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大罪人 Man of Lawlessness

Sermon passage: (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5) Spoken on: November 28, 2021
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Thessalonians

Tags: 2 Thessalonians

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About Rev. Wong Siow Hwee: Rev. Wong is currently serving as a pastor in the children and young family ministries, as well as the LED and worship ministries.

Title: Man of Lawlessness
Date: 28th Nov 2021
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

Today’s sermon is the first of two sermons on the topic of the man of lawlessness. I will be covering more on the Old Testament and the historical background, while Rev. Enoch will be preaching on the second half of the passage next week. Whenever we want to talk about the second coming of Jesus, details can be rather speculative. In fact, Paul raised this particular topic in 2 Thessalonians precisely because he was concerned about the false teachings circulating among the Thessalonian church members. Paul wasn’t even sure where they originated from. Paul asked them not to be “unsettled or alarmed” by all the false claims. In the case of the Thessalonians, the false teaching was that Jesus’ second coming was a spiritual one, and it had already happened. Such a false teaching might sound ludicrous to us, but it wasn’t the first of its type, and it certainly won’t be the last. Paul corrected them to say that the second coming hadn’t arrived, because the man of lawlessness hadn’t been revealed yet. The man of lawlessness was something that Paul had taught them before. Paul’s urgency to do immediate correction was proven necessary, as the same false teachings that deceive others would happen again as Paul wrote 2 Timothy 2: 18 They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Clearly, false teachings about the end times keep respawning within the Christian community throughout history leading many astray. Though the Jubilee pastoral team generally does not focus on speculative topics about the second coming, we do have to address them seriously when we come to such passages in the bible, because false teachings about the end times continue on even today.

Let’s start with addressing verse 5. 5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? This tells us that the Thessalonian Christians are supposed to recall what they learnt from Paul. This is my key point: proper understanding of biblical teachings will protect us from false teachings. Though we have no way to know exactly what Paul taught in the 3 months he was with them, we can make an intelligent guess, because there are only two main sources that would be considered authoritative for Paul: the Old Testament and the words of Jesus. Jesus’ prophecies about the ends times can be found in Matthew 24-25 【1】, Mark 13 【2】, and Luke 21 【3】which we had preached before in previous years, so I won’t be revisiting them today. Instead, I will focus on Daniel 7-12 from the Old Testament which is quite foundational for our passage today.

Daniel addressed the people of God who had been living under politically turbulent times for more than 500 years (Daniel 7, 8 and 11). He talked about the changing empires from the Babylonians, to the Medians, to the Persians, to the Greeks, and eventually the Romans. But the Greek empire was the most turbulent of all because immediately after the death of Alexander the Great, the massive Greek empire fragmented into a few regional parts. In particular, Judea, where the majority of the Jews resided, was sandwiched between the Northern Seleucid empire and the Southern Ptolemaic empire. [4] This meant that for 2-3 centuries, as these empires fought for supremacy in the area, Judea would be a battleground constantly changing hands to the next victor.

The trigger for Daniel’s composition was the persecution of the people of God from King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who was yet another northern king battling against the south. This is how King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was described in Daniel 11: 36 “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. If you noticed that that sounds almost exactly like the man of lawlessness described in our passage today, you are right! 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Epiphanes literally means “God Manifest”. So you can think of King Antiochus IV as the precursor to the figure of the man of lawlessness.

“In 168 or 167 BC, he thought that Judea was in revolt, and took Jerusalem by storm. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery. (2 Maccabees 5:11–14) Antiochus outlawed Jewish religious rites and traditions kept by observant Jews and ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god (2 Maccabees 6:1–12). This was anathema to the Jews and they refused, so Antiochus sent an army to enforce his decree. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed because of the resistance, many were slaughtered.” [5]

Let’s put ourselves into the context of the people of God who had been repeatedly suffering through turbulent times. They witnessed persecutors like Antiochus IV, who positioned himself as even greater than God -- desecrating the Temple, destroying religious practices, and killing the faithful. Think about the impact upon their faith. As fellow humans, we are also prone to holding on to tangible things for our security, whether it is political power and freedom to control our lives, or assets like physical health, wealth, or grand buildings. So our faith would be especially challenged when these tangible things are lost in the midst of persecution from powerful forces beyond our control. Losing this sense of security would make some grasp at straws just to feel safe, which unfortunately is the moment when conspiracy theories and misinformation prey on the emotionally vulnerable. This might be how some Thessalonians were misled by the false teachings. The persecution they faced made them desperate and confused.

