God

4 Apologetic Methods for God’s Existence

The word apologetic doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It comes from the Greek word ἀπολογία–to speak in defense of one’s worldview. In our case, Christianity. Therefore, when discussing the 4 different types of apologetic systems, I am referring to the various methodologies Christians use to defend their faith. Are you ready to learn? Let’s begin.

The first methodology is entitled Classical Apologetics. It focuses the use of logical criteria such as the law of noncontradiction, self-consistency, comprehensiveness, and coherence. A famous apologist, William Lane Craig, often uses the classical approach when debating the Christian worldview.

For example, he may argue for the teleological argument, which states the intricate design in nature points to an intelligent Creator. Other common classical apologetic positions include the moral, ontological, and cosmological arguments.

Christian philosopher Norman Geisler summarizes this position well: “The basic argument of the classical apologist is that it makes no sense to speak about the resurrection as an act of God unless, as a logical prerequisite, it is first established that there is a God who can act” (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics).

The second approach to apologetics is known as Evidentialism. It’s primary focus is to ground the Christian faith on historically verifiable facts. Instead of arguing for unequivocal proof of God through logical necessity like Classical apologists do, Evidentialists argue that a high degree of probability can be articulated in favor of Christianity. The evidence for creation, prophecy, deity of Christ, and especially the historical significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead are the main subjects in this apologetic approach.

The apologist who pioneered the evidentialist approach was Joseph Butler (1692-1752). In 1736 Butler published The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature. Butler wrote this work to transform the old metaphysical and rationalistic argumentation in Britain to a more scientific and empirical form of reasoning.

He admitted that revealed religion like Christianity was gripped with intellectual problems, but could still be found probabilistically reasonable and justifiable. But not objectively definitive like the Classical approach.

The third apologetic position is Reformed apologetics. It attempts to argue for the Christian faith on the authoritative word of God through revelation rather than empirical or scientific knowledge.

This position would encourage the believer to base their truth in God, not through scientific inquiry, but with the presupposition or fundamental assumption that the Christian faith is already true. There is no need to ground reasoning in God by the physical sciences alone since it’s already intuitively understood by all human beings. Thus, all are without excuse (Rom. 1:20) when they deny the existence of God.

This approach was inspired by John Calvin from the 1500s and has become popularized in recent times by Cornelius Van Til. This is what Dr. Van Til said that summarizes his perspective:

“I hold that belief in God is not merely as reasonable as other beliefs, or even a little or infinitely more probably true than other belief; I hold rather that unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else.” -Van Til

The main criticism of this view is that it uses circular reasoning to argue it’s case. Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy that occurs when the conclusion of an argument is used as a premise of that same argument. In other words, the premise would not work if the conclusion wasn’t already assumed to be true.

Proponents of this view have offered a rebuttal to this claim.

“We agree that presuppositional apologetics is the ultimate biblical approach to apologetics. The common accusation that the presuppositionalist uses circular reasoning is actually true. In fact, everyone uses some degree of circular reasoning when defending his ultimate standard (though not everyone realizes this fact). Yet if used properly, this use of circular reasoning is not arbitrary and, therefore, not fallacious.” – Answers in Genesis Darius and Karin Viet

The final apologetic system is called fideism. The term comes from the latin word fide, meaning “faith.” Instead of being rational (Classical), empirical (Evidentialist), authoritarian (Reformed), it is intuitive (Fideist). Furthermore, fideism maintains that human knowledge of truth is most especially found in the heart or will rather than in the intellect. For example, Fideists would contend that no matter how intellectually sophisticated an argument becomes for the existence of God, those who are living a rebellious sinful life will reject it.

People reject Christianity because Christianity is found in a person, not a religious system or intellectual program. A person requires a relationship. So then, you may know about someone, but until you meet them, intellectual knowledge makes no difference. Fideists would argue the same is true in Christianity.

Fideism was popularized by Martin Luther and was further stressed by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. He once said, “It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.” This statement expresses the idea that belief and obedience are interconnected. Therefore, if one doesn’t love God or obey Him, it’s almost impossible to convince him or her to intellectually commit to God.

What are your thoughts? Which apologetic approach do you find most beneficial? Do you think all of these approaches are valid? Why or Why not? Please comment below. Have a good day!

The Poor Are Also Created in the Image of God

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

Wow. I must confess, this passage is difficult for me to imitate. Throughout life, I have bypassed many beggars on the streets and ignored their plea for money. What’s my excuses consist of?

Here is a list that usually runs in my head: If they are able-bodied, why can’t they get a job? What if they use that money for drugs or alcohol? How do I know they are telling me the truth? I need that money for myself. I have a family to feed.

How do you respond when a beggar asks for money? Have these thoughts ever entered your mind? If so, you are not alone. But are these excuses valid? As Christians, I do think we need to be wise in how we give money to strangers, but are we ever justified to ignore a person in need?

Let’s examine the Bible. Jesus makes it clear in Luke 6:30, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

The Greek word for everyone is πᾶς. It means, “all people.” Similarly, in the passage above, the Greek word for anyone is ὅς, which has a totality emphasis, meaning to give unconditionally. There are at least 30 additional passages that Jesus preaches on concerning charity towards the poor.

Based on Scripture, I believe all of us have a duty to help people in need. Does that help always include financial assistance? Not all the time. If you are financially unstable, and someone is begging from you, it may be unwise to give them money you don’t have.

However, I still think there is an obligation to show Christ’s love to that person. You can certainly pray for them. Peter is a perfect example of this in Acts: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (Acts 3:6).”

