The Lie

Q. 2 Thes 2:11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. What is the lie? Why would God send people a powerful delusion? Wouldn’t that make God responsible?

A. The phrase “the lie” appears only twice in the NIV NT, here and in 2 Thes 2:9. To answer your question, let’s start with the immediate context – 2 Thes 2:1-12, which talk about the Great Apostasy in the end times, and the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist. We analyze 2 Thes 2:9-12 by dividing the 4 verses into three parts – that which the lawless one does, the people’s response, and what God will do:

9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie,
10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Note the chronological sequence:
• First, the lawless one, empowered by Satan, will use power, signs and wonders to deceive.
• Next, the people who refuse to love and believe the truth to be saved, choose to believe the lawless one’s lie and delight in wickedness. That’s why they perish.
• Then God sends the people a powerful delusion to confirm their refusal to love the truth, so that they will be condemned.
So God’s sending the delusion did not cause their unbelief, but in response to it. They perish because of their own choice and love of wickedness.

What is “the lie”? In the NKJV NT, the phrase appears one more time:
Rom 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

“The lie” is contrasted with “the truth of God”. The background goes all the way back to Genesis 3, the temptation and fall of man:
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
• Gen 3:4-5 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The very first lie in the Bible is a direct contradiction of God’s word in:
Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
claiming that it cannot be trusted. It imputes an ulterior motive to God’s prohibition, not for our good to protect us, but to selfishly guard His superiority so that we won’t be like Him. Therefore obedience keeps us down while disobedience will promote us to be like God. This lie has been repeated throughout the ages in all religions, men trying to establish their own goodness apart from God. Men had fallen for it time and again, and will continue to do so until the end.

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Who is Restraining the Antichrist?

2 Thes 2 6-7 a

Q. In 2 Thessalonians 2: 6-7, who is holding the Antichrist back that when he steps out of the way, the Antichrist will be revealed?

A. Many possibilities have been proposed. Let’s first observe the passage:
2 Thes 2:6-7 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

Notice v 6 says “what restrains him now”, neuter gender. The first “him” refers to “the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction” in v 3, the “lawless one” in v 8. Therefore some suggest the “what” to be:
• the Roman state with its emperor,
• the Jewish state,
• the principle of law and government,
• Paul’s missionary work,
• the restraining ministry of the Spirit through the church.

However, v 7 says “he who now restrains” and “he is taken out of the way”, masculine gender. The noun “Spirit” is neuter gender, but the Bible uniformly uses “He” to describe the Holy Spirit. Therefore others suggest the “he” to be the Spirit:
Jn 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

Which is correct? Let’s examine the options in turn.

• Government, whether Roman, Jewish, or the principle of law, can restrain human evil, but are powerless to restrain supernatural or spiritual evil. They can even be used as instruments to carry out the evil schemes of Satan and the Antichrist, so they can’t be the restrainer.
• Paul’s missionary work had certainly advanced God’s Kingdom and overthrown the kingdom of darkness wherever it went, but that was nearly two thousand years ago, and the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed. So it can’t be the restrainer either.
• Pretrib proponents use these verses to argue for the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. This is a faulty inference because they overlook the fact that the church is the bride of Christ, feminine, and not neuter nor masculine:
o 2 Co 11:2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.
o Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

The only option left is the Holy Spirit, who can certainly restrain the Antichrist as He is omnipotent. But the passage says both neuter (v 6) and masculine (v 7) gender. How can both be true? The Spirit’s restraining ministry would fit, though not through the church (feminine). The ultimate restrainer is the Spirit (He), while the mediate means is His restraining ministry (it).

One question remains. In what sense is the Holy Spirit taken out of the way, since He is omnipresent? In the sense that “taken out of the way” simply means He “lets go”, “releases the restraint”, or “steps aside”, not complete removal. Contrary to what pretrib supporters say, this actually argues against them. Even if the church were raptured, God is still on earth as He is everywhere:
Ps 139:7-8 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

The interpretation above does not presume pretrib which read suppositions into the text as if they were conclusions. Hope this helps.

Is ISIS a sign of the End Times? (2 of 2)

ISIS 2

(Continued from yesterday)

Let’s check the candidates against the clues:

1. The Babylonian empire did sit over many nations. While immorality is true of many dynasties in world history, of the 293 times the name Babylon appears in 260 verses in the NASB, the main characteristics were arrogance, idolatry, cruelty etc., not immorality, except in Revelation where it is figurative and may not be referring to literal Babylon. Babylon conquered Judah and led the captives away, persecuting the Jews, but it most definitely is not where the Lord was crucified.