For the people living in such turbulent times, and especially for the Jews suffering from the Antiochene crisis, the book of Daniel was a message of hope for them. This is why Paul had to teach the Thessalonian church about the man of lawlessness from the book. Most of us would be familiar with the stories of the brave prophet Daniel found in Daniel 1-6: how he and his friends stayed faithful to God despite the persecutions of the Babylonian kings. These stories of courage and perseverance would undoubtedly be inspirational to those in the same plight. Despite the presence of foreign oppressors, God remained supreme. The message of Daniel reminded the church that there’s nothing to fear from their persecutors.

Beside the stories in Daniel 1-6, the rest of the book in Daniel 7-12 were the apocalyptic visions of Daniel to bring even more hope to them. These visions of the future paint three pictures. One, though there would be destruction and suffering for the people of God, these were foreseen by God, and in God’s timing, there will ultimately be a termination point to them (Daniel 8-9). To those who wondered “How long?”, they can be assured that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Two, in comparison to the kings and kingdoms who come and go, God who is in his heavenly throne will give ultimate authority and an eternal kingdom to a son of man (Daniel 7:13-14). This vision would also be a restoration and fulfillment of the covenant between God and Israel (Psalm 80:17). Three, the names of the people of God were already recorded in a book and they will eventually be resurrected and saved (Daniel 12). This is important so that the righteous who perished amidst persecution would eventually be vindicated by God (Psalm 16:10).

This is how Daniel 7-12, together with other Old Testament prophetic books such as Joel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, became foundational scriptures to help us understand the end times. Daniel 7-12 is a reminder that our security lies not in these tangible matters, whether it is church buildings or even religious rights, but in the word of God. His promises of salvation are far more secure than anything else in this world. Similarly, Paul reminded the Thessalonian church “concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” not to be deceived by the false teachings, but just stick with what he had taught them from the scriptures. Note the many similarities between Daniel 7-12 and our passage today, whether it is the coming King, or a heavenly reunion, or the destruction of the man of lawlessness. The church just needs to stay faithful and hopeful of God’s biblical revelations, and not be distracted by the speculations about end times from any self-proclaimed authoritative figures.

Brothers and sisters, I have a purpose in walking through the Old Testament and the historical background of Christian eschatology. It is to let you see that we are secure in the Lord, despite all the volatile and uncertain times in a complex and ambiguous world. We may feel sandwiched between the struggles of world superpowers. We may feel utterly dominated by big egos elevated by immeasurable wealth and power. In the midst of feeling helpless, the Doomsday prophecies floating around the internet may seem very reassuring to those who desire some predictability in all that is happening. Just like the times of the first century church, today we also have false teachings of the Day of the Lord, trying to speculate on the exact date, or trying to speculate who is the man of lawlessness. In the words of Paul, I remind you: 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way.

Scriptures tell us that whether it was the times of Daniel or the Thessalonians, suffering and persecution does happen for the people of God. But in these difficult times, God is not silent. He speaks through his servants to us. In both Daniel and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the servants of God reveal the big picture to us. The empires are merely temporal, and the big egos are merely mortal. When the going gets tough, Paul reminds us: 5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? Then we can look at our struggles and pain through God’s perspective. He remains in control, and he will be ultimately victorious. (When) “the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man (is) doomed to destruction.” My advice and approach is simple, stay calm and trust in the Lord, and just continue to do what is right and loving, just like Daniel and the Thessalonian Christians.


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