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2. The Man of Lawlessness
1Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; 2to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; 3let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours. 16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
2Th 2:1-17. Correction of Their Error as to Christ's Immediate Coming. The Apostasy that Must Precede It. Exhortation to Steadfastness, Introduced with Thanksgiving for Their Election by God.
1. Now—rather, "But"; marking the transition from his prayers for them to entreaties to them.
we beseech you—or "entreat you." He uses affectionate entreaty, rather than stern reproof, to win them over to the right view.
by—rather, "with respect to"; as the Greek for "of" (2Co 1:8).
our gathering together unto him—the consummating or final gathering together of the saints to Him at His coming, as announced, Mt 24:31; 1Th 4:17. The Greek noun is nowhere else found except in Heb 10:25, said of the assembling together of believers for congregational worship. Our instinctive fears of the judgment are dispelled by the thought of being gathered together UNTO Him ("even as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings"), which ensures our safety.
2. soon—on trifling grounds, without due consideration.
shaken—literally, "tossed" as ships tossed by an agitated sea. Compare for the same image, Eph 4:14.
in mind—rather as the Greek, "from your mind," that is, from your mental steadfastness on the subject.
troubled—This verb applies to emotional agitation; as "shaken" to intellectual.
by spirit—by a person professing to have the spirit of prophecy (1Co 12:8-10; 1Jo 4:1-3). The Thessalonians had been warned (1Th 5:20, 21) to "prove" such professed prophesyings, and to "hold fast (only) that which is good."
by word—of mouth (compare 2Th 2:5, 15); some word or saying alleged to be that of Paul, orally communicated. If oral tradition was liable to such perversion in the apostolic age (compare a similar instance, Joh 21:23), how much more in our age!
by letter as from us—purporting to be from us, whereas it is a forgery. Hence he gives a test by which to know his genuine letters (2Th 3:17).
day of Christ—The oldest manuscripts read, "day of the Lord."
is at hand—rather, "is immediately imminent," literally, "is present"; "is instantly coming." Christ and His apostles always taught that the day of the Lord's coming is at hand; and it is not likely that Paul would imply anything contrary here; what he denies is, that it is so immediately imminent, instant, or present, as to justify the neglect of everyday worldly duties. Chrysostom, and after him Alford, translates, "is (already) present" (compare 2Ti 2:18), a kindred error. But in 2Ti 3:1, the same Greek verb is translated "come." Wahl supports this view. The Greek is usually used of actual presence; but is quite susceptible of the translation, "is all but present."
3. by any means—Greek, "in any manner." Christ, in Mt 24:4, gives the same warning in connection with the same event. He had indicated three ways (2Th 2:2) in which they might be deceived (compare other ways, 2Th 2:9, and Mt 24:5, 24).
a falling away—rather as the Greek, "the falling away," or "apostasy," namely, the one of which "I told you" before (2Th 2:5), "when I was yet with you," and of which the Lord gave some intimation (Mt 24:10-12; Joh 5:43).
that man of sin be revealed—The Greek order is, "And there have been revealed the man of sin." As Christ was first in mystery, and afterwards revealed (1Ti 3:16), so Antichrist (the term used 1Jo 2:18; 4:3) is first in mystery, and afterwards shall be developed and revealed (2Th 2:7-9). As righteousness found its embodiment in Christ, "the Lord our righteousness," so "sin" shall have its embodiment in "the man of sin." The hindering power meanwhile restrains its manifestation; when that shall be removed, then this manifestation shall take place. The articles, "the apostasy," and "the man of sin," may also refer to their being well known as foretold in Da 7:8, 25, "the little horn speaking great words against the Most High, and thinking to change times and laws"; and Da 11:36, the wilful king who "shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods; neither shall he regard any god."
