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Waiting For His Son - Thessalonians

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III The Man Of Sin Destroyed By Christ At His Coming (2:1-12)

A. Warning against False Claims (2:1,2)

v. 1
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
v. 2
"that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand."


v. 1 "Now we beseech you, brethren": This is the apostle's introduction to an exhortation or request of great importance (cp 1Th 4:1; 5:12; Phi 4:3).

"By the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ": Instead of "by", read "concerning" of "about." Paul refers to the subject at hand, which he has been discussing in 2Th 1:5-12. "Coming" = "parousia", a coming alongside, a visible presence; the thematic word of the Thessalonian letters (see "Main Theme" in Introduction, and 1Th 2:19, notes.)

"And by our gathering together unto him": "Epi-sunagoge": "Our assembling" (RSV). The same word occurs as a noun in Heb 10:25, having to do with the assembling together of the church for the communion service. But this reference is "about" the return of Christ -- as the previous phrase and the whole context states: "assembly", then, must be the great assembly: the final gathering of believers (living and dead) (Mat 23:37; Mark 13:27; Luke 13:34; 1Th 4:17) to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

v. 2 "That ye be not soon shaken in mind": "Soon" ("tacheos") actually means "quickly", or "hastily", "Saleuo": agitated, tossed, as by the action of strong wind or waves.

"Troubled": "Throemai": put in a tumult. This word is used in a similar sense with regard to the return of Christ in Mark 13:7 and Mat 24:6.

"Spirit": Greek "pneuma" -- here referring to the (supposed) "revelation" and teaching of a false prophet (cp 1Jo 4:1; 1Th 5:19,20; 1Co 14:12,32). They needed to "discern the spirits" and recognize the spurious (1Co 12:10).

"Word": "Logos" -- a word-of-mouth communication, possibly purporting to come from Paul (cp his expression: "this we say unto you by the word of the Lord": 1Th 4:15).

"Nor by letter as from us": The "as from us" probably refers to all three forms of forged communication: spirit, word, and letter. Judaizers had resorted to publishing their own letters of commendation for the Corinthian ecclesia (2Co 3:1); this problem was acknowledged at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15:24). In view of the prevalent forgeries, and in order positively to prove his own authorship, Paul sent his letters by the hand of accredited representatives (2Co 2:3,4,13; 7:6-8; 8:16-24). Furthermore, he sometimes signed his letters (2Th 3:17; Col 4;18; 1Co 16:21); at least once, he wrote the whole letter himself (Gal 6:11).

"As that the day of the Lord is at hand": The "day of the Lord" or "of Christ" is Paul's common expression of reference to the "parousia" or visible return of Christ (1Th 1:10; 5:2). "At hand" should be "has come" (RSV) or "is present" (RV). The expression is very strong in expressing suddenness or imminence: things present as distinguished from things to come (cp usage, Rom 8:38; 1Co 3:22; Gal 1:4; Heb 9:9). It was not erroneous to teach, as Paul himself did, that Christ might soon come: Paul clearly believed himself that he might live to see that day (1Th 4:13-18), and he was no longer a young man. The error that was being foisted upon the Thessalonians was that the events immediately preceding the return of Christ had already commenced.

B. The Man of Sin Revealed (2:3-9)

v. 3
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
v. 4
"Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
v. 5
"Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
v. 6
"And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
v. 7
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
v. 8
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
v. 9
"even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."



When the leaders of the Jews sought to contain the new movement led by Jesus of Nazareth, they used every subtle form of attack they were capable of. When these failed, they had to fall back on crude methods which involved using all the organized powers of religion and state to get him crucified.

With Jesus himself out of the way they next found that the hard facts of his resurrection, and of the transformation it wrought in his apostles, showed their problem to be still unsolved.

Now open persecution only seemed to make the movement prosper more than ever. But the old resources of craft and cunning were not used up completely. And so a deliberate attempt was made to wreck the new "sect" from within. Nowhere is this stated categorically in the New Testament, but the implication of numerous passages is very persuasive:

Galatia: To the Galatians Paul speaks of "false brethren" who had secretly infiltrated the churches, so as to enslave again (to the Law) those who had been made free by Paul's own preaching (Gal 2:4,5). These agents had apparently been planted in the brotherhood, so as to work slowly and steadily either to draw believers back to the Law or, failing that, at least to create internal dissensions that would weaken the whole community and thus its appeal to others. Even Peter was practically won over to this philosophy (vv 11-14).

