Explore the Bible Study: Observing

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How difficult is it for you to notice mistakes or errors? How do distractions cause you to miss something you might otherwise notice? How does a lack of knowledge cause you to miss something you might otherwise notice? In the Explore the Bible Study: Observing, Paul turns his attention to some specific truths regarding the return of Christ in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, because the Thessalonian believers were being distracted by false teachings and misinformation about the second coming. 

It was always Paul’s desire to help believers so they would no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit (Ephesians 4:14). The words God gave Paul for the Thessalonians are equally relevant today considering everything we are currently facing in our world. We need to be able to identify “distractions” so that we are not tossed around by every wind of teaching.

Don’t be Distracted by Speculators – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5

Paul reminds them that they should not be easily upset or troubled, nor should they let anyone deceive them. Apparently, someone was disrupting the Thessalonians’ peace by twisting the truth of the Lord’s return. Paul’s wording challenges them to keep their heads about them and to avoid giving in to fear or worry. Paul reminds them that he had already told them the truth regarding Christ’s return. 

  • He had assured the Thessalonians that the return of Jesus would be accompanied with an angelic shout and the blast of a heavenly trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). It would be impossible to miss, and the Thessalonians could rest in the knowledge that they would recognize it when He came back. 
  • Paul reminded his readers of what he said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.  When Jesus came back, He would gather His people to Himself. The promise of this “gathering” was as sure as the promise of His return.

Paul specifically states that the heretics had alleged the day of the Lord has come, leading to confusion and doubts regarding their faith. They could have been trying to lead them to believe Jesus had returned, and that they had missed it. Or, they could have been teaching that Jesus didn’t return as He promised. These heretics’ deceptions may have included claiming personal inspiration and the authority of the Spirit for their teaching. Or, they may have composed a fraudulent epistle in Paul’s name to deceive the people. Either way, their motive was clear: to create chaos and confusion, and cast doubt on the validity of one’s faith in Christ.

(NOTE: The downloadable teaching plan provides a list of false views and predictions regarding the return of Christ that could be used to guide a discussion or for further study)

(See PSG, p. 103; DDG, p. 97): What are some tactics false teachers might use today to stir up or upset believers? 

How can we avoid being drawn into false predictions regarding Jesus’ return?

Paul challenged his readers to not let anyone deceive them with lies or misinformation. He reminded them that two events had to take place before Jesus came back. 

  1. He pointed to what he called the apostasy. This term generally refers to a rebellion or a turning away from something previously believed. Those who are authentically saved can’t lose their salvation but those who have the appearance of faith without a true relationship with Jesus—along with those who openly deny Christ will turn away. It was also clear that it had not happened yet.
  2. Paul mentioned that the man of lawlessness that was doomed to destruction had not been identified. This individual’s violation of God’s statutes set him up for God’s eternal judgment. Some scholars equate him with the antichrist in 1 John 2:18. This man would be arrogant. He would exalt himself above every deity or religious ritual. He would demand worship by proclaiming that he himself is God. 

According to Scripture as stated by Paul, this evildoer would be revealed before the return of Christ. This would have reminded the Thessalonians that this man’s appearance would be hard to miss, proving again that the second coming had not yet occurred.

How would you summarize Paul’s advice regarding how we should respond to current speculations regarding Christ’s return? (In PSG, p. 104; DDG, p. 97) How does the promise of Christ’s return help relieve the stress of living in a fallen world?

Don’t be Distracted by Lawlessness – 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8

Paul knew that a mystery of lawlessness was already at work in his day. Since the garden of Eden, Satan and his demonic force have been at work attempting to thwart God’s plan for the world. Humanity has chosen to rebel against God and His ways. All of this is leading up to the days of the false messiah’s appearing. The work of the man of lawlessness already is taking place behind the scenes—staying a mystery or a hidden secret for now. But the stage is being set for the day he appears. 

Paul reminds the Thessalonians of God’s restraint. Satan and his followers are powerful, and the man of lawlessness will feed off that power. But evil can never overcome the power of God. The One who lives in believers is still stronger than anything the world can offer as a substitute (1 John 4:1-6). 

However, Paul also noted that things are not as bad as they could be—or even will be. When God, the one now restraining evil, lifts His hand, the results will be devastating. At some point, the man of lawlessness will be revealed. This evil counterfeit will appear in God’s timing.

Read verse 8 again. How should this promise help us as we observe the lawlessness taking place in this world?

Once God removes His hand, the lawless one will be revealed. This individual will have a season of free reign to create chaos and turn people away from God’s salvation. But his time of control will be short. Just as the lawless man’s “revealing” is sure, His destruction is guaranteed. Paul noted that Jesus will destroy him with a single breath. The battle will be short and result in an overwhelming victory for Christ. 

In addition to wiping out the man of lawlessness, Christ will also do away with the trouble he had caused. Jesus will bring him to nothing at the appearance of his coming. Once Jesus comes back, He will restore order. He will take His rightful place, and He will be the only King left standing.

Don’t be Distracted by Delusions – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

The lawless one’s mission was based on Satan’s working. While this individual was not the devil, the Greek wording (energo) suggests that the lawless one will get his energy and power from Satan. He will carry out wicked schemes to deceive people and lead them astray.

In addition to satanic support, the lawless one will also have a wide variety of supernatural demonstrations at his disposal. He will be able to perform every kind of miracle, along with accompanying signs and wonders.

On the surface, these delusions might convince some that He really is God in flesh, but his incredible acts would be a lie. All his work will place spiritual obstacles between Christ and those who need to embrace His offer of salvation. But Paul also underscored the personal responsibility of those who reject God. While deception would be powerful, ultimately these individuals will be judged because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved. 

Paul’s words serve as a reminder that Jesus is the only way to a true relationship with God. While others may preach alternatives, Jesus remains “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

How Should You Respond?

It was Paul’s desire to help the believers in Thessalonica to be so observant that they could differentiate truth from error in what they were reading, hearing, observing, or experiencing, especially concerning the return of Christ.

(PSG, p. 107; DDG, p. 99) How should the coming of Christ and the coming of the lawless one influence our approach to sharing the gospel today? 

How should the coming of Christ and the coming of the lawless one impact our attitude, faith, hope, and outlook on life today?

What are some actions you can take to avoid being deceived?

Speculations, lawlessness, and delusions can cause believers to be distracted to the point that they miss the mistakes and errors in what they are being enticed to believe, especially regarding the return of Jesus. Or believers might spend so much time trying to figure out when Jesus is returning that they miss the point of what we should be doing as we wait for His return.

Additionally, and sadly, those who don’t know Christ will miss the true message of the gospel if we are distracted because we are the light and voice of the gospel to this lost world. We need to continue to share and show the good news of Jesus to a world that is continually being deceived and distracted.

Take time this week to identify the things that are causing you to be distracted from the promise of Christ’s return and the mission we are on as we wait for His return. Consider ways in which you can embrace the truth of God’s Word over the speculations and delusions of those who embrace lawlessness.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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