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Future Glory | Present Trial: 2 Thes. 2:1-12

Future Glory - Present Trial :: The Man of Sin
October 3, 2021 :: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

In the short body of Paul’s first letter to the young church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 4-5), he moved quickly to matters concerning the end times, the resurrection, the death of believers and the times and order of events. This was obviously a topic of much discussion and teaching while Paul was present in the large city, which we are supposing was only a couple of months at the most. His second letter, much shorter, returns to the subject of end times much more quickly and deeply. In chapter two, Paul responds clearly and directly to a critical question and concern: had the “day of the Lord” already come? If the tribulation had begun, then the rapture had already happened. Had the Thessalonian church missed it? And if so, why?

Paul’s answer is direct, compassionate and clear: No, you haven’t missed a thing. Do not be disturbed. Do not be deceived by any other message that is contrary to the one we delivered to you. He even says, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2:5). Obviously, the end times, events, the order and details, including the personalities involved were a subject of such importance and concern that Paul discussed it widely in the short time he was there. This should be instructive to us today, when so many believers think that matters of the end times are not central to faith or critical to study.

Paul’s answer, more precisely, is this: before the end of sin, the man of sin must come; and his career will be the height of sin. This “man of lawlessness” or “son of destruction” is none other than the satanic superhero of the yet future time of tribulation - the anti-Christ.

More than 100 passages of Scripture describe the origin, nationality, character, career, conquest, and doom of the final world ruler known as the Antichrist. Clearly God want His people to know something about the coming prince of darkness.” Mark Hitchcock

Only John the apostle, in two of his epistles, uses the term “antichrist.” The central passage is in 1 John 2:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist [the proper Antichrist, a single male human] is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”—1 John 2:15-24

John looked beyond his own day and the many lesser antichrists (small a) to the one ultimate Antichrist (capital A) who will culminate the manifestation of the lawless system that denies Christ and decides men. The prefix anti- can mean “against” / “opposed to” or “instead of” / “in place of.” These meanings are undoubtedly included in the term “Anti” Christ. He will be the archenemy and ultimate opponent of Jesus our Lord. The origin, nature, and purpose of Christ and the Antichrist are diametrically opposed. The Antichrist will be against Christ. The Antichrist will also be “anti” Christ in the sense of “in place of” Christ. He will parody the true Christ. He will be a counterfeit Christ, a mock Christ, a pseudo-Christ, and imitation Christ.”—Hitchcock

Like a master criminal, the Antichrist proper - in distinction from the many antichrists or those with the spirit of the antichrist - has many aliases. Consider this list:
- “the little horn” - Daniel 7:8
- “a king, insolent and skilled in intrigue” - Daniel 8:23
- “the prince who is to come” - Daniel 9:26
- “the prince of Tyre” - Ezekiel 28:1
- “the abomination of desolation” - Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27
- “the man of lawlessness / sin” - 2 Thessalonians 2:3
- “the son of destruction” - 2 Thessalonians 2:3
- “that lawless one” - 2 Thessalonians 2:8
- the rider on the white horse, bow in hand, crown on his head - Revelation 6:2
the “beast coming up out of the sea” - Revelation 13:1

All of these references are from the central texts describing the role, resume, career and actions of this satanic super-ruler. According to the Scriptures, primarily Daniel 7 and 9, Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13-19, the Antichrist will appear at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation, after the rapture of the Church, and quickly rise to prominence by bringing peace to the Middle East, making a covenant with Israel, and restoring at least part of the Temple Mount back to the Jews, whom will rebuild the Temple and offer sacrifices.

The world will go delirious with delight at his manifestation. He will be the seeming answer to all its needs. He will be filled with all the fullness of Satan. Handsome, with a charming, rakish, devil-may-care personality, a genius, superbly at home in all the scientific disciplines, brave as a lion, and with an air of mystery about him to tease the imagination or to chill the blood as occasion may serve, a brilliant conversationalist in a score of tongues, a soul-captivating orator, he will be the idol of all mankind.”—John Phillips

Here is the resume of the AntiChrist:
- will subdue three of ten kings of a New Roman Empire - Daniel 7:8
- will make a “firm covenant” with Israel for 7 years - will break the covenant half way through, invade Israel, desecrate Temple - Daniel 9, 11, 12…
- will “take his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as God” - 2 Thessalonians 2:4
- given “power and throne and great authority” by Satan himself - Revelation 13:2,7
- will recover from a “fatal wound” and be raised to life - Revelation 13:3
- is worshipped by “the whole earth” - Revelation 13:4,8
- power “given to him to make war with the saints” - Revelation 13:7
- will be promoted by a second beast, the False Prophet, a worker of false miracles and wonders - Revelation 13:11f
- “seized” and “thrown alive into the lake of fire” at the glorious return of Jesus - Revelation 19:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:8

