In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, we will see where Paul wrote, “Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come (2 Thess. 2:1-2).” Paul was speaking about the latter times – the second coming of Christ and the rapture of the Church (all who genuinely believed in Christ).
The Latter Times
The latter times became a major topic for discussion when Jesus walked the earth and after His ascension. On one occasion, after Jesus had spoken about the destruction of the temple, the disciples asked Him, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age (Matt. 24:1-3)?” Jesus sat down and gave them the signs of the latter times.
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:4-14 NKJV
The latter times are something that I have certainly taught about before in study – check out my series “The Last Days”. Many of us think of the latter times as some distant future but we ought not think that way about those days. Why? Because Jesus said that no man knows the day nor the hour of His coming and likened His coming to that of a thief — it will be unannounced (Matt. 24:36, 42-44).
So, we should certainly focus on the latter times because the future is always the next second, minute, hour, or day; we should not take the guaranteed promise of the future, from Christ, for granted. Jesus told us to be on watch for His coming. If we aren’t on watch for His coming, then we will miss Him. We don’t want to be like the virgins in Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins that missed the great wedding between the groom and the bridegroom because they weren’t ready (Matt. 25:1-13).
Note: Of major importance for our study today are the deceptions and the deceivers that Jesus spoke of as a sign of the latter days. Jesus said that there would be people claiming to be Him in those days. Also of note is that Jesus said that false teachers will rise up in those days and deceive many. Lawlessness, Jesus said, will abound in those days and love will grow cold. Most importantly, this is not the end, Jesus had said, but merely signs of the end.
So, for Paul, it was incredibly important that he shared the truth to the Thessalonians because there were people trying to deceive them about the end. This is why it is so important for us to be diligent in our studying of the truth so that we can never be deceived by those that aim to deceive.
Timeline of the end
Jesus tells us that there are steps that will lead to the end; He mentioned the signs and the tribulation that will happen before the end. In that same chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus even touched on the rapture. Jesus said, “two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left (Matt. 24:40-41).”
To the Thessaslonians, Paul followed up Jesus’ teachings and wrote, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for ‘that Day’ will not come unless the ‘falling away’ comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3).” Paul was not teaching something brand new to the Thessalonians but we can start putting together the timeline of the end.
Note: There are two days Paul mentioned to the Thessalonians — “the day of Christ” and “that Day”. The “day of Christ” could be seen as the first step that leads to the end and “that Day” would be the last step. The “day of Christ” is the rapture – the gathering together of all that believed in Christ. “That day” is the day of God’s judgment of the wicked. In between these two days, there will be ‘falling away’ and the ‘reveal of the son of perdition’ – this is the tribulation that Jesus spoke of.
This helps us in putting together our timeline of the end, step by step. On the ground floor, there are the signs of the end approaching. The very first step off the ground floor is the rapture – the gathering of the Church by Christ. Immediately following the rapture is the next step which will be the falling away. After the falling away, the next step is the appearance of the man of sin, the son of perdition. The final step is the day of God’s judgment.
Deceivers of the Latter Times
Where do you believe we are on this timeline of events? Answer: we are currently on the ground floor. We are living during a time period that John, in his first epistle, called “the last hour”. Now, this can be a bit confusing between “the latter times” and “the last hour”, but if you were to picture a clock on the wall, “the latter times” would essentially be like the last quarter of an hour.
Again, some of us like to think of the predicted future as a distant future but the truth of the matter is that the predicted future could begin in the next second – we simply don’t know when the predicted future will begin. That being said, because we are living during the time where there are signs of the end, we should take the time we are living in very seriously.
Again, during this time, there will be those that claim to be Christ and many false teachers, so we must be on watch. These deceivers are moving in a certain way that I do want to focus on now.
The father and son of perdition
Let’s start off by taking a look at “the man of sin, the son of perdition”. Yes, this reveal happens at a later step but this guy is important to our study. So, who is this guy and what will he do in the latter times?
