When Will the Antichrist Be Revealed?

These questions both having to do with end times events and both connected with 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

First Question

Hey David, can you give me your opinion on the following: 1: In 2 Thessalonians 2:1 the term “our gathering together to him” do you believe that’s the rapture? If so it appears the man of sin has to be revealed before the event happens.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2: Paul’s comfort to the troubled Thessalonians and their question.

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.

[1] Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him: Paul clearly wrote of the return of Jesus, but the wording here implies a difference between the coming and our gathering. This strongly suggests that there are essentially two comings of Jesus. One coming is for His church (as described clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18), and the other coming is with His church, to judge a rebellious world. 

Leon Morris: “They are two parts of one great event.” (Morris)

  1. Edmond Hiebert: The grammar of the ancient Greek in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 shows this: “The government of the two nouns under one article makes it clear that one event, viewed under two complimentary aspects, is thought of.”

This is completely consistent with other passages of Scripture that indicate that there must be two aspects of Jesus’ second coming, and the aspects must be separated by some appreciable period of time.

  • Different world conditions are described (Matthew 24:37-42, Matthew 24:21, Revelation 6:15-16).
  • Different manners of Jesus’ return are described (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Revelation 19:11, 14-15, 21).
  • Different scenarios regarding the predictability of the date of Jesus’ return are established (Matthew 24:36, Daniel 12:11).

[2] We ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled: Apparently, a misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching (or an incorrect application of it) had caused the Thessalonians to be shaken in mind and troubled. Here Paul used a strong wording, speaking of both a sudden jolt (shaken in mind) and a continuing state of upset (troubled). Their fears centered on the idea that the day of Christ had [already] come.

It is important to notice that the Thessalonians would be shaken or troubled by the thought of being in the Great Tribulation only if they had been taught by Paul that they would escape that period through the rapture. Otherwise they would, in a sense, welcome the Great Tribulation as a necessary prelude to the Second Coming. But Paul had clearly taught them that they would escape God’s judgment on this earth during the period known as the day of the Lord or the day of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).

That’s why Paul wrote this in verse 3:

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,

[3] For that Day will not come: Paul will not describe events which must precede the rapture, but events that are concrete evidence of the Great Tribulation – the day of Christ. In this sense, one cannot be certain the day of Christ (the Great Tribulation) has come unless these signs are present.

[3] Unless the falling away comes first: The ancient Greek wording for falling away indicates a rebellion or a departure. Bible scholars debate if it refers to an apostasy among those who once followed God, or a general worldwide rebellion. 

In fact, Paul may have both in mind, because there is evidence of each in the end times (1 Timothy 4:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 4:3-4). Nevertheless, Paul’s point is clear: “You are worried that we are in the Great Tribulation and that you missed the rapture. But you can know that we are not in the Great Tribulation, because we have not yet seen the falling away that comes first.

[3] The falling away: The article “the” makes it even more significant. This is not a falling away, but the falling away, the great and final rebellion.

  • So, yes I believe that [1] our gathering together to Him in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 is a reference to the catching away of the church.
  • No, I don’t believe that the man of sin of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 must be revealed before the rapture can take place; the revelation of the [3] man of sin (and concrete evidence of [3] the falling away) are evidence of the great tribulation.
  • Paul’s purpose in 2 Thessalonians 2 was to assure the Thessalonian Christians that they were not in the great tribulation and they had not missed the rapture – that is why they were so [2] shaken in mind and troubled.

Collectively, this shows us that the [3] man of sin (the Antichrist) does not have to be revealed before [1] our gathering together to Him (the catching away of the church). 

It isn’t as if he would be completely unknown, but he would not be clearly revealed as who he is.

Second Question

In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night for those who say “peace and safety”…in verse 4 the believers are told not to let day overtake them as a thief in the night, why say that if Christians aren’t going to be here for that?

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3: The suddenness of Jesus’ coming.

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

[1] Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you: The Thessalonians were well taught about the return of Jesus and other prophetic matters. Paul taught them about the times and the seasons regarding the return of Jesus. They had an idea of the prophetic times they lived in, and they could discern the seasons of the present culture.

