2 Thessalonians 2:4 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: ho antikeimenos (PMPMSN) kai huperairomenos (PMPMSN) epi panta legomenon (PPPMSA) theon e sebasma hoste auton eis ton naon tou theou os theon kathisai (AAN) apodeiknunta (PAPMSA) heauton hoti estin (3SPAI) theos:
- Exalts: Isa 14:13 Eze 28:2,6,9 Da 7:8,25 8:9-11 11:36 Rev 13:6
- So-called: 1Cor 8:5
- Takes his seat: Da 8:12-14 11:45 Rev 13:6,7
KJV 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.
Note: The best Greek manuscripts do not use the phrase as God.
ESV 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.
NET He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God's temple, displaying himself as God.
NIV He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
NJB the Enemy, who raises himself above every so-called God or object of worship to enthrone himself in God's sanctuary and flaunts the claim that he is God.
NLT He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
NRS He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.
YLT who is opposing and is raising himself up above all called God or worshipped, so that he in the sanctuary of God as God hath sat down, shewing himself off that he is God -- the day doth not come.
THE CONDUCT OF
THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
Who opposes and exalts - The man of lawlessness obviously opposes God's law (he is lawless) and anything to do with God, choosing to set himself above all gods, whether false gods or the true God The Antichrist is the opponent or adversary of Christ. Hiebert adds that "His double activity will establish his true identity." Beloved, before we go too far, perhaps it is best that we pause and ask God's Spirit to search our hearts -- "Is there any place in my life where I am actively opposing God and seeking to exalt myself over Him?" (See Gal 5:17-note). Remember that the middle letter of sIn and prIde is "I" and that is that part of my old nature inherited from Adam (Ro 5:12-note) that opposes God and exalts self (cf flesh)! Take a moment and pray Psalm 139:23,24-note! Then confess any sin He brings to the light and beg Him to grant you repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Read Spurgeon's thoughts on Ps 139:24…
See whether there be in my heart, or in my life, any evil habit unknown to myself. If there be such an evil way, take me from it, take it from me. No matter how dear the wrong may have become, nor how deeply prejudiced I may have been in its favor, be pleased to deliver me there from altogether, effectually, and at once, that I may tolerate nothing which is contrary to Thy mind. As I hate the wicked in their way, so would I hate every wicked way in myself. And lead me in the way everlasting. If thou hast introduced me already to the good old way, be pleased to keep me in it, and conduct me further and further along it. It is a way which thou hast set up of old, it is based upon everlasting principles, and it is the way in which immortal spirits will gladly run for ever and ever. There will be no end to it world without end. It lasts for ever, and they who are in it last for ever. Conduct me into it, O Lord, and conduct me throughout the whole length of it. By Thy providence, by Thy word, by Thy grace, and by Thy Spirit, lead me evermore.
Opposes (480)(antikeimai from anti = against, opposite + keimai = to be placed, to lie or be laid down) means literally to line up against or to lie opposite to, both ideas giving us a vivid picture of the continual conflict between the the man of lawlessness (Antichrist) and the Almighty God. The present tense indicates he continually takes his stand in opposition to God as His adversary, emphasizing that this opposition is a continuing conflict with no truce in sight! Even as the Spirit and the flesh "are in opposition (antikeimai) to one another (present tense = continually)," so too this man of flesh continually opposes God Who is spirit (Gal 5:17-note). Antikeimai is also used of those who opposed the Lord Jesus (Lk 13:17), of those who oppose His people (Lk 21:15; 1Cor 16:9; Php 1:28; 1Ti 5:14) or His doctrine (1Ti 1:10).
It is interesting that antikeimai is used to translate the Hebrew verb satan in Zech 3:1 "Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan (noun) standing at his right hand to accuse (Hebrew = satan [verb] = to act as an adversary; Lxx = antikeimai) him." So in this OT passage Satan himself opposes Joshua, whereas here in the NT Satan's henchman the Antichrist opposes anything and everything that has to do with God!
W E Vine notes that "The grammatical form here, i.e., the participle with the article, makes a descriptive title = “the opponent.”"