Here are the major descriptors of the Antichrist:
- incredible communicator, mesmerizing speaker, with “a mouth uttering great boasts” - Daniel 7:8, 11, 11:36; Revelation 13:5
- “he will be different from the previous [kings]” - Daniel 7:24
- “he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One” and “will intend to make alterations in time and in law; and they will be given into his hand” - Daniel 7:25-26
- will rise from obscurity, be revealed at time of tribulation and be a great peacemaker in the Middle East - Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6:2; 17:11-12
- He will establish a world-wide economy - Daniel 11:42; Revelation 13:16-17
- “exalts himself above every so-called god” - 2 Thessalonians 2:4: Revelation 13:8
- will come with “all power and signs and false wonders and with all the deception of wickedness” - 2 Thessalonians 2:9
- he will rule the world - Revelation 6:2; 13:2
- likely a Gentile, not a Jew - “beast from the sea” - Revelation 13:1

From the text in 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul reveals some incredibly important things about the Antichrist, the church and the future end of history. Let me point out 6 things (since the number of the Antichrist, the number of his name, or the number of man, according to Revelation, is 666) that Paul says to encourage, equip and inform a young church.

1. Do not be deceived or disturbed by false teaching (2:1-3; 5). It seems a person, a false teacher or teachers, a “spirit or a message or a letter” had seriously threatened the truth Paul taught the church. This in turn, threatened their peace and confidence in God’s Word.
2. The Day of the Lord is still yet future (2:2). Paul’s words, “that the day of the Lord has come” means to be present or current. But that was a false teaching and misunderstanding. The phrase, “the day of the Lord,” has been variously interpreted and identified with specific events, seasons or long periods of the end time calendar. Dr. Tom Constable offers clarity on this phrase:

The Day of the Lord is the period of history mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament during which God will bring judgment and blessing on the people of the earth in a more direct, dramatic and drastic way than ever before (compare Isaiah 13:6, 9; Zephaniah 1:14-16). From other New Testament revelation concerning this period of time it is believed that this will begin after the Rapture of the church, and will include the Tribulation and the Millennium.”—Tom Constable

The next events, in order, according to my understanding of Paul, are the rapture of the church and the revelation of the Antichrist as he makes peace in the middle east and seals a covenant deal with Israel. This triggers the beginning of the tribulation period, the seventieth week of Daniel 9.

3. Several critical things must happen before the “day of the Lord” is present. Most notably, the man of lawlessness or sin, the son of destruction, the Antichrist, must be revealed, and the general apostasy that accompanies his career. This is preceded by the rapture of the church.
4. God is still in control, restraining the work of Satan by the Holy Spirit. Even in the end, the culmination of sin and evil, God sets a time limit on Satan’s activities. He allows seven years, according to Daniel 9. This seventieth “week” of Daniel is triggered by the rapture of the church and the removal of the Holy Spirit from the earth, “who now restrains him;” him meaning Satan and/or the Antichrist. “The restrainer has not yet been removed, therefore the ma of lawlessness has not yet appeared, and a fortiori, the day of the Lord has not yet arrived.” —F.F. Bruce
5. The career of the Antichrist will end in his final destruction at Jesus’ second coming. In Revelation 1 and Revelation 19, Jesus has a sharp two-edged sword coming from his mouth. Here in 2 Thessalonians, the Antichrist will be slain by “the breath of His mouth.” He will be brought “to an end by the appearance of His coming.”
6. In the time of the Antichrist, those who reject Jesus and reject the truth of the gospel, will be further deluded by God. This does not mean that God chose them for destruction or that they had no chance to believe. It means that in this season of the end times, those that reject Jesus will fall into an even deeper hole of falsehood and pride.

The application of this text lies squarely in the opening lines. Do not be dismayed, disturbed or deceived by false teaching. Do not let your heart go astray to the next, new, shiny theology. Trust what the Scriptures say about the final stages of God’s plan for history - about Jesus. Have hope in God. Grow in your faith. Hold fast to your faith when times get uncertain or troubling. Remember, the Thessalonians were deep in significant affliction and suffering.

If Jesus, the Living Word of God, will conquer by His Word, a sword; we, the Body of Christ, should hold fast by the Word of God.

Group Discussion Questions:
  1. What is the problem in the background of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12? Why did Paul write this section?
  2. Do you think the end times is an important subject of biblical study? Why or why not?
  3. What have you previously thought or wondered about the Antichrist? Do you think this is a real human individual or just a story or something else? Why?
  4. Reread 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. How do these texts fit together? How do they complement each other?
  5. Take some time to read Daniel 9:20-27. What does this prophecy reveal about the “prince who is to come”? How does this fit the timeline of Jesus’ life and death?
  6. Take some time to read Revelation 12:7- 13:18. What does this reveal about Satan (the dragon), the Antichrist (the beast from the sea) and the False Prophet (the beast from the earth/land). Note they form a kind of “unholy trinity” that is an opposite counterfeit to the true, holy trinity.
  7. List the things the Antichrist will do, as revealed in 2 Thessalonians 2:4-10.
  8. How does God restrain the work of satan and the Antichrist? See 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.
  9. What does this practically reveal about God’s power, control, timing, mercy and grace?
  10. Compare and contrast how Paul describes the end of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and how John describes it in Revelation 19:11-21.
  11. Identify three specific applications from this text and discuss them with your group.
  12. Close your group time in prayer.
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