HE HAS NOT YET COME
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Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Overview Chart - 2 Thessalonans - Charles Swindoll
1 AND 2 THESSALONIANS
|1 THESSALONIANS||2 THESSALONIANS|
Addresses how the Thessalonians were evangelizes as they received the Word of God
Addresses how the Thessalonians are being edified, noting their progress in faith, love, and patience
The imminency and importance of the Lord’s return is emphasized
Misunderstandings about the Lord’s return are corrected
The saints are comforted and encouraged
The saints are assured of God’s judgment on His enemies
Paul is concerned with the church and its hope of the rapture (meeting Christ in the air)
Paul is concerned with Satan, the man of sin (Antichrist) and their destruction at the revelation (return of Christ to the earth)
Contains the outstanding passage on the rapture of the saints in 4:13–18
Contains the outstanding passage concerning the day of the Lord in 2:1–12
Greek me tis humas exapatese (3SAAS) kata medena (not even one) tropon, hoti ean me elthe (3SAAS) e apostasia proton kai apokaluphthe (3SAPS) o anthropos tes anomias o huios tes apoleias:
KJV 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;
ESV 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,
NET Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.
NIV Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
NJB Never let anyone deceive you in any way. It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and there has appeared the wicked One, the lost One,
NLT Don't be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed-- the one who brings destruction.
YLT let not any one deceive you in any manner, because -- if the falling away may not come first, and the man of sin be revealed -- the son of the destruction,
- No one - Mt 24:4-6 1Co 6:9 Eph 5:6
- Apostasy: 1Ti 4:1-3 2Ti 3:1-3, 4:3,4
- Man: 2Th 2:8-10 Da 7:25 1Jn 2:18 Rev 13:11-18
- The son: John 17:12 Rev 17:8,11)
Let no one in any way (thoroughly, completely) deceive you - Although "deceive" is not in the imperative mood, in context it is clear that Paul is issuing a strong command. And this is a command that sounds down through the ages because "in the last days difficult times will come" (2Ti 3:1-note) for "many deceivers have gone out into the world." (2 John 1:7).
No one… in any way - There are two negatives in the Greek -- me = no and medeis = not (even) one, no man, nobody. One might paraphrase Paul's prohibition - "Do not let anyone by any means or any method lead you astray in any way!” Remember Ge 3:1 "Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?"" So Paul's phrase in any way refers to the manifold ways our Adversary has to achieve his one desired goal - to convince us to doubt the Truth of God and His Word of Truth. That's all it took for him to trip up Eve, and that is still his aim, an aim he will seek to achieve in any way! (cp 2Co 2:11+, Eph 6:11, 12+, 1Pe 5:8, 9+)
Hampton Keathley III adds that "The use of this word (exapatao) with the phrase, “in any way” reminds us of our need to be wary of the many devices of deception Satan uses to lead us away from the truth of Scripture. We do not know what promoted the false teaching or who was involved in its promotion. It may well have been misinformed believers who did not understand God’s grace. Yes, even well meaning believers can fall prey to Satan’s deceptions, being deceived and deceiving others. Surely, then, we need first to be like the Bereans who searched the Scripture daily as their index for truth (Acts 17:11-note), and second, in that search, we need to follow Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 2Ti 2:15-note and learn to handle the Scriptures accurately and carefully. Anyone who is not properly grounded in the truth of God’s Word (see again Eph. 4:14-note) tends to be gullible, but the sad fact is that all people, including Christians, are too easily misled by impressive personalities and spectacular appeals. The antidote to false teaching is sound teaching according to God’s Word. Thus, the apostle pointed them to the truth as it pertains to the Day of the Lord. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 Correction)
John Phillips quips that "In Greek (No one… in any way), two negatives do not make a positive as they do in English… It can be rendered, "Don't let anyone deceive you by any means whatsoever." The end-times deception will be so strong and so subtle that more than the ordinary degree of watchfulness will be needed.
