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]
My grandson may have been born in 007 (2007). His name may be James. And I have watched a few 007 movies. I am well aware that James Bond likes his martinis “shaken not stirred.” I’m not sure of the significance of such a way to make a martini. But when it comes to God’s impact in our lives I am convinced that God wants us to be stirred but not shaken. God wants our hearts to be stirred by his message of truth and grace. He does not want our faith in him to be shaken.
Paul’s message here is all about how the faith of the Thessalonians had been shaken by untrue and confusing reports about Jesus’ return. Some had even been told that Jesus had already returned.
The Reformation Study Bible states,
Second Thessalonians was written mainly to supplement Paul’s earlier teaching by correcting a premature and unsettling announcement that the day of the Lord had already arrived (2:1–11). This misguided claim may have been due in part to wrong inferences drawn from Paul’s own teaching, coupled with the congregation’s painful experience of persecutions thought to be indicative of end-time disturbances.
Harsh persecution is enough to shake anyone’s faith. If the faithful are treated shamefully, and not rescued from such terrible treatment, one might conclude that God has abandoned them. This is what is meant by the phrase, “despairing of God’s grace.” In the fury of persecution and confusion of false teachers, it would be easy to be shaken. Such is Satan’s ploy.
So Paul writes these Christians to clarify their understanding – dealing with the confusion – and to shore up their faith – dealing with the doubt they had cast on them.
But I don’t think of faith as merely an absence of confusion, or a matter of supreme confidence in God’s promises, or correct doctrine. James reminds us that we may believe God is one, but so does the devil. And he trembles in fear (he is properly shaken!).
We are to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. There should be times we are stirred to awe, wonder, praise, and even fear. We are also properly stirred by the work of the Holy Spirit to act with kindness and love toward those who need God’s grace. And when God’s stirs our hearts to speak truth that’s a good thing too. Stirred to fear, love, and trust God above all things, and stirred to do good to our neighbor: these are good things. Shaken in our love for God or neighbor: not good.
Paul writes to clarify our knowledge of God and the world, encourage our love for one another, and remind us of God’s promises to embolden our faith. Few of us today are distracted by worries of Jesus’ Second Coming. More likely we are distressed by the abandonment from the faith of many. We are rightly distressed by the way the world is going. We may even feel like we’re under attack for our beliefs.
Do not be shaken by any of the devil’s schemes. Be stirred by God’s love and faithfulness, his grace and mercy. And look toward the time when every evil plot and scheme will be revealed for what it is, and Satan himself will be brought to nothing.