Sunday, February 26, 2012
Scripture Sunday: Second Thessalonians
The Thessalonian church is still growing in their faith, and Paul is very pleased with their overall attitude: "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth" (1:3) They love each other and they love God, so everything should be just fine with the Thessalonian church, right?
Well, actually, they've been having some doctrinal problems. Specifically, they've been taught to believe some incorrect things about the second coming of Christ, often referred to in modern Christian circles as the Rapture. Paul gives them some information about the way the world will be when Jesus does come back: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2:3-4)
So that's pretty specific--the second coming of Christ, or the Rapture, isn't going to happen until one evil man who opposes God sits in the temple and actually declares himself to be God. Paul doesn't mention any specific dates, times, or ways to calculate the return of Christ because those human measurements of time could not matter less in this case.
But though he's discussing the potentially worrisome topic of the end of the world as we know it, Paul takes time to remind the recipients of his letter to be of good cheer, and he also asks God to encourage them: "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." (2: 16-17) Paul may have some serious doctrinal issues to address, but his intention isn't to scare anyone into righteousness, it's to inform them of the facts and to encourage them to continue on their current path.