4. Correction Concerning the Day of the Lord—Part 1 (2 Thes. 2:1-5)
We can see from content of both 1 and 2 Thessalonians that the apostle never hesitated to teach prophetic truth to even new believers. He taught them much concerning things to come. Indeed, prophecy properly handled is an aspect of truth that is vital for spiritual stability and proper living as is evident by the way Paul used prophetic themes throughout his epistles. Regardless, we often find church leaders hesitant to teach on Bible prophecy. For one thing, it is a difficult and controversial subject in some of its details, but it is also often misused or used as a means promoting false agendas like creating a sense of entertainment or sensationalism. So we are faced with two problems when teaching biblical prophecy: (1) comprehending it properly, and (2) using it biblically. As previously stressed, prophecy is designed to enlighten, comfort, and encourage, but one of the primary purposes should be to motivate us to godly living—living with a view to eternity and the marvelous things to come.
As Wiersbe has accurately warned with a note of humor,
The purpose of Bible prophecy is not for us to make a calendar, but to build character. Paul emphasized this fact in both of his Thessalonian letters, and our Lord warned us not to set dates for His coming (Matt. 24:36, 42). Date-setters are usually upsetters, and that is exactly what happened in the Thessalonican assembly.30
This chapter, as with the first chapter and the first epistle, deals with the return of Christ and the gathering of the church unto Him, i.e., the rapture. As is quite obvious from the amount and nature of what is written on things to come, Bible expositors differ widely in their interpretations of prophecy. My position and the one presented in this chapter and in the exposition of 1 Thessalonians is that the church will be raptured (taken up) to meet the Lord in the air prior to the Tribulation or the judgment portion of the day of the Lord. But let us not lose sight of the spiritual and practical truth in debates over such issues as the pre-trib versus the post-trib views. Let us not condemn or look down on those who hold differing views. Rather, let us live in view of His glorious coming, the eternal blessings that will follows, and anticipate the return of our blessed Savior. May we echo the expression, “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
The First Exhortation:
That Day and Its Relation to the Present
2:1 Now regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered so as to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2:2 that you not be easily shaken from your composure or be disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.
The Subject and the Concern (vs. 1)
The verse actually begins with “we ask you brothers and sisters.”31 As in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, Paul used the verb erotao, a word used of a request from a friend. This word is more intimate and personal than the stronger parakaleo of verse 14, “I urge, exhort.” While this amounts to an exhortation, this formula not only provides a transition to the primary subject, but may suggest the personal concern of his heart for the misunderstanding of the issues involved. This request provides a transition from the subject of chapter one to a specific problem related to “the day of the Lord.” Because of the false claims that the day of the Lord was then present (vs. 2), the apostle wrote in the interest of the truth about the coming (parousia) of the Lord and the gathering of the saints to be with Him. We should note that the subject is not two-fold, the coming of the Lord and our gathering, but a single subject, the coming of the Lord which includes our gathering together to Him. The Greek has one article with both nouns indicating that the “coming” and “our gathering to Him” are complementary elements of one event.32
“Regarding” is the Greek huper, which is sometimes used for peri in the sense of “about, with reference to.” But after words expressing prayer or requests, it normally means “in the interest of, on behalf of.” Rather than Paul’s typical use of peri or peri de to point to another subject (1 Cor. 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1; 1 Thes. 4:9; 5:1), he chose huper which not only points us to the subject, but adds the idea of advocacy not found in the simple preposition peri. Hogg and Vine translate it for this context as, “with a view to correcting your thoughts about.”33 The apostle was not simply writing about this subject, but in the interest of its truth and what that truth means to believers, particularly as it relates to the day of the Lord which will begin as a time of wrath (see 1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9-10).
