New European Commentary

 

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Deeper Commentary

CHAPTER 2

2:1 Now brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, we urge you- The false teaching that the Lord had already come (:2) obviated the need to be gathered together to Him, a phrase clearly taken from the Lord's teaching about our gathering to judgment. This is the problem with preterism and with any idea that the Lord has already come. We would then be effectively living with no accountability to a future judgment. And that false teaching would then tend to be reflected in lifestyle.

2:2 Not to be quickly shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter appearing to be from us, as though the day of Christ had come- The largely illiterate community converted by Paul after only a matter of hours of contact time (see on 1 Thess. 1:1) was going to be vulnerable to the attacks of the Jewish satan / adversary to Paul's churches; there was an organized opposition to his work. In Thessalonica, the Gentile converts had originally been synagogue attendees, and they mobilized the local Roman authorities against the fledgling church. There were false prophets who claimed to be speaking by the Spirit, and false letters claiming to be from Paul. This all indicates Judaist activity; they had elsewhere used the tactic of forging letters in Paul’s name (Gal. 6:11; Heb. 13:22; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 3:1). Thus Paul concludes this second letter to the Thessalonians with “the salutation of me Paul with mine own hand which is the token in every epistle, so I write” (2 Thess. 3:17). Their reasoning was that the day of Christ, i.e. the Kingdom, was already present. This was a basically Jewish argument – hence the Judaist cancer at Ephesus had led to Hymenaeus and Philetus “saying that the resurrection (and therefore the Lord’s return) is passed already; and overthrown the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:18). We see similarities with modern day preterism, which likewise posits that the Kingdom and return of Christ has already come.


2:3 Let no one beguile you in any way- Paul read the prophecy of deceivers arising in the last days as referring to deceivers arising within the ecclesia, i.e. people who were already baptized, consciously deceiving the majority of the ecclesia. He repeats this conviction at least three times (Mt. 24:4 = Eph. 5:6; Col. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:3). The Olivet prophecy had incipient, possible fulfilment in the first century; and a major fulfilment is ahead in our last days. Paul's allusion to it suggests the "man of sin" prophecy is to be read likewise.

There are some connections between Mt. 24 and 2 Thess. 2  which show that the "man of sin" has specific reference to the last days, as Mt. 24 does:

Matthew 24

2 Thessalonians 2

Lawlessness will abound (v.12)

The man of lawlessness

Men saying “Lo, here is Christ” (v.23)

“Be not soon shaken... by word... that the day of Christ is here” (v.2 R.V.)

“Believe it not” (v.23)

“Let no man (of sin) deceive you” (v.3).

“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders” (v.24).

 “With all power and signs and lying wonders” (v.9)

 

“Insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (v.24); implying the non-elect will be deceived.

“All deceivableness... they (shall) believe a lie... but you, brethren beloved of the Lord, have from the beginning (been) chosen to salvation” (v.10,13) – i.e. it was impossible for them to be deceived.

“Behold, I have told you before” (v.25), as Christ prophesied His sufferings.

“When I was yet with you, I told you these things” (v.5)

“As the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (v.27)

“The brightness of his coming” (v.8)

“The Son of man coming in the clouds of Heaven (Angels) with power and great glory” (v.30)

“With his mighty Angels... The glory of his power” (2 Thess. 1:8,9 cp. 2:8)

“Shall gather together his elect” (v.31)

“Our gathering together unto him” (v.1)

“I am Christ... shall deceive many” (v.5)

“Strong delusion, that they should believe a lie... all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish” (v.11,10).

“Iniquity shall abound” (Greek: ‘multiply’, i.e. convert more people to it)

“The mystery of iniquity does... work” (v.7)

“The love of many shall wax cold” (v.12)

“They received not the love of the truth” (v.9)

 

For first of all must come the falling away and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of destruction- The falling away, or apostasy, speaks of a loss of faith and collapse within the church. Paul had warned them before that there would come this great collapse (:5). But it was not inevitable for any of them on a personal level. The word in common Greek referred to a revolt or defection; and is used in the LXX of a falling away from God (Jer. 29:32 e.g.); and in Heb. 3:12 of how the Jewish believers were tempted to fall away. Paul envisaged a collapse in faith amongst the believers in the last days, followed by the revelation of a particular individual who would be supported by and in league with the Jewish 'satan' (:9). This combination of Jewish and Roman power was exactly the problem which the Thessalonians were up against, according to Acts 17 and the various hints at it throughout the Thessalonian letters. This is why Paul chose to explain to them of all the churches what was going to happen. But what he envisaged didn't happen, even though Revelation likewise predicts the uniting of the Roman and Jewish forces of evil to persecute the fledgling church, to be destroyed by the Lord's return. I have elsewhere discussed and demonstrated at length the principle of conditional prophecy. Nineveh was to be destroyed in 40 days, with no mention of any conditions. But it was not, one possible path of fulfilment was replaced with another. Likewise with the prophecy of a grand temple to be built at the time of the restoration, with Messiah within it, in Ez. 40-48. This could have happened- but it didn't. This is not to say that these prophecies shall never come true- their fulfilment was rescheduled. The essence will be fulfilled later, in the last days. And so it is with the scenario envisaged here and in Revelation. The Lord could have come in AD70, and many of the signs such as famines, wars etc. began to come true; but the other human preconditions, such as the repentance of Israel and the taking of the Gospel to all the world, were not. And so His coming has been rescheduled, until our last days. The "man of sin" prophecy can therefore be seen to have the beginnings of a possible fulfilment in the first century; but we are to look for a final fulfilment in our last days. The 'destruction' [AV "perdition"] of the man of sin would be the destruction of the apostate within the church and of those who had refused the Gospel; a related word is used for the perishing or destruction of this category in :10.

We can be sure that the Jewish opposition which attended Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica would have continued well after he left. They were under pressure from “them that trouble you” (2 Thess. 1:6), who are defined in Gal. 5:11–13 as the Judaizers (“they... which trouble you”). The Thessalonians are comforted that these troublers would be destroyed by the Lord’s second coming in fire, “taking vengeance on them... that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (preferring that of Moses): who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (cp. Gehenna) from the presence of the Lord” (1:9). This sounds very much like the punishment of the responsible at judgment day (Jude 24) – and the Judaizers fit that category. Significantly, the only occurrences of the Greek idea of a “man of sin” in the LXX describe Jewish apostates (Prov. 24:22; Is. 57:4).