Monty Mills on opposes - (lit.) the opposing one (a middle participle, so indicating his own volition in this opposition) (Letters to Thessalonica: A Study Guide to the Thessalonian Epistles,
As Hampton Keathley says "Everything about this future person reeks of Satan from whom he will get his authority and power (see Rev. 13:4ff)."
John describes this evil man's opposition as manifest especially via his tongue recalling that comes out of our mouth is what fills our heart (Mt 12:34-37, Mt 15:18-20, Lk 6:45) (What fills your heart today… the world or God's Word?) in what he says:
‘He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. (Da 7:25)
And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. (Rev 13:5,6-note)
D. Michael Marshall on exalts himself - He “will exalt himself” translates a second participle descriptive not just of his action but of his character. The image is one of extreme arrogance, the ultimate in megalomania, installing oneself not just as a god but as the greatest of the gods, the self-proclaimed ruler of all." (1, 2 Thessalonians, The New American Commentary)
Exalts (is puffed up with pride) (5229)(huperairomai from huper = above or intensification of meaning + airo = lift up) means to raise one's self over, to become haughty, to become puffed up with pride and feel overly self-confident. Friberg - proudly set oneself up as something. BDAG - to have an undue sense of one’s self-importance. The present tense indicates that he continually exalts himself over God. The middle voice indicates that the Antichrist initiates this action and participates in the results of the action. The middle voice indicates the subject performs an action upon himself (Reflexive action = "exalts himself") and for his own benefit.
In the only other NT use of huperairomai is by Paul after he had been transported to the third heaven and heard "inexpressible words" things (2Cor 12:2-4) he says that "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting (huperairomai) myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-- to keep me from exalting myself!" (2Cor 12:7) In 2Th 2:4 Satan himself energizes the Antichrist's self-exaltation. It is as if God is allowing a human being to be as "exalted" as he can be to demonstrate the futility and dreadful end of such aspirations. Oh how we need to grasp this picture of the ultimate display of human vanity, so that we might daily humble ourselves under the mighty hand of the Lord, knowing that He will exalt us at the proper time! (1Pe 5:6-note).
Huperairomai is used in the Septuagint (Lxx) in 2Chr 32:33 to describe King Hezekiah being "exalted (not self exaltation but exalted by God) in the sight of all the nations." In Ps 71:16 Solomon prays "May there be abundance of grain in the earth on top of the mountains." In the Pr 31:29 description of an excellent wife King Lemuel says "Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel (Lxx = huperairomai) them all."
David used huperairomai figuratively in Ps 38:4 to describe his iniquities as having "gone over (his) head." Spurgeon wrote that "Like waves of the deep sea; like black mire in which a man utterly sinks. Above my hopes, my strength, my life itself, my sin rises in its terror. Unawakened sinners think their sins to be mere shallows, but when conscience is aroused they find out the depth of iniquity."
Daniel has a parallel description of the man of lawlessness who he refers to as "the king"
Then the king (the Antichrist) will do as he pleases, and he will exalt (Hebrew = rum; Lxx = hupsoo) and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished (another name for the Great Tribulation), for that which is decreed will be done. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all. (Da 11:36, 37-note)
Over every so-called god or object of worship: ("So called gods" referring to idols in 1Cor 8:4, 5) This phrase says that the Antichrist will declare himself supreme other the so called gods of the cults and objects of worship such as the Islamic holy sites (Mecca, etc), Hindu temples, Buddhists shrines, etc. He will suffer no rivals whether it be the true God or false gods of this age.
Object of worship (4574)(sebasma from sebazomai = to stand in awe of someone, venerate, worship) refers to an object, place or person of worship, adoration or veneration. Sebasma refers to whatever is religiously honored, an object of worship of temples, altars, statues, idolatrous images. The only other use is by Paul in Athens as he was "passing through and examining the objects of (their) worship." (Acts 17:23). BDAG says sebasma is "something that relates to devotional activity (devotional object)." Sebasma is not found in the non-apocryphal Septuagint but is found in the Apocrypha (Wisdom 14:20, 15:17, Bet 1:27) referring to objects of worship ("an object of awe or worship, an idol" = Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint = LEH)
TDNT has an interesting note on the cognate word sebomai - In tune with the sense of the stem (“to fall back before”), Homer first uses this term for “to shrink from” The idea of shrinking from the gods leads to the sense of awe or reverence, first in the general form of respect, then in the more specifically religious form of veneration. he meaning “to shrink from” still occurs, but respect is commonly the sense, e.g., for beauty or majesty, for country, parents, the dead, heroes, or benefactors, and, of course, the gods. Relative to the gods, the term takes an active turn and comes to be used not for mere reverence but for worship as a cultic act.