Therefore, while there may be conditions in which you can’t give monetarily, there are no conditions in which you should ignore the person.

When I was in college, I used to preach in the open air. Homeless people would come up to me all the time and ask for money. Instead of giving them money, I invited them to eat a meal with me. Most declined.

There was one person I vividly remember accepting my invitation. When we walked into the restaurant, I will never forget the reaction on the customers’ faces. It’s almost as if you could read their minds. “What is he doing in here? He smells bad.” I felt sympathy for this homeless man because I experienced what it was like to sense strong rejection, as if I was sub-human.

While we were eating, he told me his life story. I came to the realization that he was a person just like me. Full of dreams. Creative. A sense of humor. Personable. On the other hand, broken. Confused. Depressed. Despite the virtues and vices, this man was a priceless vessel created in the image of God.

This experience has helped me to become more sympathetic towards the poor and needy. And it should. The Bible tells us that if we don’t have pity for the brokenhearted, then the love of God does not reside in us. James tells us that if we have faith, but not works, our faith is futile. Our religion becomes worthless when we abandon the widows and orphans in distress.

On judgment day, Jesus will say to the righteous: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matt. 25:40).” Next time you see a stranger in need, remember that a day is coming when you will either be exhorted by your decision to help a person in need or rebuked for failing to imitate Christ’s love.

Be encouraged. There are endless opportunities to show the love of Christ to the outcasts. Here are 7 suggestions. Please add more to this list in the comments below. God bless.

  1. Go on a mission trip with your local church.
  2. Help out at Vacation Bible School.
  3. Adopt a child in the foster care system.
  4. Give to Hope for the Hungry.
  5. Bring food to a homeless person.
  6. Instead of buying a cup of coffee, save that money for a beggar.
  7. Grab some lunch with an outcast at your church who may not have a family nearby.

Why Does a Good God Allow Human Suffering?

“Good and upright is the Lord.” – Psalm 25:8

Why does a loving God allow human suffering and evil? If God is all-powerful, doesn’t he have the ability to prevent it? If the Creator truly cares, wouldn’t he bring peace upon this earth? What is the purpose of suffering, if any at all? These are all common questions that people ask, especially when they are experiencing tragedy.

When my wife was a child, she had a younger sister named Natalia. At the age of 1, it was evident something physically was wrong. Her parents went from doctor to doctor to get a diagnosis. Finally, the worst news possible: Natalia had terminal cancer.

Her parents were determined to save Natalia’s life. They tried chemotherapy, surgery, traveled to clinics around the country, but there was no remedy for this cancer. It started in the tailbone and spread to her lungs.

When Natalia began to walk, she would complain about her leg pain. She just wanted relief. My wife vividly remembers a time when Natalia said to her Mom, “I just want an injection. Can you give me an injection to relieve this pain?” Most children loathe shots, but Natalia needed it because her pain was unbearable. That same year Natalia passed away and began the journey to her heavenly home.

Stories like these are hard to hear. My wife and her family were devastated. Heartbroken. Questioning the goodness of God was a natural conversation considering their circumstances. Despite the pain, this tragedy had started a positive direction for their family.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

After the funeral, my Father-in-Law, who was an agnostic, started attending church. He had nowhere else to go. In his brokenness, the only relief was to be part of a community of believers who would pray and comfort him and his family during this ravenous storm.

My wife started going to church with her grandpa. My Mother-in-Law also began attending church. Although Natalie had passed into eternity, her influence was prevalent. This tragedy brought the entire family into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Today, my wife loves the Lord. She has helped missionaries translate the gospel from English to Ukrainian. She has counseled several women in the church. Everyday,  she teaches my two boys the importance of God’s love. For instance, our eldest son Evan is already sharing Jesus with kids he meets at the park. She has been a tremendous helper for me and a vital asset to the strength of our family.

My Father-in-Law owns a successful business. He gives employees the option of staying after work to do in-depth Bible studies with him. And yes, they get paid for being present. He has contributed greatly to their city, revamping dilapidated buildings, creating programs for youth, and teaching Bible studies at his house. He knows the Bible better than any seminary trained professor I have ever met.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4

All of us will experience tragedy at some point. It’s inevitable. When these tragedies do arise, what will your attitude be? If you become bitter and angry towards God, I can promise you, life will become a dark tunnel filled with disappointment. Bitterness always leads to the grave.

My wife’s sister Natalia was a heartbroken event. Both her laughter and tears will never be forgotten. And yes, grieving is the right attitude, but it’s not the final outcome. Natalia had a positive impact on my wife and her entire family. Her death brought brokenness, but that brokenness led the Livinyuk family to seek refuge in Christ. Praise be to God.

Quantum Mechanics Points to an Intelligent Creator

Can quantum mechanics objectively prove God’s existence? Yes and No. Let me explain. Looking at the science objectively, I can demonstrate, for instance, that the wavelength of a photon can be determined by taking the velocity of the wave and dividing it by the frequency. This can be measured and proven in the observable universe.

From this data, I can only infer subjectively that it’s possible some intelligent mind gave quantum mechanics the sophisticated brilliance to work so elegantly. Does this therefore conclude God exists? In my mind, I can’t think of any better explanation for the data given.

Some have contested this statement, saying, “Why would you infer a mind or that it is intelligent? The universe “works” in such a way that it comes on as all of this, but terms like sophisticated, brilliant or elegant are meaningless here. Do those words even really describe it?