This prophecy speaks of a specific “man of sin” who would arise within the people of God [be they Israel or the ecclesia]. It seems that there may have been such an individual in the first century:
– “You have heard that antichrist shall come” (1 Jn. 2:18)
– “Who [singular] did hinder you… a little leaven [that] leaveneth the whole lump… he that troubles you...” (Gal. 5:8–10)
– “He that is of the contrary part” (Tit. 2:8)
– “Who (which individual) hindered you?... (Paul’s) letters, saith he, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor. 10:7,10 A.V. mg.).
– The world – the first century Jewish world, in John’s usage of the term – was under the power of a ‘Satan’, a Prince or leader (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 1 Jn. 5:19) – perhaps the High Priest?
– A “stranger” to the flock and a “thief” would come to harm the flock of the Lord Jesus (Jn. 10:5,10).
– The existence of such an individual would make special sense of the Lord’s request for the Father to keep the disciples safe from “the evil one” (Jn. 17:15). 1 Jn. 2:13,14 alludes to this prayer and shows it to have been fulfilled in the first century – the true believers had been kept safe from “the evil one”. And there appears some connection with the promise of Rev. 3:10, given just prior to the cataclysm of AD70, to keep the brethren safe from “the hour of trial”.
– John seems to speak, at least in the Greek text, of one specific individual – e.g. “The one [singular] saying he is in the light” (1 Jn. 1:9). “Who, then, is the liar?” (1 Jn. 2:22) has evident connection with the lying antichrist figure of 2 Thess. 2:8,9; and “the deceiver” (2 Jn. 7) connects with that same figure who will follow “deceit” (2 Thess. 2:11). John saw the singular antichrist as being heralded by many antichrists who had, he felt, already arisen in the first century. They belonged to the [Jewish] world (1 Jn. 4:5) – an indication that the antichrist is somehow Semitic, at least in its first century application. John’s reference to “many false prophets” (1 Jn. 4:1) connects with Mt. 24:11, which in an AD70 context predicts that “many false prophets shall arise”. This indicates to me that the singular antichrist had some fulfilment in the first century. And the same will be [is?] true in our last days. The likes of Saddam Hussein and Hitler are perhaps such antichrists who presage the coming of the specific person who will be the latter day antichrist. They had some similarities to him, but were not the actual person. Significantly, John seems to have understood this person as someone who would nominally accept Jesus, but deny that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed Messiah (1 Jn. 2:22). This would fit a Muslim position far better than it would a Catholic – for Catholics believe that Jesus is the Christ. Likewise in the first century, the Jewish antichrists believed Jesus had existed, but denied He was the Christ.

It is noteworthy that this individual is not named. Martin Hengel comments, correctly: “One of the riddles of Jewish and early Christian polemic is that it hardly ever really names its opponents, but tends to use derogatory paraphrases. This is [also] true of Essene polemic, which conceals its opponents in ciphers” (Martin Hengel, The Johannine Question (London: S.C.M., 1996 ed.), p. 41). In this context we recall the references to Babylon and Egypt in the Old Testament as, e.g., “Rahab”. Paul likewise doesn’t seem to refer to his enemies by their names but rather hides behind almost taunt phrases (2 Cor. 11:5,13; 12:11; Gal. 5:12; Phil. 3:2; and see too Gal. 1:7; 3:1,10; 4:17; 2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; Rom. 3:8; 15:31). The references to the prophetess “Jezebel” in Rev. 2:20 and “the teaching of Balaam” (Rev. 2:14) don’t actually name the individuals concerned, but rather give them a kind of code name. I would suggest however that the individual is not named because the prophecy did not come to full term in the first century, because of the delay of the Lord's return until our last days.

The Jewish nature of the man of sin which Paul warns the Thessalonians of is also suggested by a careful reflection upon 1 Jn. 2:11,19: “He that hateth his brother... walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth... they went out from us, but they were not of us”. This is all alluding back to the example of Cain going out from God’s presence and wandering in the land of Nod with no direction to his life. Cain is a type of the Judaizers and the Jewish system (Jn. 8:44); the primary reference of John’s letters was probably to the Judaizers. I note on 2 Thess. 3:14 that the Judaizers within the Thessalonian church were to be 'marked' just as Cain was. These people are described in 1 Jn. 2:18 as “antichrists” whose presence heralded the full manifestation of “the antichrist”. This is why the New Testament repeatedly stresses that the appearance of false teachers and fake Christs will be a sign of the end. If these antichrists of the first century were Jewish, then “the antichrist” probably also was. There is ample evidence that John’s letters were primarily intended for ecclesias facing this Judaizer problem. The copious links with his Jewish–based Gospel should make this evident. Note too that the Qumran Essenes described the apostate High Priest as “the man of lies”. Tertullian’s interpretations of John’s letters clearly understood the “antichrists” to be referring to contemporary false teachers.

Paul warns that the Lord’s coming will not be until there has come a marked further apostasy, and the full public revelation of the man of sin, whose “mystery of iniquity” was already quietly at work. It would be fully revealed once God’s withholding patience had ended. At this stage the man of sin would show “lying wonders” which would deceive many; but he would soon be destroyed by “the brightness of (the Lord’s) coming”. This “mystery of iniquity” was the Judaist false doctrine undermining the ecclesia, resulting in many believers being influenced by them, until in the immediate prelude to Christ’s ‘coming’ in AD70 the Jewish system seemed to have the upper hand over the true believers. We know from Heb. 6 and elsewhere that the Judaist elders were able to do miracles. Such a bout of impressive miracles to be done by false teachers in the last days is predicted in the Olivet prophecy and parts of Revelation. The events of AD70 then totally destroyed the Jewish system.

Our commentary seeks to interpret 2 Thess. 2 from these two perspectives – the possibility in the first century, and the major fulfilment in the last days.

Who Will He Be?

We have seen that the latter day man of sin will have some association with the people of God, after the pattern of Judas. He may be partly Jewish. He may even have Christian connections. Or it may be that he is an Arab, a half Jew, who will enthrone himself as the head of the Islamic beast and make his capital and temple in Jerusalem. Nah. 1:15 RV describes the leader of the Assyrian invasion as “the wicked one”, the “wicked counsellor” (1:11), “he that dashes [Israel] in pieces” (Nah. 2:1). Further evidence for a charismatic Islamic antichrist is provided in my study of the revival of latter day Babylon in The Last Days. Of particular significance is the way that the man of sin exalts himself “against all that is called God or that is an object of worship” (2 Thess. 2:4 RV mg.). This is exactly relevant to Islam, whose insistent belief in one God leads them to be aggressively against any icon, idol or object of worship. This is the very opposite to the Catholic way of venerating objects of worship.

The following table shows the evident links between the personal “man of sin” spoken of in 2 Thess. 2, and the beast systems of Revelation:

2 Thessalonians 1& 2

Revelation

2:3 – son of perdition (see also Jn. 17:12)

17:8 – Beast goes into perdition

2:7 – mystery of iniquity (Gk. anomia) (a reference to the son of perdition)

17:7 – Babylon associated with mystery

2:8 – wicked (lit. ‘lawless’ – Gk. anomos) one revealed (see also v. 7 where “iniquity” = Gk. anomia)

1:1 – The revelation of Jesus Christ

2:8 – Lord consumes him [the wicked one] with the spirit of his mouth (cp. Is. 11:4)

19:11, 15 – Christ destroys the beast (ref. To Isaiah 11:4)

1:8 – Lord Jesus in flaming fire

19:12 – Christ’s eyes “as a flame of fire”

2:11 – those who perish believe a lie (a reference to the wicked one of 2:8)

19:20 – “false (or lying) prophet”

2:11 – strong delusion (or working of deceit) (a reference to the wicked one of 2:8)

13:14 – deceive

19:20 – deceive

(references to the second beast and the false prophet)

2:9 – signs (Gk. semeion) (a reference to the wicked one of 2:8)

13:13 – wonders (Gk. semeion)

19:20 miracles

(Gk. semeion) (references to the second beast and the false prophet)

2:4 – temple

11:2 – temple


It seems reasonable to equate this “man” with the specific “antiChrist” of 1 Jn. 2:18. The beast / horn system is also an imitation of Christ. It breaks in pieces the whole earth (Dan. 7:23) – the same word used in Dan. 2:40,44 to describe Christ’s breaking in pieces of the nations at his return. The little horn will “think to change times and laws”. This is clearly alluding to Dan. 2:21, where God alone is described as changing the times and seasons. The little horn thus makes himself as God – the man of sin “as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4). This man of sin will be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord’s second coming (2 Thess. 2:8). He will therefore be actively in existence in the last days. This man of sin will be revealed during a falling away from the Truth just prior to the return of Christ (2 Thess. 2:2,3). Thus whatever fulfilments of this power there may have been over history, it has to be accepted that it will have a particular manifestation in the last days.