Liddell-Scott-Jones says sebasma is "that for which awe is felt, an object of awe or worship."
TAKING A SEAT IN
THE TEMPLE OF GOD
So that (hoste) - "to such a length will his opposition to God and his self-exaltation carry him." (W E Vine)
He (autos) - Strongly emphatic, for a, the pronoun is expressed in orig., b, it stands at the beginning of the clause. (Vine)
Takes his seat ("Enthrones himself" = REB) - Kathizo in the aorist tense (point or momentary tense) denotes a definite act of taking his seat and "has overtones of brazen effrontery… Antichrist will thus dethrone God in order to enthrone himself." (Stott) This is the ultimate abominable, blasphemous act, to seat oneself in the place of God. The same verb kathizo (to sit down) is used of Christ "when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come." (Eph 1:20, 21, Heb 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2). The most amazing truth is that while the Antichrist seeks to usurp Christ's seat, Jesus gives each believer a sure promise that "He who overcomes (1Jn 5:4,5), I will grant to him to sit down (kathizo) with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down (kathizo) with My Father on His throne." (Rev 3:21)
In a parallel description Jesus warned
“Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (cp "The Temple" 2Th 2:4) (let the reader understand)… for then (explaining why the Jews need to flee fast! - Mt 24:16-20-note) there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. (Mt 24:15-note, Mt 24:21-note)
Comment: The "Abomination of Desolation" can be read as the "Abomination which makes desolate." The question that arises in Mt 24:15 is this the Antichrist standing or is it his image. While the gender of "standing" in Mt 24:15 is neuter which would favor an image, the gender of the parallel passage in Mk 13:14 is masculine, which would favor man. (See )
And so the masculine, singular translated he in Mk 13:14ESV counters the neuter singular it in Mt 24:15. There is a very logical way to resolve the use of both the masculine and the neuter -- The Antichrist (a "he") goes into the holy place and declares himself to be "God" which would clearly be an abomination to orthodox Jews. But because he has wars to fight and peoples to suppress (cf Da 11:39-45-note) he cannot continue to remain standing in the holy place. His right hand man, the false prophet, commissions an image (an "it") of the Antichrist (the Beast) and places it in the holy place (cp Rev 13:14-15-note) where it remains standing (Greek = perfect tense in both Mt 24:15 and Mk 13:14) for the earth dwellers to worship. You might be saying that I am making too much of the details but as someone has well said especially in eschatological passages (but applicable to all of God's Word) "the divine is in the details!"
See Related Discussion: The Image of the Beast
As Hiebert says "For a Jew "the Temple" (ton naon) could only denote the holy place of the Jerusalem Temple, that portion into which the priests alone could lawfully go. The construction used (eis with the accusative) implies motion toward and indicates that by his impious act the man of lawlessness puts himself "into" God's seat in the inner sanctuary… Whether Paul is referring to a literal temple in Jerusalem or is using the term metaphorically of the church has been much debated. The view adopted will be determined by one's understanding of end-time prophecy. The whole picture seems naturally to suggest an eschatological Jewish temple. This was the view of Irenaeus (Against Heresies, V. 30.4) and other early church Fathers. (1 & 2 Thessalonians Commentary)
Irenaeus interpretation of 2Thes 2:4 - But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that “many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Against Heresies, V. 30.4)
The simplest reading of the plain text is to interpret Paul as referring to a literal Temple of God. And yet many try to spiritualize "Temple of God" For example, Robert Gundry avoids the simple, literal reading of the text, reasoning that since Christian's bodies are characterized elsewhere by Paul as temples of God (which is of course true = 1Cor 3:16-17, 1Cor 6:19, 2Cor 6:16) "it may be better to think of the present text as meaning that “the human being of lawlessness” will arise as an apostate within the church." Note first that Paul does not say the Antichrist will arise but that he will sit! Then using Gundry's interpretation one might paraphrase "he takes his seat in the temple of God" as "he takes his seat within his body the temple of God." That does not even make good sense! As Richard Mayhue says "Figurative meanings for temple are impossible since the lawless one actually enthrones himself." It is amazing to me the nonsense that is accepted when one refuses to accept the plain sense of the text (Text read literally) especially when such a reading makes good sense in context (Keep Context King). Of course if one does not believe God can build another Jewish Temple in the last days, then one has to posit a non-literal, non-sensical interpretation!
