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THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
from Leaving the Rapture Behind, by Dr. Larry Pechawer

If you are well versed in the Scriptures on the end times and have studied much of what has been said about the Man of Sin/Antichrist/Beast, you may want to take a deep breath before reading this chapter.   It will likely go against most, if not all, of what you have been led to believe about the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2.   I want to be very clear in what I communicate in these next few pages, so that there will be no misunderstanding.   After reviewing the printed Scripture text below, we will talk through a couple of preliminary issues, and then examine this remarkable passage from God’s Word.

Make no mistake about it, 2 Thessalonians 2 is one of the most critical passages of all regarding the end times.   All discussions regarding the Antichrist/Beast, Tribulation, Second Coming, etc., go through 2 Thessalonians 2.   For many it seems to be the firm foundation for the idea that the church will someday go through a worldwide “Great Tribulation” led by some monstrous ruler out to destroy God’s people.   This idea may be true.   But it may not be.   And 2 Thessalonians 2 may, in the final analysis, have nothing to say about the subject!

1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers,

2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.

3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

5 Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?

6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.

7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.

8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.

9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,

10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie

12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,

17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

(2 Thessalonians 2)

 

A Pivotal Text-A Problem Text

Paul’s words here are viewed as weighty and decisive by many Bible scholars and so they should be.   But there may be a slight problem.   It is possible, and, I believe, likely that, at some point early along the way, the church outside Thessalonica missed the exact point of Paul’s rather cryptic prophecy (or “oracle”).

Most would agree that this is Paul’s most difficult teaching to understand.   Because of it, some critics have denied that Paul wrote it!   Others have even suggested that 2 Thessalonians was written before 1 Thessalonians.   Others, who do take it for what it claims to be, become very vague and uncertain in their unraveling of the specifics of the text.   Perhaps some things were just not meant to be understood, we are told.   

Why do commentators struggle so with this chapter?   I contend that it is because we have lost the key to unlock the rather vague–perhaps “veiled”–terminology that Paul employs.   I believe that a series of false assumptions has led us far from the original intention of the oracle.   If I am right, the implications for New Testament eschatology are enormous.

 

The Pre-trib Dispensational Dilemma

2 Thessalonians 2 opens with a controversy disrupting the church.   Some in the church apparently were being led to believe that the Day of the Lord had already occurred.   If so, they had obviously missed it or had misunderstood what “it” was all about (verses 1-2)!   Paul wants to reassure them that the Day of the Lord has not taken place, as some deceivers had claimed, and that it would not take place until certain events transpired.   These events involving the “Man of Lawlessness” and the “rebellion” had been the frequent topic of discussion when Paul had been with them, as he now reminds them (verse 5). The Greek word ELEGON at verse 5 is an imperfect tense verb that denotes continuous past action (“I used to tell you ....”).


How Relevant?

If we are to believe the Rapturist take on this passage, this ongoing topic of conversation between Paul and the Thessalonians was the career of the end-times Antichrist following the Rapture of the church and preceding the Second (third?) Coming (that would follow the Rapture by seven years).   This whole approach is really quite bewildering in view of the much more pressing matters at hand for the beleaguered Thessalonian Christians.

The Rapturists teach that there will be a separate Rapture of the church seven years before Christ’s return (“Revelation”) to earth. At that Rapture, the saints allegedly will be caught up in the air to be with the Lord (using 1 Thessalonians 4 as a proof text).   This would also seem to be the “being gathered to him” described here at 2 Thessalonians 2:1.   At the later return of Christ to rule on earth, the saints will not rise to meet him in the sky. Of course the problem for the Rapturists is that the language of Scripture in no way supports such a distinction between a “Rapture” and a subsequent “Revelation” of Christ.   

Originally, proponents of the separate Rapture of the church attempted to make a distinction between the PAROUSIA (“coming”–referring to the Rapture) and the APOKALYPSIS (“revelation’–referring to the Second Coming). This was later abandoned since it could not be consistently maintained.

