Summary: The apostle Paul's comments about the coming man of sin jive perfectly with Daniel's, Jesus', and John's. One would expect this in a Book that proclaims itself to be the Word of God. One author in Heaven speaking His truths through many authors on earth.
7. PAUL: II THESSALONIANS 2
Did Paul ever deal with the question of the antichrist? Most assuredly. And as one might expect, this passage, II Thessalonians 2, has been abused quite a bit through the years. Let’s look at the first 12 verses.
In the first place, Paul meant in no way to divide the coming of Jesus from our gathering to Him. If he had meant to do this, surely He would not mention these events in reverse order. (I’m using the mentality of the pre-trib people.) In fact, the order is correct, and it happens all at the same moment. Jesus comes to earth, and on His way to us we are gathered up from everywhere.
The church in Thessalonica had caught hold of a rumor that God’s people had already been raptured up! Paul writes this note to them to settle forever the church’s thinking about some secret unknowable rapture. He does in fact what Jesus does with this question. He places before the coming of Jesus a very clear sign. Remember Jesus’ sign? The abomination of desolation. For Paul, it is the one who commits that horrible sacrilege. Thus it is the same sign!
In his further comments he uses terminology straight from the book that Jesus referred to, the book of the prophet Daniel! For example compare 2:4 to Daniel 11:36:
2:4, “...who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped…”
11:36, “...he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods…”
Two events, says Paul, must come before the day of Christ’s return. They can be viewed as two parts of the same event. First a slow but clear backsliding of God’s people. I believe it could be so large in its scope that the Bible will be largely a forgotten, unknown Book. Remember the conditions at Jesus’ first coming! The Scriptures had been hidden from the eyes of men so greatly that the clear prophecies regarding the when and where of His appearing were not commonly known.
So it will be, I believe, when He comes again. The Gospel message, though having gone everywhere, will have lost its grip on multiplied millions, as one can see in Europe and other parts of the West today. Christian values in society will be swept away by the “newer thinking”. There will be a blending of church and world to the extent that lukewarmness will prevail and straightforward Biblical truths will be largely ridiculed or ignored.
Thus it will be easy for the second sign to occur, the rise of a lawless society headed by a lawless antichrist. The spirit of the age will be liberty, which easily erodes into lawless ways, the “no one can tell me what to do” mentality.
Thus will rise, says Paul, “the lawless one”, “the son of perdition.” The self-exaltation and blasphemy which will be his hallmark have been documented not only in Daniel but in John’s work. The Spirit is saying the same thing many times, so we will not miss it.
But Paul adds a few very important facts from the revelations given him personally.
First he indicates the difference between what men like Antiochus (of old) and Titus did, historically, and what antichrist will do. He claims that antichrist will profane an end- time temple, not by placing an idol in it, not by offering a pig at its altars, but by entering that holy structure himself and proclaiming to the world that he is the God of Israel! He will claim to be God in the flesh!
Paul jumps from that astounding fact to the fact that the Thessalonians should now know (since he visited them and told them, or because of something he just shared) what is holding back the rise of antichrist. If they should know, perhaps we should know too. This is not meant to be a secret. Yet this passage is under contention in most church circles that discuss it. It is as though they too have unwittingly entered into the mystery of the holding back of information, as Daniel was told to do, so that the information would not be lost on persons who did not need it. The more our “scholars” try to unlock these verses, the more bound they become!
The prevalent view is that the one holding back, or restraining, the antichrist and thus Christ’s return, is the Holy Spirit. The teaching goes that when the Spirit, which lives in the church, rises with the church and out of the world, before antichrist and before the tribulation, to a safe place in Heaven, then antichrist, who has been waiting for this very thing, is now free to do whatever he wants! He will then rise to power.