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The Man of Lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2)

Paul teaches the Thessalonians that the “man of lawlessness” must also be revealed before the Lord Jesus will come again (2:1,3). Some of the versions translated this person as “the man of sin.” This is synonymous since “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Paul then spends some time describing who the man of lawlessness is.

Son of destruction (vs. 3). The next description given to the “man of lawlessness” is found in verse 3, “the son of destruction.” This phrase was also used as a Hebrew idiom, which can be seen in Jesus calling Judas “the son of destruction” in John 17:12. This is the only other occurrence of this phrase in the scriptures. This could be used a general description for an evil person or may speak specifically to a destructive person.

Opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship (vs. 4). The “man of lawlessness” is described as a powerful person that elevates himself above all other so-called gods. The man of lawlessness will even call himself god and sit in God’s temple. This seems to be a symbol to indicate that the “man of lawlessness” not only exalts himself higher than so-called gods, but even the true God. Verse 6 tells us that there is something restraining the “man of lawlessness” at that time, but in due time the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed. Paul further says that these things are already at work (vs. 7). Once the “man of lawlessness is revealed,” the Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to nothing.

Signs and wonders (vs. 9-11). Signs and wonders also accompany the “man of lawlessness.” He will use unrighteous deception and people will believe the false things he says and does.

One of the keys that is frequently overlook is Paul’s words in verse 7 – “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (ESV). I think the NLT does a good job with this verse: “For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way” (NLT). However we want to explain the “man of lawlessness,” our answer must be able to reconcile Paul’s words that when he wrote this letter to the Thessalonians in the early 50s AD, this lawless one already existed and was already working.

This information should blow a gaping hole in any end time theory that describes the “man of lawlessness” as a future Antichrist arising during the Great Tribulation that will rebel against God and cause a great apostasy. This “man of lawlessness” figure must already be present in the first half of the first century.

More to come…