In the People's NT commentary (Ref) Johnson calls the ''temple'' the church! He calls the papacy the ''man of lawlessness''. Beloved, when we jettison the plain sense reading of the Biblical text, we generally reap nonsense as comments such as this illustrate.
The ESV Study Bible is somewhat vague and inconclusive - The temple of God has been variously interpreted as the church, the heavenly temple, the Jerusalem temple, and a metaphor for supreme blasphemous arrogance modeled on the activities of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (see Da 11:31–35). Whatever the meaning, the context seems to indicate a concrete and observable act of defiance against God.
The NIV Study Bible gets close but still misses the true interpretation - "Almost certainly the historic Temple in Jerusalem, not the heavenly temple or the church. But Paul likely uses this sanctuary metaphorically by picking up the well-know theme of desecration by foreign kings."
Comment: This is pure metaphorical speculation not good interpretation! Temple means temple and there is no reason to interpret it metaphorically unless one does not believe God is able to rebuild the Jewish Temple!
Milligan on the Temple of God - These words were understood of the actual temple at Jerusalem by Irenaeus (adv. Haer. 5:30. 4), but this view was modified by Chrysostom and the Antiochenes who extended them metaphorically to the Church or Churches of Christ… the nature of the context, the use of such a local term as kathisai (takes… seat), and the twice-repeated definite article (ton naon tou theou) all point to a literal reference in the present instance (2 Thessalonians 2 Commentary)
So that he takes his seat in the temple of God: The Temple of God refers to His Temple in Jerusalem. Although it was destroyed in 70AD, the Temple will be rebuilt either before or during the Tribulation. How do we know? In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle John records these specific instructions "Leave out the court which is outside the Temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations (Gentiles); and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months." (Rev 11:2-note) So in the last 3.5 years (1260 days, "time, times and half a time") of Daniel's Seventieth Week, the Gentile will trod Jerusalem and will control the court outside the Temple. Perhaps you are saying "There is no Temple now and the Dome of the Rock, the third most holy place of Islam now sits on the old Temple Mount. So how can a Jewish Temple be rebuilt?" I do not know specifically but it is clear there has to be a Temple, so the sovereign, omnipotent God will orchestrate its rebuilding, whether you believe it or not! And of course as noted above, many evangelical writers refuse to believe a literal Temple will be rebuilt and therefore chose to allegorize or spiritualize the passage.
Richard Mayhue makes a good point that "Figurative meanings for Temple are impossible since the lawless one actually enthrones himself. (Ed: He took his seat as would anyone who crowned themselves as "king"!)" In Scripture, this is called ‘the abomination of desolation’ (Da 9:27-note; Da 11:31-note; Mt 24:15-note), which is the ultimate ‘falling away’ or apostasy spoken of in 2Th 2:3 (Ed: Although not everyone agrees with this interpretation - see notes on "the apostasy" for the other interpretations) and which occurs at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The historical preview occurred circa 167 BC when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, claiming to be the earthly manifestation of his patron deity, the Olympian Zeus, erected the altar of Zeus on top of the Lord’s altar in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple (cf. Da 11:31-note). The prophetic fulfillment of 2Th 2:4 was written about first in Daniel 9:27-note, then referred to by Christ (Matt 24:15-note), and now by Paul. It is this writer’s opinion that these two events, i.e. the apostasy and the revelation of the Antichrist, are yet future to the present day. The exact identity of this person remains unknown. (1 & 2 Thessalonians: Triumphs and Trials of a Consecrated Church)
In another parallel with the future Antichrist, Antiochus IV Epiphanes had a coin minted which had his image on one side and the following inscription in Greek on the other side = "ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ = King Antiochus, image of God, bearer of victory!
