The Man Who Will Claim to Be God! (II Thessalonians 2)
Introduction: Christians Don't Need to Worry About the Day of the Lord
There was a television series called Buffey the Vampire Slayer that ran from 1997-2003. It was based upon a 1992 film of the same name. The show was created by Josh Whedon under his production tag 'Mutant Enemy Productions.' It starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers. She was the latest in a line of young women known as "Vampire Slayers", or simply "Slayers". In the story, Slayers or the 'Chosen Ones' are "called" (chosen by fate) to battle against vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness.
Buffy wants to live a normal life, but as the series progresses, she learns to embrace her destiny. Like previous Slayers, Buffy is aided by a Watcher, who guides, teaches, and trains her. However, unlike her predecessors, Buffy surrounds herself with a circle of loyal friends who become known as the "Scooby Gang".
Stories like Buffy abound in literature, the movies, and television about good people overcoming the evil that pervades our universe. However, the Bible talks about a real battle between good and evil. It is between God, the creator of the universe, and Satan, one of His many creations, that rebelled against Him and seeks continually to usurp the Lord's throne and be as God. And, according to Scripture, this rebellion will never be put down and evil will never be completely eradicated apart from the return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to set up a Kingdom that will never end. Jesus will put down all rebellion, both by Satan and by those who would follow him in His war against the Lord.
Today, because of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Satan and the forces of darkness have been defeated. However, the Devil is an enemy who has refused to acknowledge defeat and give up. He continues to fight his battles that have no ultimate effect upon the outcome of the war.
But that won't last forever. Satan's days are numbered and Jesus Christ will put an end to his rebellion once and for all in an era known as 'The Day of the Lord." This period of time takes place after the Rapture of the Church. The Church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air and will escape the wrath of God to come.
This Day will begin with a 7 year period called the Great Tribulation which is a time of judgment upon the earth and a time when Israel, as a nation, will turn from her rebellion against the Lord and His Messiah and will be prepared to receive all of the promises and blessings that God has given to them over the centuries.
In II Thessalonians 2 the Apostle Paul is giving some corrective teaching to this persecuted church of Thessalonica who is also being led astray by some false teachers claiming that Paul himself had told them by message or a letter that the Day of the Lord had already taken place. God's people were greatly distressed because they expected the Rapture, or, as it's called here, the gathering together to the Lord, to take place first. They expected to be taken to glory and be in heavenly rest by this time and yet they appeared to be left to go through the wrath and the continued persecution.
Paul obviously had taught them the truth that they would escape the wrath to come, but the false messages were getting mixed up with the good teaching of the Apostle who spoke to them God's true message.
The truth of the matter is that there are still people being lead astray today about the coming of the Lord and our gathering up to be with Him in the Rapture. They are afraid that they will have to face all of the evils of the Tribulation to come. We need to understand the book of II Thessalonians and other passages on the Great Day of the Lord in order to be comforted ourselves and to comfort others that God is going to take care of His people who love Him and have professed His Son, Jesus Christ, as their Savior. In order not to be disturbed, there are four facts that we must know about the Day of the Lord:
- A Great apostasy must occur before the Day of the Lord.
- The Man of Lawlessness must appear.
- We Christians have been chosen for Salvation. So we will escape the wrath to come.
- Prayers of encouragement help sustain us in the mean-time
I. A Great Apostasy Occurs (1-3a)
Paul says that the triggering event that takes place at the beginning of the Tribulation period which signals the Day of the Lord, is that a great rebellion or apostasy takes place among mankind. This is not referring to the general rebellion against God that has happened in the past and is occuring now. It, rather, will be a great turning-away from God It will be a clearly identified and unique event that constitutes the ultimate in rebellion. Evil now is, at times, hidden and happening in the dark. Then it will take place in broad day-light. Men will abandon their fear of the one true God.
The Greek word here is apostasia, which literally means "departing" or "falling-away" “Rebellion” is the figurative meaning since the act of rebellion is due to “falling away” from authority (whether it be the truth or a government).
