2 Thessalonians Chapter 2:1-4
(Vs.1) “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus the Messiah and our gathering together to Him,”
Paul now writes at length about eschatology, a subject he taught them about and also wrote about in his first letter a year before. It is clear that there was still some who were unsettled about the end-times and what would precede the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus also called the day of the LORD, which will see as a rapid series of chronological events on earth that will culminate with the Lord’s return. Notice that Paul links the coming of the Lord with our gathering together to Him and in the Greek text it is a conjunction which links these two phrases together, a clear reference to the rapture and resurrection he mentioned in his first letter to them which will in fact take place immediately after the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) (Matthew 24:29-31).
Right off of the bat Paul directs them to the day of the LORD which will include the rapture and resurrection and the events leading up to the Messiahs’ return to earth. God’s Word does not teach two Second Comings namely that the Lord Jesus comes for his saints and then seven years later comes with His saints. There is only one Second Coming to earth of the Messiah and this is clearly taught in the Word of God! The idea of a secret pretribulation rapture is just not taught in the New Testament and it was a doctrine introduced in the middle to late 19th Century. (See on this website the study series; “Will there be a Pretribulation Rapture?” Now let’s continue…
(Vs.2 “…that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”
Satan is a master strategist who always seeks to twist the truth. Some well-meaning supposedly believers or even leaders not associated directly with the assembly at Thessalonica were spreading prophecies and even writing letters claiming they were from Paul. The source of these rumours was undoubtedly a deceiving spirit that was behind these reports. These had unsettled many of the assembly members at Thessalonica. They were already suffering terribly and these reports were saying that the day of the LORD had already come and that the rapture and resurrection had already come as well, and they had been left behind to experience God’s judgements, which they presumed were happing to them because of the severity of the persecution unabated they were experiencing.
Now Paul blows this ‘doctrine’ out of the water! It was an embryotic form of a pre-tribulation rapture which was false and was in fact never held by the Body of the Messiah until it was introduced by J.N. Darby in the middle to late 19th century and written in the footnotes of the Scofield Bible. Paul in fact called this view “a deception” and then he goes on to set things straight on this matter. He clearly says that the Day of the LORD including our being gathered together around the Lord Jesus in the air as He descends to earth cannot happen until certain things occur. He lists three marks that will precede the rapture and resurrection. The idea of “imminence” being that the rapture and resurrection can come at any moment isn’t correct. If you or I die physically, having fallen asleep in the Messiah, then the Lord Jesus has come for us. Our spirit and soul will be absent from the body and present with the LORD. This is the true Biblical meaning of imminence in relation to going to be with the LORD. However, until certain events occur the Lord Jesus cannot come back to earth and Paul makes this very clear! We will now consider these…
(Vs.3-4) “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
Paul clearly writes that the idea that the day of the LORD had already come including the rapture and that they had been left behind was in fact spiritual deception, a lie of Satan perpetrated to unsettle the assembly members at Thessalonica and to shake their confidence in God’s redeeming love and the rescue to come out of this present evil age at the Second Coming of the Messiah. Satan hates the fact that the Lord Jesus is coming back because Satan knows that his kingdom will be annihilated and himself consigned to the pit deep in the earth for 1,000 years and unable to interfere with man. Of course we know at the end of the 1,000 year Messianic reign that Satan will be loosed again to lead a final rebellion against God which will be swiftly put down and see Satan himself thrown alive into the lake of fire to be in conscious torment forever! (Revelation 20:1-10). After this, will come the Great White throne judgement where the unsaved will appear before our Triune God for sentencing and to be consigned to the lake of fire for all eternity and to join the devil and his angels whom they served when they were alive on earth. (Revelation 20:11-15). Now let’s continue…
“Let no one in any way deceive you,” Spiritual deception will be a major feature of the end times and today we see this widespread within wider Christendom. In His prophetic discourse in Matthew Chapter 24 the Messiah our Lord Jesus mentions spiritual deception at least four times and He was warning His followers then and who would come in the future about this fact that this spiritual deception would be an infestation within the Body of the Messiah in the last days.