Another "historical preview" of the end times Antichrist occurred during the reign of Caligula who ruled the Roman Empire from AD 37–41. Not only did Caligula command the citizens of Rome, including the exalted Roman senators, to worship him as a tangible, living god, he also made a failed attempt to have his image set up in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
Shogren has this note on Caligula - A few short years before the evangelization of Macedonia, the emperor Gaius (Caligula) became mentally imbalanced and made himself a god, taking literally the emperor worship that was growing in vogue in the eastern empire. Because Gaius wished to insult the Jews, he ordered his general Petronius to put his statues in the Jerusalem temple. Thousands of Jews volunteered to lay down their lives in the temple’s defense, whereupon Petronius risked his own life and defied his emperor. The noble Petronius was spared by the arrival of news of Caligula’s assassination in AD 41. (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
Hampton Keathley (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5) - “sitting in the temple” surely refers to a temple that will be rebuilt in the first half of the Tribulation (Daniel’s seventieth week) in connection with the covenant previously made with the Jewish people when he first appears as the peacemaker. This opens the way for sacrifices and worship to begin when the temple is completed. In the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week, however, the covenant will be broken by the man of lawlessness who will stand in this holy place and demand the worship of men all over the world. Some have suggested this is a figurative portrayal to his occupying the most holy place in human worship, which rightfully belongs only to God, but as Thomas points out, there is no good reason to take this view.
This evidently is a Jewish temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem in the future. Dependence of these words on Da 9:26, 27; 11:31, 36, 37; 12:11 (cf. Mt 24:15; Mk 13:14) demands such a reference. There is no impressive evidence for understanding naon (“temple”) in a non-literal sense. The well-known “abomination that causes desolation” is sometimes regarded as a person and sometimes as an act of desecration by that person (Mk 13:14) (Hubbard, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1364). The act of desecration to which this verse looks will transpire half-way through the seventieth prophetic week of Da 9:24-27, when the covenant made earlier with the Jewish people is broken. This will mark the climax of this lawless one’s career. Historically, a foreshadowing of this blasphemous intrusion happened when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple in Jerusalem just before the Maccabean revolt …The relationship of this apocalyptic portion of 2 Thessalonians to Christ’s parousia (coming) confirms the impression that Paul must be referring to a single historical personage. Quests for such a person in the past and present have proved fruitless. Resemblances to Antiochus Epiphanes, Nero, Diocletian, one of the popes, and others may be admitted. But fulfillment of all details of the prophecy must await the future period of this man’s prominence. It is futile to suppose that Judas Iscariot, Antiochus Epiphanes, or Nero will be brought back to life to fill this role. (Robert L Thomas - The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
Temple (sanctuary) (3485)(naos) in the Greek culture denoted the "abode of the gods" and was used to refer to a literal structure or building associated with, dedicated to and set apart to be a dwelling place for a deity. either pagan gods (Acts 17:24) or the true God (Mt 23:16). Naos refers to the actual sanctuary of the Temple, the place of God's dwelling (cp Zacharias ministering to God in Lk 1:9). Naos is distinguished from Hieron (2413) (holy, hallowed, consecrated from hieros [only in 1Co 9:13, 2Ti 3:15]  = sacred, consecrated or belonging to or connected with the gods) refers to the entire complex of temple, including the sanctuary (naos), with its porticos, courts, and other subordinate buildings. In summary, the word Paul uses naos to emphasize that he is referring to the temple proper, including the inner sanctuary, composed of the outer room, the Holy of Holies and the innermost Holy Place.
Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (see in depth discussion of this strategically important passage)
So notice Jesus specifies the holy place which would parallel Paul's word (naos) for Temple. The Antichrist (and/or his image - Rev 13:14-15-note) would not stand just any place in the Temple Complex (Hieron) but in the inner holy place, most probably the Holy of Holies, because the latter is where God Himself had dwelt in the days when His Shekinah glory cloud was still present over Solomon's Temple.
Marshall on temple (naos) - Paul commonly used naos metaphorically of the believer as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 3:16–17; 6:19; 2Cor 6:16). But here it must be used literally if the passage is to depict an observable, symbolic event the church could recognize as an indication of the nearness of the day of the Lord. In Eph 2:21 the church is called the temple, and some argue that Paul taught that the son of perdition would claim preeminence in the church. But the scope of the lawless one’s actions seems much broader than just the church. He will press a claim of absolute preeminence over all people and all gods. Such breadth of influence implies political and/or military might, not just religious megalomania. (Ibid) (Bolding added for emphasis)
THE ULTIMATE BLASPHEMY:
SELF-DEIFICATION BY THE ANTICHRIST
Displaying himself as being God (proclaiming himself to be God = ESV, NIV; "parading himself as the very Deity" = Way): The idea is to declare something out loud. "The participle “proclaiming” implies a demonstration as much as an announcement (cf. Acts 2:22; 1Cor 4:9)" (Marshall) Although the man of lawlessness is not divine, he will proclaim himself in such a way that he convinces most of the world that he is God. Note that the verb Paul choose (apodeiknumi) is one that signifies his true character will now be clearly demonstrated so that there is absolutely no doubt as to his true character and identity! And so Satan who energizes the Antichrist (2Th 2:9, 10) will finally achieve the objective he voiced at his initial rebellion against God as recorded by the prophets Isaiah:
"How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning (KJV = "O Lucifer" = Hebrew = Heylel = Light-Bearer), son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13 "But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' 15 "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit (as recorded in Rev 20:10-note). (Isaiah 14:12-15)
The prophet Ezekiel records a similar blasphemy by the king of Tyre:
“Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre (Ithobaal II), ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, In the heart of the seas’; Yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God– (Ezek 28:2)
Luke records a first century example of another ruler who exalted himself
And on an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:21–23.)
Marshall comments that "According to Josephus, Herod Agrippa I presented himself at a festival in Caesarea in a manner calculated to impress the masses. Dressed in a silver robe, he entered the theater at daybreak to deliver an oration. The sun played off the silver, making a spectacular display to accompany his speech. Agrippa was lauded as not a mere man but a god. He did not reprimand the people but accepted their praise. As a result he was stricken by God and died after five days of severe abdominal pain." (Josephus, Ant. 19.343–52) (1, 2 Thessalonians, The New American Commentary)
John Stott observes that "The Jews saw another example of ‘the abomination of desolation’ in the Roman general Pompey, who in 63 BC defeated their nation, captured Jerusalem and desecrated the temple by intruding into the Holy of Holies… Yet all these, together with other evil leaders down the centuries, have been forerunners or anticipations of the final ‘man of lawlessness’, an eschatological yet historical person, the decisive manifestation of lawlessness and godlessness, the leader of the ultimate rebellion, the precursor of and signal for the Parousia. I agree with Geerhardus Vos that ‘we may take for granted … that the Antichrist will be a human person’. And whether we still believe in the coming of Antichrist will depend largely on whether we still believe in the coming of Christ." (The Bible Speaks Today)
Doesn't this deceptive display of divinity by the Antichrist in a sense represent the fulfillment of Satan's great lie in Genesis?
