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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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Chapter  23:  THE  MAN  OF  SIN

Like the majority of New Testament prophecy, 2 Thess. 2 has application to both AD70 and the last days, although this does not preclude a reference to the Papacy down through the years between those times. It was inspired at a time when apostacy had already set in within the ecclesia, largely due to the inroads of the Judaizers. We can be sure that the Jewish opposition which attended Paul's first visit to Thessalonica would have continued well after he left. They were under pressure from "them that trouble you" (2 Thess. 1:6), who are defined in Gal. 5:11-13 as the Judaizers ("they...which trouble you"). The Thessalonians are comforted that these troublers would be destroyed by the Lord's second coming in fire, " taking vengeance on them...that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (preferring that of Moses): who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (cp. Gehenna) from the presence of the Lord" (1:9). This sounds very much like the punishment of the responsible at judgment day (Jude 24)- and the Judaizers fit that category. Significantly, the only occurences of the Greek idea of a “man of sin” in the LXX describe Jewish apostates (Prov. 24:22; Is. 57:4).

This prophecy speaks of a specific " man of sin" who would arise within the ecclesia as an epitome of the spirit of rebellion against the truth. It seems that there may have been such an individual in the first century:

- " Ye have heard that antichrist shall come" (1 Jn. 2:18)

- " who [singular] did hinder you…a little leaven [that] leaveneth the whole lump…he that troubleth you..." (Gal. 5:8-10)

- " he that is of the contrary part" (Tit. 2:8)

- " Who (which individual) hindered you?...(Paul's) letters, saith he, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (2 Cor. 10:7,10

- The world- the Jewish world, in John’s usage of the term- was under the power of a ‘satan’, a Prince or leader (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 1 Jn. 5:19), in the first century- perhaps the High Priest?

- A “stranger” to the flock and a “thief” would come to harm the flock of the Lord Jesus (Jn. 10:5,10).

- The existence of such an individual would make special sense of the Lord’s request for the Father to keep the disciples safe from “the evil one” (Jn. 17:15). 1 Jn. 2:13,14 alludes to this prayer and shows it to have been fulfilled in the first century- the believers had been kept safe from “the evil one”. And there appears some connection with the promise of Rev. 3:10, given just prior to the cataclysm of AD70, to keep the brethren safe from “the hour of trial”.

- John may also refer to this individual. He seems to speak, at least in the Greek text, of one specific individual- e.g. " The one [singular] saying he is in he light" (1 Jn. 1:9). " Who, then, is the liar?" (1 Jn. 2:22) has evident connection with the lying antichrist figure of 2 Thess. 2:8,9; and " the deceiver" (2 Jn. 7) connects with that same figure who will follow " deceit" (2 Thess. 2:11). John saw the singular antichrist as being heralded by many antichrists who had, he felt, already arisen in the first century. They belonged to the [Jewish] world (1 Jn. 4:5)- an indication that the antichrist is somehow semitic, at least in its first century application. John's reference to " many false prophets" (1 Jn. 4:1) connects with Mt. 24:11, which in an AD70 context predicts that " many false prophets shall arise" . This indicates to me that the singular antichrist had some fulfillment in the first century. And the same will be [is?] true in our last days. The likes of Saddam Hussein and Hitler are perhaps such antichrists who presage the coming of the specific person who will be the latter day antichrist. They had some similarities to him, but were not the actual person. Significantly, John seems to have understood this person as someone who would nominally accept Jesus, but deny that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed Messiah (1 Jn. 2:22). This would fit a Moslem position far better than it would a Catholic- for Catholics believe that Jesus is the Christ. Likewise in the first century, the Jewish antichrists believed Jesus had existed, but denied He was the Christ.

It is noteworthy that this individual is not named. Martin Hengel comments, correctly: “One of the riddles of Jewish and early Christian polemic is that it hardly ever really names its opponents, but tends to use derogatory paraphrases. This is [also] true of Essence polemic, which conceals its opponents in ciphers” (1). In this context we recall the references to Babylon and Egypt in the Old Testament as, e.g., “Rahab”. Paul likewise doesn’t seem to refer to his enemies by their names but rather hides behind almost taunt phrases (2 Cor. 11:5,13; 12:11; Gal. 5:12; Phil. 3:2; and see too Gal. 1:7; 3:1,10; 4:17; 2 cor. 2:17; 4:2; Rom. 3:8; 15:31). The reference to the prophetess “Jezebel” in Rev. 2:20 and “the teaching of Balaam” (Rev. 2:14) likewise don’t actually name the individuals concerned, but rather give them a kind of code name.

