2 Thessalonians 2:3 MEANING

2 Thessalonians 2:3
(3) Let no man . . . by any means.--"Whatever device they may adopt--spirit, letter, or what not--they are deceivers or deceived; do not be duped by them." The form of warning is a mark of St. Paul's style. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:6)

For . . . except.--The words between are rightly supplied in our version. Probably, St. Paul's first intention was to turn 2 Thessalonians 2:5 differently, as, for instance:" For, except that Man of Sin, &c, ye remember that I told you the day would not come." The length of the sentence made him break off (as he often does) without regard for grammatical completeness.

A falling away.--A great change in the purpose of the sentence will be felt directly "the" is substituted for "a." Only one insignificant MS. omits the definite article; the same article in our version is vigorously rendered "that" before "man of sin." In both cases the purpose is by no means to utter a new, strange prophecy, or to add to the knowledge of the readers, but to remind them of careful teaching given during the first few weeks after their conversion. "That falling away" must undoubtedly imply that the persons so apostatising had formerly held (or, perhaps, still professed to hold) the Christian faith: men cannot fall from ground which they never occupied. This vast and dreadful Apostasy (see Luke 18:8), so clearly and prominently taught of to the ancient Church, and so mysterious to us, is further defined by the following words, as the Apocalypse or Manifestation of the Man of Sin. Of this revelation of Antichrist the same word (apocalypsis) is used which is often used of Christ, as, e.g., 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Luke 17:30; and thrice in St. Peter; so that we may expect to recognise him when he comes as clearly as we shall recognise Christ. The conception of the Antichrist is not merely that of an opponent of the Christ, but of a rival Christ: there is a hideous parallelism between the two.

That man of sin.--It is not absolutely certain from the Greek, but the context makes it tolerably clear that the "Man of Sin" is the head and centre of the Apostasy itself, and does not form a separate movement from it. The "Man of Sin," then, will have at one time formed (or will still profess to form) part of the Christian Church, and the Apostasy will culminate in him. Thus, for instance, the requirements of the passage would not be fulfilled by (with Hammond) interpreting the Apostasy to mean the early Gnostic movement, followed up by the independent appearance of Nero as the Man of Sin. The phrase, "the Man of Sin," might, perhaps, be only a poetical personification of a movement, or of a class of men, or of a succession of men (as, e.g., Psalm 89:22; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 17:3); but the analogy of the parallel passages in Daniel 8, 11 leads rather to the supposition that St. Paul looked for the coming of some actual individual man who should be the impersonation of the movement of Apostasy. The genitive (see Note on 1 Thessalonians 1:3) is like a forcible epithet:" A man so wicked that, bad as other men are, wickedness should be his mark by which he is distinguished from all others; a man who belongs to sin, in whom the ideal of sin has become realised and incarnate." What kind of sin will be most prominent in him is not expressed in the word itself; but the context points clearly to that which is, in fact, the crowning sin--spiritual pride and rebellious arrogancy (Ephesians 6:12).

The son of perdition.--The phrase which is used, in John 17:12, of the false Apostle; it suits well with the description of the Man of Sin, who, like Judas, will have "fallen away" from high Christian privileges: according to one popular interpretation, like Judas, from the privileges of the Apostolate itself. The expression signifies one who belongs by natural ties to perdition--who from his very birth chooses evil, and in such a sense may be said to be born to be lost (Matthew 26:24; 2 Peter 2:12). Both his malignity and his doom are thus implied in it.


IN order to deal fairly with this difficult passage, it will be necessary sternly to exclude from our view all other passages of the New Testament which speak of a final manifestation of evil, and, reviewing the words simply as they stand, to consider what St. Paul himself meant when he so assiduously (2 Thessalonians 2:5, Note) taught the Thessalonian Church on the subject, and what the Thessalonian Church was likely to gather from his Letter. For though such a passage as Hebrews 6:2 shows that the whole Apostolic Church was definitely at one in the eschatological instruction given to its converts at a very early stage of their Christian life; and though the language of 1 Timothy 4:1; James 5:3-7; 2 Peter 3:1-2; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3; Jude 1:17 (not to mention the Apocalypse)--passages representing the most different schools of thought in the early Church--fully bring out this agreement, so that Christians may fairly use those passages to explain each other, yet, on the other hand, we need to put ourselves in the position of the young Church of Thessalonica, which was expected by St. Paul to make out the significant hints of his Letter with no other help than the recollection of his oral teaching and the observation of events. We, therefore, ought to be able in like manner to catch the same significant hints by a like knowledge of the then history of the world, and of the sources from which St. Paul was likely to draw his doctrine of the "Last Things."

