2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is a Bible passage that many teachers have taught from their own perspective. Their conclusions are quite different from mine, because they are expecting a rapture of the church, followed by a seven-year tribulation period, during which time an "antichrist" will take over the world and persecute 144,000 Jewish evangelists.
This basic assumption has caused many Christians to believe that the "man of sin" is the antichrist, and that he will build a Jewish temple in Jerusalem and rule from it, claiming to be the real Christ. These Bible teachers usually also say that the Holy Spirit is the one who hinders or restrains this situation from taking place (2 Thess. 2:7), and that when the rapture occurs, the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth. The removal of the Holy Spirit is, they say, the signal that the antichrist can now proclaim himself as Christ, or God, in the temple in Jerusalem.
Of course, this is supposed to coincide with the conversion of at least 144,000 Jews. I am not sure just how this is to be accomplished, since the Holy Spirit is to be removed from the earth at the same time. I never heard of a Holy Spirit revival without the Holy Spirit present. I suppose they think that the Jews don’t need the Holy Spirit for their conversion or to maintain their salvation.
Those who believe these things usually connect the "man of sin" and "the son of perdition" (2 Thess. 2:3) with Judas. In this, I agree, for in John 17:12 Jesus calls Judas "the son of perdition." However, most Bible teachers fail to see the full picture, along with the types and shadows of the Old Testament, and so their conclusions are different from mine.
So in this bulletin we will study this letter that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians--and to us--and see if we can come to a better and more complete understanding in the light of Old Testament patterns.
Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians speaks of the coming of Christ and also the coming of the man of sin, or a Judas type. In both cases, Paul uses the more technical Greek word, apokalupsis, or "unveiling." This was meant to give us a contrast and yet a comparison. Both Jesus and Judas are to be "unveiled" in the earth, and a closer study of this reveals things that are often quite different from usual teaching one hears today.
The Coming of Christ
I want to make one thing clear before I begin this section. I believe in the personal return of Jesus Christ to rule as the rightful Heir and King of all the earth. However, there are more related issues to study than just the personal return of Christ.
There is also the matter of how it affects us, that is, the resurrection of the dead and the bodily change of those who are alive and remain unto His coming. Because this is the main focus of Paul's teaching in 2 Thessalonians 1 and 2, we will be primarily dealing with this subject. But I want to make it plain at the beginning that I do not mean to imply that Christ coming in us would exclude Christ coming in person.
On the other hand, one must keep in mind that Jesus Christ's bodily flesh died on the cross, and when He was raised from the dead, His body was no longer subject to the limitations of human flesh. He could eat food with the disciples, but He could also walk through walls or disappear. He could look like a man, but the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not even recognize Him (Luke 24:16) by His physical appearance. Peter and other disciples did not recognize Him either (John 21:4). Thomas had to see the nail prints in His hands before he believed it was really Jesus (John 20:25-28).
Jesus possessed real flesh and bone (Luke 24:39), but it was spiritual flesh, not fleshly flesh. The fact is, Jesus could appear in any form that He wished. He was no longer limited. I have no doubt that He could have appeared to the disciples in a burning bush once again, or as a fire on a mountain top.
The point is to show that it is not necessary that Jesus Christ appear to us in the same form or with the same facial features as He had when He ministered to the disciples. It is not proper to ask, "What does Jesus look like?" because He can look like anything He wants to look like. He can be visible or invisible at will. So let us not be so set in our thinking that we insist that He come to earth in the same form or with the same features that He had when He left the earth. We need to maintain some flexibility in our thinking, knowing that He is not limited to one type of bodily form.
As for the timing of His coming, this is another question that we should not claim to know positively. The pattern of John 7 seems to indicate that Jesus Christ will return in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles of some year, but I am content to remain unsure of this. This is why my focus is primarily upon the fulfillment of the feast days. We certainly ARE supposed to understand the prophetic meaning of the feasts, for this is the part of the revelation of God to us. If everyone understands this from the beginning, then no one should accuse me of attempting to date the return of Christ.
As for the MANNER of His coming, for many years I have read and studied the views of other men who say Jesus Christ will not return personally, but will only return in His people. I do not share this view, even though I respect some of these teachers, because they have much to offer. In the final analysis, I do believe that Christ will indeed come in His people, but I do not see why this should negate His personal coming as an individual. I think both events will happen, and there is no need to teach one event at the expense of the other. That is my view.