It soon became obvious that Paul -- intelligent and resolute -- posed the greatest single obstacle to their "satanic" objectives. And so the person and the claims and the worth of this great apostle to the Gentiles must be attacked also, as part of the overall plan of these subversives.

Corinth: In Corinth these enemies had some considerable success, in characterizing Paul as weak and contemptible as to his physical qualities (2Co 10:9,10; 11:6). By contrast, the leader of the subversives, called "Satan" by Paul himself, continues to present himself as polished and personable and wise and authoritative -- the natural candidate to replace Paul as the leader of the ecclesias (2Co 11:22,23)! Such a sustained campaign of character assassination called forth from Paul the unusual expedient of a prolonged self-defense (2Co 11:13 to 12:12).

Jerusalem: Even in Jerusalem lies were being systematically spread about Paul, that he was teaching all Jews to forsake Moses and all the customs (Acts 21:20,21). While not true as to particulars, it had just enough plausibility to be accepted by gullible new converts. The faceless men who sought to pervert Paul's work and keep the first-century ecclesia in bondage to the Temple and the priests had evidently been diligently at work in Jerusalem practically from the beginning. (It could not have been Paul's open enemies among the Pharisees and Sadducees who told such lies, since their stories would have had no chance of being believed. This campaign was plainly carried on secretly, by whisper and innuendo, in the midst of the ecclesias.)

Rome: From Rome Paul wrote to the Philippians (Phi 1:15-17) of those who preached out of envy and strife, trying to add additional affliction to the bondage Paul was already suffering. It is clear that certain "believers" were finding malicious pleasure in preaching the gospel with some special emphasis, probably -- because their work would only be another source of worry and vexation to Paul. Such were fulfilling the serpent's role, by good words and fair speeches deceiving the simple (Rom 16:17,18).

Other hints of the same organized subversion are to be found in:

Eph 4:14:
"the sleight of men" (a phrase used for deliberate cheating at games), "and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive";

Col 2:4:
"lest any man should beguile you with enticing words" -- another plain allusion to the serpent in the garden.

Titus 1:14:
Titus was warned not to give "heed to Jewish fables... that turn from the truth", preached by the deceivers of the "circumcision" group (see also vv 4,9,10).

1Ti 4:1,2:
Timothy was likewise warned of false teachers ("seducing spirits", Paul called them), speaking hypocritical lies, and fostering undue concern for dietary matters.

The entire letter is a learned and reasoned attempt to forestall drift back to the Mosaic institutions and the synagogue system, a drift encouraged by this organized call of opposition in the very brotherhood.

It is plain, then, that there was a subversive, "Satanic" element at work in the ecclesia of Paul's day: a group (with perhaps a formidable leader) who professed faith in Christ, but whose hidden agenda called for a "return to Moses." This group (and its leader?) claimed apostolic authority that was rightly the province of Paul and the twelve, and they worked within the ecclesia, or the spiritual "temple of God" (2Th 2:4), being accepted as believers in good standing. It might be assumed that either some of their number actually had Holy Spirit gifts ("all power and signs and lying wonders" -- v 9), or else deceived the simple-hearted into thinking they did. They systematically and subtly taught the "lie", that men could be justified only by keeping the law of Moses.

It is reasonable to suppose that Paul actually had his eye on some apostasy current in his own time, and which had already shown its hostile attitude toward him in very effective fashion (v 7). Otherwise, it becomes very difficult to explain the immediacy and seriousness with which he describes the "man of sin." These Jewish pseudo-Christians, along with their leader "Satan" (Paul's "thorn in the flesh?"), were imposters; while professing the gospel, they had not really "received the love of the truth" but instead "had pleasure in (promoting) unrighteousness" (vv 10,12). Paul was using every ounce of his faith and energy to hinder this destructive work (v 6), but Paul would not always be with them: when he would at last pass from the scene, the Judaizers might be expected to flourish almost without restraint (v 7).

Therefore the same Paul who hoped and prayed for the return of Christ in his own lifetime (consider 1Th 4:15, for example) could also expect that the Lord when he appeared would overthrow and destroy this wicked pretender (2Th 2:8; cp 1:6-10). That Christ did not return during Paul's day or even during the final years of the first century is no reflection on Paul's faith or understanding: what else should he have done except look for his Lord's coming? And the fact is, that the first-century "man of sin" (and his adherents) will be destroyed by Christ at his coming -- being raised from the dead to stand before the judgment seat.