With the chaos that clearly must be going to take place with the Rapture of the Church and the supernatural judgments that are told about in the Book of Revelation, it's not hard to see how people will quickly become discouraged and seek to find someone who can bring back order to a world that has clearly gone mad. Rather than turning to the God of the Bible, they will find a man who is under the control of Satan Himself. He is known as the Anti-Christ. Or, as Paul calls him in this passage, the Man of Lawlessness and the Son of Destruction.
II. The Man of Lawlessness Must Appear (3b-12)
This man who is spoken of in both the Old and the New Testaments is the ultimate evil human being, who is empowered by Satan. He is called the Man of Lawlessness, because he will oppose, in every way, the God of the Bible and His laws.
Some texts refer to him as the "Man of Sin." There is no real difference in meaning here since I John 3:4 tells us that sin equals lawlessness.
In Daniel 7 this man was referred to as a boastful king who will try to change the set times and laws. Here is what the website Gotquestions.org has to say about this passage:
"He will come offering a false peace to the world and will with his charismatic personality, incredible promises, and breathtaking miracles unite all nations politically, economically, and religiously under his leadership. At the same time, he will make a covenant with Israel for three and one-half years (cf. Daniel 9:27, where “seven” indicates seven years). In the middle of the seven years, the man of lawlessness will break his covenant with Israel, stop their sacrifices (Daniel 9:27), and enter the temple to set himself up as “god” and demand worship (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This is the “abomination that causes desolation” that Jesus spoke of in Mark 13:14."
This man is also called "the prince who is to come in Daniel 9:26, and "the little horn in Daniel 7:8. John refers to this person as "the beast" in Revelation 13:2-10,18. And most know him as the ant-Christ. From all the language of Scripture, it must be concluded that he is an actual person who will come on the scene at a future date in history.
Because Satan himself is unable to become incarnate,(i.e. a flesh and blood man). he completely controls the Man of Lawlessness and causes him to be worshipped in the very temple in which God is to be worshipped.
Paul, knowing all the prophecies about this evil being, has this to say about this supernaturally controlled person who will one day enter history:
"Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come (i.e. the Day of the Lord), unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?" (3-5).
Besides telling the Thessalonians about this evil man, Paul also told these believers that there is a force restraining him, keeping him from taking over the world with his evil. This force is obviously still active today since we have not seen the ultimate evil that this person will yet bring.
Some have thought over the years that various historical figures were this man.For instance, someone once said that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the antichrist, the man of lawlessness. Someone else recently called out Bill Gates. The truth is that we don't even know if he has been born yet. Obviously, he hadn't yet in the time of Paul since we are all still waiting for him. Hindsight is 20/20.
Though the spirit of rebellion and of antichrist is already active in the world that Satan is controlling through those who oppose the one true God, this man of lawlessness hasn't yet been revealed, and won't until the 'Restrainer', is taken out of the way and Satan's consummate emissary can have full reign for a season.
Who is the Restrainer? Though there is disagreement about this, the most likely person that it could be is God, the Holy Spirit, who lives in each member of the Body of Christ. He is the only force strong enough to restrain the full forces of Satan's power. And His restraining force will most likely be taken out of the way when the Church is raptured and no longer on the earth. Of course, the Holy Spirit is God and is everywhere, so He will still be present on this earth. However, He will no longer keep evil in check during this time of Great Tribulation. And Satan. with his lawless one will, for a time, be allowed to do the worst kind of evil this world has ever seen.
However, the good thing about this is that Christ won't let evil take over forever. For the Lawless one will be taken care of once and for all: Paul tells us:
"Then that lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders with all deception of wickedness for those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." (8-10).
We learn in Revelation 19:20-21 that the beast, or lawless one, and his religious leader, the false prophet, are thrown into the lake of fire just before the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth, better known as the Millennium. They will remain there forever.
Satan, in the meantime, is bound and thrown into the abyss for that thousand years ( Revelation 20:1-3), only to be released at the end of it for a period. True to his nature, he begins the fight against God all over again. This time Satan is defeated quickly and is thrown into the Lake of Fire where he is said to be tormented day and night, forever (Revelation 20:7-10).