“Coming” is parousia, the word Paul used in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 4:15 where it is used of the Lord’s coming for the church before the judgment portion of the day of the Lord, i.e., the Tribulation, a time of terrible wrath as described in 1 Thessalonians 5:1. As previously discussed,34 parousia may be used of Christ’s return for the church as described in 4:15 or of His return to earth at the end of the Tribulation (Matt. 24:27, 37, 39). That it is used here of His coming for the church before the day of the Lord is evident by the phrase, “and our gathering together to Him.” Because some see the term parousia as a technical or categorizing term that must refer to Christ’s return in glory at the end of the Tribulation, they take this as evidence for a post-tribulation rapture of the church. Even though only implied, Williams suggests this when he writes, “A single event comprises the return of Jesus (visibly, in glory, cf. 1:10) and the Rapture of the saints.”35 But again, see the comments in the exposition of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 on this issue. In other words, there is a parousia for the church before the day of the Lord and a parousia at the close of the time of wrath.
“Gathering together” is episunagoges, “a gathering together, an assembly.” This is clearly a reference to the event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Episunagoges is used only here and in Hebrews 10:25 of the congregation of believers. Thus, the subject of the passage concerns the coming of Christ, but especially that coming which concerns our being gathered together to meet Him in the air as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13f. The rest of the chapter will deal with the day of the Lord, but the purpose of chapter 2 is in the interest of an understanding that protects the truth of believers being gathered together at His coming for the church, i.e., before the day of the Lord. The error that was being taught about the day of the Lord was undermining the truth and meaning or blessed hope of the rapture which promises our deliverance from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9-10). Thomas has an excellent discussion of this issue.
He must explain what he means by “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” or else the solution to the problem cannot be grasped. Episynagoges (“being gathered”) defines what part of the parousias (“coming”) Paul has in mind. This is the great event he has described more fully in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17—i.e., the gathering of those in Christ to meet him in the air enroute to the Father in heaven. This begins the day of the Lord. What relationship this happening bears to the tribulation phase of the day of the Lord so frequently mentioned in these Epistles is important. Some limit the parousia to a single event and insist that it comes after the tribulation (Morris, pp. 151, 152; Gundry, pp. 113, 114). It is hardly possible, though, to explain the variety of relationships belonging to parousia in these Epistles if it is understood only as a single event. Even the meaning of the word suggests a longer duration.
Another problem is encountered if the parousia that initiates the day of the Lord is considered only the single event of Christ’s return to earth following the tribulation. If Paul had given oral or written instruction to this effect, the false claim that the day of the Lord was already present could hardly have alarmed these Christians. According to this scheme, the day of the Lord could not begin without Christ’s personal reappearance. His continued absence was obvious to all.
Yet the claim was made and accepted to the extent that the church was troubled. This implies Paul had not taught that a one-phase parousia after the period of wrath will begin the day of the Lord. He had told them that the coming of the Lord to gather his saints into heaven would initiate both the tribulation and the day of the Lord. They were promised immediate “rest” (1:7) and glorification with Christ (1:10), not increased persecution.
The false instruction had, however, denied them an imminent “rest.” They would first have to undergo the severe persecution of the tribulation and possibly even suffer martyrdom before Christ’s coming, according to these misrepresentations. They were even told that their current suffering indicated the arrival of the expected tribulation. 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 8-12 speaks of this future period in terms quite similar to those of Revelation 13 and 17. The man of lawlessness has a number of affinities with the beasts of Revelation, enough to show that the two books describe the same period (R. H. Charles, Eschatology [New York: Schocken Books, 1963], p. 441n). Though 2 Thessalonians does not specifically mention the beast’s war with the saints and their martyrdom, Revelation 13:7, 10 declares it explicitly. If this is a possibility for the church, why did Paul at no point teach this kind of anticipation? The answer must lie in the removal of Christians (including the Thessalonian believers) from earth before this persecution. It is another group of God’s people, following the church’s translation, who must face the terror of this archenemy.
