— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, it’s interesting — some of the songs that we’ve sung this morning. It seems like periodically it’s appropriate to come back to a scripture that we’ve used many times over the years and it’s in 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2.
I’m gonna back up and pick up the context a little bit. But I believe with all my heart, we’re seeing the unfolding of things that Paul is talking about in this passage. And we need to ever keep in our minds and our hearts the sense of perspective of what’s really going on in the world and our place in it, and the reality that we are in a time when men are choosing, and they’re making eternal choices.
I mean, it’s always been true, but there is a — there are times in history when that’s been more true than others, if you can put it that way. Noah’s day was certainly an example, because there was an expiration date on that ancient world. God had fixed a time when He was going to destroy it and save those that were His, the few that were His. And so it wasn’t a matter of, well, I’ll decide next week. For many, next week never came.
And so, we are in a similar time. And I’m just going to go ahead and just pick up a little of the context here to see what he’s talking about, because Paul is rejoicing at the beginning of chapter of 1 in the strength, the perseverance, the faith that was demonstrated in the lives of the saints at Thessalonica.
And they demonstrated it by standing up to a hostile world. And it was that the Spirit of God strengthened them and enabled them and their conviction was real. It was a heaven-sent conviction that was the result of God’s supernatural work in the heart. And so, they were standing against all of this and Paul takes note of this and he’s thankful for it.
And then in verse 5 he says, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right.” (NIV). So basically, he’s introducing a subject: judgment is coming! I’m sorry, 2nd Thessalonians, chapter 1. I thought I said that, but I may not have. But in any case, all this is evidence. In other words, judgment is coming and the fact that you are standing up for God and the world is opposing you is a pretty good indication that God’s judgment of the world that’s opposing what He’s doing is right. There is a sense of justice.
How many times have you been tempted to look at the world and its condition and things that are happening to Christians around the world, the persecutions, the seemingly senseless deaths of people at the hands of the devil’s crowd, and you wonder, what in the world? Where is God in all of this? Why is it like it is?
And I’ll tell you what, God is tolerating the wickedness of this world for a time and He’s using it to accomplish something in His people. He’s using it as a testimony of His righteousness. In the midst of some of the worst things that are happening in the world, God is reaching hearts that He might not reach any other way. We are gonna be able to look back on that day and we are gonna be amazed. We are gonna be blown out of the water with the amazing wisdom and the righteousness of God!
And it’s certainly reflected in that song. God will stand by His own, one way or another. It doesn’t mean we won’t be killed. It doesn’t mean we won’t suffer. It doesn’t mean a lot of things with respect to this world. But I’ll tell you, God’s people are gonna come out the winners in the end. There is no one who has put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who will ever put to shame on that day, because there is a day coming when everything will be put right. And that’s kind of where Paul is going with this.
So it’s, “… evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” So now, he talks about the justice of God. “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.”
So, when’s that gonna happen? He says, “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” And we’re gonna see as we go along that it’s not simply a lack of something, there is an adamance of spirit that’s involved in not obeying. Praise God!
“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”
Now, I’m not trying to give a lecture here on eschatology, on the end-time events, but there’s an awful lot in here that is pretty plain. If you start with the New Testament and you start with the words of Jesus, you’re seeing one event here. You’re seeing — here’s a world that looks like it’s out of control. Here’s a world where Christians look like they’re the losers.
But God is just! And He has appointed a day and He’s gonna take care of both sides on that day. One day He’s coming with fiery destruction, but He’s coming to rescue and put on display His people that He’s been working in all this time. So, this is just one little indicator here of how that’s gonna play out.
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill ….” Boy, isn’t that — over and over again you get this sense, man, none of this depends on me. If it did, I’d have no hope today. There’s nothing in me that can stand up to this world — stand up to my own flesh, let alone the world, or the Devil and all of his cunning and all his wisdom.
But it’s, “… by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God ….” Over and over again — His power, His grace, isn’t it? That’s what stands behind us and underneath us.
“… The grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And I have a tendency when I read scripture that it’s hard for me to read and not stop and comment. I think I’m gonna go ahead and read this passage and then as the Lord helps me, I’m gonna go back and comment on it.
But I believe with all my heart this is a prophecy, it’s a word of warning, of instruction to God’s people, and I believe we are in the fulfillment of this. It’s happening as we speak. It has been happening for a long time. It’s something we need to understand. We need to re-visit, and really take in its implications.