The man of sin is “the son of perdition”, clearly alluding to Judas (Jn. 17:12). This associates this power with the apostate element within the ecclesia, who in the first century were Jewish. Through infiltrating the ecclesia, he will sit “in the temple of God” (2 Thess. 2:4), i.e. the ecclesia. Judas was a betrayer; we have seen from the Olivet prophecy that there will be betrayers within the ecclesia in the tribulation period. The link with Judas surely teaches that there will be a ‘Fifth column’ within the latter day church, who are connected with the latter day Babylon / beast / man of sin.

However, it is possible that these prophecies refer to a specific individual who claims that he is Christ – a real ‘antiChrist’, possibly associated with a renegade Christian (after the pattern of Judas being one of the twelve). It may even be that he builds a literal temple, which would then be the abomination which makes desolate standing in the holy place. Remember that the horn / beast blasphemes the temple (Rev. 13:6), and in their manifestation as the King of the North, “he shall plant the tabernacle of his palace... In the glorious holy mountain” of Zion (Dan. 11:45). 2 Thess. 2:8,9 point the contrast between the Lord’s coming and that of the man of sin – as if the latter is a replica of the former. This new power will break in pieces opposing nations just like Christ will (Dan. 7:23 cp. 2:44); he will institute a new set of laws world–wide as if he has God’s authority (Dan. 7:25 cp.2:21).

Some may be duped into thinking that Christ has come back, when actually it is the ‘antiChrist’ of the beast. The beast may have its adherents within the ecclesia who will promulgate this view. The beast has a mouthpiece in another beast that speaks like a dragon – i.e. like the beast – but has horns like a lamb, i.e. a fake Christ. This beast “does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on earth in the sight of men (i.e. this is conscious exhibitionism), and deceives... by the means of these miracles which he had power to do” (Rev. 13:11–14). Bringing fire from Heaven means that this is a conscious imitation of Elijah, implying that the Elijah ministry is active during the tribulation. It will be opposed by the publicity stunts of the beast system.

The idea of an anti–Christ as a replica of the real Christ also occurs in Proverbs, where there is a designed contrast between the woman of wisdom (representing Christ, the seed of the woman, 1 Cor. 1:24), and the “foolish woman” who does the same external things as “wisdom” (e.g. Prov. 9:1–5 cp. 9:14–17). This prototype antiChrist is a whore, which is a symbol associated with the dragon / Babylon / beast of Revelation. Thus the antiChrist and the beast are closely linked. Because of the false miracles, the weak believer will worship the image of the beast and join the 666 system (Rev. 13:14–18). This is based on the image in the plain of Dura, which many of God’s people were duped into worshipping. Only the three friends seem to have refused to do so. Perhaps the furnaces which were the means of punishment for those who refused to worship the image are related to the furnaces of the concentration camps, which we may well see repeated in the future.

“A time of trouble”

We have suggested that the blasphemous power building his palace on the temple mount in Dan. 11:45 is the man of sin of 2 Thess. 2, and thus also the little horn power. This is immediately before the second coming of Christ and resurrection described in Dan. 12:2. It is during this period that “there shall be a time of trouble such as never was” for God’s people, natural and spiritual – the time of Jacob’s trouble that occurs after Israel’s present regathering to the land. “That day is great, so that none is like it” (Jer. 30:7). Those who are written in the book experience it, but are saved from it. This group must surely be true believers. Seeing that this will be a time of trouble for God’s people such as never was, the previous sufferings of the Jews and the tribulation of the second world war will be nothing compared to this. It will be so bad that it will seem that every one of us will perish – “there should no flesh be saved” (Mt. 24:22). But for those who doggedly hold on to the patience and faith of the saints, the glorious, miraculous deliverance will come. Even an Angel was so amazed by the extraordinary nature of this time of trouble that he asked: “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?”. The answer was “For a time, time and an half (i.e. three and a half years); and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished” (Dan. 12:7,8). The Hebrew for “the holy people” is literally ‘the people of the holy ones’ – i.e. all those among natural and spiritual Israel who belong to their holy guardian Angels. “All things” being fulfilled in Dan. 12:8 is probably alluded to in the fig tree parable – the generation that see the revival of Israel (fruit instead of leaves on the tree, as a result of Christian preaching) during that three and a half year tribulation will live to see the end of all things. The holy people are to be scattered (Dan. 12:7). The Hebrew means ‘to break in pieces’, and is also used regarding the beast / horn breaking in pieces the whole earth / land (Dan. 7:23). As it treats God’s people, so it will be judged, seeing that the little stone breaks in pieces the beast / image.

The horn who scatters God’s people in the last days, the “he” of Dan. 12:7 is the “King of the North” of Dan. 11:45 – suggesting that the beast / horn has something to do with latter day Assyria and Babylon, the historical / Biblical “King of the North”. The faithful will be “tried” (Dan. 12:10) by this invader, as Israel were by the Babylonian invasion of the past (Jer. 9:7). The same word is used in Zech. 13:9 and Mal. 3:2 concerning the faithful remnant in Jerusalem enduring their future sufferings.

There are a number of similarities between Daniel 11 and the prophecies concerning the persecution of the saints by the horn / beast / man of sin:

 

Daniel 11

The Latter Day Tribulation

v.31 “Shall pollute the sanctuary”

The beast’s blasphemy against the temple

v.32 “Such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries”

Some of those in the covenant will be deceived by the flatteries of the beast (cp. Dan. 8:25)

“Such as do wickedly”

“The wicked shall do wickedly” (Dan. 12:10)

v.32,33 “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits... instruct many”

Zealous preaching by the faithful during persecution.

v.33 “They shall fall by the sword”

The beast kills the saints with the sword and leads them into captivity in the tribulation (Rev.13:10). “They shall fall by the sword” is quoted in Lk. 21:24 concerning the tribulation.

“Many days”

1260 days


v.35 “Some of them of understanding shall fall” (in death)

 

“To try them, and to purge, and to make them white”

“Even to the time of the end; because it is yet for a time appointed”

“Some of you shall they cause to be put to death” (Lk. 21:16) – the faithful remnant are characterized by their “understanding” – of the prophecies?

“ Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried” (Dan. 12:10)

The tribulation continues right up to the end – the Lord’s coming. The time appointed – 3.5 years of Dan. 12:7?

v.36 “The King...shall exalt himself”

As the horn did over the other horns. If this verse is a continuing description of Antiochus Epiphanes, then it just isn’t all true. Rather it seems do we have another gap / jump in chronological fulfilment, as happens elsewhere in Daniel, until the latter day antichrist.

“And magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods”

The man of sin exalts himself above all that is called God (2 Thess. 2:4); the horn speaks blasphemy against God.

v.38 “He shall sit in the seat of the Almighty God” (A.V. mg.)

