Coming Attractions: Apostasy!

Episode 29

II Thessalonians

Listen HERE

TruthI hope you had a fantastic Memorial Day. It’s Tuesday the 31st of May and I’m going to try to record, edit AND publish this week’s show all in one day. Tall order, but I’m going to try. BTW, It’s hotter than the dickens here in North Georgia and there is no chance of rain here at the farmstead. Of course, I know some of you have had so much rain lately that you cringe at the very word. I sure wish we could split the difference.

It’s not just hot, we are enduring daily air quality warnings. Gotta love the 21st century. My wife and I have some friends who spent their Holiday running back and forth to and from the hospital as their toddler son was admitted over the weekend with breathing problems and was  kept for a couple days for breathing treatments.  I’ve heard several similar stories, especially with elderly folk. It’s not good.

By the looks of my facebook/Twitter feeds, there are plenty of families who also didn’t get to celebrate due to a variety of crises. Please keep those with broken hearts and worry in your prayers today.

Today, we’re going to look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. It’s a very short letter, only 3 brief chapters, but it’s packed with some intense information, but before we get there, I want to take a side trip.

Those of you who have been to one of my (Re)Discovering The Bible classes or workshops, or who have  read Volume 1 of the (Re)Discovering series, know I’m a fan of some Bible Translations, and not much of a fan of others. I even include some brief Translation Review notes, because I know it’s hard to find a good translation fit, sometimes.

With that in mind, I’m going to periodically review a Translation here on the show. If there is enough interest and feedback, I may consider doing a YouTube version. But that’s a ways down the road.

I’m bringing up the whole Translation topic because I just finished reading the Bible in the Good News Translation and I’m starting the New Testament with the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

While the GNB is still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d do a quick review of my experience to help those who are either new to Bible reading, or are looking for a useful translation for your own personal reading.

The New Testament portion of the Good News Bible was first published in 1966 under the name, Good News For Modern Man.  I wish I was too young to remember it, but I remember it only too well. I turned 10 that year and my parents got me a copy of it for either my Birthday or Christmas.  It was a little paperback and the illustrations were simple line drawings, similar to stick men.  Those illustrations were probably more popular than the actual translation ever was.

There was some controversy at its release. I remember even the evening news featuring the GNB in its commentary segment and lamenting the every day language being less poetic and captivating than the King James version.

I was fascinated by it.  Finally, I had a Bible written in a way that made sense to me. I could understand every word.  I read from it a great deal until I got my first copy of the NIV in 1973.  By the time the Old Testament portion of the Good News Bible came out in 1976, I was not much interested because I was sold out to the NIV.

When I moved to the United Kingdom in 1980, I saw that many congregations used the GNB as pew Bibles, so I got a copy.  It just didn’t flow right for me, so I put it aside and didn’t look at it seriously again until 2014 when I was first considering writing (Re)Discovering The Bible.

I was also looking for a replacement for the NIV, which I gave up on when the 2011 edition came out. I’ll leave that for another discussion.

Late last year, 2015, I decided to give the GNB a fresh look, so I chose to read it through from beginning to end during my daily devotions. I read between one and 6 chapters a day, depending on the day of the week, so it takes me about a year to get through the Bible. I finished Revelation last week, May 27 to be precise.

On the whole, I like it. The vocabulary is about that of a 12 year old. That is by design. The GNB was originally intended for people from Africa and Asia for whom English is a second language. It think the vocabulary is one of its real strong points. You won’t find any archaic words, or theological ones for that matter, that sometimes muddle up more traditional versions.

There were times I thought it was too simple and I wanted to talk to a grown up, but those times were rare. While I’m not a big fan of gender inclusive translations, as it feels like it’s acquiescing to Political Correctness, it wasn’t as big a deal to me in the GNB as it feels in the NIV. It feels more natural here rather than in some other versions. And it passes my ‘smell test’ on some of the verses I always check for interpretive translating when I’m checking out a new translation.