Despite their “persecutions and trials” (1:4) these Thessalonian Christians were not living in the day of the Lord as they had been erroneously told. A right understanding of “being gathered to him” reveals that they could not be so enmeshed, because for them Christ’s parousia will antedate the awful period to come. In fact, their “being gathered to him” will be the event that signals the day’s beginning.36
The Shaken Condition and Its Cause (vs. 2)
The teaching or claims that they were then in the day of the Lord was undermining the meaning and significance of the coming of the Lord for the body of Christ for it was this event that would keep them out of that day. This was naturally having a devastating effect on the composure of the Thessalonian church. Verse 2, then, points us to Paul’s objective in writing this chapter. The “that” (is eis to plus the infinitive showing purpose or intended result), which introduces verse 2, points us to the objective or goal. We might translate it, “to the end that.” Requesting as a friend, he wrote to keep them from being easily shaken from their composure and from being disturbed by the false reports that had led to their misunderstanding.
The Shaken Condition: “That you not be easily shaken from your composure” describes the first effect of the false teaching. “Easily” is the Greek tacheos, “quickly, hastily, soon.” But the idea is ultimately that of “easily” in the sense of too quickly without due thought and study. They needed to carefully reflect on the teaching Paul had given them (cf. vs. 5). This should have protected their minds from such instability (see also 2:15).
“Shaken” is saleuo, “to agitate, shake, unsettle, cause to waver.” It was used of moving away from something, like a ship which was suddenly torn away from her moorings by strong winds and waves. Paul used the aorist tense with the verb “shaken,” but changed to the present tense with the verb, “disturbed.” This change of tenses may suggest a sudden shaking or move followed by a condition that continued.
“From your composure” is literally, “from your mind.” “Mind” is nous, “mind, understanding,” and “denotes the faculty of physical and intellectual perception, then also the power to arrive at moral judgments.”37 It may also refer to “one’s attitude, way of thinking,” or of the result of one’s thinking, i.e., one’s “opinion, viewpoint, perspective.” The words, “and be disturbed,” point us to the abiding results of what happened because they had been shaken in their understanding of God’s truth. “Disturbed” is throeo, “to be inwardly disturbed, aroused, frightened.”38
For these believers, God’s truth or Word consisted of the Old Testament and the teachings of the apostle (see 1 Thes. 2:13; 2 Thes. 2:15). For us today, it consists of the completed canon of Scripture, Genesis to Revelation. Through the study of God’s Word, Christians are to know and become anchored in the Truth. The goal is that they become transformed by that truth through the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:1-2), not shaken from that truth and thus in a state of worry or disturbance by the many turbulent waves and winds of false doctrine promoted by the false teaching of men (see Eph. 4:14).
The Cause: The cause of the disturbance was evidently made on the basis of three distinct sources of information: (1) by any kind of spirit (2) or message (3) or letter allegedly from us. Following the previous negatives (“may not be shaken … or be disturbed”), each false claim is preceded by the Greek, mete, “and not” or “neither … nor.” This suggests that those who were bothering the church with the false information were making three distinct claims as to its source.
(1) Literally, the first was, “neither by a spirit.” This undoubtedly refers to the claim of some to a prophetic utterance made in the power of the Spirit of God. There were evidently those in the church with the gift of prophecy, but the church and the leaders were to carefully examine and accept only what was from God. In other words, was it in keeping with both the Old Testament and with what they had heard from Paul, an apostle (1 Thes. 5:19-20; 2 Thes. 2:15)?
(2) The second, “nor by a word.” Here, “word” (logos, “word, statement, speech, assertion, etc.”) is distinguished from the claim to a spirit of prophecy or divine revelation. It may have been just someone’s opinion in view of the conditions or perhaps the claim of a verbal message from the missionaries.
(3) “Nor by a letter as (as is hos, which means ‘as so represented, purporting to be’) from us.” This points us to the final and third claim regarding the source of the false teaching. Some had evidently forged a letter claiming it was from Paul and his associates, but it was in direct contradiction to what they had taught them (again, see 2:15). Some writers see this as a reference to a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Paul’s previous letter, but in view of Paul’s comment in 3:15, this seems unlikely. Further, for a clear reference to a former letter one would expect something like the adjective “former” or “first” or the pronoun “my” or something more precise (see Col. 4:6; 2 Cor. 7:8).