I. Sources of the Apostolic Doctrine of the Last Things.--The prophecy of St. Paul does not appear to be--at least, exclusively--the result of a direct internal revelation of the Spirit. Such direct revelations were, when necessary, made to him, and we have seen him claim that kind of inspiration in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. But God's ordinary way of making prophets seems to be different. He gives to those who are willing to see an extraordinary insight into the things which lie before the most ordinary eyes; He throws light upon the meaning of occurrences, or of words, which are familiar to every one externally (see Maurice's Prophets and Kings, pp. 141-145). Even for doctrines like those of the true divinity or the true humanity of our Lord, or of the indwelling of the Spirit, or the Church's mission, the Apostles do not rest solely on direct revelation made to their own consciences, but rather dwell on the significance of historical facts (e.g., Romans 1:4; 2 Peter 1:17), or, still more frequently and strongly, on the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures (e.g., Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 2:12-13; 2 Peter 1:19). If, therefore, we can find material in the Old Testament which, taken in conjunction with our Lord's own words, could have supplied St. Paul--or rather, the catholic consent of the early Church--with the doctrine of the Last Things as we find it stated in the apostolic writings, we shall be justified in using those Old Testament materials in the explanation of the New.

II. The Book of Daniel.--Such materials we find, not only in the general threatenings of Joel, Zechariah (Zechariah 14.), and Malachi, but most clear and definite in the Book of Daniel. Into the question of the date of that book it is not necessary here to inquire. It suffices for the present purpose to know that it was much older than St. Paul's time, and was accepted as prophetic in the ordinary sense. In fact, there was, probably, no other book of the Old Testament which received so much attention among the Jews in the apostolic age (Westcott, in Smith's Dict. Bible, Art. "Daniel"). It was regarded with full reverence as an inspired revelation; and our Lord Himself (according to Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14) either drew from it (humanly speaking) His own doctrine of the Last Things, or at least used it emphatically for His disciples' benefit as a corroboration. The taste for apocalyptic literature was at this time very strong, and the prophecies of Daniel attracted especial attention, inasmuch as the simplest interpretation of some of the most explicit of them pointed unmistakably to the time then present. Tacitus (Hist. v. 13) and Suetonius (Vesp. chap. 4), as is well known, speak of the certainty felt through the whole East, about that time, that universal empire was on the point of passing into the hands of men of Jewish origin. This belief, says Tacitus, was "contained in the ancient literature of the priests"--i.e., in the Scriptures, kept and expounded by them; and there can be no doubt that first and foremost of those Scriptures (for this purpose) stood the Book of Daniel. For every reason, then, we may well try to find what a believing Jew of the apostolic age would make out of the visions of Daniel, in order to throw light on this passage of St. Paul.

III. The Five Monarchies.--Now, in the Book of Daniel there are four main predictions of what was then the future history of the world. These predictions are contained in Daniel 2, 7, 8, 11. The first two visions, vouchsafed to Nebuchadnezzar and to Daniel respectively, both describe Five Monarchies, which were successively to arise and flourish in the world. Amidst a good deal which is matter of controversy, three facts remain agreed upon by all: first, that the Five Monarchies of the one vision are intended to correspond to the Five Monarchies of the other, each to each; secondly, that the earliest of these five represents the Babylonian empire, then standing, with Nebuchadnezzar at its head; thirdly, that the last of the series portrays the establishment of the Theocracy in its full development--that is, the "Kingdom of God" (which had been the main subject of St. Paul's preaching at Thessalonica), or the visible government of the world by the Christ.

