Michael Youssef - Look Up When Others Are Looking Down - Part 2
As we come to the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians in this series of messages, "Look Up When Everybody Else is Looking Down," we're going to see a huge spiritual danger that was hidden. Started with a small flaw in their thinking. When it comes to the truth of the Word of God, please listen to me. When it comes to the truth of the Word of God, there is no such thing as small flaw, there is no such thing as a small error. Every apostate church that have turned its back on Christ and on the gospel of Jesus Christ and on the truth of the Word of God started with a small flaw. They started with seemingly minor deviation. They called it reinterpretation of the Word of God. The question remain: What is a small flaw? What harm could it do?
This is the question that the apostle Paul is confronting here in the church of Thessaloniki, or Thessalonica, as some people would pronounce it. In the second chapter; turn it with me. We saw, those of you who were here, in the first chapter how the apostle Paul was thanking God for these wonderful believers in that church in Thessalonica or Thessaloniki. Despite of the turmoil, despite of the persecution, despite of the suffering, they were faithful to God. They had persevering faith. But what happened after Paul left the town? As always in every place, always, these false teachers came into the church, and they began to preach deception, deception, falsehood. These false teachers, these false preachers were so wicked, they were so evil that they, actually to the point of forgery, forgery. They produced some false letters, supposedly came from the apostle Paul, and these false letters were supposed to be saying to them the return of Christ has taken place already.
It's already happened. It's already happened. Just, I want you to put yourself in their place, right? Just put yourself in their place. Here you are enduring persecution and enduring suffering with faith and perseverance, and you are expecting the return of Christ for a day of your reward, and you're living faithfully to the Lord expecting his return anytime, and they were told, "It's already happened. You missed out on it". And that's why Paul immediately reaches for his pen to expose these false teachers with the truth; and in doing so he gives us some of the great teaching on the Second Coming of Christ, and I pray to God that you will be blessed by the Word of God as I was blessed all week preparing.
2 Thessalonians chapter 2, "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brethren, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy report or letter," supposedly had come from us, "saying that the day of the Lord has already come". See, that's what they were doing: forgeries. "Do not let anyone", say that with me, "Do not let anyone deceive you in any way," I'm going to explain that when I get to the text, "for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man who's doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself above everything that is called God or worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Don't you remember that when I was with you I told you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed in the proper time. For the secret of power of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who's now holding it back will continue to do so until he's taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus Christ will overthrow by the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming". Praise God. "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance to the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders and every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refuse to love the truth," not just believe the truth to love the truth, "and be saved. For this reason..."
What reason? The reason of their rejection of the truth and not loving the truth. "For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness". The first thing Paul wanted to do here is to reassure these wonderful believers that the parousia... say that with me, the parousia. That's the Greek word for the return of Christ. Paul countered falsehood with the truth. Beloved, always, always counter falsehood with the truth. So he tells them and us that the day had not come and it will not come until the rebellion occurs. I'm going to explain that. Rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness, the man doomed to destruction, you know that there are only two people in the Bible doomed to destruction? The Antichrist, of whom I'm going to be talking this morning, and Judas Iscariot.
They were doomed to destruction because they rejected the truth. The NIV says, of course, the rebellion, "The Rebellion". This is "The Rebellion". It's known in other words as global apostasy. You say, "What's apostasy"? It's when people who were supposedly be in churches turn their back on the truth of the gospel. He is talking about people who may have pretended that they are believers in Christ, but then they turn their back on the truth of the gospel. This is the preparation of the world for the coming and the rule of the Antichrist. This is paving the ground, preparing the ground for the coming of the Antichrist. Paul is not making this stuff up. He's learned it from Scripture. Always interpret the Scripture with the Scripture.