The Nature of the Claims: The precise nature of the disturbance is seen in the words, “to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here (or present).” Literally, the Greek text says, “as that the day of the Lord is present.” “As that” is the combination of the particle hos and the conjunction hoti. This unusual combination (but see 2 Cor. 5:19; 11:21) may, in this context, point to that which is purely alleged, but not true. F. F. Bruce suggests that it imparts a subjective flavor to the clause.39
Some have sought to take, “is present” to mean “is imminent,” but the consistent meaning of the Greek enistemi in past tenses is “be present, have come.”40 This is especially true of the perfect used here. Paul is not denying the imminency of the day of the Lord, but its presence. The Thessalonians believers were being told the day of the Lord had arrived and was present. As is clear from the first epistle, the apostle had taught these believers about the nature of the day of the Lord (1 Thes. 5:2). They knew that in its beginning phase, it would be a time of the wrath of God poured out on the world, but they also undoubtedly knew it would be a time of intense persecution for tribulation saints. Thus, in view of the intensity of their persecution, someone was attempting to convince them that they were then in the intense portion of the day of the Lord.
Their suffering had already been so severe that someone tried to convince them that the period was already in progress, even though the Lord had not yet come to gather them to heaven (Auberlen and Riggenbach, p. 126; Moffatt, EGT, 4:47; Hogg and Vine, p. 245; Morris, p. 217; Hiebert, p. 304). They knew of the time of trouble and the Lord’s return to culminate it (1:7-9). They had been led to believe, however, that his coming for them would spare them the anguish of that hour (1 Thess 5:9). But here were people telling them, with Paul’s apparent backing, that such a deliverance was not to be.
Therefore they were in great need of an authentic word from Paul assuring them that they had understood him correctly in his first epistle. They needed to know that the parousia (coming) of Christ for his church would mark the beginning of the future day of trouble and consequently that the day had not yet arrived. To accomplish this, Paul proceeds to describe features, obviously not yet present, that will characterize the day’s early stages.41
Paul now addresses the truth as it relates to the day of the Lord.
The First Explanation:
That Day and Its Relation to the
Rebellion and the Man of Lawlessness
2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not be here unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. 2:4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God.
Paul’s explanation is actually begun with a short exhortation, “Let no one deceive you in any way.” This serves both as a warning or note of caution and a summary of what was said in verse 2. “Deceive” is a compound verb, exapatao, a strengthened form of apatao. It means “to deceive completely” or perhaps “deceive successfully.” It is used of Satan’s deception of Eve in 2 Corinthians 11:3 and 1 Timothy 2:14. The use of this word with the phrase, “in any way” reminds us of our need to be wary of the many devices of deception Satan uses to lead us away from the truth of Scripture. We do not know what promoted the false teaching or who was involved in its promotion. It may well have been misinformed believers who did not understand God’s grace. Yes, even well meaning believers can fall prey to Satan’s deceptions, being deceived and deceiving others. Surely, then, we need first to be like the Bereans who searched the Scripture daily as their index for truth (Acts 17:11), and second, in that search, we need to follow Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 and learn to handle the Scriptures accurately and carefully.
Anyone who is not properly grounded in the truth of God’s Word (see again Eph. 4:14) tends to be gullible, but the sad fact is that all people, including Christians, are too easily misled by impressive personalities and spectacular appeals. The antidote to false teaching is sound teaching according to God’s Word. Thus, the apostle pointed them to the truth as it pertains to the day of the Lord.
