Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 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. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 [ESV]
I had finished the graveside portion of a funeral for a church member in Arlington, Texas. A young man came up to me with an expression that signaled a great deal of earnestness. “I really appreciated how you talked about the resurrection of Jesus and his Second Coming,” he said. “Yes, well, that is the hope we have,” I replied. “Do you know that they’ve actually bred a red heifer in Jerusalem?!?” He was very excited. I had no idea what he was talking about. “Yes,” he said, “when they sacrifice it on the altar in Jerusalem, it will usher in…”
I honestly don’t remember the rest of what he said. But I do remember what his point was, and it had much to do with a particular understanding of the End Times, the tribulation, the Rapture, and the end of the world. Frankly, it seemed to me to overshadow the message of the gospel: that for Jesus’ sake, God forgives our sins, and promises all who believe eternal life.
Some espouse a pre-tribulation millennial belief. Others speak of a post-tribulation millennium. Still others are amillennialists (I number myself among those). I like to say, that I’m a pan-millennialist: It’ll all pan out in the end. Although I talk about the End Times in a somewhat whimsical manner, it’s anything but whimsical. But if our belief about the millennium is more important than faith in Jesus, we are in grave danger.
Such was the danger – in addition to the confusion about the End Times – that the Christians in Thessalonica faced. Here Paul is speaking about the antichrist, the man of lawlessness. Key markers of this one is that he exalts himself, takes his seat in the temple of God, and proclaims himself to be God. People through the years have supposed who this might be. Corrupt popes, Stalin, Hitler, Son Young Moon, come immediately to my mind.
I believe the Antichrist will come. And I believe he will be overcome by Jesus. I believe there will be no doubt when Jesus returns. And I truly do look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. The real truth is centered in and anchored in and secured in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He loves us perfectly and eternally. He, alone, is worthy of our true love.
PS: Click here for a fuller discussion of millennialism. Or paste this into your browser window to see this article in the Lutheran Cyclopedia. [https://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=m&word=MILLENNIUM]