As the New Testament shows, the early church was always expecting Jesus to return.
That is what Jesus taught them, though in an oblique way. That is, he told his disciples to expect the Son of Man coming in judgement, and referred to
himself by the same name. His closest friends took the point, which is why the sons of Zebedee asked for the privilege of sitting beside him on the
throne of judgement.
I looked at this promise in a previous thread- The promise to return
As for the rest of the New Testament, the most complete outline of the teaching comes in the two letters to the Thessalonians (which may have been the
earliest written portions of the whole collection).
Paul tells them that they will find rest from their tribulations “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming
fire” (ch1 v7).
This image resembles the statement in the Temple discourse; “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. These descriptions ought
to debunk the foolish modern assumption that Jesus would return by being born into a second human body. The New Testament is expecting nothing of the
The purpose of his return has two aspects.
On the one hand, he is coming in judgement;
“… inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v8)
As already mentioned, this judgement was also part of the teaching about the coming of the Son of Man.
On the other hand, he is coming in glory, to reveal himself to the world and to collect his followers;
“He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all those who have believed” (v10).
“… the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him…” (ch2 v1).
This is Paul’s version of the gospel’s “they will gather his elect from the four winds” (Matthew ch24 v31).
Paul warns them against false letters purporting to come from himself and purporting to announce that this day is about to arrive.
They should know that the day will not come yet, because the “man of sin” has to appear on the scene first (v3). Some manuscripts call him the
“man of lawlessness”. Both titles mean that he sets himself against the will of God.
This figure appears to be derived from the account of the hostile king at the end of Daniel.
Daniel’s king has political power aided by a strong network of allies (the result of making “many covenants”).
He uses his political power to assert control over religious affairs. He is the more willing to do so because he respects none of the traditional gods
and worships only “the god of fortresses”. In other words, presumably, he puts all his trust in his own military power. “He shall magnify
himself above all”.
Thus he is bold enough to challenge the worship of the Lord. He introduces the ”abomination which causes desolation”- that is, a form of idolatry
which has the effect of separating the people from their God. There follows a state of “tribulation”.
In all these things, he is evidently modelled on the infamous king Antiochus Epiphanes.
Various aspects of this description are echoed in different portions of the New Testament.
The Beast in Revelation has political power aided by the allegiance of the “ten kings”.
Matthew’s gospel specifies the ”abomination of desolation”, and both books refer to the tribulation.
In this letter, Paul covers the point that “he opposes and exalts himself against every so-called object of worship, so that he takes his seat in
the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (v4).
We do not need to assume that he occupies a physical temple, because Paul tells us in another letter that the Christian community itself is the temple
of God, the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians ch3 v16).
So the man of sin may be “sitting in the temple” when he controls the external aspect of the Christian community. Since he is a ruler in the first
instance, his power in religious affairs would be a by-product of his political power, as in the case of Antiochus Epiphanes and Nero (not to mention
Hitler and Stalin). In other words, he is probably not the Pope.
We are told that his arrival is accompanied by “pretended signs and wonders”, which matches the picture in Revelation ch13. There will be great
deception “for those who are to perish”.
The origin of the deception is described in two different ways.
On the one hand, it happens because “they refuse to love the truth”.
On the other hand, it happens because “God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false” (vv9-10).
This double explanation is found elsewhere in the Bible, providing one of its more mysterious themes. The classic example is the “hardening of
It seems to say that when people are determined to set themselves against the will of God, he may allow their disobedience to continue unrestrained-
“giving them enough rope”, as it were- and this may then be described as God making
them do it.
Paul calls this deception “the mystery of lawlessness”. John’s version of this idea is that “the spirit of antichrist has come into the
world” (except that translators have added the word “spirit”).
This mystery is inhibited, for the moment, by “he who now restrains” (v7)
This has to be a reference to the Holy Spirit. The power of the deception is muted as long as the world is under the unconscious influence of the
Spirit. Only when that influence is withdrawn can the deception come out into the open and be “revealed”.
All this has a bearing on the timing of the return of Jesus. For one of the elements of his return in judgement will be the destruction of the “man
of lawlessness” (v8).
Therefore, Jesus will not return before the man of lawlessness has come out into the open.
Therefore we should not beexpecting
Jesus to return before that man has been revealed.
Therefore the Thessalonians should not be hasty to believe and react to messages purporting to come from Paul, and purporting to announce the imminent
arrival of that day (vv1-3).
The advice holds good, even today. We should not allow ourselves to get “quickly shaken in mind or excited” by predictions of the imminent return
of Christ, before the man of sin has clearly shown himself.
edit on 17-12-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)