(2 Thessalonians 2:4) “The man of sin…doomed to 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 (or a god).”
Last week we saw a blow aimed at Christendom when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led the prayers and quoted from the Quran at Hagia Sofia Basilica after re-converting it back into a mosque once again at the chagrin of the Eastern and western Orthodox Church. After World War 1, when the Turkish Ottoman Empire was dismantled by Kemal Ataturk after a 600 year period of history, the Hagia Sofia was designated as a Museum as he sought to modernize Turkey and bring it into line with the 20th Century and to a degree see Turkey as a nation assimilate more with the western democracies.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s move to re-instate the Hagia Sofia as a Mosque was his move to turn the clock back to 1453, when the Muslim Ottomans besieged the city then known as Constantinople. It was all that was left of the once-mighty Byzantine Empire, which ruled much of the region as the successor to ancient Rome in the eastern Mediterranean. When the city fell after a 53-day siege, the attacking forces engaged in an orgy of murder, rape, and destruction. But in the aftermath of the battle, the Ottoman Turks not only made the city the capital over which their empire would rule until the end of World War I; they also converted the city’s largest church, being the Hagia Sophia; which was the centre of Eastern Orthodox Christian worship, into a Mosque. Of course the Hagia Sofia was to the Eastern Orthodox Church what the Vatican is to western Christendom.
Now there are some prophecy teachers who are now saying that what the man from Turkey has done concerning the Hagia Sofia might well be the fulfilment of what Paul writes about this matter in his second letter to the assembly of believers at Thessalonica. They are partly right. The suggestion is also made that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may be positioning himself to ultimately be worshipped as God. Is in fact the Hagia Sofia Gods’ Temple? Is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presence and prominence in the Hagia Sofia a foreshadowing, or harbinger, of what will ultimately happen at Jerusalem and by extension within wider Christendom?
According to the prophet Daniel and the Lord Jesus, the time will come when the man of sin will sit in God’s Temple proclaiming himself to be God or a god. In Matthew 24:15 the Lord Jesus had in view the Temple in Jerusalem (Vss.1-2). He was not speaking about the Hagia Sofia in Turkey or the Vatican in Rome for that matter. In Matthew Chapter 24:15 the Lord Jesus spoke about a past historical event 140 years before when Antiochus desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by slaughtering a pig on the altar of sacrifice in the Temple itself. This was the abomination of desolation Daniel spoke about. Not only did the Lord Jesus point out the accuracy of Daniel’s prophecy that occurred 160 years before but also said that it would happen again in the future and it did happen again in 70AD.
After the temple was destroyed by Roman soldiers, who were in fact Arab Auxiliaries, erected emblems to Zeus on the temple mount and worshipped them. This was another abomination of desolation. However a careful reading of Matthew Chapter 24 will also reveal that the Lord Jesus was not only speaking about the future destruction of the temple in Jerusalem which happened 40 years later, but also telescoping to the very end of the age when the abomination would happen again.
Now in the New Testament there are several different words used for the word temple but we will focus on just two which are relevant to the text we are looking at…
Firstly; you have the Greek word “Heiron” meaning “sacred” or is used as a noun for “a sacred place, a temple,” that of Artemis (Diana), (Acts 19:27); that of the temple in Jerusalem, (Mark 11:11), signifying the entire building with its precincts, or some part thereof, as distinct from the Greek word “naos”, or “the inner sanctuary.” Apart from the Gospels and Acts, the word “Heiron” is mentioned only in 1 Corinthians 9:13. “Hieron” is never used figuratively. It is a literal place of worship.
Secondly; you have the Greek word “naos” meaning “a shrine or sanctuary or the inner sanctuary.” This was used by the Jews for the inner sanctuary of the temple into which only the priests could lawfully enter (Luke 1:9, 21-22). Metaphorically, the Lord Jesus used it to describe His own physical body (John 2:19, 21). The apostles used this word to describe the universal and corporate Body of the Messiah as one united body (Ephesians 2:21). It is also used of a local assembly of believers (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) (2 Corinthians 6:16). It is used in reference to the body of an individual believer (1 Corinthians 6:19). It is also used of the “Temple” seen in the visions of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 3:12 ; 7:15 ; 11:19 ; 14:15,17 ; 15:5,6,8 ; 16:1,17) and of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, as the “Temple” of the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:21).
There is also another word “oikos” used in the New Testament to denote “a temple” (Luke 11:51) or by implication “an inhabited house or home.” It can refer to the House of God or the Tabernacle. It can be a place where one has fixed his residence or used of the corporate family of God. It can be used metaphorically the same as “naos” can be used metaphorically.