The foregoing, however, can scarcely be the complete fulfillment of the words of Paul. The letters to Thessalonica are so dominated by the theme of Christ's second coming; and the Judeo-Christian "man of sin" of Paul's day has long passed from the scene (along with his adherents). So it is reasonable to expect that another "man of sin" will be a dominant element in the prophetic framework of the last days. There is one system, the Papacy, that is eminently "qualified'' to fill this role, as the Notes on the Text which follow should demonstrate. The question remains, however: Is there a transition, and a discernible link, between the first-century "man of sin" and the Roman Catholic apostasy?

Zechariah 5 offers such a link: Some of its connections with 2Th 2 are set out below:

Zechariah 5
2 Thessalonians 2
"This is their iniquity in all the land" (v 6, RV mg).
"The mystery of iniquity doth already work" (v 7)... "with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" (v 10).
"A woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah (v 7).
"Sitteth in the temple of God" (v 4).
"He cast her down into the midst of the ephah: and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof" (v 8, RV).
"That which restraineth" (v 6, RV)..."there is one that restraineth now" (v 7, RV).
"This is Wickedness" (v 8, RV).
"Then shall that Wicked be revealed" (v 8).

Zechariah 5 appears to be a prophecy of the evils of Judaism which were manifested in New Testament times, corrupting the early ecclesias, and which eventually became firmly established in the Roman Catholic church, along with many pagan ideas.

In its immediate context, Zechariah 5 presents a false worship in a detailed contrast to the true worship depicted in chapter 4. Zechariah 5 has the house of wicked women and unclean birds in the land of Shinar (Babylon) (vv 9,11), whereas Zechariah 4 has the true house of God, the true temple (v 9), wherein are the anointed ones (v 14) and the lampstand (v 12). In the picture of the false worship, the flying roll or scroll (v 3) is a "curse" which "declares innocent" ("naqah" -- not "cut off" as in AV) those who steal and swear falsely. The dimensions of this scroll of wickedness (20 cubits by 10 cubits) (v 2) are the precise dimensions of the holy place of the temple and tabernacle, indicating again the nature of this worship: a deliberate parody of that which is true.

The scroll, then, represents wicked teaching, which releases men and women from their obligation to obey God's laws. Such teaching, with a Jewish flavor, may be traced in the Pharisees' use of "Corban" -- a legal fiction that effectively released a man of his obligation to his parents (Mark 7:6-12). By some similar misapplication of law Pharisees enriched themselves by "devouring widows' houses" (Mat 23:14) and swearing falsely (v 16). This same attitude was carried forward into the early church and became part of the Roman Catholic apostasy. So-called saints are alleged to have accumulated large excesses of virtue which could be transferred, at a price, to sinners. The clerics, from the pope down to the parish priest, claimed the power to excuse on God's behalf sins of lying, stealing and so on at the confessional. Hence the links between Zechariah 5 and the Man of Sin.

Then there is the ephah (v 6), a unit of measure. This aptly portrays Judaism in New Testament times, where everything became a matter of measure, of keeping rules and regulations, rather than of developing a character pleasing in God's sight. Again this entered the early ecclesias and became fully developed in the Roman Catholic church. Col 2:20-22 warns against making religion a matter of rules and regulations which results only in fleshly pride when they are kept. In 1Ti 4:3 Paul prophesied of the time to come when apostasy would make rules about "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats", these are examples of the kinds of rules and regulations which Roman Catholicism invented so that the keepers of those rules might be considered as especially virtuous. The idea of a religion of "measure" comes out in other ways too: the idea that, after attending church, the rest of one's time is one's own; and the idea that after a fixed sum of money has been handed over, the rest is one's own to use exactly as one pleases.

Zechariah 5 is thus a portrayal of apostasy, not so much in its false doctrines as in its iniquitous practices. Hence its use in 2 Thessalonians as the background for the Man of Sin prophecy. It is noteworthy that in Zechariah 5 it is a woman who goes to Babylon (Shinar) and builds a house there. The connection with the woman of Rev 17 is obvious. Note also the stork, the unclean bird; the "Babylon" of the Apocalypse is "a cage of every unclean and hateful bird" (Rev 18:2).