John MacArthur comments that "There was really no excuse for the Thessalonians to have been so gullible, despite the seemingly convincing forged letter. They should have realized that Paul would not abruptly contradict in a letter what he had so recently taught them in person and in his first epistle. The Thessalonians’ gullibility was an emotional reaction to the stress of their situation. However, truth is not determined by emotions or circumstances, but by Scripture. Believers must allow biblical truth and theology to rise above every situation. (1 & 2 Thessalonians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary)
Deceive (1818)(exapatao from ek = intensifies meaning + apatao = seduce, deceive - see apate) means to beguile thoroughly, deceive completely or seduce wholly, causing one to accept false ideas about something, in this case the Day of the Lord. Exapatao is used to describe self deception ("let no man deceive himself" - 1Cor 3:18). Exapatao is used by Paul to describe how the "serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness" (1Cor 11:3) and again to relate that it "was not Adam who was deceived (apatao) but the woman being (thoroughly) deceived (exapatao) fell into transgression." (1Ti 2:14) Paul described how "sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me." (Ro 7:11-note) So we see sin and Satan as the "deceivers" which suggests the sinners who misled the saints at Thessalonica were pawns of Satan, who ever seeks to sow doubt on the Word of Truth, which causes the saints to doubt and fear. This is another reason our best defense against deception is to stay "tethered" as it were to the Word of Truth (cp Mt 4:4, et al).
In context, the Day of the Lord deception led to the Thessalonian saints quickly being "shaken in mind or alarmed." (2Th 2:2-note) Eschatological deception is nothing new in the church for there are always charlatans who make false pronouncements like Harold Camping who predicted Jesus would return on May 21, 2011, thereby disturbing saints not firmly anchored in the Word of Life. "And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds." (2Cor 11:14-15). They are those who are "walking in craftiness… adulterating the word of God" (2Cor 4:2), using "flattering speech (to) deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting." (Ro 16:18-note) In the last days (2Ti 3:1-note) Paul warned that "evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2Ti 3:13-note) Thus Paul exhorted believers "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." (Eph. 4:14-note).
Paul used exapatao to warn the saints at Rome to be on the lookout for deceivers:
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive (exapatao in the present tense = speaks of an ongoing effort to deceive!) the hearts (Interesting - not just their "heads" but their "hearts"! These guys are very persuasive, even charismatic!) of the unsuspecting (innocent, naive, simple)." (Romans 16:17-18-note)
Way (5158)(tropos from trope = a turning from trépo = turn or guide towards a thing, turn one’s self, direct one’s attention to a thing, be occupied with it) originally referred to a turn or direction. In this context it speaks of the manner or fashion in which something is done. So in context don't let them deceive you with "I have a word from God," "I have a letter from Paul," etc.
The saints at Thessalonica were fearful that they were in the Day of the Lord (the time of the Seven Year Tribulation described in Revelation 6-18). Fear (and its twin Doubt) robbed them of the joy generated by "looking (forward, with eagerness and anticipation) to the Blessed Hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." (Titus 2:13-note) Instead of looking for the appearance of the Christ, these deceived saints would be looking for the appearance of the Antichrist (2Th 2:8-9)! How tragic! The church needs to continually be on the lookout for the appearance of her Bridegroom, Who will "sweep her off of her feet" literally! And such a hope fixed on our Bridegroom's imminent return would energize the church to walk in holiness, its members purifying themselves "just as He is pure."(1Jn 3:2, 3-note)
Hiebert observes that "Paul knew the persistence of error and realized that these deceptive teachers would not readily cease their efforts to make their view plausible, hence he warns against deception "in any wise," in any other manner than the three already specified (2Th 2:2). He was aware how readily many are attracted by the new and novel. Jesus connected such a warning against deception with His own eschatological teaching (Matt. 24:4, 11, 24-25; Mark 13:5-6, 21-23; Luke 21:8). As Home remarks, "it is amazing how gullible some believers can be when a new prophetic fad appears!" The antidote to such deception is a thorough grounding in the truth as revealed in the inspired Scriptures. Paul at once provided the needed corrective." (1 & 2 Thessalonians- D. Edmond Hiebert - anything by Hiebert is highly recommended!)
Keathley has an interesting observation - Though Paul was not directly discussing the timing of the rapture, the fact he was writing in the interest of the coming of the Lord and the gathering of the Church together to meet Him in the air, the implication is that the rapture must occur before this day begins. Why else would these believers be shaken by the idea that they might then be in the day of the Lord unless they had expected to be taken up to meet the Lord prior to that time? (Ibid)
Dr Thomas Constable (commentary - page 20) has a depiction of the confusion of the saints at Thessalonica:
EVENTS THAT MUST PRECEDE
THE DAY OF THE LORD
Paul knew that the best defense against deception is the truth and so he proceeds to give the saints two events that must transpire before the beginning of the Day of the Lord.
For (hoti) is causal and could be rendered "because" which is a term of explanation that always begs the question of what is being explained? Paul now explains how they can know they are not in the Day of the Lord. Vine says Paul is "introducing the reason for his emphatic assertion that the day of the Lord had not already set in." Hiebert writes "For introduces the justification for the warning."
