Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,2 Thessalonians 2:1(NASB)
In his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, Paul was addressing Christians, who were facing severe persecution and pressure. He was writing to correct a misunderstanding, which was causing them to think that the day of the Lord.. when the wrath of God is poured out on a sinful world, had begun!! Paul was writing to allay the fear.. that they had somehow missed the resurrection of the dead, and the gathering together of Christ's Church-age saints to Himself - i.e. the rapture.
The days were so evil and the persecution so severe, that the saints in Thessalonica were distraught, because they had been led to believe that they had missed being gathered to Christ. Paul's earlier teaching on the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the rapture of the living saints, who will be changed in the twinkling of an eye at the trump of God, had been confused with the second coming of Christ to the earth, when He will topple Satan's evil world system, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up prophecy and set up His millennial rule of earth.
When a doctrinal error enters into the gospel of God, it can dig its roots deeply into hearts of believers. Paul wrote his epistle to correct this error - which sadly, has become a cause of increasing conflict within the body of Christ, in these last days. At the start of chapter 2, Paul identifies the topic under discussion - i.e. the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the rapture of the Church - the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him.
Paul takes 12 verses to show, step by step, the exact progression of end-times events - which starts with our being gathered to Christ, and continues through the Time of Jacob's Trouble, to the point when Jesus returns in power and great glory, to set up His earthly kingdom. It then carries on into the future for 1000 years, after which God creates and new heaven and a new earth. The first few verses give a general overview while the later verses expand on Paul's introductory precis.
Paul reassured these worried saints that the 'Day-of-the-Lord', which will usher in the prophesised time of judgement - and which precedes the millennial reign of Christ, will not come until the man of sin is revealed. He explained that God's wrath was not being poured out on them, even though there were going through much persecution - because the man of sin had yet to arrive on the scene. The rebellious man of sin and Satan's evil plans were being held back, by the prayers of the saints in Paul's day.. and the man of sin and Satan's evil plans are continuing to be restrained today. The Restrainer is the Holy Spirit - working within the Body of Christ, through the prayers of the Saints.
Sadly, however, some interpretations of 2nd Thessalonians, are only based on the initial summary statement, and ignore the later verses, which show that the Holy Spirt is restraining evil and suppressing the rise of the man of sin... and He is dong His restraining work through the prayers of Christians - who are members of Christ's Body and His earthly ambassadors and representatives.
Once that restraining Body is removed THEN, and only then, will the man of sin be revealed, Paul explained. Only after the Restrainer is removed, will the man of sin be identified and enabled by Satan to carry out his nefarious deeds, and perform many lying signs and ungodly wonders - until he is overthrown by the breath of Christ, at His second coming.
Once the rapture takes place, the restraining work of God through the prayers of the saints will cease, allowing the antichrist to finally rise to power and usher-in world domination. The Day of the Lord, spoken of by the prophets of old, which incorporates both Daniel's 70th week (i.e. the 7-year tribulation) AND the 1000-year millennial reign of Christ, does not refer to the rapture of the Church. However, the restraining impact of the indwelling Holy Spirit, through the prayers of those saints, is holding back the outpouring of God's wrath on a Christ-rejecting sinful world.
We look forward to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him. But until that day, when we are taken to be with Him, let us pray without ceasing that God's will be done on earth, and that His kingdom will come on earth - as it is in heaven, to His greater praise and glory.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word and the truths that it contains. Open my understanding as I watch for the any day return of Christ, to take us to be with Himself. Thank You that members of Your body are not appointed to wrath, and thank You that You are using Your people to hold back the flood of evil, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. We pray that before Your judgement is finally poured out on a Christ-rejecting world, and the unrestrained evil, which will soon saturate the entire earth, that many would come to faith in Christ - before that great and terrible day of the Lord. We ask this in Jesus name, AMEN.
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