It is just possible, although in no way certain, that such an individual could arise in the latter day apostacy; although if he does, it will be evident to all. There is no need of witch hunting to reveal him. We have shown in Chapter 12 that the man of sin has connections with the power that will dominate Israel, both natural and spiritual, in the last days. The man of sin prophecy therefore shows that the latter day pressure on the ecclesia will come from two sources: from the oppressive power in the world outside us, and secondly from that power exerting an influence within the community. This was exactly the situation which the ecclesia faced in the AD70 last days. The believers had to wrestle against the civil " principalities and powers" as well as against wicked spiritully gifted elders in heavenly places in the ecclesia; this was all part of the " evil day" of tribulation (Eph. 6:12,13), the same " day" of 2 Thess. 2:3. As " nation shall rise against nation" , so " many false prophets shall rise " (same Greek word) in the ecclesia (Mt. 24:7,11). Thus the same kind of forces will be operating both in the world and within the ecclesia (perhaps the similarity in phrasing is because there is Angelic activity allowing both?).

It is against this background that 2 Thess. 2 warns them not to be " soon shaken in mind, or be troubled (cp.1:6; Gal. 5:12), neither by Spirit, nor by word (from those claiming the Spirit gift of prophecy), nor by letter as (if it were) from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand" (R.V. " here" ; 2:2). This all indicates Judaist activity; they had elsewhere used the tactic of forging letters in Paul's name (Gal. 6:11; Heb. 13:22; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 3:1). Thus Paul concludes this second letter to the Thessalonians with " the salutation of me Paul with mine own hand which is the token in every epistle, so I write" (2 Thess. 3:17). Their reasoning was that the day of Christ, i.e. the Kingdom, was already present. This was and still is a basically Jewish argument- hence the Judaist cancer at Ephesus had lead to Hymenaeus and Philetus " saying that the resurrection (and therefore the Lord's return) is passed already; and overthrown the faith of some" (2 Tim. 2:18).

The Jewish nature of the man of sin which Paul warns the Thessalonians of is also suggested by a careful reflection upon 1 Jn. 2:11,19: " He that hateth his brother...walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth...they went out from us, but they were not of us" . This is all alluding back to the example of Cain going out from God's presence and wandering in the land of Nod with no direction to his life. Cain is a type of the Judaizers and the Jewish system (Jn. 8:44); the primary reference of John's letters was probably to the Judaizers. These people are described in 1 Jn. 2:18 as " antichrists" whose presence heralded the full manifestation of " the antichrist" . This is why the New Testament repeatedly stresses that the appearance of false teachers and fake Christs will be a sign of the end. If these antichrists of the first century were Jewish, then " the antichrist" probably also was. There is ample evidence that John's letters were primarily intended for ecclesias facing this Judaizer problem. The copious links with his Jewish-based Gospel should make this evident. Note too that the Qumran Essenes described the apostate High Priest as “the man of lies”. Tertullian’s interpretations of John’s letters clearly understood the “antichrists” to be referring to contemporary false teachers.

