“Brothers, . . . we request of you not to be quickly shaken from your reason.”—2 THESS. 2:1, 2.
1, 2. Why is deception so prevalent today, and what form may it take? (See opening image.)
HOAXES, scams, and deception are all too common in the present system of things. This should not surprise us. The Bible makes it plain that Satan the Devil is an accomplished deceiver, and he is the ruler of this system. (1 Tim. 2:14; 1 John 5:19) As we approach the end of this wicked system, Satan’s anger grows because he has only “a short period of time” left. (Rev. 12:12) So we can expect increased duplicity on the part of those who are influenced by the Devil, especially toward those who promote true worship.
2 Misleading statements and outright lies about Jehovah’s servants and their beliefs are sometimes featured in the media. Newspaper headlines, television documentaries, and Internet Web pages are used to propagate untruths. As a result, some people become disturbed, gullibly believing such lies.
3. What can help us to counteract deception?
3 To counteract this demoralizing tactic of our enemy, we are grateful that we have God’s Word, which is “beneficial . . . for setting things straight.” (2 Tim. 3:16) It is significant that we learn from the apostle Paul’s writings that some Christians in first-century Thessalonica had been misled, accepting what was untrue. He exhorted them “not to be quickly shaken from [their] reason.” (2 Thess. 2:1, 2) What lessons can be learned from Paul’s loving admonition, and how can we apply these to our situation?
4. How were Christians in Thessalonica alerted to the coming of “Jehovah’s day,” and how are we alerted?
4 In his first letter to the congregation in Thessalonica, Paul called attention to the coming of “Jehovah’s day.” He did not want his brothers to be in darkness and unprepared. Instead, he urged them as “sons of light” to ‘stay awake and keep their senses.’ (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.) Today, we await the destruction of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. This will mark the beginning of the great day of Jehovah. Thankfully, we have an increased understanding of the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. Also, through the congregation, we regularly receive timely reminders that help us to keep our senses. Taking note of these repeated warnings can strengthen our resolve to render to God ‘sacred service with our power of reason.’—Rom. 12:1.
5, 6. (a) In his second letter to the Thessalonians, what did Paul address? (b) What will God soon do by means of Jesus, and what should we ask ourselves?
5 Shortly after sending his first letter to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul sent them a second letter. In this he called attention to the coming tribulation when the Lord Jesus will carry out divine judgment on “those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news.” (2 Thess. 1:6-8) What is now chapter 2 of this letter reveals that some in that congregation had become “excited” about Jehovah’s day to the point that they believed that its arrival was then imminent. (Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2.) Those early Christians had only a limited understanding of the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose, even as Paul later acknowledged regarding prophecy: “We have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially; but when that which is complete arrives, that which is partial will be done away with.” (1 Cor. 13:9, 10) But the inspired warnings penned by Paul, the apostle Peter, and other faithful anointed brothers of that time could equip them to maintain their faith.
6 To set matters straight, Paul under inspiration explained that a great apostasy and “the man of lawlessness” were to appear before Jehovah’s day.* Thereafter, in his due time, the Lord Jesus would “bring to nothing” all those who had been deceived. The apostle pinpointed the reason for this judgment on them; it was that “they did not accept the love of the truth.” (2 Thess. 2:3, 8-10) We do well to ask ourselves: ‘How much do I love the truth? Do I keep up-to-date with our present understanding as set out in the pages of this magazine and other Bible-based publications provided for the worldwide congregation of God’s people?’
CHOOSE YOUR ASSOCIATES WISELY
7, 8. (a) With what dangers did early Christians have to contend? (b) What is a special danger for true Christians today?
7 Admittedly, Christians would face dangers other than those from apostates and their teachings. Paul wrote to Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” The apostle pointed out that “by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Tim. 6:10) “The works of the flesh” would also be ever-present dangers.—Gal. 5:19-21.
8 You can appreciate, though, why Paul would emphatically warn the Thessalonians about the serious threat posed by such men as those whom he elsewhere called “false apostles.” Among them were men who spoke “twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (2 Cor. 11:4, 13; Acts 20:30) Jesus later commended the congregation in Ephesus because they could not “bear bad men.” Those Ephesians ‘put to the test’ individuals who were in actuality false apostles, in fact, liars. (Rev. 2:2) Interestingly, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gave this exhortation: “Now we are giving you orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly.” He then specifically mentioned Christians who did “not want to work.” (2 Thess. 3:6, 10) But if those were considered disorderly, how much more would that be true of ones who were veering toward apostasy! Yes, close association with such individuals back then was especially dangerous and was to be avoided—and that is also true today.—Prov. 13:20.
9. Why should we be on guard if someone begins to speculate or to speak critically?
9 We are nearing the outbreak of the great tribulation and the end of this wicked system, so those inspired warnings given in the first century take on greater significance. We definitely do not want to ‘miss the purpose’ of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and lose out on the promise of everlasting life, be that in heaven or on earth. (2 Cor. 6:1) If ever someone attending our congregation meetings would try to entice us into discussions of personal speculations or critical conversations, we should definitely be on guard.—2 Thess. 3:13-15.