The GNB is a great translation for those new to Bible reading, for young people, and for English as a second language. I would recommend it for Churches that are teaching English as a second language to immigrants and refugees. It’s also extremely helpful for people who are not strong readers. Many give up on the Bible because the vocabulary and style are complex to them. The Good News Bible does a great job of eliminating that obstacle.

While I won’t be switching to it as my regular personal Bible, but I do recommend it.  And, you can find copies quite inexpensively. I have a giant print edition that cost me about $12 for a paperback. Plus its available on YouVersion, Bible Gateway, e-Sword  and other apps as a free downloadable application. It’s hard to beat free.

I will include some links in the show notes for you in the event you’d like to check it out for yourself. If you have questions or comments, use the comments feature on the show notes at samburtonpresents.com or email me: samburtonpresents@gmail.com.

Just as an FYI, I’ve started reading through the Holman Christian Standard Version, but I’ve only read four chapters so far, so it’s way too early to make an assessment. I’m only using it for my New Testament reading at the moment. Stay tuned.

Ok, now let’s get back to 2 Thessalonians. Since all the background is the same as for 1 Thessalonians, I’ll simply refer you back to episode 28 for all that information.

15:21 This second letter is extremely brief and is dedicated to following up on the matter of Jesus return that gets raised in chapter four of the first letter.

The entire letter, all three chapters, is focused on events and repercussions of Jesus return.

In Chapter 1, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to be strong in the face of the persecution they are enduring.  Starting inn verse 10 he says the Believers will marvel at Jesus glory when He returns and that  if the Believers remain strong they will be vindicated for their perseverance. Anyone who’s ever suffered for their faith probably wonders if it’s all worth it.  This chapter is appreciated by anyone in that place.

It’s also worth backing up and parking for a minute to take a look at verses 8 and 9 where Paul  declares that those who reject Jesus will suffer a quite a different fate.

Of particular note is that in addition to those who reject Jesus, punishment awaits those who ‘don’t know’ Him.  It is assumed by a casual reading that ‘don’t know’ means ‘aren’t aware’, but that is not the case here.  The word used here is used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to ‘concern yourself with’, or ‘pay attention to’.

In short Paul is saying disaster awaits those who choose to remain ignorant about Jesus as well as those who reject the Gospel.  I often tell a story about a young man I met in Bishopbriggs Scotland. He had come to Bible Study and had no Bible of his own. As I was driving him home, I offered him one as a gift, and he said ‘No, absolutely not. If I accept it, then I’ll have to read it. If I read it, I’ll have to do what’s in it and I have no intention of doing that. So, no thanks.”  While honest, and a little amusing, this chapter of 2 Thessalonians suggests voluntary ignorance is a dangerous road to travel.

In context, he is talking about the Jewish unbelievers who are persecuting the Thessalonian Believers. Some of them have outright rejected Jesus while others remain voluntarily ignorant and don’t do their homework. Either way, the end result is the same.

By application, I bet we all know many people who haven’t formally heard and researched the Gospel then rejected it, but rather they simply won’t do their own homework and dismiss Him. If the Gospel is true, the consequences are quite severe.

Then in verse 9 he says they face a severe punishment of eternal destruction.  Some would love that to say they are snuffed out. Unfortunately, that’s not what he says. In the first place, snuffing out is not eternal, it’s a one time act. And it isn’t punishment, because once the snuffing is complete, there is no remorse, regret or anything else. It’s peace. It’s over. In point of fact, the implication of the language is forever dying, but never dead. It’s like Groundhog day, reliving the same misery, without hope of waking up or getting out of the dream. Its totally consistent with the rest of Biblical teaching on Hell.

Paul changes direction a little in chapter2 and addresses rumors going around that say the 2nd coming has already happened.  He then offers a couple of specific signs to look for to recognize when the Return is getting close. These are especially significant.