Paul warns that the Lord's coming will not be until there has come a marked further apostacy, and the full public revelation of the man of sin, whose " mystery of iniquity" was already quietly at work. It would be fully revealed once God's withholding patience had ended. At this stage the man of sin would show " lying wonders" which would deceive many; but he would soon be destroyed by " the brightness of (the Lord's) coming" . We hope to show how this " mystery of iniquity" was the Judaist false doctrine undermining the ecclesia, resulting in many believers being influenced by them, until in the immediate prelude to Christ's 'coming' in AD70 the Jewish system seemed to have the upper hand over the true believers. We know from Heb.6 and elsewhere that the Judaist elders were able to do miracles. Such a bout of impressive miracles to be done by false teachers in the last days is predicted in the Olivet prophecy and parts of Revelation. The events of AD70 then totally destroyed the Jewish system. It is feasible that there will be a similar process operating in the last days. An apostate element within the ecclesia will associate itself with the beast (n.b. the similarities between the beast and the man of sin noted previously), resulting in the deception of many weak believers, until for a brief period the beast/ man of sin appears totally powerful- but is then smashed by Christ's return. It is certain that the revealing of the man of sin in the temple (either a rebuilt temple, or the ecclesia) will be a sure sign that Christ is about to return; he will be destroyed by the Lord's coming in glory (2 Thess. 2:3,8). The Lord likewise spoke of false teaching in the ecclesia as the first sign of his imminent return (Mk. 13:5). When Mk. 13:14 records the Lord speaking of the desolating abomination, he uses a neuter modified by a masculine participle- indicating that an individual is being referred to.  Thus whatever application 2 Thess. 2 may have to the first century, it definitely has it's major application to the last days. This means that the inflitration of the ecclesia by the 'beast' of Rome and the Judaists (Gal. 2:4) has its latter day equivalent. But will we take this warning seriously?

The following verse by verse commentary seeks to interpret 2 Thess. 2 from these two perspectives- of AD70 and the last days. The fact that " the man of sin" appeared in the first century in the form of Judaist false teaching within the ecclesia means that " the wicked one" sitting in the temple is to be read on a figurative level- as referring to the temple of the ecclesia. Indeed, most NT usage of " temple" is with reference to the ecclesia. The Lord's mysterious reference to an idolatrous abomination sitting in the holy place in the last days (to which Paul is alluding) must therefore also have at least some reference to a gross evil within the latter day ecclesia.

The idea of a " man of sin" within the temple of God surely has its source in the Ezekiel passages (e.g. Ez. 8:8-16) which describe the idolatry (" abomination" ) which occurred within the temple in the days just prior to the invasion of Israel by the Babylonians. These passages lead up to the vision of the purged, perfected temple of the Millennium in Ez. 40 - 48. The 'men of sin' which Ezekiel saw within the temple were the " elders of the house of Israel" , the corrupted priesthood. The connection with 2 Thess. 2 suggests that in the last days, before the final neo-Babylonian holocaust, the elders of the new Israel will practice corruption in the temple / ecclesia of God.

There is an incident in the experience of Nehemiah, Governor of Jerusalem (a type of Christ, Mt. 2:6) which points forward to all this. Nehemiah (cp. Jesus) returned to the Emperor to have his authority over Jerusalem confirmed (cp. Christ to God, Mt. 25:19; Lk. 19:12,13). He then returned, to find Israel indifferent to the state of God's house, taken up with the petty materialism of daily life, with the result that the Arab Tobiah had been permitted by the elders of Israel to live in the chambers of the house of God (Neh. 13:6-9). Nehemiah in fury expels him and " cleansed the chambers" , throwing out all his things, after the pattern of Christ cleansing the temple (Mt. 21:12). Along with the type of Moses returning from the mount to a corrupted Israel, this points forward to the state of affairs at Christ's return.

Is. 8:5 speaks of an “image of jealousy” being placed in the temple by the Jews just prior to the Babylonian invasion. This was the original image behind the Lord’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation being placed in the temple by the Romans. And yet His prophecy has a distinct latter day reference. All this points to a similar literal fulfilment in some way, in a literal latter day temple.

V.3" That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" .

" The son of perdition" was Judas (Jn. 17:12), the epitomy of sin and the Jewish devil (Jn. 6:70,71 cp. 8:44). We will see that throughout 2 Thess. 2 there is frequent reference to the events surrounding our Lord's suffering and death; as we also noted in the Revelation passages concerning the saint's final sufferings. Judas was concealed among the disciples until he finally flew his true colours at his betrayal of Christ, which marked the beginning of his passion. The Judaizers were only revealed for what they really were in the traumas of AD69/70. And if the man of sin has a latter day equivalent, this group of false teachers will only show their hand immediately prior to the second coming, at the beginning of the holocaust, which matches the beginning of Christ's final sufferings which began after Judas' betrayal. This indicates that any witch hunt for this group is doomed to failure. The disciples tried to expose " the man of sin" before his proper time to be manifested; and ended up accusing each other of fitting the role. Such is the inability of human nature to make accurate judgment in this respect. As the disciples must have gawped incredulously when they realized what Judas was really up to, so there may be some surprises among the latter day disciples.

