The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand

(Originally Published in 1993)

Curiosity killed the Cat (Church):

When the Scriptures are searched and studied as a curiosity with the purpose of understanding or knowing the future, is it God's Spirit directing the mind? Is there any indication by God that He will lead and direct His people in the proper understanding of Scripture if the motive is not according to 2 Timothy 3:16? If the Spirit of God is not the one guiding the mind of the searcher, what spirit is? Some might ask, "What about 2 Thessalonians 2?", to which we would answer, "Check the context of 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians 1."

A passage which some might use to justify searching the Scripture for future knowledge could be 2 Thes 2. But there are at least three problems with using this passage to attempt to know the future: 1), what about the many prophecies which have gone before, Daniel and the Lord's words? 2), what about 2 Tim 3:16, which clearly lists the purpose of the supernatural revelation of God's word, ie. doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (right living). Note that knowledge of the future is not even hinted. 3), what will we do with the context leading to 2 Thes 2, ie. chapter one where Paul is talking to the people at Thessalonica who are suffering terrible persecution at the hands of their enemies? 1 Thes 2:14- 16, identifies the Thessalonican Christians' enemies as the Judaizers who were trying to place them back under Jewish Religious rituals.

Some things which will help us understand 2 Thes 2 is: 1), the first century church was almost exclusively Jewish; 2), the primary threat to the new church was from the Judaizers who, following the first evangelists of Christ everywhere, tried to place the new converts to Christ from Judaism back under the rites, rituals and traditions of Judaism from which Christ delivered them, Acts 15:10 (in fact, every NT epistle addresses the heresies of the Judaizers); 3), Rome had not started persecuting the new church yet, but it was soon to come; 4), when we compare Paul's statement in 1 Thes 2:14-16 with the Lord's statements in Mat 21:35-46; 22:7; 23:30-39, we see that Christ identified the wickedness of these Jewish leaders as ignoring the warnings of God, and as killing the messengers of God which brought the warnings. Christ told the Jewish leaders that they were going to be held accountable for the murders of all God's prophets from Able to Zacharias.

In Mat 23:32, Christ told the Jews that their wickedness would fill up the measure started by their fathers. Paul tells the Thessalonica Christians that the same Jews who challenged Christ in Mat 21-23, would finally fill up the measure of wickedness by persecuting them [the new Church] and by forbidding the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles (1 Thes 2:15, 16).

As we follow the thought through to 2 Thes 1, we see Paul continuing to encourage them in their persecution by the Jews. He assures them that in the righteousness and justice of God, He will soon visit their tormenters in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. [See Jn chs. 7 & 8, esp 7:28 & 8:24.]

The context must be kept in mind as Paul continues in 2 Thes 2. He promised these Christians being persecuted to the death by the Jews, of which Paul was one before his conversion, that the day of the Lord's promised vengeance of Mat 21-24 is close at hand, and, therefore, they are not to be soon shaken in mind, or be troubled. In other words, "Hang on," says Paul, "the vengeance of God which will destroy your persecutors is close at hand."

Then Paul gives some things for these Christians at Thessalonica to look for, 2 Thes 2:2. That the day... What day? The day of Christ's vengeance against the Jews who were persecuting the first century body of Christ, Acts 9:4. Then Paul introduces a new person into the picture: The man of sin, the son of perdition who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped..., v. 4. B.B. Warfield identifies the man of sin as the line of Roman Emperors who demanded that they be worshiped as God, even in the Holy of Hollies. (Cf. Mt. 24:15; Dan. 11:36; Lk. 21:20.)[Biblical and Theological Studies, The Prophecies of St. Paul, pp. 463-502.]

When Paul was writing, the evil design of the Roman Emperors to be worshiped as God was already at work. It started with the Roman Emperor, Augustus (31 BC-14 AD) when the Roman Senate voted him Augusta, lit. 'reverend,' in 27 BC. The Jewish state, even under the Roman Caesars' demand to be worshiped as God, enjoyed an amazing amount of freedom, 2 Thes 2:6, 7. Their freedom to worship the Lord God, won under the leadership of the Maccabeen family (the Maccabeen War) while they were under the rule of Greece, was retained under Rome. In other words, because of the rebellion caused by the required Emperor Worship in the Jewish state, Rome did not enforce it upon the Jews. But the evil of Emperor Worship (as god) was already at work. Furthermore, because of a misconception on Rome's part, the Jewish state unintentionally withheld the wrath of Rome from the new church when the new church refused to worship the Emperor; they worshiped King Jesus. Initially, Rome saw the Jewish worship of "God" and the Christian worship of the Lord Jesus Christ as one and the same, but the Jews knew better; therefore, they persecuted the worshipers of Christ.

