Let’s talk about how Christian’s are supposed to live with the expectation of Christ’s Return:
“… not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.”- 2Th 2:2
The Thessalonian Church was experiencing some pretty intense persecution. So, the idea of the Lord’s return happening immediately had great appeal. However, there was apparently some fear that the Thessalonians had missed the return of the Lord and were actually going through the tribulation themselves. Here, the apostle is assuring his church that they haven’t missed the Return of the Lord and that they had received a false report.
Many people throughout church history have confused the teaching of the apostles, that Christ could come at any moment (for believers at the Rapture), with the unbiblical idea that He would come very soon. The first, correct view, is the doctrine of imminence, but the second, incorrect view, involves date setting. “Suddenly” (1Th 5:3) does not mean “immediately”.
For example, in the late second century an apocalyptic movement sprung up called “Montanism”. Named after Montanus of Phrygia. And one of the doctrines he taught was that the Heavenly Jerusalem would soon descend near Pepuza in Phrygia. This movement even had the Church Father Tertullian convinced. Eventually, it was formally condemned by Asiatic Synods before 200AD and also, after some hesitation, by Pope Zephyrinus.
When we talk about the “imminence” of the Day of the Lord, we’re talking about the complex of events surrounding the second coming, rather than the single event itself, that is imminent. Some theologians think it might be better to speak of this complex as events leading up to Christ’s Return as imminent and the second coming itself as “impending.”
So, we Christians are expected to live our lives in hopeful expectation of the Lord’s Return. Not jumping to fear and terror that we have somehow missed the Lord’s Return. We ought to be watchful and alert to the signs of the times (see Mat 25:13). We don’t want to become complacent and fall under the same rebuke the Lord gave to the crowds in Luke 12:56.
“You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
So, what are the events of the times that need to take place before the Day of the Lord? Paul elaborates on them in chapter two. And it’s very similar to what we see in Revelation. A kind of antichrist figure is to be revealed on earth before Christ returns; this “lawless person” is ultimately “destined for destruction" (2:3). Exalting himself above every other “so-called god or object of worship”, he will eventually take his seat in God’s Temple in Jerusalem, “declaring himself to be God” (2:4). Paul reminds his readers that he fully informed them of this scenario when he was with them (2:5); moreover, it has obviously not yet occurred, since no one has yet come forward to assume the grandiose role of this antichrist. Paul also indicates that the lawless one is being restrained for the time being, but he will make his appearance, setting in motion the final confrontation between christ and the forces of evil headed by Satan (2:6-12).
What do you think about the Lord’s Return? Do you want to sell everything you own right now and climb to a hill top? Or do you think it best to live life as a watchful servant? Living, learning and loving. Looking forward to the long awaited return of the Lord. That’s the camp I’m in. But I’d love to hear what you think! Let us know in this forum!
Constable, Thomas. Dr Constable’s Notes On 2 Thessalonians (2021 Edition) (Pg. 17). https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/2thessalonians.pdf
Montanism. The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church Edited by F.L. Cross (Pg. 918-919). London Oxford University Press.
Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology (3rd Edition) (Pg. 1094-1095)
Ehrman, Bart. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings 2nd Edition) (Pg. 345). Oxford University Press.