Sitting as God in God’s temple (2 Thess. 2:4)

 

There are too many similarities here for this to all be coincidental. The primary fulfilment of Dan. 11 appears to be in the persecution of the Maccabees. The effective tribulation which they went through then, preparing as it did a faithful remnant who accepted Jesus as Messiah at His first coming, must be a dim shadow of what the church and natural Israel are to undergo in the last days. Note that Dan. 11:33 and 12:10 emphasize that only those who understand will spiritually survive the persecution. This should serve as the ultimate inspiration to zealously apply ourselves to the study of prophecy, rather than give up because it seems too difficult. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

The Old Testament Basis

In searching for an Old Testament basis for “that wicked one”, we find that very phrase used in the Septuagint of Esther 7:4 to describe Haman. He too was ‘revealed’ for who he was – the Persian leader plotting the total destruction of Jewry, from which they were saved by grace. The entire story of Esther can be read as a detailed type of Israel’s latter day weakness, persecution and deliverance by grace. The idea of a “man of sin” within the temple of God surely has its source in the Ezekiel passages (e.g. Ez. 8:8–16) which describe the idolatry (“abomination”) which occurred within the temple in the days just prior to the invasion of Israel by the Babylonians. These passages lead up to the vision of the purged, perfected temple of the Messianic Kingdom in Ez. 40 – 48. The ‘men of sin’ which Ezekiel saw within the temple were the “elders of the house of Israel”, the corrupted priesthood. The connection with 2 Thess. 2 suggests that in the last days, before the final neo–Babylonian holocaust, the elders of both natural and spiritual Israel will practice corruption in the temple / ecclesia of God.

There is an incident in the experience of Nehemiah, Governor of Jerusalem (a type of Christ, Mt. 2:6) which points forward to all this. Nehemiah (cp. Jesus) returned to the Emperor to have his authority over Jerusalem confirmed (cp. Christ to God, Mt. 25:19; Lk. 19:12,13). He then returned to the holy land, to find Israel indifferent to the state of God’s house, taken up with the petty materialism of daily life, with the result that the Arab Tobiah had been permitted by the elders of Israel to live in the chambers of the house of God (Neh. 13:6–9). Nehemiah in fury expels him and “cleansed the chambers”, throwing out all his things, after the pattern of Christ cleansing the temple (Mt. 21:12). Along with the type of Moses returning from the mount to a corrupted Israel, this points forward to the state of affairs at Christ’s return. Is. 8:5 speaks of an “image of jealousy” being placed in the temple by the Jews just prior to the Babylonian invasion. This was the original image behind the Lord’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation being placed in the temple by the Romans. And yet His prophecy has a distinct latter day reference. All this points to a similar literal fulfilment in some way, in a literal latter day temple.

 “The son of perdition” was Judas (Jn. 17:12), the epitome of sin and the Jewish Devil (Jn. 6:70,71 cp. 8:44). We will see that throughout 2 Thess. 2 there is frequent reference to the events surrounding our Lord’s suffering and death; as we also note in the Revelation passages concerning the saints’ final sufferings. Judas was concealed among the disciples until he finally flew his true colours at his betrayal of Christ, which marked the beginning of His passion. The Judaizers were only revealed for what they really were in the traumas of AD69/70. And if the man of sin has a latter day equivalent, this group of false teachers will only show their hand immediately prior to the second coming, at the beginning of the tribulation, which matches the beginning of Christ’s final sufferings which began after Judas’ betrayal. This indicates that any witch hunt for this group is doomed to failure. The disciples tried to expose Judas, “the man of sin”, before his proper time to be manifested; and ended up accusing each other of fitting the role. Such is the inability of human nature to make accurate judgment in this respect. There were three and a half days from the time of Judas being openly revealed for what he was to the end of Christ’s sufferings, marked by the resurrection. It may be that there will be a three and a half year tribulation period for the latter day believers, beginning with the open revealing of the “man of sin”.

The N.I.V. (correctly) translated “man of sin” as “man of lawlessness”, highlighting the contradiction in the fact that the law–crazy Judaists were actually lawless. Because lawlessness abounds in the last days, the majority of the ecclesia will lose their love (Mt. 24:12). The beast is epitomized by a man – “the number of the beast... is the number of a man” (Rev. 13:18), in the same way as the system described in 2 Thess. 2 is personified as a man of sin. The figure of Rev. 13:5,6 is clearly based around an Old Testament ‘man of sin’, Goliath – a real, historical person. Rev. 11:4,13 draw a contrast between a god of the earth / land of Israel, and the true God of Heaven. The “god of the earth” has two olive trees and two candlesticks standing before him, with evident allusion back to Zech. 4:14; 6:5, where the Lord / King of the earth / land appears to refer to the King of Babylon.

These passages all imply that there may well be one specific “man of sin” in the last days. Judas, the prototype “son of perdition”, influenced the other disciples, as shown by the complaint concerning Mary’s ‘waste’ of ointment being described as made by Judas in Jn. 12:4, but by the whole group in Mt. 26:8. Jude’s letter is a warning against the Jewish–influenced apostasy of the first century. He cites “the gainsaying of Korah” as typical of the false teaching that was infiltrating the ecclesias. He could have spoken of “Korah, Dathan and Abiram”, but instead he focuses on Korah, as if he was the outstanding influence. By doing so, was Jude suggesting that there was one specific individual in the “last days” who was to be resisted?

The connection with Judas would suggest that the man of sin being in the temple may refer to the presence of this individual or system within the ecclesia. But there is a clear link with Mt. 24:15, concerning the abomination of desolation standing in the temple as a clear sign that Christ’s return is imminent, just as Paul says the man of sin in the temple is the clear sign of the second coming (2 Thess. 2:3). The Lord’s words are looking back to Daniel’s prophecy that a desolator (RV) is to appear in the temple, and also to Jeremiah’s description of Nebuchadnezzar as a ‘desolator’ of God’s people and His cities, who achieves his ‘desolation’ by a fake theophany, coming with clouds and chariots just as the Lord Jesus will (Jer. 4:7,13). The language used by Jeremiah in that section is very similar to that used in Ezekiel 38 about the individual named as ‘Gog’. The abomination that desolates is at the hands of an individual desolator – the man of sin of 2 Thess. 2. The likely application to an abomination within the ecclesia notwithstanding, one is tempted to look for a physical temple to be built in Jerusalem in order to ease the fulfilment of this prophecy. It cannot be insignificant that the right wing Rabbis are enthusiastic for this, and have already drawn up the plans for one! It could be that Rev. 13:14,15 predict that the man of sin will set up a literal image of himself there in the temple. And as has been pointed out, Caligula had ordered a statue of himself to be erected in the temple, and although this never actually happened, this would’ve been an enduring memory amongst the New Testament readership. This background again points to the personality cult of a specific individual being developed in the temple.