I would argue yes, quantum mechanics does point to an intelligent Creator. For instance, Eugene Weigner, a Nobel Prize Physicist, had argued materialism is no longer logically consistent with present quantum mechanics. Beforehand, Einsteins theory of relativity maintained the universe was deterministic and mind independent. Now, through the double slit experiment, scientists discovered a wave function collapses when there is an observer. When no observation takes place, the photon continues as a wave. When it is observed, it quantizes into a particle.

If the laws of physics weren’t affected by the minds observation, then mechanical materialism or physicalism would be a tenable theory. However, quantum mechanics suggests the opposite.

If the human mind transcends matter then it’s possible there are other minds that transcend the physical universe. And might there not even exist an ultimate mind? Quantum mechanics help bridge the gap between the pure sciences and the metaphysical world. This is huge because no longer are we “inferring” a mind, but the experiments are rather proving it.

In conclusion, it’s hard to make a definitive statement that science “objectively” proves the existence of God. We can’t experimentally test this in a lab. But that doesn’t mean science can’t point to God being a more probable explanation for the existence of the universe than string theory, multiple universes, or naturalistic processes.

Why? Because as I said before, the real world is more sophisticated than a computer machine. Computer machines don’t just spontaneously pop in and out of existence. There was an architect with a mind who gave it code and mathematical computations. Software programs are not self-sufficient; they require a designer. If computers require a programmer, how much more does the fine-tuning universe need one? That’s why I still contend that God is the best explanation for the universe. Thoughts?

 

Did God Change His Mind About Dietary Laws?

It is crucial to note that God’s first commandments to humans were related to eating. The Hebrew word “command” is used for the first time in Genesis 2:16-17 to reflect God’s headship over creation. While God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the created order, He still set “boundaries” when He said, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.

This is a pivotal point. Eve really ate a forbidden fruit. The physical reality of eating something that God has “declared” forbidden is linked to the spiritual reality of disobedience to God. If this interpretation was strictly to convey a moral point, then why not turn the entire story into an allegorical lesson? Because you and I both know it’s critical to believe in a literal Eden, a literal tree, and a literal fall of man or otherwise the historical-redemptive piece is missing from the Bible.

It is correct to say the original Edenic diet assigned to man consisted of fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:9; 3:2). That being said, God was the first to kill an animal in order to clothe Adam and Eve for the purpose of keeping them warm and more importantly, to demonstrate without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness (Heb. 9:22).

It was also Abel’s sacrifice of meat in Genesis 4:4 that was acceptable and pleasing to God, not the fruit of the ground brought by Cain (Gen. 4:3). The main focus was the sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean meat was forbidden in God’s original plan. I believe God always intended for meat to be eaten, and he would later differentiate between clean/unclean in Noah’s time based on Genesis 7-9.

Regardless of whether meat was eaten or not in the garden, the distinction between clean and unclean animals was still made before the more specific covenantal stipulations with Israel at Sinai.Thus, dietary restrictions are not embedded in the socio-cultural context of the Isrealites, but is rather a subset of the clean/unclean distinction as a meta-narrative of the entire Bible.

Therefore, when John Piper associates circumcision with the dietary restrictions, he is committing the fallacy of false equivalence. First, circumcision was deeply embedded in the ceremonial law. One could not come to the temple if they weren’t circumcised. It was also a sign of their “distinction” from the pagan nations. But the separation from Pagan nations rationale doesn’t work with the clean/unclean animals. For instance, W.F. Albright points out in his book, “Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan,” that large and small cattle were more generally sacred, so that it is quite irrational to single out the economically and religiously much less important pig and to explain its prohibition in Israel by its alleged religious significance.”

Additionally, a comparison between Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 demonstrates that the repetition of the dietary code in Deuteronomy 14 is free from ceremonial or ritual regulations connected to the sanctuary or holy place. Also, out of all the eleven kinds of uncleanness that are classified in Leviticus (uncleanness of child birth, mildew in clothing or in house, leprosy, etc) all of them are temporary. Some are 1 day, 7 days, 33 days, etc). The uncleanness of animals, however is permanent (Gen. 7:2; Lev. 11:1-47; Deut. 14:3-21). This means an unclean animal is born unclean and dies unclean. As one scholar pointed out, “the type of uncleanness is hereditary, non-cultic, and universal, while the other kind is acquired, temporary, and ritual/ceremonial.” In fact, the dietary regulations were required for the “sojourner” in Leviticus 17:3 through the law of hunting.

Skeptics argue there are no positive evidence existing in the form of commandments or prohibitions prior to the book of Leviticus to support such a standard. First, let me point out that God still punished Cain for murdering his brotherAbel prior to the 10 commandments. Scripture makes it clear that the law of God is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15). In fact, God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in “nature” so that all are without excuse. Secondly, I disagree. If you read Leviticus 11, it is connected theologically with the Exodus from Egypt in terms of motivation for its observation. Recall that Exodus 20:2 starts with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,” The same terminology is used in Lev. 11:43 “You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls upon the earth. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God; you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Here cleanness and holiness are linked with redemption from the slavery and bondage in Egypt.

Moreover, God links Leviticus 20:22-26 in connection with the gift of the land. “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves “detestable by beat or by bird or anything which the ground crawls, for I have set apart for you to hold unclean…” The appeal to following the laws of the land are connected with future blessing.