 

Missing the Obvious

If the Thessalonian Christians were concerned that somehow they had missed the “Day of the Lord,” that is, the Second Coming seven years after the earlier “Rapture,” wouldn’t the fact that the Rapture itself hadn’t occurred yet be an obvious corrective?   Why bother to discuss the so-called Great Tribulation, along with the alleged Antichrist’s career, when the key event that enables the church to “escape” all that stuff obviously hasn’t occurred?   Why go into detail about a series of events that the Rapture, the so-called “Blessed Hope,” would precede and would in fact preclude Christians from having to experience?   If indeed Paul’s teaching in 2 Thessalonians 2 is in response to the confusion some are in because false teachers have claimed that the “Day of the Lord” has already happened, the Rapturist interpretation of Paul’s words makes no sense whatsoever.   The Rapture System’s understanding of the role of the Man of Lawlessness in prophecy forces its adherents into a completely illogical line of reasoning here.

 

More Desperationalism

Of course desperate circumstances require desperate measures.   Some Rapturists attempt to save the day here at all costs by holding to an extremely unlikely meaning for the Greek word APOSTASIA at verse 3.   This word is variously rendered as “falling away” or “rebellion” by most translators (note our English derivative “apostasy” in the religious sense).   In light of the inherent difficulties of holding that Paul here skips over the Rapture and begins discussing the post-Rapture Antichrist, Rapturists actually have tried to argue that the very word APOSTASIA here refers to the Rapture of the church.   No kidding!   They try to interpret the term in the sense of “departure” and turn it into a positive sense.   By doing so they now can have Paul making reference to the Rapture in his response to the Thessalonians’ concern.   Therefore Paul is saying in verse 3, according to them, that the Day of the Lord (Second Coming) will not come until the “Departure” (Rapture) occurs and the Man of Lawlessness (Antichrist) is revealed (3½ years later).   This makes sense to Rapturists since it fits their System, but it does not correspond to any reasonable understanding of the word APOSTASIA.   The basic sense of “rebellion” for this term is now recognized by our more recent translations (New International Version, English Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version).   We will see that this meaning is the one that Josephus gives it, as well, in his many uses of the term.   To argue that APOSTASIA refers to the “blessed hope” of the church lacks any credibility whatsoever, and top dispensational scholars (e.g., Walvoord) reject that view.  

 

Post-Tribulational Options

The alternative to the above unlikely approach is that rather Paul is explaining that certain events must transpire before Christ’s coming for his church.   The “Rapture”/“Day of the Lord” had not yet occurred and would not occur until the Man of Lawlessness had come on the scene.   Those premillenialists who are “post-tribulational” see this very clearly and argue it persuasively.   They see the so-called Great Tribulation as something the church will go through, rather than escape.   The Second Coming is after (“post”) the Great Tribulation.   Their approach better explains Paul’s line of reasoning in 2 Thessalonians 2.  

The amillennialists would agree with the post-trib premillennialists at this one point.   There is no separate Rapture of the church followed by a seven-year period, in the middle of which begins the Great Tribulation, etc., etc.   Amillennialists teach that Christ will return in glory and triumph for his church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:10) while at the same time dealing out retribution to the wicked (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Will the Man of Lawlessness be an end-times figure who will persecute the church? Or perhaps someone or some institution that has been around for a long time?   Protestants and others have pointed to the pope for years, while Catholics have fingered heretics and apostates.   It might be viewed as a bit of a stretch to view the word “lawless” as the best term for the pope, regardless of how one views his claims to ecclesiastic authority.

 

 

The Antichrist Question

We have just noted that not all amillennialists are convinced that there is an end-time individual who will orchestrate a worldwide persecution of the church.   Those who do accept such a future scenario are heavily influenced by Paul’s teaching on the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2.   The fact is that the use of the term “antichrist” in 1 and 2 John can be explained in various ways.   John himself claimed that many antichrists had already come (1 John 2:18).   He also defined the spirit and teaching of “antichrist” in terms of false claims being made in his own day (perhaps “Gnostic”), namely that Christ had not “come in the flesh” (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7).  

As well, the career of the “Beast” in Revelation 13, 17, etc. (also Daniel 7) can be interpreted as something that spans the entire church age.   The apocalyptic style of the book of Revelation creates uncertainty as to how literally one should take the “outline of events” depicted in that book.   The image of the “Beast” goes through several transitions, sometimes describing a kingdom, sometimes a king or individual.    Alleged Old Testament portrayals of the Antichrist’s career, e.g. Daniel 11:36-45, are quite dubious, and certainly cannot form the basis of such a view.