For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Ge 3:5)
Recall also Satan's wilderness encounter with Jesus when he tempted our Lord to worship him promising…
All these things (What things? = Mt 4:8, Lk 4:6) will I give You, if You fall down and worship me. (Mt 4:9, cp Lk 4:7)
John Phillips comments that "Satan has been worshiped ignorantly down through the centuries. Satan, after all, is "the god of this world" (2Cor. 4:4). But he craves open worship. The great role of the Antichrist, in Satan's most secret plan for this world, is to be to Satan what Jesus was to His Father, the channel through whom worship can flow (Rev. 13:4)." (Exploring 2 Thessalonians)
Richard Mayhue feels that 2Th 2:4 "is the ‘revealing’ spoken of in 2Th 2:3 when this person’s true identity and actual character are uncovered and exposed for all to see in horror." (1 & 2 Thessalonians: Triumphs and Trials of a Consecrated Church)
Comment: As noted in earlier comments, this revealing of the man of lawlessness evil nature will be obvious to all not so much when he signs a covenant with Israel at the beginning of the Seven year Tribulation (although if there are those who know their Bible, they will recognize him, assuming the covenant is public), but when he carries out the abomination of desolation, standing in the holy place (Mt 24:15-note), displaying himself clearly as god!
Displaying (584)(apodeiknumi from apo = away from, intensifies + deiknuo = make known the character or significance of something by visual, auditory, gestural, or linguistic means) is a verb which literally means to to show off (apo) and then comes to mean to cause something to be known publicly ("God has exhibited us apostles" = 1Cor 4:9). It was frequently used in secular Greek meaning "to proclaim to an office." Lightfoot says apodeiknumi was often used to denote "the proclamation of a sovereign on his accession."
The idea is to be clearly demonstrated or proven (of Jesus "attested… by God with miracles and wonders and signs" = Acts 2:22). In Acts 2:22 the miracles, etc, clearly demonstrated that He had divine power to accomplish anything He chose and that what He did was a sign that He really was the Messiah. Apodeiknumi is used in a similar way in Acts 25:7 where the Jews were unable to prove (apodeiknumi) their charges against Paul.
Used 4x in NT - attested(1), displaying(1), exhibited(1), prove(1). - Acts 2:22, 25:7, 1Co 4:9, 2Th 2:4.
Used 5x in the Lxx but not very enlightening - Esther 2:9, 3:13, Job 33:21, Da 2:48, 4:1.
The present tense of apodeiknumi indicates that this is Antichrist's "course of conduct" continually exhibiting himself as if he were God, but he only has 42 months (1260 days, 3.5 years, time, times, and half a time) to display himself to the world as the counterfeit Christ. At the end of this age God allows man to give it his "best shot" at being God. In a sense this man is the representation and the apex of all godless defiance by men against God since the Garden of Eden!
Hiebert comments that "He makes himself the object of the display, showing himself off as absolute and exclusive deity. "This is the climax of human sin; it is self-assertion in its falsest, most impious and defiant form—a colossal, monstrous lie." (Ibid)
Thayer - 1. properly, to point away from oneself, to point out, show forth; to expose to view, exhibit ( Herodotus 3,122and often): 1Cor 4:9. Hence, 2. to declare: to show, prove what kind of a person anyone is , Acts 2:22 ; 2Th 2:4. To prove by arguments, demonstrate: Acts 25:7.
Liddell-Scott-Jones on apodeiknuo - To point away from other objects and at one (to point out, to display, to make known whether by deed or word). To bring forward, to produce. To produce, deliver accounts. To publish a law. To appoint, assign. To show by argument (to prove, demonstrate, prove one so and so), to make it evident that… To show forth a person or thing as so and so hence to appoint or proclaim.