IV. The Fourth Monarchy.--But the question which most directly concerns us now is how to identify the Fourth of these monarchies. In Nebuchadnezzar's vision it was to be "in the days of these kings"--i.e., the kings of the Fourth Monarchy, while the Fourth Monarchy was still standing--that the Kingdom of Heaven was to come (Daniel 2:44). In Daniel's vision this Fourth Monarchy (or rather, its continuation and development) was to exist side by side with the saints of the Most High, and between them and one outgrowth of the Fourth Monarchy a struggle was to take place before the final establishment of the Kingdom of the Saints (Daniel 7:25). What, then, was this Fourth Monarchy intended by the Seer (or by "the Spirit of the Christ," 1 Peter 1:11) to represent? Or, to be still more practical, What was in St. Paul's own day, among his own countrymen, the received interpretation of this part of Daniel's prophecy? The question is not hard to answer. With irrefragable clearness Dr. Pusey has proved, in the second of his Lectures on Daniel the Prophet, the plausibility and minuteness with which the words concerning the Second and Third Monarchies may respectively be applied to the Medo-Persian and the Macedonian empires; and if even this point be established, there can be no hesitation in naming the Fourth. It can only be the empire of Rome. But Dr. Pusey shows, with the same force, how applicable the description itself is to the Roman empire. Whether, however, this interpretation has any ground in the original intention of the Prophet, or of Him who, we believe, spoke by him, is for our present purpose a matter of secondary importance. We have already mentioned an unimpeachable piece of evidence furnished by two great Roman historians. It was in their days a "long-established and uniform belief," entertained not in Judaea only, but "in the whole of the East," and drawn from the Jewish literature, that a great Jewish empire was destined to appear. But that is not all. Such a belief might have been drawn from Numbers or Isaiah. But Suetonius adds, Eo tempore, "at that time;" Tacitus adds, Eo ipso tempore, "at that very time." From what Jewish literature could the date have been made out, except from the calculation of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel? And as the same prophecy spoke of a world-wide empire, in the days of whose kings this new Jewish power was to arise, that same "long-established and uniform belief" must have recognised in the Roman empire the Fourth Monarchy which was to be shattered by it. Hence, doubtless, the hopefulness, with which insurgent leaders one after another rose in rebellion against the Roman arms. It was not only that they themselves were the Lord's own people. Was not this vast system, "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly," definitely doomed in Scripture to utter extinction before their arms? But we have, besides, a less indirect testimony than the foregoing. The Jew Josephus (Ant. x. 11, ? 7) speaks at length of the prophecies of Daniel, and how he himself was watching their gradual verification. After mentioning the prophecy about Antiochus Epiphanes and its complete fulfilment, he adds:" In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the empire of the Romans, and that our country should be made desolate by them." He then passes on to speak of the comfort afforded by seeing so plainly the Providence of God, with true Jewish irony not disclosing that his comfort lay in the promised revenge upon Rome as well as upon Antiochus. In another place (Ant. x. 10, ? 4) he is recording the vision in the second chapter of Daniel, and after describing the universal dominion of the Iron Kingdom, he proceeds:" Daniel also declared the meaning of the Stone to the king, but this I do not think proper to relate, as I have undertaken to describe things past and present, not things that are future. Yet if any one be so very desirous of knowing truth as not to waive such curious points, and cannot refrain his desire to understand the uncertain future, and whether or no it will come to pass, let him give heed to read the Book of Daniel, which he will find among the Holy Scriptures." No doubt can be entertained that this writer understood the Fourth Monarchy to be the Roman empire, and did not wish to be suspected of encouraging sedition by speaking openly of its predicted downfall. This, then, was the common interpretation which St. Paul must have learned from a child: that Daniel's Fourth Monarchy, which was to break up before the Kingdom of God, was the Roman empire.

