How Can Christians Be Prepared For The End-Times? - Part 3
With war raging in the Middle East and so many other tensions going on in our world, where do we find hope and courage? Join Dr. Marty Baker as he walks us through 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12 and helps us understand the end times and the ultimate victory and peace that is found in Jesus Christ.
We live in some of the most troublesome times we have ever witnessed. Because of the senseless and ruthless attack of Hamas terrorists against innocent Jews living near Gaza, coupled with Israel’s justified military response to the bloodshed, the world teeters on the edge of a worldwide conflagration. The tinderbox could explode at any moment, drawing in Hezbollah’s terrorist forces on Israel’s northern border. Iran has warned it is the final time for Israel, and they are ominously warning that they are prepared to send an earthquake of judgment Israel’s way. Two American aircraft carrier battle groups are located near the action as a deterrent to further mayhem and to position our soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women to respond quickly if an all-out war does break out.
Looking at this geo-political chaos, it is sad to see the countless loss of lives on both sides, and it is perplexing insofar as it is hard to comprehend what is occurring before our eyes. But as students of the Bible's prophetic portions, we know the why behind all this. The Devil has attempted to wipe out God’s chosen people from the beginning, and as Zechariah prophesies in chapter 12, verses 1-5, Israel and Jerusalem will be the focus of world attention and hatred until the Messiah returns to judge sin and sinners and establish His glorious kingdom. The charter of Hamas backs up this prophetic revelation, for they are committed one hundred percent to eradicating Jews from the entire land. And they are not alone in this supposedly theological quest, for many other Arab nations support their dogma and activities.
This is only part of the reason for the explosive situation in the Middle East. Old Testament prophets like Daniel (2; 7; 9; 11) reveal that the final world leader, the Antichrist, will arise out of absolute chaos. He will be the most articulate, intellectual, erudite politician and statesman the world has ever seen, and he will be instrumental in developing the ultimate pathway for Middle Eastern peace, which has eluded all other world diplomats, politicians, and negotiators. The present complex and chaotic geo-political situation between Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah is, therefore, a divinely permitted situation to ultimately set the stage for the arrival of the Anti-christ. Granted, he may not arrive on the world scene for many months or years, but we can readily see how the world stage is lining up for his arrival . . . as prophesied thousands of years ago.
It is easy to look at events like this and conclude, as I’ve said, that we are either in the Tribulation or on the cusp of it. While the world is closer to the seven-year tribulation prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27), there is no way we are in that time of divine wrath, nor will we ever be as members of the Church of Jesus Christ. I know this is a fact because of what Paul prophesied to the church in Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 2. They thought the terrible and ruthless persecution they experienced in their day revealed they were in the Day of the Lord, but Paul told them this was impossible. Within the seventeen verses of this prophecy, Paul gave them three reasons why they were not in the Tribulation and why the Church never will be. In studying his three reasons, we are also educated and enlightened in our day and age about why the time of judgment will pass us by. Additionally, we are educated and enlighted concerning the answer to this pivotal question:
How Can Christians Be Prepared For The Prophesied Tough Times Of The End-Times? (2 Thess. 2:1-17)
We get prepared by giving time and attention to understanding and applying Paul’s teaching:
- Don’t Be Hoodwinked (2 Thess. 2:1-3a) or translated: don’t permit misguided prophecy teachers to convince you that you are in the Tribulation.
- Do Be Honed In (2 Thess 2:3b-5), or translated: do understand that the Tribulation period will be one of worldwide apostasy away from God, the Word, His gospel, and truth. True, you see this falling away from biblical (logical and moral) truth today; however, it pales into insignificance concerning what will transpire when the Church is no longer present. Further, the man of sin, the lawless one, or the Antichrist will be revealed and desecrate the (rebuilt) temple in Jerusalem (Rev. 11; Matt. 24:15). Again, the Church will not witness any of His activity like this. So, to be honed into this eschatological nuance is to be filled with hope.
Additionally, Paul's prophetic teaching, inspired by the Holy Spirit, challenges us not to duck and cover but to be brave as God unfolds His prophetic plan with precision.
