1 & 2 Thessalonians Part Four Dive
THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
It’s difficult to get around the elephant in the room in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, so let’s face the challenge head on. Who is the man of lawlessness, and what is Paul talking about in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17?
As an End Times teacher, I realise that when you mention anything to do with End Times, the Antichrist or the Book of Revelation, most people start seeing beasts, burning cities, chaos, end times destruction and Armageddon. So, as you read 2 Thessalonians and you encounter the section on the man of lawlessness, don’t freak out!
The first thing I want you to remember when understanding the man of lawlessness is how he is defeated. Chapter 2:8 says, ‘And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming’.
He is defeated by Jesus morning breath – just kidding, not his morning breath. but by His breathing on him and the splendour of His coming! Remember throughout all that is said about the man of lawlessness that you serve the God who defeats him without raising a finger, just by breathing on him! Don’t let fear of this man give him more strength than he deserves; your God reigns, Jesus is the name above all names and King above all kings, so firstly, do not fear.
The next thing to notice is the set of instructions after the section on the man of lawlessness in Chapter 2:13-17. Although the chapters make reading the Bible neat and tidy, in some instances that can actually get in the way of the meaning of the text. In this case, they are more annoying than helpful.
In this chapter we read of a man will come, oppose Christ and exalt himself over everything that is called God. He will try and put himself in a position for the nations to worship him, even proclaiming himself to be God. Let’s clarify, this man will not just be against all things Christ, he will want to be worshipped in the place of Jesus. He comes in the power of Satan and the spirit of lawlessness, an Antichrist (literally anti-Christ) or ‘in replacement of the Christ’, and wants the world to worship him. Obviously this is a bit frightful, but don’t make the mistake of putting your Bible down at verse twelve! You’ll miss Paul’s point entirely! See the ‘but’ in Chapter 2:13 – ‘but’ is used to introduce a phrase that is contrasting to what has been mentioned previously. So, we have been told what Satan and the man of lawlessness are going to do, but God steps in. Paul then continues to write of the amazing, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the power of belief in the truth and holding fast to teachings, and of being encouraged in Jesus.
In my End Times class, I often hear people say ‘I’m going to really study what the man of lawlessness is going to do so I don’t get deceived’. Or ‘I am going to study the Antichrist spirit so I don’t get deceived’. That is so wrong! The more we try and figure out what this looks like in our humanity, the more deceived we will be in the end. Be careful, don’t try and humanly interpret something that God has given us little evidence on. You don’t need to study the Antichrist, you need to study the truth. Paul’s point in this is that we remain in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we remain in belief in the truth, we stand firm and hold fast to the Word of truth and to its teaching. We are to know the truth (the Word of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the nature of the Jesus) so well that when a counterfeit comes along, we can pick it a mile away.
Please, don’t get hung up on what Paul is saying about the man of lawlessness. He is telling the Thessalonians the truth, clarifying some details and then re-focusing them on Jesus Christ so their hearts are to encouraged and in good hope (Chapter 2:16-17). He wants them to be encouraged that yes, there is any enemy, an Antichrist spirit that comes against the Church, and there will be an Antichrist in the end of all times that will try and take our worship from Jesus, just like Nero in the 1st Century. But just like the Christians of the 1st Century, we are not afraid, we don’t focus on the bad situation, instead we allow it to stir our hearts for the truth of Jesus Christ, the spreading of the hope of the gospel message, the power of the Holy Spirit and the equipping of the Word of God in our lives. We don’t get caught in conversations of fear about what will happen, we get involved in conversations of hope that we have a future in Him.
Have a great adventure as you finish the letters of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.