Summary: Who is the "Man of Lawlessness" and when will he appear? What should we as Christians do in response?
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he concentrated on the timing of Jesus’ return - and that believers were not lost in some transporter buffer error - but would actually precede those that remain alive.
But no sooner had the postman delivered that letter and it was read - that some folks came in and provided detail that was totally mistaken about what would circumstances would be surround the coming of the Lord - and in fact they tried to say that Jesus had already come! Worse yet, they claimed Paul as the source of the intel!
That same controversy still exists today - among cults and even among academics in our society.
Paul deals with 1) The circumstances that must occur before the Lord returns, and then 2) when happens immediately upon Jesus’ return to the earth. There are also three parts to the expectation: 1. The unveiling of the Anti-Christ, 2. The rebellion, and 3, the removal of He that restrains (we’ll get to that).
This is great stuff - it adds a lot of detail to accounts found in other prophesies - including Daniel, and the Book of Revelation.
1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.
The Day of the Lord was a commonly known Old Testament reference to the time when God would return to vanquish His enemies. An example can be found in Isaiah 13:6-13.
There are two aspects to the Day of the Lord: judgment for sin, reward for the faithful. Apparently these false prophets were saying that Judgment Day had already taken place. They were then waiting for part two - relief from suffering and reward for faith. When it didn’t come they started worrying that they’d missed it - been left out of salvation.
You know - there is a lot of needless alarm surrounding the last days in the church too. One of the main reasons we don’t have to worry about it Paul gets to in verse 13 - so stay tuned.
3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Two important events precede the Lord’s return.
Matt 24:10-12 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
1 Tim 4:1-3 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods,
2 Tim 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them
2 Peter: Greed, "carouse in broad daylight", promise freedom but are slaves of depravity.
This rebellion will be free to occur once the church has been raptured away. Those that call themselves Christian will be able to freely interpret the Scriptures any way they want, and the last hold out for morality will be gone (we’ll get to more on that in verse 7 in a moment).
2. The "man of lawlessness" is a reference to the Anti-Christ.
Rev 13:5-8 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.