Title: THE GREAT APOSTACY
AND THE ELECTION OF GRACE
Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
Readings: Proverbs 7:1-27
Subject: Apostacy and Election
Date: Sunday Morning - March 23, 1997
Tape # T-53
I want you to open your Bibles with me to the book of 2 Thessalonians. As we read our text this morning, I want you to try to imagine that you are a resident in the city of Thessalonica during the first century, and that you are sitting in a small room somewhere in the city, meeting with God’s saints. News has come that the pastor has a letter to be read at the Church meeting from the Apostle Paul.
Paul was dearly loved by these Thessalonian saints. He had first come to Thessalonica from Philippi. He preached in the city for about three weeks, and was used of God to be the man from whom many heard the gospel for the first time. Many Jews as well as some Gentiles were converted during those three weeks of blessedness. After Paul left, a gospel church was established. The saints at Thessalonica never forgot Paul; and he never forgot them. You can imagine how excited they were to receive this letter, written to them while Paul was in Athens preaching the gospel. Try to put yourself in their seats, as we read what they read on that day for the first time.
I chapter one, the beloved Apostle, with a loving pastor’s heart, commends the saints at Thessalonica for there obvious growth in grace and gives thanks to God for it. The grace of God was obviously at work in them, because it was reflected in their growing faith, love for one another, and patience in trials, persecutions, and tribulation (vv. 1-5).
2 Thessalonians 1:1-5 "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: (2) Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; (4) So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (5) Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:"
Then he assures them of the glorious second advent of Christ (vv. 6-10).
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; (7) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (9) Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (10) When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day."
In the last two verses of the first chapter, he assures them of his unceasing prayers on their behalf (vv. 11-12).
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: (12) That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Now, I want us to read chapter two, verse by verse. Apparently, someone had written to the Church here, or visited it, and told them that Paul said, “The Lord Jesus is coming real soon.” I must comment on that before I go on.
As we approach the beginning of the twenty-first century, you will probably run across a good many preachers who will be predicting the second coming of Christ, setting dates, and trying to scare people into the Kingdom of God. Do not be fooled by them. Any man who makes such predictions does not speak by the authority of God.
Acts 1:7 "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
I want us to look at all seventeen verses in this chapter today. So I can only skim the surface as we move through the chapter. In these first two verses five things are obvious.
1. Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. He is on his way back at this very moment. “Behold, he cometh!”
2. There are no signs or prophecies yet to be fulfilled before the Lord’s return.
3. We are never told to look for signs, but always to look for Christ himself.
4. We should live every day upon the tiptoe of faith, looking for Christ at any moment, while laboring in his vineyard as responsible servants.
5. Our Lord may appear at any moment; but we must never allow anyone to dupe us into thinking he knows when. He may not return for another thousand years.
While there are no visible signs or prophecies to be fulfilled before our Lord’s return, the Apostle does tell us that before Christ’s second advent, there will be a wholesale, universal apostacy and departure from the faith.
Paul is not talking here about liberals, open heretics, and vile ungodliness. He talks about those things in other places. Here he is talking about a departure of men and women from the faith who claim to be in the faith, a subtle, deceiving, damning departure from the faith by professed believers throughout the world. Look at this third verse. Here the Holy Spirit tells us that...
1. Heresies must come. They had already begun in apostolic times; and they only get worse as time passes.
1 Corinthians 11:19 "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
1 Timothy 4:1-3 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (2) Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; (3) Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth."
2 Timothy 3:1-9 "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2) For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, (4) Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (5) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (6) For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (8) Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (9) But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was."
1 John 4:1-3 "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (2) Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (3) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."
2. The man of sin, antichrist, will be revealed.
Forget about what you see coming out of Hollywood. This man of sin will not be revealed to the world. He is not some hideous looking, green-eyed monster. He is so smooth and slick that unless God himself enables you to recognize him, you cannot recognize him. However, he shall be revealed to God’s elect. Read on...
Here the Apostle identifies the antichrist, this man of sin. The antichrist is not one man. I have no problem at all in stating as our forefathers did, in great faithfulness, that the pope is antichrist and the church of Rome is antichrist. I don’t mean that is the way it used to be. I mean that his unholiness, the pope, is antichrist. I mean that Roman Catholicism is antichrist. It cannot be stated too often, or too emphatically.