Paul was an enthusiast for living as if we know the Lord's return is imminent; but he told the Thessalonians that that blessed day wouldn't come immediately, because some prophecy still had to be fulfilled (2 Thess. 2:3). This, I suspect, is the situation we are in now: living as if we expect the Lord imminently, but recognizing that we don't know whether his return is imminent, and still looking for some prophecy to be fulfilled.
2 Thess. 2:3 RV speaks of "the falling away" which must come as the final, crystal clear sign that the Lord's return is imminent. It sounds as if Paul treated this as an obvious, well known thing amongst the believers. In the context, he's saying: 'How ever can you believe this idea that the day of Christ is here now (RV)? As you know thoroughly well, the great apostasy from the truth in the ecclesia must come, and only then will the Lord come, to save the elect within his corrupted ecclesia'. The idea of latter day weakness in the ecclesia is taught explicitly and implicitly throughout the Scriptures. Both natural and spiritual Israel have to be almost pleaded with to come out from among the beast system of the last days (Rev. 18:4), implying that somehow they become part of it- although ideally they should never have become involved with it. Israel being tempted by Balaam and the Moabite women at the very end of the wilderness journey looks forward to the tendency of latter day spiritual Israel to mess up on the eve of the Kingdom. A fair case can be made for thinking that Adam sinned at the end of the sixth day, on the eve of the Sabbath of rest (cp. the Millennium). See on 1 Tim. 4:1.


The accounts of the latter day invasion of Israel all feature a single charismatic individual, who will be destroyed personally by the Lord Jesus at His coming. This is Paul’s “man of sin”, Daniel’s aggressive king of fierce countenance, Ezekiel’s Gog, the chief prince. It is also the person referred to by Micah: “And this man [Messiah] shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land” (Mic. 5:1,2). The Lord Jesus will save His people in the latter days from an “Assyrian”. It has been shown that Assyria and Babylon are used almost interchangeably in Scripture. Gog was a Jew who apostatized and went to live in Assyria / Babylonia, according to 1 Chron. 5. This is why he has the appearance of spirituality; and he may even be a middle Eastern Christian. I say this because 2 Thess. 2 describes him as “the son of perdition”, exactly the phrase used about Judas, the false disciple of Jesus.


2 Thess. 2:3 is clear enough that the “man of sin” will arise in the last days immediately before the Lord’s return. We need not think that Christ is about to return until we see this person gloriously enthroned “as God”. This is what Paul seems to be saying. And when the Lord was asked for the signs of His coming, he started off by warning that false Christs would come (Mt. 24:4,5). 1 Jn. 2:18 says just the same: “It is the last time [RV “hour”]: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time”. This was true in the run up to AD70, and it will be true in the ultimate last hour too. Ezekiel 38 likewise speaks of a man called ‘Gog’, a “chief prince”, who would come against God’s people at the time of the end. This is the man of whom Dan. 8:25 speaks- “he will destroy many and will stand up against the Prince of princes”, the Lord Jesus.

2:4 He that opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits in the temple of God, setting himself up as God- I suggested on :3 that the situation envisaged was of a joining together of the Jewish and Roman opposition to Christianity. This would result in a specific individual enthroned in the Jerusalem temple, and also in the temple in the sense of the church of God. The language used here is very similar to the cult of Caesar worship; Nero especially set himself up as God. As explained on :3, this scenario did not come about in the first century although an incipient fulfilment was seen in the events of AD70. We look to a future fulfilment in our days.

"He that opposes" was clearly the Jewish satan, to which Paul alludes in most of his letters; an organized network of opposition to his missionary work. The word and idea is used in concerning the Judaizers and Jews in Lk. 13:17; 21:15; 1 Cor. 16:9; Phil. 1:28; 2 Tim. 2:25 and 1 Tim. 5:14. This opposition to the Gospel in the Thessalonian context has already been established as coalition of Jewish and Roman forces of evil (see on 1 Thess. 2:18). Their arrogance is well described as exalting themselves above anything that is ‘worshipped’, whether Christian or otherwise. This is the same word as “devotions” in Acts 17:23 concerning pagan idols. The forces of Jewish and Roman evil were to unite to set up an entity which would be above any idol. They made themselves “as God”, perhaps by imitating Moses, the god of this (Jewish) world” (2 Cor. 4:4 and context); James 4:11,12 is just one example of the Judaist–influenced eldership making themselves equal to Moses. There are two Greek words translated “temple”, one referring more to the physical building and the other to the spiritual dwelling place of God, i.e. the ecclesia (1 Tim. 3:15). It is this latter one which is used here – the man of sin sits down (Gk. ‘takes his place’) in the ecclesia, showing himself (Greek ‘demonstrating’) that he is God. This word is translated “approved” in Acts 2:22 concerning Christ’s approval as God’s representative by His miracles. This indicates that the man of sin is an imitation of Christ – a true antiChrist. The showing that he is God would be through the pseudo miracles of v.9 – in the same way as Moses was made as God to Pharaoh through the miracles he did (Ex. 7:1). The Judaist–influenced elders of the Jewish ecclesias seem to have retained the power of the miraculous gifts for a short time after their apostasy (Heb. 6:4–6); the Jews also had their false miracle workers (Acts 13:6; 19:14). The beast of Revelation also works impressive miracles. Thus as the man of sin did false miracles in the first century through the Jewish miracle workers and their Judaist friends within the ecclesia, so both in the beast system of the last days as well as in the ecclesia, the latter day “man of sin” will work false miracles.

In the last days context, the ecclesia will be infiltrated by a "man of sin" who appears to be an apostle, and who in league with the beast, the power dominating the world, corrupts the ecclesia. He is an anti-Christ, a false God. His sitting in the temple of the ecclesia is matched by Tobiah the Arab having rooms in the temple- rooms which should have been symbolic of the dwelling place of God's people with Him (Neh. 7:13 cp. Jn. 14:1-3). He will get this place, as Tobiah got his place, because the ecclesia has failed to grasp the rigid line of demarcation between the things of God's Kingdom and those of Satan's. They will have been deceived by the apparent similarity between the two Kingdoms. The presence of antiChrist within the ecclesia will be the sign "whereby ye know that it is the last time" (1 Jn. 2:18); and 2 Thess. 2:3 and Mk. 13:5,14 say the same thing. The recognition of the presence of such false teaching within the ecclesia will be what tells the faithful remnant that the Lord's return really is imminent. If the "man of sin" is to be connected somehow with the Muslim beast as we have suggested elsewhere, it may be that the vague, outline similarities between Islam and the One Faith are what are capitalized upon in order to make the differences seem minimal. Thus Muslims tenaciously believe in one God and a restored paradise on earth, and Shi'ite Muslims (comprising 99% Iranians and 60% Iraqis) look for the return of the 12th Imam (who they believe has ascended to Heaven) to rule the world. Muslim mosques are fake temples of God, designed as they are around an outer court and two sanctuaries. As Adam desired equality with God (see the allusions to his fall in Phil. 2) and was punished with an inability to hide, shame and nakedness as a result, so Edom will be punished in precisely the same way (Jer. 49:10)- because they too desire equality with God, as Babylon did in Is. 14:13, and as the man of sin will attempt (2 Thess. 2: 4). The connection between Babylon, Edom and the man of sin's blasphemy suggests that he is connected with radical Islamic religious blasphemy.