There were three and a half days from the time of Judas being openly revealed for what he was to the end of Christ's sufferings, marked by the resurrection. It may be that there will be a three and a half year tribulation period for the latter day believers, beginning with the open revealing of the " man of sin" .

The N.I.V. (correctly) translated " man of sin" as " man of lawlessness" , highlighting the contradiction in the fact that the law-crazy Judaists were actually lawless. Because lawlessness abounds in the last days, the majority of the ecclesia will lose their love (Mt. 24:12). It may be that the man of lawlessness introduces the lawlessness of the world into the ecclesia, leading the majority astray. The beast is epitomized by a man- " the number of the the number of a man" (Rev. 13:18), in the same way as the system described in 2 Thess. 2 is personified as a man of sin. The figure of Rev. 13:5,6 is clearly based around an Old Testament ‘man of sin’, Goliath- a real, historical person. Rev. 11:4,13 draw a contrast between a God of the earth / land of Israel, and the God of Heaven. The “god of the earth” has two olive trees and two candlesticks standing before him, with evident allusion back to Zech. 4:14; 6:5, where the Lord / King of the earth / land appears to refer to the King of Babylon. When we read of the beast personnified as a person, we must remember that most personnifications in Scripture are not mere literary devices; they revolve around the fact that the thing or system personnified is epitomized in a real, actual person. Take the personnification of sin / temptation as ‘the devil’; sin can’t exist in an abstract sense but only in persons; hence the personnification has a basis for reality in actual human persons. Or take wisdom, personnified as a person in Proverbs. Wisdom in its real and Biblical sense only exists in persons, not as abstract theory; and thus it can be personnified. The personnification of the beast system is likely because it will be eptiomized in a real person. Hence “the number of the beast…is the number of a man” (Rev. 13:8) (3).

These passages all imply that there may well be one specific " man of sin" in the last days. Judas, the prototype “son of perdition”, influenced the other disciples, as shown by the complaint concerning Mary's 'waste' of ointment being described as made by Judas in Jn. 12:4, but by the whole group in Mt. 26:8. Jude's letter is a warning against the Jewish-influenced apostacy of the first century. He cites " the gainsaying of Korah" as typical of the false teaching that was infiltrating the ecclesias. He could have spoken of " Korah, Dathan and Abiram" , but instead he focuses on Korah, as if he was the outstanding influence. By doing so, was Jude suggesting that there was one specific individual in the " last days" who was to be resisted?

The connection with Judas would suggest that the man of sin being in the temple may refer to the presence of this individual or system within the ecclesia. But there is a clear link with Mt. 24:15, concerning the abomination of desolation standing in the temple as a clear sign that Christ's return is imminent, just as Paul says the man of sin in the temple is the clear sign of the second coming (2 Thess. 2:3). The Lord’s words are looking back to Daniel’s prophesy that a desolator (RV) is to appear in the temple, and also to the description of Nebuchadnezzar as a ‘desolator’ of God’s people and His cities , who achieves his ‘desolation’ by a fake theophany, coming with clouds and chariots just as the Lord Jesus will (Jer. 4:7,13). The language used by Jeremiah in that section is very similar to that used in Ezekiel 38 about the individual named as ‘Gog’. The abomination that desolates is at the hands of a desolator- the man of sin of 2 Thess. 2. The likely application to an abomination within the ecclesia notwithstanding, one is tempted to look for a physical temple to be built in Jerusalem in order to ease the fulfilment of this prophecy. It cannot be insignificant that the right wing Rabbis are enthusiastic for this, and have already drawn up the plans for one! It could be that Rev. 13:14,15 predict that the man of sin will set up a literal image of himself there in the temple.

