2 Thess 2:3 [READ]
The first thing that needs to happen before the Day of the Lord is the apostasy. Apostasy means rebellion or a leaving from a previous standing. Or a falling away from the truth by those who once held it. That’s number one.
The second thing that needs to happen before the Day of the Lord is also described in v3. The man of lawlessness is revealed. He is also referred to as the son of destruction or the Beast in Revelation, or the Antichrist in 1 and 2 John. There are all titles for the same person.
Who is the Antichrist? Contrary to popular belief, the Antichrist is not Satan. In Revelation 16, Satan is depicted as the Dragon. Then, there is the Beast, which is another name for the Antichrist. Lastly, there is a False Prophet who points everyone back to the Antichrist. Sound familiar? Satan is the father of lies. This is a cheap imitation of the Trinity. This is Satan’s version of the Trinity, an unholy trio involving the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet. The Beast or the Antichrist is not Satan but he is a human figure inspired and energized by Satan.
Some say the Antichrist is the Pope, others say it is George W. Bush or Obama or some future political, economic guru, religious figure who will bring the entire world together. At first, this Antichrist is not going to be a dark, horrific Satan worshipper. He will be deceptively charming. He’ll be winsome. He’d be the type of guy you’d want to have over for dinner. The whole world is going to love him, at first. He will bring “peace” to the whole world, for a time.
But eventually, his true colors will show. What will he do?
2 Thess 2:4 [READ]
Eventually, the Antichrist will oppose every so-called god or object of worship. Daniel 7 describes how the Antichrist will eliminate all religious freedom, even changing laws and banning all forms of religious expression. The Antichrist will exalt himself above every name and every religion. Sound familiar? He is trying to take the place of Jesus Christ. And where will he go? God’s sanctuary. The ESV translates it as the “temple of the Lord.”
What does “God’s sanctuary” refer to? It could refer very generally to the church of God. The Antichrist is going to sit in God’s church. Now you can see why many people, including Martin Luther, believe the Antichrist is the Pope because he sits in a seat of control over the entire Catholic Church. And Catholics believe the Pope to be infallible in his interpretation of Scripture. He is raised to that level of honor within the Catholic Church and it is possible that some day a Pope would say, not only am I infallible in my interpretation of Scripture, but I am infallible and sinless in my person. Because I am divine.
God’s sanctuary could also refer to the temple in Jerusalem. There’s only one problem. The first temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in the sixth century BC. The temple was rebuilt and again the second temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Currently, do you know what stands in the spot where the first and second temple in Jerusalem once stood? A Muslim mosque. It’s called the Dome of the Rock and it has been there since 691 AD.
I lean toward this interpretation because in Matthew 24 when Jesus talks about the Great Tribulation, he mentions those in Judea needing to flee to the mountains because they are witnessing the coming destruction of the Antichrist. Jesus describes the onset of the Tribulation with the arrival of the abomination that causes desolation and the Antichrist is standing in the holy place. In 70 AD, we know that this happened when the armies of Rome came and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and those in Judea literally had to flee to the mountains, just as Jesus said they would. But Matthew 24 is a chapter about the End Times, and so I believe, that somehow the Tribulation will be ushered in by the Antichrist and he will stand in that very spot where the Muslim mosque now sits. The Antichrist will occupy that most holy place, perhaps even destroying the temple of God in Jerusalem a third and final time. Cool stuff.
The man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed, but 2 Thess 2:7, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. There are little “A” antichrists and little false prophets that have led and are continuing to lead many believers astray. And some day in the future, THE capital “A” Antichrist and THE False Prophet will be revealed and the level of deception that will occur will be unprecedented. The magnitude of the apostasy of those who will be deceived and who will fall away will be in the millions or perhaps even billions.
You wonder, how can believers who are following Jesus, the light of the world, get deceived to the point that they end up following utter darkness, the embodiment of evil, the complete opposite of Christ, the Anti-Christ? How is this possible? Well, it happens very, very gradually. Even way back in Genesis 3, Satan did not tempt Adam and Eve by saying, forsake the Lord, worship me instead. He doesn’t say that. Instead, he asks a question–“Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” No, that’s not what God said. God said, you can’t eat from this ONE tree in the garden. Feel free to eat fruit from any tree except this one. God laid down a boundary, a law. If you love me, Adam and Eve, you will stay within the boundaries that I have set. Satan, the Lawless One, doesn’t say, forget the boundary. He just pushes it out a little further. He begins by slightly distorting the Word of God.