Indeed, without trying to trace actual historical links, the essential unity of the two false systems (apostate Judaism of Christ's day and modern Roman Catholicism) is perfectly evident:

As the great false religious system of the first century was destroyed by divine edict (in AD 70) so the great false religious system of the Last Days will be destroyed -- by Christ in his coming in power and glory.


v. 3 "Let no man deceive you": "Exapateo" = to greatly deceive. The influence of sin is deceitful (Rom 7:11; 1Co 3:18 -- same word). Jesus similarly warned his followers against misinformation as to the time of his appearing (Mat 24:5; Mark 13:5).

"By any means": "In any way" (RSV) -- ie, by claiming spirit-gift powers, by a word-of-mouth report, or by letter purporting to be from us (v 2).

"For that day shall not come except there come a falling away first": "That day shall not come" is italicized in the AV, indicating that this clause is supplied to give the sense of the text but that it does not have an exact parallel in the Greek text.

"Falling away": Greek "apostasia" -- a defection, rebellion, revolt, or apostasy. The same word is translated "forsake" in Acts 21:21, and the verb form "depart" in 1Ti 4:1. The presence of the definite article suggests as the correct translation "the apostasy" -- something which Paul had already discussed with the Thessalonians.

Gentiles who never knew God might be the grossest sinners, but they could never constitute the "apostasy." Only those who in some sense had been related to the worship of the true God could forsake or revolt from that faith, and thus become "apostates." (Old Testament usage of "apostasia" in the Septuagint suggests a religious connotation also: Josh 22:22; 2Ch 29:19; 33:19; Jer 2:19). Paul elsewhere warns against such apostasy within the ecclesia:

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29,30).
Later New Testament writers suggest such apostasy was truly increasing, even in the first century (2Ti 3:1-5; 4:3,4; 2Pe 2:1-22; 3:3-6; Jude 1:17,18; 1Jo 2:18,19; 2Jo 1:7-10; 3Jo 1:9,10).

"That man of sin": This is a Hebrew idiom describing a predominant characteristic, as: "man of knowledge" (Pro 24:5) or "man of sorrows" (Isa 53:3). The predominant characteristic of this "man" is "sin!" The Greek manuscripts vary: some have "hamartia" ("sin"); others have "anomia" ("lawlessness"). There is, however, little difference between the two, since "sin is lawlessness" (1Jo 3:4, RSV).

The papacy has consistently claimed to be above the law -- being the supreme judge even of civil laws. While claiming to be the "true successors" to the apostles, the popes have, with very few exceptions, led lives of wickedness of the grossest character. The papacy has imposed grievous and unnecessary burdens on its deluded followers, and has dishonored God by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Jesus rightly accused first-century Judaism of the same thing -- Mat 15:9; Mark 7:7).

"Revealed": "Apokalupto" -- uncovered, unveiled. Just as the "man of righteousness", Jesus Christ himself, will one day be "revealed" or "apokalypsed" (2Th 1:7), so the "man of sin" must first be "apokalypsed." The similarity of expressions for each suggests that the one is the rival of the other -- hence, the "Anti-Christ": one appropriating to himself the honor and privilege due only to the true Messiah (1Jo 2:18). Paul's later words indicate this power of wickedness was already working in his day (2Th 2:7), but it had not yet attained the fullness of its power.

"The son of perdition": "Apoleia" = loss, destruction. This apostasy is the "father of sin" but also the "son of destruction"; its fate is sealed. Judas Iscariot, the first "apostate" from Christ, is called also "a son of perdition" (John 17:12). In the Revelation, or Apocalypse, the beast which carried the harlot goes at last "into perdition" (Rev 17:8).

v. 4 "Who opposeth": "Antikeimai" = "to lie opposite to, to be set over against." The word is used of those who opposed Jesus (Luke 13:17), who opposed his people (Luke 21:45; 1Co 16:9; Phi 1:28; 1Ti 5:14), and who opposed true doctrine (1Ti 1:10). The Judaizers in the first century claimed to have the only way to salvation -- through circumcision and the law of Moses -- and they opposed and harassed and undercut all who taught the true gospel, especially Paul. Likewise, in later years the Roman Catholic apostasy claimed to be God's exclusive chosen "church", and opposed (even to torture and death) the "heretics" and "infidels" who dared differ publicly with it. After the invention of the printing press, the Catholics were the primary suppressors of all early Bible translations into the ordinary languages of Europe.

