“Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction…. Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you?” (2Thess. 2:1-3, 5 NLT)
Hello family of God - brothers and sisters in the Lord,
84 years ago, in 1938, there was a radio program called “Mercury Theatre on the Air”, broadcast on CBS Radio in Los Angeles. That particular night, October 30th, Orson Welles was reading an adaptation of a book called “War of the Worlds”, a story about Earth being taken over by Martians, little green men from Mars. This broadcast of the book, which involved frequent radio interruptions with “breaking news” reports of alien invaders destroying police with heat ray guns, caused great stress for the recipients. People actually believed the report of the invasion and panic ensued. The fake news reports of panic, with live interviews of eyewitness accounts, (remember this was someone doing a dramatic reading of a novel) fueled the fearful reaction of the radio listeners. The whole thing was a hoax, but people fell for the deception. Friends, are we living in such a time? Conspiracy theories have never been so high, with some even stocking up and arming up for the global crisis on our doorstep. How do we know what to believe? How can we guard against deception? Our text today has something to say about false news reports.
What is the blessed hope of the follower of Jesus? Is it not to see Jesus face to face at His return? Is it not when your faith will be sight - the realization that you have not believed in vain? Is it not the joy of hearing, “well done good and faithful servant…come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:23 NIV). Indeed, it is the hope of every believer to be in the presence of our Savior forever! The return of Jesus is the beginning of the “Day of the Lord” – His second coming. So, imagine getting a letter from someone claiming to be the Apostle Paul, saying that Jesus had already come. Could you imagine being in church some Sunday, and a guest prophet stands up and declares, “the second coming of Christ has already happened; all of the end times scriptures have been fulfilled.” Lest you think this is impossible, I have encountered so called prophets and preachers who believe that very thing! How discouraging! How troubling! This is exactly what had happened in the church in Thessalonica 2000 years ago. Somehow, someone had deceived the young believers into thinking that Jesus had already returned.
That’s why 1st and 2nd Thessalonians were written - to correct bad teaching concerning the end times and return of Jesus. We can have some grace for the early churches and the heresies they were exposed to because there was no printed Bible for everyone to read. There were only letters written by the apostles to the churches, which were circulated amongst the churches, to be read to the congregation. The apostles would make their rounds to the various churches, visiting, encouraging, correcting the faithful on what they believed. We are without excuse because we have the written word of God, hundreds of years of Bible exposition and commentaries, numerous translations, teachings, sermons, etc. We are without excuse! And yet, still our churches are filled with heretical and false teaching, deception and lies. Now, with the internet, people are listening to all kinds of teaching, with little discernment, and little accountability, and as a result, heresies are spreading like wildfire!
Our text shows us the effect this teaching has on young believers who are eager to learn without filters to weed out the bad teachings - they are “shaken, “alarmed”, “fooled”, and “deceived”. What is remarkable is that Paul had already taught them this stuff (vs. 5). Yet, without paper and pencil to record it, it was easily forgotten. Or maybe the ones teaching the heresies were trusted elders who were somehow led astray by their own imaginations and faulty interpretations. Be careful who you listen to! Check everything with a trusted group of fellow believers, and test everything with the whole of scripture – the word of God!
So how do you know that Jesus has not returned already? Well Paul says two things need to happen first:
There have been many defections and antichrists throughout history, but before Jesus returns, their will be a great rebellion against God, a large number of people abandoning the Christian faith, and a global leader who rises up and claims to be God and demands all of the world to worship him (vs.4). Paul emphatically implies in this letter that this has not happened yet, therefore the disciples can be certain that Jesus is still coming back for them, and the “Day of the Lord” is yet future.
Friends we will delve deeper into all this in future devotionals. But for today, the Lord wants us to be very careful what we put into our minds and hearts, because it will affect us. Lies and deceptions are like large waves in the sea that toss people around, and sometimes shipwreck their faith (Eph. 4:14). There is a sure way to avoid the effects of false teachers and heresies – read, study, and know intimately, the Word of God (2Timothy 3:16,17). Surround yourself with fellow followers of Jesus who read, study, and know the Word of God, and hold each other accountable to it! Listen to Holy Spirit – the Spirit of truth, and check what you are hearing from Him with fellow Spirit-filled followers of Jesus! Iron sharpens Iron! Lastly do the hard thing and stay away from deceivers and liars. I close with Paul’s words to the church in Rome:
“And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.” (Rom. 16:17-18 NLT)
Have a blessed week!
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