the son of perdition—a title applied besides to Judas (the traitor, Joh 17:12), and to none else. Antichrist (the second "beast" coming up out of the earth); therefore he shall at first be "like a lamb, while he speaks as a dragon" (Re 13:11); "coming in peaceably and by flatteries," "working deceitfully," but "his heart shall be against the holy covenant" (Da 11:21, 23, 28, 30). Seeds of "the falling away" soon appear (1Ti 4:1-3), but the full development and concentration of these anti-Christian elements in one person are still to appear. Contrast the King of Zion's coming as Jesus: (1) righteous or just; (2) having salvation; (3) lowly; whereas Antichrist is: (1) "the man of (the embodiment of) sin; (2) the son of perdition; (3) exalting himself above all that is worshipped. He is the son of perdition, as consigning many to it, and finally doomed to it himself (Re 17:8, 11). "He whose essence and inheritance is perdition" [Alford]. As "the kingdom of heaven" is first brought before us in the abstract, then in the concrete, the King, the Lord Jesus; so here, first we have (2Th 2:7) "the mystery of iniquity," then "the iniquitous one" (2Th 2:8). Doubtless "the apostasy" of Romanism (the abstract) is one of the greatest instances of the working of the mystery of iniquity, and its blasphemous claims for the Pope (the concrete) are forerunners of the final concentration of blasphemy in the man of sin, who shall not merely, as the Pope, usurp God's honor as vicegerent of God, but oppose God openly at last.
4. Da 11:36, 37 is here referred to. The words used there as to Antiochus Epiphanes, Paul implies, shall even be more applicable to the man of sin, who is the New Testament actual Antichrist, as Antiochus was the Old Testament typical Antichrist. The previous world kingdoms had each one extraordinary person as its representative head and embodiment (thus Babylon had Nebuchadnezzar, Da 2:38, end; Medo-Persia had Cyrus; Greece had Alexander, and Antiochus Epiphanes, the forerunner of Antichrist); so the fourth and last world kingdom, under which we now live, shall have one final head, the concentrated embodiment of all the sin and lawless iniquity which have been in pagan and papal Rome. Rome's final phase will probably be an unholy alliance between idolatrous superstition and godless infidelity.
Who opposeth and exalteth himself—There is but one Greek article to both participles, implying that the reason why he opposeth himself is in order that he may exalt himself above, &c. Alford takes the former clause absolutely, "He that withstands (Christ)," that is, Antichrist (1Jo 2:18). As at the conclusion of the Old Testament period, Israel apostate allied itself with the heathen world power against Jesus and His apostles (Lu 23:12; and at Thessalonica, Ac 17:5-9), and was in righteous retribution punished by the instrumentality of the world power itself (Jerusalem being destroyed by Rome), Da 9:26, 27; so the degenerate Church (become an "harlot"), allying itself with the godless world power (the "beast" of Revelation) against vital religion (that is, the harlot sitting on the beast), shall be judged by that world power which shall be finally embodied in Antichrist (Zec 13:8, 9; 14:2; Re 17:16, 17). In this early Epistle, the apostate Jewish Church as the harlot, and pagan Rome as the beast, form the historical background on which Paul draws his prophetic sketch of the apostasy. In the Pastoral Epistles, which were later, this prophecy appears in connection with Gnosticism, which had at that time infected the Church. The harlot (the apostate Church) is first to be judged by the beast (the world power) and its kings (Re 17:16); and afterwards the beasts and their allies (with the personal Antichrist at their head, who seems to rise after the judgment on the harlot, or apostate Church) shall be judged by the coming of Jesus Himself (Re 19:20). Anti-Christian tendencies produce different Antichrists: these separate Antichrists shall hereafter find their consummation in an individual exceeding them all in the intensity of his evil character [Auberlen]. But judgment soon overtakes him. He is necessarily a child of death, immediately after his ascent as the beast out of the bottomless pit going into perdition (Re 17:8, 11). Idolatry of self, spiritual pride, and rebellion against God, are his characteristics; as Christ-worship, humility, and dependence on God, characterize Christianity. He not merely assumes Christ's character (as the "false Christs," Mt 24:24), but "opposes" Christ. The Greek implies one situated on an opposite side (compare 1Jo 2:22; 2Jo 7). One who, on the destruction of every religion, shall seek to establish his own throne, and for God's great truth, "God is man," to substitute his own lie, "Man is God" [Trench].
above all that is called God—(1Co 8:5). The Pope (for instance, Clement VI) has even commanded the angels to admit into Paradise, without the alleged pains of purgatory, certain souls. But still this is only a foreshadowing of the Antichrist, who will not, as the Pope, act in God's name, but against God.
