+27 (11) 867 3505 church@bbcmail.co.za

The verses before us this morning (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12) have long been considered to be among the most difficult in all of Paul’s writings. The basic gist appears straightforward enough. Evidently, the Thessalonians had grown confused about Paul’s teaching about “the day of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:1–11), with some believing that it had already happened. Paul answered that it was impossible for that day to have come because some things must first happen—specifically, a widespread “rebellion” and the revelation of “the man of lawlessness.”

Much ink has been spilled debating the identity of the man of lawlessness. It appears evident from the text that it was someone already active and who would be revealed in the lifetime of the original readers, but Paul does not go into great detail to reveal his identity. While there are clues within the text, which may point to particular candidates (see Doug’s study in this text from 2005), there is at the same time a caution here for us. The caution is that we should not be so unduly fixated on working out the identity of the man of lawlessness that we miss out on the true focus of Paul’s exhortation: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul appears to deliberately set up “the man of lawlessness” as a counterfeit christ. He writes to answer a question about “the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 9) but also references “the coming [parousia] of the lawless one” (v. 9). This lawless one would present himself as a servant of God to deceive many but would ultimately be brought to nothing when Christ came. Significantly, this section is bracketed (1:11–12; 2:13–15) by Christ-centred prayer and thanksgiving. It was Christ’s coming that would bring to an end the man of lawlessness. While the church needed to know about and look for the man of lawlessness, they must not do it to the detriment of their focus on Christ. While this is perhaps Paul’s most extended treatment of any form of antichrist figure, he speaks of this man in the context of who Christ is.

This is a balance that we do well to keep before us. It is a sad reality that books about Antichrist often appear to outsell books about Christ. Something has gone awry in Christendom when we are more intrigued about Antichrist than Christ—more fascinated about evil than good. Paul says that it is “those who are perishing” who are more obsessed with falsehood than with truth (vv. 10–12). Those who love and believe truth love and believe Jesus. If we claim to be committed to truth, we should show it by our open commitment to Christ.

The title of this morning’s devotion is lifted, of course, from Helen Lemmel’s beloved song:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

look full in his wonderful face,

and the things of earth will grow strangely dim

in the light of his glory and grace.

Obsession about Antichrist and end-times theories to the exclusion of Christ are “things of earth,” which should and will “grow strangely dim” only as we turn our eyes upon Jesus. He should be our focus. He should be the object and the subject of our study. He should be our first love. He should so fill our view that everything else we study pales in comparison to him.

As you meditate on 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 this morning, ask God to guard your heart against speculations that detract from your love for Christ. Ask that Christ will so fill your vision that every other earthly thing pales into insignificance.