The first evidence the apostle gives that the day of the Lord was not present is found in the two important occurrences that had not taken place. A third important and related event will follow in verses 6 and 7. These together provided the proof that they were not then in the day of the Lord. An important question is whether these first two occurrences must take place before the day of the Lord begins, or are they evidences that the day has begun or is present. This question arises because the clause, “For that day will not be here” is not in the Greek text, but expresses an ellipsis. This or something similar is needed or must be understood to supply the missing thought. The NIV has “that day will not come,” the NASB has “it will not come,” and the NET Bible has “that day will not be here.” An equally valid possibility is “For that day is not present unless …” This ellipsis is the main clause (the apodosis) of the conditional sentence (the protasis). The conditional sentence is seen in the words “unless (ean me, “if not,” “except,” “unless”) the rebellion comes first …”
Thus, Paul says either (1) that day cannot come or (2) the day cannot be present without certain events being in place first. So how should we understand the missing statement? Based on the context and similar grammatical constructions used elsewhere, Thomas suggests the following reasons in support of understanding the ellipsis as “for the day is not present unless …”
Grammatically similar constructions elsewhere (Matt 12:29; Mark 3:27; John 7:51; Rom 15:24) show these two happenings are conceived of as within the day of the Lord, not prior to it. The day of the Lord had not yet arrived because these two conspicuous phenomena that will dominate the day’s opening phase had not yet happened.
Some wonder how the failure of these two to arrive can be a proof of the nonarrival of the day. The answer lies in understanding Paul’s reference to these phenomena as his way of identifying the very earliest stage of this eschatological period. The readers had not missed the rapture (1 Thess 4:15-17) and were not in the day of the Lord (v. 2) because these two clear indicators of the day’s presence had not yet appeared (cf. Introduction to 1 Thessalonians, pp. 233-234).42
The absence of these two occurrences, which are so essential to the presence of the day of the Lord in its beginning phase, is the apostle’s proof that the Thessalonians were not then in the day of the Lord. Though Paul was not directly discussing the timing of the rapture, the fact he was writing in the interest of the coming of the Lord and the gathering of the Church together to meet Him in the air,43 the implication is that the rapture must occur before this day begins. Why else would these believers be shaken by the idea that they might then be in the day of the Lord unless they had expected to be taken up to meet the Lord prior to that time?
Thus, two phenomena are needed for the day of the Lord to be present. These are (1) the rebellion that must come first, and (2) the revealing of the man of lawlessness that quickly follows.
The Rebellion and the Day of the Lord (vs. 3a)
“Rebellion” is the Greek apostasia, “apostasy, abandonment, revolt, rebellion.” Literally, the Greek has “the rebellion.” The presence of the article suggests Paul is not talking about just any rebellion or apostasy, but something well known as a result of the teaching of Paul and his missionary team.
As explained by Thomas in the previous footnote, the words “must come first” refer not to the day of the Lord, but to the revealing of the man of lawlessness. Typically, the popular view takes this to mean there must first be a worldwide rebellion before the judgment part of the day of the Lord can even begin. For instance, Charles Ryrie writes:
… It is the apostasy which will come before the day of the Lord. Apostasia, translated apostasy, does not mean merely disbelieving but rather an aggressive and positive revolt (Acts 21:21; Heb. 3:12). Paul himself later wrote in detail concerning the details of this great departure from the faith in I Timothy 4:1-3 and II Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3-4. In these passages he says that this defection would occur in the last days. It is as though the infidelity of those who profess to be religious will prepare the way and perhaps even furnish the occasion for the final display of revolting against God in the person of the Man of sin. But the day of the Lord will not be present until this great apostasy sweeps the earth.44
So also, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Thomas Constable writes:
This is a revolt, a departure, an abandoning of a position once held. This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3-4; James 5:1-8; 2 Peter 2; 3:3-6; Jude). He had already told his readers about it (2 Thes. 2:5).45
The apostasy or rebellion clearly refers to a special departure and rebellion against the true God. This will become a worldwide movement and will provide the seed bed for the great system of revolt which will be headed up in the person of the Beast who will be the very personification of Satan himself. As just illustrated, some apply this to the period just before the day of the Lord, i.e., the last days of the church. Others, as Robert L. Thomas (cited earlier), would apply this to the day of the Lord itself which I have come to believe is a better understanding of this passage. Obviously, a growing worldwide departure has been going on for centuries and the apostle even speaks of this in his day (“for the hidden power of lawlessness is already at work” [vs. 7]). In verse 3, however, I believe Paul has in mind the worldwide revolt that occurs in the beginning of the day of the Lord and that opens the way for the system of the man of lawlessness. This fits consistently with the concept of the imminency of both the coming of Christ for the church and that of beginning of the day of the Lord.
