Most of us when pondering the identity of the Man of Lawlessness, have been taught to believe that the Man of Lawlessness is the Antichrist. However in this blog I am going to challenge our understanding of who this person is in the light of Scripture and the context of the culture that Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church.
Let’s look at some of the preconceived ideas we may have concerning the Man of Lawlessness.
The Man of Lawlessness is a human being walking the earth that is possessed by Satan in the years preceding the return of Jesus.
The restrainer is the Holy Spirit. How can this be since people are supposedly being saved throughout the Great Tribulation? If the Holy Spirit is not present, how can He woo many to Jesus thru the gospel message? Just a few questions to seriously consider before making that conclusion.
When the Man of Lawlessness rises up and the Holy Spirit is taken away, the Man of Lawlessness will be free to rule the world and deceive many.
The church will be raptured before the Man of Lawlessness is allowed to prosper in evil. Notice that 2 Thess. 2:3-10 does even mention the rapture in these verses.
Now let’s read the Scripture that mentions the Man of Lawlessness. We need to look at what the Scripture says about the Man of Lawlessness directly in the following verses.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 NIV
2Th 2:3 Don’t let anyone deceive you k in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion l occurs and the man of lawlessness 3 is revealed, m the man doomed to destruction.
2Th 2:4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God n or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. o
2Th 2:5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? p
2Th 2:6 And now you know what is holding him back, q so that he may be revealed at the proper time.
2Th 2:7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back r will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
2Th 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, s whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth t and destroy by the splendor of his coming. u
2Th 2:9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan v displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, w
2Th 2:10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. x They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. y
Now let’s break these verses down.
Verse 3 – Paul tells the Thessalonians to not be deceived by anyone. Remember that Paul only spent 4 weeks in Thessalonica. The rebellion that is mentioned here happened in the First Century when the nation of Israel rejected Jesus the Messiah and became antagonistic to God’s call of redemption on the nation. Also, we need to keep in mind that the Church of Jesus was plagued by false doctrines and many had fallen prey to heresies like Gnosticism in the First Century.
Verse 4 & 5– The Man of Lawlessness will exalt himself over God and defile His temple. When Jerusalem fell in AD 70 Titus desecrated and defiled the Temple. Also Emperor Nero demanded worship and exaltation from all people groups in his empire.
Another way to look at who the Man of Lawlessness is; is to think of him in terms of the Carnal Man who is opposed to the ways of God. Scripture says we are the temple of God. Any time the flesh rules over the Spirit of God in our temples (bodies), the flesh defiles God’s temple and exalts himself over God.
Paul personally reminded the Thessalonians of these things.
Verse 6 & 7 – These verses point us to the fact that the man of lawlessness was present in Paul’s time.
1- “what is holding him back” – Also Paul says “you know”
2 – “already at work”
3 – “now holds it back”
From these verse we can see that the Thessalonians understood that the Man of Lawlessness was present during their times. We know that Paul was put to death by Nero around AD 68. That indicates that Paul may have been writing about a ruler that was alive during before then. The Roman Empire was filled with corrupt leaders and Paul could have been mentioning any one of many alive at that time. As I mentioned before Nero was about as lawless as men come. He killed his pregnant wife, killed family members, was call d the Beast by his people, mauled people’s private parts with his teeth, etc.
What is holding the Man of Lawlessness back could be several things. First we can consider that what holds him back can be the will of God. It may be that what holds him back is the restraining effect of morality that is built into mankind. It could be that what holds him back is the authority of the church collectively.
Verse 8 – The lawless one will be defeated by the breath of Jesus. The spoken decree of Jesus defeats all evil. Notice that the overthrow comes before the destruction of the Man of Lawlessness. The lawless one is destroyed at Christ’s coming because evil cannot stand in the governing presence of Jesus at His second coming.
Another way to look at this passage is to see this in terms of a spiritual interpretation. That the Carnal Man in all people is the Man of Lawlessness. And that the Carnal Man has been in rebellion from the past until Jesus’ return. Paul spoke about groups of people, referring to them as ones who are righteous and lawless. Reference Romans 5:12-21, Romans 6:5-6,1 Cor. 2:14, 3:1, 2 Cor. 6-14-16, Ephesians 2:19-22 Col. 3:5-11 to name a few.
Verses 9 &10 – From the earliest times in the history of mankind, illegal spiritual power has been manifested. Consider Moses verses Pharaoh’s magicians when pleading the deliverance of Israel. World leaders have ruled by the occult power that Satan offers. Hitler is a modern example.
Additionally the morality of the Roman Empire compared to the morality that exists in America today is still worlds apart. Slavery, torture, tyranny, murder, perverted sex practices, idolatry, witchcraft, etc. all prospered when Paul wrote these things to the Thessalonian church. America still has a long way to go to catch up with the Roman Empire. Fortunately the authority of the church of Jesus Christ is expanding at a record rate all over the world, and defeating this kind of wholesale evil.
It unsettling that there will be people in all generations who perish because they reject God’s authority and chose their Carnal Man as leader instead of Jesus.
Finally to conclude I have shown that the Antichrist is not mentioned in these verses. The rapture is not associated with these verses, or that the Holy Spirit is mentioned either. It is time we begin to look seriously at how what we believe about the future shapes our outlook regarding the future of God’s church.
Next time we will look at who is the Beast and what does 666 mean?