Again, we are impressed that Paul was with the Thessalonians only for a few weeks (Acts 17:2). In that time, he taught them about the prophetic [1] times and seasons regarding the return of Jesus. Paul would be surprised that some people today consider the return of Jesus an unimportant teaching.

[2] The day of the Lord so comes: With this phrase, Paul quoted a familiar Old Testament idea. The idea behind the phrase the day of the Lord is that this is Gods’ time. Man has his “day,” and the Lord has His day.

[2] The day of the Lord is not a single day; it is the season of God’s judgment and triumph, when God rapidly advances His agenda to the end of the age. There are many events comprehended under that season of the day of the Lord. In the ultimate sense, the day of the Lord is fulfilled with Jesus judging the earth and returning in glory.

[2] For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night: The Thessalonians knew, and had been taught, that they couldn’t know the day of Jesus’ return. That day would remain unknown, and come as a surprise, as a thief in the night

[3] For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them: Notice the they. This casual, “everything is alright” or even “everything is getting better” attitude belongs to they, not to believers.

The unexpected nature of that day will be a tragedy for the unbeliever. They will be lulled to sleep by political and economic conditions, but they will be rudely awakened. They will hear the frightening verdict “they shall not escape.”

[3] This sudden coming, in a time when many say “Peace and safety!” must be distinct from the coming of Jesus described in Matthew 24:15-35. The coming of Jesus described in Matthew 24:15-35 happens at a time of great global catastrophe, when no one could possibly say “peace and safety!” Comparing passages like this shows us that there must be, in some way, two aspects to Jesus’ Second Coming.

  • One aspect of His coming is at an unexpected hour, the other is positively predicted.
  • One coming is to a “business as usual” world, the other to a world in cataclysm.
  • One coming is meeting Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), the other is Him coming with the saints (Zechariah 14:5).

Believers will not know the day or the hour – but they will live in a general readiness.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-5: In contrast, the believer is ready and this is shown by living a godly life.

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.

[4] But you, brethren, are not in darkness: In addressing their behavior, Paul first simply told the Thessalonian Christians that they should be who they are. God has made us [5] sons of the light and sons of the day. The time when we were of the night or of the darkness is in the past. So now we simply have to live up to what God has made us. 

[4] That this Day should overtake you as a thief: Paul means that this should not happen for the believer who lives according to their nature as a son of light and son of the day. They will be ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

In some respect, the coming of Jesus will be a surprise for everybody, because no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). But for Christians who know the times and the seasons, it will not be a complete surprise. No one knows the exact hour a thief will come, but some live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who are not in darkness, who live as they are all sons of light and sons of the day, these are ready for the return of Jesus.

But if we are in darkness – perhaps caught up in some of the sin Paul warned against previously in 1 Thessalonians – then we are not ready and need to make ourselves ready for the return of Jesus.

To answer: We are ready for the return of Jesus by living as [5] sons of the light and sons of the day

I don’t see that this has any direct relevance to the timing of these events

What does the Bible say about cremation?

Hi, David, my husband and I are Christians. We’ve decided to be cremated at our death. We have been told by two sources that this is wrong. What are your thoughts? 

This is a question that comes up with fair regularity. Is it okay? Is it biblical for a Christian to be cremated? There has been a long, traditional objection to cremation by Christians, and the traditional rejection of cremation comes from the idea that it contradicts the doctrine that our bodies will be resurrected. 

The Bible tells us that the bodies of believers will be resurrected and that God has a plan for this body. The plan for this body is to be raised again. God’s salvation extends to us, body, soul, and spirit. It’s not just for our spirits, so to speak. It’s for our entire being. God has a plan in eternity for this body, and that plan is resurrection. 

Now, having said that, I don’t think that the practice of cremation is a contradiction of that biblical truth. Cremation does to the body in 30 minutes what 10 years buried underground does to it. All cremation does is speed up the process of ashes to ashes and dust to dust. In whatever state our body decays or disintegrates into, God is able to raise that up into new life. 