"And exalteth": "Huperairo" = to lift above. The language echoes that describing the willful King Antiochus in Dan 11:36,37. The Roman system claims absolute religious supremacy, as borne out by numerous papal statements. It also claims, or at least has claimed when it was propitious to do so, absolute political prerogatives. Thus it has exalted itself above God in two ways.

"Above all that is called God, or that is worshipped": "Worshipped" is Greek "sebasma" (cp Acts 17:23) -- an object of veneration. That is, "above every so-called 'god' or object of worship" -- ie shrines, images, and relics. Roman Catholicism has, in fact, presided over a vast array of idols -- and incorporated them into its system and used them all for its own advancement.

When Catholicism has held absolute authority, no other object of worship -- true or false -- has been allowed. The pope himself is the greatest "object of worship": "His holiness", "the Holy Father", "the Bishop of Rome", "Vicar of Jesus Christ", etc. He has by decree claimed sovereignty over all mankind, both in religious and political spheres. And finally he has appropriated to himself the infallibility that belongs only to the God of Heaven!

"So that he as God": These words are not in the Greek text and are deleted by RSV, NASB, NEB, and NIV.

"Sitteth in the temple of God": He takes his seat, or establishes himself, in the "temple" of God. The Roman Emperor Caligula attempted to set up his own image in the Temple at Jerusalem, a gruesome blasphemy that was prevented only by his death about AD 40. It may well be that Paul had this incident still in his mind as he wrote these words: a foretaste of what would yet be. "Naos" may signify the literal temple at Jerusalem (Mat 23:16), still very much in use when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. It was upon the necessity of continuing worship at this Temple that the first-century Judaizing element in the -- ecclesias made its stand. "Naos" (temple) may also signify the spiritual "temple" of believers -- the ecclesia itself (1Co 3:16,17; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21). The first-century apostasy, opposed strenuously by Paul, had set itself up as an integral part of the ecclesias.

In like fashion, the Roman Catholic apostasy, which had its beginnings in the church, came at last to enthrone itself in the most "beautiful" and "glorious" and elaborate of all "temples" ever built -- St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The Pope takes his seat in the "Temple of God" (a false claim, of course) when, gorgeously arrayed, he is carried on the shoulders of his cardinals, to the papal chair in St. Peter's. It is from this chair only, and in this temple only, that he may make "ex cathedra" infallible pronouncements as to the faith of his millions of followers.

"Shewing himself that he is God": "Apodeiknumi" = setting himself forth, a word in common use for the proclamation of a sovereign upon his accession, or official entry into office (Acts 2:22; 23:7). "Proclaiming himself to be God" (RSV): Taking his "seat" in the "temple" he will thus proclaim himself "God." The intended contrast is directly to the Lord God Himself, who sits enthroned upon the cherubim (Psa 80:1; 99:1). Other rulers have tried to appropriate to themselves the worship due only to the Deity (Eze 28:2; Acts 12:21-23), but this coming usurpation, Paul says, will be even more offensive.

v. 5 "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?": Notice that here Paul uses "I" in contrast to his more customary "we" when addressing the Thessalonians. "I used to tell you", suggesting that the general theme of this chapter had been the subject of Paul's teaching to the Thessalonians more than once (cp expression, 1Th 5:1). In his first letter to them, Paul had referred to the persecuting power of the Jews even then active against their own countrymen (1Th 2:14-16); this power of evil he even called "Satan" (v 18) -- a significant link with the "man of sin" (2Th 2:9).

v. 6: "And now ye know what withholdeth": The Greek "katecho" signifies "to hold down" or "to hold fast": "is restraining" (RSV), "restraining" (NEB), "restrains" (NASB), or "holding back" (NIV). It is used of things (1Co 7:30; 2Co 6:10) and of people (Phm 1:3; Rom 7:6; Luke 4:42). An interesting parallel, or contrast, is Rom 1:18 -- where righteous men "restrain" the Truth. Paul, as the chief antagonist of the Judaizing influence in the ecclesias, was the restraining element as long as he was active.

The paganism of the Roman Empire was, for many years, the restraining element that prevented the full religious and political development of the Roman Catholic apostasy. Paul himself had benefited at times from Roman intervention into Jewish affairs (Acts 17:6; 18:6; 21:32-39).