Constable on the meaning of the temple of God - Some suggest that it is a figurative reference to his occupying the most holy place in human worship, which rightfully belongs only to God. The early church fathers and several good modern-day commentators accept the literal view. (Bible Knowledge Commentary: 1985)
John Stott says of the Antichrist's blasphemous self-deification - Having set himself against every object of worship, he will demand for himself the worship which he has forbidden to everybody and everything else… Here, then, are the two principal targets of Antichrist’s venom. Yet God and law, religion and ethics, are the two essential ingredients of culture, which act as a glue to bond a community together, and are therefore two authorities which humankind have normally recognized. To oppose them is to undermine the foundations of society. More than that, Antichrist’s godlessness and lawlessness will go beyond a denial of these basic authorities to a demand that worship and obedience be given to him alone. Not anarchy, but totalitarianism is his goal. (The message of Thessalonians: the gospel & the end of time, The Bible Speaks Today)
Marshall on the phrase as being God - The people of the Hellenistic age would not have found a claim to divinity so outrageous as would a person today. The boundary between human and divine was rather porous in the mind of the ancient. Homer wrote of numerous exchanges between gods and mortals, as well as the movement of a few mortals into the ranks of the divine. Since the time of Augustus emperors had been deified at death. Since the time of Caligula deity had been claimed by living emperors. The cult of emperor worship was an active and important part of Roman society by the time Paul wrote this letter. Of course the presumption of anyone, even an emperor, claiming divinity was scandalous blasphemy in Jewish eyes. It was the height of rebellion against God. It is not surprising then that the ultimate and final rebellion should feature this most extreme example of pretensions to divinity. (Ibid)
Hiebert has an excellent argument for a literal interpretation of 2Thessalonians 2:4 -
An attentive reading of this passage, uninfluenced by theological presuppositions, naturally leads to the conclusion that Paul is describing an actual eschatological individual, not a mere principle, or even a succession of persons. The context plainly places him in the end time, for he will be personally slain by the returning Christ (2Th 2:8). Throughout the paragraph Paul describes him in terms that suggest a deliberate parallel to Christ (Ed: See Chart comparing Christ and Antichrist). Each has a "coming" (parousia)—2Th 2:9 and 2Th 2:1; each has a "revelation" (apokalupsis)—2Th 2:3 and 2Th 1:7-8; each has his own gospel—"a lie" (2Th 2:11) in contrast to "the truth" (2Th 2:10, 12). The man of sin claims exclusive homage and worship and will brook no rival (2Th 2:4) and in imitation of Christ (Acts 2:22) will support his claim with "all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders" (2Th 2:9). As Christ, the true Messiah, was empowered by God, so this Antichrist will be empowered by Satan (2Th 2:9). Clearly he is Satan's parody of the true Messiah. While imitating Christ, he will be the complete contrast to the character of Christ. The complete opposite of Christ cannot be a spiritual tendency or a principle but must be a person. Clearly, we have here the prophetic individual elsewhere spoken of as "the Antichrist," a name that well sums up his character and career.
The recognition that Paul is speaking of a definite eschatological person at once helps to clear away some misconceptions concerning "the man of lawlessness." He cannot be regarded merely as the personification of the principle of lawlessness. He is not an abstract power. He is not simply the personification of "the secret of lawlessness" (2Th 2:7). Paul says that "the secret of lawlessness is already at work," but this is an eschatological person who will appear at the end time. He will form the climax to the development of ungodliness. There have been many antichrists, but these precursors only serve to prepare the way for the final personal Antichrist.
Neither can this eschatological figure be identified with the line of Roman emperors, as was held by Warfield. It was his opinion that the man of sin must be identified with such Roman emperors as Caligula, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian; he believed that every item of Paul's hideous description of the son of perdition "was fulfilled in the terrible story of the emperors of Rome." Resemblances to these Roman emperors may be admitted. But the eschatological nature of this personage is an insurmountable obstacle to this view. Then the sign of the revelation of the man of sin as indicative of the presence of the Day of the Lord proved false.
The recognition of his eschatological nature also disposes of the popular view that the man of lawlessness is the papacy, a view eagerly seized upon by many leaders of the Reformation. It was quite natural that the Reformers, locked in fierce conflict with the papal forces, should come to this conclusion. This view still has its able defenders, but it is beset with serious difficulties. The papacy does not offer a true fulfillment of Paul's picture. The popes have never claimed for themselves exclusive divine honor. As Erdman remarks, "No pope 'is called God' nor 'worshipped' as God, but each declares himself to be the 'vicar' of Christ and only as such infallible in matters of religion." Romanism does not oppose all that is called God or is an object of worship, for the adoration of the virgin Mary and the saints is a leading feature in it. It is also inconsistent with the fact that the man of sin is an eschatological person, since it must regard him as a long succession of persons extending over a period of hundreds of years. Then Paul's teaching that the revelation of this person marked the presence of the Day of the Lord has long since ceased to have the significance he attached to it. (1 & 2 Thessalonians- D. Edmond Hiebert - anything by Hiebert is highly recommended!) (Bolding added for emphasis)