I understand the traditional Christian rejection of cremation, but I don’t think it has a true biblical basis. You should not feel that there’s any biblical command against cremation. 

Now, if somebody says, “Well, I don’t want to be cremated. I want my body to be preserved for the resurrection.” That’s fine too. There’s no biblical command to be cremated. However, you need to understand that there’s nothing you can do to stop the process of time from breaking down the physical components of your body. Whatever dust, whatever ashes, whatever material is left after your body decrees in the ground or is cremated, God is able to take that and resurrect it. 

Was Melchizedek a real person, or just a prefiguration of Jesus Christ?

Is Melchizedek a person we get to meet in heaven someday or just a prefiguration of Christ? 

We are presented in the book of Genesis this fascinating figure of Melchizedek. Melchizedek is a person who, in many ways, prefigures Jesus and establishes an order of priesthood that is separate from the priesthood established later by Aaron. 

I think it’s possible that Melchizedek was not, what we might call, a real person. I think it’s better to regard him as a real person in the book of Genesis, who was just a remarkable prefiguring of Jesus Christ. 

I would say that we will see Melchizedek in heaven. You’ll either meet an individual named Melchizedek or you’ll meet Jesus Himself. One way or the other, you’re going to meet Melchizedek. 

I do believe that Melchizedek is an individual and not just sort of an appearance similar to the appearances of the angel of the Lord that we see in the Old Testament. 

I just don’t find enough evidence to conclude that Melchizedek was not a real, so to speak, person but just a pre incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. 

Is the book of Revelation just symbolic in its meaning, or does it describe actual events?

What do you think about the way that some pastors teach the book of Revelation as merely symbolic and not as actual events? 

I would say that I disagree with that approach. Now, of course there is a symbolic aspect or character to the book of Revelation. There’s no doubt about that. It speaks in images and in signs, so we have these different things in the book of Revelation that are clearly meant to be communicated to us in signs and images and such.

 However, I believe that those signs and images are communicating to us about real events, things that will actually happen. So to say that it’s all just some kind of fantasy story that speaks to us about God’s ultimate victory, is not true. Of course, it does speak to us about God’s ultimate victory, but it speaks to us about events that will truly happen, leading to God’s ultimate victory. 

There is undeniably a symbolic character to the book of Revelation, but they are symbols that speak of events that truly will happen. Much of it is figuring out how those symbols work out into real life. We’re obviously limited in our ability to understand that, but we do what we can and try to not overreach in our understanding of that. 

What part do we play in stewardship?

What part do I play when it comes to stewardship? 

Stewardship is simply the idea that God has given us resources to manage, and we are responsible for managing those resources. To put it simply, God gives us time to manage, so we’re to be good stewards of our time and manage our time in a way that honors God. God gives you abilities, trainings, experience, and gifts. You are responsible to be a steward over those things and make sure you’re using them the way that God would want you to. 

We also apply stewardship to material things and financial resources. God gives us money in the source of our paycheck or whatever way we receive financial resources into our life. We are respected for using that in a way that honors and glorifies God. 

Now, it’s important for us to keep the right conception in mind when it comes to stewardship. It is simply this. Everything we have belongs to God, and He expects us to use it wisely. He expects us to make a wise return unto Him with what we have. It’s not as if some of what we have belongs to God and the rest of it belongs to us. That’s not the right way to think about it. Everything we have belongs to God and should be used for His glory. Some of it God wants us to make, so to speak, a direct return unto Him. We, simply, are given the choice. 

Should I attend a baby shower if the couple is not married? 

I’ve been invited to a baby shower, and the couple is not married. In My studies of Hebrews 13:4, would attending be supporting sex outside of marriage? 

I can’t give you an absolute answer to that question, because a lot of it depends on your relationship with this couple and what it would communicate for you to be there. If your presence at the shower communicates that it’s wonderful that they’re having a child outside of marriage and that there’s nothing wrong with that, then that’s not a good thing. If your presence at the shower communicates that you love them, you understand it’s a difficult time for them, and you support them for keeping the baby and not aborting it, then that’s another thing altogether. 