2. The Roman Empire also sat over many nations, and secular historians agreed that Rome was immoral. But, if the beast on which the woman rode is already the revived Roman Empire, the woman herself cannot be Rome, unless she is the apostate RC Church, committing spiritual adultery through the ages, as well as having an illicit liaison with the Antichrist’s one-world government in the future. Rome did persecute the early church before adopting Christianity as the official religion, and later on Catholics persecuted Protestants during the Inquisition. But again, Roman was not where the Lord was crucified, except as some argued that it was Pilate’s Roman soldiers who executed the crucifixion.

3. God Himself called Israel and Judah (Jerusalem) harlots – Jer 3:8-9 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees, but in what sense is she sitting on many waters? One possibility is that the Jewish Diaspora is scattered among many nations. Also God endowed His chosen people such that many are among the world’s top financiers and scientists, dealing with the kings or rulers of the earth.

As to being partners with the Antichrist who will later turn against her, it fits in with the first three and a half years of the Great Tribulation when Israel will form a covenant with the Antichrist, who then breaks it (see Dan 7:25; 12:7). What about being drunk with the blood of saints? That fits too with:
Lk 11:50-51 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ (See also 1 Kings 19:10, 14; Rom 11:13)
And of course the Lord was crucified outside Jerusalem.

So of the three suggestions, apostate Jerusalem fits the clues best. This is in contrast to the woman in Rev 12:1-6, who symbolizes the believing Messianic community.

Now, if Babylon is apostate Jerusalem, it cannot be Iraq at the same time. But then why am I saying ISIS is a sign of the end time? It has to do with:
Rev 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Of all the atrocities committed by ISIS, the most heinous got to be the public beheading of Christians who refused to recant their faith in Jesus. Beheading is a barbaric method of execution that has gradually been banned throughout the world, but practiced in Sharia (Islamic) law. In recent years both Al Qaeda and ISIS used beheading as a terrorism tactic. While this recruited some fanatical mujahideen (jihadists), it also repelled many Muslims and drove them to Christ. It is for this reason I believe ISIS to be a sign of the end times.

Is ISIS a sign of the End Times? (1 of 2)

ISIS 1

Q. Is ISIS a sign of the end times?

A. I believe it is, though not for the same reason as some commentators suggested. ISIS or ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The name Iraq does not appear in the Bible, but Iraq is located where ancient Babylon was. Some therefore identify Iraq as Babylon in Rev and hence a sign of the end times. The name Syria appears in the NASB 9 times, and is ancient Aram. Both Babylon and Aram were enemies of Judah and Israel.

I do not equate Iraq to Rev’s Babylon. The name Babylon appears in the NT 11 times:
• 4 times as literal ancient Babylon – Mt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43;
• 7 times as figurative Babylon – 1 Pet 5:13; Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21;
Who or what does the symbolic Babylon refer to? The most detailed clues are in Rev 17:

1. Babylon is called the great harlot (17:1, 15, 16; 19:2) or Mother of Harlots (v 5):
Rev 17:1 … the great harlot who sits on many waters,
• Rev 17:5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Many waters refer to people and (Gentile) nations:
Rev 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
• Rev 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters

2. Her main characteristic is immorality:
Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”
This is mentioned 8 times: Rev 14:8; 17:2 twice, 4; 18:3 twice, 9; 19:2; and refers to her adultery, both physical and spiritual.

3. She is affiliated with a beast:
Rev 17:3 … and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.

There are only two beasts in the Bible with seven heads and ten horns. The first one is the red dragon in Rev 12:3 i.e. Satan. The second one is in:
Rev 13:1 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
• Rev 17:7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
• Rev 17:9-10, 12 … The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; … The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, …

Scholars agree that this beast from the sea (nations) is the Antichrist. Most commentators equate the seven mountains to Rome, as Rome was built on seven hills. Or the seven kings may refer to seven Roman emperors. Those who take this literally believe the Antichrist to be a revived Roman Empire, or the personal Antichrist to be the head of this future one-world government. Those who take this figuratively believe the Antichrist to be the Roman Catholic (RC) Church. Regardless, Babylon the great harlot is an ally of the Antichrist.

4. She is intoxicated with persecuting God’s people:
Rev 17:6 … And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.

5. Even though the beast begins as the harlot’s partner, it will turn against her:
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.

6. The woman is the great city:
Rev 17:18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Including 17:18, “great city” is mentioned 8 times in Rev:
Rev 11:8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
• Rev 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. (See also Rev 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21)

Sodom stands for immorality; Egypt represents slavery. Several possible cities have been suggested:
• Babylon, taking the passage literally;
• Rome, because it reigned over the kings of the earth at that time; and
• Jerusalem, because that’s where the Lord was crucified;
but which, if any, is correct?

(To be continued)