Interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

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(Taken from my commentary on Revelation)

 

Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

I don’t deal with all the details of this passage, but I do cover all the major points. 

 

(2 Th 2:1) – 1 Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him;

 

Paul is referring to the resurrection of the God’s people (“our gathering”), which occurs at the time of Christ’s return (“coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”).

 

(2 Th 2:2) – 2 to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand;

NET – 2 not to be easily shaken from your composure or disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.

 

“The day of the Lord” refers to the time of His return in judgment and to gather His people unto Himself, which is followed by the “new heavens and new earth” (2 Pe 3:10-13; Rev 21:1-2).

 

(2 Th 2:3) – 3 let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,

NET – 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.

 

Here Paul says that the return of Christ (“day of the Lord”) will not happen until this “man of sin” is revealed in “his time” (vs. 6). In other words, this “man of sin” will rise to power shortly before Jesus returns in judgment.

 

“falling away”

“the rebellion”

 

Greek word for this is Apostasia.

 

The Greek word for this is translated in two different ways: the falling away (or the apostasy) and the rebellion. I’m inclined to believe that “the rebellion” is the correct rendering, because in the same sentence this word is tied to the “man of sin,” and the very next verse describes his rebellion. This rebellion is directly associated with Satan (vs. 9), who rebels against God for the last time through this “man of sin” in an effort to be worshipped by the people of the world. Again, verse 4 confirms that interpretation. Of course, this rebellion against God is also on the part of the people of the world who give their allegiance to the “man of sin.” This rebellion also refers to the all-out assault against Christians just prior to the return of Christ — known as the “War of Armageddon” (see commentary on chapter 11:7 and 16:16).

There are those who see this passage as the “apostasy” or the “falling away” from the Christian faith. In that regard, many believe this refers to the Roman Catholic Church. However, I don’t believe that fits the context or flow of the passage. Whichever of those two words one uses for this Greek word, Apostasia, it’s directly tied to the “man of sin,” not to the Church or the Christian faith. In other words, Paul doesn’t say that it’s a falling away or an apostasy from the Christian faith. It simply says “the Apostasia.” Paul then connects that word to the “man of sin.”

The interpretation given in this commentary is supported by Leon Morris, who wrote the Tyndale Commentary on 2 Thessalonians. I’ll quote part of what he says about this verse (bold mind):

 

Quote:

The necessary prelude to the coming of Christ is “the rebellion.” The AV translation is defective at two points here: it does not give the definite article, and falling away hardly gives the force of apostasia. The article stamps the rebellion as something that was known to the readers, and evidently it had formed part of Paul’s previous teaching. Our difficulty is that we have not the advantage the Thessalonians had in this matter. In classical Greek the word apostasia denoted a political or military rebellion; but in the Greek Old Testament we find it used of rebellion against God (e.g. Jos. xxii. 22), and this becomes the accepted Biblical usage. Paul’s thought is that in the last times there will be an outstanding manifestation of the powers of evil arrayed against God. Cf. Mt xxiv. 10ff.; 1 Tim. iv. 1-3; 2 Tim. iii. 1-9, iv. 3f. (does Rev. xii. 7ff. Refer to the same kind of events?). It is as though Satan were throwing all his forces into one last despairing effort.

Unquote

 

Therefore, the rendering of “rebellion” fits the context better than “apostasy” or “falling away.” Note Morris’ sentence: “In classical Greek the word apostasia denoted a political or military rebellion; but in the Greek Old Testament we find it used of rebellion against God.” This is exactly how this commentary on Revelation views the fifth and sixth trumpets. I believe that all three of these types of rebellion is involved in these two trumpets. Namely, we see a political and military rebellion, and of course, rebellion against God and His people.

 

(2 Th 2:4) – 4 he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.

 

This describes Satan perfectly. He rebelled against God in Heaven because he wanted to take God’s place. He was thus, kicked out of Heaven. So at the very end of the world, Satan will again seek to be worshipped, through this “man of sin,” this “eighth king” (Rev 17:11).

Where Paul refers to the “temple of God,” this is figurative language, and not to be taken as a literal, physical temple, as Dispensationalism teaches. It simply means that Satan will turn against all the religions and idols and philosophies of the world (Rev 17:16-17) – particularly against the Church of Christ – and make himself the sole object of worship as god of all people. In other words, reference to the “temple of God” is merely figurative language to refer to his desire and forceful last effort to dethrone the true God of the universe — as he takes full possession of this “man of sin.” But again, since we know that the true temple of God is His Church (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21), it’s Christ and His people who are the primary target of their hatred (Satan and his people).

 

(2 Th 2:5-6) – 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season.

 

This “man of sin” will be revealed in “his own time,” which coincides with the releasing of Satan (Rev 20:1-4, 7-10) and the time period of Christ’s return (vs. 8). Therefore, I believe this “retraining” refers to the restraint or “binding” of Satan during the Church age (Rev 20:2). Therefore, the releasing of Satan and the revealing of the “man of sin,” occur at the same time. Once Satan is released (Rev 20:7), then the “man of sin” will rise in power, and will ultimately move against the Church (Rev 11:7; 20:7-9) once he has proclaimed himself as “God,” whom Christ will destroy in His return:

 

(2 Th 2:7) – 7 For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.

 

Again, I believe this “restraint” is the binding of Satan in Rev 20:1-2 by the angel over the abyss (see commentary on those verses). I believe this angel is the one who “restrains” until he himself is “taken out of the way.” In other words, when he’s out of the way and Satan is finally free. Satan, who will work through the “lawless one” (“man of sin” – vs. 3) when the time comes, is now being “restrained” from gathering the nations against the people of Christ until the time that God has set, which is just before Jesus returns in judgment of them. This “gathering” (vs. 8) is what is known as the “War of Armageddon” (Rev 16:16).

 

(2 Th 2:8-9) – 8 And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9 even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

NET – 9 The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders,

 

Again, I believe this “man of sin” will be completely indwelt by Satan himself, and will, therefore, be able to work “all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders” among the people of the world — deceiving everyone except those who belong to Christ.

 

(2 Th 2:10) – 10 and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

NET – 10 and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved.

 

I believe that all who will be saved, will be saved by this point in time. In other words, I believe the Church will be complete just prior to the glorious return of Christ — at which time we’re also resurrected.

 

(2 Th 2:11-12) – 11 And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

NET – 11 Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. 12 And so all of them who have not believed the truth but have delighted in evil will be condemned.

 

I believe that this means that all who have already made a final decision against Christ, will “believe what is false” in regard to this “man of sin” and whom he presents himself to be. In other words, there will be worldwide acceptance of him as “God.” The outcome for all those people, will be eternal “judgment” (“condemnation”). In the worldwide rejection of the truth of Christ, it will be very easy for the people of the world to unite in “believing what is false.” In rejection of the truth, there is no other option but to believe the false.

Let me be clear, God is not a deceiver. The Bible makes it clear that Satan is the deceiver of the world (Rev 12:9; 13:14). In fact, in context, Rev 20:8 plainly says that it’s Satan who will “deceive the nations,” and bring them against the Church. Therefore, we’re not to interpret this to mean that God deceives the world with a common lie that all will be made to believe. Rather, that it’s through God’s releasing of Satan that this “deluding influence” is accomplished, as Satan himself does the actual deceiving.

 

End of Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2.

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