V. The Fifth Monarchy.--We may then assume that St. Paul believed Daniel to foretell the coming of the Kingdom of God in the days of the kings of the Roman empire. In one sense, indeed, the prophecy was already fulfilled. The Kingdom was already come. Heralded by the Baptist (Matthew 3:2, et seq.), and expounded by our Lord (Matthew 9:35, et seq.), it had been established by the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Mission of the Holy Ghost, while the Roman empire actually stood (Psalms 2; comp. Acts 4:25; Acts 5:31; Acts 13:33). St. John regards the world as already virtually subdued in his own lifetime (1 John 5:4, Note). But the Church as at present constituted does not answer completely to Daniel's prophecy of the Kingdom of the Saints. To the Christian there are two comings of the Kingdom, not only one. In the Prophets the two are fused into one. We may almost say the same of the words of Christ Himself. Even the apostolic writers do not separate the two so sharply as God has historically taught subsequent ages of the Church to separate them. The early Church lived in a daily expectation of the return of Christ. For them, therefore, there was no difficulty in interpreting Daniel's prophecies as applying at the same moment to the First and Second Advent. It would not be unfair, therefore, to assume that St. Paul expected the Second Advent to take place, as the First had done, "in the days of these kings" of the Fourth or Roman Monarchy.

VI. What withholdeth.--Turning now to the statement of St. Paul, we see that he is cautioning the Thessalonians not to expect the Second Coming of Christ immediately, because, as they can see, a certain great power is still in the world, which (as they have been carefully taught) must be removed before the way for Christ's return is open. This great power--with the aspect of which his readers are perfectly familiar, though they may have forgotten its significance ("Ye know that which withholdeth")--is summed up in a person who wields it. This person is "he which with holdeth." His removal "out of the midst" is still a matter of futurity, yet assuredly destined to take place; and the date, though unknown to men, is fixed. The great opponent, who cannot develop so long as "he that with holdeth" remains, is to be revealed "in his time"--i.e., at the time which Divine Providence has assigned to him. It seems impossible to doubt that this great opponent is the same as the "Little Horn" of Daniel (whose "time" is very definitely marked out in Daniel 7:25), and that the power which withholds his development is the Fourth Monarchy of Daniel, and, therefore, the Roman empire. A few considerations will make the latter point clearer:--

(1) There was only one power in the world at that time, represented by a single person, in "the midst," before all eyes, of sufficient importance to restrain the development of Antichrist. It was the Roman empire and the Roman emperor.

(2) The word rendered "withholdeth," or "letteth," does not necessarily imply that the obstruction actively, consciously, or designedly obstructs the way. His presence in the midst is quite sufficient for the requirements of the word. Indeed, it would, perhaps, not be necessary that Antichrist's delay should even be directly caused by the obstruction; St. Paul might only mean that in prophecy the one thing was destined to come first, and that, therefore, so long as the first thing existed, it (in a manner) kept the second back. Now if Antichrist be the Little Horn of Daniel, and the obstruction the Fourth Monarchy, we get exactly what we want; for (unless the prophecy is to be falsified) before the Little Horn can spring up the Fourth Monarchy must have so totally changed its appearance as to have passed into ten simultaneous kingdoms: therefore, so long as the solid empire stood it was a sign that Antichrist must wait.

(3) Notice the extreme reserve with which St. Paul begins to speak on the subject. He does not teach, but prefers appealing to their memory of words already spoken: "Remember ye not?" His clauses become intricate and ungrammatical--in strange contrast with the simple structure which characterises these two Epistles. He names nothing, only hints. Nor can we account for this sudden ambiguity by saying that St. Paul is adopting the prophetic style; for his purpose is entirely practical, and he wishes not to awe his readers, but to recall to them plain facts which they knew and ignored. Now recollect the similar reticence of Josephus in speaking of the destiny of the Roman empire when it comes in contact with the Messianic Kingdom, and it will be felt almost impossible to doubt the truth of St. Chrysostoin's shrewd observations: "A man may naturally seek to know what 'that which letteth' is; and after that, what possible reason St. Paul had for putting it so indistinctly. What, then, is 'that which letteth'--i.e., hindereth--him from being revealed? Some say the grace of the Spirit, others the Roman empire. Among the latter I class myself. Why so? Because, had he meant to say the Spirit,' he would not have said it indistinctly, but straight out; that now he is restrained by the grace of the Spirit, i.e., the supernatural gifts [presumably that of discerning of spirits in particular; comp. 1 John 4:1-3]. Otherwise, Antichrist ought to have presented himself ere now, if he were to present himself at the failure of those gifts; for, as a matter of fact, they have long failed. But seeing that he says this of the Roman empire, he naturally put it enigmatically and very obscurely, for he had no wish to subject himself to unnecessary hostilities and unprofitable perils. For had he said that shortly after the Roman empire would be dissolved, they would soon have transfixed him for a miscreant, and all the believers with him, as living and fighting for this end." Was it not, indeed, for expounding this very prophecy that he had fled for his life from Thessalonica?" These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another emperor, Jesus." Does not the history give startling point to his question, "Remember ye not that when I was with you I told you these things "?

