Lord would come. In the third verse, he addressed the brethren who were deceived into believing that he, Paul, was teaching that the Man of Sin had already been revealed. He said, “That day shall not come, and the Son of Perdition will not be revealed.” If you will indulge me for a moment, this totally rules out the mid-trib rapture teaching. Why? Because those who believe in mid-tribulation say that we will know the Man of Sin, for he will be ruling half-way through the seven year span foretold by Daniel in his prophecy, and that if he has a mark, we will know whose mark it is.
Paul is saying that he will not be known. Also Paul said that this Man of Sin cannot be revealed unless the falling away comes first. What does this mean? Does it mean, as some have taught, that there will be a mass exodus from the Christian Church just before Jesus Returns? If so, how can He return for a “glorious Church?” The phrase, falling away, is from the Greek word apostasia, and of course we get the word apostasy from it. So is Paul talking about a great apostasy gripping the Church before the Return of Christ, or is there another possible translation here? I submit to you it is the latter.
In fact, Dr Hicks revealed in his book, and I have since confirmed in my own studies, that there are two ways to translate this Greek word, apostasia. We will delve into that next time.
The Weekly Word is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:5 – 7. Here the Bible says,
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. [2 Thess. 2:5 – 7 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson