Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians speaks of the unveiling of Jesus Christ as well as the unveiling of the man of sin, the son of perdition. We are studying three questions about the unveiling of Jesus Christ. The first question is, "What is the meaning of revealed?"
The second question is, "Who are the mighty angels in 2 Thessalonians 1:7?"
The third question is, "Is Christ to be revealed IN or WITH these mighty angels?"
Unveiling the Temple
In Part 1 we showed that the word translated "revealed" literally means "unveiled." Paul's use of this term shows that a veil must be removed. Hebrews 10:20 says that Christ's veil was His flesh and that the veil in the temple was torn when He died on the cross. We get few details, of course, but that which is written provides us with road signs to a greater revelation.
There is a heavenly temple, and Christ's death on the cross opened the veil, allowing us access to the throne of God. But there was also an earthly temple in Jerusalem, whose veil was torn at the time of the crucifixion. We know from history that there was no ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jesus' day. (See Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XIV, iv, 4.) So the tearing of the veil did not reveal the glory of God, but exposed the emptiness (vanity) of man.
Most Bible students have some understanding on the way into the Holiest that has been opened with Jesus' death on the cross. But most have missed the negative side of this sign that was manifested when Jerusalem's temple was unveiled and exposed as empty and dark. As we will show later in this series, the two temples signify the mystery of godliness and the mystery of iniquity. They also speak of the unveiling of Jesus Christ in His temple (people) in contrast to the unveiling of the son of perdition in the Judas types. This is the point of 2 Thessalonians 1 and 2.
Another way of looking at this whole question is to compare the first temple, built by Solomon, with the second temple, built under Zerubbabel in 515 B.C. The first was glorified by the Holy Spirit at the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Chron. 7:1-10). The second was not.
The second temple was also called Herod's temple, because King Herod remodeled it, making it one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. John 2:20 says that it took 46 years to finish that project. The number 46 is thus associated with Herod's temple and is symbolic of people who do not truly have the Holy Spirit within them. They may be beautiful on the outside, but inside they are full of death and "dead men's bones" (Matt. 23:27).
This is in utter contrast to Solomon's temple, which God filled and glorified with His presence.
Paul says that we are the temples of God, but we can be either a Herod's temple or a Solomon's temple. Our flesh is defined by chromosomes, which determine such things as our skin color, eye color, height, and so on. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes, 46 in all, the number associated with Herod's temple. Apart from the Holy Spirit, our flesh portrays the pattern of Herod's temple. As we will soon show, this temple also represents Judas, the son of perdition, which is also about to be unveiled. God is about to unveil two temples, the one represented by Jesus Christ and His body; the second is represented by Judas.
The Three Temple Veils
To return to our question about the meaning of the term "unveiled," there were THREE veils in Moses' tabernacle that hid the glory of God--not just one. There was the veil that the people had to go through to enter the outer court. There was the veil that the priests had to go through to enter the Holy Place. And there was the third veil that the priest had to go through to enter the Holy of Holies.
In our Christian experience, we pass through the first veil in our justification (Passover). We pass through the second veil by receiving the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). We pass through the third veil by receiving the fullness of the Spirit (Tabernacles). Each of these is a tearing of the veil in the sense that they all involve a death of the flesh in an increasing way, and the glory of God shines brighter upon us. The veils hide God's glory from those who are yet not ready to see Him as He is.
In 2 Thessalonians Paul primarily refers to the FULL unveiling of Jesus Christ in His saints, which comes with the Feast of Tabernacles. Paul and many other believers had already pierced the first two veils, but Paul spoke of the unveiling in the future tense. So we understand the unveiling to be that which accompanies Tabernacles.
Who are the Mighty Angels?
Moses was a pattern of what is yet to come in an entire body of people called the overcomers. Paul says in 2 Thess. 1:7-10,
7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed ["unveiled"] from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution [ekdikesis, "justice"] to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal [aionios, "age-lasting"] destruction away from the presence [prosopon, "face"] of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 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.
Paul says in verse 7 that He "will be unveiled from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire." The word for "angels" in Greek is aggelos, which literally means "messengers" and can be used either of people ("saints") or of angels. In Deuteronomy 33:2 Moses wrote (NASB),
2 And he said, "The LORD came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning [Heb. eshdath esh, "fire-law fire," i.e., "fiery law"] for them.
Jude 14 makes reference to this as well, quoting from the Book of Enoch (restated in Deut. 33:2).