The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
2 Thessalonians 1:7 speaks of the "unveiling" of Jesus Christ. It is important to have a clear idea of this, because in chapter two Paul will show us its important contrast--the "unveiling" of the man of sin, the son of perdition. In studying both examples of the unveiling, we get an idea of how Paul uses this word and how he draws upon examples in the Old Testament which give it definition. We start, then, with 2 Thessalonians 1:7,
7 And to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [apokalupsis, "unveiled"] from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.
In order to understand this verse, we will have to look at three things: (1) What is the meaning of "revealed"? (2) Who are the "mighty angels"? and (3) Is Christ to be revealed IN or WITH the "mighty angels"?
First, what does Paul mean when he says that Christ will be REVEALED? The Greek word translated "revealed" is apokalupsis, which means "unveiled." The Apokalypse is the literal Greek name for the book of Revelation. In chapter one the book's opening words give its full title: "The Unveiling of Jesus Christ."
The unveiling of Jesus Christ involves a rending of the veil, and Hebrews 10:20 speaks of the veil as being "His flesh." Even as the veil was torn from top to bottom when He died on the cross, so also will another veil be torn in His second coming. The tearing of the veil primarily represents our direct access to God. However, there is a secondary purpose as well, for when we come into the direct presence of God, we ourselves will manifest the presence of Christ to the world. The veil that is OUR FLESH will be torn, allowing the glory of God to manifest in our own bodies. This is made evident in the story of Moses, when he came off the mount with his face glorified. In 2 Corinthians 2:18 Paul says that, like Moses, we too are changed in the same way.
18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
Back in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul says that this unveiling of Christ in us will cause the world to marvel, wonder, or admire Christ in them.
10 When He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-- for our testimony to you was believed.
In verse 12 Paul summarizes the chapter by again telling us of the glory of God manifested to be manifested in us:
12 In order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Redemption of the Body
This is what is often called the birthing of the Manchild, which is Christ in you. Christians are people in whom Christ dwells. They have been "born again," or literally, "BEGOTTEN FROM ABOVE" (John 3:3). It means that a conception takes place, where the Holy Spirit comes upon a person and plants the seed of the Word within their souls.
This "holy seed" is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). It is Christ, but it is also YOU. Even as a baby has two parents and two sets of genes that define its characteristics, so also is that holy seed within your soul. It is conceived by the Spirit of God, but it is also conceived in you. God is the Father, but your soul is the mother. And so, when this child is born--that is, when this child is made manifest in the world--it will have authority in both realms, heaven and earth. Like Jesus Himself, you will be able to minister to the Father in heaven and also minister to people in the earth.
Because Christ now has been conceived in your soul, you have an expectation, a "hope" of glory, transfiguration, a point in time where the veil will be torn, and the glory of God will be revealed in flesh and bone.
In Romans 8:23 Paul says that our Hope is "the redemption of our body." It is not the rapture. It is not going to heaven. It is not to get rid of a bodily existence. It is to REDEEM our body. One cannot redeem what one did not already possess in the past. Redemption is what we do to buy back what we have lost because of debt.
Through sin, Adam lost the glorified body that he was given at the beginning. He "fell" into a mortal body that did not reflect the glory of God. At the cross Jesus paid the price to redeem that body which Adam lost through sin. This body was our original inheritance at the beginning. Our hope is to redeem that original inheritance, that body made of spiritual flesh. It is of the same substance that Jesus had after His resurrection.
When Jesus received that new type of flesh, He could walk through the walls and suddenly appear to His disciples. Luke 24 gives us a good example of this:
36 And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 (And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.) 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them.
His sudden appearance in their midst terrified the disciples, because they thought they were seeing a spirit. He corrected their view, showing that He was really made of "flesh and bone," but even then they could not believe that He was not a spirit. So He asked them for some food to eat in order to prove to them that He was truly flesh and bone. Only then did He begin to explain to them what had happened, beginning with "the law of Moses." Perhaps He explained to them what the Feast of Tabernacles meant, and how they too would receive this kind of body. After all, this appears to have been the main question in the minds of the disciples, and it was certainly the main topic of discussion.
Imagine the disciples trying to understand logically how someone with real flesh and bone could appear and disappear! Was it the ability to be invisible? No, it was much more than that. It was the ability to move in both dimensions--heavenly and earthly, or spiritually and physically.
