Does the new normal we are experiencing include the possibility that Jesus Christ may return from Heaven to earth soon? Of course it does.

Jesus and His apostles promised almost 2,000 years ago that He would return for those who follow Him at a time most people would not expect.

Here are just some of the many promises we find in the New Testament about the Lord’s return –

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

John 14:2-4

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

Revelation 22:12-13

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Do we know the day and hour when Jesus will return? No, but as we mentioned in the last part of this special series we do have some strong clues about what to watch for leading up to Christ’s Return from Heaven to earth.

Jesus made it clear to His disciples before after His death and resurrection that no one will know the day or the hour of His return. However, Jesus told the disciples to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44)

Jesus also made this interesting comment in the same context:

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Matthew 24:43-44

Whenever we see the word “therefore” used in Scripture, we should ask this question – “what’s the therefore there for?” We look back in the context of Matthew 24 and see that if someone knows when a thief was going to break into their house, they would have watched and not allowed the thief to get inside. Makes sense, right?

There’s another therefore we should ask about just one verse earlier because it contains important clues about the return of Christ from Heaven to earth –

“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

Matthew 24:42

Okay, what’s that therefore there for? We answer that question by looking at the preceding verses for context and clues –

“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”

Matthew 24:37-41

Jesus just gave His disciples, and us, a big clue about when He will return – “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

The Days of Noah

Our first question upon hearing this clue is probably to ask what the “days of Noah” were like. That’s easy enough to do. Look up Genesis 6:1-12. Here are some of the ‘low-lights’ from those days –

  • the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth
  • every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually
  • The earth was corrupt before God
  • the earth was filled with violence
  • all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth

We know what God did about all the corruption, evil and violence by people in Noah’s day. He showed grace toward one man (Noah) and his family and killed everyone else in a global flood.

Jesus told His disciples that His coming back to earth would be during days just like Noah’s.

“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Matthew 24:38-39

What does that mean? It means people were living their lives with no thought about God or His Word. Noah warned them about God’s coming judgment (2 Peter 2:5), but they just kept living as if nothing was going to happen to them. Sound familiar? They didn’t realize that what Noah had told them was true “until the flood came and took them all away.” That’s how most people will realize the preaching of the Gospel is true – Jesus will return in all His glory and power to judge the nations of the world.

The Great Tribulation

Look at how Jesus amplified the idea for His disciples and us a little earlier in the same context –

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

Matthew 24:21-22

So, what do we have? A great tribulation “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time” and days that will be like the days of Noah when God flooded the earth. If Jesus did not return, “no flesh would be saved.” However, Jesus will shorten that terrible time of tribulation “for the elect’s sake.” Thank you, Jesus!

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Matthew 25:13

Deception

Jesus and His apostles made it clear in the New Testament that we have an enemy who doesn’t want us to know what’s really happening in the physical or spiritual worlds. That enemy is Satan, “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Jesus said that Satan “is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).

Someone has said that Satan is a ‘one-trick pony,’ meaning he does the same thing over and over again. What is that trick? Lying and deceiving. Look at Genesis 3 and Matthew 4. Satan lied to Eve and deceived her (1 Timothy 2:14). Satan tried the same trick on Jesus, but it didn’t work. Jesus called the devil on it every time by quoting from God’s Word. That’s what we must do. As Paul wrote – “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). That armor includes “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17b).

Notice the types of deception Satan will use leading up to the Return of Christ. Jesus and His apostles warned Christians about it so we can “stand against the wiles of the devil.”

  • “And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:4-5
  • “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” Matthew 24:11
  • “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” Matthew 24:23-25
  • “And Jesus, answering them, began to say: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.” Mark 13:5-6
  • “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Mark 13:22
  • “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.” Luke 21:8
  • “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Romans 16:17-19
  • “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4

With all of the warnings we have from Jesus and His apostles about what the world will be like just before He returns and how Satan will lie and deceive people, how could anyone not see that the return of Jesus is close at hand?

Delusion

We come now to what God does. He sends delusion. The Greek word is πλάνη and means “wandering.” It comes from the word πλάνος, an adjective which means “one who leads astray, one who deceives.”

