Author: Ron Graham
This is the third lesson in our study of Second Thessalonians. We now come to chapter 2, and in this lesson we look at verses 1 to 12. The subject of these verses is widely understood to be the Antichrist. Paul does not use that term.
The term "antichrist" is used in the Bible by John (1John 2:18-22, 4:3, 2John 1:7). John states only one characteristic of antichrist. "The one who does not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh" (1John 4:3, 2John 1:7). The Book of Revelation's beast (with the number 666) is usually regarded as representing antichrist (Revelation 13:18).
Paul, here in 2Thessalonians 2, certainly seems to be talking about someone with the characteristics of an antichrist, and a person so evil that he is the paradigm or pattern for all antichrists.
Note —paradigm or pattern (pronounced “para-dime”) means a true pattern, a model. For instance, Abraham is the paradigm or pattern of faith, Christ of righteousness. Again, the church of the first century in its ideal form is the paradigm or pattern for the church today. Evil also has its paradigm or patterns.
It is very likely that Paul’s message about the antichrist is what John referred to when he said, "Children... you heard that antichrist is coming" (1John 2:18). So what is this wicked person like? Let's look at the characteristics that Paul predicts this enemy of Christ was going to have.
2Thessalonians 2:3,11-12 We do not know what the apostasy was that this evil man would lead. However it appears that he would have quite a following and cause many to "believe what is false" (2Thessalonians 2:11).
Note —Apostasy means a definite falling away from the true faith, a turning to the teaching and practice of error, trampling God’s Son underfoot (Hebrews 10:26-31). Not a stumbling, from which one repents and recovers with the help of Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16).
It is likely that the false teaching involved the denial, mentioned by John, of Jesus as the Christ "coming in the flesh" (2John 1:7). In other words, a mark of the antichrist was that he denied that Jesus the human being was Lord, Christ, and the Son of God. He denied "the good confession" (Romans 10:9, 1Timothy 6:12-13).
2Thessalonians 2:3,7 Lawlessness is another word for sin "and sin is lawlessness" (1John 3:4). In fact majority text reads "the man of sin" rather than "the man of lawlessness". However the latter does bring out the attitude of the antichrist. He is a rebel against the law of Christ. Where law is broken there is disorder. The goal of antichrist is to destroy God's order, to disrupt what is "according to God's purpose who works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).
2Thessalonians 2:3,8 This expression, "the son of destruction" is like another that Paul used, "the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:1-3). The destruction Paul refers to is not that wrought by the antichrist, although he is certainly a destroyer. Paul is referring to the antichrist's own destruction at the hands of God (2Thessalonians 2:8).
This is a great puzzle. Paul refers to "the mystery of lawlessness" (2Thessalonians 2:7). It certainly is a mystery! Why do people rebel against God when they know it will lead to their terrible destruction? Satan knows he is headed for a terrible doom. His demonic angels know it. Every antichrist knows it, and maybe a good proportion of their followers know it. Yet they all "go on sinning wilfully" in spite of "a certain expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire that shall devour the adversaries", and knowing that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:26-31). There is no rational explanation for this behaviour. It is a self-inflicted insanity.
2Thessalonians 2:4 A most astounding mark of antichrist is his presumption in declaring himself to be God. No deity is spared his arrogance, not even the true God Jesus Christ. He is antichrist because, among other things, he makes himself out to be greater than our Lord. The antichrist that Paul described, seems to be unreserved and loudly boastful in his claims. There are some who take a more subtle and less public approach. It takes a while to discover that they appropriate to themselves a divine nature. But when you cut through the obfuscation, you realise that they too want you to believe that they are gods.
2Thessalonians 2:9-10 One mark of antichrist is a claim to work wonders and signs. But you'll notice that Paul calls them "false wonders... deception of wickedness". Jesus also refers to this aspect of false Christs and false prophets who, he said, would arise and "show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24). The best way for us to ensure we are not mislead by modern claims of miracles, is to compare them with those that Jesus and his apostles did. Even the best deceiver cannot, under careful scrutiny, match those wonders. So he will be found out to be a pretender and a counterfeit.
2Thessalonians 2:10 This verse has always hit me between the eyes. Here's a terse verse if ever there was one, Paul gets right to the heart of why an antichrist is an antichrist, and why so many follow him. "They did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (2Thessalonians 2:10). Here we have two great principles, truth and love. When you put them together as "the love of the truth" you've got the most powerful force in the universe, haven't you? It's there for everyone to receive. If you receive it, no antichrist can deceive you or lead you apostate. The devil himself can have no power over you. It's that simple. All you have to do is passionately love the truth.
2Thessalonians 2:11-12 Those who don't love the truth will "believe the lie". The antichrist may even believe his own lie, "deceiving and being deceived" (2Timothy 3:13). Those who "believe the lie" (2Thessalonians 2:11), and "approve of wickedness" (2Thessalonians 2:12) have turned everything upside down. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who substitute darkness for light..." (Isaiah 5:20-21). When people do that, we know that antichrist is near.