Revelation then pictures the Great White Throne judgment. This is where all those who refuse to be saved and follow Christ are judged according to their works. None can be saved by works, so this is a judgment that sentences the ones who stand before Christ to eternal separation in the lake of fire (Revealtion 20:11-5).
Paul tells us that the people who willingly reject Christ and follow the lawless one during the 7-year tribulation will be confirmed in their unbelief when God sends upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth and even took pleasure in wickedness (II Thessalonians 2:11,12).
So, the bottom line is that we who know Jesus Christ as Savior have no need to fear the coming of the man of lawlessness. We won't be around when he shows up. And even if we were to be, Jesus has things totally under control. He is far more powerful than Satan, or the human that Satan possesses.
III. We Have Been Chosen for Salvation (13-15).
After telling the Thessalonians about Christ's victory over Satan, the man of lawlessness, and how all that follow them will be deceived, he comforts this church with the fact that they are chosen for salvation. He says that he is thankful for them because of it. This is another way of reminding them that they aren't part of the wrath to come. He told them also about this salvation from wrath in his first epistle (I Thessalonians 1:10; I Thessalonians 5:9).
The good thing is that we believers today can know as well that we are saved from all that lies ahead for the sinful world. That is because of God's sovereign choice of us. And we are able to determine that He chose us because of some definite things that God did for us and because of our responses to those things.
We can know because we were chosen by God from the beginning for salvation through the sanctification or setting-apart by the Spirit and our response of faith in the truth. Paul says in Ephesians 1:4 that He chose us before the foundation of the world, that we might be blameless before Him." So our salvation goes all the way back to eternity past.
Further, God called the believer through what Paul refers to in II Thessalonians 2 as "our gospel.". That is the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The ultimate purpose of that calling is so that the believer "may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (14).
The great Apostle then encourages these believers to stand firm in all these traditions that they have been taught by an actual word of mouth or by a letter from them and not from the deceivers. (15).
IV. Prayers of Encouragment Help Sustain Us (16-17)
Finally, Paul once again ends this section of his epistle with a prayer for these fearful believers at Thessalonica. He realizes that every Christian needs this to sustain their faith and hope in a world that hates the Christian and the gospel for which he stands.
Paul prays in this way:
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word."
We, like Paul, have to remember to pray for each other that God Himself would give us comfort in knowing that following Christ is the right path that leads us to eternal glory. Prayers of encouragement do indeed help sustain us in our fight against the evil one.
As we bring this study to a close, I think of Vernon Carl Grounds who was an American theologian, Christian educator, Chancellor of Denver Seminary, and one of the founders of American evangelicalism. Grounds once related an incident that is appropriate to Paul's teaching here in II Thessalonians:
While he was in seminary, since the school had no gymnasium, he and his friends played basketball in a nearby public school.
At the school, an elderly janitor waited patiently until the seminarians finished playing. Invariably he sat there reading his Bible. One day Ground's friend asked him what he was reading. The man answered: 'The book of Revelation.' Surprised, his friend asked if he understood it: 'Oh, yes, the man assured him. `I understand it.' 'Then; what does it mean?' Quietly the janitor answered, `It means that Jesus is gonna win.'"
Grounds concludes: "That's the best commentary I have ever heard on the book of Revelation. Jesus is going to win. That's the Biblical mindset in a nutshell."
I hear too many Christians that look at the end times events, including the rise of the man of lawlessness and have a little bit of fear in their voices. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, there is no reason to fear, whether you be alive or dead when the end comes. .Jesus has taken the wrath of God that was against you upon Himself and he has defeated Satan and all of his followers, which includes the lawless one himself. And because of that, He will deliver each believer from the wrath that is to come upon all unbelievers.
Thank God that no power that comes up against a son or daughter of the living God will stand. Jesus has already won. And because of that, we who know Him will win as well! Don't let anyone tell you differently! May we praise our God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
© 2020 Jeff Shirley