Another objection raised was that if one applies the dietary regulations then do they have to apply the entire book of Leviticus? First, the idea of unclean/clean is not limited to the book of Leviticus. Yes, the specific command is, but the motivation and themes are represented throughout the entire Bible, from Genesis 1 to Revelation. Second, why is it that people hastily jump to the conclusion that the laws in Leviticus are arbitrary? Do you think God would create “revelational” laws in contrast with “rational” laws which man can better understand? Remember Leviticus also condemned prostitution, bestiality, and other abominations that Christians reject as well. As far as the mold, how do you know whether God was trying to protect his people from infection? If you want to do extensive research, look up D.I Macht, “A Scientific Appreciation of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

The key is really to look at the passages in the New Testament to see if God’s commandments concerning clean/unclean animals have been abolished. First, the Mark 7 passage is mentioned to argue God abolished the old testament dietary law. According to the text, I agree with the statement that there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him, but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. No one is suggesting the animal itself is what defiles us. Otherwise, God wouldn’t call his entire creation “good.” Second, when the Jews obeyed God through circumcision, temple worship, honoring the Sabbath, etc, were those “practices” keeping them from being defiled? Of course not. While it was an external sign of their obedience, it was their “faithfulness” to God and desire to be “holy” that was pleasing to God. And our salvation is never found in the law, but in Christ.

At the same time, faith without works is dead. There is no such thing as a disobedient “faith.” Same is true with the Sermon on the Mount. He did not abolish these commands, but rather to show that they all went down to motives, not just external acts. So when God tells us what is clean/unclean for food, and we disobey that command, then it’s our disobedience that “pollutes the heart.”

Moreover, this passage has been studied in detail by R.T. France. He makes this statement.
“The syntax clearly marks out καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα as a parenthetical editorial comment, since there is no masculine singular subject within the reported speech to which it can relate (hence the emendations found in some MSS, representing attempts to ‘correct’ the syntax by those who failed to recognize the nature of the clause…The subject therefore is Jesus (the subject of λέγει, v. 18a), whom Mark thus interprets as ‘cleansing all food’ in the sense of declaring that it is no longer to be regarded as ritually ‘unclean’” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 291; cf. 276).

As I argued beforehand, it’s clear from the passage in Matthew 15:20 that Jesus concludes with why he made the statement: “These are what defile a person (murder, anger, lying, etc); but eating with UNWASHED HANDS does not defile them. There is no mention of “unclean animals.” Secondly, the Greek word bromata that is used refers to all foods of any kind. If flesh meat was the subject under the discussion, the word for flesh, sarx, or even a reference to animals would be a more appropriate distinctive. If all foods are employed, then even poisonous berries and mushrooms are now okay to eat. I don’t think this was the driving force behind Jesus’s statement here.

Finally, in Acts 10, Peter saw a great sheet let down from heaven with all kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles in it. Peter was instructed to rise, kill, and eat. Then God says, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.” The lesson is God was trying to show Peter that Gentile converts were acceptable to God and should be received by the believers. This is evident because Peter was perplexed until Acts 10:28 when he explains what he thought the vision meant: “But God has shown me that I should not call any MAN impure or unclean.” The context is clear Peter was referring to the Gentiles, not food.

The vision also needs to be understood. It does not say the sheet was full of unclean animals. There was a mixture of animals, both clean and unclean. The words used are koinos or common and akathartos or unclean. The unclean animal is clearly one that God assigned in Leviticus 11. The other kind was a clean animal that had “been contaminated or defiled by contact with an unclean animal.” Moreover, Paul rebukes Peter when he says, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” If Peter was accused of being like the Gentiles, it surely wasn’t because he started eating unclean meat. For he said in his vision in Acts 10:14, “I have NEVER eaten anything uncommon or unclean.”

Romans 14:14-17 is another passage where Christians say Pauls point was to tell Gentiles to abstain from consuming unkosher foods since it would offend the “weaker Jewish brother,” not because there is still a creation distinction of clean/unclean. But Paul defines the weaker brother in verse 2 as one who eats only vegetables. The question was whether meat was acceptable at all since meat was sacrificed to idols. One might accidently consume it without knowing it came from a pagan temple.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-15 the traditional interpretation is Paul condemns the practice of abstaining from certain foods for religious reasons and shows that every creature God made is now clean because they are sanctified by prayer. When Paul says every, it’s not to be absolute. For example, in Genesis 1:29 God told Adam to eat every tree and plant, but we know in Genesis 2:16 that the tree of knowledge was off limits. The meaning of this passage is every creature God made for “food” is to be received with Thanksgiving because it is sanctified by God’s word through his law (Lev 14/Deut 14).

In conclusion, God always has a purpose for his laws. They are not arbitrary. They are for our good. Marriage is for our good. The Sabbath is a day of rest since humans need breaks. Eating clean animals helps nourish our bodies. These laws are to protect us from harm. Above all, God wants us to obey these laws to keep us healthy and demonstrate our “faith” by our works. Our works don’t save us, they only reveal our trust and commitment to the only one who can save us, Jesus Christ.

How do we Fish for the Souls of Humankind?

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” -Matthew 4:19

Today, my son and I were playing the Catch and Count Fishing Game by Melissa and Doug company. The fishing rods have a magnet attached at the end of the pole that connects with another magnetic circle on the fish. Each fish has a different color, fin arrangement, and number. The game is really useful for hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem solving, and interpersonal skills, but most importantly, it reminds my son of the gospel message.

Every time my son and I play, he tells me of the time in children’s church when Jesus said we should make fishers of men. It’s such a joy to have your own son remind you of the importance of evangelism. While he may not perfectly understand this analogy, he does know it’s crucial for believers to fish for the souls of humankind.

Are you currently fishing for the souls of people? Do you think about how to share the gospel with your friends, neighbors, family members, or co-workers? I want to encourage you that God has given you the best fishing pole (The Word of God) and the bait (grace) to bring the most hardened fish (sinners) to a relationship with the Almighty One.