I can’t give a categorical answer to your question, but I would just say that those are the things to consider. What does your presence at the shower communicate to that couple and to the people around them? I think that you should want to communicate the love, the integrity, and the holiness of Jesus Christ to this couple in this situation. 

Don’t shy away from associating with people because they’re sinners. Jesus was a friend of sinners. We’re not there to pretend like their sin isn’t sin. I don’t know if you’ve communicated that to them or if this couple knows where you stand, but if they already know that, I don’t think you have to keep saying it to them. It’s good for them to know. Again, I don’t know that you have to keep saying it to them. 

I wish I could give a more definite answer to your question, but so much of it depends on what exactly your presence there would communicate. Maybe you have some real control over what your presence there communicates to the people and you want it to communicate the right thing and not the wrong thing. 

Why should one believe in a young earth as opposed to an old earth?

Why do you believe in a young earth instead of an old earth?

Well, I’m not here to give a date to the age of the earth. I’m not a scientist. I don’t pretend to be a scientist. The idea that the earth is billions and billions of years old or millions and millions of years old, it is difficult to fit it in with a biblical construction. I’m not saying it’s impossible to fit it in with a biblical construction, but I would say it’s not the most natural reading of the text. 

I’m not here to give a specific age of how old the earth is, but I would say that I would be in the direction of a younger Earth. I think that’s the most natural reading of the text. I have no problem with the idea of God creating an earth or a universe with age built into it. 

I know that many people who advance the idea of an old earth, find that idea very offensive. I see that, and I appreciate their offense, so to speak, but I don’t share the same offense. I don’t think it is deceptive of God to give to us an earth that has age built into it. I think that, perhaps, there is a difference between the apparent age of the earth and the actual age of the earth. Maybe there’s a difference between the two, and if so that, it doesn’t bother me at all. 

The biblical text gives the most natural understanding of the earth being younger rather than older. I don’t think that the old earth is completely contradictory to the scriptures, but I think that it stretches and contorts the scriptures in some ways. 

What is the unpardonable sin?

What do you believe the unpardonable sin is? 

I believe that the unpardonable sin, which Jesus described as the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, is the settled, persistent rejection of Jesus Christ. If somebody does that, they will not be forgiven. They will go to hell. 

That’s simply what I would say is the unpardonable sin, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to present Jesus Christ to us. When a person has a persistent and settled rejection of Jesus Christ, they are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. 

Is 1 John 2:19 irrefutable proof of “once saved, always saved” and the inability of personal apostasy? 

Do you believe that 1 John 2:19 provides irrefutable proof for “Once saved, always saved” and the inability of personal apostasy? 

1John 2:19 says,

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. 

I don’t believe that 1 John 2:19 is an irrefutable proof for the idea of “once saved, always saved,” because John doesn’t give us an indication in 1 John 2:19 that what he says is true of everybody who no longer continues with Christ. Certainly it’s true of many, but there’s nothing in the text that gives us this absolute sense. John seems to be speaking of some specific people in mind when he says they went out from us. It’s not as if he’s speaking of everyone who leaves from among Christians. 

I do not favor the term “once saved, always saved.” I don’t favor it for a few reasons. First of all, it’s not a Bible phrase, so I don’t feel that I need to contend for or fight for a Bible phrase. I do believe in the security of the believer. I do believe that believers are secure in their salvation in Jesus Christ, and they can take great joy and great assurance in that. I believe that very strongly, but the idea that there can be no apparent falling away bothers me. 

We can debate “once saved, always saved,” but those who have every appearance of being a  Christian may fall away in the end. Let’s just keep it that simple. Now you and I can’t look within somebody’s soul and know whether or not they are a true believer. I just think we operate into that present premise. 

There are people who give every appearance to being believers who will not make it to the end, and we just rest in that and say, “Okay, I’m going to stay faithful. I’m going to put my trust in Christ every day and not rest in whatever great things God has done in the past. I’m going to keep clinging to Him every day, clinging to the great thing God has done in the past in terms of the cross but not on my prior experiences. I’m going to put my faith in Jesus and persevere to the end.” 