So Paul is writing and says, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 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. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 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. 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.
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
So you see the context here. Paul is writing because apparently word has reached him that there have been some false teachers, haven’t there? There has been somebody who’s come along, come behind him and said, hey, the Day of the Lord has already come. And, so he’s writing — apparently, it sounds like somebody may have written a letter and signed his name to it, so that it would — gain a little authority or gain a little weight with those who heard about it.
But Paul’s saying, don’t you be deceived. Don’t pay any attention to that, even if it seems like it’s coming from me, don’t pay any attention. Don’t you remember how I told you about my coming — about the coming of the Lord, rather?
That’s what this is about. Notice how all of these things together — the last day manifestation of evil and the Lord’s coming all dovetail into one event, because he launches right into a discussion of the last rebellion, doesn’t he? But yet, what he’s talking about is the coming of the Lord and our being gathered to Him. That sounds like it’s all together, doesn’t it? It is.
So anyway, the subject is basically, the great rebellion — that’s not necessarily the title we’re gonna use. We’ll see how that works out. But the Lord — I believe with all my heart that many of us here, particularly the older ones, those of us who are older like me, and older, can remember some of the things that the Lord revealed in our midst years ago.
I’m certainly old enough to remember the 1960’s. How many of you here can remember that day and what was going on in that time? It was a time in which there was such a definite rebellion against every value that had gone before. I mean, the whole younger generation was inspired by a spirit of darkness to rise up and say, we cast off everything of the past!
If you’re over 30, you’re over the hill and reject your values! We reject everything you’ve ever stood for! We reject God’s — any authority of moral law over us. We’re gonna do as we please! We’re gonna get high and we’re — be immoral, whatever comes to our minds. We are in charge! By God, we are rebelling.
There was a — there’s always been some of that. Doesn’t he say that? The mystery of iniquity or this spirit of rebellion has always been here. But there has been a degree of restraint. But Paul is looking down the stream of time and saying, this is not right now. Right now that spirit is here but it is being restrained in a degree. But there is coming a period of time and that time will usher in the time of the end. It will lead up to the time when Christ will come, because He’s the One who’s going to crush it when He does come.
But there will come a definite time of rebellion. It doesn’t just say ‘a’ time of great rebellion. It says ‘the’ rebellion. There’s something specific about this. And it’s interesting to me and, boy, was it interesting to me when I first came here — to the old Tabernacle. And I had lived as a college student through that period, watching my generation just absolutely go crazy, and wondering what in the world is going on.
It just doesn’t make any sense the stuff they’re teaching, they’re believing. What they’re doing is just outright rebellion, not just against society, but against God. And then I arrived here and found out how the Lord had been revealing that this was the time of the loosing of Satan. And it was very specific. It wasn’t just some loosing. This was the last loosing before the end of all things.
There was a time — there was a point in time when God said, all right, now I am stepping back. I’m gonna let men have what they want. And so, we have seen the unfolding of that in amazing ways.
How many of you just look at the news today of what’s happening and the attitudes of people, the hateful behavior, the choices that are being made, the values that are being shoved down our throats — how many of you look at that and you say, good Lord, what planet are they on? I mean, it’s just mind boggling to see the things that five years ago would’ve been unthinkable — today, it’s just normal — not only normal, but you better shut-up and agree with it or you’re the one that’s in trouble.
If they have, if the spirit that is in the world today has its way, it will shut us behind our walls, and tell us, don’t you dare peep about God outside of these walls! And when they succeed in that, they will then come in here and do away with it all together. Satan’s aim is to destroy the influence of God everywhere.
And I’ll tell you, it’s not just colleges. I don’t know how it is here now, but some of us, especially older ones, we remember what school was about. It was about actual education — reading, writing, arithmetic and a little bit of sociology and history, and it was — there was a reasonable presentation of what was right. We learned about the Constitution. I mean, I’ve heard of campuses where if you hand out a copy of the Constitution, they’re gonna throw you in jail. I mean, it’s just absolutely insane.
You could go on and on talking about that kind of stuff. I don’t think we have a clue what’s going on in schools today. I don’t know how it is here. It’s probably not as bad as where I grew up. I grew up in what has become one of the more liberal areas. But I mean, they are teaching sexual deviancy beginning in kindergarten.