It will not come - These words are added by the translators. Most translations have "Day" instead of "it" because this is clearly a reference to the Day of the Lord.
Note for a more technical discussion (beyond the scope of this commentary) of the significance of this phrase supplied by the translators (NAS = "it will not come") see David Dean's article under "VERSE 3" Does 2 Thessalonians 2-1-3 Exclude The Pretribulational Rapture?.
Unless - Some translations have "until" (NIV, NET, NJB) which means up to the point in time that an event transpires.
1. THE APOSTASY
The apostasy ("the Great Revolt" - NJB) - The definite article "the" (he apostasia) is present in the Greek text which serves to identify this as not just any apostasy, but as the specific apostasy which will occur in the future and precedes the Day of the Lord (See Ice's discussion on the definite article). Since Paul is seeking to prevent any further confusion regarding the Day of the Lord, it follows that this future apostasy will be very specific and very obvious to the believers who are alive at the time it transpires. "The presence of the article suggests Paul is not talking about just any rebellion or apostasy, but something well known as a result of the teaching of Paul and his missionary team." (Keathley - bolding added)
John MacArthur notes that Paul did not "have in mind the apostasy during the Tribulation, of which Jesus warned: “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold…. or false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Mt. 24:11–12, 24)." (1 & 2 Thessalonians MacArthur New Testament Commentary)
There are at least three interpretations of "the apostasy":
(1) A falling away from the faith by professed believers, to such a degree that it is a definitely recognizable event.
(2) An apostasy associated with the Antichrist which would be a definitely recognizable event.
(3) Not a falling away from religion but a departure from the earth, i.e., the Rapture.
Note: David Dean actually lists 4 ways the apostasy has been interpreted - "What is meant by the apostasia and the “revealing of the man of lawlessness”? The term apostasia has generally been understood in one of four ways. (1) An appositive that refers to the man of lawlessness himself. (In this view only one event is in view: the “revealing of the man of lawlessness.” [Ed: View held by John MacArthur]) (2) A “falling away” from the truth, either by the professing Christian church rejecting the historic Christian faith or Jews rejecting the God of their fathers or non-Christians denying any claims of a superior being and instead proclaiming their own absolute supremacy. A wide range of termini a quo for these hypotheses is possible, reaching even before the opening of the seventieth week [Ed: Daniel's Seventieth Week]. (3) An active rebellion against God and the accompanying growth of ungodliness in the world at large. (4) The physical departure of the church in the rapture [Ed: See Thomas Ice below]. (Does 2 Thessalonians 2-1-3 Exclude The Pretribulational Rapture?)
Thomas Constable favors interpretation #1 writing that "Such a (religious) departure had begun in Paul's day (1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 4:3-4; Jas 5:1-8; 2Pe 2:1-3ff; 2Pe 3:3-6; Jude 1:1-25). However it had not yet reached the proportions predicted to characterize "the apostasy" about which Paul had instructed his readers when he was with them… When the Rapture (Ed: Referring to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture) takes place and all true Christians leave the earth, this apostasy will overwhelm the human race." (Expository Notes) (Constable also authored the commentary on Second Thessalonians in the Bible Knowledge Commentary).
