“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, ESV)
Literally, Apostasy or falling away. The Apostasy or Rebellion is a large scale turning away from God’s Law, and from faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.
“Since the reference here is to a world-wide rebellion against divine authority at the end of the age, the ideas of political revolt and religious apostasy are combined.” -FF Bruce (Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Thessalonians)
“This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future” -Walvoord/Zuck (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
This is what we are seeing in the USA now, and what has been happening in the Christian lands of the West beginning in the 1700s. There is a great falling away from faith in Jesus Christ, which founded Western Civilization. We re primed for a strongman to take over and change times, laws, morals and values. Academia, the Entertainment Industry, the most powerful corporations, all have turned against Christianity in our time. The most alarming apostasy, however is in the church. Mainline denominations turned away from confidence in the Bible 50-100 years ago. Now those same nominally Christian organizations have turned toward the validation and celebration of sexual immorality and the culture of death (abortion industry). Increasingly they reject the miraculous, acts of Jesus, his resurrection, and even his deity. This last certainly marks them as apostate, not part of God’s chosen people. The essential confession of faith is: Jesus is Lord. Apart from that no one is saved.
Man of Lawlessness
This figure has a several names in the New Testament, two here: Man of Lawlessness (also translated Man of Sin) and Son of Destruction (also Son of Perdition). John calls this figure the Anti-Christ, and in Revelation The Beast. In Daniel, the Little Horn (7:8). Jesus quoted Daniel in calling this leader’s image the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15, cf Dan. 11:31, 36)
There are numerous examples of powerful political leaders who opposed the faithful up to this point and beyond.
“Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.” (Daniel 11:31, ESV) This was Antiochus Epiphanes who abolished sacrifices, set up an altar to Zeus, offered pigs blood on it and punished those who circumcised their children.
Antiochus Ephiphanes may be the archetype, and we may read of him in the so called Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, which Roman Catholics and others accept, but which were rejected as canon by the Jews and by most Bible believing Christians.
“Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” (1 Maccabees 1:41-50)
“Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” (1 Maccabees 54-60)
Near the time of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica the Emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula was in power. He insisted that he be known as a god. Other emperors, beginning with Augustus were deified after death, but Caligula insisted on being worshiped. He decreed that a statue of him be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, but was assassinated in AD 41 before these orders could be carried out. This would certainly be fresh on the minds of Paul and his readers.
In both of these notorious leaders (Antiochus and Caligula) we find an initial fulfillment of the prophecy about the Abomination of Desolation in the temple (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). Evidently there will be a greater example, and a final fulfillment of this prophecy immediately prior to the return of Christ.
Next there was Nero, who persecuted and martyred Christians in Rome. Coating Christians with pitch and burning them to light his garden.
Then there was Domitian, who insisted on being referred to as “Dominus et Deus,” Lord and God.
The first empire-wide persecution occurred under Decius circa AD 250.
The worst persecution was the last under Diocletian circa AD 300.
Throughout history other anti-Christs like Hitler have murdered millions of Christians and/or Jews.
But none of these has been the ultimate and final fulfillment of Anti-Christ. That one is still to come.
Characteristics of the Anti-Christ to watch out for:
- Powerful world leader with absolute global authority (Revelation 13:1-10).
- Rejects Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah and God’s Son come in the flesh (1 Jn. 2:22, 3:2-3)
- Exalts him/herself as God or a god, and will demand and receive worship from everyone (above Daniel 11:36, Revelation 13:8).
- Opposes the Bible’s revelation of right and wrong.
- Changes the calendar and the law to reflect rejection of Christian and Jewish faith (Daniel 7:25)
- His image will be set up in the Temple (Daniel 11:31). I believe that this will be his demand for ultimate allegiance from everyone, which amounts to setting up his image in the hearts of people. We see examples of this in Communist N. Korea today, ie Dear Leader Kim Young Un.
- He will even be given authority to make war and successfully conquer God’s people for a short time (Rev. 13:7)