The Revelation and Rebellion of the Antichrist (vss. 3b-4)
The second phenomenon necessary for the day of the Lord to be present is the revelation of one whom Paul called “the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction.”46 But this person can be none other than the one known by another New Testament term, the antichrist, as used by John (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). This is the name so often used to identify the last great world dictator. As Ryrie points out:
While we are warned that there will appear from time to time evil men in the world—and so evil that they may be called antichrists (I John 2:18)—this person is the personification of evil and the culmination of all that is opposed to God.47
The prefix anti on the term antichrist from the Greek antichristos has two prominent ideas: “against” and “in place of.” The antichrist, as Satan’s tool, both opposes God and Christ, but he is also presented as one who is to be worshipped and obeyed in place of Christ. Furthermore, he is known in the Bible by other descriptive titles like “the little horn” (Dan. 7:8), the “prince that shall come” (Dan. 9:26), the “willful king” (Dan. 11:36), “the beast out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1-10), and as the one who, standing in the future rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, will commit the “abomination of desolation” as described by Daniel and attested to by the Lord Jesus (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; Matt. 24:15).
This person is described as being (passive voice) “revealed.” “Revealed” is apokalupto, “unveil, disclose, bring to light.” This passive voice verb suggests that he will be present and very much a part of the political scene, but unknown as to his character and purpose until certain historical conditions occur that unveil his presence and whereabouts. We are not told who or what it is that reveals his person or to whom he is specifically revealed, however, for those who know something about Scripture, that which first reveals him will undoubtedly be the covenant he will make with the Jewish people (Dan. 9:27). Revelation teaches us that the early stages of the Tribulation will unveil one who, appearing as a White Horse rider, will conquer many by peaceful tactics (Rev. 6:2). It is not until the middle of the Tribulation that his true colors manifest themselves (Rev. 13).
Following and in conjunction with the apostasy will come the unveiling of a mighty figure embodying everything opposed to God. His whereabouts before his unveiling are not given. He will be alive for years before his unveiling, but his dramatic public presentation will occur after the rebellion begins.48
Speaking of the true character of this future dictator as it will eventually be manifested, the apostle describes him by three statements:
(1) He is described as “the man of lawlessness.” Note first this is a man (Greek, anthropos, “human being, man”) not an angel or sin personified, but a living human being who will arise on the scene of human history. Though the KJV has “the man of sin,” the evidence for “man of lawlessness” agrees with verses 7-8 and also the statement by John in 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; indeed, sin is lawlessness.” He will stand as the epitome of opposition to the laws of God. As one opposed to God, he (a) is opposed to public order for the good of mankind as God designed human government to function (Rom. 13:1f), and (b) to any kind of divine authority.
(2) Paul describes him as “the son of destruction.” The phrase “son of” is a Hebrew idiom that may indicate character as in “son of peace” (Luke 10:6) or destiny as with “son of death” (1 Sam. 20:31). He belongs to a class described by the attached phrase, i.e., one destined for destruction as was the case with Judas, another who was called “the son of destruction” (John 17:12; Acts 1:25).