You don’t think Satan is loose? You don’t think the spirit of the age has come in and is just flooding men’s minds with darkness and programming them about the normalcy and everything that is against God? You don’t think there is a relentless rebellion against God’s institution of the family and how the family works? Man, you see this idea that children don’t belong to families, to fathers and mothers. Children belong to the state. You see the spirit of it.
I’ve told you before about the — just one example over in Europe. The government building of the European Union was modeled after a painting of the Tower of Babel. I mean, it’s just like man is just shaking his fist in God’s face! There is a spirit of defiance that is out there and that’s what Paul is talking about. There is a rebellion.
It sounds like, in one sense, he’s talking about an individual man. And I don’t know whether there’s an individual man coming or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is. But I’ll tell you, there’s no man who could come and fit this description and succeed in gaining any kind of influence over the people of the world if the people of the world hadn’t had their hearts and minds prepared for it.
This is not just some bad guy that’s gonna come and, oh my, he’s gonna wow us and trick us all. This is a spirit that is at work right now in the hearts and minds, trying his best to influence even people right here. Everywhere, the spirit of the age is to absolutely turn men against God and into a spirit of rebellion against everything that He stands for.
This thing called sin — it’s not just a list of do’s and don’ts, it is a life force that takes possession of hearts and minds and drives them to every form of selfishness, every form of evil behavior — in every way. A lot of the people who would point their finger at somebody who’s guilty of a particular sin and they have something that’s worse going on in them, just like the religious people of Jesus’ day. Oh my!
I can’t wait for the day when there won’t be anything of that. I see a new heaven and a new earth. God’s glory is filling the universe. Won’t that be something to be set free from that? To be able to be what God created us to be in the first place, to be energized with divine life and all the gifts and abilities, whatever God has invested in every single one of us would flourish to their greatest, to the highest degree, but not though selfishness, but through selflessness and enjoying the riches of God’s grace. Praise God! Oh, don’t you long for that? Oh, I’ll tell you, it’s coming. Thank God!
So, here’s the destiny. This is why Satan is so angry. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” Now remember, the beginning of this passage talks about His coming and our gathering to Him. But here’s something else that happens at that coming. He is going to destroy by the splendor of his coming all of this rebellion and all that’s wrong.
“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.” Now, it’s easy just to say, watch out, there are gonna be lying signs and wonders. There are gonna be miracles that really aren’t from God, and that is part of it. But there are a lot of people who wouldn’t be moved by that. It doesn’t limit it to that, does it? It says, ‘every’ sort of evil.
I’ll tell you, we have a nature that runs to everything that God hates. If you follow the inclinations of this nature, you’re gonna go in a dark dungeon of sin and destruction. And Satan knows how to appeal to every single person on this planet. He knows how to appeal to their nature and to portray sin in a way that it makes it seem like that’s the thing that will give you what you’re looking for in life. It’ll be moral corruption for some. It’ll be riches and power for others. It’ll be every kind of thing that Satan can use to appeal to people, I’ll tell you what, we need the Lord, don’t we?
So anyway, “… counterfeit miracles … and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.” Now why do they perish? What’s the deal here? What’s going on? Why are people perishing? Does God just get a kick out of saying, hey, you broke the rules, I get to judge you? That’s not the spirit of it.
It’s interesting to contrast this with Jesus. You want to know what God was really like, what His heart is like toward the race of men who fell into sin? You look at Jesus. And you’ll see Someone who looked down with compassion. You’ll see the Son of God who came into the world to die a sacrificial death and He didn’t come to condemn.
Sin was there! It was terrible! But He didn’t even come to condemn! He came to forgive. He came to save. He came to shine light on darkness so people could be rescued from that. That’s God’s heart! It’s always been His heart! It’s still His heart! That’s why today He’s reaching out in amazing ways in far corners of the world. God’s still at work in His creation. But I’ll tell you, there is something else going on.
Why then, does a God who can approach — like the woman at the well, all that was wrong with her? How is it that God could approach her with such compassion and then deal with these in such violent wrath? What’s going on here? How do you understand that? Do you ever wonder about that, how to put that together?
“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” See, what you’re dealing with is not people who are simply caught by the power of sin, don’t know how to escape it, don’t know what to do. You’re talking about people who, when they do know what to do and they do know, truth comes, light comes.
Jesus said himself, “And this is the condemnation … “ (KJV). This is the reason for condemnation. “… Light is come into the world …” But, what? “… Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” They refused to come to the light. They didn’t want their sin exposed.