Falling away from God happens gradually, imperceptibly, pushing the boundary lines of God law further and further away, one step at a time. Distorting the Word little bit by bit and eventually years later, you think you are following Christ, but instead, you are following the Devil.
This is why it’s so important that you and I need to study this book. All 66 books of the Bible point to one Person and his name is Jesus Christ. You need to know this book so that you can recognize false teaching when you hear it. For Elijah, my son, he’s 4 years old and he hasn’t read the Bible for himself so if I tell him that I am Jesus, he’ll believe me. Many people are like Elijah. They are illiterate when it comes to the Bible. They don’t know Scripture so it’s so easy for Satan to slip in false teachings and the people of God just eat it up. Without discernment. Because they have no idea what the Bible says.
Even in terms of physical life, we need to have discernment to know the difference between water and liquid bleach. Or blue powerade from liquid Draino. We need to be able to distinguish between healthy liquids that will replenish our bodies from poison that will kill us.
As I have been studying about spiritual battle and false teaching, God has given me as least one clear way of distinguishing between true teaching and false teaching. You have to look at the ultimate goal of the teaching.
2 Thess 2:4 [READ]
You can ask yourself a simple question. Is Jesus the one who is being exalted and worshiped or is it someone or something else? If Christ and the gospel is the goal, knowing him, following him, trusting in him, then the teaching is trustworthy. But if Christ is not the goal, but it’s something else–my pastor is great, or my church is great, or evangelism is primary, or spiritual gifts, or social work, whatever it is, if something or someone other than Christ himself is the goal, then as a listener of this teaching, you’re in trouble. Because the mystery of lawlessness is at work in that ministry. And you might be on your way to hell.
2 Thess 2:9 [READ]
Another thing we have to be aware of is the fact that the Antichrist will perform all kinds of false miracles, signs and wonders. These are not false in the sense that they are fake. No, the Antichrist will have real powers. People will actually be healed of cancer and the lame will actually walk because Satan himself is energizing this man of lawlessness and so he is going to do some amazing things. But don’t be deceived. There are false teachers right now who are doing some amazing things in the name of Jesus, but they are working for the enemy. Likewise, how much more, the Antichrist will be impressive in terms of his power. What he does is false, they are false miracles and false signs and false wonders in the sense that they lead to the Deceiver, Satan, instead of the Truth, Jesus Christ.
2 Thess 2:5-7 [READ]
Part of the reason that the man of lawlessness has yet to be revealed is the fact that something or someone is restraining him. If you are a visual person, it’s like there is this gigantic beast pounding on the door from the outside and he is ready to unleash its fury on the world, but there is a Restrainer who is pushing back and preventing him from entering the world. Who is that person that is restraining the beast? I don’t know. The Thessalonians knew because Paul told him who it is, but that detail has been left out. It could be the Holy Spirit. It could be the church as the gospel is preached throughout the world. I kind of think it is the Holy Spirit, but nobody can be sure.
The more important thing to note is the One in charge of it all. Who determines when this Restrainer is going to be moved out of the way and when the man of lawlessness is to be revealed? God. God is sovereign. He is in absolute control. Nothing happens without his permission and consent. Satan thought he was in control. He thought he was in charge when Adam and Eve fell. Satan was made ruler of this world so when Jesus entered the world, Satan went after him. And when Jesus was crucified, Satan must have thought, finally, finally, I’ve defeated the Son of God! This world will be mine forever! But the story doesn’t end there. God took the death of His only begotten Son when Satan thought he had scored his greatest victory and God turned everything upside down by raising His Son to life.
That scene in the movie, The Passion of the Christ, will always stay with me. The moment Jesus dies, the camera zooms in on the face of Satan and as the camera pans out, Satan shrieks in horror when he realizes that he has been outsmarted by God on the cross. Instead of the cross being Satan’s greatest victory, the cross was where he suffered his most crushing defeat.
Christians, we are victors in Jesus Christ. Don’t ever forget this. Even if you are the lowest ranking private in the Lord’s army and you face the Commander in Chief of the forces of darkness, Satan himself, know this. Satan has nothing on you. Because you are on the winning side and he is on the losing side.