Hiebert favors interpretation #1 - The crucial Day of the Lord will not come "until the rebellion occurs, and the man of lawlessness is revealed." Paul is thinking of two distinct although related events. The two designations do not refer to "a single phenomenon" as Moffatt suggests (Ed: This seems to be the interpretation MacArthur favors - see below). The two verbs, emphatic by position, serve to distinguish the events. The man of lawlessness is not the personal embodiment of the rebellion, nor is he simply the personal culmination of the apostasy. Although the two events are clearly related as expressions of enmity towards God, they are yet distinct. The rebellion, or apostasy, indicates a tragic movement within the sphere of professed Christendom, the treason of the avowed friends of Christ, whereas the public manifestation of the man of lawlessness in the arena of history marks the personal culmination of the hostility of the avowed enemies of Christ." (Ed: But see discussion below where Dr John MacArthur links the apostasy with the man of lawlessness, stating that the ultimate apostasy is when he carries out the "Abomination of Desolation" described by Jesus in Mt 24:15-note)… A common view (of "the apostasy") is that the reference is to "the apostasy of Christians from their faith to error and unrighteousness." Since the context clearly associates this apostasy with the time of Christ's second coming, the reference portrays the end time apostasy within Christendom. Then "conditions will be ripe for people, especially those who call themselves Christians but are not really such, to turn their backs on God in what they do as well as in what they already have in thought." In this scene of apostasy, some would also include, or restrict it to, the Jews at the beginning of the Great Tribulation who will turn from God's truth to worship the Antichrist. Whatever the precise identity of these apostates, "this worldwide anti-God movement will be so universal as to earn for itself a special designation: 'the apostasy'—i.e., the climax of the increasing apostate tendencies evident before the rapture of the church." (1 & 2 Thessalonians- D. Edmond Hiebert)
John MacArthur - Paul’s use of the definite article (ED: "the" in the Greek phrase "te ["the"] apostasia") reveals that he had in mind not a general flow or trend, but a specific, identifiable act of apostasy. The apostasy will be a blasphemous act of unprecedented magnitude. (ED: From what he says in the next sentence, MacArthur seems to be referring to the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place - which marks the midpoint of the Seven Year Tribulation [Daniel's Seventieth Week] - see notes on Mt 24:15) The apostle identified the apostasy by naming the key character connected with it: the man of lawlessness. Understanding who that key person is is a prerequisite to identifying the apostasy event. (1 & 2 Thessalonians Commentary)
Notice that if MacArthur's interpretation is correct, then the Antichrist's taking of his seat in the Temple (2Th 2:4+, Mt 24:15+) would seem to mark the beginning of the Day of the Lord and also the beginning of the last 3.5 year Great Tribulation.
Interpretation #3 is discussed below.
Comes first - First is the Greek proton which means first in time, order, place, rank, importance. In the present context it is reasonable to interpret proton as referring to that which is first in time or order. In other words, first "the apostasy" will occur, then the "man of lawlessness" is revealed, then the Day of the Lord.
John MacArthur notes that Paul "did not tell his readers that they would live to experience the apostasy and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness. Paul’s point was merely that the apostasy will precede the Day of the Lord. And since the apostasy has not yet taken place, the Day of the Lord could not have arrived." (1 & 2 Thessalonians Commentary)
Various translations of apostasy - falling away = KJV, NKJV; apostasy = NASB, Weymouth; revolt = Williams, JB; rebellion = Moffat, NEB, LB, RSV, NIV; rejection = Phillips.
Apostasy (646)(apostasia from aphistemi = depart derived from apo = separation + histemi = to stand) is a noun which literally describes a "stand off" (or "a standing off") and thus is a departure, a defection or falling away. In English apostasy means the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief. The only other NT use of apostasia is where Paul was accused of "teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake (apostasia) Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs." In the Septuagint (Lxx) apostasia is used in Joshua 22:22 (describes "an unfaithful act [apostasia] against the LORD"), 2Chr 29:19 (describes King Ahaz during "during his reign in his unfaithfulness [apostasia]") and Jer 2:19 ("Your [God speaking to unfaithful Judah] own wickedness will correct you, and your apostasies will reprove you").
There is one use of apostasia in the Apocrypha:
1Macc 2:15 records "The king's officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice." In other words Antiochus IV Epiphanes (who many consider to be a foreshadowing of the endtimes Antichrist) was forcing the Jews to forsake their religion and become "Hellenized."
BDAG writes apostasia is "defiance of established system or authority = rebellion, abandonment, breach of faith."
Friberg adds that apostasia is "a condition resulting from changing loyalties = revolt, desertion; as a religious technical term; (1) apostasy, rebellion (2Th 2:3); (2) defection, abandonment (Acts 21:21)." (Analytical Lexicon)
Herschel Hobbs on apostasia - The basic meaning of the verb form as given in Arndt and Gingrich (A Greek-English Lexicon) is to cause to revolt or to mislead (cf. Acts 5:37). This meaning is found in the papyri for apostasia. In one instance it is used of the burning of certain title deeds by Egyptian "rebels" (apostatōn). In another rebels (apostaseōs) are mentioned as forcing their way into a temple. And supporting this use in the papyri is that of Plutarch who uses it in the sense of political revolt. (Preaching Values from the Papyri)
- Hebrew equivalent - Meshubah - turning away, apostasy, backsliding
- Apostasy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Apostasy - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- Baker Evangelical Dictionary Apostasy
- Charles Buck Dictionary Apostasy
- CARM Theological Dictionary Apostasy
- Holman Bible Dictionary Apostasy
- Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible Apostasy
- Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Apostasy
- Webster Dictionary Apostasies Apostasy
- Watson's Theological Dictionary Apostasy
- McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Apostasy
- The Jewish Encyclopedia Apostasy and Apostates from Judaism
- What is apostasy and how can I recognize it?