In 2 Thes chapter 2, Paul warns the Christians that the ones under whom they were enjoying freedom to worship Jesus, the Jewish state, were about to be destroyed because their persecution of the body of Christ had filled up their evil. The Jewish state which had held back the persecution of Rome for refusing to worship the Emperor, was going to be removed, v. 7. This was to, and did, happen within the then living generation, 70 AD (Mat 23:26, &c). The result would be that the confusion which identified the Jewish religion with the new Christian religion would be removed. Then, as the demand for Emperor Worship was made on the new Christian Church and as they refused to worship him as god, the spirit's (Emperor's) total wickedness would be revealed. The spirit of Emperor Worship (known today as State Worship or Statism), which was after the working of Satan with all power signs and lying wonders, would remain active until the Lord's final return. At His return, that Wicked spirit would be consumed with the spirit of the Lord's mouth.

"If the masculine form of 'the restrainer' in verse 7 demands interpretation as a person - which we more than doubt - it might possible be referred without too great pressure to James of Jerusalem, God's chosen instrument in keeping the door of Christianity open for the Jews, and by so doing continuing and completing their probation.." [Ibid]

  • The sum of the matter.

    The most important thing to remember in reading 2 Thes 2, is its context: Paul is addressing the Christians at Thessalonica over a specific situation in which they found themselves. They were being persecuted and put to death by the very Jews which had put Christ to death. Paul had been part of the persecuting crowd because he had letters from these murdering Jews at Jerusalem before his conversion, Acts 9:1, 2. We can not bring their situation into our present day, although, most certainly, the precepts which Paul presents will stand forever. Until the Lord returns in total triumph, the spirit of the Wicked one will remain active. His primary area of activity is in Statism which we see so prevalent today: "The New World Order." Obviously, as long as sin is in the world, sinners will attempt to have themselves worshiped as god. Scriptures identifies this desire and traces its development from the garden, through the flood and to its final conclusion in history under the feet of King Jesus, 1 Cor 15:24-28.

    When Rome demanded that all its subjects worship the Emperor as God, the Jewish state refused. Rather than fight a war over this, Rome permitted them to continue in their corrupt worship of the God of their fathers. Christianity, because it was founded by a Jew (Christ) and was initially spread by Jews (the Apostles), was mistaken by Rome as just another Jewish sect. Therefore, as the Christians also refused to worship the Emperor, they were protected from the wrath of Rome as long as the Jewish nation existed.

    On the other hand, the Jews knew the difference, so they persecuted the Christians to death. Rome permitted this because they did not want a war with the Jews. Paul, writing to the Christians who were suffering terribly at the hands of the Jews, encouraged them that the Lord had not forgotten them. He reminded them that when the time was right, the Lord Himself would take terrible vengeance upon their persecutors, which He did when Rome destroyed Jerusalem. Their persecution of the body of Christ was the final 'straw' for God, and He would soon judge them in flaming fire.

    But the Jewish State's destruction would not stop the persecution of the Body of Christ, the Church. Ironically, the nation which was about to be destroyed was protecting the newly born Church from the man of sin who demanded worship as god (following the pattern established by Satan). Paul assures them also that this demand (Statism) will continue in the world until the end of time, when the Lord will complete the destruction of that Wicked... with the brightness of his coming. At that time all who love not the truth will be judged with everlasting punishment. In the meantime, the Lord will send a strong delusion so that many will believe a lie and follow this spirit of Satan into Statism (the worship of the state as god).

    In a word, the prophecy of 2 Thes 2, has been fulfilled to a very large extent. If Scripture is read as a curiosity to know or understand the future, the spirit guiding the understanding could well be the wrong spirit. It certainly will not be the spirit of God Who must act according to the Word of God, 2 Tim 3:16.

    Pastor Need

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