… If ‘man of lawlessness’ refers to character, then “son of perdition” refers to the proper destiny of such a one, who, like Judas, must “go to his own place,” Acts 1.25, cp. Phil. 3.19, and Rev. 17.8,11.49
“Destruction” is apoleia, “destruction, ruin, doom, waste.” Like “destruction” (olethros) of 1:9, in none of the uses of apoleia in the New Testament is the idea of annihilation or cessation necessarily involved. Rather, it is a general term for disaster, waste, ruin, or doom and the context must define the nature of the destruction. It is often a term which points to divine judgment. For the judgment of this individual, see Revelation 19:20. “Olethros” refers to a ruin brought on us by another as in a judgment, or discipline, etc., “apoleia” may refer to a destruction which one causes to himself. Both are, however, true of this person. By his own hardness, cruelty toward others, and rejection of God, he brings God’s judgment on himself.
(3) He is also described in terms of his religious activity and goals as one “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God.” Everything about this future person reeks of Satan from whom he will get his authority and power (see Rev. 13:4ff). Paul describes him by two participles that mark out his primary characteristics, opposition to God and his attempt at self-exaltation even above God. The first participle is antikeimenos, which is a very interesting choice of words. It is used in the Septuagint in 1 Kings 11:23 to translate the Hebrew term satan, “adversary.” The Greek equivalent in the New Testament is ho satanas, “the adversary.” But Paul also uses this same participle, ho antikeimenos, and the accusative form of ho satanas in 1 Timothy 5:14 to refer to Satan who is the arch enemy of God and Christ.
In keeping with Satan’s purposes to oppose God and believers is Satan’s desire to exalt himself above God as seen in the five “I wills” expressed in Isaiah 14:13-14. As such, this puppet of Satan seeks to exalt himself above anything that is worshipped. This not only includes the true God, but anything that is worshipped, even the false gods. Thus, these two things—opposition to God and self-exaltation—will be the prominent features of this future person.
As an outgrowth of his demand to be worshipped, he will develop a religious system that will find its center in the temple of Jerusalem. In view of Daniel’s prophecies and Christ’s warnings (see Dan. 9:27; 11:31; Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14) “sitting in the temple” surely refers to a temple that will be rebuilt in the first half of the Tribulation (Daniel’s seventieth week) in connection with the covenant previously made with the Jewish people when he first appears as the peacemaker. This opens the way for sacrifices and worship to begin when the temple is completed. In the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week, however, the covenant will be broken by the man of lawlessness who will stand in this holy place and demand the worship of men all over the world. Some have suggested this is a figurative portrayal to his occupying the most holy place in human worship, which rightfully belongs only to God, but as Thomas points out, there is no good reason to take this view.
… This evidently is a Jewish temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem in the future. Dependence of these words on Daniel 9:26, 27; 11:31, 36, 37; 12:11 (cf. Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14) demands such a reference. There is no impressive evidence for understanding naon (“temple”) in a nonliteral sense. The well-known “abomination that causes desolation” is sometimes regarded as a person and sometimes as an act of desecration by that person (Mark 13:14) (Hubbard, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1364). The act of desecration to which this verse looks will transpire half-way through the seventieth prophetic week of Daniel 9:24-27, when the covenant made earlier with the Jewish people is broken. This will mark the climax of this lawless one’s career. Historically, a foreshadowing of this blasphemous intrusion happened when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple in Jerusalem just before the Maccabean revolt …
The relationship of this apocalyptic portion of 2 Thessalonians to Christ’s parousia (coming) confirms the impression that Paul must be referring to a single historical personage. Quests for such a person in the past and present have proved fruitless. Resemblances to Antiochus Epiphanes, Nero, Diocletian, one of the popes, and others may be admitted. But fulfillment of all details of the prophecy must await the future period of this man’s prominence. It is futile to suppose that Judas Iscariot, Antiochus Epiphanes, or Nero will be brought back to life to fill this role. “The man of lawlessness” will be a new historical figure whom Satan will energize to do his will in the world. As “man of God” in the OT regularly designates a divine prophet, the present “man of lawlessness” designates a false prophet, probably to be identified with the second beast of Revelation 13 (Rev 13:11 ff.; 16:13; 19:20; 20:10) (Best, pp. 283, 284, 288). His primary function will be to preside over the religious apostasy in cooperation with the beast out of the sea (Rev 13:1 ff.), who leads political opposition to God. As God’s chief opponent in Jerusalem whose background is probably Jewish (cf. Dan 11:36, 37), the lawless one will give religious leadership to complement the dominance of his associate over governments of the world’s nations.