VII. The Man of Sin.--We have stated our belief that "the Man of Sin" is not only to be identified with Daniel's "Little Horn," but that St. Paul consciously drew the doctrine from that passage. But it may be objected that some of the words in which St. Paul most narrowly describes him are taken, not from the description of the Little Horn in Daniel 7, but from that of the Little Horn of Daniel 8:5, which represents quite a different person, viz., Antiochus Epiphanes.[7] It might be thought, therefore, that St. Paul was only borrowing Daniel's language, and not adopting his prophecy. The answer is, that even those prophecies of Antiochus in many points do not suit Antiochus at all; and not only so, but the Jewish expositors themselves held that Antiochus had not exhausted the meaning of the prophecy. They themselves applied it to some Antichrist, whose coming should precede, and be defeated by the Christ's. Even in St. Jerome's time, "From this place onwards" (he is commenting on Daniel 11:36) "the Jews think that Antichrist is spoken of, that, after the little help (Daniel 11:34) of Julian, a king shall arise who shall do according to his own will, and lift himself up against all which is called God, and speak great things against the God of gods, so that he shall sit in the Temple of God and make himself god, and his will be performed, until the wrath of God be fulfilled: for in him shall the end be. Which we, too, understand of Antichrist." Thus, according to the current explanation of the Jews, Antiochus was looked upon as a type of the Antichrist, whom they expected to arise (in fulfilment of Daniel 7:8) at the overthrow of the Roman empire, whose coming was to precede the Christ's. The only change made by the Christian Church is to apply to the Second Advent a prophecy which the Jews applied to the one Advent which they recognised. It is impossible not to do so when, in Daniel 12:2, we have the Resurrection made to follow close upon the development of this Antiochus-Antichrist. So far, then, as St. Paul's date is concerned, the doctrine is drawn from Daniel 2, 7; traits of character are added (in accordance with Jewish interpretation) from Daniel 8, 11.

[7] Sec Daniel 8:11-12; Daniel 8:23-25, and more particularly Daniel 11:36-37.

VIII. St. Paul's probable Personal Expectation.--Dr. Lightfoot argues, with great probability (Smith's Dict. Bible, Art. "II. Thessalonians"), that, as a personal matter, St. Paul expected to witness in his own day the development of the Antichrist (whose "secret working" was already visible to him), and that he saw in the Jews the makings of the foe to be revealed. Theirs was the apostasy--professing to cleave to God and to Moses, but "departing from the living God, through an evil heart of unbelief," and "making the word of God to be of none effect through their traditions." Theirs was the lawlessness--setting the will of God at naught in the self-willed assertion of their privilege as the chosen people, and using the most unscrupulous means of checking those who preached the more liberal gospel of St. Paul. And if to St. Paul the final Antichrist was represented by the Jews, the Roman Government, which had so often befriended him, might well be called the withholder or restrainer. If such was the personal expectation of St. Paul, it was, indeed, literally frustrated; but if the Judaic spirit, of exclusive arrogance, carnal reliance on spiritual promises, innovating tradition, should pass into the Christian Church, and there develop largely, St. Paul's expectation would not be so far wrong.