And so we read about this man of lawlessness or lawless one from Daniel chapter 9 and from our Lord Jesus Christ's own lips in Matthew 24. Both Daniel's prophecy and our Lord Jesus Christ's teaching 700 years apart saying the same thing about this character. Here's biblical truth. Listen carefully. There always, always in the last 2,000 years have been evil leaders in the world. Always. They've been evil leaders everywhere; from the Herod who killed all those babies in Bethlehem, to the tyrants who ruled Rome, to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, and on and on and on and on. There are always evil leaders in the world. But when the long-prophesied Antichrist is revealed, he will surpass them all. He's not going to be a local person, he's going to be all over the world. He will be ruling the globe. The Antichrist known by several names: the man of lawlessness, or the lawless one, or the man who is doomed to destruction as I told you.
In Revelation, John referred to him as the beast. In John's Epistles, John says there are many antichrists, and think about this with antichrist with a small a. Here is the truth. Anyone, I don't care if they're in a pulpit or not, anyone wherever they are, if they oppose the person of Christ, the work of Christ, the divinity of Christ, the uniqueness of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the truth of Christ, that person is manifesting the spirit of the Antichrist. But the final Antichrist with a capital A is going to be Satan's ultimate creation. He will embody the worst characteristics of all these antichrists with small a. Now, I don't want to leave you without emphasizing verse 3 again. "Do not", say it with me, "Do not let anyone deceive you in any way".
In fact, the Greek is what they call double negative, double negative meaning don't ever, ever, ever, ever, ever allow yourself to be deceived. It doesn't matter who it is. Why is that important? Because the end times could be upon us without any warning, and we need to be spiritually prepared because being taken in by these scam artists, that's what they are, they're scam artists, actually places your soul in jeopardy because that seems like a small flaw, or what seems to be like a small flaw could be enormous eternal consequences for you. Verse 5, "Don't you remember when I was with you I used to tell you these things"? I can see the tone of disappointment in the apostle's words. Nothing breaks a heart of a pastor than somebody who sat under the Word of God for so many years and they got taken in by false teachers. Nothing breaks a heart of a pastor more than that.
Paul knew that many in the church, the believers, not the bride of Christ, not the elect of God, but many in the church are going to fall away from the faith immediately before the return of Christ. And when he speaks of falling away from the faith, he's referring to those who claim to be Christian, those who may have gone to mass every Sunday, those who may attended churches every time the door is open, yet their heart has not been regenerated. They have not been born again of the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in them. They're the ones, like Judas Iscariot, who have heard the truth, known the truth, but like Judas Iscariot they turn away from the truth when the heat is on. Paul draws a relationship, and I told you this last week. He draws a relationship between this falling away from the truth of the gospel and the Antichrist.
There is a connection here in the construction of the sentence, and that is why, as I said I told you last message, that all those people who are rejecting biblical truth are paving the way for the rule of the Antichrist to be revealed. In the beginning of his appearance he will pretend to be very understanding, very compassionate, but then as the world is ready he will be free to show what he's really like. Then he will persecute faithful believers in earnest. The Antichrist will also desecrate the temple of the Holy Spirit. Question, who is the temple of the Holy Spirit? The believers. The believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit dwells the true believers. How is the Antichrist going to desecrate the temple of the Holy Spirit? By demanding that they worship him, and those who refuse will be put to death.
But listen to me. I need to hasten to say those of us who have placed our whole trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we do not fear the Antichrist at all. We need to fear the Lord's return. Because Paul makes it very clear here, very clear, both in the construction of the sentence and even in the language itself that the reign of the Antichrist is not going to last for very long. It's a very short period of time. He would just appear and start doing all these things, and what's going to happen? He said immediately he's going to be smitten by the breath of the returning Jesus. Amen. Give God glory. We do not fear darkness because we are children of light. Look at verses 6 to 12. I'm only covering the first 12 verses. I'll cover the rest of it in the next message.