Maybe you are hesitant to cast out the fishing line in fear of rejection from others. Don’t worry. Jesus said that when you follow him, you will make fishers of men. He didn’t say you “might” make fishers of men.

As Christians, our call is to be faithful to what God commanded: To go and make disciples. To make fishers of men. When we use the right fishing pole (the Bible), the right bait (grace), you might be surprised how many fish (people) begin to nibble (inquire) about the good news of Jesus Christ. May God bless you in your endeavors!

The End Times: An Exegetical Study on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

 

The Text on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

(1) Moreover, we urge you brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him (2) not to be quickly shaken in mind or in a constant state of being troubled, neither by a spiritual gift of prophecy, nor a spoken word, not by a letter, as if from us, saying that the Day of the Lord has come. (3) Do not let anyone deceive you in any way, because it will not be until the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition, is revealed. (4) He is the one who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself that he is God. (5) Do you not remember that when I was with you, I was repeatedly telling you these things? (6) And as to the present, you know that which restrains him, that he may be revealed in his time.  (7) For indeed the mystery of lawlessness is already working, only the one who now restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way (8) and then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the breath of his mouth and will bring to an end by the glorious appearance of his coming; (9) whose coming is by the powerful influence of Satan, in all power–both signs and wonders of falsehood (10) and in every deceit of unrighteousness for those that are perishing, this is because they did not love the truth so that they might be saved. (11) And for this reason, God sends them an inward working of delusion to believe what is false, (12) for the purpose that all may be judged, having not believed the truth but delighted in unrighteousness.   

The Interpretation

(2:1)Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοίPaul introduces a change from thanksgiving and prayer in the previous chapter with the preposition δὲ in the phrase Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφο Moreover, we urge you, brothers. This epistolary section is addressed to new believers in Thessalonica in the first chapter, indicating an urgency to listen to the teaching they are about to receive from Paul because false teaching has infiltrated the community (v.2). Furthermore, the Greek preposition ὑπὲρ regarding further clarifies that the members were concerned about whether Jesus was coming soon or not. Paul is going to correct these errors from the Gnostic teachers.

The two nouns, coming τῆς παρουσια and being gatheredεπισυναγωγης are only governed by one article with the conjunction καὶ and are therefore considered to be the same event. This gathering is argued by post-tribulationists to explain both nouns have the same referent because of the TSKS construction. However, some scholars argue that this is a misinterpretation of Sharps rule because the nouns of the verses are impersonal substantives. Therefore, both nouns might not be referring to the same event but could be separate as dispensationalists would argue.

(2:2) εἰς τὸ μὴ ταχέως σαλευθῆναιThe object in this construction, εἰς τὸ μὴ of ερωοτωμεν has two infinitives: σαλευθῆναι, an aorist that looks at the action without completion and θροεῖσθαι, which defines the action as continual: we urge you not to be quickly shaken in mind or in a constant state of being troubled. This suggests that the Thessalonians have either had trouble doctrinally before or Paul is trying to prevent them.  

In the next phrase, μήτε διὰ πνεύματος μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε διἐπιστολῆς “neither by a spiritual gift of prophecy, nor a spoken word, nor by a letter, these three nouns are functioning as genitives of source. They all clarify the two infinitives σαλευθῆναι and θροεῖσθαι as being the reason for the difficulty in the Thessalonian church. Moreover, the instrument or means διὰ by which these two infinitives are effected by stands together in negative correlation with the triple μήτe being due to μηδὲ.

Paul is stating the teaching they received through the spirit, the word, and the letter did not come from him but false teachers. Through the spirit, πνεύματος, was by means of a spiritual gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:12; 1 Th. 5:19-20). Whatever medium this life giving spirithad on the community, allegedly it had Pauls authority just as the Thessalonians said about the spoken word and the letter they received. Paul intends to correct this mistake.

The construction ἡ ἡμέρα is most commonly used with the meaning the period between sunrise and sunset.However, the construction τοῦ κυρίου is added here as an appointed day for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The verb ἐνέστηκεν is used by Paul to negate that it is present and argue for a future day of trouble. Paul describes in the following verses what events must first take place.

(2:3) μή τις ὑμᾶς ἐξαπατήσῃ κατὰ μηδένα τρόπονPauls language here is emphatic: Do not let anyone deceive you in any way.”  First, the verb he prefers ἐξαπατήσῃ, is in the subjunctive, referring to Satans subtle deception (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14). Second, ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθῃ “because it will not be if not shall have come is a rare expression of the Aorist subjunctive with the negation μή. This elliptical condition is incomplete because the corresponding apodosis does not follow. Paul could have been using a rhetorical device known as anacoluthon to emphasize his urgency to warn.

Afterwards, Paul states the day of the Lord will not come until three events occur: the apostasy, the man of lawlessness is revealed, and the restrainer removed (v. 6-7). Although the temporal adverb πρῶτον helps to clarify the sequence of events in which the apostasy would be followed, the absence of ἔπειτα (then) verifies these events will occur simultaneously. The difficulty is interpreting how long these events will transpire before the end.

Paul and other New Testament writers express that this time of apostasy will be an increase of wrongdoing and opposition to God (Matt 24:10; Mk. 13:5; Lk. 8:13; Jude 18; 2 Tim. 3:1-9). The leader of this rebellion, ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, can be translated as the man of sinor of lawlessness(Ps. 89:22). He is identified as the son of destruction ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας not only because he opposesGod but because he exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped (2 Thess. 2:4; Dan. 11:36-37).

