“Brothers and sisters in arms-Christs”
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5,13-17
As the church year draws to a close, the readings begin to reflect themes of eschatology, that is, the ‘last things’ and in our reading today from 2nd Thessalonians it would appear that some of the congregation at Thessalonica had come to understand from reading a fake letter, as if from Paul, that the ‘day of the Lord’ had already begun and not just initiated. Paul seeing how unsettling this teaching could be, and fearing a lasting disturbance, he reminds them that before the second coming of Christ occurs the antichrist-here termed the man of lawlessness- must appear in the church. This figure, empowered by Satan, would lead a widespread rebellion against the truth of Christ before the end comes. He is doomed, though, for destruction by Christ when he comes. To add further to the importance of not being swept away, Paul stresses their need to stand firm in line with the truth they had been taught.
A parallel text is that spoken of by Jesus himself in Matthew Chapter 24: “(Then) if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ Or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
In short whether regionally or globally, teachings that do not adhere to the Holy scriptures as recorded are to be rejected and should someone arise in outback New South Wales or in the Holy seats of Rome or Jerusalem and announce them to be God or a Saviour, unless Jesus has returned on the clouds of the sky seen by all, they are to be rejected as charlatans, no matter how persuasive their words, actions, signs and wonders may be.
Sobering stuff that Jesus has told us beforehand that should we be still walking this earth at that time, that we be not deceived in this final display of trickery that Martin Luther makes note: “Paul is not speaking about heathen kings, but about someone ruling in the Church. (As) God’s temple is not the description for a pile of stones, but the whole community of Christians described as one in which the Anti-Christ is to reign proclaiming himself to be God.
These are biblical lessons that we don’t talk of much these days which is fine because our lives lived under the grace of God are not to be concerned with past errors or anxieties of what awaits tomorrow, but lived in the here and now. Yet while we joyously live in the here and now in the sure knowledge of being saved in faith in Christ alone, today and on our last day, the Lord gives us these lessons so that we are prepared not only for the last great deception, but also for current time attacks on the Word of God and his people because to be forewarned is to be forearmed in opposition to being unaware and deceived.
The truth is that the end times started when Jesus won our battle on the cross. And knowing that to be the case, the powers of darkness have been “going down swinging” by attacking what they know to be true, the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The “unworldly” gospel of Jesus Christ which tells us that in him, and in faith in him alone are we saved. Not through good works are we saved and not through our failings and sin are we condemned. But faith in Jesus and what he has done for us are we lifted up.
As Christians blessed with faith we know this and sometimes wonder how others could not. Truth is Christ’s promise is counter-cultural and I remember a noted theologian once saying:
“That when you are in small struggling parish, do not be despondent but joyous that the few there believe because in the world we live in, it’s a miracle that any one believes”.
That miracle is faith. Faith not from our own desire or planning, but brought to us from outside of ourselves by the Holy Spirit while we didn’t know it, yet reverberating through every facet of our soul, body and life to be the most precious thing that we cling. Faith that when we approach God the Father, nothing in our hands do we bring, but in faith in the cross do we cling. And standing there beneath the cross we come to see the truth of God the Father. Not a vindictive God, but our God of mercy known through the comforting words of truth from Romans 5:1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Peace with God, not through ourselves but in knowing the truth of Christ, and accepting his righteousness for ourselves. His righteousness from Isaiah 32:17: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever”.
The Word of God tells us the truth, and the Holy Spirit brings us the faith to believe it and our lives are changed forever to know the peace and assurance that lets us hold firm and fear not when the foundations of society are being shaken around us. The peace and assurance to stand firm in patient endurance and as a strong witness to the unchanging truth of God amongst the changing and challenging times as described in 2 Timothy 4:3-4:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
Peace and assurance given to us in Christ to not fall to what may seem, but to stand in and for what truth is. His truth that we are told in Romans 10:9-17 will not disappoint:
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame or disappointed.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
The Word of God is powerful and the fictional movie makes interesting point of such where a post-apocalyptic dictator has his Hench men try and track down the last remaining bible on earth so that he use its words of power for himself and create his own kingdom.
It is fiction but the power of God’s Word is not and a respected pastor once told me that it is the truth about the truth recorded in Isaiah 55:11 that allows him to continue in his vocation:
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
The Word of God through its hearing brings the miracle of faith to us through the Holy Spirit. That is a powerful Word. The Word that we ourselves must stand in and know its peace and assurance, and the Word that when attacked we must stand up for that others be not led astray.
The Word that gives us the power of humility should others be not. The Word that gives us the power to forgive those who forgive us not and the Word that gives us the strength and assurance to carry on in our vocations dwelling in peace and happiness knowing that in faith in Christ you are forgiven and saved today, and will be on your last day:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 838-39)