The first chapter ended with the Apostle Paul praying for the believers to be counted worthy of the calling of God to fulfill His good pleasure and the work of faith with power, so the the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in us, and us in Him, by the grace of our God and Lord. In other words, more of Him, less of us.
v 1-2 The Apostle Paul brings a clarification here for what was apparently being misunderstood and falsely taught from his first letter to the believers in Thessaloniki regarding the timing of the day of YHVH, and the sudden catching up/rapture. In 1Thes 5:1-11, Paul wrote that the believers (even the new believers 2000 years ago in Thessaloniki) accurately know that the Day of the LORD comes as a thief in the night. The believers who are in the light and prepared with expectation for that day will not be caught off-guard, but only those who are not awake and not prepared, like unbelievers. (Mt 25:1-13) It is important to have this in context to guard us against deception. For example, Paul writes to Timothy that some were saying way back then that the resurrection had already happened, and were overthrowing the faith of some believers. (2Tim 2:15-18) The devil will likely try the same thing again, saying that the rapture has already taken place (somehow) when it has not, and cause fear and accusations among professing believers. We must believe what GOD says, and not heed another, even if spoken or written in His name. (1Kg 13:1-32)
The resurrection will not take place without the rapture of those still alive in Christ; and the rapture will not take place without the resurrection of those already dead in Christ. The first resurrection and the rapture are a single simultaneous event. (1Thes 4:13-18; Ps 50:1-6; Mt 24:31; Lk 17:22-30; Rev 20:4-6) This momentous event will take place on the Day of YHVH, prior to Him pouring out His wrath on all who oppose Him and His people. Just as in the days of Noah, when God protected and delivered Noah and his family in the ark on the same day just before the rains began; just as in the days of Lot, when God delivered Lot and some of his family on the same day, just before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and its sinful inhabitants. (Mt 24:37-39; Lk 17:25-30; 2Pt 2:4-11) This blessed hope will be the fulfillment of the Day of Atonements, when God separates those who have accepted His required sacrifice to forgive and atone for the sins of His people so that He can dwell among them, from those who do not include themselves in His righteous and loving provision for each and all of His people. (Lev 16; 23:26-32; Is 53; Mt 1:21; Jn 3:16-19) Yeshua is that sacrifice and Savior for all the people of the world; but He must be believed on in order to receive all of the benefits. (1Tim 4:10)
v 3 The Day of the LORD and the rapture are not imminent, in the sense that they can happen soon at any time. At the end of the Book of Revelation, Jesus did not say that He was coming soon, but quickly (as a thief in the night does). It may well be sooner than many think, but there is a set time that no one knows the day or hour. (Zech 14:5-7; Mt 24:36) At the time that Paul wrote his first epistle to the Thessalonian believers, they did not need to know the times and seasons. (The Holy Spirit knew that it would not be in their lifetime.) But, there are signs and events – which Yeshua Himself gave to us (e.g., Mt 24) — which must take place first in the generation that will see the return of the Lord and the resurrection/rapture of the believers. The main sign which Paul (based on what Jesus taught His disciples) tells the Thessalonian believers is the revelation of the Antichrist – the man of sin, the son of perdition! Let no one deceive you; the rapture will not occur before the falling away and the abomination of desolation, which begins the final 3½ yrs of the last seven years of the age. (Mt 28:18-20; Dan 11:37; 8:10-11; Dan 12:7; 8:9-14, 23-25; 9:27; Mt 24:15-25; 2Thes 2:1-6; Rev 13:1-10) At this mid-point of Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy, maybe then some could argue for an imminent rapture, but not before then. And even then, Scripture is consistent that the saints – both of Israel and of the Church — will go through the great tribulation of Satan’s wrath against the covenant people of YHVH God – the Jews and the believers in Yeshua/Jesus. Jacob’s Trouble is not only Jacob’s trouble! Yes, we are waiting with hope for the revelation of Jesus Christ returning from Heaven in great power and glory, but the revelation of the Antichrist must come first.