The antichrist is a mimic of the true Christ; his kingdom is a parody of God’s Kingdom. And the King of Babylon claiming “I am and none else beside me” are the very words of Yahweh- the King of Babylon is clearly to be identified with the man of sin, who sits as God in God’s temple (2 Thess. 2). The “man of sin” will sit in the temple of God and proclaim that he is God. This is surely the “abomination that maketh desolate” that the Lord Jesus predicted would sit in the temple just prior to His return. The abomination makes “desolate”, clearly referring to Jerusalem being made desolate by Babylonian / Iraqi invaders (Dan. 9:2,17). Luke 21:20 parallels “the abomination that maketh desolate” in Mt. 24 and Mk. 13 with “the desolation of Jerusalem”. The abomination / abominator will stand “where he ought not” (Mk. 13:14 RV). He is the “one that maketh desolate” (Dan. 9:27 RV). A specific individual is clearly implied. Dan. 8:13 RV describes this person as “the transgression that maketh desolate”- yet it is the abominator that makes Jerusalem desolate. Therefore “the transgression” is surely being put by metonymy for a man, who will sit in the Most Holy place and make Jerusalem desolate. And 2 Thess. 2 says just the same- “the man of sin / transgression”. The whole tenor of the Daniel prophesies is that they refer to an individual who will arise in the last days- not someone like a Pope sitting in St. Peter’s for centuries. The vision of the 2300 days of abomination- the days during which the abominator will make Jerusalem desolate- “belongs to the latter days” (Dan. 8:26). These are the days during which the sanctuary and the host of God’s people will be “trodden under foot”; interpreted by the Lord as Jerusalem being trodden down of the Gentiles until “the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled”.


It is quite clear that the leadership of Israel's fiercest enemies would dearly love to sit and stand in the Sanctuary if they could get their hands on Jerusalem [as they vow they will]. He will sit there “as God”. Another place where we read of a man sitting in the temple proclaiming that he is God is in Ez. 28:2, where the King of Tyre proudly says that he sits as God ruling the seas of the people. The King of Tyre was a prototype for the latter day man of sin. The King of Tyre was “in Eden the garden of God” where he was “anointed” and beautifully adorned (Ez. 28:12,14). These descriptions may be further information about the serpent in Eden, although omitted from the Genesis account; and of the idol cult of Tyre being established in the Jerusalem temple in Ezekiel's time. In this case, the fake-Christ [anointed one] is “the old serpent”, just as the latter day beast leader will be (Rev. 12). The beast is so often paralleled with its leader, just as the little horn seems to refer to both a leader and a nation / political system. The sudden destruction that comes upon Antichrist in 2 Thess. 2 is the same kind of thing spoken of in 1 Thess. 5:3- “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh”. The saying of peace and safety is exactly the language of Daniel regarding the false peace produced in the very last days by Antichrist. It could well be that under Babylon’s domination there is a brief boom period for the entire world. This ensures his political survival, and explains why all the world’s merchants will weep at his fall. This sorrow by the traders hardly seems likely to happen if the Vatican was destroyed. This person will accuse the brethren of Christ before the throne of God (Rev. 12:10), but will be thrown down by the Lord’s return and the establishment of the Kingdom. This is exactly the language of 2 Thess. 2 about the antichrist who is to be destroyed by the Lord’s coming. Yet the idea of a false accuser of the brethren before the throne of God takes us back to Job’s satan- who seems to have been a pseudo-disciple, bringing down the outpouring of vial-like judgments upon God's people (cp. the scene in Revelation). Antichrist, the man of sin, sitting in the temple of God, is surely the abomination that Jesus said is to be in the temple in the last days, leading to the final desolation. Is. 14 describes the rise and fall of the King of Babylon; he too desired to set himself as God in the temple of God, having first terrorized the nations that dwell on the ‘earth’, those situated in the land promised to Abraham between the Nile and Euphrates. This seems so on the cards for latter day Babylon- to terrorize the Middle Eastern world into accepting her leadership, and then to seek to set up the King of latter day Babylon on “the mount of God”, Zion. Finally, Nahum speaks of how there was one specific Assyrian leader who was to be destroyed by the coming of Messiah. The phrasing is so similar to that found about the “man of sin”: “There is one gone forth out of thee, that imagineth evil against the Lord, a wicked counsellor… behold upon the mountains the feet of him [Messiah] that bringeth good tidings… the wicked one shall no more pass through… he is utterly cut off. He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face” (Nah. 1:11,15; 2:1 RV).

2:5 Have you forgotten that when I was still with you I told you these things?- Paul was only with them for three Sabbath days. He had little contact time with them, and yet he warned them of future tribulation at the hand of Jewish and Gentile forces of evil, to result in a "man of sin" being enthroned in the Jerusalem temple. And yet from 1 Thess. 4 it is clear that they were still ignorant of basic theology about the resurrection. Clearly Paul considered practical warnings as to the difficulty of the path ahead as being more important than theology.

In 1 Thess. 5:3–5 they had been told that the pre-eminent sign of the Lord’s coming is the “peace and safety” cry within the ecclesia. Now in 2 Thess. 2 Paul puts it another way: “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first”, or most importantly, as the most obvious sign.

2:6 And now you know what is restraining him now, that he may be revealed in his own time- This restraining influence was known by the Thessalonians; it lay within the range of their experience. That is significant in our attempt to interpret this difficult question as to who or what the restraining influence refers to.

“Restraining” is also translated as “stand fast” and also “keep hold”, often in the context of resisting Judaist infiltration by retaining true doctrine. This would imply that the spiritually strong within the ecclesias were withholding the revealing of the man of sin and the Lord’s return (“that he might be revealed in his time” can neatly refer to either, cp. 1 Tim. 6:15). However, it was only a matter of time before the falling away was so widespread that they would be “taken out of the way”; “for the mystery of iniquity (literally ‘law–breaking’, another pun on the Judaizers’ position) doth already work” (v.7). This is the opposite to “the mystery of Godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16), and refers to the Judaizers claiming to be so spiritually deep that the Truth was a “mystery” known only to them (cp. Jude 19; Rev. 2:24). That which hindered the revealing or coming (cp. 1:7; a false second coming) of the man of sin would be taken out of the way. “Out of the way” here is normally translated “from among them” – the spiritually minded members of the ecclesia were to be taken away, so that God’s punishments could come upon the rest of them. In the first century this was shown in the command for the faithful to flee the Jerusalem ecclesia (Lk. 21:21), to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4), which is a common symbol of Israel and apostate Jewry in the prophets. The word for “mystery” is also used in a negative sense in Rev. 17:5,7 concerning the woman of sin riding the beast – hinting at a specific individual who will be the figurehead of the beast?

I suggested on :3 that what is in view, initially, in the first century context, was a coalition between Jewish and Roman forces of evil, culminating in the enthronement of a Nero like figure in the Jerusalem temple, proclaimed as the only object of worship, and thus closing down all the various idol cults. This coalition of Jews and Gentiles against the church would be a repetition of what happened to bring about the Lord's death, and the church would therefore fellowship His sufferings in this way. But that was restrained by the strong paganism of the population. Perhaps it was this which was initially in view; as well as political opposition to such an extent of Caesar worship and deification within the Roman leadership. There was indeed a movement against this development. But this was to be taken out of the way. The restraining nature of Roman civil law as it was then practiced was well known to the Thessalonians, for it was this which had saved Paul from being lynched at Thessalonica (Acts 17:6,9).

We can only speculate what the restraining influence may be in the last days. It could simply be God's desire to delay the Lord's coming so that more may get a chance to repent. Even in the first century, there was this element of Divine delay (2 Pet. 3:9).

2:7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so, until he is out of the way- The "mystery" could refer to the false teaching of the Judaizers, or to the development of the imperial Caesar cult. See on :6 and :7. "The mystery" in the New Testament refers to the mystery of the Kingdom, of the Gospel; and the Gospel likewise was "at work" through the Spirit in believers. But the man of sin is a fake Christ, and is associated with a false Gospel and another spirit and mystery. The 'working' is defined as "the working of satan" (:9), and I have noted that the great satan or adversary to the Lord was the Judaist movement. This is termed lawlessness because as Paul often shows, Judaism was effectively anti God's true Law. By not obeying the Gospel they were effectively not knowing God (see on 1:8).

