Will See The Man Of Sin
Paul affirms that the gathering of the saints will occur in the Day of the Lord, but not until after the man of lawlessness appears and the great Apostasy takes place, with the lawless one being slain in that Day. Persecution not accompanied by these other signs cannot point to the imminent arrival of the Day when Christ returns.
Paul is teaching that members of the Church will see these events, thus bringing the Church through the Tribulation and into the Day of the Lord.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:1: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
In his first chapter, Paul described the destruction of the unbeliever and the gathering of the saints in the Day of the Lord. Now he entreats the brothers to listen to some facts about this future gathering of saints.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:2: That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
Very clearly, Paul states that the Day of the Lord has not come; the Thessalonians are being deceived because they listened to another spirit, and to verbal and written communication that contradicted what he'd told them.
We saw in 1 Thessalonians that the saints will be caught up (chapter 4) when the Day of the Lord arrives after the "times and seasons" followed immediately by the destructive wrath that will fall suddenly on the unbelievers (chapter 5). Then in chapter 1 of this second letter, we learned that the saints will be glorified and that God's retribution will fall on unbelievers and WHEN Jesus is revealed from heaven. But do the events of chapter 1 follow after the "times and seasons"? In this chapter, we'll see that since the gathering of the saints AND the almost simultaneous destruction of the unbelievers can occur only once, the reign of the lawless one must be the period called the "times and seasons." The posttribulational coming of Christ follows the "times and seasons" in book one; that same coming follows the reign of the lawless one in book two.
In this verse, Paul is preparing to re-describe the "times and seasons" to the Thessalonians. He wants them to really understand the signs that will introduce the Day of the Lord. When all these signs eventually appear, the Church will know that the Lord's coming and the time of their being gathered to Him is near. It is not yet time for that event, so members should try to regain their composure. The Day of the Lord has not arrived.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:3: Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Here Paul begins to relate again the characteristics of the period that will precede the Day of the Lord. He simply states that the Day of the Lord will not come before the apostasy or the revelation of the man of sin, which are definitely part of the Tribulation period. Paul says it is a deception to assert that the Day arrives before this.
Because the gathering of the saints is part of the Day of the Lord, we could substitute the phrase "our gathering together unto him" for the word "day" in verse 2:
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that [the time of our gathering together unto him] has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (2 Thess. 2).
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:4: Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
It is generally agreed that the man of lawlessness enters the temple and declares himself to be God half way through the Tribulation. Thus, the Church also must be at least half way through those seven years in order to see this occur. If Paul knew that the Church would not see the Day of the Lord arrive because of a previous rapture, he should have told the Thessalonians not to worry about any of this apostasy and man of lawlessness business - they wouldn't be present anyway.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:5: Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
Apparently, Paul had taught the Church at Thessalonica at length. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1, he stated that he had told them about a characteristic period of time to come. Here again, he indicates that he had previously spoken to them of the same period (the Tribulation), the time of the lawless one's persecutions that precedes the changing of the saints. In his first letter, Paul said, "You'll recognize the approach of the Day of the Lord because of the characteristics of what I call the times and seasons." Now in his second letter he gets down to particulars: "You'll recognize the approach of the Day of the Lord because of the onset of the apostasy and the appearance of the man of lawlessness." "These things" (v. 5) are, therefore, a part of the "times and seasons" of 1 Thessalonians.
After all he had already taught the Church, Paul is almost begging to know how they could think the Day of the Lord had arrived. All he had told them about had not yet occurred, especially the apostasy and the reign of the lawless one. Paul reminds them that they must see these events before anticipating the Lord's return.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:6: And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
The lawless one will be revealed at a particular time. There have been many debates about who, or what, the restrainer is, and there still doesn't seem to be a clear answer. But one thing is sure: when the man of sin comes on the scene the believing Church will know how to avoid him.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:7: For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
The mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) was already at work in Paul's time, and it is certainly working in our own generation. This force was responsible for the false teaching the Thessalonians believed, and it is also responsible for the current teaching concerning a pretribulation rapture.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:8: And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
The Church will see the lawless one revealed, and live through his reign of lawlessness. We will also see that reign perish when Jesus returns and slays the lawless one with the breath of His mouth. This will occur at the end of the age when Jesus brings all persecution of the saints to an end and gives them rest. There is no doubt the Church will go through the Tribulation.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:9: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
". . ; in 2 Thess. 2:9, "lying wonders" is lit. 'wonders of falsehood,' i.e., wonders calculated to deceive" (28).
Satan will be the one who brings the man of sin into power. The working of Satan is his signs and his false wonders and his false gospel [that man is God], all designed to support the lawless one's false claim to deity, by which he hopes to deceive the world.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:10: And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Vine comments on the phrase "all deceivableness of unrighteousness":
"In 2 Thess. 2:10, "all deceit of unrighteousness," R.V., signifies all manner of unscrupulous words and deeds designed to deceive (see Rev. I3:I3-I5)" (29).
