Chapter 23: THE MAN OF
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 A.V.mg.).
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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
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
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.
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
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 beast...is 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
" 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.
" 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?
" 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.
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.
will abound (v.12)
man of lawlessness
saying " Lo, here is Christ" (v.23)
Be not soon shaken...by 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
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"
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)
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"
Iniquity shall abound" (Greek: 'multiply', i.e. convert more
people to it)
The mystery of iniquity doth...work" (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
" 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.
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:
v 3 - son of perdition (see also John 17 v 12)
v 8 -
beast goes into perdition
v 7 - mystery of iniquity (gk anomia)
to the son of perdition)
v 7 -
Babylon associated with mystery
v 8 -
wicked (lit lawless
- gk anomos) one revealed (see also v 7 where "
iniquity" = gk anomia)
v 1 -
The revelation of Jesus Christ
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)
v 11, 15 - Christ
destroys the beast (ref to Isaiah 11 v 4)
v 8 - Lord Jesus in flaming fire
v 12 -
Christ's eyes " as a flame of fire"
v 11 -
those who perish believe a lie (a
reference to the wicked one of 2 v 8)
v 20 -
" false (or lying) prophet"
v 11 - strong delusion (or working of deceit) (a
reference to the wicked one of 2 v 8)
v 14 - deceive
19 v 20 - deceive
the second beast and the false prophet)
v 9 - signs (gk semeion) (a
reference to the wicked one of 2 v 8)
v 13 - wonders (gk semeion)
19 v 20 miracles
(gk semeion) (references
to the second beast and the false prophet)
v 4 - temple
v 2 - temple