2:8 And then shall be revealed the lawless one- The revealing of this individual would be at the time of the revealing of the Lord Jesus (1:7). The revealing of this individual is therefore a mimicry of the Lord's revealing from Heaven. And the true Christ shall clearly be shown. Just as Judas was revealed for who he was ("the son of perdition", :3, = Jn. 17:12), so this latter day individual would be revealed.

"The lawless one" of 2 Thess. 2:8 alludes to “the wicked one” of Is. 11:4 LXX, who is “the Assyrian”. So it would appear very likely that the latter day antichrist figure comes from ‘Assyria’. And what’s going on in the territory of ‘Assyria’ right now is gripping the whole world’s attention. See on Rev. 19:20.

Whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the powerful glory of his coming- The Spirit and brightness of the Lord’s coming parallels the description of judgment on the Judaizers in 1:6–9: “...mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance... punished... from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power”. This judgment is against “them that trouble you” (1:6), i.e. the false Judaist ‘brethren’ who were leading the early church astray (Gal. 1:7). The link with 2:8 shows that it is such false brethren within the ecclesia (temple) who are “the wicked one” which will be destroyed by the second coming; along with the "man of sin" system of the world. On :3 I suggested there is a religious and secular element to the system in view. 2 Thess. 1:6–9 also recalls the description of coming judgment on the apostate Jews in Rom.1:18: The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all unGodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness”. Paul’s words in Thessalonians can also be traced back to Is. 11:4: “He (Christ) shall smite the earth (Heb. ‘eretz’ – land, of Israel) with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” in Israel, primarily. The Greek for “wicked” is translated “without law” in Romans, again making a play on the Judaizers who were claiming to keep the Law. There is a parallel between “the mystery of iniquity” in v.7 and the “wicked one” of v.8 – the revealing of “that wicked” is therefore the revealing of a mystery, which mimics the ‘revealed mystery’ of the true Gospel (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3; 6:19; Col. 1:26). The wicked one was to be “destroyed”, the Greek for which is also translated “abolish”, “do away”, “make of no effect”, “vanish away”, “make void” etc., all in the context of the doing away of the Jewish Law and the system which supported it. This was only fully done with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD70.

“The spirit of his mouth” looks forward to Rev. 19:15,21 concerning Christ’s destruction of the beast at the last day, which has close links with the man of sin. The emphasis on the destruction of the man of sin by Angels and fire recalls Dan. 7:10,11 concerning the beast’s destruction by the Lord’s return. Perhaps the man of sin will appear associated with the latter day ecclesia, the temple of God, but he will be linked with the political ‘beast’ which will then be in control of the world.

2:9 But the coming of the lawless one will be according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders- However we understand the “working of Satan” (energeian tou Satana) in 2 Thess. 2:9, it was under the control of God – for it was part of the “strong delusion” (energeian planes) which God sent (2 Thess. 2:11). The repetition of the word energeian is missed through the mask of translation through which most read this passage, but in the original Greek it stands out clearly. The ‘Satan’ isn’t working against God but is being used by God in His working in the lives of others. It is “evil” and “the work of Satan” which deceives the wicked (2 Thess. 2:9,10); but God works through this, it is He who sends the delusion... an indication that ‘Satan’ here is not radical evil, i.e. evil that is free and independent from God, lurking free in the cosmos as it were, but is sent by God, under His control. But of course, we want to know more about this ‘Satan’; and clearly the Jewish opposition to the Christian Gospel was a significant adversary or ‘Satan’ in the first century.

‘Satan’ in the New Testament frequently refers to the Jewish system. We noted on :3 the idea of a coalition between Jewish and Gentile forces of evil. The envisaged new religious order would be supported by the Jewish satan, who would perform false miracles to give it credibility.  “Coming” can be translated ‘coming in’, referring to the subtle entry of Judaist agents and ideas into the ecclesia (Gal. 2:4 etc.). The coming of Christ was associated with miracles, and this would be matched by ‘Satan’s’ miracles at his ‘coming’. The Greek for “working” is often used concerning the working of the Holy Spirit. “Power, signs and wonders” is a phrase always used concerning the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 2:22,43; 4:30; Rom. 15:19; Heb. 2:4); and in 2 Cor. 12:12 concerning the qualifications of an apostle. This would portray the man of sin as a false apostle (cp. 2 Cor. 11:13–15) doing false miracles to accompany a false Gospel; he is “the son of perdition” after the pattern of Judas. The Greek for “lying” is used about the apostate Jews in Jn. 8:44; Rom. 1:25; 1 Jn. 2:21.

Jannes and Jambres were another prototype of these Judaizers (2 Tim.3:8). Perhaps these magicians who replicated Moses’ miracles were apostate Jews. Israel’s experience in Egypt points forward to ours at the time of the second coming. Perhaps the beast, symbolic ‘Egypt’ of the last days, will also have a group of renegade Jews in tow, who match the miracles performed by the latter day Moses. Showing “signs and lying wonders” is an evident allusion back to Mt. 24:24, concerning this happening in the last days of AD70 and our own times. If the miraculous gifts are possessed by some of the faithful in the last days, e.g. In connection with the Elijah ministry, the ability of the apostate believers to do miracles will seem the more credible. There are many links between 2 Thess. 2 and the Olivet prophecy, as noted on :3.

The description of those deceived in 2 Thess. 2 is amplifying that of the judgment seat in 1:6–9, which is concerning those responsible to judgment, i.e. those who know Christ. We therefore conclude that the many who are deceived by false claims of miracles are actually within the ecclesia. Only the elect will not be deceived. This was what happened in the run up to AD70, and must presumably be seen in our last days too. The establishment of the beast’s power in Jerusalem, accompanied by powerful miracles and the support of some Judas–like brethren within the ecclesia for it, will persuade some in the church to think that Christ is back. The connections between Mt. 24 and 2 Thess. 2 indicate that many (Gk. the majority, Mt. 24:12) within the ecclesia will be deceived, egged on by a subtle group of false Christians who will be the counterpart of the first century Judaizers.

2:10 And with all unrighteous deceit of them that perish. Because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved- The deceit refers in the first century context to the work of the Judaizers (s.w. 2 Pet. 2:13); "unrighteous" is used about the Jews in Rom. 1:18,29; 2:8; Heb. 8:12; 2 Pet. 2:13). Paul insists that his preaching at Thessalonica was not of deceit (1 Thess. 2:3)- unlike, by implication, that of the Judaizers who stirred up persecution for him there. There will be a conscious program of deceit orchestrated in the last days too, and according to the Olivet Prophecy and the implications here in 2 Thess. 2, many shall be taken in by it. Loving the truth doesn't simply mean that they have a love of truth in the sense of wanting to find the right interpretation of the Bible. "Truth" here is being placed in opposition to the deceit and lies coming from the coalition between the "man of sin" and the Jewish satan. It is not academic truth which shall save, but "truth" in the sense of living relationship with the Lord Jesus. This is why :12 speaks of loving unrighteousness instead of loving the truth; there is clearly a moral dimension to "truth" in how Paul uses the term here. The same ideas are found in :13; we are the 'loved' of the Lord if we believe the 'truth' which is the Lord Jesus. The truth in this sense elicits love (1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Jn. 1; 3 Jn. 1). This love which comes from truth is to be 'received' rather than cultivated by steel will. This is the word used frequently for 'receiving' the Gospel; the Jews in Thessalonica did not "receive" the word of the Gospel (Acts 17:11 s.w.), and the Thessalonians to whom Paul is writing are commended for having 'received' (s.w.) the Gospel (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:13). The group in view here are therefore those who had heard the Gospel but refused to receive it, meaning that they did not live in love and truth but rather in deceit and hatred towards the Lord's people. All this was within the direct experience of the Thessalonian readership.