v.4 " Who opposeth and exalteth" is used in 2 Tim.2:25  concerning the Judaizers and Jews, and it is translated " adversary" in the same Judaist context in Lk. 13:17; 21:15; 1 Cor. 16:9; Phil. 1:28 and 1 Tim. 5:14. Their arrogance is well described as exalting themselves above anything that is 'worshipped', whether Christian or otherwise. This is the same word as " devotions" in Acts 17:23 concerning pagan idols. They made themselves " as God" , perhaps by imitating Moses, " the god of this (Jewish) world" (2 Cor. 4:4 and context); James 4:11,12 is just one example of the Judaist-influenced eldership making themselves equal to Moses. There are two Greek words translated " temple" , one referring more to the physical building and the other to the spiritual dwelling place of God, i.e. the ecclesia (1 Tim. 3:15). It is this latter one which is used here-  the man of sin sits down (Gk. 'takes his place') in the ecclesia, shewing himself (Greek 'demonstrating') that he is God. This word is translated " approved" in Acts 2:22 concerning Christ's approval as God's representative by His miracles. This indicates that the man of sin is an imitation of Christ- a true antiChrist. The shewing that he is God would be through the pseudo miracles of v.9- in the same way as Moses was made as God to Pharaoh through the miracles he did (Ex. 7:1). The Judaist-influenced elders of the Jewish ecclesias seem to have retained the power of the miraculous gifts for a short time after their apostacy (Heb. 6:4-6); the Jews also had their false miracle workers (Acts 13:6; 19:14). The beast of Revelation also works impressive miracles. Thus as the man of sin did false miracles in the first century through the Jewish miracle workers and their Judaist friends within the ecclesia, so both in the beast system of the last days as well as in the ecclesia, the latter day " man of sin" will work false miracles. Remember that even possession of the genuine Spirit gifts did not necessarily indicate that the possessor was acceptable to God (cp. Saul, Corinth ecclesia, Simon Magus).

The language of the man of sin "who vaunts himself above and against every so-called god or object of worship, actually seating himself in the temple of God" (2 Thess. 2:3,4) shouts for application to the plans of Gaius Caligula to make and erect a colossus of himself with the attributes of Jupiter in the Most Holy place of the Jerusalem temple; and this in turn recalls the Lord's words an abominable thing was to be placed in the temple in the last days (Mt. 24:15). But Gaius was suddenly assassinated, and his plans never came to term. One can speculate that his widely publicized decree stimulated prayer throughout the Jewish-Christian community, that such an abomination would not be allowed to happen. And so it didn't. The point is, that things can be changed within God's end times program as a result of our prayers. This may speed up the Lord's return, or at least mean that another possible sequence of events kicks in.


v.5,6 " Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I told you these things? And now ye know (appreciate) what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time" .

There is a definite allusion here to Lk. 24:6: " He is...risen; remember how (with what earnestness, the Greek implies) he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee" , concerning his sufferings and resurrection. " These things" of 2 Thess.2:5,6 may therefore refer to our sufferings in fellowship with Christ, and subsequent salvation in the last day holocaust. The connection runs deeper; as the Angel spoke those words in Lk. 24, the disciples were about to turn back, to capitulate to the reasoning of the Jewish satan, due to their failure to truly appreciate earlier prophecy. The believers of AD70 and the last days have parallels with the position of those men. They had frequently heard about the coming sufferings of their Lord, but somehow turned a deaf ear to them. We too can let the reality of these warnings about our future suffering just pass us by.

" Remember ye not" also recalls Mk.8:18: " Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears (the potential to understand) hear ye not? and do ye not remember?" . It is interesting that Lk. 24:6,7 date Christ's sufferings from the point when he was " delivered into the hands of sinful men" , ending with him rising again " the third day" - exactly a three and a half day period, seeing the arrest was twelve hours before his death. Compare this with the saints fellowshiping Christ's sufferings in the last days for three and a half years. The disciples who were rebuked in Lk. 24:6 expected the Kingdom without suffering, and switched off to any talk about suffering or agonizing in order to enter the Kingdom. In principle, this same attitude is far too evident in our community today.

