Paul wrote, “We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
Scoffers point out, “See, someone in the early church shook up believers with the message that Christ was about to come. And Paul told them, ‘No, don’t worry about it. Don’t let it trouble or concern you.’”
But that is not what the original Greek reveals. The root word is “[be not shaken]…that the day of the Lord has come.” What disturbed the Thessalonians was they thought Christ had already come, and that they’d missed it. Paul reassures them in the next verse, “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2:3). Paul was only addressing their fears when he said, “Don’t be worried, because two things have to happen first.”
So, what was Paul’s primary theology about Christ’s return? We find it in two passages: “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11-12). “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5). Paul is crying, “Wake up! It’s past midnight already. The Lord’s coming is drawing near, so stir yourself. Don’t be slothful. Jesus is coming for those who expect him.”
Skeptics may ask, “But what about Paul’s own words? He did say two things had to happen before Christ returns. First, the Lord can’t come until a great apostasy takes place. And second, the Antichrist has to rise up and proclaim himself God. We have to see the Antichrist sitting in the temple, demanding that people worship him, before Jesus will come.”
First of all, you have to be willfully blind not to see a raging apostasy gripping the whole world. Unbelief is sweeping through nations, with believers falling away from faith on all sides. The apostasy Paul refers to has clearly arrived.
Some may say, “Paul clearly says Jesus can’t come until the Antichrist is in power.” Consider what Scripture says: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). According to John, the Antichrist is anyone who denies the Father and the Son. Moreover, he says, the increase of such Antichrists is proof we are living in the very last days. In short, nothing is holding back Christ’s return!