Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction …
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (verses 1-3, 9-12)
Paul has spoken often with the Thessalonians about the second coming of Jesus. He sees it as vitally important. “Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?” (verse 5), he asks, confirming the face-to-face teaching he’d given in the early days of their faith. But it didn’t stop there. He’d shared more of the same when he’d written his first letter (1 Thess 4:13-5:11). Clearly, he wanted them to be certain of Christ’s return.
But seemingly, confusion has recently arisen. False reports, purporting to be from Paul himself, have declared that “the day of the Lord has already come.” Don’t believe it, Paul says.
Indeed, that great future event will be preceded by “the rebellion” and by the arrival of “the man of lawlessness” who operates “in accordance with the work of Satan.” Not till then will Christ’s return take place. Jesus himself gave similar insights. Speaking of the time before “the end,” he said, “many will turn away from their faith … and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10-12). All of this is yet future. Lawlessness and rebellion will flourish before the coming of Christ. Evil will thrive and deceive. “And then the end will come”(Matthew 24:14).
But here and now, the central issue has to do with our own response to truth.Yes, in that future day, evil will deceive “those who are perishing,” but the reason they are perishing is because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”This is the decisive factor. Paul repeats the same again: “all will be condemned who have not believed the truth.”
Truth. Yes, of course – it’s a shorthand reference to Jesus. He is the One who embodies truth, who is himself “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), and when we respond, we find we are embracing the “word of truth, the gospel of (our) salvation” (Eph 1:13). Pilate’s cynically dismissive question, “What is truth?”, came in response to Jesus’ own strong declaration: “I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37-38). To “love the truth,” then, ultimately means to love Jesus. To embrace truth means to be embraced by his salvation.
All of this is the answer to the peril of that future day. Those who have “refused to love the truth” will be swept up in disastrous delusion. But those who have believed the truth will be joyfully carried through that great day of Christ’s return.
So, then, sharpening our focus on the future causes us to sharpen our focus in the present. Ask yourself: Have I embraced the truth himself? If so, rejoice.
And then ask: How can I help others embrace him also?
Lord Jesus, you are the truth. You have given me the joy of salvation. I look forward, in peace, to the great day of your coming.
In the meantime, use me to shine your light in the lives of others. May your truth reach out to them through me. For their eternal joy. For your glory. Amen.
Pray: Give thanks for the truth you have found in Jesus. Pray, by name, for some who need yet to embrace him.
Photo by Magda Ehlers: https://www.pexels.com/photo/cutouts-of-letters-4116661/