Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessaloniansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 2:1-12. Here Paul gives the Thessalonians a word of correction of the misconception concerning the day of the Lord’s coming. Because the misconception corrected by Paul is common among many Christians today, Paul’s correcting word is needed as much today as when it was first written, if not more so. Before we consider 2:1-12 verse by verse, I would like to speak briefly about the different schools of teaching regarding the Lord’s coming.
Apart from teachings that are definitely heretical, there are among fundamental believers three main schools concerning the Lord’s coming and the rapture of the believers. One of these schools is called the pretribulation school. This is the teaching that the coming of the Lord Jesus will take place before the great tribulation. The word “tribulation” is a special term in the study of prophecy. It denotes a period of time at the end of the church age. At the end of the church age there will be a period of seven years, the last of the seventy weeks prophesied in Daniel 9. Daniel 9 speaks of seventy weeks of years concerning the history of Israel. First we have seven weeks, then sixty-two weeks, and finally, after a long interval, the last week, the last seven years.
Just before the beginning of these seven years, a powerful man will rise up—the Antichrist. Here in 2 Thessalonians 2 Antichrist is called the man of lawlessness. According to prophecy, this powerful person will restore the Roman Empire and will become the last Caesar of that empire. Then Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, will make a covenant, an agreement, with the Jews. This agreement will be intended to last for seven years. Because Antichrist will be so powerful, the Jews will be afraid of him; they will fear that he will persecute them in the practice of their religion. For this reason, the Jews will make an agreement with him, and in that agreement he will promise them freedom of worship. The Jews will be very pleased with this agreement, happy to have the freedom to worship the God of their fathers. However, after three and a half years, in the middle of the last seven years of the church age, the man of lawlessness will break his agreement with the Jews and begin to persecute them.
The last seven years may be divided into two periods, each three and a half years in length. In the Bible the second period of three and a half years is also called forty-two months, or 1260 days (Rev. 11:2-3; 13:5). From our study of the Bible we can say strongly and definitely that these last three and a half years will be the time of the great tribulation. This means that the great tribulation will be the second half of the last week; it will last three and a half years, or forty-two months, or 1260 days.
Many teach that the Lord’s coming will take place before the great tribulation. However, when they speak of the tribulation, they usually mean the entire last seven years. According to their understanding, the whole of the last week of Daniel’s seventy weeks will be the period of the great tribulation. They teach that Christ will come back to rapture the believers before this time of tribulation, that is, before the last seven years of this age. For this reason, this school of teaching is called the pretribulation school.
A second school is the school of post-tribulation. This is the teaching that Christ’s coming will be after the great tribulation. Those who teach that the coming of Christ will be after the tribulation use many verses from the Bible as a strong basis for their teaching. Those of this school teach that Christ will come back at the very end of the tribulation. Therefore, their teaching is called the post-tribulation school.
A third school of teaching, represented by Bible teachers such as Pember, Govett, and Panton, teaches in a more detailed way concerning the Lord’s coming back than those in either the pretribulation or post-tribulation schools. Those in this third school say that neither the pretribulation school nor the post-tribulation school is fully correct. Rather, each of these schools is only partially correct. The teaching of the first two schools can be compared to a city map that shows only main streets, whereas the teaching of the third school can be compared to a city map that shows not only main streets but also small streets, lanes, and alleys. Therefore, the teaching of those in the third school is more detailed and more accurate.
According to the third school, Christ’s parousia (presence) will probably begin a little before the middle of the last seven years and will last nearly to the end of this period. Christ will leave the throne in the third heaven and descend to the air concealed in a cloud and remain there for about three and a half years. During this period of time, a number of things will happen. The manchild in Revelation 12 will be raptured just before Antichrist begins to persecute every kind of religion, including Judaism and Catholicism, and he will exalt himself above every object of worship. The manchild will be raptured not to the air but to the throne of God. Furthermore, according to Revelation 14, the one hundred forty-four thousand will also be raptured during this time as the firstfruit, before the second half of the last seven years. We should not make the mistake of regarding the one hundred forty-four thousand in Revelation 14 as identical to the manchild in Revelation 12. These are two different groups of overcomers. The manchild and the one hundred forty-four thousand will be raptured to the throne of God. Then the Lord Jesus will begin His parousia; He will descend from the throne of God to the air. It seems certain that the manchild and the one hundred forty-four thousand will descend with Him. Then at the end of the last seven years, the Lord Jesus will come to earth. Second Thessalonians 2:8 refers to this: “And then the lawless one shall be revealed (whom the Lord Jesus will slay by the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of His coming).” The Greek word rendered “coming” is parousia, presence. The appearing of the Lord’s parousia will be at the end of the last seven years, after Antichrist, the lawless one, has been revealed.
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