It is written:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)
Having identified the “temple” of this passage as the church of God, we now must begin to ask some other important questions. Specifically, who is this “man of sin?”
The text itself gives us many clues as to the identity of this “man of sin.” He is identified as: “the man of sin” (vs. 4); the “son of perdition” (vs. 4); the “mystery of lawlessness” (vs. 7); and “the lawless one” (vs. 8-9).
The first clue which stands out about these designations is the fact that he is identified as “the son of perdition” (vs. 4). This phrase was only used one other time in Scripture, during the prayer of Jesus in the Garden before His arrest. Speaking of Judas Iscariot, Jesus says:
John 17:12-While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Judas was an apostate from Christ. He was a follower of the Lord who chose to turn his back on Him. Thus, this man of sin will be something which is identified as Christian but which turns its’ back on Christ and His Word.
What’s more, the Apostle Paul uses the exact same expression in describing the man of sin as does the Book of Zechariah in the Greek translation of the Old Testament:
Zechariah 5:1-8-Then I turned and raised my eyes, and saw there a flying scroll. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.” 3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘Every thief shall be expelled,’ according to this side of the scroll; and, ‘Every perjurer shall be expelled,’ according to that side of it.” 4 “I will send out the curse,” says the LORD of hosts; “It shall enter the house of the thief And the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house And consume it, with its timber and stones.” 5 Then the angel who talked with me came out and said to me, “Lift your eyes now, and see what this is that goes forth.” 6 So I asked, “What is it?” And he said, “It is a basket that is going forth.” He also said, “This is their resemblance throughout the earth: 7 Here is a lead disc lifted up, and this is a woman sitting inside the basket”; 8 then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he thrust her down into the basket, and threw the lead cover over its mouth. 9 Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were two women, coming with the wind in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. 10 So I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they carrying the basket?” 11 And he said to me, “To build a house for it in the land of Shinar; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base.”
Some incredible Old Testament scholars have pointed out:
“As two “anointed ones” (Zec 4:14) stand by the Lord as His ministers, so two winged women execute His purpose here in removing the embodiment of “wickedness”: answering to the “mystery of iniquity” (the Septuagint here in Zechariah uses the same words as Paul and “the man of sin,” whom the Lord shall destroy with the spirit of His mouth and the brightness of His coming, 2Th 2:3, 2Th 2:7, 2Th 2:8).” (Jamison-Fausset-Brown)
This tells us that the “man of sin” is somehow connected with Babylon (the land of Shinar), as well as with apostate Christianity. Yet, what is particularly interesting about this is that by the time of Zechariah, there was another nation in Jewish writing that was being referred to metaphorically as Babylon. Barclay has documented:
“HERE the doom of Rome is prophesied. Throughout Revelation, Rome is described as Babylon, a description which was common between the Testaments. The writer of 2 Baruch begins his pronouncement against Rome: ‘I, Baruch, say this against you, Babylon’ (2 Baruch 11:1). When the Sibylline Oracles describe the imagined flight of Nero from Rome, they say: ‘Then shall flee from Babylon a king shameless and fearless, whom all mortals and the noble men loathe’ (Sibylline Oracles 5:143). In the ancient days, to the prophets, Babylon had been the very incarnation of power and lust and luxury and sin; and, to the early Jewish Christians, Babylon seemed to have been reborn in the lust and luxury and immorality of Rome….Babylon is said to have made all the nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication. In this phrase, two Old Testament ideas have been fused into one. In Jeremiah 51:7, it is said of Babylon: ‘Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine, and so the nations went mad.’ The idea is that Babylon had been a corrupting force which had lured the nations into a kind of insane immorality. The background is the picture of a prostitute persuading a man into immorality by filling him full of wine, so that he could no longer resist her seductive charms. Rome has been like that, like some glittering prostitute seducing the world.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Revelation Of John, Volume Two, 125-126 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
So, the “man of sin” would have direct connection to the nation of Rome.
Finally, the phrase used here and translated as “lawless one” is connected with the ancient book of Enoch, in describing the rise of the nephilim in the land.
Enoch 7:6-Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.
The nephilim were the direct result of rebellion against God between once-faithful angels and humans. We see another reference to the fact that this “man of sin” would involve rebellion amongst those once in right relationship with God.
So whoever (for whatever) the man of sin is, it would be:
1). Someone which would rise up in the church;
2). Someone once in right relationship with God which rebelled against Him;
3). Someone which would have clear connections to the nation of Rome.
In our next study, we will see that this “man of sin” is clearly not any single one person, but rather an entire power structure which arose systematically in the church.