14 And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones."
The point is that at Mount Sinai, Jesus Christ (the God of the Old Testament as well as the New) descended from heaven in fire "from the midst of ten thousand holy ones." Whether He came with "saints" or "angels" is not specified by the translation. However, it is generally understood that at Sinai, God came down upon the mount, not with saints, but with angelic beings to reveal and to administer the divine law.
Angels represent God throughout the Bible. They are normally the way in which God manifests Himself to men. Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen. 48:16) who appeared as a "man" (Gen. 32:24), yet claimed to have seen God's face (Gen. 32:30). Abraham entertained angels, yet called them "Lord" (literally, YAHWEH) in Gen. 18:3.
When God manifests Himself in the earth in various forms, He is called an Angel, or "Holy One." In Isaiah 10:17 we read,
17 And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day.
The Holy One of Israel that Isaiah so often mentions is Jesus Christ. He is an "Angel" in that He is the primary manifestation of God in the earth. Every time God is said to appear to men in the earth, it is always Jesus Christ, whether it happened before His incarnation in Mary or afterward. The angels with various names, such as Michael or Gabriel, are really only the God of the Bible (Jesus) assuming various roles in different manifestations.
He Comes in Fire to Judge
Thus, Jesus came manifesting as the fire of God upon Sinai, because all judgment has been committed to the Son (John 5:22). Because God gave man "dominion" in Gen. 1:26, Jesus Christ had to manifest Himself on earth as a man in order to have the authority to judge. Hence, Jesus said in John 5:27,
27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
Jesus Christ came down upon Mount Sinai in a myriad of manifestations, but all by fire. There were "ten thousand holy ones," or "holy myriads," as Rotherham puts it in his translation, The Emphasized Bible. Just as Jesus Christ could manifest Himself in many ways at Sinai, so also, Paul says, will He manifest Himself in us in thousands of different people, each with different forms and positions in the body. Each of these overcomers will show forth His glory and will administer the divine law to the rest of the world until all things are under His feet.
At Sinai, the angels came in fire, because fire is symbolic of the divine law. It is called eshdath esh, which the KJV translates "fiery law." That is a more accurate translation than "flashing lightning," as the NASB says. The law renders justice to the people. The NASB uses the term "retribution," while the KJV says "vengeance." Neither idea is really accurate, because they use words that carry a vindictive connotation.
Vine's Expository Dictionary says the word literally means "that which proceeds out of justice, not, as often with human vengeance, out of a sense of injury or merely out of a feeling of indignation. . . The judgments of God are holy and right (Rev. 16:7), and free from any element of self-gratification or vindictiveness."
Thus, when Paul tells us in 2 Thess. 1:8 that Christ comes to dispense justice in the earth, we should not think of Him as vindictive or vengeful, but rather as a just Judge who will rule in righteousness. Psalm 67 says,
1 God be gracious to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us--Selah. 2 That Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all nations. 3 Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; Let all the peoples praise Thee. 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For Thou wilt judge the peoples with uprightness, And guide the nations on the earth. Selah. 5 Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; Let all the peoples praise Thee. 6 The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us. 7 God blesses us, That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.
The nations will rejoice and be glad when God's face shines upon us--that is, when we experience Tabernacles and manifest the glory of God in our face, even as what occurred with Moses. When God judges the earth in righteousness, the nations will REJOICE. Most people picture God's judgments as a horrible time, when the nations will be terrified. God speaks of it as a time when the people will be freed from the tyranny of man's rule. The creation groans in travail, awaiting this day. This is "the desire of all nations" (Hag. 2:7). The only ones who will mourn will be those falling from power.
He Comes In His Saints
Notice also that the NASB says of Deut. 33:2, "He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones." He did not merely come WITH them but from their midst. The KJV says that He came "with" them, as if they were accompanying Him, but this is probably not the correct understanding. Rotherham's The Emphasized Bible translates it, "He came out of holy myriads." My interlinear uses the word "from."
This is important, because this verse in Deuteronomy 33:2 is quoted in Jude 14. There we generally read that He comes "with ten thousands of His saints" (KJV), giving the impression that Jesus Christ will come from heaven, accompanied by His saints. However, if you check the Greek text, you will see that the word used in Jude 14 is en, and this word usually means "in" rather than "with." In fact, the KJV translates it "in" 1,874 times in the New Testament. It is translated "with" only 134 times.
