We’ve all been deceived at one time or another: We think someone is one thing when they turn out to be another. The same problem can occur in our spiritual practices. With this in mind, Paul the apostle penned wise words to the Christians at Thessalonica.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12. Reflect on 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4:
“Do not let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day [of Jesus’ return] will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and who exalts himself over every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits down in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God” (LEB).
In this passage, Paul is assuring the Christians at Thessalonica that Jesus has not yet returned. Some in the church at Thessalonica falsely believed that Jesus’ return had already occurred and that they had somehow missed it (2 Thessalonians 2:1–2). Paul explains that Jesus could not have returned yet because there is a series of events that must take place before his return.
First, Paul suggests that a rebellion will take place. This likely refers to an antagonistic rejection of Christians and Christianity. Second, the man of lawlessness—whom Paul also refers to as the son of destruction—will exalt himself above every god and proclaim that he is God. Paul explains that this figure will be enthroned in a temple, likely the Jerusalem temple. (It’s also possible that the enthronement in the temple is symbolic of the claim of religious power and rule.) It is unclear whom Paul refers to, but Paul could be echoing ideas about the antichrist figure mentioned in John’s Letters (see 1 John 2:18, 22) or ideas from Old Testament texts (e.g., Isaiah 57:3–4). Any number of political or religious figures could fulfill Paul’s general criteria. Paul could also be using general language for evil people who oppose God’s ways.
Paul’s message here is what matters most: People are easily deceived and mass religious deception will take place before Jesus’ return. In a way, Paul is cautioning the Christians at Thessalonica. They must be careful to not be deceived by those who make false claims about their religious powers.
Let’s be cautious because spiritual deception is common. The key is to examine a person’s motives and claims. If something does not align with biblical truth, then surely it is false. Be discerning. Be aware. Follow only those who practice self-sacrificial love that lines up with God’s truth.
Have you been spiritually deceived before? What are some practical steps you can take to ensure that you are not spiritually deceived? Drop me a comment, I would love to hear from you.
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