IX. The Development of the Horns.--The question naturally arises whether the prophecy has not been falsified. The Roman empire has disappeared, and Antichrist is not yet revealed. We do not need to answer with some interpreters that Roman law still rules the world. A closer observation of the two passages of Daniel already mentioned would in itself suggest the true answer. In Nebuchadnezzar's vision, indeed, the Roman empire simply comes into collision with the Catholic Church, and falls before it. There is no hint of a protracted struggle between them. The long duration of the Roman empire is perhaps suggested by the words, "Thou wast gazing until that a stone" (Daniel 2:34); the division into the Eastern and Western empires may be symbolised by the two legs of the colossal figure; the ten toes may bear the same interpretation as the ten horns of the later vision: these points, however, are not the most obvious or prominent points of the dream. But in Daniel's vision all is quite different. There, the final triumph of the Church is won only after a long struggle, and that struggle is not with the Roman empire itself. Though the Beast which symbolises the Roman empire is said to continue throughout (Daniel 7:11), it is only in the same sense, apparently, as the three other Beasts are said to have their lives prolonged (Daniel 7:12). The empire itself has altogether changed its form, and developed into ten kingdoms, among which, yet after which (Daniel 7:8, Dan_7:24), an eleventh has arisen, dissimilar from the other kingdoms, and uprooting some of them. With this power it is that the struggle which ends in the Church's final victory takes place, and not with the old imperial power of Rome. If, therefore, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar may be said to have been fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, in the days of the Roman emperors, the vision of Daniel must wait for its fulfilment until the Roman empire has passed away into an even more different form than it has at present reached.

X. Characteristics of Antichrist.--(1) He is a human being. The title "Man of Sin" excludes Satan, as Chrysostom remarks: Satan acts through the man (1 Thessalonians 2:9) to the full extent of his power--"enters into him," as he entered into an earlier "Son of Perdition"--but does not destroy his humanity.

(2) He is a single person. This, too, is involved in the phrase "Man of Sin," especially when followed by the "Son of Perdition." It is not to be denied that poetically the first title, at any rate, might be a personification of a movement, or (as the "kings" in Daniel mean "kingdoms") the title of a wicked power, the head of which might even be more innocent than his subjects. But not only is it simpler to understand the phrases themselves (especially the second) of a single person, but the sharp dramatic contrast between the Christ and the Antichrist seems to require a personal exhibition of evil. The Antichrist is to have a coming (2 Thessalonians 2:9) and a manifestation (2 Thessalonians 2:3), so as to be instantly recognised, and will display himself by significant acts (2 Thessalonians 2:4), which all require a person. Besides, the types of him--Antiochus, Caligula, Nero, &c.--could hardly be said, according to Scriptural analogy, to be "fulfilled" in a mere headless movement. The application of the name "Man of Sin" to any succession of men (as, for instance, all the Popes of Rome) is peremptorily forbidden by the fact that the detection and destruction of the Man of Sin by the Advent of Christ follows immediately upon his manifestation of himself.

(3) This person, though single, heads a movement. He is the captain of "the Apostasy." He has a large and devoted following (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Indeed, though his dominion is "diverse" from other kingdoms, yet he is almost called a king in Daniel 7:24 : the word, however, is (perhaps) carefully avoided. The diversity between his monarchy and theirs might, for instance, consist in its not being, like theirs, territorial or dynastic; it might be a spiritual or an intellectual dominion, interpenetrating the territorial kingdoms.

(4) The movement of Antichrist is not atheistic. The Man of Sin super-exalts himself, indeed, against every God, true or false, but it is not by denial of the Divine existence. On the contrary, he claims himself to be the true God, and exacts the homage due to the true God; thereby acknowledging the existence and working of God, which he avers to have become his own.