Ezekiel 44 prophesies this using Old Testament terms. First the prophet speaks of the priests (ministers) who had ministered in an ungodly way. These, he says, will be limited to the outer court to minister to the people. The outer court depicts the fleshly, or earthly realm. Then by way of contrast, he speaks of another priesthood, the "sons of Zadok," who would be given the right to minister to God in the inner sanctuary, as well as to the people in the outer court. This is the Melchi-Zadok, or Melchisedec Order--those who will manifest the glory of God in the Feast of Tabernacles. These will have the authority and right to minister in both the spiritual and the earthly dimension.
15 "But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood," declares the Lord GOD. 16 "They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge. 17 And it shall be that when they enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering in the gates of the inner court and in the house. 18 Linen turbans shall be on their heads, and linen undergarments shall be on their loins; they shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat. 19 And when they go out into the outer court, into the outer court to the people, they shall put off their garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers; then they shall put on other garments that they may not transmit holiness to the people with their [linen] garments."
This is what the Feast of Tabernacles brings. It is a point in time where the overcomers will begin to minister in both realms. The clear Word of prophecy in Ezekiel shows, however, that in order for this priesthood to minister to God in heaven, they must put on linen garments--that is, a spiritual body. But when they minister to people in the outer court (earth), they must put off those linens and put on woolen garments--that is, a body of flesh and bone, even as Jesus had when He ministered to His disciples. To minister to the "sheep," one must be dressed in "wool."
This is also seen in the fact that Moses covered his face with a veil in order to minister to the Israelites. The veil is a different symbol of flesh. Exodus 34:33-35 says,
33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.
Moses gives us the primary pattern of the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. Ezekiel speaks of it in terms of the priesthood, but the symbolic language speaks of the same thing. Both prophesy the redemption of the body that Adam lost, but they also show its practical purpose, which is to begin the process of the restoration of all things. That is, they are called as a priesthood (Rev. 20:6) to minister to both God and men, in order to rule the earth in righteousness and teach all men the ways of God.
The REAL Rapture
What Christians term "the rapture" is actually a Tabernacles experience. It is not an event where men fly away to heaven, but rather a bodily change from a mortal, earthly "tabernacle" to a heavenly tabernacle that is immortal and incorruptible (2 Cor. 5:1-4). That body will no longer be limited to the earthly realm, but such people will be able to move into either the heavenly or earthly realm at will.
If you ask an average Christian what they mean by the "rapture," they will probably refer us to 1 Thess. 4:17, where Paul says that we will be "caught away" to meet the Lord in the air. The rapture, then, is the "catching away." If this is what is meant, then I am in perfect agreement, because the definition is taken directly from Scripture.
However, most Christians take this definition much further than that, and there is where we no longer agree. I do believe that we will be caught away to meet the Lord in the air. I do not believe, however, that we will meet Him and then go back to heaven with Him for a few years, while the Antichrist rules on the earth.
The word "caught away" is from the Greek word harpazo. This word is also used in Acts 8:39 and 40,
39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; andthe eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus; and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.
Philip was "raptured," in that he was caught away in a supernatural manner to a neighboring town of Azotus. He did not leave the earth, but he did some dimensional travel. Jesus and the disciples did this in John 6:21. If you compare this passage with Matthew 14:22-34, you will see that it was the same occasion in which Peter went out of the boat to meet Jesus, who was walking on the water toward them.
This story is prophetic of the second coming of Christ, and Peter represents the overcomers. Peter did go out to meet Jesus, but he then accompanied Jesus to the boat where the other disciples were. It is important to note that Jesus did not turn around and return to the other shore from whence He had come, and he certainly did not take Peter with him to that other shore.
This brings us to the true meaning of the term "to meet." In 1 Thess. 4:17 we read that we will "meet" Him in the air. The Greek word is apantesis,
1 Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet [apantesis] the bridegroom.
This parable shows that the virgins went out to meet Him, but did not go away with Him. Instead, they escorted the Bridegroom back to where they had been awaiting the wedding.
Another place where the word apantesis is used is found in Acts 28:15. It is the story of Paul's journey to Rome as a prisoner.
15 And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet [apantesis] us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
Apantesis is a technical Greek term that describes what the town leaders do when a very important person comes to visit them. They send a welcome delegation to meet him. But the delegation does not go back to the VIP's town. Instead, they escort the VIP to their own town, like Peter did with Jesus, and like the Christians in Rome did with Paul. This is what the overcomers do when Jesus comes. At the Feast of Tabernacles, they are changed in their bodies, transformed, and given the ability to meet Him in the air when He comes.