Now with these things in view in the text of 2nd Thessalonians 2:4 the word “naos” is used for the Temple. It would seem that Paul had in mind both a physical temple in Jerusalem but by extension an inner sanctuary which is not a physical building as such, but a temple made up of living individuals who have God living in them personally and that by His Spirit. (Ephesians 2:21-22) Clearly in Matthew Chapter 24:15ff the Lord Jesus was referring to the Temple in Jerusalem and telescoping to the end of the age when the man of sin will actually sit in God’s Temple and proclaim himself to be God incarnate or as ‘a god.’ See also (Daniel 11:36)
What we see Recep Tayyip Erdoğan doing in the Hagia Sofia is significant in that it foreshadows what the man of sin will do ultimately in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. The man from Turkey wants the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem under his control. If he can get control of this then what he has done in the Hagia Sofia will be the harbinger of what he will do in the Temple in Jerusalem once he has control of the Temple Mount.
The word “naos” can also apply to Christendom. Israel and the Church are not separate from each other. The Church is by extension and inclusion a part of the Commonwealth of Israel, not separate from it (Ephesians 2:11-22). The true Church has been grafted into Israel (Romans 11:17-18). When we see the history of Christendom, after the supposed ‘conversion’ of Constantine, we have seen the Roman Catholic Church evolve. We saw the ascendency of the Papacy, and the interfaith and ecumenical character of this global ‘form’ of supposed ‘Christianity. All of this has been setting the stage for the worship of the man of sin in the temple of God.
When you look at the titles that have been bestowed upon the Popes of Rome we see the spirit of antichrist at work. There is only one vicarious representative of the Lord Jesus on earth and that is the blessed Holy Spirit Himself. No man should have this title. The Pope is called “The Vicar of Christ” The words translated into Latin say “Vicarious Christos,” however, when translated from the Greek language it is “Anti-Christos” or “Antichrist.” The word itself means “against Christ” and “in place of Christ.” When we see a Pope sitting in the Vatican as the ‘head’ of Christendom we see another harbinger or foreshadowing of what the man of sin will ultimately do only he won’t be a Pope but a Caliph of Islam.
When we do see the man of sin sitting in God’s Temple at Jerusalem being worshipped as God incarnate on earth, in some way he will also, at the same time, be receiving worship in wider apostate Christendom. Possibly with the rapid development of technology in the areas of virtual reality or very sophisticated Holographic imaging the man of sins’ image will be displayed throughout his empire in Mosques and in Churches on huge television screens. When the Islamic call to worship goes out over the loud speakers throughout the empire those in the Mosques and Churches will bow down and worship his image as they did in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
Down through Church history we can see the spirit of antichrist at work within wider Christendom with all kinds of unbiblical practices, ceremonies and doctrines. We see idolatry and statues and icons being worshipped and venerated and pagan festivals being ‘Christianised’ such as Christmas and Easter. Then there is the infestation of false prophets and teachers and all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and the worship of money that has grown into a pandemic within wider Christendom today through the medium of television and the internet. Already the “naos” or God’s inner sanctuary is being spiritually defiled (Ezekiel 8:6-18).
Added to this the apostle Paul also tells us in 2nd Thessalonians that the man of sin will come in on the floodtide of the apostasy (the falling away from the faith) and that the way for his coming will be paved by all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders that will precede his entrance into the world, into Israel and into wider Christendom. (2 Thessalonians 2:9) Having said all of this, he is also called “the man doomed to destruction” which will happen to him when the Lord Jesus will overthrow him by the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendour of His Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
If the man from Turkey is the man of sin he has already shown Turkish Ottoman power over Eastern Orthodox Christendom by standing in and leading the prayers in the Hagia Sofia. He is also aware that the Turkish Ottoman Empire never conquered the city of Rome itself or the Vatican, symbolising western Christendom. The Ottoman Turks almost took the city at one time in past history but were withstood by ‘Christian’ armies. No doubt Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be content seeing the Islamic flag flying over Vatican City. Ultimately though, he really wants Jerusalem and he will come to take it with the same despotism that marked the character of Antiochus Epiphanies. Not only would he take the seat of power in the rebuilt temple but demand to be worshipped as God or as a god and venerated and worshipped by the whole Muslim world.
In light of these things we need to cultivate a love of the truth as revealed in the Lord Jesus and in His Word the Bible. If we refuse to receive and to cultivate a love of the truth, God will send us a powerful delusion so that we will believe the lies of the man of sin. Consequently we will ultimately succumb to the spirit of antichrist to the point where we will no longer be able to believe or receive the truth even when we hear it. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)