“…for it (the Day of the Lord including the rapture and resurrection) will not come unless the apostasy comes first,” Now the first thing Paul mentions that must occur before the Lord Jesus comes back including the rapture and resurrection is the apostasy, the last falling away which will be one of global proportions.
In the Bible there are three forms of apostasy described…
A faith without works: The first form is when believers start to live below the standard of living taught in the New Testament. They may have “a form of godliness, but deny its power” to change their lives. They believe in the right things but do not live according to what they profess to believe. See: (Hebrews 6:4-6) The Apostle James also mentions this when he says that a person may believe and even ardently profess to believe in the Lord Jesus and in the Word of God but do not have works along the lines of the faith they profess. Their faith is a dead faith. They may believe the right things but do not live out their faith every day.
A Complete turn-around from one’s faith: The second form of apostasy is a complete renunciation of faith in Jesus and stepping out from the path of faith and practice and publicly denying the Lord Jesus, the Messiah. It is a voluntary action of the will where one deliberately steps out of and away from a secure position. It is a deliberate decision to turn ones back on the Lord Jesus and to go out and as it were to “to bust hell wide open!” Of course there is no redemption for those who take this course of action. See: (Hebrews 10:26-31)
A turning away from the truth and taking others with them! Then there is the third form which is mentioned in our text here. It is “the apostasy” and this is not only falling away from the faith and stepping out of the way of salvation but also seeking to turn others away from the faith and taking others with them. This apostasy also includes those who are deliberately teaching others doctrinal error to also turn them away from Biblical truth. Those who do this are not only deceiving others but themselves as well. See: (2 Timothy 3:13). They may even profess to be servants of righteousness but in fact are doing Satan’s work (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). When we see Satan as the red dragon we see him as the persecutor of the saints, but when he appears as the serpent he is the seducer. Spiritual seduction is rampant in the professing Christian Church today and just before the man of sin or lawlessness appears it will be an infestation and an epidemic within the Body of the Messiah.
As an example from the past in the early 30’s liberal thinking started to infiltrate the theological seminaries in Germany where the authority of the Bible and its truth was being eroded away and aspects of it actually maligned by unsaved theologians, especially the supernatural events described and even some doubting the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This actually paved the way for the coming of Adolph Hitler and major type of the antichrist to come, if ever there was a type, it was Hitler! Like Hitler did the Antichrist will hate the Jews and seek to annihilate them as a nation but he will not succeed!
Likewise, the apostasy we see today is paving the way for the revealing of the man of sin and he will be far worse than Hitler or any other despotic leader that history has produced. He will in fact be an incarnation of Satan himself in a flesh and blood human being. Another rendering of “the apostasy” is “the rebellion!” I would like to suggest that the falling away from the faith mentioned by the Lord Jesus and the other apostles in the gospels and epistles is reflected in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They were all spiritually betrothed to the Lord Jesus, being spiritual virgins but five did not keep in step with the Spirit of God and were not ready to meet the bridegroom at His Second Coming to earth. So the first thing Paul mentions that must take place before the day of the LORD is the apostasy.
Paul now mentions the revealing of the man of sin or lawlessness.
“…and the man of lawlessness is revealed,” Lawlessness is a conspicuous mark of the world in which we live. Lawlessness is “Torahlessness,” a deliberate violation of God’s laws and commandments set forth in the Torah, the first five books of God’s commandments and laws written by Moses in the Old Testament. As for the Ten Commandments themselves in the Torah these were written personally by the finger of God Himself on tablets of stone, these laws form the foundation of all just and righteous laws for the welfare and well-being of any society (Exodus 31:18).
The man of sin is the man of rebellion, who with a deliberate and wilful intent, violates God’s laws as an affront to God Himself. We see this in Nimrod, a major type of the future antichrist in the Bible who sought to build the Tower of Babel as an empire that would be an affront to God. In the Hebrew translation of Genesis Chapter 10 we are told that “Nimrod was a mighty hunter in the face of God” (Genesis 10:8-9). Being in the face of God describes a rebel, a violator of God’s law with a desire to be as God. First there has to be lawlessness on a global scale in the nations and within apostate Christendom that will open the way for the full manifestation of that lawlessness in the man of sin or rebellion. He will have three and a half years on earth before His demise and that of his empire. He is doomed to destruction, not annihilation, but to an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).