So we are left with 2 Thessalonians 2’s Man of Lawlessness as an “unmistakeable” Antichrist looming on the future’s horizon.   Without this ominous personage, the belief in the certainty of such an end-times figure who will persecute the church worldwide is on much shakier ground.   I am convinced that this Man of Lawlessness text has been the deciding factor for many on this issue.   A glance at a number of treatments on the subject of the Great Tribulation and the Antichrist makes clear how big a role 2 Thessalonians 2 really plays.

 

The BIG Question

But WHAT IF?   What if 2 Thessalonians 2 isn’t describing a future Antichrist figure?    What if the Man of Lawlessness isn’t slain at Christ’s return and doesn’t immediately precede that return?   Wouldn’t such a conclusion have far-reaching ramifications for the Antichrist issue?   I am convinced it would.   And I am convinced that this surprising alternative in fact describes the true situation.   Paul’s teaching on the Man of Lawlessness has an entirely different focus than what we have been led to believe.   By a series of mistaken assumptions and translators’ misdirections, we have been led down the wrong path.   This path has produced consternation for about every interpreter of this passage.   No one seems to be very convinced or convincing in attempts to decipher this text.   Perhaps that is because they are on the wrong track.   The passage doesn’t make sense because interpreters are trying to place it in a time frame and context where it simply doesn’t belong.     

Coming up I will re-analyze certain terms and expressions that commentators and translators have struggled with to the extent that no persuasive presentation of this text currently exists.   This new analysis will pave the way for a surprising and compelling new understanding of Paul’s teachings in 2 Thessalonians 2.   Terms under renewed scrutiny include: APOSTASIA; “lawlessness”; God’s temple (NAOS); “the restrainer”/ “that which restrains”; at verse 8 the following terms: the “Lord (Jesus)”; “by”; “the splendor” (EPIPHANEIA); of “his”; “coming” (PAROUSIA)”; also “the lie” (verse 11); and “condemned” (verse 12).      

 

The Missing Obvious Answer

Assuming that the Olivet Discourse was known by Paul, and it almost certainly was, SOMETHING IMPORTANT IS MISSING HERE!   It is A.D. 52, and the Thessalonians are worried about missing the Day of the Lord.   But remember, Jesus had given ONE CLEAR SIGN that had to occur before He would return–the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem!   Why have we missed this?   I guess because it’s hard to think of ourselves on the other side of Jerusalem’s fall.   How could the Second Coming occur when Jerusalem’s fall, a sign for that generation, had not yet happened?

I am convinced that Paul received even further revelation about this monumentally important event and that 2 Thessalonians 2 is a type of “A.D. 70 oracle”.   The political ramifications of writing about this may have been troubling.   But Paul could have spoken about it more freely.   The impending fall of Jerusalem is not mentioned elsewhere in Paul’s writings except for his mention of the wrath that would come upon the Jews (also written to the Thessalonians!–1 Thessalonians 2:16).   To follow this whole argument will take some retooling, so let’s begin.

 

A New Paradigm : Rethinking Verse 8

It is my intention to cover this matter in greater depth in a future work–The Man of Lawlessness and the Time of the End.   For now, we can only hit the highlights.   The first order of business is to rethink verse 8, since it seems to say that Jesus will destroy the Man of Lawlessness at His Second Coming.   This is what the preterists teach and they themselves link this chapter to A.D. 70.   But don’t forget, preterists believe that the fall of Jerusalem was the Second Coming!   That is a view that must be rejected.   But how do we avoid such a conclusion?

The New International Version reads (extending into verse 9), And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. (9) The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan ....

Most translations read pretty much the same, so we are about to break some new ground.   The key words or words in question are in bold letters.   (1) There is a manuscript difference between Lord and Lord Jesus.   The shorter reading “Lord” is attested less, but it is found in every major manuscript family.   Many English translations have the shorter form.   The significance?   The shorter term “Lord” does not necessarily point to Christ and His Second Coming, but could easily signify God’s judgement upon Jerusalem.   The Jewish historian Josephus said that, through the Roman armies, God sent down “fire from heaven” upon them.            

(2) The term “splendor”–EPIPHANEIA–is best translated “manifestation” or “appearance,” not “splendor,” and could refer to the Man of Lawlessness, not to the Lord (Jesus).   In fact a grammatical argument can be made for that.   How?

