2 THESSALONIANS 2: Who Is ‘The Man Of Lawlessness?’ (Part I)

NOTE: I ask you to understand that, as this is a difficult issue and I wish to address it in as serious a manner as a layman possibly can, this post will have to be a little long.  Please, I beg you, read it in its entirety, then give my argument serious and fair consideration before you draw any conclusions.  In the end, if you feel I am wrong, I can accept that.  However, if you agree with me, well, in that case, you may want to ask yourself: How does that change my understanding of Scripture?

 

I want to start by saying I am well aware that this can be a touchy subject for many believers.  It is not my desire to cause harm to or discord within the Body of Believers.  But neither can I accept what I have come to believe is a misunderstanding in the way The Body understands Scripture.  So, if you will be patient and open minded, and allow me to explain my reasoning, I hope I will be able to persuade you to take another look at 2 Thessalonians 2, only with new eyes

Now, if your experience has been anything like mine, you have probably heard and been taught that taught that the term, ‘The Man of Lawlessness,’ as mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, is a reference to ‘The Antichrist.’  I will confess: for the majority of my life, I believed that was exactly who this passage was discussing: a unique individual man who will be possessed by Satan right before Christ returns.  However, I am no longer certain that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 has anything to do with a single person.  In fact, I am quite certain it does not.  Now, I am not saying that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 has nothing to do with ‘Antichrist,’ because I am equally certain that ‘The Man of Lawlessness‘ is of the spirit of ‘Antichrist.’  I just do not believe 2 Thessalonians 2 is speaking about one, unique person who will be possessed by Satan near the end of time.

I would like to start by asking you to read 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-1:

[NOTE: You may read whatever translation you prefer, but, for the sake of clarity, I am going to cite from an Amplified text.]

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12  Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

But relative to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and our gathering together to [meet] Him, we beg you, brethren,

Not to allow your minds to be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed, whether it be by some [pretended] revelation of [the] Spirit or by word or by letter [alleged to be] from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has [already] arrived and is here.

Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the [a]apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great [b]falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition),

Who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God.

Do you not recollect that when I was still with you, I told you these things?

And now you know what is restraining him [from being revealed at this time]; it is so that he may be manifested (revealed) in his own [appointed] time.

For the mystery of lawlessness (that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority) is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until [c]he who restrains is taken out of the way.

And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming.

The coming [of the lawless one, the antichrist] is through the activity and working of Satan and will be attended by great power and with all sorts of [pretended] miracles and signs and delusive marvels—[all of them] lying wonders—

10 And by unlimited seduction to evil and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing (going to perdition) because they did not welcome the Truth but refused to love it that they might be saved.

11 Therefore God sends upon them a misleading influence, a working of error and a strong delusion to make them believe what is false,

12 In order that all may be judged and condemned who did not believe in [who refused to adhere to, trust in, and rely on] the Truth, but [instead] took pleasure in unrighteousness.

So, where should we start?  Well, first, we might want to start by admitting to ourselves that the Scriptures never speak of a single, unique figure as ‘the Antichrist” (as I explain here).  Therefore, we should not read such a person into 2 Thessalonians 2:3.  The text simply does not say this, we have been taught to infer it because of the ‘End Times’ story line that has become so dominant in the Church today.  But, because 2 Thessalonians 2:3 does not connect ‘The Man of Lawlessness‘ directly to a single person known as ‘The Antichrist,’ I am going to ask you not to connect the two.  Instead, I am going to ask you to look for other passages that mention either ‘The Man of Lawlessness’ or ‘Son of Perdition’ (or phrases with nearly or the exact same wording/meaning).

I’ll start with the only other passage that speaks about ‘The Son of Perdition:’

John 17:12 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

12 While I was with them, I kept and preserved them in Your Name [[a]in the knowledge and worship of You]. Those You have given Me I guarded and protected, and not one of them has perished or is lost except the son of perdition [Judas Iscariot—the one who is now doomed to destruction, destined to be lost], that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Stop here for a second, and reason with me.  If 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is identifying ‘The Man of Lawlessness‘ as being the same person known as ‘The Antichrist,’ then does that mean that Judas Iscariot was ‘The Antichrist?‘  And that ‘The Antichrist‘ had already come and gone?  And, if so, why would Paul be writing about ‘The Antichrist‘ in the future tense in 2 Thessalonians 2:3?  I do not ask you to draw any conclusions — at least, not yet.  I am just asking that you consider these questions.  Now, let’s look at the following passages (here I am going to revert to the NASB):

Matthew 7:23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Matthew 13:41 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom [a]all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,

Matthew 23:28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Matthew 24:12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

12 Because lawlessness is increased, [a]most people’s love will grow cold.

Romans 6:19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, [a]resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, [b]resulting in sanctification.

2 Corinthians 6:14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

14 Do not be [a]bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Here again, I am going to ask you to reason with me.  In these passages, we find Paul and even Jesus referring to many people as ‘Lawless,’ or practicing ‘Lawlessness.’  So, is it possible that ‘The Man of Lawlessness’ could refer to anyone who practices lawlessness?  Before you answer, I would ask you to consider a possible connection elsewhere in Scripture:

Matthew 24:37 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

And what was it like ‘in the days of Noah?’  Lest we forget:

Genesis 6:5 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually.

Why do I ask you to consider these two passages?  Well, if toward the end, right before Christ returns, people will be like they were in the days of Noah (which would have brought the whole story to the minds of Christ’s original audience), then wouldn’t “every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only of evil continually’ be akin to every person being and acting lawlessly?  If you do not see the connection that I see, then maybe you should consider this passage along with these last two:

Judges 17:6 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

Now, et me ask you, if there is no king to rule over people, then they will do what is right in their own eyes.  In other words, they make themselves into their own king…or god!

Where is the Temple?  Today, in the Church age: where is the Temple?

1 Corinthians 3:16 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

16 Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, [a]collectively as a church and also individually]?

Did you catch that?  There will be no building of a Third Temple in Jerusalem because the Temple already exists in the Church as a Body and in the heart of each individual.  So, how does this relate to 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and ‘The Man of Lawlessness?‘  Well, it rolls us right into 2 Thessalonians 2:4:

2 Thessalonians 2:4 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

Who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God.

Now we have enough for me to tie this all together for you:

As I have come to understand it, 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-12 talks about a time when a great many believers will fall away from the Faith.  The restrainer will be removed, revealing those who do not believe in or obey God.  These people will reject God as their King and Ruler, saying in their own hearts that they are their own god.  Thus, they will do whatever they feel is right in their own hearts and, because they are sinners, they will practice lawlessness in everything they do and think — exactly as in the days of Noah.  These are the people — those who practice lawlessness — who will be destroyed by the breath of Christ upon His return.  They will be gathered up and cast into the fire — just as Scripture teaches.  This!  This is ‘The Man of Lawlessness:’ anyone (man or woman) who meets this description is ‘The Son of Perdition.’

Read PART II of this series: How Is ‘The Man of Lawlessness’ Connected To ‘The Antichrist?’ (Part II)

 

ADDITIONAL READING

Who is the Son of Perdition?

 

 

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