“the son of destruction,” or it can be rendered as “the son of perdition” a title the Lord Jesus gave to Judas Iscariot of whom we read that “Satan entered him” when he went out into the night to betray the Lord Jesus. The fact, that the apostle John in his gospel mentions that it was “night” describes one walking away from the light and into the darkness (John 13:27, 30) (John 17:12). This is a stark picture of the apostasy. This will be the character of the man of sin or perdition as Satan will be living on the inside of him as he came to live inside of Judas on the night Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus.
In the time of Great Tribulation what Judas did will be done by multitudes of professing believers, especially those who were taught about the pre-tribulation rapture of the Body of the Messiah (the Church). When the man of sin is revealed and starts to persecute the saints within the realm of his beast empire and the Body of the Messiah is still on earth, what will the pastors who have taught the pre-tribulation rapture theory have to say to their congregations? The son of perdition, the man of sin is also the one “doomed to destruction” and that for all eternity in conscious torment in the lake of fire. What else does Paul say about this man of sin?
“…who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” This man will want to be worshipped as God. The word “antichrist” in the Greek language has two applications. He is “against the Messiah” and “in place of the Messiah.” He firstly has to turn as many as he can to hate the Messiah our Lord Jesus and to replace Him with a false Messiah which will specifically affect Israel. A study of the character of the Antichrist in both Testaments reveals that he is a man of violence, a military and political leader and Commander in Chief who heads up a vast empire of global proportions and with a military force unequalled like any in the past (Joel 2:1-11) (Daniel 11:36-45) (Revelation 9:13-21). He will be the one calling the shots, a ruthless dictator who will be a past master at subterfuge, deceit, flattery and spiritual deception as Antiochus was (Daniel 8:25;11:32-35). He will not only have power within the world but also within apostate Christendom and Israel as well. These matters are a Bible study in itself and addressed in other articles on this website. The apostle John tells us that there is the Antichrist, many antichrists and the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:18-19; 4:3).
History and the Bible itself reveal many antichrists that have sought to be god and worshipped as a god and these all teach us about the final Antichrist to come. Nimrod was the first major type of the antichrist. Then you have the kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, most of whom sought to be deified in some way. Then we saw many antichrists in the Caesars of pagan Rome who claimed to be deity. Today wherever we see political leaders promoting governmental legislation that is diametrically opposed to Biblical truth and standards and governments persecuting the Body of the Messiah you have many antichrists, and there are plenty of those around in these days.
The many antichrists after the pagan roman emperors continued in the papacy. The title given to every Pope is “the Vicar of Christ.” In Latin it is pronounced “Vicarious Christos” or translated into Greek as “Anti- Christos” or “Antichrist.” The Popes are seen as being in place of Christ and as those who represent Him on earth. There is only one Vicar of Christ on earth and that is the Holy Spirit and not any man. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth who Himself proceeds from God the Father (John 15:26; 16:13-16). The Holy Spirit will never endorse unbiblical doctrines and practices which are rife in the Roman Catholic Church, neither will He endorse false doctrines that are not specifically taught and endorsed in the Word of God. He is the Spirit of truth, not of error and this is why Ecumenical unity will not work.
Concerning the spirit of antichrist the apostle John tells us that these antichrists he writes about in his first epistle were once members of the assembly but had left because of their doctrines that denied the deity of the Messiah and rejected the teaching of the apostles (1 John 2:18-19). Within wider Christendom today you have those promoting such things as same-sex marriage, Sodomy, psychology, ecumenism, post modernism, existentialism, interfaith and hyper faith prosperity and kingdom now, kingdom dominion doctrines, secular marketing strategies for Church growth and interfaith associations and amalgamations, not to mention the widespread manifestation of all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders according to the working of Satan which Paul also mentions in this chapter as we will see. These things he writes about also describe the spirit of antichrist, or that spirit which promotes and empowers these antichrists to practice and perpetuate lawlessness, not only in secular society, but also within wider Christendom. As we will see later in his letter he actually describes those who will apostatize. And then we read concerning this man of lawlessness…
“…so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” Historically this happened about 160 years before the birth of the Messiah our Lord Jesus when the Seleucid Greek despot Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by slaughtering a pig on the altar of sacrifice in the temple and erecting a statue or idol to the Greek god Zeus. He sought to impose Greek laws and customs on the Jews and killed anyone caught with a copy of Torah and many Jewish leaders compromised with his wishes and turned away from the faith. Antiochus’ name meant “god-manifest.” He undoubtedly saw himself as a god to be obeyed and worshipped.