But, of course, in either case the true "restraint" was the Spirit of God -- ever active to ensure His interests are fulfillled in the world over which He bears ultimate authority (Dan 4:17,25).

"That he might be revealed in his time": "Apokalupto" = "uncovered, unveiled" (as in 2Th 1:7). "In his time", or "in his season" (kairos), suggests that God has absolute control of the timetable for future events, even though men may not understand how and when God will act (1Th 5:2; Mat 24:36; Mark 13:32). No wicked person, nor group of wicked persons, nor wicked system, can overstep the bounds which God has appointed. God's sovereignty is dominant. Evil is strong, and will wax stronger in the last days; but the believer may take heart in the fact that God is always in control.

v. 7: "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work": The Greek "musterion" means that which can never be known merely by the wisdom of men, but which is known only to the initiated (Mark 4:11; Rom 11:25; 16:25; 1Co 15:51; Eph 1:9; 3:3,4). "Iniquity" is "anomia", which signifies "lawlessness" (as RSV). This particular "lawlessness" is a "mystery", according to Paul, because it is masquerading as the very opposite of what it really is (that is, "the mystery of godliness" -- 1Ti 3:16), and therefore is deceiving many of the uninformed.

"Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way": "Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way" (RSV). The "what" that "restrains" in v 6 has now became "he" who "restrains." Obviously the true restraining influence is the Holy Spirit -- which operates either directly by inspiration (as in the case of Paul) or indirectly by providential arrangement. This would be the "what" of the previous verse. The full flowering of the Roman Catholic apostasy was restrained or hindered by the power of pagan Rome, or specifically the power of the emperor -- although, undoubtedly, God's Spirit was providentially active there as well.

v. 8: "And then shall that Wicked be revealed": Greek "anomos" = the lawless one. "Revealed" is "apokalupto" -- to be uncovered or unveiled. For the third time (cp vv 3,6), the "Man of Sin" is said to have his own "apocalypse", as though consciously to rival the coming "apocalypse" of Christ. He is more than the "enemy" of Christ; he is in fact the substitute, "pseudo", or "anti-Christ!"

"Whom the Lord shall consume": Most manuscripts read "the Lord Jesus." "Consume" = "katangesei", "slay" (RSV), "overthrow" (NIV). The word signifies to reduce to nothingness.

"With the spirit of his mouth": With his "breath" (RSV), or by his word (cp Psa 33:6,9). "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth" (Isa 11:4). "Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations" (Rev 19:15).

"And shall destroy with the brightness of his coming": "Epiphaneia'' has the root idea of splendor, and generally (four times out of five in the New Testament) refers to the second coming of Christ (1Ti 6:14; 2Ti 4:1,8; Tit 2:13). "Parousia" has been discussed considerably already (see Introduction; 1Th 2:19; etc). The Thessalonians need not fear, no matter how eminent wicked men may become. Even the most outstanding of them will be far outshone, and summarily destroyed, by the Lord of these lowly believers when he appears.

v. 9: "Whose coming ('parousia') is after the working of Satan": This passage is better rendered: "The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan" (RSV). What is "the activity of Satan"? It is the work of an adversary. Paul uses the same language, when writing to the Corinthians, in describing Jewish adversaries who had assumed apostolic powers, disguising themselves as servants of righteousness (2Co 10:12-15). "To come by the activity of Satan", therefore, is to disguise one's true character.

Likewise, the Roman Catholic "Church" claims to be the Bride of Christ, showing his love and glorifying God -- but all the while it is only a guise. The Catholic system is in reality the "Satan", or "Adversary,'' of all true religion -- claiming divine authority where it has none, persecuting believers of all other faiths, and actively suppressing the printing, distributing and reading of the Bible.

"With all power": A reference to papal claims and pronouncements. The history of the "Bishop of Rome" is one of continual grasping for greater authority and power and control over the lives of all his followers.

"Signs and lying wonders": Or, "pretended ('pseudo') signs and wonders" (RSV). Again, the Man of Sin is seen as striving to be the rival of the Man of Righteousness, and his apostles, who were truly revealed in signs and wonders (Acts 2:22,43; Gal 3:5; Heb 2:4). Jesus himself predicted such a parody of himself would arise (Mat 24:24; Mark 13:22). Some examples of this conscious deception: alleged miraculous cures, alleged miraculous appearances and revelations, wonder workers, exorcisms of "demons", and veneration of relics.