Do Be Courageous (2 Thess. 2:6-12)
Knowing, as we saw in our last study, that the Holy Spirit has filled the Church since Pentecost and that He will take the Church to heaven at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18), we can understand how He, along with saints who comprise the Church, is THE restraint holding back the arrival of the Antichrist and the unchecked explosion of utter lawlessness. We are watching lawlessness grow and flourish worldwide, and we must oppose it courageously anywhere we encounter it. Still, we must all understand there will come a moment when the Lord calls the Church home, and His judgment will commence. In the meantime, how are you holding lawlessness and sin in check?
From verses 8 through 12, Paul further develops the concept of courage for Christians in lawless times leading up to the Tribulation. First, I will read the text and then offer some salient hermeneutical observations.
8 And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; . . . (2 Thess. 2).
When the Holy Spirit is removed insofar as He “leaves” the earth with the Church at the Rapture (v. 7), the effect is the revelation to the world of the lawless one, the man of sin, the son of perdition, or the Antichrist.
According to Daniel 2, 7, and Revelation 13 and 17:12, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome are the final four world Gentilic empires. Rome would be eventually destroyed, but it would miraculously rise again to be a world power. The ten toes mixed with clay represent the future form of the Roman empire that will be the basis for the Antichrist’s geo-political activities. We know this is true because Rome was never composed of a ten-nation confederacy; hence, this denotes a revival of the Roman empire under the Antichrist.
Daniel 7 tells us how the Antichrist is revealed:
7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts (Dan. 7).
The Antichrist is a little (unassuming) horn (a politician with power) who will suddenly rise to great power within this ten-nation Gentile confederacy. He becomes the feared leader because he will suddenly and ruthlessly take out three of his allies (EMP, nuclear strike?) The rest of the allies will cower before his military prowess and brutality and offer him their unquestioned obedience.
John’s letter, called the Book of Revelation, gives more details about the arrival of the Antichrist:
1 And he stood on the sand of the seashore. And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" (Rev. 13).
John’s prophecy, when read in light of Daniel’s similar prophesies in chapters 2 and 7, tells us the Antichrist’s empire will be a conglomeration of the four great and fearsome empires that preceded him: Rome (168 B.C.-476 A.D., Greece (331-168 B.C.), Medo-Persia (559-331 B.C.), and Babylon (605-539 B.C.). Like the Babylonian empire, the Anti-Christ’s empire will be known for its extreme wealth, power, and false religion. Perhaps a chart will help you get acquainted with the intricacies of these prophesies:
Like the Medo-Persian empire, the Anti-Christ’s empire will be known for how it quickly defeated it enemies. Like the Grecian empire, the Anti-Christ’s empire will be known for how quickly it will overtake and unite the known world. Like the Roman empire, the Anti-Christ’s empire will be known for its brutal force and unique ability to unite various peoples under an outright dictator.
Satan, who inspires the Antichrist, will set up a fake but convincing assassination and “resurrection” of this wicked ruler. While Satan cannot give life like Jesus, he will set up a scenario where it appears this politician is killed by a political opponent(s). Still, it will only be a clever ruse to dupe the masses into thinking this man is, in fact, the Messiah or God. The world will be dumbstruck by his resurrection and follow him in lock-step. Don’t tell me we are not primed for such activity.
We also know from Scripture when he is revealed, he will forge what appears to be a lasting peace treaty with Israel, one which brings much-needed peace to the entire war-torn region (Dan. 9:27).
27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate" (Dan. 9).
One week in this prophecy represents seven years. In the middle of that week, or after 3 ½ years, he will break this covenant with Israel and enter Palestine (note: his military movement will probably be to “save” the Jews from the northern and southern invasion as detailed in Ezekiel 38-39), defile the rebuilt temple, persecute the Jews in a final holocaust (Rev. 13), and set himself up as God. This has been the goal of the Devil all along: to turn people away from worshipping the true God to worshipping him. Worship at this time will be given to the Devil through the Antichrist.