The prophet Daniel prophesied about this man and what he would do (Daniel 8:9-12; 23-24). Daniel’s prophecies concerning this man also telescoped to the end of the age when the man of sin would repeat what Antiochus did and he and his beast empire would meet their demise, not by human hands, but by God’s power (Daniel 8:25b) (Daniel 11:36-37). In His prophetic discourse in Matthew Chapter 24 our Lord Jesus took this past event that occurred with Antiochus and said it would happen again in the future and then again at the end of the age with the desecration of the rebuilt Temple. What He prophesied happened 40 years later when in 70AD the Roman Legions under Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Now the Lord Jesus was speaking about what would happen in 70AD around forty years later but was also telescoping to the end of the age when the man of sin would desecrate the Temple as Antiochus had done many centuries ago (Matthew 24:15-15-22). This is what will happen in the context of the Jewish nation which by and large today is alien and strangers to their own covenants of promise and rejecting the Messiah and living pagan lifestyles. These events prophesied in Matthew Chapter 24 relate to the Jewish nation but also apply to what will happen within the professing Christian Church. Prophetically Matthew Chapter 24 is connected to Chapter 25 and clearly the texts together are chronological and both refer to the very end of the age when you put the two chapters together. In Matthew Chapter 25 we see what will happen on earth after the Lord Jesus has come back described in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, in the parable of the talents and in the parable of the sheep and the goats.
In the New Testament the word for “temple” can be applied to the Body of the Messiah as a spiritual temple made up of living stones, being believers (1 Peter 2:4-5). In some way when the antichrist is worshipped in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem he will also be worshipped within wider apostate Christendom under the power of the spirit of antichrist. This mystery of lawlessness is already at work in the world, within Israel and within wider Christendom. In these days, lasting for three and a half years, there will be a faithful remnant of New Covenant believers within Israel and within Christendom who will remain faithful to God and many will lose their lives through martyrdom, having also been betrayed by their brethren, by their friends and colleagues and family members, however, the power of the Holy Spirit will rest mightily upon this end-time remnant and impart to them words from the Holy Spirit that will not be able to be refuted (Daniel 7:21, 25;11:31-35) (Revelation 13:5-6) (Matthew 10:17-22) (Luke 21:12-19) (1 Peter 4:12-14).
With the rapid advance of Artificial Intelligence and through the medium of virtual reality technology in cyber space and digital identities and electronic banking the image and the ideology of the man of sins’ beast empire would be advertised and seen on television in living rooms and on huge screens constructed within churches, mosques, corporations and even on the outside walls of the skyscrapers and in public places, not to mention the internet, on mobile phones and tablets. Even in people’s homes his image and ideology could be beamed into the living rooms.
George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic who lived in the early 50’s who was not a Christian at all who wrote the famous novel 1984 which depicted a society controlled by technology at every level of society, and his insight was prophetic in nature which we see occurring in modern society today with the rapid advance of technology with Artificial Intelligence at the forefront of this technology which in time will be used to control every aspect of ones’ personal life.
Already we see technology that controls society being used in China with their facial recognition system of ID which in reality keeps tabs on where one goes, where one eats, where one shops, where one lives and controls one’s finances. Compliance with the system of government brings financial reward but non-compliance with governmental political ideology and legislation brings financial hardship and other penalties. It is in fact an antichrist despotic system of reward or punishment and especially targets New Covenant believers who meet for worshipping God before man. In China one cannot preach on the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus because it includes the coming Messianic kingdom that will destroy all other earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2:32-34, 44-45).