- Will there be a great apostasy / falling away during the end times?
- What is the mystery of iniquity?
- What are the consequences of nations turning away from God?
- How should a Christian react to all the doomsday predictions out there?
While the preceding (and predominant) meaning of apostasia speaks of a "theological departure," those who hold to interpretation #3 feel apostasia refers to a "physical departure" (Rapture).
It is interesting that in the respected lexicon the the TDNT ("Little Kittel") the root verb aphistemi can mean “to remove either spatially or within a relationship." In Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSM) lexicon there is a long entry for apostasia with the first definition being "defection, revolt… esp. in religious sense." The second LSM entry is "departure, disappearance, Olymp.in Mete.320.2." The definitions that describe spatial removal (TDNT) and "departure, disappearance" (LSM) might add some credence to the hypothesis that the derivative noun apostasia is actually speaking of a physical (spatial) removal (as in the departure or disappearance of a Pre-Tribulational Rapture) rather than a religious falling away.
My view (even in light of my favoring a pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation Rapture) is that Paul's use apostasia seems unlikely to refer to the Rapture. In the context Paul is trying to clear up confusion. He has just used the noun (episunagoge) for "gathering together" in 2Th 2:1. It would therefore seem unusual for him to use apostasia to mean Rapture when he could have used the verb form (episunago) for "gather together" in 2Th 2:3 Nevertheless, a number of commentators (Thomas Ice [see below], Daniel Davey, Paul Lee Tan) have suggested that the sense of apostasia in this context is to describe a departure of the church from the earth (i.e., a Rapture prior to the Day of the Lord, thus a Pre-Tribulation Rapture), not just a departure from professed beliefs. Mike Stallar admits that while "the case is not conclusive… it should not be dismissed out of hand as many have done." (Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary)
Stallar goes on to add that "Couch points out that most conservative interpreters agree that apostasia refers in this context to religious defection. John Walvoord emphasizes that this is true even among pretribulational scholars who would gain by the alternative interpretation. Two reasons reinforce the standard interpretation as defection from the faith. First is the fact that all other occurrences of the noun apostasia in the New Testament and in the Greek Old Testament refer to religious or political rebellion. Second, one must take into account the close association of the man of lawlessness mentioned in 2Th 2:3. Since he is described in terms of wickedness and rebellion (2Th 2:3-4), it may be more likely that the thought of wicked rebellion is also the intended meaning of apostasia. Consequently, it is much more likely that the word refers to religious defection of some kind rather than the departure of the church." (Twenty-First Century Biblical Commentary )
Dr Thomas Ice discussion of the interpretation of apostasia as identical with the rapture is intriguing:
"I believe that there is a strong possibility that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is speaking of the rapture. What do I mean? Some pretribulationists, like myself, think that the Greek noun apostasia, usually translated “apostasy,” is a reference to the rapture and should be translated “departure.” Thus, this passage would be saying that the day of the Lord will not come until the rapture comes before it. If apostasia is a reference to a physical departure, then 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is strong evidence for Pretribulationism… (Ice explains in his article) the word (apostasia) has the core meaning of departure and it depends upon the context to determine whether it is used to mean physical departure or an abstract departure such as departure from the faith." (Read Ice's interesting discussion of the etymology of "apostasia" in The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 - this article quotes the respected Greek authority Kenneth Wuest as also favoring he apostasia as signifying the Rapture).
I must confess that it would seem far more difficult to determine when the specific religious apostasy will occur (Interpretation #1), then it would be to determine when a "rapture apostasy" (Interpretation #3) or "Antichrist apostasy" (Interpretation #2) would occur. Interesting! When the Day of the Lord is about to begin, surely the apostasy will be evident to all who have eyes to see.
John Walvoord alludes to the difficulty in looking for the apostasy as an indicator of the soon to follow Day of the Lord -- In the twentieth century the situation is entirely different than it was for the Thessalonian church. Today there is widespread apostasy. The sad fact is that there are many who are not preaching the true Gospel and, moreover, are denying the central doctrines of our Christian faith. Some are teaching that Christ is only a man, that He did not rise from the dead, that salvation is not through His shed blood, and that He is not coming again. They deny that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and turn instead to some other forms of teaching. To a certain degree, apostasy is already here. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 The Revelation of the Man of Sin) (Bolding added)
2. THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
The man of lawlessness is revealed (the man of sin) - Note that the KJV has "man of sin (hamartia)" but the other Greek manuscripts have anomia. This is not his personal name but indicates the character of his person! Note that the phrase "man of… " is a way of describing one's predominant characteristic as "man of knowledge" in Pr 24:5 or "man of sorrows" in Isa 53:3.
