Man of Lawlessness - Destruction

SYNOPSIS Jesus will undo the evil works of the Man of Lawlessness at his Parousia or “Arrival.” In the interim, God allows deception to flourish - 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.
The Apostle Paul next explained how the Lord Jesus would respond to the “man of lawlessness” when he returned in glory. Whether he believed there would be any lapse of time between the “revelation” of this malevolent figure and the “arrival” or parousia of Jesus, or any further intervening events, he did not say.

In his presentation of the “man of lawlessness” and the apostasy, Paul employs language from Daniel’s vision of a wicked ruler symbolized by a “little horn speaking great things.” In the book of Daniel, this image represented the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV (Daniel 7:7-26, 8:9-25, Revelation 13:5-7). Daniel 8:21-23 - “The rough he-goat is the king of Greece…And in the latter time of their kingdom, a king of fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences shall stand up”).

Antiochus became infamous for his attempt to destroy the faith of Israel, both by violent persecution and by seducing many Jews to compromise their ancestral faith. In the attempt, he banned circumcision, Sabbath and other calendrical observances, and other ritual practices required by the book of Leviticus. He also ordered copies of the Law or Torah to be destroyed. All this made him an excellent model for the “man of lawlessness” who will bring about a final apostasy from the true faith.

Noteworthy is how the Apostle Paul labels both the revelation of the “man of lawlessness” and the coming of Jesus parousia or “arrival.” This suggests the “arrival” of the former will be a counterfeit of the latter, at least, on some level.

(2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) - “And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth, and paralyse with the forthshining of his Presence: Whose presence shall be according to an inworking of Satan, with all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood, And with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness, in them who are destroying themselves, because the love of the truth they did not welcome, that they might be saved. And for this cause, God sendeth them an inworking of error, to the end they should believe in the falsehood, In order that they should be judged who would not believe in the truth, but were well-pleased with the unrighteousness” (Source: The Emphasized Bible).

Whom the Lord will slay with his mouth.” The clause alludes to the vision of the “little horn” in the book of Daniel and to a messianic prophecy from Isaiah:
  • (Daniel 7:11, 26) – “I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. [26] - But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.”
  • (Isaiah 11:4) – “And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit…and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the spirit of his lips shall he slay the wicked one.”
In Daniel’s vision, the “little horn” is destroyed so the saints can “possess” the kingdom. Whatever destruction this evil ruler may inflict is undone when the Ancient of Days renders judgment on behalf of the saints.

And paralyze with the forth-shining of his arrival [parousia]: Whose arrival [parousiashall be according to an inworking of Satan.” Note well that the arrival of the man of lawlessness is called a parousia. The language echoes Daniel’s descriptions of the “little horn.” Note well the following passages:
  • (Daniel 8:23-25) – “In the after-time of their kingdom, when transgressions have filled up their measure,—there will stand up a king of mighty presence, and skillful in dissimulation; and his strength will be mighty, but not through his own strength, and, wonderfully, will he destroy and succeed and act with effect,—and will destroy mighty ones, and the people of the saints; and by his cunning will he both cause deceit to succeed in his hand, and in his own heart will he shew himself to be great, and by their careless security will he destroy many,—and against the ruler of rulers will he stand up, but without hand shall be broken in pieces.”
  • (Daniel 11:36–12:3) – “And the king shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all…And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the sea and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.”
The sudden appearance of Jesus results in the destruction of the “man of lawlessness.” Though not stated, this assumes this man’s wicked efforts occur before the arrival of Jesus.

Inworking” (energeia). This represents a compound word formed with en (“in, within”) and ergon (“work”). The word only occurs in Paul’s letters and always refers to the effectual working or “energy” of either God or satanic powers (Ephesians 1:19, 3:7, 4:16, Philippians 3:21, Colossians 1:29, 2:12).

This term may suggest an inward working power, but its basic sense is of an “energizing; effectual working.” Paul’s point is that something beyond the “man of lawlessness” will work within him. Note well the use of the same word for the deception that God will send to men and women who refuse to receive the truth (Verse 11 – “For this cause, God is sending them an inworking of error”).

Whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze with the forth-shining of his Presence.” The Greek term analiskō is here rendered “slay,” though it more accurately means “consume; to use up” (seeGalatians 5:15). “Paralyze” or katargeo means to render something “inactive,” to “deactivate; to cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency; to annul.”  It is a compound of kata (“after, down”) and ergon (“work”). Paul probably chose this word to balance the description of the “inworking” or energeia working within the man of lawlessness.” Jesus will render it totally ineffective. Whether the arrival of Jesus will mean this man’s destruction is not the point; rather, he will render Satan’s plans and efforts null and void.

Forth-shining” (epiphaneia) means “appearance.” It occurs only in Paul’s letters and is applied consistently to the “appearance” of Jesus, either his first or second coming (1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 4:8, Titus 2:13 [“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearance and his kingdom”]).

With all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood.” Paul’s language echoes the saying of Jesus from Matthew 24:24, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Jesus did not deny the genuineness of such “signs and wonders,” but their goal is to deceive “the elect.” Likewise, here “wonders of falsehood” does not mean phony miracles but ones that have been done in order to deceive.

This latter understanding is confirmed by the next clause, “And with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness, in them who are destroying themselves.” The problem is not with individuals falling for fake miracles; rather, they are deceived by real ones because “they did not welcome the love of the truth.” Signs and wonders do not constitute evidence of divine calling and endorsement.

Them who are destroying themselves.” The Greek verb is either in the Middle voice (“destroying themselves”) or the Passive voice (“them who are being destroyed”). The point is not that some men are predestined to destruction, but that these men will be destroyed as a result of their refusal to believe the truth.

Behind this picture may be a warning from Moses. Regardless of how impressive or real a miracle might be if the man performing it is scheming to steer God’s people to other gods, his effort must be rejected:
  • (Deuteronomy 13:1-3) - “If there arise in the midst of you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, whereof he spoke to you, ‘Let us go after other gods, which you have not known,’ you will not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.”
It must be borne in mind that in this context Paul is discussing two events that must precede the “day of the Lord” - The unveiling of the “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy.” When he describes men and women who are “destroying themselves and not welcoming the love of the truth,” his language refers to the conscious and deliberate rejection of the truth, not to humanity in general that is blinded by sin.

It is for “this cause,” that is, for not welcoming the truth that this group is destroyed. Not stated but presumed is that its members heard and understood the truth before rejecting it. They will be judged because they refused to believe “in the truth and were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.”

This description of future deception should be compared with Paul’s warning to Timothy about the coming apostasy in the last days:
  • (1 Timothy 4:1) – “But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron.”
  • (2 Timothy 4:2-4) – “Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.”
Throughout this chapter, Paul does not discuss sinners in general or the plight of humanity; instead, he describes the future destruction of the “man of lawlessness” and those who reject the truth as a result of his deceptive activities. Thus, he links the arrival of this figure with the final apostasy, the falling away from the true faith.

At no point does Paul mention this man’s political aspirations or power, or his rule over the nations of the world. While he may prove to be a global political figure, the concern is centered on his ability to deceive the elect.


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