2 THESSALONIANS 2 – Rejecting Religion
Before visiting South Korea in 2014, I was one of those people who thought that most of Asia was Buddhist. I guess the post cards and tourism photos had given me that impression. However, while in Korea for three months, it was surprising to hear that the majority of those living on the Korean Peninsula had rejected religion in previous centuries. Unlike other Asian countries, they were mostly atheist or non-religious up to the late 1800s. It made me wonder if this may account for the reason why communism, an atheistic governance system, was compatible with the culture when it was first introduced before the Korean war.
Christianity, brought to Korea by missionaries in the early 1900s, is the predominant Faith in South Korea today – it accounts for ¹⁄₃ of South Korean population – while ¹⁄₃ remains non-religious. But in a world that has never been anything other than “religious” in almost every culture – even as far back at the ancient Mayan Indians, ancient Egyptians and ancient Chinese civilizations – it’s difficult to ever imagine a day when there’s a global “walk out” from all of them in preference to the one person.
Today’s chapter gives us a clear prophetic prediction from a first century Jewish scholar for the future of the world, and it’s in three parts:
- There’s someone holding back a future destructive force. [v7]
- When he is moved from his place, the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed as a world leader [v3-4], and there’ll be a mass rejection of anything that is called “God” or is worshiped – i.e. religion, the tool for seeking and defining “truth” or rightness. This will be in preference to following this one leader. [v9-12]
- But the Good News is: the Lord will be able to overthrow, destroy and put things right with the breath of His mouth and with the splendour of His coming. [v8]
For the past 2,000 years, the most intelligent minds have puzzled over when this could happen. Some have even tried working out who this world leader could be. I wrote about this in Topic 3: Beyond Human Experience, on this website. But the point that Paul makes, when he introduces the topic, is that Jesus specifically said no one knows when.[a]
As the Creator’s Epic storyline unfolds in our lifetime, we’re not to become easily unsettled or alarmed on the one hand, nor should we write it off as something that’s happened already – in a previous war for example. [v2] Two clues include a global rebellion/rejection [v3] of anything that is “God” – which is any religion or framework for “rightness”. No previous generation has seen this before. In addition, a world leader who opposes all forms of “worship” while at the same time exulting himself to overall headship. [v4]
The good news is that although “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work” [v7] – as lawlessness has been in centuries past (though increasing continually until now) – the Creator God is in full control holding back all-out chaos, until the proper time. [v6] In addition, because Jesus has already broken the chains of sin and death[b], He’ll overpower any negative forces that have set themselves up against Father God. [v8]
In accordance with how Satan works, this world leader will display power through signs and wonders that serve the lie. [v9] But again there’s good news. Any marvellous trickery will only deceive those who are perishing. [v10-12] In other words, there’s safety in the future for those who choose to stick close to Father God’s Masterplan now.
The twelve “scary verses” are followed up with four simple verses for those who have peace in their trust in God – those who are loved by the Lord, chosen and saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. [v12-14]
This is His “gospel” (good news) message, that His children might share in the glory that has already been given to our Lord Jesus Christ.[c] All we have to do is stand firm and hold fast to the teaching. [v14-15]
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[a] Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32.
[b] Hebrews 2:14
[c] Daniel 7:13