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THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 4
Verse 4. Who opposeth. That is, he is distinguished as an opposer of the great system which God has revealed for human salvation, and of those who would serve God in purity in the gospel of his Son. No Protestant will doubt that this has been the character of the Papacy. The opposition of the general system to the gospel; the persecution of Wickliffe, of John Huss, of Jerome of Prague, of the Waldenses and the Reformers; the Inquisition, the cruelties in the reign of Mary, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew in France, are obvious illustrations of this.
And exalteth himself above all that is called God. That is, whether among the heathen or the Sews: above a false god, or the true God. This could be true only of one who set aside the Divine laws; who undertook to legislate where God only has a right to legislate, and whose legislation was contrary to that of God. Any claim of a dominion over conscience; or any arrangement to set aside the Divine laws, and to render them nugatory, would correspond with what is implied. in this description. It cannot be supposed that any one would openly claim to be superior to God; but the sense must be, that the enactments and ordinances of the "man of sin" would pertain to the province in which God only can legislate, and that the ordinances made by him would be such as to render nugatory the Divine laws, by appointing others in their place. No one can reasonably doubt that all that is here affirmed may be found in the claims of the pope of Rome. The assumptions of the Papacy have related to the following things:
(1.) To authority above all the inferior orders of the priesthood— above all pastors, bishops, and primates.
(2.) Authority above all kings and emperors, "deposing some, and advancing others, obliging them to prostrate themselves before him, to kiss his toe, to hold his stirrup, to wait barefooted at his gate, treading even upon the neck, and kicking off the imperial crown with his foot." Newton. Thus Gregory VII made Henry IV wait barefooted at his gate. Thus Alexander III trod upon the neck of Alexander I. Thus Celestin kicked off the imperial crown of Henry VI. Thus the right was claimed, and asserted, of laying nations under interdict, of deposing kings, and of absolving their subjects from their oaths of allegiance. And thus the pope claimed the right over all unknown lands that might be discovered by Columbus, and apportioned the New World as he pleased—in all these things claiming prerogatives which can appertain only to God.
(3.) To authority over the conscience, in matters which can pertain only to God himself, and where he only can legislate. Thus it has been, and is, one of the claims set up for the pope that he is infallible. Thus he "forbids what God has commanded," as the marriage of the clergy, communion in both kinds, the use of the Scriptures for the common people. Thus he has set aside the second commandment by the appointment of image-worship; and thus he claims the power of the remission of sins. Multitudes of things which Christ allows his people are forbidden by the Papacy, and many things are enjoined, or allowed, directly contrary to the Divine legislation.
Or that is worshipped. sebasma. This word means an object of worship. See Ac 18:23, where it is rendered devotions. It may be applied to the worship of a heathen divinity, or of the true God.
"It may refer to a person, an idol, or a place. Probably Paul refers here to the heroes and other subordinate divinities of the heathen mythology." Oldshausen. No one can doubt that the pope has claimed higher honours, as the vicegerent of Christ, than was ever rendered in the ancient "hero worship."
So that he, as God. That is, claiming the honours due to God. This expression would not imply that he actually claimed to be the true God, but only that he sits in the temple, and manifests himself as if he were God. He claims such honours and such reverence as the true God would if he should appear in human form. It should be observed here, however, that there is much reason to doubt the genuineness of this phrase—"as God" wv yeon. Mill supposes that it was inserted from the context. It is marked with an asterisk in the Vulgate, the Coptic, and the Syriac, and is omitted by many of the fathers. See Mill and Wetstein. It is rejected by Griesbach and Lachmann, and marked as doubtful by Hahn. It is defended, however, by Matthaei, Koppe, Knapp, and Schott. The sense is not materially affected whether it be regarded as genuine or not.
Sitteth in the temple of God. That is, in the Christian church. It is by no means necessary to understand this of the temple at Jerusalem, which was standing at the time this epistle was written, for
(2.) the temple was the proper symbol of the church, and an apostle trained amidst the Hebrew institutions would naturally speak of the church as the temple of God. The temple at Jerusalem was regarded as the peculiar dwelling-place of God on earth. When the Christian church was founded, it was spoken of as the peculiar dwelling-place of God. See the passages referred to above. He dwelt among his people. He was with them, and walked with them, and manifested himself among them— as he had done in the ancient temple. The usage in the New Testament would not lead us to restrict this language to an edifice, or a "church," as the word is now commonly used, but rather to suppose that it denotes the church as a society; and the idea is, that the Antichrist here referred to would present himself in the midst of that church as claiming the honours due to God alone. In the temple at Jerusalem, God himself presided. There he gave laws to his people; there he manifested himself as God; and there he was worshipped. The reign of the "man of sin" would be as if he should sit there. In the Christian church he would usurp the place which God had occupied in the temple. He would claim Divine attributes and homage. He would give laws and responses as God did there. He would be regarded as the head of all ecclesiastical power; the source from which all authority emanated; the same in the Christian church which God himself was in the temple. This does not then refer primarily to the pope as sitting in any particular church on any particular occasion, but to his claiming in the church of Christ the authority and homage which God had in the temple at Jerusalem. In whatever place, whether in a cathedral or elsewhere, this authority should be exercised, all that the language here conveys
would be fulfilled. No one can fail to see that the authority claimed by the pope of Rome, meets the full force of the language used here by the apostle.
Showing himself that he is God. This does not necessarily mean that he actually, in so many words, claimed to be God; but that he usurped the place of God, and claimed the prerogatives of God. If the names of God are given to him, or are claimed by him; if he receives the honours due to God; if he asserts a dominion like that of God, then all that the language fairly implies will be fulfilled. The following expressions, applied to the pope of Rome by Catholic writers without any rebuke from the Papacy, will show how entirely applicable this is to the pretended head of the church. He has been styled "Our Lord God the Pope; another God upon earth: King of kings and Lord of lords. The same is the dominion of God and the Pope. To believe that our Lord God the Pope might not decree as he decreed, is heresy. The power of the Pope is greater than all created power, and extends itself to things celestial, terrestrial, and infernal. The Pope doeth whatsoever he listeth, even things unlawful, and is more than God." See the authority for these extraordinary declarations in Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, xxii. How can it be doubted that the reference here is to the Papacy? Language could not be plainer, and it is not possible to conceive that anything can ever occur which would furnish a more manifest fulfilment of this prophecy. Indeed, interpreted by the claims of the Papacy, it stands among the very clearest of all the predictions in the sacred Scriptures.
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