Let’s first define what perdition means. Perdition: eternal damnation; hell; utter destruction. So, the son of perdition is one that will bring about damnation and utter destruction in the latter times – this is the tribulation that Jesus spoke of. To better understand who this guy is, let’s take a look at the father of perdition.
In John’s gospel, Jesus tells us about the father of perdition. After trying to persuade and encourage the Jews to follow Him and the truth (John 8:31-36), Jesus said to them, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you (John 8:37).” Abraham loved the preincarnate Christ and treated Him with great honor (Gen. 18:1-8) but many of the Jews hated Him.
So, why did the Jews of Jesus’ day not honor Jesus like their father Abraham did? Jesus said that it was because they did not understand His speech because they were not able to listen to His word (John 8:42-43).” Why weren’t they able to listen and understand Jesus’ word? Look closely at what Jesus tells them.
44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.
John 8:44-45 NKJV
Note: They could not comprehend Jesus because their father wasn’t truly Abraham or the Lord; it was the father of sin, the father of perdition – the devil. The son of perdition will take after the father of perdition; he also goes by another name that John gave to him – the Antichrist.
Paul wrote that the son of perdition (or the Antichrist) will oppose God and exalt himself above all that is called God (2 Thess. 2:4). Satan did this same thing in heaven when he rebelled against God which gave birth to sin and led to his downfall (Is. 14:12-14). Satan is the deceiver of the world today and has deceived many to turn away from God. Like Satan, the Antichrist will deceive those that remain after the Rapture with power, signs, and lying wonders and lead them to their destruction (2 Thess. 2:9-12).
Apostasy present today
What does any of this have to do with us today considering, again, that we aren’t on the step where the son of perdition will be revealed? Let us remember that we are living in a time where the signs of the latter times are present. In his first epistle, John stated, “it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many ‘antichrists’ have come, by which we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).”
Note: If the spirit of antichrist was present in John’s day, the spirit of antichrist is still present today because we are still living in the same hour that John lived in.
How do we recognize those with the spirit of antichrist? John wrote that those that move in the spirit of the Antichrist, are those that do not confess that Christ has come in the flesh and is God (1 John 4:3). So, like the Antichrist, those that move with that same kind of spirit will deny everything about Christ.
Consider how often you hear people say that God isn’t real or that Jesus, who is God in the flesh, was/is not real. Consider how after denouncing God and His only begotten Son, those with the spirit of antichrist try to push their ‘truths’. The Antichrist will do the same in the latter times as he will say that he is the true christ.
So the spirit of antichrist is at work today trying to stir up the world with lies and deceptions in an effort to create a bunch of confusion to lead others away from God. God, we know, is not the author of such confusion; He does not move to deceive us (1 Cor. 14:33). God has given us His word and the Spirit of Truth to guide us unto all truth so that we aren’t deceived (John 16:13).
So, who do you suppose would end up being deceived by those with the spirit of antichrist? Those that deny the word of God and do not abide by the truth, right? So, all of those that are of no faith in God will be open to the great deception. I would also point out that those of little faith will also be open to being deceived which is why faith must, again, mature and grow.
Now we can take a deep look into the tragic case that is the apostate. When we speak about those that do not believe in God, I want you to understand that this large group is composed of two types of people. The two groups: those of unbelief and the apostate. You may not think that there is a difference because both groups don’t believe in God but there is a great difference.
The one of unbelief never believed in God. The apostate lives in apostasy which, again, is the refusal of continuing to follow (believe in) the Lord. Let me share with you scripture that brings this definition to life. In his first epistle, John said this about those with the spirit of antichrist – pay close attention to the wording.
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
1 John 2:18-19 NKJV
Note: “They went out ‘from us’ … if they had been of us, ‘they would have continued with us.’” Yes, John was speaking about those that were moving in the antichrist but since they were once with those of faith but had fallen out of faith, they were also apostates. So, understand that part of the crowd of those that move in the spirit of antichrist are also apostates.
Jude (also known as Judas or Judah), the half brother of Jesus, spoke about the apostate in his letter and I want to reference it here in our study. Jude wrote, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4).”