As Christ told the disciples that he had already told them about his sufferings, so Paul is reminding those of AD70 and the last days that he has earlier explained to them about the sufferings they were and are to face in the latter day holocaust. It seems that the Thessalonians had the blessing of a great appreciation of the prophecies concerning their own last days. There is reason to think that we may be blessed likewise (cp. Dan. 12:10). We have seen that the revealing of the man of sin and the persecution of the saints are both associated with the crucifixion of Christ. Therefore what withheld the time of Christ's final sufferings must also delay the start of the full revelation of the man of sin in the last days. It was by the determinate will of God that Christ was handed over to be crucified (Acts 2:23), and he was not taken earlier because his time had not yet come (Mt.26:18; Jn.7:6; Lk.9:51). This delay was to give Israel a chance to repent, as explained in the parable of the fig tree being left a little bit longer to give it every chance to bring forth fruit. This apparent 'delay' in Christ's crucifixion was matched by the 'delay' in the Lord's coming in judgment upon Israel in AD70. Similarly the longsuffering of God waited (delayed) in the days of Noah until the flood finally came (1 Pet.3:20); those days and the flood are used elsewhere as symbols of the events of AD70 and the Lord's 'coming' then. Note that " withholdeth" can mean 'Is still in memory', showing that it refers to God's patience. It is God's patient desire for repentance  which withheld the manifestation of the man of sin in the first century, and which withholds it now too.

Paul says that these things had previously been explained to the Thessalonians, perhaps in 1 Thess. 5:3-5; there they were told that the pre-eminent sign of the Lord's coming is the " peace and safety" cry within the ecclesia. Now in 2 Thess.2 Paul puts it in another way: " that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first" ,  or most importantly, as the most obvious sign. " Withholdeth" is also translated " stand fast" and " keep hold" , often in the context of resisting Judaist infiltration by retaining true doctrine. This would imply that the spiritually strong within the ecclesias were withholding the revealing of the man of sin and the Lord's return (" that he might be revealed in his time" can neatly refer to either, cp. 1 Tim.6:15). However, it was only a matter of time before the falling away was so widespread that they would be " taken out of the way" ; " for the mystery of iniquity (literally 'law-breaking', another pun on the Judaizers' position) doth already work" (v.7). This is the opposite to " the mystery of Godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16), and refers to the Judaizers claiming to be so spiritually deep that the Truth was a " mystery" known only to them (cp. Jude 19; Rev.2:24). That which hindered the revealing or coming (cp. 1:7; a false second coming) of the man of sin would be taken out of the way. " Out of the way" here is normally translated " from among them" - the spiritually minded members of the ecclesia were to be taken away, so that God's punishments could come upon the rest of them. In the first century this was shown in the command for the faithful to flee the Jerusalem ecclesia (Lk. 21:21), to come out of Babylon (Rev.18:4), which is a common symbol of Israel and apostate Jewry in the prophets. The word for " mystery" is also used in a negative sense in Rev.17:5,7 concerning the woman of sin riding the beast- hinting at a specific individual who will be the figurehead of the beast?

v.8 " And then shall that wicked (one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming" .

It was the Jewish system which was destroyed by the 'coming' of AD70; there is a close connection between 'the evil one', i.e. the devil, and the Jewish system (2). The Spirit and brightness of his coming parallels the description of judgment on the Judaizers in 1:6-9: " ...mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance...punished...from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" . This judgment is against " them that trouble you" (1:6), i.e. the false Judaist 'brethren' who were leading the early church astray (Gal. 1:7). The link with 2:8 shows that it is such false brethen within the ecclesia (temple) who are " the wicked one" which will be destroyed by the second coming. 2 Thess. 1:6-9 also recalls the description of coming judgment on the apostate Jews  in Rom.1:18: " The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all unGodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" . Paul's words in Thessalonians can also be traced back to Is.11:4: " He (Christ) shall smite the earth (Heb. 'eretz'- land, of Israel) with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" in Israel, primarily. The Greek for " wicked" is translated " without law" in Romans, again making a play on the Judaizers who were claiming to keep the Law. There is a parallel between " the mystery of iniquity" in v.7 and the wicked one of v.8- the revealing of " that wicked" is therefore the revealing of a mystery, which mimics the 'revealed mystery' of the true Gospel (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3; 6:19; Col. 1:26). The wicked one was to be " destroyed" , the Greek for which is also translated " abolish" , " do away" , " make of no effect" , " vanish away" , " make void" etc., all in the context of the doing away of the Jewish Law and the system which supported it. This was only fully done in AD70.

" The spirit of his mouth" looks forward to Rev. 19:15,21 concerning Christ's destruction of the beast, whom we have seen to have close links with the man of sin. The emphasis on the destruction of the man of sin by Angels and fire recalls Dan.7:10,11 concerning the beast's destruction by the Lord's return. Again, we must make the point: the man of sin will appear in the latter day ecclesia, but he will be linked with the political 'beast' which will then be in control of the world. The way the Christian community is lowering its barriers, allowing any to join who wish to and being increasingly reluctant to expel false teachers, is a sure sign that we are fast arriving at a condition where all this could easily happen.

v.9 " Him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" .