2:11- see on 2 Thess. 2:7.

For this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie- "Strong delusion" is literally the energy of delusion; just as God can work within the minds of believers according to His energeia by His Spirit (Eph. 1:19; 3:16-20), so those who refuse to believe have another spirit sent to work within them, deluding them into believing the lie. "The lie" refers to the "delusion"; and in the first century context, that delusion was the words of the Judaizers, framed as they are as the serpent in Eden and Cain who told the first lies (the same Greek word for "delusion" is used about the Judaizers who sought to delude the believers in Eph. 4:14; 2 Pet. 3:17; Jude 11 cp. Jn. 8:44). John contrasts a love of the truth (cp. :10) with "the spirit of error [s.w. "delusion"]", which operated through the false Judaist prophets / teachers infiltrating the churches (1 Jn. 4:1,6). Psychological confirmation of disbelievers is a feature of God's working with men (Is. 6:9,10; Rom. 1:24-28), and God even sends false prophets or teachers as part of this process (1 Kings 22:22,23; Ez. 14:9; Job 12:16). This is what will particularly happen in the last days (1 Tim. 4:1), just as it did in the collapse of Christian faith which was seen in the run up to the events of AD70.

This passage explains clearly why the Bible is so confusing. God plagued the first century ecclesia with false brethren who could work impressive miracles; because "they received not the love of the truth (they treated it as a hobby)... God shall send them strong delusion, that they might believe a lie". God deceived brethren in the run up to AD70- it's that plain. And the events of AD70 are typical of our last days. 2 Thess. 2 has many connections with the Olivet Prophecy, as noted on :3. The idea of brethren being deceived at the time of Christ's "coming" connects with Mt. 24:5,11,24 describing 'the majority' (Gk.) of the latter day ecclesia being "deceived". 2 Thess. 2:11 says that this deception is sent by God because they refuse to love the Truth. The conclusion is hard to avoid: in our last days, the majority of us will be deceived because we don't "love the truth" - it's no more than a hobby. Whether we have yet reached that situation must remain an open question. God worked false miracles at the time of AD70, according to 2 Thess. 2:9-11. This means that the 'miracles' claimed by some false religions may be actual miracles; God allows them to be done because He wishes to deceive such people.  

This same word for “lie” is used in :9 about “lying wonders”. This implies that the beast / false prophet / man of sin is somehow allowed by God to do the lying wonders; they will be sent by God to test the faithful. God deluded the unfaithful within the first century ecclesia into false doctrine and alienation from Him; and it seems, it we are interpreting correctly, that He will do the same in these last days.

2:12 That they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness- See on :10. "Truth" clearly has a moral aspect here. To not love or believe the truth means that one has pleasure in unrighteousness rather than pleasure in or love of the truth (:10). Truth, even on an academic, intellectual level, is often rejected because of a subconscious desire to walk in unrighteousness and to dodge the moral demands of God's truth. This is why every false doctrine has a moral basis to it, a widening of the narrow way in practice, or some implied excuse for not living in the Spirit as we should.

2:13 But, brothers, we are obligated to give thanks to God always for you, beloved of the Lord, for God chose you from the beginning to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth- This final section down to :17 emphasizes the work of the Spirit in confirming the believers, because we have been reading that those who refuse to believe are confirmed in their unbelief by another spirit sent from God to psychologically confirm them in their path; see on :11. As also explained in Romans 8, God's election of us is part of His grace, and if we believe the truth of Christ, He will sanctify us by the gift of His Spirit in our hearts. We can resist that process, quench or grieve the Spirit, limit the Holy One of Israel. The Judaizers taught that Israel were the chosen people; the same word for "chose you" is used in the LXX of Israel (Dt. 7:7; 10:15). But the new Israel in Christ are the chosen ones, "the beloved of the Lord". The Jews had chosen not to "believe the truth" of Christ (:12); those who do believe the truth are the chosen. It is by such belief that we make our "calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10). Those who do not believe nullify their calling; they become those whose names were not written in the book from the beginning (Rev. 13:8) and are therefore destroyed because of it. Our having been chosen from the beginning was so that we might be holy or sanctified (Eph. 1:4); if we refuse to be holy then we are annulling our calling. But if we wish to be holy, then the gift of the Spirit will work in our hearts to sanctify or make us holy in practice.


2:14 Unto which He called you through our preaching of the gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ- Paul was only with the Thessalonians three weeks at most, during which time he worked day and night to support himself, dodged and endured persecution, and they also had to work. So the number of contact hours was very small (see on 1 Thess. 1:1,9). And yet through that brief witness, they heard their calling, which had been prepared for them from before the beginning (:13) and which if followed, would lead them to obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus. The glory of the Lord Jesus is His moral perfection; and the gift of the Spirit to those who believe the truth and accept the calling was intended to make them holy in their hearts and practice (:13), so that at the last day they would be made fully like the glory of the Lord Jesus.


2:15 So then, brothers, stand fast, and hold to the teachings which you were taught, whether by word, or by our epistle- Seeing the great process which was going on with them, begun by their responding to the brief message preached to them (see on :14), they were to hold on to the teaching received, remain within the process of being sanctified by the Spirit (see on :13).


2:16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace- "Grace" often refers to the gift of the Spirit (see on :13). The love of the Lord Jesus was in dying for us (Rom. 8:37; Gal. 2:20), and His death was likewise the Father's love for us (Jn. 3:16). It was through that death that the Comforter, the Spirit which would abide eternally, was given (Jn. 14-16). The ideas here are all connected together in Rom. 5:5: "Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us". The gift of the Spirit in our hearts, the Comforter, sanctifies us and propels us on the journey towards salvation (:13)

Everlasting consolation- This comfort has been given us, and yet Paul prays they might have this comfort (:17). Clearly enough he realized that so much potential spiritual help is available, but it doesn’t come automatically into our lives in practice; it must be perceived, desired and prayed for. Thus Paul prays that the Lord Jesus would “establish” them in their works (cp. Ps. 90:17) and then confidently proclaims in 3:3 that He will indeed do this for them- so confident was he that his prayer for their innermost strengthening would be heard. The eternal nature of the Holy Spirit comforter is in that we are now being sanctified, made holy (:13), transformed into the kind of characters we shall eternally be. In this sense the Comfort would abide with us for ever (Jn. 14:16).


2:17- see on 2:7.

Comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word- This is another call for direct action upon the hearts of believers by the Father and Son; and they have promised to do this through the work of the Comforter, the power of the Spirit within our hearts. We will be established in whatever good work or word we speak or teach; whatever we put our hands too in His service will be blessed and established. The establishing is at the last day (1 Thess. 3:13 s.w.); the good works and words of this life all form part of a spiritual character which shall be set in stone eternally, as it were, at the last day.