The presence of such an apostasy and counterfeit god will not escape international observation. The nonpresence of these things when Paul wrote proves his thesis regarding the nonarrival of the day of the Lord.50
The Second Exhortation:
Their Former Teaching on These Matters
2:5 Surely you recall that I used to tell you these things while I was still with you.”
From this statement, it is clear that Paul had taught the Thessalonians these same truths when he was with them in Thessalonica. This is evident from the statement, “I used to tell you these things.” The verb here is in the imperfect tense and indicates he repeatedly explained these matters concerning the coming of Christ for the church and the period that would follow, the day of the Lord. There is in this verse a slight rebuke and warning in the words, “surely you recall,” or better, “do you not remember that … I used to tell you these things?”
May I suggest two very practical points that come out of this part of chapter 2 and especially verse 5. First, if we do not continue to study, retain, and stay occupied with the truth of Scripture, it can’t protect us from the winds and currents of false doctrine. The unsettled condition that occurred among the believers in Thessalonica was the result of failing to remember and reflect on what they had been taught.
Second, the fact that the apostle repeatedly taught on the subject of prophecy should show us this is an important theme of Scripture that needs to be taught and never ignored even when teaching young believers in Christ. Unfortunately today, it seems that churches swing in one of two directions like a pendulum and they often miss a biblical balance. Either they ignore prophecy almost altogether, or it becomes a hobby horse that is ridden to death so that the rest of Scripture is often ignored until some other agenda comes up for consideration—like the annual budget.
31 For the translation, “brothers and sisters,” the NET Bible has the following translator’s note: “The Greek text only has “brothers,” but the Greek word may be used for “brothers and sisters” or “fellow Christians” as here (cf. BAGD 16 s.v. ajdelfov" 1, where considerable nonbiblical evidence for the plural ajdelfoiv [adelphoi] meaning “brothers and sisters” is cited).”
37 Walter Bauer, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Fredrick W. Danker, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979, electronic media.
“The preference of most English translations for a future tense apodosis in v. 3 is probably explained by the frequency of that tense with conditional clauses with ejavn (ean, “if”; with mhV [me, “not”] = “if not,” “unless”; NIV, “until”). Circumstances here justify a present tense in the apodosis, however, the carry-over thought from ejnevsthken (enesteken, “is present”) (v. 2) being a prime consideration (cf. Robertson, RHG, p. 1019). Other NT combinations of ejavn ... prw’ton (ean ... proton, “if ... first”) (Matt 12:29; Mark 3:27; John 7:51; Rom 15:24) reveal preference elsewhere for a present-tense apodosis under similar circumstances. They also reveal that actions of the conditional clause are included within the scope of the apodosis. These other passages show that prw’ton (proton, “first”) in the protasis does not indicate priority to the apodosis, but priority to another action contained in (or implied by) the protasis—i.e., the rebellion precedes the revelation of the lawless one. All this confirms what is necessitated by Paul’s viewpoint throughout the rest of these Epistles: the parousia for the church and the launching of the day of the Lord can come at any moment. The apostasy and the revelation of the man of lawlessness are not necessary preludes to them, but follow the church’s gathering to Christ and lie within the day of the Lord.”
46 Some manuscripts (A D F G Y Byz lat) read “of sin” here, but other important manuscripts (? B 1739 et pauci) read “of lawlessness.” External support for “of sin” is broader, but that word occurs much more frequently in Paul’s writings than “lawlessness.” On internal grounds the later mention of “lawlessness” in v. 7 and the description “the lawless one” in v. 8 seem to presuppose ajnomiva" (anomias) here (Translators Note from the NET Bible).
Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)