Many believers say, “What blessed hope is this, that we may suffer and go through the great tribulation?! We thought that is only for the unbelieving Jewish people! How can a loving God let that happen to Christians?!” Brothers and sisters, God is love, and He does not change. But for Him to get what He wants, it seems like suffering is His way to do it! (Heb 5:5-8; 11:32-40; Acts 14:21-22; Philp 3:7-11) He certainly loved Jesus, and sent Him to the cross. He loved Paul, and told him how much he would have to suffer for the name of Jesus/Yeshua. God loved Jeremiah, and Job, and see what He allowed Satan and unfaithful chosen people to do to them. God loves the believers in Islamic nations, in most African nations, in China and in India and N. Korea; but in those countries the saints are already suffering greatly. Why should we think that we are exempt from the possibility? God’s grace will be sufficient for us at such a time. We must believe this! (1Pt 4:7-19) The ways of YHVH are far above ours, and His thoughts not like ours. We overcome victoriously by our faith in who Jesus Christ is, and in His blood shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Our hope – whether we have died or are still alive – is the return of the Lord and the resurrection/rapture of the saints – whether Jewish or Gentile in Messiah/Christ. Praise God! This hope we proclaim and remember every time we join together in the communion of the Lord’s Supper. (1Cor 11:26)
v 4-5 The Antichrist –final and ultimate (1Jn 2:18-23) — will do what no man has done before in defying and blaspheming God: he will sit as God in the holy place of God, doing works of power as if he is God, and exalt himself above every and any God that is worshipped. (Mt 24:15-25; Dan 8:8-17; 11:36-39; Rev 13:1-10) This is the Devil’s lie from the beginning when he beguiled Eve taken one step further: not only can you can be like God [by disobeying Him through deceit and unbelief], but you can willfully and knowingly oppose Him and exalt yourself above Him and any other so-called god! Man in the image and likeness of Satan! This is the root spirit of humanism, the faith and religion of Humanity that makes God (and especially YEHOVAH, who is God Most High) irrelevant and of no consequence. (Rom 1:16-25)
v 6-7 I am still not certain who or what restrains the revelation of the antichrist. I have heard and read many possibilities, including Jesus, the archangel Michael, Satan, the Holy Spirit. Quite a variation! What I am certain about is that the restrainer is not the Holy Spirit, nor the Church/Body of Christ: the Holy Spirit is always present in the world. Thank God! He was here at Creation; He was active before the gospel within and upon the prophets, High Priests, and kings of Israel; He is here now; He will be here in this world and creation until the final judgment after the Millennial Kingdom. The only place that the Holy Spirit will not be is in Hell/the lake of fire, because God is not there! That is why it is Hell: God is not there. God is here; so, despite how bad things will get, this is not Hell.
God is still saving people through the great tribulation years, which means that the Holy Spirit is here, and so is the Body of Messiah as Jesus’/Yeshua’s witnesses, and being purified as the Bride of the Lamb. (Dan 11:29-35; 12:1-10) Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with [purifying] fire. (Lk 3:15-17) “Tribulation saints” – those who are saved during that time – are just as much part of the Body of Christ as those saved before the great tribulation. (Rev 6:9-11; 20:4-6) That is to say that the “Church Age” lasts until the Lord comes at the end of the great tribulation.
Just as Jesus is the fulfillment of the mystery of godliness (1 Tim 3:16), so the Antichrist is the fulfillment of the mystery of iniquity. Jesus was God in the flesh (Mt 1:22-23; Col 2:8-10); the Antichrist is Satan in the flesh. (Rev 12:7-17 – 13:1-10)
v 8 The power of evil at its height is nothing compared to even the weakness of God! The Lord will simply breathe on the antichrist to destroy him. (Is 11:4; Dan 8:25; Rev 19:20; 2Kg 1:10; Rev 13:13) We are not to fear those who can kill the body but not the soul; but we are to fear the Lord Jesus Christ, who can cast both the body and the soul into hell. (Mt 10:28)
v 9-10 The antichrist will do all manner of supernatural and miraculous works – all in order to deceive and mislead as many people as possible, including the elect – those who are saved. He will succeed against those who do not have a love for truth, or who do not appreciate how much love there is in the truth. God is love, and His Word is the truth. (Mt 24:23-25; 1Kg 22:7-23; 1 Sam 8:7, 22; 2Chron 18; Rev 14:4-5; Ex 14:4; Num 22:12-35; 1Jn 2:22; Zeph 1:17)
There is absolute universal truth, which sets us free from a world of lies. It gives a solid foundation for life and living. Jesus says that He is the truth, and that the Father’s word is truth, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Our God is a God of Truth; the enemy is a liar, who always attacks, not just what is true, but what is TRUTH. Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth”?, and He was looking at Him. God tells us to seek the truth with all of our heart, and we will find it. The Old and New Testaments tell us the truth by which we can judge between what is true and what is not, what is good and what is not, what is holy and what is not. Truth matters! Those who do not love the truth, but love the lie, will not be a citizen of the New Jerusalem, but will be forever kept out. (Rev 21:22-27; 22:14-15)
I recently met a man who converted from evangelical Christianity to Judaism because he didn’t like it that evangelical Christians believe there is univeral truth. In Judaism, he says, everyone can have their own opinion about what the Bible teaches. How sad to prefer the darkness and fog over the clarity of light!
v 11-12 Satan deceives; YHVH God gives a strong delusion to those who do not love the truth (light), but prefer unrighteousness (self-preservation and works of darkness) (1Kg 22:6-38) The fear of the LORD and love for Him above all is absolutely necessary for our lives, and for being conformed to His image, His character, to trust Him and be faithful to Him at all times, even during the times of greatest temptations and persecution.
v 13-15 Paul gives thanks for those brethren chosen for salvation through sanctification by the Holy Spirit and belief in the truth. We must want to know what is true in a world that is casting truth to the ground. God wants us to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ! Do you want to live with Jesus forever? Grow in the knowledge of the truth, and stand firm in the faith of Jesus. If we know the truth and obey it, the devil is much less able to deceive us with his subtleties. If we are Jesus’ sheep, we will listen to Jesus, and not to the serpent.
v 16-17 Paul closes with a word of necessary encouragement to the believers then, and to us now, after presenting such a difficult word (similar to the Lord comforting Daniel the prophet after he was given to see the evil of the antichrist and his deeds at the time of the end) (Dan 10:7-19): Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, February 5, 2022, and reposted with permission.