Paul says that we should expect a great ‘rebellion’ followed by the arrival of ‘The man of sin’, aka The Antichrist.  Current popular thought is that this rebellion and Antichrist are secular or political and affect the world in general. But for most of Christian history that has not been the interpretation.

The context, and interpretation of most scholars before the late 1800s, was that this ‘rebellion’ would come from within the Church and the ‘Antichrist’ would come from within the Church.

While some translations use the word revolt or rebellion, many older translations say ‘falling away’, which is a better rendering of the Greek which is sometimes translated apostasy. Both the context and language declare that before Jesus returns, there will be an abandonment of historic beliefs (which Paul later says will come from false teacher who are scratching ‘itching ears’. The Church will be ripe for the ultimate deceiver who will build on those false teachings and will present himself as the Messiah, in fact he will declare himself to be God and exalt himself over anything called god.

One of the sad misinterpretations of this passage is that from the beginning of the Protestant Reformation until the late 1800s was that the prophesy refers to the Roman Catholic Church as the apostasy and the Pope as the ‘Man of Sin’.  I disagree with that as much as I do modern interpretations that view the man of lawlessness as primarily a secular leader.

I realize I’m moving from Survey to commentary in this episode, but I can’t find a way around it. So I will just go on.

Paul goes on with his message and eventually calls the work of the Antichrist a ‘strong delusion’ backed up with actual signs and miracles. It’s interesting that the word strong is literally the word from which we get ‘energy’ or ‘energetic.’  The Delusion is active and aggressive rather than subtle or discreet. And it will be extremely convincing.  Especially in light of the forsaking of Truth by the Church.

The Antichrist will offer great miracles as his so called proof of authority. We have always been hoodwinked by signs and wonders. Remember Jesus warned that it is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign. It is never the miraculous that is the arbiter of accuracy. It is the Truth.  But by the time the Man of Sin arrives on the scene the apostasy will be well advanced. By that time ‘the one who keeps the apostasy and Antichrist at bay will be taken out of the way.’

25:54Simply put, Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit who confirms His word and the truth will be pushed out of the picture. He will no longer be a part of the Church. I am convinced that will include the Bible. Just watch. Even the Bible will be left behind and everything will be about feeling, experience, sensuality.

If you can look around at the abandonment of Truth and historic doctrine in Churches and not be terrified by 2 Thessalonians 2, I don’t know what WILL scare you. I believe the ‘falling away’ or ‘rebellion’ has begun.  Just this morning I read a survey that 70 percent of the population, including 40 percent of those who claim to be ‘practicing Christians’  do not believe in absolute morality. They either believe everything is relative or they give it no thought at all. Think about it, on any given Sunday, 4 out of every 10 people in Church with you, have abandoned the notion of absolute Truth in favor of an a la carte faith. Choose what you want and disregard the rest. The ‘falling away’ has begun. It’s not yet complete and perhaps we can still turn the ship around, but things look bad.

You absolutely much do your own homework and draw your own conclusion, but I am persuade that we are living this chapter.  And as a result, my sense of urgency in preaching and evangelism is off the meter.

In chapter 3, Paul moves away from the end times teaching to how we should behave.  Most scholars suggest that in anticipation of Jesus coming back, people were quitting their jobs and living off the Church. Paul says, no, get back to work. Be prepared for Christ’s coming, but live responsibility until it happens.

I think there’s another thought here though. Many travelling evangelists were living off the hospitality of the Churches rather than doing any real work. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he and Silas didn’t take, they gave. We should not let these frauds get away with being lazy, useless, greedy hustlers.

Things haven’t changed much in 2000 years. There are still a large number of hustlers out there living off the Church. It’s time to call them out. It’s time to stand up for what’s true and what’s right. There’s no time to waste.

Wow, I think it’s time to stop or I’ll go on for like, ever. You can tell that I get pretty fired up over this small but major letter. So I’ll say, that’s all I got, and leave you to go back and read the two Thessalonian letters again and seriously consider them. As always email your questions or post them in the comments section.

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