(5) The antichristian movement does not even break openly with the Catholic Church. It is an "apostasy," indeed, but the same Greek word is used in Hebrews 3:12, and in 1 Timothy 4:1, in neither of which cases will it suit the context to understand the word of an outward leaving of the Christian Church. The persons must at any rate have been Christians, or they could not be apostates. And the apostasy is all the more terrible if, while the forms of the Church are kept to, there is a departure from the inward spirit. And in this case several points seem to indicate an apostasy within the Church. In the first place, as we have seen above, the movement is distinctly not an atheistic movement, like the German Socialism. Then, the act of session in the "Temple of God" cannot mean anything else than an attempt to exact divine homage from the Christian Church, which, of course, could only be hoped for through adopting Christian forms. The account of the Satanic miracles which the Man of Sin will work in attestation of his claim shows that the persons who follow him are duped into believing that he actually is the Lord. An atheistic materialism would deny miracles altogether. Now we may venture to say that, even if St. Paul had not (as Bishop Wordsworth supposes) St. Luke's Gospel in his hands, yet he was familiar with the eschatological discourses of our Lord contained in the Synoptic Gospels. In these (which so frequently use the language of the Book of Daniel) our Lord holds up as the greatest terror of the last days, the constant danger, waiting even upon the "elect," of being seduced into mistaking certain pretenders for Himself. An Antichrist (in its full meaning) expresses more than an opponent of Christ; like the compound Anti-Pope, it implies a rival claimant to the honours which he himself acknowledges to be due only to Jesus Christ. Antichrist pretends to be actually Jesus. Such pretensions would, of course, be meaningless and ridiculous to all except believers in Jesus Christ and His Church. (See Matthew 24:4-5; Matthew 24:10-12; Matthew 24:23; Matthew 24:26

Verse 3. - Let no man deceive you by any means; in any way, not only in any of the foregoing methods, "by spirit, or word, or letter," but in any way whatever. For (that day shall not come). The bracketed words are not in the original, but are correctly supplied for the completion of the sense. Except there come a falling away; or, the apostasy; namely, that apostasy about which the apostle, when in Thessalonica, had instructed his readers. The falling away here alluded to is evidently religious, not political. Hence it cannot be the revolt of the Jews from the Romans, or any of those revolts and disturbances which then occurred in the political world. Nor must we conceive that the man of sin himself is here meant; for this apostasy precedes his coming - prepares the way for his advent; it is not the result, but the cause, of his appearance. The word, then, is to be taken generally to denote that remarkable "falling away" from Christianity concerning which Paul had instructed the Thessalonians (comp. 1 Timothy 4:1-3). First; namely, before the coming of the day of the Lord. And that man of sin; in whom sin is, as it were, personified, as righteousness is in Christ. Be revealed. The apostle considers the man of sin as the counterpart of Christ; as Christ was revealed, so shall the man of sin be revealed. The son of perdition; whose sin necessarily conducts to perdition; not here the perdition of his followers, but his own perdition. The same name which was applied by our Lord to Judas Iscariot (John 17:12).

2:1-4 If errors arise among Christians, we should set them right; and good men will be careful to suppress errors which rise from mistaking their words and actions. We have a cunning adversary, who watches to do mischief, and will promote errors, even by the words of Scripture. Whatever uncertainty we are in, or whatever mistakes may arise about the time of Christ's coming, that coming itself is certain. This has been the faith and hope of all Christians, in all ages of the church; it was the faith and hope of the Old Testament saints. All believers shall be gathered together to Christ, to be with him, and to be happy in his presence for ever. We should firmly believe the second coming of Christ; but there was danger lest the Thessalonians, being mistaken as to the time, should question the truth or certainty of the thing itself. False doctrines are like the winds that toss the water to and fro; and they unsettle the minds of men, which are as unstable as water. It is enough for us to know that our Lord will come, and will gather all his saints unto him. A reason why they should not expect the coming of Christ, as at hand, is given. There would be a general falling away first, such as would occasion the rise of antichrist, that man of sin. There have been great disputes who or what is intended by this man of sin and son of perdition. The man of sin not only practises wickedness, but also promotes and commands sin and wickedness in others; and is the son of perdition, because he is devoted to certain destruction, and is the instrument to destroy many others, both in soul and body. As God was in the temple of old, and worshipped there, and is in and with his church now; so the antichrist here mentioned, is a usurper of God's authority in the Christian church, who claims Divine honours.Let no man deceive you by any means,.... By any of the above means; by pretending to a revelation from the Spirit; or to have had it from the mouth of anyone of the apostles; or to have a letter as from them, declaring the day of Christ to be instant; or by any other means whatever; do not be imposed upon by them for the following reasons, for there were things to be done before the coming of Christ, which were not then done, and which required time: for that day shall not come,

