Just as there were globally publicized predictions of the End of the world in 2012, there will surely be many more to come. This is nothing new, and for most of the church's history sincere Christians have always fallen prey to such speculations. Yet in response to these delusive predictions, Christians have been sadly rather vague and unclear in their counter-responses. Because there has been no clear word from Scripture in answer to this growing chorus of count-down mentality, the vacuum of ignorance has only exacerbated the problem.
I believe that Scripture is unambiguously clear as to how we need to respond to such prognostications and I want you to know how to respond to popular claims that Christ's return is just around the corner. To know how to respond, we need to turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Please read it and then be like the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11) who searched the Scriptures for confirmation of what they were told. Here we see that Paul gave (1) a Certain Sequence (2) of Observable Objects (3) as a Defence for Delusion. The church he wrote this letter to had forgotten what he had earlier taught them and had slipped from a sound stable mind into alarmed and agitated instability regarding the Second Coming (Advent) of Christ. Based on false prophecy, words of people, and also a spurious allegation from a letter of Paul, some people were believing that Christ's Advent had already happened. Many people in the church were unsettled and did not know how to counteract this 'new teaching'. Here is the gist of what Paul said to them:
(1) The Certain Sequence:
Paul made it very clear that Christ's coming and our gathering to Him in the rapture (vs 1) could not happen at any moment but must be preceded by a certain complex of events (notice the temporal word 'first' in verse 3). Since there are certain events in history that must necessary transpire before the Advent, Christ could not have already returned. That is the gist of what Paul declares. No Returned Christ or any-momentism! - since the precursor signs have not happened yet.
(2) The Observable Objects:
Paul spends most of this section describing the nature of the events that must happen before Christ returns, in order that his readers may (a) know if Christ is not returning yet and (b) know what things will look like on earth if His Advent is imminent
Paul describes certain global international world conditions. His words centre around a Satanic parody of the Messiah, a real man who will make his debut on the world scene, who will be personally slain by Jesus Christ at His Coming. This is the Antichrist, the one side of the coin of the expected events. The other side of the coin is the expected 'rebellion' or 'apostasy' which must happen. This Greek word 'apostasia' can be variously translated, dependent on the context it is used. At bottom is means a defection from one position to another. If Julius Malema and his followers had to move out of the ANC and join to DA, the Greek word for that would be 'apostasia'. If thousands of Baptists had to leave their churches and join the Moonies, that would be an 'apostasia'. So Paul's words can speaks of a specific religious 'falling away' amongst Christians or Jews, or in a specific political realignment. Given the context (which is always determinitive for the meaning of individual words) where Paul describes the Antichrist as the 'man of lawlessness' who will appear and receive a global reception, the 'apostasia' is best understood in the broadest sense of a mass exodus from traditional law, order and religion to believe and follow the pretentious claims of this global demagogue. Also considering the context once again, the identity of 'the restrainer' is most reasonably a reference to Roman law and order (which actually saved Paul from being lynched by lawless mobs in Acts 19 and 22). As long as overall lawful governance was in operation in society, the full flowering of lawlessness and autocratic world rule would be keep in check. Overall, the logic of the inspired apostle is that these things are to be unprecedented and observable signs, clear for Christians to see, and that until these historical realities transpire, Christ will not be returning as yet.
(3) The Defence for Deceit:
False teaching misrepresents the truth and immunizes God's people to the authentic teaching of the Word. Delusive speculations also immobilise and distract us to our present mission in the world. Paul wanted the church to be 'in the know', stable and confident as to these things. He wrote these things as a safeguard to Christians and to enable them to walk in the light of truth, immunized to the current speculations. The teaching is revealed to be known and to support the church a midst a growing world alarmism.
My friend, may you hear what the Word is saying on these things. Notice how clear Paul is! Unless we see Antichrist and the his 'abomination that causes desolation' in a Jewish temple, Christ will not return. Paul was teaching exactly what Jesus Himself taught in Matthew 24. Let us hear these words of Paul (and Jesus) afresh, know the truth, and by our service for Christ in this world 'hasten that Day of the Lord' (2 Peter 3:12).
Pastor Paul Hartwig