Moreover, this genitive of relationship ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας “son of perdition is paralleled to Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, The Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16). Christ will be revealed in all his glory and the Antichrist (1 Jn.2:18) will be followed by his destruction in the lake of fire with the rest of Gods enemies (1 Thess. 5:3; Rev. 17:8).

Daniels prophecy in 11:30-45 and Pauls teaching in 2:3-4 are clearly paralleled. They both state that the man of sinwill influence the world with smooth words and deceive those who forsake the holy covenant by acting wickedly, fulfilling the apostasy in 2:3. Then, he will persuade others to become godless and persecute those who remain loyal to Gods covenant ( Dan. 11:32-35).

Finally, this lawless one who will (2:4A) ὁ ἀντικείμενος καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενον θεὸν ἢ σέβασμαoppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship,will meet his end under Gods judicial judgment (Dan. 11:45; 2 Thess. 2:8) when he sets himself in the temple as God.  λεγόμενον θεὸ refers to would be gods and the true living God. Paul articulates this phrase to prevent believers from placing the true God in the same position with the idols of the pagan world.

(2:4B) ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσαι, ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτὸν ὅτι ἔστιν θεός… Next, the lawless one commits the greatest blasphemy so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself that he is God( Is. 14:14; 47:8; Ezek. 28:9). This is known as the abomination of desolation ( Dan. 9:27; 11:31; Matt. 24:15-16; Mk. 13:14). Scholars interpret this event in (3) ways: Occurred during first and second temple Judaism before its destruction in AD 70, the current rebuilt temple under the new covenant, the church (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16), or Gods heavenly temple (Ps. 11:4; Acts 7:49; Heb. 8:1-2).

First, since Paul has already stated in his letter that the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed (v. 3, 6-8), we can eliminate first and second temple Judaism of the past. Second, the noun ναὸν (temple) is made definite by the article and the possessive genitive τοῦ θεοῦ (of God). This explains a physical building was intended, not believers who are the temple of the living God (1 Cor. 6:19). The best clue in the text is the conjunction ὥστε with the infinitive. It indicates tendency or purpose not realized. Therefore, the lawless one will attempt to dethrone Gods heavenly throne not in a physical place, but through the powers of this dark world and through the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12).

(2:5) Οὐ μνημονεύετε ὅτι ἔτι ὢν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ταῦτα ἔλεγον ὑμῖνThis is now the fourth time in these two letters where Paul expresses the first person singular and the fourth of six instances where Paul exhorts them to remember what they had been taught (1 Thess. 2:9; 3:4; 4:1; 5:1-2; 2 Thess 3:10). The first person implies that he felt personally responsible for the instruction he gave to the Thessalonians and the writing of the letter (1 Thess. 5:27), even though it was written with the assistance of Timothy and Silvanus. Pauls authority implies that the church already accepted apostolic authority.

Moreover, Paul applies a stative verb ἔλεγον (I said) with a transitive preposition πρὸς(with). πρὸς is the only preposition whose force is overridden by the verb, making it static or an undefined duration: Do you not remember when I was yet with you, I was repeatedly telling you these things?The imperfect tense of ἔλεγον also verifies the view Paul was in Thessalonica longer than the three Sabbath days (Acts 17).

(2:6A) καὶ νῦν τὸ κατέχον οἴδατεκαὶ νῦν τὸ κατέχον οἴδατε, εἰς τὸ ἀποκαλυφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ…“and as to the present, you know that which restrains him, that he may be revealed in his time. The church knew about Pauls previous teaching concerning the apostasy and the man of lawlessness. Also, they knewthe unnamed restrainer (v. 6-7) as either the Roman government, the archangel Michael, an angel of Satan, the Holy Spirit, or the pre-tribulation church.

In Greek, the usage of the neuter gender κατέχον is an abstract expression where a singular appears when one would naturally look for a plural. This verse is synonymous with ὁ κατέχων in the next verse, implying the same object or person. Therefore, the best explanation is this person is Michael and his angels fighting against the adversary (Dan. 10:13; Rev. 12:7). Lastly, this restraint is placed on the man of lawlessness for a purpose that he should be revealed in the time that is right for his revealing.This shows God is in control and the lawless ones fate is determined.

(2:7A) τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίαςτῆς ἀνομίας is the descriptive genitive in subordinate relation to the subject of the clause τὸ μυστήριον. The text would therefore be rendered: For indeed the mystery of lawlessness is already working.Though this mystery is presently at work in the world, it wont be fully revealed until the second coming of Christ for at least two reasons: God is concealing this truth to harden unbelievers (Rom. 11:25; 2 Thess. 2:11-12) and transform Christians at the appointed time (1 Cor. 15:51), or the mystery is too difficult to grasp because it transcends human understanding.

(2:7B) μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μέσου γένηται…“only the one who now restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.” There is an ellipsis in this passage. μόνον is related to ἕως and identifies a limitation involved with the mystery until the object is removed and the Antichrist is revealed. Though we can only speculate on who this restrainer is, the text implies that the end was not immediate (v. 2). Paul clarifies “the one who restrains” is still actively present in the world, further justifying the parousia has not yet come.

(2:8) καὶ τότε ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος, ὃν ὁ κύριος [Ἰησοῦς] ἀνελεῖ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ καὶ καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ...The conjunction καὶ and adverb τότε denote that Paul is no longer referring to the present but to the future when the lawless one will be revealed and destroyed by the Lord. The phrase τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ is referring to the passage in Isaiah 11:4: “And He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked (NASB).”

