A Signal That Jesus’ Return Is Near
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him. — 2 Thessalonians 2:1
When Paul wrote his second letter to the church of Thessalonica, he was exceedingly excited at the thought of Jesus’ soon return. In fact, he was so thrilled about the prospect of Jesus’ coming again that he devoted the entire second chapter of Second Thessalonians to the events that would occur in the last days. As Paul wrote this famous chapter about the events of the last days, he began by declaring, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.”
Notice that Paul uses the word “beseech” in this verse. Normally the word “beseech” would be the Greek word parakaleo, but in this verse, Paul uses the word erotao rather than the word parakaleo. The word erotao means to ask or to make a strong request. This word calls upon the listener to cautiously listen to what is being said and to respond in a fitting manner to what has been heard. Because Paul is speaking of the coming of the Lord and uses the word erotao to appeal to his listeners, he clearly means for them to take his words seriously and to let these words make a strong impact in their lives.
When we think about the coming of the Lord, it should make a strong impact in our lives. It should affect the way we live, the way we think, the way we carry on in our relationships, and the way we invest our money into the Kingdom of God. It is simply a fact that Jesus is coming for His Church, and we should constantly live in the light of His coming. When we live with the awareness that Jesus is coming again, it changes our conduct and behavior. By using the word erotao (“beseech”), Paul is communicating to his readers that they have a responsibility to respond to his message about Jesus’ soon return. They are to live in a godly, upright, and holy manner as they wait for “the coming of our Lord.”
Then he begins to speak to them about the “coming of our Lord.” The word “coming” is from the Greek word parousia. This word always places special emphasis on the Presence of the Lord — especially the Presence of God that can be tangibly felt among His people. Here it is used to describe the strong Presence of God that will be felt when Jesus returns to gather His people to Himself. The word implies that the Church will feel a phenomenal divine Presence when it is time for Jesus to gather His people to Himself at the end of the age.
This means that as we come closer to the return of Jesus, the parousia — the strong Presence of the Lord — will be strongly sensed among believers. In fact, the ever-growing, strong Presence of the Lord in the midst of the Church will be one of the signals that Jesus’ return is close at hand. As His Presence gets stronger and stronger, we will know it is time for Him to return to “gather” us to Himself.
When Paul speaks about “our gathering together unto Him,” the phrase “gathering together” comes from the Greek word episunagoge. This word is used perfectly in the apocryphal book of Second Maccabees 2:7, where it refers to that moment in the future when God will finally gather His people together to Himself. This is exactly how Paul uses it in Second Thessalonians 2:1 as he talks about that moment when God will finally gather His people together to Himself at the coming of Jesus.
In Second Thessalonians 2:1, Paul uses the word episunagoge (“gathering together”) to describe that future moment when the Lord will quickly gather or collect His people together to Himself at the end of the age. At that divine moment, all of God’s people will be quickly gathered together and collected in a common assembly to meet the Lord in the air. What a meeting that will be!
Considering the Greek words that Paul used in Second Thessalonians 2:1, this verse could be interpreted the following way:
“Brothers, I make this urgent, heartfelt request to you today, earnestly and sincerely pleading with you from the bottom of my heart to hear what I’m telling you and to do exactly as I say. The appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ is very near. In fact, it is so close that we can almost feel His Presence as if He were already here among us. The moment we have all longed for and waited for is almost upon us! I’m talking about that moment when Jesus will finally gather us together to Himself.”
The apostle Peter warned us that at the end of the age, many scoffers would mock at the promise of Jesus’ return, asserting that if Jesus was going to come, surely He would have already come. Peter wrote, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?…” (2 Peter 3:3,4).
The word “scoffers” is from the Greek word empaidzo, and it described one who makes fun of another through mockery. It conveyed the idea of disdain, scorn, derision, and ridicule. The Greek word empaidzo also meant to play a game. It was often used for playing a game with children or for amusing a crowd by impersonating someone in a silly and exaggerated way. For instance, this word might be used in a game of charades when someone intends to comically portray someone or even make fun of someone.
We find this word used in Luke 22:63, where the Bible tells us, “And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him.” The Greek word empaidzo categorically lets us know that these men turned a few minutes of that nightmarish night before Jesus’ crucifixion into a stage of comedy at His expense. They put on quite a show, hamming it up as they almost certainly pretended to be Jesus and the people He ministered to. Perhaps they laid hands on each other as if they were healing the sick; or lay on the floor and quivered, as if they were being liberated from devils; or wobbled around, acting as if they had been blind but now could suddenly see. Whatever these leaders did to mock Jesus, it was a game of charades to mimic and make fun of Him.
Now Peter uses this same word to depict mockers in the last days who would make fun of those who believe in Jesus’ coming. I can almost hear them saying, “Come on, if Jesus was going to come, don’t you think He would have been here by now? Quit hanging on to this false hope, you dreamers!”
But the grammar used in Second Peter 3:3,4 tells us that this mocking is the characteristic behavior of these scoffers. It could be more accurately translated, “Mockers will come mocking.” In other words, they don’t only mock on occasion; they are mockers by habit. They find great delight in regularly mocking and making fun of those who believe that Jesus is coming to gather His Church to Himself.
But regardless of what doubt-filled believers or antagonistic unbelievers say as they mock us, the truth is that Jesus is coming again soon! Second Thessalonians 2:1 gives us one of the signs that will occur to let us know His arrival is upon us: We will suddenly be aware of the supernatural Presence of Jesus in the Church like never before. The closer we come to the time of His return, the more strongly this phenomenal Presence of God will be felt in our midst. In fact, it will seem as if His coming is already upon us! That strong Presence of God will signal to us that it is just about time for Jesus to quickly gather us and collect us to Himself!
So in the days to come, close your ears to the mockers who make fun of you for believing in Jesus’ soon return. Then open your heart to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to make you sensitive to His voice inside your spirit. As you are faithful to do this, you will recognize that moment when the Presence of God becomes much stronger in the Church, and you’ll know that moment for what it is — one of the greatest indications that Jesus’ return is upon us!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to be sensitive to Your Presence so I can be aware of that moment when Your coming is near to us. Help me close my ears to those mockers who say You will never come. By Your grace, I will hold tightly to Your promise that You will come one day to collect Your people to Yourself. Help me live a life that is holy — one that pleases You and for which I will not be ashamed when You suddenly appear to gather the Church to Yourself.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am living a holy life that pleases God, a life for which I am not ashamed. I say no to sin; I crucify my flesh; and I do my very best to yield to and walk in the Spirit. I am sensitive to the Presence of God. And when the moment draws near for Jesus to come and collect His people to Himself, I will sense the growing strength of His Presence in the Church and will recognize it as a signal that God’s people will soon be leaving planet earth! I believe in Jesus’ coming; I expect it in my lifetime; and I am doing all I can to preach the Gospel to the lost so they won’t be left out when Jesus gathers the Church to Himself.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Are you living a life that makes you feel confident about seeing Jesus face to face when He returns for His people? Or are you allowing secret sins in your life that make you fearful about Jesus’ soon return? If you answered yes to the second question, what are those secret sins, and what steps do you need to take to remove them from your life?
2. What can you do to increase your spiritual sensitivity so you will recognize the moment when the Presence of God suddenly and supernaturally energizes the Church, alerting God’s people that the time for Jesus’ arrival is upon them?
3. Write down two lists, answering the following two questions: What things do you need to remove from your life because they adversely affect your spiritual sensitivity? What do you need to add to your life to help you become more spiritually sensitive?