Paul is reassuring some very worried readers. They have the misconception that they have missed the return of Jesus. Whoever convinced them of this should be ashamed of themselves! Paul assures them there are still events to come before Jesus’ return.
Revelation and Daniel are full of prophecies that have to take place before Jesus returns. I am NOT an expert in interpreting these prophecies. But the one Paul is pointing out is a big one that he feels is unmistakable.
“For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (verses 3-4).
This is a big event. This isn’t one church or religion saying they are better than all others. This is one man opposing and suppressing all other forms of worship. In our age of “tolerance” this is hard to imagine. But God says it will happen. One man, Satan’s man, will institute some form of law or rule that will insist everyone worship him as God. He will even eventually take a seat in the True God’s own temple.
Paul gave this one specific sign to his readers because it was so bold. It was a sign that they could not miss. As Gentiles they were living in cities where MANY gods were worshiped every day. They would notice if someone began requiring and forcing everyone to align to worship one single person.
One might try and argue that Paul had caused many Gentiles to forsake their old gods and follow Jesus. But Paul never forced anyone to accept Jesus. Jesus never forced or forces anyone to accept Him. We do so after hearing the truth and choosing to follow Him. Satan’s man won’t give that option. Right there is a MAJOR difference that should be obvious to everyone.
I like how the Left Behind book series paints this process. Instead of outright suppression of all religions their leader makes a conglomeration of all the religions and insists on everyone buying into it. The only group who resists this is the Christians and the Jews. Both these groups know the One True God and refuse to compromise to please man.
This is not going to be an overnight occurrence. Satan has been fighting God since the day of rebellion in Heaven. “For the mystery of the lawlessness is already at work. Only He who now restrains it will do so until He is out of the way” (verse 7). God is keeping him in check until He is ready. God knows when that will be. He has given us warning signs so we will not be caught totally off guard. The world will but His children won’t.
We don’t have every answer and know exactly what each prophecy means. I believe a lot of it will make more sense in hindsight, just like the prophecies about Jesus did. But if we are watching for the big signs we will still be on guard and aware of the changes signaling the nearing of Jesus’ return.
Thank You Father for the warning signs. Thank You too that I don’t have all the answers. I run away from those who claim they do. Those who claim to know the day, month or year are false prophets and NOT someone to listen to. They are Satan’s messengers, not Yours.
Help me be able to discern the difference using more than that one benchmark. I really would like more insight into what lies ahead but don’t want to buy into every doom and gloom story coming down the pipeline. I want to be aware but never afraid. Fear is another one of Satan’s tricks. Yes, a LOT of what is coming is scary in the natural world, but with You by my side I don’t have anything to be afraid of. This world has to get as bad as it can possibly get before the end.
Each step that brings us closer fills me with hope and excitement. It also fills me with urgency. That urgency is in recognizing that the time is quickly running out for those who don’t know You or have turned away from You; my family included. Help me reach others for You. Help me live a life that witnesses to my family louder than any words I could say. And bring someone they will listen to that can turn their hearts back to You. I leave them once again in Your hands.