The Spirit-filled Church's presence in the Tribulation will give men the opportunity to "receive the love of the truth and so be saved." Those who don't receive God's gospel about His Son will accept Satan's deceptive gospel (lying words) about the man of sin being God. These will perish.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:11: And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
To "believe a lie" is not just to believe Satan's lying words and false wonders, but to believe the ultimate lie that has lead into these wonders: that man is God! Satan has been scheming to be acknowledged as God ever since his fall, and during the Tribulation, he will have his chance. Satan, a spirit, will be incarnated in the person of the man of sin. Satan will be the counterfeit of Jesus Christ come in the flesh. Through the son of destruction, the evil one's desires will realize their fulfillment: he will be worshipped as God in "the temple of God." The activity of God's real temple, the Church, will counter this, proclaiming Jesus Christ is God become man. Believing the delusion instead of the gospel will eventually lead to their destruction as described in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:12: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
During the Tribulation, there will be many who refuse to receive "the love of the truth." God, being just, will allow those not committed to Christ a last chance to see the truth of the gospel, by displaying to the world the hideous opposite while the Church proclaims the true one. Men will be forced into a decision: Christ incarnate, or Satan incarnate in the person of the lawless one; the truth that God became man in Christ, or the lie that man is God.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:13: But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
Having described the choices that will be available to the unbelievers during the Tribulation, Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians because they have accepted the truth of the gospel. They are chosen for the salvation which will be fully revealed when Christ gathers all believers to Himself in the Day of the Lord. Until that Day, the Holy Spirit's work of purifying the Church's faith in Christ will continue, so she may be found spotless and without blemish at His return.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:14: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The work by the Holy Spirit and the faithfulness formed in the believer will result in our gaining the glory of Christ. Thus our call will be completed by God. We are "called" through the gospel "into His own [visible] kingdom and glory" at the end of the age (1 Thess. 2:12).
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:15: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
Paul urges the Thessalonians to heed all that he's taught them. He says, "Remember - God will deal with your persecutors in His time, and I've reminded you of the times and epochs that introduce the Day of the Lord, the Day of your salvation. Now you know everything that is necessary to stand firm in the traditions you've been taught" (Eph. 6:1-12).
The "traditions" refer to everything that Paul had taught them when he was in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:1; 2 Thess. 2:5). He had said, "Let no one deceive you, no matter who," but they were being deceived; the spirit of lawlessness had made headway in the Christian community. Paul had to step on the deceitful end-time teaching that could one day form a loveless, faithless, and hopeless Church prior to the reign of the man of lawlessness. He stepped hard enough to squash these wiles, yet delivered a truth that the Church needed to hear (see 2 Thess. 3:14-15).
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:16: Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
The "eternal comfort and good hope" is the Son of God, in whom lies our hope for a visible glory of God. In the Day of the Lord, that glory will be made manifest to all creation. This is the grace of God.
STUDY VERSE: 2:2:17: Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
Besides the eternal comfort, Paul wants the Thessalonians to receive the comfort of knowing that God will deal with their persecutors and grant the believers the rest that they craved. The persecutions were taking their toll on the Church, so Paul prays that God will strengthen them, enabling them to continue their work for the kingdom of God.
The order of the events foretold in 2 Thessalonians is similar to, and supplements, the events named in 1 Thessalonians:
1. The restrainer is removed.
2. The apostasy takes place, followed by the rise of the man of lawlessness through Satan's power.
3. The lawless one will exalt himself above every god, declaring himself to be God.
4. Christ returns and slays the lawless one with the brightness of His coming.
5. The persecutors are dealt with by Christ's coming, giving relief to the saints, who are changed to be like Christ.
(1) Gundry, Robert, The Church And The Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), p. 103.
(2) Lindsey, Hal, There's A New World Coming: "A Prophetic Odyssey," Vision House edition (Santa Ana: Vision House Publishers, Bantam Books, 1973), p. 60.
(3) Vine, Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), s.v. "AIR", 1.
(4) Gundry, p. 104 quoting F. F. Bruce in New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs, and D. J. Wiseman, editors (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 1159. Original emphasis deleted.
(5) Gundry, p. 104.
(6) Vine, s.v. "MEET (verb), MEET WITH MET," B.2 quoting Moulton, Greek Test. Gram. vol. 1, p. 14.
(7) Vine, s.v. "SEASON (Noun)," A.2.
(8) Vine, s.v. "DESTROY, DESTROYER, DESTRUCTION, DESTRUCTIVE," B.3.
(9) Vine, s.v. "HOPE (Noun and Verb), HOPE (for)," A(6).
(10) Vine, s.v. "SALVATION," A(d).
(11) Vine, s.v. "LIVE," from Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 173-174.
(12) Vine, s.v. "PRESERVE," 1.
(13) Lindsey, p. 61.
(14) Vine, s.v. "ANGER, ANGRY (to be), A.
(15) Ibid., A NOTES: from Notes to Thessalonians by Hogg and Vine, p. 229.
(16) Ladd, George Eldon, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), pp. 85-86.
(17) Reese, Alexander, The Approaching Advent Of Christ (Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publishers under special arrangements with original publisher, Marshall, Morgan, and Scott (London). p. 205.
(18) Vine, s.v. "KEEP, KEEPING (Noun)," 1(a).
(19) Vine, s.v. "DELIVER, DELIVERANCE, DELIVERER," A.10.
(21) Lindsey, p. 60.
(22) Vine, s.v. "PERSECUTE, PERSECUTION," A.1(a).
(23) Vine, s.v. "AFFLICT(-ED), AFFLICTION," A.4.
(24) Gundry, p. 113 with note to see Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And Early Christian Literature (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), citing 2 Thessalonians 1:7.
(25) Gundry, p. 113.
(26) The Rapture (Traveler's Rest, SC: Southern Bible Book House, 1954), p. 65.
(27) Gundry, p. 112-113.
(28) Vine, s.v. "FALSE, FALSEHOOD, FALSELY," B.
(29) Vine, s.v. "DECEIT, DECEITFUL, DECEITFULLY, DECEITFULNESS, DECEIVE, DECEIVABLENESS," A.1.