Good morning friends. We are now five days into the new year. How is it going so far? Is it everything you have hoped it would be? So far mine has included illness and bills. Nice. But it has also included the Word of God, the presence of Jesus through the Spirit of God, promises, hope, renewal and lots and lots of love. So which do you figure I should focus on? Which will you focus on?
Much of what we receive from the Word of God depends on our openness to the Holy Spirit and what we choose to focus on as we read. It depends on perspective. Today's reading from 2 Thessalonians surprisingly contains prophecy of the return of Jesus. Not something we might expect to find from Paul and definitely not a letter we consider when we talk about the end times. Nonetheless it is here and it reveals that our perspective or point of orientation will matter in these days. Paul makes it clear that the rapture will not take place until the evil one is revealed:
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. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Now, as I have stated before, I am not an End Times teacher and am not dogmatic in my approach to these matters. Much is left up to interpretation but there are a few points that are very clear. The enemy will raise himself up to take authority over everything on earth and set himself up as God. There will be a great deception that will take place. The Church will be gathered up. Jesus will return and defeat the enemy. There is much more to it but these are the points that concern us this morning because I have heard people speak in fear on these matters as if we too could be deceived. Consider what Paul writes:
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. vs. 9-10
Note here who will be deceived: those who are perishing. It is very important for us to understand this because at no point should any believer fear being deceived in this matter. The truth dwells in us and we dwell in the truth. We live by the Word of God which is the only thing we ever trust. As long as you are filled by the Spirit and are studying the Word of God no lie of the enemy will ever be able to deceive you. Why is the world being deceived now and why will it be further deceived in the future?
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. vs. 10-12
There is nothing new in this. Jesus said:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:17-18)
It is because of our focus, point of view, perspective that we will not be deceived by the enemy and so fall under the great delusion. It is also for this same reason that those who have rejected Jesus, God's truth revealed in the flesh, will be deceived, fall under the great delusion and will perish. It is for this reason we work so hard to win people to Jesus before the Spirit is removed, freeing the "man of lawlessness" to bring about the great deception. We are trying to rescue as many as we can as we interpret the signs that show the time is growing short. The urgency is so much greater today for us to teach the truth of God, to lift up Jesus, to plead for the salvation of our neighbours, friends and family before it is too late.
My friends, do not neglect the Word of God. Do not neglect your relationship with Jesus Christ. Do not forsake the fellowship of the believers. Stand your ground. Remain strong. How can the rescuer rescue if he in turn needs to be rescued. The world may not recognize it but it needs you. This goes beyond your own salvation as you are responsible for rescuing as many as you can, but without your salvation you are lost to the rescue. So, as the time is growing short let us be determined to grow stronger and not weaker, and let's get to work as we take part in the Father's rescue plan. Today is the day of salvation.