Sometimes reading the Bible is pretty confusing. This passage might be a case in point. There is all kinds of widely divergent material written about these verses. Frankly, without further study I’m not sure what to make of the details in these verses myself.
Even so, certain things seem pretty clear:
1. Some people are afraid the day of Jesus’ second coming has already come and gone, and they are quite upset they missed it.
2. Paul assures them this is not the case. There are forces that are at work against God, and since this is still the case, we can be sure Jesus has not yet returned and set things right.
3. The forces that work against God attempt to deceive people so that they will not hold to the truth taught us by Jesus Christ.
So: where does that leave us?
Well, I think we can probably safely assume that we haven’t missed out on Jesus’ second coming either.
It also seems to me that though there will be no ambiguity when Jesus actually does come—that will be a decisive event—there is a good deal of ambiguity about the specifics of what will happen before then. We would probably do well, therefore, to be wary of those who claim to have all the answers (and sometimes even the timelines!) about these things. We certainly should not allow them to steal our peace our cause us to become anxious.
Finally, I think these verses underscore how important it is we walk closely with Jesus, study his word, and submit to his authority. Lawlessness—the desire to do what we please when we please how we please—is alive and well on planet Earth. At least, it’s alive in me. And it can be quite deceptive, making things that are wrong look right.
Our salvation is in Christ alone, and that is something we must never forget.