But it won’t last, as Paul asserts (along with many other prophets). This is most encouraging. Evil cannot flourish indefinitely but will be ultimately addressed by the Lord himself. Here is how Paul prophetically puts it:
8 And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;
Jesus won’t need an earthly army. Jesus won’t need tanks, planes, and battleships. Jesus won’t need angels to go before Him to overpower the Antichrist. All He will need is His Word. Imagine that this power-hungry, messianic imposter will be basically vaporized with a word. One second, he’s wreaking havoc on the world in the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19), and then in the next, he’s shockingly stripped of all power, influence, and authority. Perhaps Jesus will blow on him and knock him over like a helpless, fragile leaf moved by the wind. This prophetic reality should give us great courage in the here and now, for the wickedness and lawlessness we see metastasizing at breakneck speed is only for a moment. It will run headlong in the true Messiah, Jesus Christ, and He won’t be in a tolerant mood as John reveals in Revelation 19, which depicts the Second Coming at the Battle of Armageddon:
19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone (Rev. 19).
Effortlessly, Jesus will cast the Beast and his sidekick, the False Prophet, into the Lake of Fire, which is the final abode of all the wicked of all time. Again, God will deal with evil in due time in a definitive, spectacular fashion. Until He does this, can He count on you to be courageous for Him by spreading His gospel and living for Him?
In verse 9, Paul turns and gives us a brief character description of the Antichrist:
9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, . . .
His “coming” uses the Greek word Parousia (2:9), the word Paul used to describe Christ’s coming in 2, verse 1. Three times his coming is also called a revelation, which is from the Greek word apokalupsis (2:3, 6, 8), a word typically tied to Christ’s Second Coming (1 Thess. 1:7). This is significant because these words inform us how Satan will attempt to make his godless man look like the Messiah to dupe the masses. Put differently, when he arrives, he will be such an unusual man people will automatically think he is the long-awaited Messiah, not Jesus.
When Paul says the Antichrist comes with “all power and signs and false wonders,” he uses loaded terms most understood. Signs, or snmeios (σημείοις), speaks of an event that defies known laws of physics, medicine, and so forth. It is the word that describes Christ’s turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:11). It is the word that represents Christ’s turning five barley loaves and two small fish into enough food to feed 5,000 men, plus all the other people who were with them (John 6:10ff). Signs of this nature arrest your attention and force you to consider that the person in question is most unusual or otherworldly. Wonders, or terasin (τέρασιν), denotes a supra-terrestrial action that leaves you awestruck and dumbfounded. Any of Christ’s miracles, from the healing of a man blind from birth (John 9) to the raising of Lazarus from the tomb (John 11), certainly classify as “wonders.” Interestingly, both words describe the ten supernatural plagues God sent against Egypt to motivate them to release Israel from bondage (Ex. 11:10; Deut. 6:22; 7:19).
NAS Deuteronomy 4:34 "Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? (Deut. 4)
LXT Deuteronomy 4:34 εἰ ἐπείρασεν ὁ θεὸς εἰσελθὼν λαβεῖν ἑαυτῷ ἔθνος ἐκ μέσου ἔθνους ἐν πειρασμῷ καὶ ἐν σημείοις καὶ ἐν τέρασιν καὶ ἐν πολέμῳ καὶ ἐν χειρὶ κραταιᾷ καὶ ἐν βραχίονι ὑψηλῷ καὶ ἐν ὁράμασιν μεγάλοις κατὰ πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησεν κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ ἐνώπιόν σου βλέποντος (Deut. 4:34 LXT).
Signs and wonders originate from a power that points to the divine. But such is not always the case, as Paul prophesies.
When the Antichrist rises to power, he will have a partner called the False Prophet. His job will be to use signs and wonders to convince the masses that the Antichrist is the true Christ. Revelation 13 tells us what kinds of miraculous activity he will perform at will:
11 And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15 And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed (Rev. 13.).
Like Elijah (2 Kings 1:10), one of Israel's greatest and most feared prophets, this false prophet will be able to bring fire down from a perfectly clear, blue sky (1 Kings 18:38). Fire, of course, is closely related to God. It is what He used to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24), it engulfed Mount Horeb when He revealed Himself to Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 24:17), it was a pillar of divine fire which protected the Israelites at night in the desert (Ex. 13:21), and came down from heaven and consumed the disobedient priests, Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:2). Satan’s thinking couldn’t be more clever: When the people see this instantaneous fire from heaven, they will easily be duped into falling at the feet of his world ruler, the Antichrist, and worship him.
