Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle which was read earlier.
What Paul writes to the Thessalonians is most certainly true: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…” End times theology is very apparent in our culture today. Christ’s return has been predicted for ages, with none of those ever coming true. When people think about the end of the world, it often seems they are ready to believe any rumor that comes along. This happens especially when people have not carefully studied what God says about that day. It seems that some of the Thessalonians were no different. A false notion about the end of the world was circulating in their congregation. The result was that some of the Thessalonians were becoming “shaken in mind or alarmed.”
This false idea circulating among the Thessalonians had to do with Christ’s return. There were those who were preaching that Christ had come the first time and died; because He is dead, He won’t be coming a second time. Paul makes it clear that Christ will come a second time and we will be gathered to Him.
The Christians at Thessalonica heard the Word of God, but they were hearing lots of other things as well. They believed the word of false prophets that the end was coming very soon. They had given up all activity and waited for the Lord to come. They fell for a false prophet’s lies. For this reason Paul wrote, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in our text: “Let no one deceive you in any way.”
The problem the Thessalonians faced from the false preachers of the day were the signs that they interpreted, signs that supposedly pointed to Jesus’ return. However, these signs were false signs and their preaching was false as well. What they failed to point to, what they failed to utilize were the Scriptures which God had given His people. They had the Word of God and yet, for some in the Thessalonian church, it wasn’t good enough.
You and I have that same Word of God given to us, and yet we find that it isn’t good enough. People find it to be old, rigid, out of date, no longer applicable to today, or even worse, just downright wrong. God’s Word means absolutely nothing to some and that’s where the problem lies.
Regardless of how you and I see the Word of God, it is what it is, it says what it says, it means what it means. If you don’t like what it says, tough. If you don’t agree with what it says, tough. But that wasn’t the consensus with the Thessalonians. They forgot the true meaning of the Scriptures. They forgot the message of Jesus and instead adopted a message of false teaching. The problem that the Thessalonians had with regards to the false teaching is that it was damning. There was no salvation in that teaching, but only the proper teaching of Jesus Christ and who He is and what it was that He came to do, and what He will do in the Second Coming.
What’s the problem with this thinking? It led the Thessalonians away from the truth. It leads us away from the truth. We reject the true Gospel that comes from God’s Holy Word. We despise preaching and God’s Word, and we do not gladly hear and learn it. Our minds are made up; we do not want to be confused by the facts. But the fact of the matter is that if we confess a truth other than that which is proclaimed in Holy Scripture, we will surely be damned to hell.
This is indeed tragic to the Church. This wreaks great havoc upon the Church. It fills the people of God with doctrine that sounds good to our itching ears but damning in the process. What is the Church to do in the face of such false doctrine? Buying into it, we sacrifice our eternal life with God our heavenly Father. Paul tells the Thessalonians to stand firm in the faith that they have been given. They are the chosen ones of God. God chose them “as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” While the Thessalonians may be misguided by the false teaching present in Thessalonica, they are still sheep, loved by the Lord and therefore to be loved and cared for by Paul, a servant of the Lord. Paul thanks God for them because they are “brothers” in the one true faith. Paul thanks God for them because God chose them before time began, elected them to be His adopted children, blessed them with the gift of His Spirit, and by the sanctifying work of that same Spirit set them apart from the rest of an unbelieving world to believe the truth of the Gospel and be saved.
Christ, our Lord, our Word-made-flesh, has dwelt among His people to give us hope in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to give us life, eternal life in heaven, that we would dine at the marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. Last week we gave thanks to God for those who have gone before us in the faith, who became baptized into Christ, whose sins were forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, who heard the Word of God and kept it, who feasted on the Lord’s body and blood at His Table—the foretaste of the Feast to come for us and has come for them. This Holy Spirit that we have received calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps us in the one true faith. The Holy Spirit calls us with the Gospel, which tells us that Christ died for our sins, and all who believe in Him have eternal life, for He Himself rose to life after dying on the cross, having bled and died to take away our sin.
This is our Gospel as well. It is ours because God has given it to us time and time again. He gave it to us when He removed us from the Garden and gave to us a promise. He gave it to us in a Baby. He gave it to us on the cross. He gave it to us at our Baptism. He gives it to us in the words of absolution. He gives it to us in the Lord’s Supper. He has given to us the Gospel of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ “so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He has given us the Gospel so that we may believe and not be led astray by Satan and all of his temptuous ways. He has given us that Gospel so that we may remain steadfast in His Word until the second coming of His Son, who will gather all Christians to be with God forever.
Having this promise of eternal life in heaven given to us now and fulfilled there, we rejoice, and we look forward with eager anticipation to the Last Day, for the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to endure these last days on earth until THE Last Day, whenever that will be. St. Paul exhorts us, saying, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” Until then, we remain steadfast in His Word, trusting in the promises which He has given to us, never doubting that His Word will do what it says it will: give to all believers forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.