except there come a falling away first; either in a political sense, of the nations from the Roman empire, which was divided into the eastern and western empire; for which, way was made by translating the seat of empire from Rome to Byzantium, or Constantinople; the former of these empires was seized by Mahomet, and still possessed by the Turks; and the latter was overrun by the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, and torn to pieces; Italy particularly was ravaged by them, and Rome itself was sacked and taken: or rather in a religious sense, of the falling of men from the faith of the Gospel, from the purity of Gospel doctrines, discipline, worship, and ordinances; and this not of some Jews who professed faith in Christ, and departed from it, or of some Christians who went off to the Gnostics; but is to be understood of a more general defection in the times of the Papacy; when not only the eastern churches were perverted and corrupted by Mahomet, and drawn off to his religion, but the western churches were most sadly depraved by the man of sin, by bringing in errors of all sorts in doctrine, making innovations in every ordinance, and appointing new ones, and introducing both Judaism and Paganism into the churches; which general defection continued until the times of the reformation, and is what the apostle has respect to in 1 Timothy 4:1 where he manifestly points out some of the Popish tenets, as forbidding marriage to priests, and ordering abstinence from meats on certain days, and at certain times of the year: this was one thing that was to precede the coming of Christ, another follows, which should take place at the same time;

and that man of sin be revealed; who was now hid, though secretly working; by whom is meant not only any particular person or individual; not the devil, for though he is the wicked one, a damned spirit, an opposer, an adversary of God and Christ, and his people, and who has affected deity, and sought to be worshipped, and even by Christ himself; yet the man of sin is here distinguished from Satan, 2 Timothy 2:9 nor is any particular emperor of Rome intended, as Caius Caligula, or Nero, for though these were monsters of iniquity, and set up themselves as gods, yet they sat not in the temple of God; nor is Simon Magus designed, who was a very wicked man, a sorcerer, and who gave out himself to be some great one, and was called the great power of God, before big profession of faith in Christ; and afterwards affirmed that he was God, the Father in Samaria, the Son in Judea, and the Spirit in the rest of the nations of the world; and, because of his signs and lying wonders, had a statue erected by the Roman emperor with this inscription, "to Simon the holy god"; but then this wicked man was now already revealed: nor is this to be understood of a certain Jew, that is to be begotten by the devil on a virgin of the tribe of Dan, and who is to reign three years and a half, and then to be destroyed by Christ, which is a fable of the Papists; but a succession of men is here meant, as a king is used sometimes for an order and succession of kings, Deuteronomy 17:18 and an high priest for that whole order, from Aaron's time to the dissolution of it, Hebrews 9:7 so here it intends the whole hierarchy of Rome, monks, friars, priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and especially popes, who may well be called "the man of sin", because notoriously sinful; not only sinners, but sin itself, a sink of sin, monsters of iniquity, spiritual wickednesses in high places: it is not easy to reckon up their impieties, their adulteries, incest, sodomy, rapine, murder, avarice, simony, perjury, lying, necromancy, familiarity with the devil, idolatry, witchcraft, and what not? and not only have they been guilty of the most notorious crimes themselves, but have been the patrons and encouragers of others in sin; by dispensing with the laws of God and man, by making sins to be venial, by granting indulgences and pardon for the worst of crimes, by licensing brothel houses, and countenancing all manner of wickedness; and therefore it is no wonder to hear of the following epithet,

the son of perdition; since these are not only the Apollyon, the king of the bottomless pit, the destroyer, the cause of the perdition of thousands of souls, for the souls of men are their wares; but because they are by the righteous judgment of God appointed and consigned to everlasting destruction; the devil, the beast, and the false prophet, will have their portion together in the lake that burns with fire, Revelation 20:10 the same character as here is given of Judas, the betrayer of Christ, John 17:12.

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