In verse 6 he said, "And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time". God's timing. God's timing. The second half of verse 7, "But the one who's now holding it back will continue to do so until he's taken out of the way". I'm going to explain to you and hopefully illustrate what Paul is saying here. Growing up, I've never seen one of those... not even close those lovable, little dogs that you have at your house. I've never seen one. Okay? All that I knew are attack dogs who protected our property. These dogs were so vicious. They were so dangerous, they'd maul a man in few minutes. It's absolutely terrifying. My father was the only one who could get near them, and therefore he would get up early in the morning and he would tie them up in chains so that people can come and go in the property, but nighttime he sets them loose to go around.
Remember how the Bible talks about Jesus coming as a thief in the night? And I've told you this before, that in the Middle East back then even now thieves do not come in the daytime. Only at nighttime when people are asleep. Watching my father restraining these vicious attack dogs reminds me often of 2 Thessalonians 2:7. For now God is restraining evil the way my father restrained those vicious dogs. Listen to me. I don't blame you if you are a person who look around and see the horrors of what's going on even in our own culture and around the world. All the stuff is taking place and you wonder if evil really being restrained. Trust me, it is being restrained. If God is not actively holding back and holding down and suppressing Satan and his power, we would see nothing less than hell on earth.
But in verse 7 Paul speaks of this restraining power in the masculine gender, which suggests to me at least that this restraining power is a person and there can only one person who can restrain Satan and his human puppet the Antichrist, and that's God himself, God himself. Right now Jesus's foot is on Satan's neck. Right now Jesus's foot is on Satan's neck. Verses 9 to 12, the Antichrist will perform miracles. How else will he deceive the non-discerning? How else? The demonic miracles will be believed by most people in the world. In Matthew 24:24, I don't want you to miss this. Don't miss this. Matthew 24:24, and I'm going to read it carefully because I know, I once quoted this Scripture and somebody misunderstood me completely. Jesus is saying that these miracles will look so real that it will deceive if possible... Can you say it with me? Even the elect.
Beloved, if we do not stand for the full truth of Christ, we will fall for the lie of the Antichrist. Those who are not anchored in Christ alone will fall for the magic tricks and the special effects of the Antichrist. Those who demand signs and wonders to believe and reject the cross of Christ will follow the Antichrist all the way to hell. Those who do not anchor their faith in the truth of the Word of God, the inerrant Word of God will bet their eternal destruction on satanic deception. Finally, Paul said, verse 11, "For this reason". What reason? For this reason of their refusing to love the truth, for this reason, God sent them a spirit of delusion, powerful spirit of delusion because they refused to love the truth and be saved. I'm not saying that. The Word of God said that.
Some of you are saying, "Well, Michael, is that really fair? Is that fair? Shouldn't God give them another chance to believe the truth"? God throughout the Scripture, throughout the Scripture, you see it over and over and over again, always gives us more of what we want. He gives us more of what we want. The first four or five plagues on Egypt, it says Pharaoh hardened his heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart. God said, "Okay, I'm going to give you more of what you already asked for. I'm hardening your heart even further".
Three times in Romans chapter 1 Paul said God gave them over, God gave them over, God gave them over. Listen to me, please. Right now God is providing everyone around the world, we are watched by hundreds of countries. He's providing everyone in the world an opportunity to turn to him so that he might soften our hearts and believe in him. At this very moment, even as dark as some of us can see it, even as dark as it may look, and yet it is not nighttime yet, it's still daytime; a time when God restraining Satan, a time when God is restraining the Antichrist, a time when God is restraining the onslaught of demonic evil, a time when God is restraining evil forces just like my father would restrain these vicious dogs in the daytime.
It's the daytime. It's morning. Night is coming. Night is coming. The time is coming, and it may be sooner than any of us think, when all of the restraints will be removed, when nighttime of history arrives, and it will be too late. There will be no escape from the coming night. The escape is now. The escape is today. The day of salvation is today. Don't postpone it, not even one hour. Now is the time of repentance. Now is the time of turning to the Lord. Now is the time when no one will be turned away by God. He promised so. Don't wait until it's nighttime. Don't wait for the man of lawlessness to be revealed.