The Two "Apocalypses"

2Th 1: The Son of God
2Th 2: The Man of Sin
Revealed from heaven (1:7).
Revealed in apostasy.
In the glory of his might (1:9).
In power (2:9) and wicked deception (2:9).
With the mighty angels (1:7).
With the activity of "Satan" (2:9).
In flaming fire (1:7).
Pretended signs and wonders (2:9); pleasure in unrighteousness (2:12).
Inflicting vengeance upon those who (a) do not know God, (b) do not obey the gospel, and (c) refuse to love the truth (1:8).
Opposes, exalts self (2:4); pretends to be a god, "taking his seat in the temple of God" (2:4).
To be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe (1:10).
To be slain by Christ's appearing and coming with the "breath of his mouth" (2:8).

The parallels between the "Man of Sin" and the Serpent of Eden are many and obvious. How could it be otherwise when the "Man of Sin" is Scripturally defined as the "Seed of the Serpent?" "Like father, like son", certainly!"

2 Thessalonians 2
Genesis 3
Deceives believers (v 3); lying (v 9); deceit (v 10); strong delusion (v 11).
"The serpent beguiled me" (v 13).
The son of perdition -- or destruction (v 3).
"Thou art cursed" (v 14).
Opposes God (v 4).
"Hath God said...?" (v 1).
Exalts himself above God (v 4), as a "Satan" -- or adversary (v 9).
"For God doth know..." (v 5).
Sits in the Temple of God (v 4).
Antitype of serpent, sitting in Eden -- the place of God's sanctuary (v 24).
Manifested "in them that perish" (v 10) because...
"Unto dust shalt thou return" (v 19).
"...they received not the love of the Truth": (v 10).
Adam and Eve, given a command, disobeyed it.
"A lie" -- or "the lie" (v 11).
The foundation lie of all apostasy: "Ye shall not surely die" (v 3).

Proceeding through history with Bible in hand, we recognize that the "Man of Sin" apostasy has so many Scripturally-attested descriptions that we can scarcely fail to identify it. But perhaps the pre-eminent mark of the apostasy -- in all its faces -- is the great lie: "Ye shall not surely die!" Virtually every ecclesia of "Christendom" repeats, in one form or another, this original deception of its "father" the serpent.

The doctrine of the immortality of the "soul" -- borrowed from deluded pagans -- has become the cornerstone of apostasy. This doctrine alone effectively prevents its holders from perceiving the glorious, yet simple and reasonable truth of the gospel. This one doctrine, when given its logical (or illogical!) force, distorts almost every first principle. It is surely the great "delusion!"

* * *

There have been many forerunners, or advance messengers of the Anti-Christ:

  1. Cain, the originator of religious war, who slew his righteous brother (Gen 4:4-8), when Cain's religious deception had been uncovered.
  2. Lamech, who boasted himself even against God -- so great was his power, or so he thought (Gen 4:23)!
  3. Nimrod, the first great "world-ruler", who began the history of Babylonian power (Gen 10:8-10).
  4. Balaam, the false prophet who for material gain seduced God's people into immorality; the "anti-Moses", so to speak (Num 31:17; 2Pe 2:15; Rev 2:14).
  5. Goliath -- the "man of sin", closely associated with the number six, the representative terrorist, the "anti-David", who opposed God's Anointed (1Sa 17).
  6. Antiochus Epiphanes, the devastator of the Sanctuary of God.
  7. Nero, the great first-century persecutor of the Christians, certainly regarded as "anti-Christ" by those who suffered under his rule.
  8. Mohammed, the "false prophet", a deceiver and "Satan-adversary" in his own right, even though hostile toward the Catholic Church.
* * *

It is evident also that the "Man of Sin" closely resembles the "Beast" of Revelation:

2 Th.


The falling away must come first
A harlot will be seated on the Beast, who goes into perdition
He exalts himself against God
The world worships the Beast, who speaks blasphemies. All the dwell on the earth except the faithful shall worship it. The false prophet ensures this.
He sits in the temple of God, claiming to be God
It blasphemes God's name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.
The mystery of iniquity is already at work
The harlot is called mystery, the mother of the abominations of the earth.
The Lord Jesus shall destroy him with the breath of His mouth, and bring him to naught by the manifestation of His coming.
The Lamb shall overcome the Beast with the ten kings. Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp sword.
His coming is according to the working of Satan, with all powers and signs and lying wonders.
He doeth great signs, that he should even make fire come down from heaven: it was given to him to give breath to the image of the Beast, that it should speak.
With all deceit and unrighteousness in them that are perishing, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. For this cause God sends them a working of error, that they should believe a lie.
He deceives them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs.