What!? Why would God be involved in leading anyone astray? Is God’s delusion just as bad as Satan’s deception? The answer is no and here’s why.

The delusion God sends is because of truth. The deception Satan sends is because of lies.

Big difference.

God tells the truth and people don’t believe it. Satan tells lies and people believe it.

The Greek word in Matthew 24:4 is the same as in 2 Thessalonians 2:11.

“Take heed that no one deceives you.”

Jesus in Matthew 24:4

“And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:112

Paul had just told Christians just a few verses earlier (verse 3) that he did not want them to be deceived. Why? Because people were trying to deceive them.

You might remember that Paul had written an earlier letter to the Thessalonians because they were confused and upset about whether fellow Christians who died before Christ’s return would be included in the resurrection of the saints.

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Paul did address Christ’s return at the end of 1 Thessalonians (chapter 5), but he went over it again in his second letter because of the deception of the enemy. Thankfully, we have both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. They are helpful to us in the times we are facing in our world right now.

Here’s the entire context of what Paul wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians concerning Satan’s deception and God’s delusion.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Paul addressed the process of deception concerning the Lord’s return head on –

  • we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled
  • either by spirit
  • or by word or by letter, as if from us
  • as though the day of Christ had come
  • Let no one deceive you by any means
  • And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time
  • For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work
  • only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way 
  • And then the lawless one will be revealed
  • whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 

You can read Revelation 19 and 20 for more details about how Jesus will consume the lawless one with the breath of His mouth and the brightness of His coming.

We find three important events in 2 Thessalonians: the restrainer being taken out of the way, the coming of the lawless one, and the return of Christ.

Paul also mentioned that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” The apostle wrote those words to the Thessalonians almost 2,000 years ago. So, why hasn’t the lawless one been revealed yet? Because someone or something is restraining the work of Satan. Paul wrote that the lawless one will be revealed when “He who now restrains” is “taken out of the way.” Who is that someone and when will He be taken out of the way?

The Greek words are τό κατέχω and mean “that which holds back, detain, restrain.” Something or someone is holding back the coming of the lawless one. Could it be the preaching of the Gospel to every nation? Christ’s building of His Church? The Holy Spirit? Whatever or Whoever it is will be “taken out of the way” in the future and the lawless one will be revealed.

Notice next the “coming of the lawless one” and how God uses ‘delusion’ to assist in the deception of those who do not believe in Christ –

  • for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first
  • the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
  • according to the working of Satan
  • with all power, signs, and lying wonders
  • with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved
  • And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie
  • that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness

The lawless one is described as –

  • the man of sin (ἀνομία – lawlessness, iniquity, sin)
  • the son of perdition (ἀπώλεια – destruction, loss, ruin, perishing, destruction)
  • who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped
  • so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God

The Apostle John also wrote in some detail about the man of sin in his letters and in the Book of Revelation. I recommend you to his writings.

As for the strong delusion to believe the deception of the lawless one, why would God send that? Remember that the deception of the lawless one “is “according to the working of Satan” and will be “among those who perish”, and here’s the key part, “because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” That’s the “reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

God’s sending a strong delusion will add to the strong desire people will have to believe the lie that the lawless one will tell. Remember, this is according to the working of Satan and among those who perish.

I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about a similar situation; possibly the same situation in Noah’s day and the days just before Jesus returns.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves … For this reason God gave them up to vile passions … And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting … who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

Romans 1:18 – 32

Sounds like today, doesn’t it? As we saw in our study of this portion of Romans 1, God’s actions of giving people up to uncleanness and vile passions and giving them over to a debased mind was judicial on His part. What God did in Noah’s day was the decision and action of the Judge. What Jesus will do when He returns will be the decision and actions of the Judge.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Revelation 20:11-15

God sending a great delusion to people who want to believe the devil’s lies is simply part of Jesus Christ being the Judge of the universe.

Next Time

I’m going to do something a bit different in the next part of our series. I will share some personal observations as a journalist about what might be next in the new normal. I do not believe in placing dates or times on the return of Christ, but Jesus Himself told us to keep watch and be ready.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.