'Satan' in the New Testament frequently refers to the Jewish system. " Coming" can be translated 'coming in', referring to the subtle entry of Judaist agents and ideas into the ecclesia (Gal. 2:4 etc.). The coming of Christ with its associated miracles as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, being matched by 'Satan's' miracles at his 'coming'. The Greek for " working" is often used concerning the working of the Holy Spirit. " Power, signs and wonders" is a phrase always used concerning the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 2:22,43; 4:30; Rom.15:19; Heb.2:4); and in 2 Cor.12:12 concerning the qualifications of an apostle. This would imply that the man of sin is a false apostle (cp. 2 Cor.11:13-15) doing false miracles to accompany a false Gospel; he is " the son of perdition" after the pattern of Judas. The Greek for " lying" is used about the apostate Jews in Jn.8:44; Rom.1:25; 1 Jn.2:21.

Jannes and Jambres were another prototype of these Judaizers (2 Tim.3:8). Perhaps these magicians who replicated Moses' miracles were apostate Jews. We have seen that Israel's experience in Egypt points forward to ours at the time of the second coming. Perhaps the beast, symbolic 'Egypt' of the last days, will also have a group of renegade Jews in tow, who match the miracles performed by the latter day Moses. Showing " signs and lying wonders" is an evident allusion back to Mt.24:24, concerning this happening in the last days of AD70 and our own times. If the miraculous gifts are possessed by some of the faithful in the last days, e.g. in connection with the Elijah ministry, the ability of the apostate believers to do miracles will seem the more credible. There are many links between 2 Thess. 2 and the Olivet prophecy.

Matthew 24

2 Thessalonians 2

Lawlessness will abound (v.12)                         

The man of lawlessness

Men saying " Lo, here is Christ" (v.23)

" Be not soon  word...that the day of Christ is here" (v.2 R.V.);  the man of sin represents a false coming of Christ.

" Believe it not" (v.23)

" Let no man (of sin) deceive you" (v.3).

" For there shall arise false Christs, and false  prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders" (v.24).

 " With all power and signs and lying wonders" (v.9)

" Insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (v.24); implying the non-elect will be deceived. 

" All deceivableness...they  (shall) believe a lie...but you, brethren beloved of the  Lord, hath from the  beginning (been) chosen to  salvation" (v.10,13)- i.e. it was impossible for them to be deceived.

" Behold, I have told you before" (v.25), as Christ prophesied his sufferings.

" When I was yet with you, I  told you these things" (v.5)

" As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (v.27)

" The brightness of his coming" (v.8)

" The Son of man coming in the clouds of Heaven (Angels) with power and great glory" (v.30)

With his mighty Angels...the   glory of his power"   (2 Thess. 1:8,9 cp. 2:8)

" Shall gather together his elect" (v.31)

" Our gathering together unto him" (v.1)

" I am Christ...shall deceive many" (v.5)

" Strong delusion, that they should believe a lie...all deceivableness of   unrighteousness in them that perish"   (v.11,10).

" Iniquity shall abound" (Greek: 'multiply', i.e. convert more people to it)

" The mystery of iniquity" (v.7)

" The love of many shall wax cold" (v.12)

" They received not the love of  the truth" (v.9)

The description of those deceived in 2 Thess.2 is amplifying that of the judgment seat in 1:6-9, which we have seen is concerning the responsible. We therefore conclude that the many who are deceived by false clams of miracles are actually within the ecclesia. Only the elect will not be deceived. This was what happened in the run up to AD70, and must presumably be seen in our last days too. The establishment of the beast's power in Jerusalem, accompanied by powerful miracles and the support of some Judas-like brethren within the ecclesia for it, will persuade some of our community to think that Christ is back. At present we are scarcely tempted by the pathetic 'miracles' of the evangelists and the ludicrous claims of those who claim to be Christ. Neither are " many" in the world deceived by such people; but the connections between Matt.24 and 2 Thess.2 indicate that many (Gk. the majority, Mt. 24:12) within the ecclesia will be deceived, egged on by a subtle group of false Christians who will be the counterpart of the first century Judaizers. Is it really true in our present community that " the mystery of iniquity doth already work" ?