Moreover, καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ declares that God will not only destroy the evil one with the breath of His mouth, but also with the appearance of his coming. τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ refers to an unexpected personal appearance of hidden divinity. It is used both of Jesusincarnation (2 Ti. 1:10) and his appearance in judgment (1 Ti. 6:14; 2 Ti. 4:1; 8; Tit. 2:13). This defeat is not only focused on the man of sin but also the destruction of all evil (1 Cor. 15:24), culminating in the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

(2:9) οὗ ἐστιν ἡ παρουσία κατἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ σημείοις καὶ τέρασιν ψεύδουςThis passage speaks about the coming of the Antichrist. Paul uses the same word ἡ παρουσία from verses 1 and 3, and οὗ is the relative pronoun that refers to the lawless one in verse 8. The παρουσία means the state of being present at a place (1 Cor. 16:17; Phil. 2:12). When Christ returns at the end of the age, he will make his presence felt by the revelation of his power to judge the world (Mt. 24:4; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Pet. 3:4). The lawless one will mimic Gods power under the influence of Satan, bringing false power, signs, and wonders to the Earth upon those who are perishing. Since the unrighteous will have no love for the truth, they will be deceived and follow the strong delusion that God permits from Satan (Col. 1:21; Eph. 4:17-19; Rom. 1:25).

Some scholars suggest that πάσῃ and δυνάμει are connected with all three nouns (power, sign, and wonders) and that ψεύδους is to be taken with all three substantives, rendering the phrase: in all power, signs, and wonders of falsehood.Others restrict the adjective πάσῃ and translate the two nouns: In all power–both signs and wonders of falsehood. The latter interpretation is more correct because only God is all-powerful, and Acts 2:22 and Hebrews 2:4 specifies that only Jesus has this unique power: δυνάμεσι καὶ τέρασι καὶ σημείοις οἷς ἐποίησεν διαὐτοῦ ὁ θεὸς ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν, καθὼς αὐτοὶ οἴδατε.

(2:10) καὶ ἐν πάσῃ ἀπάτῃ ἀδικίας τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις, ἀνθὧν τὴν ἀγάπην τῆς ἀληθείας οὐκ ἐδέξαντο εἰς τὸ σωθῆναι αὐτούςThis verse describes the trickery of the lawless one and how it affects the deceived. Not only does he come with false signs and wonders, but also with any other plan to forward his deception. The word for deception, ἀπάτῃ, expresses the idea of seduction that comes from wealth (Mt. 13:22; Mk. 4:19), empty deceit (Col 2:8), pleasure that involves one into sin, or deceptive trickery from an outside force (2 Thess. 2:10). Clearly the wicked will perish not only because of the schemes of the devil, but because they did not have a love for the truth.      

There is only one passage (Lk. 11:42) where ἀγάπην τῆς ἀληθείας the love of the truthis used with the objective genitive and the adverbial negation οὐκ. This means they did not love the truthrather than the truth did not love them.  Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Truth, has a love for his creation, desiring that no one perish but all come to repentance in faith (2 Pet 3:9). However, when He came to His own people (Jn. 1:11), they did notreceiveἐδέξαντο Him to be saved σωθῆναι. This infinitive communicates the purpose of the main action which we recognize by the preposition εἰς τὸ. Consequently, Paul is declaring that since they do not receive this truth to be saved, their only other option is to perish (1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; 4:3).

The verbal participle ἀπολλυμένοις describes the unbelieving world as experiencing destruction by being put to eternal death (Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:32; Rom. 14:15). This death is described as being lost, fading from beauty and splendor, (Js. 11:11; Rev. 18:14) and of the way of the godless, which is lost in darkness (Ps. 1:6). Moreover, it emphasizes the failure to obtain what one anticipates, such as heavenly rewards (Mt. 10:42; Mk. 9:41) or lose their connection with God just as wine that has lost its flavor or sheep that have gone astray from their shepherd ( Jer. 27:6; Ezek. 34:4; Jn. 6:12).

(2:11) καὶ διὰ τοῦτο πέμπειαὐτοῖς ὁ θεὸς ἐνέργειαν πλάνης εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι αὐτοὺς τῷ ψεύδει[And for this reason, God sends them an inward working of delusion so they believe what is false]. Since they have rejected the gospel, God begins to execute judgment upon them by sending a strong delusion so they cant distinguish between the truth of the gospel and the falsity of Satan. Paul comments in other passages where God allows sinners to indulge in the sin and errors they have approved (Ps. 80:12-13; Rom. 1:24; 2 Tim. 4:4) by giving the man of lawlessness the ability to propagate these lies.

God will πέμπει “sendthis strong delusion: The idea here is someone, whether human or transcendent, is dispatched to communicate a message (Lk. 20:11; 2 Cor. 9:3). In the context of this passage, the sending is an idea of moving from one place to another. It takes on the meaning to instruct, commission, or appoint. Therefore, God has appointed this strong delusion just as he did when he hardened the Israelites in the Old Testament (Isa. 6:9-10). For example, God sent a spirit to energize false prophets before Ahab and Jehoshaphat to bring down their alliance (1 Kgs 22:19; 2 Chr. 18:18-22).   

The next phrase, ἐνέργειαν πλάνης, is the only occurrence in the New Testament where πλάνης is a genitive of the object and signifies the aim of active inward energy: the state of being deceived.In addition, the nominative subject ὁ θεὸς, is emphatic, suggesting the reality it is God who is working out his moral purposes through the evil agencies to bring this strong delusion.