- Man of Sin - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Man of Sin - Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- Man of Sin - Easton's Bible Dictionary
- Man of Sin - Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Man of Sin - Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Man is the noun anthropos which defines him as an actual human being, not an angel, not Satan, not a sin or lawlessness personified, but alive in flesh and blood!
Guzik comments that a "traditional (long-established) understanding of this man of sin is to say that he is not an individual, but a system or an office. Historically, Protestant interpreters have seen the man of sin to be the succession of popes. Calvin thought this way: “Paul, however, is not speaking of one individual, but of a kingdom that was to be seized by Satan for the purpose of setting up a seat of abomination in the midst of God’s temple. This we see accomplished in popery.” However, there is no good reason to see this man of sin to be other than what the plainest meaning is here – an individual who will come to great prominence in the very last days. This was how it was understood in the earliest days of Christianity. “The fathers understood the Antichrist to be intended, but of this person they seemed to have formed no specific idea.” (Adam Clarke) (Enduring Word Bible Commentary 2 Thessalonians 2)
Most conservative, evangelical commentators agree that man of lawlessness (or sin) is a description of the Antichrist. (1John 2:18-note, 1Jn 2:22-note; 1Jn 4:3-note; 2 John 1:7). Recall that the prefix Anti- conveys two meanings: (1) Over against, opposite to, opposition to (Christ) and (2) Instead of or in place of (Christ).
Hampton Keathley explains that the Antichrist is also "known in the Bible by other descriptive titles like “the little horn” (Da. 7:8-note), the “prince that shall come” (Da 9:26-note), the “willful king” (Da 11:36-note), “the beast out of the sea” (Rev 13:1-10-note), and as the one who, standing in the future rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, will commit the “abomination of desolation” as described by Daniel and attested to by the Lord Jesus (Da 9:27-note; Da 11:31-note; Matt. 24:15-note). (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 Correction)
Charles Ryrie notes that "While we are warned that there will appear from time to time evil men in the world-and so evil that they may be called antichrists (1John 2:18-note)-this person is the personification of evil and the culmination of all that is opposed to God." (Come Quickly, Lord Jesus: What You Need to Know About the Rapture)
Vine says the name man of sin "is to be understood of a man over whom sin will have absolute dominion, the willing and efficient instrument of sin, cp. Romans 6:16."
Hiebert on the man of sin versus man of lawlessness - "Sin," the more general term, basically means "missing the mark," whereas "lawlessness" denotes the breaking of law According to 1John 3:4-note, "sin is lawlessness," hence the terms are readily interchangeable. The title "man of lawlessness" suggests that he is the very embodiment of the willful violation of the will of God… Sin has such absolute domination over him that he seems to be the very embodiment of lawlessness. The use of the Greek term anthropos rather than aner presents him as a true human being. Moore well notes that he "is not Satan (in 2Th 2:9 he is distinguished from Satan), but he is the one in whom Satan's power is concentrated (2Th 2:9, cp the "Beast" in Rev 13:2, 5-note) and in whom Satan is to be unmasked." (Ibid)
"He is not called lawless because he never heard God's law, but because he openly defies it!" (William Hendriksen - Baker NT Commentary)
Lawlessness (458)(anomia from a = negates what follows + nomos = law) literally describes that which is without the law and signifies, not merely the abstract idea, but disregard for, or actual breach of, the law of God. Anomia means “no law,” and emphasizes an attitude of disregard for the statutes of God, living as if there were no law. A person who rejects God’s authority doesn’t care what God thinks about his habits.
- Lawlessness is living as though your own ideas are superior to God's.
- Lawlessness says, "God may demand it but I don't prefer it."
- Lawlessness says, "God may promise it but I don't want it."
- Lawlessness replaces God's law with my contrary desires. I become a law to myself.
- Lawlessness is rebellion against the right of God to make laws and govern His creatures.
- Lawlessness signifies everything that is contrary to the will and law of God and is more intentional and flagrant sin. It is direct and open rebellion against God and His ways.
- Lawlessness describes one who has the quality of not being regulated by, restrained by or controlled by law. It is one who is not governed by nor obedient to laws and who is thus unbridled and uncontrolled in general, an excellent description of the Antichrist.