However, it is a serious mistake to limit antichrist to one man, or one religious sect. Antichrist was already at work in the Apostolic age.
· John said many antichrists had gone out into the world.
· Paul had to contend with antichrists at Galatia, Colosse, Corinth, and Jerusalem.
Notice how Paul describes this thing called “the man of sin, the son of perdition.” He is one who...
· Opposes God.
· Exalts Himself Above God.
· Sits Himself Up In The Temple Of God And Is Worshipped As God, Showing That He Is God.
Antichrist is any system of religion, any man, any preacher, any church, any denomination that makes salvation to be dependent upon or determined by the will, works, and worth of man rather than the will, works, and worth of Christ. It does not matter whether that system of religion is conservative or liberal, a mainline Protestant Church or a wild cult, Baptist or Methodists, Pentecostal or Presbyterian. Any church, doctrine, preacher, or religious system that makes man the center-piece is antichrist. Let me be understood...
1. Those who teach that God’s will can be altered, hindered, or thwarted by man’s will, are, according to Colossians 2, will worshippers, not God worshippers. They are antichrists.
2. Those who teach that the merit and efficacy of Christ’s atonement resides in man’s will, man’s decision, and man’s faith are antichrists.
3. Those who teach that the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit may be successfully resisted by man are antichrists.
4. Those who teach that grace can be forfeited or taken away as the result of something a man does are antichrists.
Now, look at verses 5-7
Paul told these saints at Thessalonica that the Holy Spirit now restrains, or withholds, the power and influence of antichrist. However, the time shall come, he wrote, when the Lord god will turn all hell loose to deceive the nations of the world again. At the end of the age, he said, Satan shall be loosed for a little season. I fear that we are living in that little season.
Revelation 20:1-7 "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. (2) And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (3) And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. (4) And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (5) But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (7) And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison."
Read the Apostle’s inspired words with care. Do not allow a single syllable to pass before your eyes without prayerful thought and consideration. Here are five things revealed in these three verses...
1. Antichrist arises, is revealed, consumed, and destroyed exactly according to the purpose of God.
2. Signs, wonders, and miracles are as certainly marks of antichrists in the last days as they were of Christ and his Apostles in the Apostolic era.
3. The deception of antichrist is tremendous, so tremendous that were it possible, the very elect of God would be deceived.
4. The religion of antichrist, self-righteousness, is here called “unrighteousness!”
5. The reason for the delusion of men is their own, willful rejection of truth. It is not that they do not receive the truth, theoretically, but that “they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
It is not merely giving mental assent to truth that is evidence of saving faith. Saul of Tarsus had that. Judas had that. The demons who confessed Christ had that. Saving faith not only embraces truth, it loves the truth. We love Christ, the embodiment of truth; and we love the truth of the gospel revealed in and by him. All believers do!
Do not imagine that things are out of control. We get a little fearful. We sometimes act as though the circumstances in which we are living are overwhelming! We must never entertain such thoughts. This day of religious deception and delusion is no more outside God’s plan, purpose, and power than the formation of the a rose. Things have come to pass as they are exactly according to God’s sovereign purpose.
1. God sends blindness in judgment, just as he sends light in grace.
2. God gives unbelievers the fruit of their own way and sends them to hell singing, “blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”
Proverbs 1:31 "Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices."
Proverbs 16:25 "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
3. Again, the Apostle tells us that the religion of man, free will, works religion, that which men think is righteousness, is unrighteousness before God.
Now, can you imagine what shouts of “Hallelujah!” “Glory!” and “Bless God!” must have gone up from the hearts of these people when they read the next line?
Be sure you get the message contained in these two glorious verses of Scripture. Here the Holy Spirit is telling us that the only reason you and I are not lost and ruined, the only reason we are no longer under the spell of antichrist, trusting our dead works of self-righteousness, the only reason we are not worshipping at the altar of our own free will, the only reason we are not reeling to and fro in drunkenness, intoxicated with the wine of Babylon’s fornications is God’s sovereign election. Every time we hear or read the words election, electing love, electing grace, we ought to lift our hearts to our great, gracious, and all-glorious God with thankful praise, and say, “Thank God, for electing love!” Let me talk to you for a minute or two about this great work of grace called “Election.”
