Stand Fast in the Tradition

Two events must occur before the Day of the Lord - the apostasy and the “revelation of the man of lawlessness.”  Even now, the “mystery of lawlessness” is at work in the world preparing the way for the arrival of the “lawless one.” At the appointed time, he will be revealed when he “takes his seat in the sanctuary of God.”

Bible Study - Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
[Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]

And interestingly, consistently in his letters, Paul applied this same term, the “
sanctuary of God,” as well as related language derived from the Temple to the church, the “body of Christ,” and he showed little to no interest in any future rebuilt building in old Jerusalem. Instead of waiting for this figure to appear in Jerusalem, perhaps we ought to pay attention to developments within the church.

Be that as it may, Paul links the “man of lawlessness” inextricably to the coming “apostasy.” This malevolent figure will be characterized by his ability to deceive “those who refuse the love of the truth,” including his use of “lying signs and wonders.” And the target of his deceptive activities will be the saints, the church. His purpose will be to cause apostasy.

Paul did not write just to frighten the Thessalonians, but instead, to arm them with this knowledge so they could avoid this coming deception. And most importantly, he exhorted them to “stand fast and hold the traditions you were taught, whether by word or epistle from us.” Rather than heed every new word by spirit or letter allegedly from Paul, we must adhere to what we have received already from Paul and the other apostles. And in this context, his reference to the love of the “truth” includes the teachings handed down by the apostles.

And that is our safety net, the anchor that will hold us in the coming storm. Likewise, he later urged the Corinthians to become “imitators of me” by holding fast to the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.

The way for Christians to persevere through the final satanic onslaught is to follow and cling to the apostolic traditions. And Paul was referring to the traditions passed on by him and the other apostles, and not to later church traditions, human institutions, etc. And what are those apostolic “traditions”?

There is only one collection of documents that reveals what Jesus and the apostles taught, and that is the New Testament. All other claims about the faith must be measured against that original source. Any teaching, message, or “revelation” that deviates from that tradition, whether from prophecy, vision, dream, or even an “angel from heaven” is to be rejected.

So, where does that leave us? If we are to avoid apostasy, we must learn the apostolic “tradition” and make it our own, and that means spending time learning, loving, and applying the original documents preserved in the New Testament. And there is no shortcut, no way of getting around this necessity. If you depend on and seek revelation from extrabiblical sources rather than from the scriptures, you will be deceived, and perhaps already you are.

I do not know how far off the end is. Months, years, decades?  And to my knowledge, the “man of lawlessness” has yet to be revealed. Nevertheless, a strong case can be made that the “apostasy” is even now well underway. And whether this is the final “apostasy,” today, large segments of the church are apostate. And not coincidently, those same apostate groups reject, denigrate, or simply ignore the apostolic teachings and reliance on them.

But if this is the final “apostasy,” it will not be long before the “man of lawlessness” arrives on the scene “energized by Satan” and well equipped with “lying signs and wonders” that he will use to deceive all those who refuse the “love of the truth.”

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