Introduction: Last week Paul told us that the end to suffering will
come with the Second Coming of Jesus. Recall that Paul previously
told the Thessalonians that, at the Second Coming, they would see
their loved ones who had passed away. Naturally, they wanted to know
more about the timing of the Second Coming! But, instead of giving
them precise details, Paul told them ( 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2) that he
did not need to tell them because they would be surprised. What kind
of answer is that? Apparently, the Thessalonians had the same kind
of reaction because Paul is back on the subject of the timing of the
Second Coming. They must have told him they wanted to know more.
I’m interested in the timing of the Second Coming! Are you? If you
are, let’s dive in together to find out what Paul has to say about
the events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus!

  1. Steady Now

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. What problem is Paul
      addressing? (The Thessalonians have become alarmed about
      the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus.)

      1. What is the reason for the alarm? (Someone said it
        already happened. They missed it!)

      2. Why would the people think that they missed the
        Second Coming? (Apparently, rumors were invented a
        long time ago. The rumor the Thessalonians heard was
        that they had missed the Second Coming – and the
        source of that statement presumably came from Paul.)

    2. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Why doesn’t Paul say, “I never
      said any such thing?”

      1. What does he say instead? (Paul is not satisfied with
        a simple denial. Instead, he shared details of the
        Second Coming to show that it could not have already
        taken place.)

      2. How can we get a better fix on the timing of the
        Second Coming? (A rebellion comes first. A man of
        lawlessness (a man of sin) is revealed. This man is
        “doomed to destruction.”)

      3. How can a person be “doomed to destruction?” I
        thought grace was available to all who were willing?

    3. Read John 17:12. If you need to read the context to
      understand this statement by Jesus, do so. Who is Jesus
      calling “the one doomed to destruction?” (Judas. The Adam
      Clarke commentary notes that the Hebrew equivalent for
      this phrase was used by the Rabbis to refer to Satan or
      Adam after his fall. Judas, Satan and Adam all made a
      terrible choice. Thus, this man which Paul has identified
      has chosen destruction.)

  2. Antichrist

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:4. We need to note carefully the
      characteristics of this man doomed for destruction. What
      are they? (He opposes God. He exalts himself over God. He
      sets his headquarters in God’s temple. He proclaims
      himself to be God.)

      1. We previously compared him to Adam and Judas. What
        does this person do that sets him apart from Adam or
        Judas? (Proclaimed his superiority to God, proclaimed
        himself to be God. Judas might have thought that he
        was a superior thinker to Jesus, and thus would force
        Jesus’ hand to proclaim that He was King. But, Judas
        never proclaimed himself to be God.)

      2. What stands out in this text as a clear historical
        marker? (This person “sets himself up in God’s

        1. What is God’s temple?

        2. Paul would believe that only the temple in
          Jerusalem was “God’s temple,” right?

        3. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed after
          this. Has our historical marker vanished?
          (Perhaps the temple in Jerusalem will be

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 6:16, 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Ephesians
      2:21-22. What different possibilities do these texts
      create for understanding the phrase “God’s temple?” (That
      the church members are God’s temple.)

    3. Read Revelation 3:11-12. What does this add to our picture
      of God’s temple? (Even in the midst of the New Jerusalem
      coming down to earth, God still refers to His people as
      being part of the “temple of my God.”)

    4. It would have been very tidy to simply look for this
      doomed fellow to show up in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
      But, these other texts open up the possibility that this
      antichrist sets himself up over God’s church.)

    5. Look again at 2 Thessalonians 2:4. This doomed man, this
      antichrist proclaims himself to be God. Have we seen
      someone who sets himself up over God’s church and
      proclaims himself to be God? (Barnes’ Notes, a prominent
      Christian commentary, says “How can it be doubted that the
      reference here is to the papacy?” Barnes was the pastor of
      the First Presbyterian Church in Philadephia. Pastor
      Barnes died in 1870. It was common for Protestants of his
      time to believe that Paul referred to the Pope. However,
      even Barnes could not find any proof that the Pope claimed
      to be God. He had to find this in the writings of other

    6. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7. Paul has apparently told the
      Thessalonians a secret that he has not shared with us.
      What do you think is this “secret power of lawlessness?”

      1. What do you think is “holding him back?” (Paul does
        not tell us. But, whatever theory we construct for
        this antichrist, this spirit of thinking we are
        superior to God, this spirit is being constrained by
        some divine power.)

    7. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Will there come a time when this
      antichrist is revealed? (Yes. At some point the antichrist
      is freed to reveal himself.)

      1. How does the antichrist end? (This is important. This
        antichrist comes before Jesus’ Second Coming and is
        defeated at Jesus’ Second Coming. The timing here is
        very clear.)

    8. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10. What is our clearest proof
      (other than timing) of the end-time antichrist? (He does
      all sorts of miracles, signs and wonders. He cooperates
      with evil.)

      1. Why does he do all sorts of miracles, signs and
        wonders? (He does them to deceive Christians.)

        1. Deceive us about what? (If you review what we
          have read, the clear suggestion is that this
          end-time antichrist intends to make us think he
          is the coming Christ. He is attempting to
          imitate the Second Coming.)

      2. Does that sound like the Pope? (No. As those who read
        this lesson know, I’m not dogmatic about the meaning
        of prophecy. Instead, I think it is most important
        for us to be alert, and test current events against
        the Bible. Unless something happens in the future, no
        past Pope satisfied either the timing or the displays
        described by Paul. No Pope ever said, “I’m the Second
        Coming of Jesus.”)

    9. More importantly, it is always problematic to point
      fingers at fellow believers in Jesus and call them the
      “antichrist.” This is especially true when we look at the
      religious composition of the world. There are 1.6 billion
      Muslims and 2.2 billion Christians. Why would Christians
      call each other the antichrist when there is a huge
      portion of the population that is undisputedly opposed to
      the idea that Jesus is God?

    10. The Muhammadi Trust, an Islamic group, shares this
      statement about the 12th Imam who comes at the end of the
      world:”The world will not come to an end,” said the
      Prophet Muhammad, “until a man from my family (Ahlulbayt)
      and of my name shall be master of the world, When you see
      a green ensign coming from the direction of Khorasan, then
      join them, for the Imam of God will be with the standards
      who will be called al-Mahdi.”

      1. If you want to read more about Muslim belief in the
        coming Mahdi, read the Wikipedia entry about it. Not
        too many Christians understand that the Islamic view
        of last day events looks forward to a coming Mahdi
        just before what Muslims call the Day of

    11. Re-read 2 Thessalonians 2:4. If “God’s temple” is His
      church, how does that fit with the theory the Mahdi is the
      end-time antichrist? (It doesn’t fit.)

      1. What should we conclude from this? (This gives us a
        very good clue about what we should look for in the
        future. If the Mahdi sets himself up in a rebuilt
        temple in Jerusalem, then Paul was speaking about an
        actual temple. Otherwise, we need to look for an end-time antichrist who claims to be the head of

    12. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Paul starts out warning the
      Thessalonians against being decieved. What should we do to
      avoid being deceived by the end-time antichrist? (We must
      have a converted heart. We must believe the truth. Those
      who are deceived are those who “delight in wickedness” and
      “refuse to love the truth.” Those who are not deceived are
      those who love God and His truth.)

    13. Friend, where do you stand? Do you love the truth of God?
      Are you willing to seriously study your Bible and keep
      your eyes open for this end-time deception? Pray that the
      Holy Spirit will give you discernment and convict you of
      God’s truth! But, when this antichrist comes, rejoice that
      Jesus is coming next!

  3. Next week: Keeping the Church Faithful.