Thus there is an equation between the beast, the man of sin and the holocaust of AD70. We know that the events of AD70 have their latter day equivalent. It seems a certainty that we have yet to experience the large scale falling away indicated here (cp. 1 Tim.4:1), concerning the " latter times" of AD70 and today.

v.10 " With all deceivableness (used concerning the Judaizers in 2 Pet. 2:13) of unrighteousness (used about the Jews in Rom. 1:18,29; 2:8; Heb. 8:12; 2 Pet. 2:13)  in them that perish (cp. 1 Cor. 1:18- about the Jews?); because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" .

This implies that they received the truth, but not the love of it. Is this true of the latter day saints? Many of the present generation of believers have received the truth dished up on a plate; but the love, the real fire of the Truth seems sadly lacking amongst us.

v.11 " For his cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" .

This same word for " lie" is used in v.9 about " lying wonders" . This implies that the beast/ false prophet/ man of sin is somehow allowed by God to do the lying wonders; they will be sent by God to test us. God deluded the first century ecclesia into false doctrine and alienation from Him; and it seems, it we are interpretting correctly, that He will do the same in these last days. The warning from reading 2 Thess. 2 in a last day context is clear: there must be a fine appreciation of the importance of doctrine, of the likelihood of false teaching arising, the need to keep our doors shut against pseudo-Christians and false teaching.

Who Will He Be?

We have seen that the latter day man of sin will have some association with the people of God, after the pattern of Judas. He may be partly Jewish. He may even have Christian connections. Or it may be that he is an Arab, a half Jew, who will enthrone himself as the head of the Arab beast and make his capital and temple in Jerusalem. Nah. 1:15 RV describes the leader of the Assyrian invasion as “the wicked one”, the “wicked counsellor” (1:11), “he that dasheth [Israel] in pieces” (Nah. 2:1). Further evidence for a charismatic Arab antichrist is provided in the study of the revival of Babylon. Of particular significance is the way that the man of sin exalts himself “against all that is called God or that is an object of worship” (2 Thess. 2:4 RVmg.). This is exactly relevant to Islam, whose insistent belief in one God leads them to be aggresively against any icon, idol or object of worship. This is the very opposite to the Catholic way of venerating objects of worship.


(1) Martin Hengel, The Johannine Question (London: S.C.M., 1996 ed.), p. 41.

(2) This is explored in detail in my 'The Jewish Satan', in In Search of Satan.

(3) The following table shows the evident links between the personal “man of sin” spoken of in 2 Thess. 2, and the beast systems of Revelation. I am grateful to Phil Edmonds for tabulating these connections:

2 Thessalonians 1& 2


2 v 3 - son of perdition (see also John 17 v 12)

17 v 8 -                                        beast goes into perdition

2 v 7 - mystery of iniquity (gk anomia
(a reference to the son of perdition)

17 v 7 - 
Babylon associated with mystery 

2 v 8 -                                                wicked (lit lawless - gk anomos) one revealed (see also v 7 where " iniquity" = gk anomia

1 v 1 - 
The revelation of Jesus Christ 

2 v 8 - 
Lord consumes him with the spirit of his mouth (ref to Isaiah 11 v 4)
(a reference to the wicked one of 2 v 8)

19 v 11, 15 - Christ 
  destroys the beast (ref to Isaiah 11 v 4)

1 v 8 - Lord Jesus in flaming fire 

19 v 12 - 
Christ's eyes " as a flame of fire"  

2 v 11 - 
those who perish believe a lie
(a reference to the wicked one of  2 v 8)

19 v 20 - 
" false (or lying) prophet"

2 v 11 - strong delusion (or working of deceit) (a reference to the wicked one of 2 v 8)

13 v 14 - deceive 
19 v 20 - deceive 
(references to the second beast and the false prophet)

2 v 9 - signs (gk semeion) (a reference to the wicked one of 2 v 8)

13 v 13 - wonders (gk semeion
19 v 20 miracles 
(gk semeion)
(references to the second beast and the false prophet)

2 v 4 - temple

11 v 2 - temple