There have been countless sermons, no doubt, making the distinction between Christ coming FOR His saints (in the "rapture") and then later coming WITH His saints as they all return to the earth. All of these teachings base their conclusions on translating en to mean "with" rather than "in." Very few teachers talk about His coming IN His saints, even though that is what Paul clearly taught in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians. Verse 10 clearly says,
10 When He comes to be glorified in [en, "in"] His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among [en, "in"] all who have believed--for our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; 12 in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [en, "in"] you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Essentially, Paul is saying that Christ is to be unveiled from heaven in order that He would be "glorified IN His saints." There are two ways to picture this, because there is a temple in heaven (Rev. 15:5) and a temple on earth (1 Cor. 3:16) made of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). For this reason the Scriptures speak of Christ coming from heaven as well as manifesting out of our bodies. Both statements are equally true and are not contradictory. If He can manifest Himself in ten thousand holy ones on Sinai, he should have no problem manifesting in all the overcomers, as well as from heaven.
At Sinai, the ultimate purpose of Christ's coming was to manifest Himself IN His people. Christ would have done so, if they had been willing to hear His voice. However, since all the people ran away from God, instead of drawing near (Ex. 20:18-20), Moses was the only one who went up the mount to meet Him. So Moses was the only one who came off the mount with his face glorified with the divine presence (Exodus 34:29).
It was too early in history to glorify His body, for Jesus had not yet done His work on the cross; but Moses set the pattern for a future time of manifested glory.
The Parousia of Christ
2 Thessalonians 2:1 speaks of the "coming" of Christ, but here Paul uses a different Greek word. Earlier he had used the word apokalupsis, or "unveiling." But now he uses the term parousia, which means "presence." Young's Concordance renders it, "a being alongside, presence." Strong's Concordance says it means "a being near, i.e., advent (often, return; spec. of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked); (by impl.) phys. aspect."
We can say, then, that parousia means more than just the act of "coming." It refers to being near in one's imme-diate presence. The focus is not on the process of coming close, but upon being close. Strong also says that the word implies one's physical aspect as well--that is, one's face, countenance, or appearance.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 Paul mentions the parousia in the context of the glory of God being seen and admired in His saints.
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
The "day of the Lord" is defined in terms of God's presence manifested in His saints. That day had not yet come in Paul's day, nor has it yet come today. This may seem a bit strange, since Paul also speaks of Christ being "in you, the hope of glory" (Co. 1:27). The presence of Christ in us is not a future event, but an ever-present reality to the believers. Yet Paul says it is also future. In what way?
There are three veils in the temple. At Pentecost in Acts 2 the Church entered through the second veil into the Holy Place in its experience with God. But there remains a third veil that must be torn and penetrated in order for a body of people to enter into the FULL presence of Christ with no veils to hide His glory from them.
This entrance into His parousia is the positive side of the day of the Lord. It is the positive side of His unveiling that reveals the mystery of godliness. The negative side is the unveiling of the empty temple of the son of perdition that unveils the mystery (hidden or secret) of iniquity. This is what makes the day of the Lord a time of judgment as well as of glory.
We must see both sides of the day of the Lord in order to have a balanced picture of it. I say this because there are probably a thousand sermons preached on the negative side to every one that properly reveals the positive side.
Paul goes on to tell us what negative event must take place first, before the unveiling can take place. The answer will surprise most of you, no doubt. Verses 3, 4 say,
3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy [apostasia] comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
It is commonly taught that Paul was prophesying a great "apostasy" or "falling away" (KJV) in the sense of a falling away from the truth. It is easy to make that mistake, because we certainly must agree that such a thing has taken place in the Church. Paul says in verse 7 that men have indeed followed the example of the son of perdition in its mystery of iniquity (anomia, or "lawlessness"). But that is not really what Paul is saying.
The Greek word, apostasia, is the feminine form of the word apostasion. Strong's Concordance says it means "something separative, i.e., (spec.) divorce." The word is translated divorcement in Matt. 5:31, 19:7, and Mark 10:4.
Paul is telling us that a divorce must first take place before the day of the Lord can come. In fact, that divorce will CAUSE the unveiling of both Judas and Jesus in the prophetic sense.
What divorce is this? It has to do with Judas, the son of perdition. It has to do with the temple in Jerusalem, whose unveiling manifested the mystery of lawlessness, darkness, and lack of glory.
The old Jerusalem with its temple is identified as a Hagar in Galatians 4 in Paul's discussion of the two wives of Abraham. Paul says in verses
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is alle-gorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.
Hagar is the old Jerusalem; Sarah is the New Jerusalem. What is to be done? Well, what did Abraham do?
30 But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman. "
Here is the great divorce that will unveil both temples. It will expose the old Jerusalem's darkness and manifest the glory of the New Jerusalem in the earth. More later.