Note: The apostate was once marked out of God’s condemnation. Why? Because they once walked as and with believers. They are now marked for God’s condemnation because they chose to turn the grace of God into lewdness; they betray God. The apostate knows the word of God, and corrupts the word of God to persuade others away from God; the devil did this when he tempted Christ.
Let’s take a look at the characteristics that Jude gave for the apostate. Jude wrote, “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts (Jude 1:16).” What are they grumbling and complaining about? Many grumble and complain when they believe God has not given them what they wanted or when they may be afflicted with no quick resolve. (Probably a good idea to now slow down on grumbling and complaining about God as it could be a gateway to apostasy).
Jude also wrote that the apostate will speak with great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 1:16). Now, who does that sound like that we have already seen in our study? Satan tempted Jesus by twisting the word of God. The Antichrist will be what we call a ‘silver tongue devil’ to flatter and to deceive as he leads the falling away.
I recently preached a sermon – Live by the Truth – where I referenced Peter’s second letter in which he also spoke about apostasy. When speaking about the falling away of today (the last hour), Peter spoke of false teachers. Peter wrote, “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord (2 Pet. 2:1).” This sounds a lot like what Jude said about those that crept in, right?
Like Jude, Peter wrote that the false teacher speaks with “great swelling words” and will “allure through the lusts of the flesh” (2 Pet. 2:16). Peter said that these false teachers will be scoffers that mockingly ask and say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation (2 Pet. 3:4).”
Note: Yes, today, a lot of people mockingly say this but during Peter’s day, there was a specific kind of person that would say this. Only those that had once followed Jesus or had been in the presence of one ministering the gospel would know the promise of His return. Apostates are the main ones behind such messaging that others today scoff and mock at. The apostate is more dangerous than the one of unbelief that never believed in God.
Punishment of the apostate
The betrayal of the apostate is not one that is going to go unpunished. You see, the sin – the blasphemy – of the apostate is truly great. Let’s take a look at what the writer of Hebrews said about the apostate and the punishment that awaits them.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
Hebrews 6:4-6 NKJV
Note: When one of genuine faith falls down by committing a sin, we cannot lose our salvation (1 Pet. 1:4-5). Now, through David, we know that we can lose the joy of our salvation but by God’s forgiveness that joy can be renewed (Ps. 51:12).
Now, what the writer Hebrews is speaking about is dealing with those who were once of faith – they “tasted the heavenly gift” and had “become partakers of the Holy Spirit”. Though they were once living by the word of God and had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, they managed to fall away from God by falling back into and living in sin. So, to be clear, the writer of Hebrews was talking about those that become an apostate and fall into apostasy.
About the apostate, the writer of Hebrews said it is impossible for them to be renewed. In their betrayal, the apostate crosses the unpardonable line by blaspheming the work of God. What makes their blasphemy so much more worse than the blasphemy of the one that never believed in God is that their blasphemy began in the presence of the Holy Spirit! The apostate’s sin of blasphemy is one that is done knowingly and blatantly.
According to the law, in the book of Deuteronomy, the false teacher (the apostate) was supposed to be put to death by the people. The scripture states, “that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God (Deut. 13:5).” In that day, the apostate, whether they were family or friends, was to be stoned to death (Deut. 13:6-11).
Now, apostasy eventually went unchecked in the land of Israel and the northern kingdom was utterly destroyed. The southern kingdom was conquered due to apostasy but not utterly destroyed as God remained faithful to His everlasting covenant. Even in the church today, we hardly talk about apostates and apostasy.
Frankly, it is a real shame that we don’t talk about apostasy as often as we should. Apostasy is growing in the world as the world is falling further and further away from God and you don’t have to take a guess at what it leads to. When the church is called out of the world by Christ, the world will essentially be defenseless to the falling away; it will happen easily.
Now, while we may not address apostasy today, it will never escape God. The apostate will be judged and punished along with those that choose to live their lives fully convicted in the way of sin. The apostate will be judged at the Great White Throne and cast away from God for all of eternity. What is going to be so hard on them is the fact that in eternity, they will remember the sweet taste of what they chose to give up.