Hiebert on revealed - The verb "revealed," standing emphatically forward (apokaluphthe o anthropos tes anomias o huios tes apoleias), is in the aorist tense and points to a definite time when the veil will be removed. His revelation will herald the fact that the Day of the Lord has actually arrived. The importance of this revelation is shown by the repetition of the verb in 2Th 2:6 and 2Th 2:8. His public appearance in the arena of human history will disclose his true identity. The verb implies his prior existence on earth, for he will doubtless have been living many years before his manifestation as the man of lawlessness. (Ibid)
Paul’s point is clear: “You are worried that we are in the Great Tribulation and that you missed the rapture. But you can know that we are not in the Great Tribulation, because we have not yet seen the man of lawlessness (sin) revealed.” (Guzik)
Revealed (601)(apokalupto from apo = from + kalupto = cover, conceal, English = apocalypse) literally means to remove the cover from and so the idea is to remove that which conceals something. And so the idea is to "take the lid off" and expose to open view, a view which previously had not been known. It describes removing of a veil thus exposing to open view what was concealed. In this context Paul is saying the veil "covering" will be removed from the man of lawlessness so that his evil character and intent is clearly discernible. As noted above most commentaries agree that the man of lawlessness is the future Antichrist. The question that arises is when will the veil be taken off? There are two answers to this question, at the beginning of the Tribulation or at the Middle of the Tribulation.
Revealed is in the aorist tense and the passive voice which could be translated "being revealed at a point in time" Keathley comments that "This passive voice verb suggests that he will be present and very much a part of the political scene, but unknown as to his character and purpose until certain historical conditions occur that unveil his presence and whereabouts."
MacArthur explains that "The aorist tense of the verb translated revealed points to a definite time when this man will appear. It implies that he was previously present and known, but his act of apostasy will unveil his true evil identity; he will drop all pretense and the previously hidden wickedness of his character will be fully disclosed. God and the Lord Jesus will not have appeared as his enemies until the time he is revealed… After initially posing as the friend of religion (cf. Rev. 17:13-note), Antichrist will suddenly reveal his true nature when he commits blasphemy against God." (1 & 2 Thessalonians Commentary)
WHEN DOES THE DAY
OF THE LORD BEGIN?
Of David Dean's four possibilities only 2 are considered in this discussion (see Dean's note below).
Ryrie's revelation of the Antichrist would be at the beginning of the Seven year Tribulation which would mark the beginning of the Day of the Lord. On the other hand, MacArthur's interpretation of the time of revelation of the Antichrist's true character would be at the midpoint of the Seven year Tribulation, the point at which the 3.5 year Great Tribulation begins (see Mt 24:21-note) and presumably when the Day of the Lord begins. (See timeline depiction - scroll down)
The context would favor MacArthur's interpretation. Why? Because Paul associates Antichrist's revelation in 2Th 2:3 with his taking of his seat in the Temple (2Th 2:4-note) and his claim to be god, an event which marks the ultimate blasphemy against God. This event correlates with Jesus' description of the Abomination of Desolation (Mt 24:15-note) and this blasphemous abomination occurs at the midpoint of the 7 years when one compares Da 9:27-note in which the Antichrist breaks a covenant (probably a "peace" accord) with the Jews at the midpoint of the last seven years.
Note: David Dean lists 4 times in which the Son of Lawlessness could be revealed:
(a) The appearing of the Antichrist as a world figure before the beginning of the seventieth week. (Walvoord seems to hold this position)
(b) The signing of the covenant by the Antichrist (Da 9:27). (Pretribulationist Renald Showers argues that since (a) Scripture states that the man of lawlessness will perform a public act in the signing of the covenant, and (b) since Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3 that the rapture will precede his revealing, one must conclude that the revealing of the Antichrist occurs at the signing of the covenant - Maranatha, Our Lord, Come!) (Ed: This is the view held by Charles Ryrie)
(c) The emerging of the Antichrist as a well-known world figure sometime during the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week. (Robert L. Thomas, a Pretribulationist, seems to allow for this view -- “2 Thessalonians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978], 322).