In addition to this, the False Prophet will animate a massive image constructed of the Antichrist. This will be beyond what Nebuchadnezzar had in his day. His was a colossal 90-foot high by 9-foot wide golden statue (Dan. 3:1ff). I’m sure it will dwarf the 103-foot bronze statue that Emperor Nero (37-68 A.D.) constructed and established in the vestibule of his Domus Aurea, or the imperial villa complex located to the north side of the spectacular Colosseum.
This majestic statue of the Antichrist will be just that: a static, lifeless statue. The False Prophet, however, will be given the ability by God to animate the object to speak. This will not be AI, for that will not dupe anybody. This will not be a robot, either. No, this will be a lifeless statute that will suddenly and miraculously breathe, come to life, and hold conversations as if it is a thinking person. What will the result be? Massive amounts of people, educated and uneducated, and from all religions will immediately fall and worship the Antichrist as the Christ. Think of how easily people today are led astray by illogical, inconsistent, crazy belief systems and unfounded ideologies. You can readily see how primed they will be to fall under the spell of this false messiah. Note to self: Just because you see signs and wonders doesn’t mean God is present or is speaking. If those signs and wonders, be what they may (dream, vision, apparition, etc.), challenge you to turn away from believing in Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord, they are not from God but from Satan.
As saints of the Lord Jesus, we should learn from all this. Since people are so easily duped and deceived, we must courageously give them the true gospel so they can be saved and have a real relationship with the living Lord. How many people around you are misled and need the gospel of light and life? Many, I’m sure. Speak up and out with love and boldness.
Right now, the Devil is working hard to blind non-Christians' minds so they won’t see the light of the glorious gospel (2 Cor. 4:4), but in the Tribulation, his activity will be taken to new depths. Paul says this much:
10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness,
Please underscore the cause/effect nature of Paul’s words here. Non-Christians, who are spiritually perishing because they have rejected the “love of the truth,” which is a code word in the NT for the gospel (Col. 1:5; Eph. 1:13), will be the recipients of the delusion God will unleash on the world so they will follow the Anti-Christ in lock-step. This is similar to Romans 1, where non-Christians are portrayed as suppressing the divine truth God has given them (Rom. 1:18). As they suppress the truth so they don’t have to worship God, they naturally turn to worship the creation and deviant sexuality instead. God responds with each step of rejection by giving them over to their sin (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28) so that their conscience is eventually rendered useless. All of this, of course, as Paul states here in 2 Thessalonians 2, verse 12, is so that God’s judgment of the lost will be just for it will be based on their outright rejection of His true gospel and utter love of all that is wicked, be what it may (John 5:22-24).
If you are a non-Christian right now, I ask you to take stock and consider your present system of belief that causes you to reject Christ is deceiving you and leaving you open to His judgment one day. I’m here to courageously warn you, as all saints are supposed to do, that God’s judgment will be based on truth (Rom. 2:1-2); it will be related to the amount of spiritual light you received and what you did with it (Matt. 11:20-24), it will be impartial (Rom. 2:11; 1 Pet. 1:17), and it will be thorough (Jer. 17:10). You can by-pass Christ’s judgment only by bowing before Him in faith while rejecting your former sinful ways and belief system. Paul’s words to the Romans couldn’t be any more transparent and more compassionate:
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom. 5).
He loved you enough to die for your sin when you were His enemy. He now awaits for you to turn in faith to Him and be declared righteous in His sight. Those who don’t turn will be judged, and in the Tribulation, it will be much harder to be saved, for the delusion of the Antichrist will be formidable. Today is the day of salvation. Will you be saved today?
As for Christians who are saved, we know where history is headed. The Devil will work overtime to deceive as many as possible as the Lord prepares to cast him into hell. In our day, he’s also at work seeking to keep many in the spiritual dark so they will be judged along with him. I guess misery does love company. Your job as a believer, should you decide to accept it, is to courageously share the gospel not everyone wants to hear but needs to hear. Who will move from an enemy to a child of Christ because you dared speak up?