or that is worshipped—Rome here again gives a presage of Antichrist. The Greek is Sebasma; and Sebastus is the Greek for Augustus, who was worshipped as the secular ruler and divine vicegerent. The papacy has risen on the overthrow of Cæsar's power. Antichrist shall exalt himself above every object of worship, whether on earth as the Cæsar, or in heaven as God. The various prefigurations of Antichrist, Mohammed, Rome, Napoleon, and modern infidel secularism, contain only some, not all, his characteristics. It is the union of all in some one person that shall form the full Antichrist, as the union in one Person, Jesus, of all the types and prophecies constituted the full Christ [Olshausen].
in the temple of God … that he is God—"He will reign a time, times, and half a time" (Da 7:25), that is, three and a half years, and will sit in the temple at Jerusalem: then the Lord shall come from heaven and cast him into the take of fire and shall bring to the saints the times of their reigning, the seventh day of hallowed rest, and give to Abraham the promised inheritance" [Irenæus, Against Heresies, 30.4].
showing himself—with blasphemous and arrogant DISPLAY (compare a type, Ac 12:21-23). The earliest Fathers unanimously looked for a personal Antichrist. Two objections exist to Romanism being regarded the Antichrist, though probably Romanism will leave its culmination in him: (1) So far is Romanism from opposing all that is called God, that adoration of gods and lords many (the Virgin Mary and saints) is a leading feature in it; (2) the papacy has existed for more than twelve centuries, and yet Christ is not come, whereas the prophecy regards the final Antichrist as short-lived, and soon going to perdition through the coming of Christ (Re 17:8, 11). Gregory the Great declared against the patriarch of Constantinople, that whosoever should assume the title of "universal bishop" would be "the forerunner of Antichrist." The papacy fulfilled this his undesigned prophecy. The Pope has been called by his followers, "Our Lord God the Pope"; and at his inauguration in St. Peter's, seated in his chair upon the high altar, which is treated as his footstool, he has vividly foreshadowed him who "exalteth himself above all that is called God." An objection fatal to interpreting the temple of God here as the Church (1Co 3:16, 17; 6:19) is, the apostle would never designate the apostate anti-Christian Church "the temple of God." It is likely that, as Messiah was revealed among the Jews at Jerusalem, so Antimessiah shall appear among them when restored to their own land, and after they have rebuilt their temple at Jerusalem. Thus Da 11:41, 45 (see on Da 11:41; Da 11:45), corresponds, "He shall enter the glorious land (Judea), and he shall plant the tabernacles of his palaces between the seas in the glorious holy mountain"; and then (Da 12:1) "Michael, the great prince, shall stand up" to deliver God's people. Compare Note, see on Da 9:26, 27. Also the king of Assyria, type of Antichrist (Isa 14:12-14). "Lucifer" (a title of Messiah, assumed by Antichrist, Re 22:16); "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." "I will sit upon the mount of the congregation (that is, God's place of meeting His people of old, the temple), in the sides of the north (Ps 48:2); I will be like the Most High." Re 11:1, 2, "The temple of God … the holy city" (namely, Jerusalem, Mt 4:5), compare Ps 68:18, 29, referring to a period since Christ's ascension, therefore not yet fulfilled (Isa 2:1-3; Eze 40:1-44:31; Zec 14:16-20; Mal 3:1). "In the temple of God," implies that it an internal, not an external, enemy which shall assail the Church. Antichrist shall, the first three and a half years of the prophetical week, keep the covenant, then break it and usurp divine honors in the midst of the week. Some think Antichrist will be a Jew. At all events he will, "by flatteries," bring many, not only of the Gentiles, but also of "the tribes" of Israel (so the Greek for "kindreds," Re 11:8, 9), to own him as their long-looked-for Messiah, in the same "city where our Lord was crucified." "Sitteth" here implies his occupying the place of power and majesty in opposition to Him who "sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3), and who shall come to "sit" there where the usurper had sat (Mt 26:64). See on Da 9:27; Re 11:2, 3, 9, 11. Compare Eze 38:2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, as to Tyre, the type of Antichrist, characterized by similar blasphemous arrogance.