“MAINTAIN YOUR HOLD ON THE TRADITIONS”
10. The Christians in Thessalonica were urged to adhere to what traditions?
10 Paul urged his brothers in Thessalonica to “stand firm” and stick to what they had learned. (Read 2 Thessalonians 2:15.) What were “the traditions” that they had been taught? Certainly not those held by false religion and promoted as if they were as valuable as what is found in the Scriptures. Rather, Paul was referring to the teachings that he and others had received from Jesus as well as what God moved the apostle to transmit, much of which became part of the inspired Scriptures. Paul commended his brothers in the congregation in Corinth because, as he wrote, “in all things you have me in mind and you are holding fast the traditions just as I handed them on to you.” (1 Cor. 11:2) Such teachings came from a reliable source and could indeed be trusted.
11. In what ways might some be affected by deception?
11 When writing to the Hebrews, Paul drew attention to two ways that a Christian might lose faith and fail to stand firm. (Read Hebrews 2:1; 3:12.) He spoke of ‘drifting away’ and of ‘drawing away.’ A boat that drifts away from the riverbank may do so imperceptibly at first. Gradually, the gap increases. On the other hand, the man who pushes his boat away from the bank distances it from the shore by his own actions. Both courses well illustrate the situation of some who fall prey to deception, allowing their confidence in the truth to weaken.
12. What modern-day pursuits can damage our spirituality?
12 That may have been the case with some of the Thessalonians. And what of today? Time-wasting pursuits abound. Think about how many hours are spent keeping in contact through social networks, reading and answering electronic messages, avidly pursuing hobbies, or constantly keeping abreast of sports events. Any one of these activities could distract a Christian and weaken his zeal. The result? Heartfelt prayer, study of God’s Word, meeting attendance, and preaching the good news might suffer. What can we do to avoid thus being quickly shaken from our reason?
PROTECTION AGAINST BEING SHAKEN
13. As foretold, what is the attitude of many, and what will prevent our faith from being undermined?
13 One thing that we definitely need to do is remain aware of the time we are living in and the potential effect of association with those who refuse to acknowledge that these are “the last days.” The apostle Peter wrote regarding this period: “There will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’” (2 Pet. 3:3, 4) Our daily reading and regular study of God’s Word will help us to focus on where we are in the stream of time—keeping us aware that we are in “the last days.” The foretold apostasy manifested itself long ago and persists to this day. “The man of lawlessness” continues to exist and to oppose God’s servants. Accordingly, we need to remain ever vigilant to the nearness of Jehovah’s day.—Zeph. 1:7.
14. How is keeping busy in God’s service a protection?
14 Experience has proved that a prime way to keep alert and avoid being shaken from one’s reason is to be regularly involved in preaching the Kingdom good news. Thus, when Christ Jesus, the Head of the congregation, commanded his followers to make disciples of people of all the nations, teaching them to observe the things he had taught, he was giving advice that would protect his followers. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Acting on his direction calls on us to be zealous in the preaching work. Can you imagine that your brothers in Thessalonica would have been content to preach and teach in a perfunctory manner, as if it were a mere duty to be performed listlessly? Recall Paul’s words to them: “Do not put out the fire of the spirit. Do not treat prophesyings with contempt.” (1 Thess. 5:19, 20) And what exciting prophecies we study and share with other people!
15. What helpful things can we consider during family worship?
15 Understandably, we want to help our families develop their abilities in the field service. Many brothers and sisters have found that one way to accomplish that is to focus part of their family worship on the ministry. You might find it helpful to discuss how members of the family will follow up on the interest they have found. What will they speak of on the next visit? What topics will most likely stimulate continued interest in those visited? When is it best to make the calls? Many also devote some of the time during family worship to congregation meetings so that they will be aware of what will be considered at those meetings. Can you do more to prepare to participate? Your participation will strengthen your faith and thus help you to avoid being shaken from your reason. (Ps. 35:18) Yes, sharing in family worship will provide a safeguard against speculation and doubts.
16. Anointed Christians have what incentive to maintain their power of reason?
16 When we reflect on the way Jehovah has blessed his people over the years with increased understanding of Bible prophecy, we can appreciate what a wonderful reward lies ahead. The anointed have the prospect of joining Christ in heaven. What an incentive for them to maintain their power of reason! We can certainly apply to them Paul’s words written to the Thessalonians: “We are obligated to thank God always for you, brothers loved by Jehovah, because God selected you . . . by sanctifying you with spirit and by your faith in the truth.”—2 Thess. 2:13.
17. What encouragement do you find in the words at 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5?
17 And those who look forward to everlasting life on earth should likewise strive to avoid being quickly shaken from their reason. If you have the earthly hope, take to heart the loving encouragement that Paul wrote to fellow anointed ones in Thessalonica. (Read 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5.) Each of us should deeply appreciate those loving sentiments. Yes, the letters to the Thessalonians provide vital warnings about speculation or questionable ideas. Living as close to the end as we do, these are warnings that Christians today greatly appreciate.
As we read at Acts 20:29, 30, Paul pointed out that from within the Christian congregations, “men [would] rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” History confirms that in time a clergy/laity distinction developed. By the third century C.E., “the man of lawlessness” was manifest, recognizable in the composite group of the clergy of Christendom.—See The Watchtower, February 1, 1990, pages 10-14.