(3) Everyone understands that the PAROUSIA of verse 8 refers to the Lord, while the PAROUSIA of verse 9 refers to the Man of Lawlessness.   However, our translators always “fix” the word order or add a few words for us, because the Greek word order as it stands could be understood to indicate that the “his coming” of verse 8 and the “whose coming” of verse 9 refer to the same individual!

Here is my proposed translation:

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and will overpower at the time of the appearance of his coming (9)–whose coming is according to the working of Satan . . . .

It can’t be!   But it can.   The Greek words go: THE APPEARANCE OF HIS COMING OF WHOM THE COMING IS ACCORDING TO THE WORKING OF SATAN . . . .   The “his” could go either way, but this understanding transforms this text into one that now makes perfect sense.   The dative case of the word “appearance” could either be dative of “means,” as has been generally understood, therefore “by,” or possibly dative of “time when,” as I have taken it here.   The change potentially transforms the text.   Note that now the Man of Lawlessness is described by all three “coming” terms: APOKALYPTO, EPIPHANEIA, and PAROUSIA, instead of just two (APOKALYPTO, PAROUSIA).

 

A New Paradigm : Rethinking the Rest

But what about the idea of the “apostasy,” the APOSTASIA (verse 3)?   Well, the New International Version got it right when it rendered it “rebellion,” but not for the right reason!   Would you believe that the term APOSTASIA and its twin APOSTASIS are the words regularly used by Josephus to describe the Jewish revolt against Rome!   They occur dozens of times.   Commentators have missed the possibility that the term is being used here in its political, not religious sense.   But what about the context of persecution?   Wouldn’t that fit the idea of “apostasy” better?

Look again.   Try to find the notion of persecution in the Man of Lawlessness section.   Try to find Christians there!   It is starting to look a little suspicious, isn’t it?  

 

Seated in God’s Temple

One of the problems with viewing the temple (NAOS) of God as symbolic of the church is that the deceptive efforts of the Man of Lawlessness do not seem to be directed toward believers.   There is no anti-Christian sentiment expressed; no mention of the persecution of followers of Christ.   The targets of this despot’s lies are those who already have rejected the truth of God (verses 10-12).    The activities of the Lawless One seem to involve self-exaltation over God’s laws, standards, and worship regulations.   They are in opposition to “everything that is called God or is worshiped.”   The term “everything” is actually masculine in Greek (PANTA).   The phrase “that is called God” is rendered in 1 Corinthians 8:5 as “so-called God” in the context of false gods. The Man of Lawlessness will set himself up against every divine authority or standard–“every so-called god or revered thing.” In effect he proclaims himself as the divine standard.  

Both religious regulations and the laws of the land are under the merciless control of the Man of Lawlessness.   Using the Jerusalem temple as his base of operation and claiming exclusive divine authority, “he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”   The oracular nature of this prophecy may account for some of the lofty language regarding the claims of the Lawless One.   No proposed view out there really makes sense in trying to take these words absolutely literally.   Regarding the papacy view, the pope doesn’t go around calling himself God, does he?   Did he ever?   As far as the Rapture System goes, what future human figure within even the most bizarre scenario will get away with claiming to be “above all gods”?   Will he bump a million or so Hindu deities?   Does this affect Islam’s Allah?   What modern “so-called gods” are we speaking of here?   Or is this “deification” attempt directly aimed at Christians?   The language in the passage in no way indicates this last suggestion.  

I would submit that the time for any human figure succeeding in a world-wide attempt to claim deity is long past.   Perhaps my “sanctified imaginater” is just not as active as that of some.   Perhaps the satanic bag of tricks this alleged figure will unleash surpasses anything I can imagine.   What Christian group will buy into the idea of a contemporary man being God in the flesh?   If, for the sake of example, such end-times wonders were unleashed “according to Bible prophecy,” wouldn’t the fact of the existence of those Biblical warnings curb the blind acceptance of such claims?

Let’s get back to what I think Paul was actually talking about.   Usurping divine authority is what seems to be in mind in this passage, a concept that some interpreters would seek to apply to the pope.   I would instead attach that rebellious activity to a possible first-century candidate for the title the “Lawless One.”

 

Abominations that Desolate

A number of Bible scholars have suggested a connection between the language of this chapter and that of several other key texts, namely (1) the abomination of desolation reference in Matthew 24:15; and (2) the language of Daniel 9:24-27 involving the coming of a “desolator.”