Some of the references in the Revelation column relate to the actions of the false prophet, but since these are performed on the Beast's account they are included in the characteristics of the Beast itself.

This comparison leaves little doubt that the Man of Sin and the Beast refer to the same power.

C. His Followers Deceived (2:10-12)

v. 10
"and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
v. 11
"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
v. 12
"that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."


v. 10 "All deceivableness of unrighteousness": "All wicked deception" (RSV). The Roman Catholic Church has forged numerous documents in an effort to bolster its power and authority. It has been guilty of blatant mistranslations, to justify its unscriptural practices -- such as masses, purgatory, and pilgrimages. It has even distorted the "Ten Commandments" so as to accommodate the worship of images.

The phrase belongs with the final phrase of v 9: The coming of the Man of Sin is attended by Satan-like activity, fraudulent signs and wonders and wicked deception.

"In them that perish": "Apollumi" = to loose, to destroy. Here the verb is in the continuous tense: "them that are perishing." This is a typical phrase of Paul (1Co 1:18; 2Co 2:15; 4:3), intended to contrast with "those who are being saved." The followers of the Man of Sin will share his fate (cp v 8), since they share his character.

"Because they received not the love of the truth": They "gave the Truth no welcome", in contrast to the Thessalonians themselves, who received the word of God, and allowed it to work effectually in them (1Th 2:13). "Truth" here, as elsewhere in Paul's writings, is not to be thought of simply as an abstract moral quality; rather, it is intimately related to Jesus (Eph 4:21; John 14:6) and the gospel he preached.

"That they might be saved": Knowledge of and obedience to the Truth of Christ's gospel are the divinely-provided means of salvation (1Ti 2:4; Heb 10:26; 1Pe 1:22). Those who do receive the love of the Truth are saved from the vengeance to be inflicted on those who do not know God (2Th 1:8), and from eternal destruction in the grave (v 9).

v. 11 "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion": Literally, "a working ('energia') of error." No longer would there be only an indifference toward the Truth, but now there would also be a divine, judicial influence toward error upon their hearts and minds. When men refuse to retain God in their knowledge, He may -- by His own deliberate action -- abandon them to their own reprobate minds (Rom 1:26,28). Of this abandonment in lawlessness Esau is one example (Heb 12:15-17). There are other similar examples, of the imposition of judgmental "blindness" (1Ki 22:23; Rom 11:8, citing Isa 29:10; cp 2Sa 24:1 with 1Ch 21:1; Exo 9:12).

"That they should believe a lie": Literally, "the lie." In what is practically a parallel passage, Paul writes of those who exchanged the Truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25). The philosophy that essentially enthrones man as the center of the universe, and thereby displaces God from His rightful place, is to be considered the great lie -- and the root of all lies, errors, and deceptions. It is related to the first recorded lie, which was an attack on the character of God -- the lie of the serpent: "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen 3:4). Virtually all false religions perpetuate this precise lie in the erroneous teaching of the immortality of the soul.

v. 12 "That they all might be damned who believed not the truth": Greek "krinos" = "judged." Each will be judged by God, but in another sense they have already judged themselves -- by knowingly rejecting the truth presented to them (cp John 3:18-20; 9:39-41).

"But had pleasure in unrighteousness": This contrasts with their attitude toward the Truth. There was no warmth in their attitude to the gospel, no welcome, no love, not even any belief. But they actively rejoiced in unrighteousness, finding pleasure therein. Again, compare this with Rom 1:32:

"Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but (also) have pleasure in them that do them."
It is in the nature of sin that, when persisted in, it ultimately deceives. Those who do not resist the impulses of sin, who are not mortified and repentant when they fail, soon find that they are unable to feel anything but pleasure in their sins. They have thus become "slaves" to sin -- the divinely imposed penalty that leads inexorably to condemnation. The downward process is not absolutely inevitable, but the man who has come at last to enjoy his own peculiar sin is standing on a very slippery slope.

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