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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)
The Apostle Paul clearly describes a great ‘falling away” that would take place.
Let’s notice several clues from this Scripture which help us to identify who this “man of sin” is.
First, the man of sin would rise up in the “temple of God.”
What is the temple that Paul here refers to?
The word “temple” that Paul uses here is from the Greek word naos. One way to understand the meaning of a word is to see how that same word is used by the same author. It just so happens that Paul uses the word naos throughout his writings. Let’s notice what it means:
1 Corinthians 3:16-17-Do you not know that you are the temple (naos) of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple (naos) of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
1 Corinthians 6:19-Or do you not know that your body is the temple (naos) of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
2 Corinthians 6:16-And what agreement has the temple (naos) of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”
Ephesians 2:21-in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
2 Thessalonians 2:4-who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple (naos) of God, showing himself that he is God.
EVERY time that Paul uses the Greek word naos, he has reference to one entity: the church of Christ.
Whatever the man of sin is, he will rise up in the CHURCH.
Second, the “man of sin”is not one individual person. This is made clear because Paul says that he was already stating to work in the first century, and that he would be around at the end of time!
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8-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.
This is an entire power system that would spring up within the church.
Third, this was a religious power that would arise within the church, as evidenced by the he fact that it would claim to have the authority of God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
Fourth, the “man of sin” was being restrained by something: and this restraining power would eventually be removed, which would lead to the man of sin coming to full power 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7).
The early Christians had been old what the restraining power was.
“The traditional view has been that the restraining principle is the Roman empire and the restrainer the emperor.1907 This view, or a modification of it, fits best into the Pauline theology.” (George Eldon Ladd, A Theology Of The New Testament, 605-606 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Another author provides more detail:
“This point is of great importance. Paul distinctly tells us that he knew, and that the Thessalonians knew, what that hindrance was, and that it was then in existence. The early Church, through the writings of the Fathers, tells us what it knew upon the subject, and with remarkable unanimity affirms that this “let,” or hindrance, was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars; that while the Caesars held imperial power, it was impossible for the predicted antichrist to arise, and that on the fall of the Caesars he would arise. Here we have a point on which Paul affirms the existence of knowledge in the Christian Church. The early Church knew, he says, what this hindrance was. The early Church tells us what it did know upon the subject, and no one in these days can be in a position to contradict its testimony as to what Paul had, by word of mouth only, told the Thessalonians….What then was the view of the early Church? Look at the words of Tertullian. Quoting Thessalonians, he says: “Now ye know what detaineth that he might be revealed in his time, for the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders must hinder until he be taken out of the way. What obstacle is there but the Roman state; the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce antichrist…that the beast antichrist, with his false prophet, may wage war on the Church of God?” In his magnificent “Apology,” addressed to the rulers of the Roman empire, Tertullian says that the Christian Church — not himself, mark, but the Christian Church — prayed for the emperors, and for the stability of the empire of Rome, because they knew “that a mighty shock impending over the whole earth — in fact, the very end of all things, threatening dreadful woes — was ONLY RETARDED by the continued existence of the Roman empire. Read the words of Chrysostom in his “Commentary on 2 Thessalonians”: “One may first naturally inquire what is that which withholdeth, and after that would know why Paul expresses this so obscurely. . ‘he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.’ That is, when the Roman empire is taken out of the way, then he shall come; and naturally, for as long as the fear of this empire lasts, no one will readily exalt himself; but when that is dissolved, he will attack the anarchy, and endeavor to seize upon the government both of men and of God. For as the kingdoms before this were destroyed, that of the Medes by the Babylonians, that of the Babylonians by the Persians, that of the Persians by the Macedonians, that of the Macedonians by the Romans, so will this be by antichrist, and he by Christ.” Then, accounting for Paul’s reserve in alluding to this point he adds: “Because he says this of the Roman empire, he naturally only glanced at it and spoke covertly, for he did not wish to bring upon himself superfluous enmities and useless dangers. For if he had said that, after a little while, the Roman empire would be dissolved, they would now immediately have even overwhelmed him as a pestilent person, and all the faithful as living and warring to this end.” From Irenaeus, who lived close to apostolic times, down to Chrysostom and Jerome, the Fathers taught that the power withholding the manifestation of the “man of sin” was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars. The Fathers therefore belong to the historic, and not to the futurist school of interpretation; for futurists imagine that the hindrance to the manifestation of the man of sin is still in existence, though the Caesars have long since passed away.” (Henry Grattan Guinness, Romanism And The Reformation: From The Standpoint Of Prophecy, 1644-1671 (Kindle Edition))
Fifth, the “man of sin” has another connection with Rome as shown from here and from the Old Testament.
The inspired 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 “man of sin” would have the characteristic of refusing the Word of God and instead focusing on deceptions. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul describes this characteristic of the apostasy as turning away from the truth and embracing lies:
2 Timothy 4:4-and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
The word “fables” carries with it the idea of something fanciful, legendary, and was often used to describe the paganism of the surrounding Gentile nations.
All of these characteristics of the Falling Away find their fulfillment in the rise and power of the Roman Catholic church.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.