Josephus understood the language of Daniel 9 as being fulfilled in the horrible events of A.D. 70 when the murderous zealots took over the temple mount in Jerusalem and slaughtered thousands, even many as they were coming to worship.   The huge temple mount structure became their fortress, and the sight of unimaginable atrocities. Describing the scene, Josephus quotes the high priest Ananus as saying,

“Certainly it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places, that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains” (War of the Jews 4.3.10)

I have become convinced that Jesus’ use of “abomination that desolates” may have had reference to the actions of the Jews themselves bringing on the desolations at the hand of the Romans.   Josephus understood Daniel 9 this way.

These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of men, and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers; yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning [the rewards of] virtue, and [punishments of] vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country; for there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots did not [quite] disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment. (4.6.3)

And who is there that does not know what the writings of the ancient prophets contain in them, and particularly that oracle which is just now going to be fulfilled upon this miserable city? For they foretold that this city should be then taken when somebody shall begin the slaughter of his own countrymen. And are not both the city and the entire temple now full of the dead bodies of your countrymen? It is God, therefore, it is God himself who is bringing on this fire, to purge that city and temple by means of the Romans, (8) and is going to pluck up this city, which is full of your pollutions."   (6.2.1)

Amazing statements, aren’t they?   It is hard to imagine a more likely fulfillment of what Paul is describing in 2 Thessalonians 2 than the incredible scenes that unfolded in Jerusalem during the times Josephus describes. But who was the “Lawless One,” and what about the “Restrainer” who had to be removed? At this point, only brief comments can be made.   More to come at a later date ...

 

The Lawless One and the Restrainer

It is possible that Josephus names both the Man of Lawlessness and the Restrainer!   Josephus describes the zealot leader John of Gischala as being the primary individual responsible for the horrible fate of the city.   Regarding John’s actions in fleeing his hometown and coming to Jerusalem, Josephus writes,

Thus did this man put a trick upon Titus, not so much out of regard to the seventh day as to his own preservation, for he was afraid lest he should be quite deserted if the city should be taken, and had his hopes of life in that night, and in his flight therein. Now this was the work of God, who therefore preserved this John, that he might bring on the destruction of Jerusalem (4.2.3)

Later, These harangues of John's corrupted a great part of the young men, and puffed them up for the war; but as to the more prudent part, and those in years, there was not a man of them but foresaw what was coming, and made lamentation on that account, as if the city was already undone; and in this confusion were the people. (4.3.1)

Read Josephus to find out about John’s arrogance and deception, and his sacrilege of the temple and the things of God.

The “restrainer”? The high pries Ananus.   The “restraining thing”? (Paul uses both the masculine and the neuter forms.) The functioning Jerusalem priesthood and temple system.   Once these were gone, the Man of Lawlessness clearly had arrived on the scene and Jerusalem and its inhabitants were doomed.   Josephus writes,

I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs, whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city.

...and I cannot but think that it was because God had doomed this city to destruction, as a polluted city, and was resolved to purge his sanctuary by fire, that he cut off these their great defenders and well-wishers, while those that a little before had worn the sacred garments, and had presided over the public worship; and had been esteemed venerable by those that dwelt on the whole habitable earth when they came into our city, were cast out naked, and seen to be the food of dogs and wild beasts. And I cannot but imagine that virtue itself groaned at these men's case, and lamented that she was here so terribly conquered by wickedness. And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus. (4.5.2)                                 

What better end-times fulfillment could be provided than what Josephus describes for us in connection with the A.D. 70 fall of Jerusalem?

 

The Appearance of His Coming

Another argument against verse 8’s referring to Jesus’ glorious return is that nothing else in the remainder of 2 Thessalonians refers to it.   After what I view as a dative of “time when”–“at the appearance of his coming”–everything that follows speaks of the coming (PAROUSIA) of the Lawless One and the deception that will be wrought upon those who have already rejected the truth of the gospel.   There is nothing after 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that even hints at a description of the Second Coming except verse 8.

