Stand Firm Together
What would you say to someone who’s suffering? You’d probably try to encourage them, right? But you’d need to know what they are suffering from. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 1, this church that Paul wrote the letter to was suffering from persecution, probably by the city officials who were pressuring them to abandon their faith in Jesus.
Their faith in Jesus was pretty new. What had happened in the previous few months was that these people believed that they’d made a mess of their lives and that God himself came down to earth to fix it. Jesus, lived, died, and rose again to clean up their lives that they’d messed up. But then after Jesus rose from the dead, we learn from Acts 1 that a bunch of people saw Jesus ascend to heaven to be with God, he left! But then an angel said that Jesus would return one day just like they saw him leave. And when Jesus returns, he’s gonna right every wrong, bring justice to every life and to the world! So these people in the Thessalonian church believed that Jesus was gonna return and put an end to their suffering! But look how chapter 2 verse 1 starts: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way.” They’d started to believe that Jesus had ALREADY returned. There were some people who either misunderstood Paul and were teaching wrongly, or who intentionally trying to deceive them by saying and even writing that Jesus had already come back. And they looked around at their lives, being persecuted and suffering, and were totally bummed! THIS is what King Jesus is coming back to bring? This stinks!! So they were super bummed on top of the persecution they’re experiencing.
So Paul says to them: don’t be troubled; don’t be deceived by wrong teaching about this. Look at the rest of verse 3: “For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” The return of Jesus won’t happen until a few other things happen. An apostasy, that’s where many people will walk away from their faith in Jesus, and the man of lawlessness is revealed. Man of lawlessness…what’s that? That’s Paul talking about the antichrist. You’ve probably heard a bit about the antichrist before, either from other places in the Bible or pretty bad books or really bad 80s movies. Well, he’s not made up, he’s real. And we could talk a bunch about him, but just look at what Paul says here: he’s a man, just a dude, not Satan or a demon, and he’s described by lawlessness, so he doesn’t follow God’s laws or even believe that they apply to him. What’s more, look at verse 4: “He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God. Don’t you remember that when I was still with you I used to tell you about this?” This guy’s gonna come on the scene and announce to the world that he’s greater than every false god that’s worshiped, AND he’s greater than the one true God of the Bible.
But Paul says he’s not here yet, look at verse 6: “And you know what currently restrains him, so that he will be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way, and then the lawless one will be revealed.” The antichrist is still restrained, he himself doesn’t isn’t on the scene yet, but the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. In other words, his influence is already out there. There have been many people over the years who are little versions of what the antichrist’s gonna do. There’ve been false teachers who’ve come and said that the God of the Bible isn’t the true God, or even have said that they themselves are god, and each time God’s people believe that THAT must be the antichrist. But they’ve all come and gone, and they’re dead, and Jesus still hasn’t returned. Paul wants to make it very clear to this church that Jesus hasn’t returned yet and left them. Here’s the first point of encouragement for us: JESUS WON’T DISAPPOINT US. Because that was the fear, right? He’d come back, and it was a let down.
Maybe you need to be encouraged with that right now. Maybe you’re not fearful that you’ve missed the return of Jesus, but you’re fearful that if you give Jesus your life He’s gonna disappoint you. Paul says, no, no, if Jesus came back, you’d know it. It’s going to massively impact your life, and if you give Jesus your life now, when he comes back it won’t disappoint you at all.
Because, look what’s gonna happen to the antichrist when Jesus returns in verse 8: “The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and will bring him to nothing at the appearance of his coming.” Bro’s gonna get it. Jesus is gonna bring this guy to NOTHING, just by the breath of his mouth. It’s gonna seem like this guy is getting the victory for a while, but when Jesus returns this guy’s gets annihilated. That’s the second point of encouragement here, especially if you’re suffering: JESUS WILL DESTROY EVIL. That’s a massive reason why the return of Jesus won’t disappoint you. Jesus is going to destroy the antichrist, lay waste to Satan, right every wrong, bring justice to the earth, and death will be no more.
Be encouraged, that’s your future! The King is coming back to set up a perfect Kingdom, and either you’re already a citizen of it, or God’s inviting you into it right now.
How do you know if you’re a part of Jesus’ Kingdom?
Look at verse 9: “The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders, and with every wicked deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe the lie, so that all will be condemned — those who did not believe the truth but delighted in unrighteousness.” So the antichrist will preform these miracles and signs that will convince some people that he’s legit. But guys this is why we don’t trust in miracles and signs and wonders, we trust in what God has revealed to us in His Word. Because those signs and wonders actually lead to people perish here. Ultimately, it says they perish because they didn’t accept the love of the truth. That’s why they’re not saved.
They’ve heard the truth of who God is, but they rejected it. And because they rejected God, He judged them. He sent them a strong delusion so that they will believe the lie. That’s their judgement for rejecting God.
So when Jesus returns, HE’LL REVEAL WHAT WE’RE TRUSTING IN. So, what are you trusting in? Are you hanging around Jesus, just looking for signs and miracles? Coming to church in the hopes that you can get credit with God and he’ll bless you? Because if the praises go up, those blessings are gonna come down, right?
Maybe you want miracles, but you don’t really want God. Because you know God’s gonna make your life messy if you submit to him. He’ll start to deal with your sin, he’ll call you to lay down your life as you follow him. So instead of giving him your life, you’re just hoping for some of his miracles.
So then maybe this doesn’t sound encouraging to you, because you know that your heart is actually really far from God, and THAT’s what Jesus is gonna reveal when he returns.
But this would’ve sounded really encouraging for the Thessalonians church. And it can for you. Because check out verse 13: “But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is packed full with encouraging truth. Walk through it with me, Paul says that the people in this church are brothers and sisters, they’re actually family because they gave their life to Jesus, and all this is true because they’re loved by the Lord. Jesus’ love got them into the family. And he loves them fiercely.
Why does he love them? Because from the beginning God chose them. Why’d he chose them? No one does. We know that it wasn’t anything special about them. God doesn’t chose to love anyone because they’re lovable, but he just freely decided to pour out his love on people who didn’t deserve it. And in his love he allowed them to believe in the truth, to believe in the truth of who Jesus is and what he’s done. That belief happened when He called them, that’s what it says here, He called you to this through our gospel. God called them to believe the good news about Jesus, and then they responded. And because of all that they’ll share in Jesus’ glory. When Jesus returns, he’ll allow them to share His glory with Him, because they’ve given Jesus their lives.
This is a massively encouraging couple of verses for someone who submits to Jesus. God loves you, he chose you, and you’re gonna share in his glory.
That’s what you’re invited into right now. You can respond to God’s call on your life right now by telling him that you do believe in Jesus, and that you trust what he did to have your sins forgiven.
“So then,” verse 15, “brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote.” If you’ve given your life to Jesus, stand firm, knowing that your salvation is a work of God. That it doesn’t depend on you, your goodness, the strength of your faith, God loves you because he decided to and he’s not gonna change his mind. Stand firm in what’s written in the Bible. Believe that it’s true and that you have brothers and sisters in this family, you have a father who wants to bless you and glorify you.
And through this, verse 16, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word.” Through these truths, have eternal encouragement. That sounds amazing, right? To be eternally encouraged? We’re used to momentary encouragement. In fact, we’ve fallen in love with it. We post something new and just wait for the likes to add up. With each like, we’re a little more encouraged. Until the likes stop, and they always stop, and we’ve gotta come with something else to get likes. But unlike that momentary encouragement, God promises to give you eternal encouragement, because he’s gonna love you forever when Jesus returns to save you.