1. Election is God’s sovereign work. We give thanks to God for it because God did it.
2. The cause of election is God’s free, sovereign, everlasting love. All who are “beloved of the Lord” were chosen to salvation in Christ. ------“Jacob have I loved!”
3. Election took place in eternity. “God hath from the beginning chosen you.”
Ephesians 1:3-6 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."
4. Election is unto salvation. “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.”
Those who were chosen to salvation must be saved. Else, the purpose of God is meaningless.
5. God’s elect were chosen to be saved “through sanctification of the Spirit.”
God will not save sinners apart from or without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, by which all the chosen are made “partakers of the Divine nature.”
6. We were chosen to salvation by the instrumentality of specific means - “Belief of the Truth!”
Not only has God chosen and predestinated us to salvation, he has also ordained that every chosen sinner be saved by “belief of the truth.” God does not use religious lies to save sinners. He uses the truth. It is not the delusion of free will, works religion that sets sinners free, but the truth, not truth, but the truth! Christ is the Truth. We are saved as we are brought to know him who is the Truth through the preaching of the gospel.
John 6:44-45 "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (45) It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
Ephesians 1:12-14 "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
7. Now, look at 1 Peter 1:2 for second, and learn that we were also chosen to salvation through the obedience and death of Christ as our Substitute.
1 Peter 1:2 "Elect according to the foreknowledge (Eternal Love and Sovereign Purpose) of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied."
The obedience and sacrifice of Christ are put after the sanctification of the Spirit because we know nothing about Christ’s work for us until we have been regenerated and illuminated by God the Holy Spirit. Put this text with 2 Thessalonians, and you will see that we were chosen…
· To Salvation.
· Through the Merits of Christ’s Obedience and Death.
· By the Regenerating Work of the Spirit.
· And Belief of the Truth.
8. Go back to 2 Thessalonians 2:14 now, and you will see that God never by-passes the use of means in accomplishing his purpose of grace. The only way a person can ever come to belief the truth is by the effectual, irresistible call of the Holy Spirit, which comes to chosen, redeemed sinners through the preaching of the gospel.----“Whereunto he called you by our gospel.”
9. I cannot leave verse fourteen without calling your attention to this fact also –Every saved sinner has been chosen, redeemed and called to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Whatever that glory is which our Lord Jesus Christ now possesses as our Mediator, we shall obtain in all its fullness and blessedness, because of God’s sovereign election. The glory of Christ has something o do with the perfection of holiness, the possession of power, and the totality of satisfaction. These things shall be ours forever in that blessedness that awaits us at the throne of our God!
2 Thessalonians 2:15 "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."
In these days of wholesale apostacy, in these days of spiritual darkness, famine, and utter perversion, we who have been taught of God must stand fast in the traditions, not in the traditions of religious custom and superstition, but in The Traditions Of Holy Scripture And Gospel Truth. Let others say and do what they will, for those of us who have experienced grace, hesitation, shifting, shirking, shrinking, evading, and compromise would be treason to the Son of God! We must stand fast.
2 Timothy 1:13 "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
· Total Depravity!
· Unconditional Election!
· Limited Atonement!
· Irresistible Grace!
· Perseverance of the Saints!
Now, look at verses sixteen and seventeen. This was Paul’s benediction, his inspired declaration of Divine blessing upon God’s elect. I cannot think of a better way to conclude this sermon, or a better note to give you to carry home with you than these words of blessedness. This is my prayer for you and God’s promise to every sinner who trusts Christ alone as Savior and Lord.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, (17) Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work."
1. The Triune God “hath loved us.”
2. The Lord God has given us “everlasting consolation” through the everlasting gospel of his everlasting grace.
Isaiah 40:1-2 "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. (2) Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins."
3. God has given us a “good hope through grace.” –Christ is our Hope! “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul. Therefore will I hope in him.” Our hope is…
· The Son of God!
· The Grace of God!
· The Word of God!
· The Faithfulness of God!
May the God of all grace now be pleased to “Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work," for Christ’s sake. Amen.