Was Joseph arrogant or naïve?

Do you feel that Joseph was arrogant or naive? 

I believe it’s very possible that in Joseph’s youth he was arrogant and naive. When I say arrogant, it might have been sort of an innocent arrogance. When God gives him these visions about how he will be exalted, he seems to kind of naively share them with all his brothers without recognizing how it might sound in their particular ears. There may be a touch of that in Joseph’s youth. 

Now, whatever arrogance or naivete there was in Joseph, God worked out of him in an Egyptian prison and in his Egyptian experiences. We see a great work of sanctification, growth, and godliness happening in Joseph. 

I think there’s some reason to believe that maybe in a somewhat innocent way, yet in a real way, that can be an irritation or an annoyance to others of the arrogance or naivete in Joseph. I know other people don’t agree, but that’s just how I see it there. 

Is the rapture the only event when the dead in Christ receive their resurrection bodies?

Is the rapture the only event in the Bible that the dead in Christ receive their bodies? 

This is the indication we have from 1 Thessalonians when it talks about being caught up together with the dead in Christ and collected together with them. 

However, I think it’s possible that those who die now receive their resurrection bodies as they go to heaven, but the problem is just that we have a difficulty correlating our time on earth with the way that time works in heaven. It’s possible that those events for us seem to be the future, such as the catching away of the church and the resurrection. I know that might be a little bit of a confusing way to explain it. I’m just saying that it may very well be that the way time is perceived and experienced here on earth may not work the same in heaven. 

Can you please explain 1 Peter 3:18?

1 Peter 3:18 says,

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. 

What you’re asking about here is what is described afterwards in 1 Peter 3:18. It talks about Peter going and preaching to the spirits in prison. This is something that Christians debate about. My own perspective on this is that Jesus went after His death on the cross, and perhaps before he appeared in His resurrection body, to Hades, to the abode of the dead, and preached judgment to the particular people described in verse 19 and 20. 

So, this speaks of those who, again, had this experience of disobedience in particular ways in generations or in centuries past. God imprisoned them for a special thing, and Jesus went and preached judgment unto them. It says that He preached to the spirits, and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean He preached the gospel and gave a gospel invitation to them. Rather, He preached judgment to them. 

Jesus died in the flesh but was made alive by the Spirit is what verse 18 says. He went and did this ministry after His death in the flesh while still alive in the Spirit. He did this work of preaching judgment to those disobedient spirits in heaven. 

What is the biblical way to confront deconstructionism regarding the Bible?

What is a biblical way to confront deconstructionism? We’ve ran into it a few times in discussing God’s Word with unbelievers and believers alike: the believability of God’s Word itself.

I think the best way to simply explain the reliability and believability of God’s word is to say that we can’t prove, objectively speaking, that the Bible is the Word of God. 

I can, objectively, prove to them that it is absolutely the most unique book ever written, and it has proven, by experience, transformative power again and again. We see that plainly and powerfully presented to us from the scriptures. I believe that that gives good reason to give the step of faith that this is the word of God. 

The essence of deconstructionism is that, in some sense, nothing has any meaning itself, only the meaning we give to it. I know that even this is debated among some people, but two plus two equals four has meaning in itself. It’s not just meaning that we give to it. It has meaning in itself. 

It’s certainly true that there can be a subjective element to interpretation and understanding, but it’s not completely left up to that. The best thing I would recommend to somebody is, try to do everything you can to persuade somebody to just read the Bible. Many of these people who want to deconstruct the Bible and make all sorts of criticisms, have never even read the Bible. 

I understand that when a person reads the Bible, they are going to come up with certain things that give them questions. There’s no doubt about that. What is clear in the Bible is so glorious and so powerful, and for somebody to focus on the relatively few and minor questions, is just bizarre. 

The biggest encouragement I would give is to simply encourage people to read the Bible for themselves.