October 18, 2011

Wednesday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 21, 28, 1 Kings 12:25, 2 Thess. 2:1-12
Evening - Ps. 29, 30, Job 5:8-18, Mt. 12:31

Commentary
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Not surprisingly, the Thessalonians still had questions about the Return of Christ, which Paul answers in this passage. Again, let us remember that the subject here is Christ's Second Coming to inaugurate the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2), or, as Paul calls it here, the day of Christ (2 Thess. 2:2). It is His Coming to establish the Kingdom of God on earth in all its full glory and completeness. The Greek word used here is parousia, which carries the meaning of a royal visit, or coming in royal glory to rule the kingdom. Thus, in 1 Thessalonians we see Christ returning as the King of Glory, heralded by the trumpet of the Archangel, and issuing royal commands to the creation (1 Thess. 4:16). Theologians have spent much time trying to decide whether verse 2 means to say that the Thessalonians fear the Day of Christ has arrived in fulness, or that they merely believe it is near, "at hand." Actually, both are correct, for Paul is arguing against both concepts. He uses a Greek word that means to be present with, as well as to be impending or near. so he is saying that the idea that the Day of the Lord has already come, and the idea that the Day of the Lord is so immanently near as to make planning for the future and working for a living unnecessary, are wrong. Those who say it has already happened are quite obviously wrong, for the world goes on much as it did before Christ came to earth and worked His wonderful gift of salvation by the blood of His cross. Evil has been dealt a death blow, but it still lives, and people live in open and unrepentant sin. When Christ Returns, all of this will end. The Day of the Lord will bring His Kingdom of Righteousness to fulness forever.

Likewise, His return is not so near that we can put the rest of life on hold to wait for it. This is the most prevalent problem in Thessalonica, and is one reason why we should agree with the reading in the King James Version, which tells the Christians of Thessalonica not to fall for schemes that say the Day of Christ is "at hand," meaning immanent at any second. Some in Thessalonica, had stopped working and supplying the needs of themselves and their families because they believed Jesus would return within the next few days, if not the next few minutes. Instead of earning their own living, they spent their time spreading their views in such obnoxious ways as to make them nothing more than "busybodies" (3:11), who, because they had not worked to provide for themselves, expected others in the church to feed and clothe them and their families. This is not according to the "tradition" (teaching and example) of Paul, and the short answer to this problem is that "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (3:10).

Paul then tells them that the Lord will not return until a great "falling away" from the truth occurs within the Church, and the man of sin is revealed (2:3). This man, also known as the Anti-Christ, opposes all that Christ stands for, and he does so in such a way that his ways appear good and godly. While there are many anti-Christs, there is but one Anti-Christ, and he will ultimately deceive people into believing in him as God (2:4). This Anti-Christ appears prior to the Return of Christ, and our Lord will destroy him at His coming (2:7-9). All who were deceived by him (10-11) will be destroyed with him at the Lord's return (2:12). So this event will occur prior to the Lord's Return.

Each generation has read this passage and thought it was in the time of the falling away and the man of sin. In a sense they were right, for the spirit of anti-Christ is always strong in the world because the general nature of fallen humanity is inclined towards it. People have noted the moral decline of culture, and have noted many wicked people, whom they thought might be the Anti-Christ. But Paul seems to indicate that there will be no doubt in the Church as to the Anti-Christ's identity. We will know him when he appears. Until then, we are to devote ourselves to Godliness and faith, not idle speculation.