(d) The event in which the Antichrist will desecrate the temple at the midpoint of the seventieth week (Da 9:27; Mt. 24:15; 2Th 2:4). (H A Ironside) (Ed: This is the view held by John MacArthur)
(Does 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 Exclude The Pretribulational Rapture? - Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 168, page 206 - interesting, well referenced 22 page article which addresses pre and post tribulation views)
To summarize, at the beginning of the seven year Tribulation, the man of lawlessness masquerades as a man of peace (cp rider on white horse with a bow but no arrow - Rev 6:2-note), but when he breaks the covenant in the middle of the seven years, it is at this time that his lawless character becomes fully revealed. In other words in the first 3.5 years while he might have been recognized by some who knew their Bible, his lawless, sinful character had not yet been fully revealed to the world. Notice also that if this is the correct interpretation, it follows that the actual Day of the Lord does not begin until the midpoint of Daniel's seventieth week. Note that Acts 2:20 gives details of other events that must occur before the Day of the Lord ("THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS, AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME.") which would also make it difficult to place the beginning of the Day of the Lord at the first part of Daniel's 70th week, before the Tribulation begins (e.g., not until the breaking of the Sixth Seal does John say "the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood." - Rev 6:12-note). Others who favor a pre-tribulation Rapture, feel the Day of the Lord begins at the beginning of the seven year Tribulation. See diagram and discussion of Day of the Lord.
THE SON OF
The son of destruction (son of perdition = KJV) - Similar to the expression "man of _____" the expression "son of _____" is a idiomatic way (common in Hebrew) of highlighting one's nature (in this case his destiny! cp Lk 10:6+, 1Sa 20:31). For example, in 1Th 5:5 Paul differentiates between "sons of light and day" (cp Jn 12:36) versus those who are "of night" and "darkness." (cp "sons of disobedience" Eph 2:2, Eph 5:6). In the present context, this phrase points to this man's ultimate destiny of destruction. A few commentators feel this name is indicative of what he will accomplish (destruction).
Keathley adds that "son of" was a Hebrew idiomatic way to signify "He belongs to a class described by the attached phrase, i.e., one destined for destruction as was the case with Judas, another who was called “the son of destruction” (John 17:12; Acts 1:25)."
Vine adds that "if ‘man of lawlessness’ refers to character, then “son of perdition” refers to the proper destiny of such a one, who, like Judas, must “go to his own place,” Acts 1.25, cp. Phil. 3.19, and Rev. 17.8,11."
Moffatt says the phrase “son of destruction” essentially means the doomed one.
Ray Stedman writes - the "Hopelessly Lost One,"… is what the phrase "the son of perdition" means.
The Antichrist's characterization as the son of destruction reminds us of Judas who foreshadowed the Antichrist and was called "the son of perdition" (Jn 17:12) where perdition is the same Greek noun (apoleia) as destruction.
MacArthur adds "The title (son of perdition) is thus reserved for the two vilest people in human history, controlled by Satan (Jn 13:2; Rev. 13:2) and guilty of the two most heinous acts of apostasy… Monstrous as that apostasy was, it pales in comparison to the act of future apostasy Antichrist will commit. Judas betrayed the Son of God; Antichrist will proclaim himself God. Judas desecrated the temple with the money he received for betraying Christ (Matt. 27:5); Antichrist will desecrate the temple by committing the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15). Judas, apparently without influencing others, went astray, a tragic, solitary disaster (Acts 1:18–19); Antichrist will lead the world astray into destruction (Rev. 13:5–8)." (1 & 2 Thessalonians Commentary)
Destruction (perdition) (684)(apoleia from apo = marker of separation, away from + olethros = ruin, death but not annihilation) means utter and hopeless loss of all that gives worth to existence. Apoleia paints the sad, tragic picture of a thoroughly, eternally doomed and wasted life! And that contrary to popular opinion apoleia does not refer to extinction or annihilation or the end of existence, but to total ruin so far as the purpose of existence is concerned. Sadly those relegated to eternal destruction will be eternally conscious of the fact that they wasted their life and the one chance they had to receive salvation in the Name of Jesus (cp Acts 4:12)!
Paul used the root noun olethros in 2Th 1:9 in his "definition" of hell explaining that "those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus… will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (olethros), away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." (2Th 1:8,9)
In this same chapter Paul writes that the "lawless one (the Antichrist)" will be slain "with the breath of (the Lord's) mouth" and brought "to an end by the appearance of (the Lord's) coming." (2Th 2:8) John describes the end of the Antichrist (aka "the Beast") when Jesus returns - "the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet… these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone." (Rev 19:20-note, cp Rev 20:10-note) In short this man will not suffer loss of being but of well-being… forever in an everlasting state of torment and death!
MacArthur - He is fixed for punishment and judgment; he is human trash for the garbage dump of hell. (Ibid)
- Perdition - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Perdition - Holman Bible Dictionary
- Perdition - Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Perdition - Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Perdition - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Perdition - Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
|THE CHRIST COMPARED
|CONTRASTS WITH CHRIST|