The Man of Lawlessness
2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,
- In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had tried to calm their concern regarding those Christians who died before Christ’s return. They had adopted the idea that only those believers living when Christ came back would be united with him for his triumphant conquering of earth. Now a new concern is that the Day of the Lord had already occurred. Did they miss it?
- “coming of our Lord…and our being gathered together to him” – not two separate events, but one. See 1 Thess. 4.13-18.
2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
- “shaken in mind or alarmed” – Eschatology should ultimately bring us peace not worry or fear. Not cause alarm and fear. Keep in mind, this is Paul’s focus in this pericope. The verb tense here is passive, suggesting that their uncertainty came from an outside source. The verb refers to something shaken by a storm or earthquake, thus Paul’s concern is that the believers not become disoriented and confused by false teaching.
- “by spirit” – some sort of spirit-inspired utterance.
- “a letter” – perhaps a lost letter from Paul, but more probably a forged letter meant to build confusion.
3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
- Paul’s purpose is to add proofs on why the day of the Lord had not yet occurred. These events could by sequential, or more understood as a whole, but Paul’s point is the visible evidence of these events had yet to occur, thus Jesus had not yet returned.
- “rebellion comes first” – The word used here is apostasia, or apostasy. Before the day of the Lord, there will be a great denial, a deliberate turning away by those who profess to belong to Christ. It will be a rebellion. Having once allied themselves with Christ, they will abandon him. Within the recognized church there will come a time when people will forsake their faith. Throughout history there have been defections from the faith. But the apostasy about which he wrote to the Thessalonians would be of greater magnitude.
- “man of lawlessness is revealed” – That he will be “revealed” indicates that he will be a real man, living on earth, whose identity is not known, or at least not understood, until a particular time. Then the mask will be taken off and his true identity will be revealed.
- “son of destruction” – This man is doomed, utterly lost, irrevocably sentenced in judgment to everlasting agony apart from God.
4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
- This man will oppose everything connected with the divine—not only Christianity but anything that has to do with theism. This man will wage war against everything that hints at religion, faith, or spirituality. He will try to eradicate worship of any kind:
- “he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” – This will be more than a taking over of some building. The man of sin will understand the implications and claims that attend taking his seat in the sanctuary of God. He will anoint himself as divine. He will usurp the rightful place of God and declare himself as the one to be worshiped.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
- Stick to the apostles teaching; stay with the Word of God. There will always be new twists and theories, new claims to entice, but the Word of God remains steady and dependable. It is absolute and trustworthy.
6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
- Although he is ruler of this present system and world, Satan and his activities are still restrained by the sovereignty of God.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
- Satan has great power and we should not ignore it. But God reigns over all—even Satan. That is why God restrains Satan’s activities. That is why the culmination of history and time is settled. That is why there is no nail-biting anxiety as to whether Christ will triumph.
- “he who now restrains it” – The most reasonable explanation as to who holds back the boiling powers of evil is the Holy Spirit.
- “he is out of the way” – When the time for the Antichrist comes, however, the Holy Spirit will depart; he will be taken out of the way. This must refer to the rapture of the church when Christ comes to gather us, to snatch us up to be with him. Though still omnipresent as a member of the Godhead, the Spirit’s unique working relationship within people will end.QUES: From a dispensational point of view, How are individuals saved during the tribulation without the Holy Spirit?
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.
- Jesus’ authority is proven by His easy defeat of the works of Satan.
- “the breath of his mouth” – Satan’s chosen man will be destroyed by Jesus with one blow of his breath.
9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,
- “activity” – The word translated “work” is energeo, from which the word energy is derived. This word is not limited to outworking actions, but deals more directly with inward power.
- “false signs” – deeds done in order to confirm authority or power. In the case of the Antichrist, he will perform supernatural feats, energized by Satan, for the purpose of authenticating his claims for worship
10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
- “deception” – This brand of evil will be attractive.
- “refused” – people who continually and persistently choose unrighteousness, sin, and falsehood. They refused to love the truth and so be saved. These are people who willfully spurn the saving grace of God. That is why they are in a state of perishing.
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,
- See Rom. 1.18-ff. Likewise, in these last days, men and women refuse the truth, running after evil and conceit, and so “God sends them a powerful delusion.” In each case the judgment is just, resulting from their own choices. Since they prefer lies, God obliges them with delusions. The ultimate delusion is their acceptance of the Antichrist. This is the way people naturally go, unless God intervenes.
12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
- “believe the truth” – The implication by negative inference is that those who do believe are not condemned. See Rom. 8.1.
13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
- This salvation was initiated through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. This set them apart for future reward when their salvation would be completed.
- The Holy Spirit affects this process in conjunction with the individual, who must choose continually to believe the truth. The Holy Spirit works through the word of truth, and the truth becomes energized by our faith—our willful decision to believe and obey
14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- In contrast to those who await judgment because they do not believe the truth of God, the Thessalonians could be confident that salvation and glory await those who believe and live in obedience.
- “through our gospel” – Salvation occurs through no other means.
15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,
- “comfort and good hope” – Again, the purpose of eschatology.
17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
- Christ’s assured victory should bring motivation to continue.