We are told earlier that the Second Coming will not occur unless the Man of Lawlessness first arrives on the scene (verse 3). When he arrives, he will be removed by the breath of the Lord’s mouth (verse 8). This could very naturally be interpreted as God’s overthrow of Jerusalem and the rebellion at the hands of the Romans. Josephus repeatedly connected Rome’s attack upon the city with the exercising of God’s wrath.   The city and the temple were being consumed by the very “fire of God” (5.2.1).   If my understanding of the “his coming” at verse 8 be accepted, the entire chapter then makes perfect sense. It offers a very natural answer to the Thessalonians’ question in light of what Jesus had taught about the one “sign” that would precede his return in glory.  

Understood in this way, 2   Thessalonians 2 does not describe the Second Coming, only the necessary events that would precede that coming.   As Jesus had taught, once the judgement upon Jerusalem had transpired, no further signs would be given to warn of his return–and clearly the events of A.D. 70 and the occasion of his personal return were portrayed as distinct occurrences in Jesus’ descriptions.   The desolations of A.D. 70 would be preceded by specific warning signs, his glorious return would not.  

The verses following verse 8 tell us the following. (1) The Lawless One’s coming would be according to the working of Satan (verse 9).   (2) Satan’s work would involve miracles, lying wonders and wicked deception (verses 9, 10).   (3) This deception would be directed toward those who have already rejected the truth of the gospel (verse 11).   (4) God himself would be the one who sends them a delusion–a delusion that would result in their believing “THE LIE” (verse 11).   Satan serves as the unwitting instrument of God’s judgment.   (5) The result of their believing “the lie” would be that ALL those who had not believed might be condemned (verse 12).

At this point Paul expresses his gratitude for the faith and sanctification of the Thessalonian Christians (verse 13), but there is no further reference to Christ’s return.   No flaming fire, no coming in glory, no deliverance of the saints, no attending angels, nothing.   If 2 Thessalonians 2:8 is a Second Coming reference, it is a remarkably abrupt one!   Instead,everything that follows verse 8 focuses upon the disastrous results of the coming (PAROUSIA) or appearing (EPIPHANEIA) of the Man of Lawlessness.

This supports the previous arguments given that 2 Thessalonians 2 is not a Second Coming passage at all.   Rather it is a passage describing in rather veiled, cryptic and, some might argue, “apocalyptic” language the scene that is about to played out in Jerusalem.   Jesus’ predictions about Jerusalem’s destruction would certainly unfold before “the coming of the Son of Man” occurred.   The Thessalonians had forgotten that one paramount sign.   No PAROUSIA of Christ would take place until all the things prophesied about “this generation” had come about.  

One question that can now be better understood is why is it necessary for the unbelieving wicked to believe “the lie” (TO   PSEUDEI).   Aren’t they already under God’s condemnation?   What further lie would be necessary to be believed in order (HINA) for the unrighteous to be condemned (KRITHOSIN)?

If this refers to eternal punishment, the sense of the text is unclear.   However, if it refers to the events in connection with A. D. 70, it makes perfect sense.   That evil generation would need to buy into the seditious rebellion against Rome in order for it to be utterly devastated.   Amazingly, many thousands of Jews entered Jerusalem at the last moment to celebrate Passover, even while the Romans were surrounding the city, and even after many thousands had been slain on the temple mount by these murderous revolutionaries!  

The lie that John of Gischala and his followers promoted was that God would never allow the city and temple to fall into Roman hands.   No matter what brand of evil these wicked Jews practiced, God would protect them from enemy hands.   John commissioned false prophets to propagate that lie, while drawing more and more victims to the temple mount (6.5.2)   As a result of that monstrous lie, hundreds of thousands met their violent end.   Josephus gives the figure at 1,100,000 dead and 97,000 prisoners.  

I believe that Paul had already alluded to the upcoming horrors of A.D. 70 in his first letter to the Thessalonians (2:14-16):

For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

Jesus himself had earlier said to the corrupt Jewish leaders of his day (Matthew 23:35-38):

And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth , from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.   I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.   O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.   Look, your house is left to you desolate.

How fitting that the desolation wrought upon Jerusalem was caused by that wicked generation itself, as the descriptions by Josephus so vividly portray. The Man of Lawlessness and his seditious accomplices played their role to the hilt in a deadly drama orchestrated by God in fulfillment of our Lord’s tearful words.   The LIE was believed. The destruction was complete– a horrific desolation brought by the unspeakable abominations committed by the Man of Lawlessness and his followers.

[Taken from Leaving the Rapture behind. This book also contains two important chapters on Jesus' Olivet Discourse.]

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