Its important to recognize that God does not cause their unbelief, but he sets the stage for them to demonstrate it. For example, an undercover cop doesnt participate in the evil of setting someone up, he simply pretends to follow so that the trap is set to capture the evildoer. Genuine believers will not be deceived in this way because we have been saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (NASB v.13).

(2:12) ἵνα κριθῶσιν πάντες οἱ μὴ πιστεύσαντες τῇ ἀληθείᾳ ἀλλὰ εὐδοκήσαντες τῇ ἀδικίᾳ…[in order that all may be judged, having not believed the truth but delighted in unrighteousness]. The purpose of πέμπει in the previous verse is contingent upon the purpose in εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι. Therefore, the ἵνα κριθῶσιν πάντες clause depends on εἰς τὸ: that all might be judged.Most scholars syntactically agree that this is a purpose clause because God is sending the delusion to fulfill the destiny of both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Furthermore, the aorist active participle πιστεύσαντες “having believedis used eight times to describe believers (Mk. 16:16; 2 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 4:3), and negatively, of those who did not believe (2 Thess. 2:12; Jude 5). Its considered an independent substantival, with the aspectual force of gnomic and continual: everyone who continually does not believe.

The aorist participle ὐδοκήσαντες and the dative noun τῇ ἀδικίᾳ are an example of the instrumental dative case of cause.The syntactical structure expresses the idea of cause, motive, or occasion and changes between the idea of association and means: delighted in unrighteousness. Unlike believers, who are producing the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5), the wicked are sowing corruption and reaping the consequences. The use of these two aorist participles strengthen the idea that Paul was thinking about the path they had chosen when they rejected the gospel more than the lifestyle that resulted from the choices they made.

These warnings by Paul were a sober reminder to the Thessalonians not to be shaken in mind or alarmed by deception (v. 2-3) so they would avoid perishing with the world. His purpose in admonishing the Thessalonians was to care for their souls. In the remaining verses (v. 13-16), Paul reminds them they have been saved by the truth of the gospel for the glory of the Lord, who loves and comforts their hearts.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barker, Kenneth and Kohlenberger, John. Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

Barton, John, and Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Baugh, Steven M. A First John Reader: Intermediate Greek Reading Notes and Grammar.

Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Company, 1999.

Beale, G.K. 1-2 Thessalonians: IVP New Testament Commentary. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Black, David Alan. Its Still Greek to Me. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Bridges, Linda. Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Macon: Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2008.

Buttrick, George, Knox, John, Scherer, Paul, Bowie, Walter, Terrein, Samuel, and Harmon, Nolan. The Interpreters Bible. New York: Abingdon Press, 1955.

Carson, D.A., France, R.T., Motyerand, J.A., Wenham, G.J. New Bible Commentary. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1994.

Carson, D.A. and Green, Gene. The Letters to the Thessalonians. Vol. 12. Leicester: Eerdmans Publishing House, 2002.

Danker, Frederick William. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early

Christian Literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Elwell, Walter Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989.

Fee, Gordon The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2009.

Frame, James Everett. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the

Thessalonians. Greenwood: The Attic Press, Inc., 1979.

Holmes, Michael. 1 and 2 Thessalonians: The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 1998.

Kostenberger, Andreas, Kellum, Scott L., and Quarles, Charles L. The Cradle, the Cross, and the

Crown. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.

Longman III, Tremper, and Garland, David The Expositors Bible Commentary: Ephesians-Philemon. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 2006.

Menken, Maarten J.J. 2 Thessalonians. London: Routledge Press, 1994.

Moulton, James Hope, Howard, Wilbert Francis, and Turner, Nigel. A Grammar of New

Testament Greek. Vol. 3. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1908.

Robertson, A.T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research.

Nashville: Broadman, 1934.

Shogren, Gary Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervans Press, 2012.

Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Tappan: Fleming Revell Company, 1940.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New

Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1996.

Wannamaker, Charles A. The Epistle to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text.

Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.

Williams, David New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.

Teaching Handout: Summary of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Introduction: The culture attempts to influence our beliefs about the apocalypse end times.What are some rumors you have heard before concerning the end of the world? How did this make you feel (upset, nervous, skeptical)?

Transition: The Thessalonians had also been alarmed about rumors that the Day of the Lord was already present and Paul writes to instruct them.

Background of 2 Thessalonians:

1.) Authorship: The Apostle Paul [possibly Silvanus and Timothy]

2.) Date: A.D. 52-54; immediately following his first letter to the Thessalonians

3.) Destination of the Letter: To the church at Thessalonica

The Purpose of the Letter:

1.) The persecution from the Jewish mobs and others in the city had grown worse, causing the Christian community to despair. He wanted to write to comfort them in Christ (2 Thess. 2:16-17).

2.) Because of their increased persecution, false prophets were convincing them that the end was already present, even writing a false letter (2:2)

3.) The nearness of Christs return caused believed to neglect their vocational responsibilities. Paul writes to not walk in idleness but to continue in their vocations (2 Thess. 2:11).  

Outline of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: (taken from Michael Martin)

Regarding the Day of the Lord (2:1-17)

 

  • The issue identifies (2:1-2)
  • The Eschatological error corrected (2:3-10)
  • Rejection or acceptance of the Truth (2:11-15)
  • Concluding prayer (2:16-17)

 

Concluding Observations

 

  • How did Paul address the Thessalonians?
  • What misconceptions do we have about the end of the age?
  • Who do you think the man of lawlessness is based on the text?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Thessalonians that we can apply or avoid in our life?