Man of Lawlessness - Destruction

SYNOPSIS - Jesus will destroy the evil works of the “Man of Lawlessness” and “slay” him at his “arrival” in glory – 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12

Dark Storm - Photo by Lefty Kasdaglis on Unsplash
Next, the Apostle Paul explains how Jesus will respond to the “man of lawlessness” at his parousia or “arrival.” In discussing this deceiver, Paul employs language from the vision of Daniel concerning a wicked ruler he described as a “little horn speaking great things.” Originally, the “little horn” represented the Seleucid ruler who attempted to destroy the faith of Israel through deceit and persecution, Antiochus IV - (Daniel 7:7-26, 8:9-25, Revelation 13:5-7. Daniel 8:21-23). - [Photo by Lefty Kasdaglis on Unsplash].

The Apostle defines both the “revelation” of this man AND the return of Jesus with the term parousia - “arrival.” This suggests the “arrival” of the former will be a counterfeit of the latter. In the translation from the Emphasized Bibleparousia is rendered “presence.”
  • (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” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Whom the Lord will slay with his mouth.” The clause alludes to the vision of the “little horn” from the book of Daniel, and to a messianic prophecy from the book of 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, the “little horn” was destroyed and, consequently, the “saints” began to “possess” the kingdom. The schemes of this evil ruler were undone when the “Ancient of Days” rendered judgment on behalf of the “saints.”

And paralyze with the forth-shining of his [parousia].” - “Whose [parousia] shall be according to an inworking of Satan.” Both “arrivals” are labeled parousia. The language echoes the descriptions of the “little horn” in Daniel:
  • (Daniel 8:23-25) – “In the aftertime 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 11:36-45) – “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.
Inworking” (energeia). In the New Testament, this Greek term occurs only in Paul’s letters and always refers to the effectual working or “energy, energizing” of either God or satanic powers. Thus, something beyond the “man of lawlessness” himself will be working within him. The same Greek word is applied to the deception that God will send to men and women who refuse to receive the truth - (“For this cause, God is sending them an inworking of error.” - Compare - Ephesians 1:19, 3:7, 4:16, Philippians 3:21, Colossians 1:29, 2:12).

Sunshine - Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze with the forthshining of his Presence.” More accurately, the Greek term rendered “slay” or analiskō means “to consume - to use up.”

Paralyze” or katargeo signifies rendering something “inactive” - To “deactivate” it. Here, it provides the opposite effect of the “inworking” of Satan - Jesus will “deactivate” the “energizing” of Satan in the “man of lawlessness.” The point is not the destruction of this figure but the voiding of Satan’s efforts, although the “man of lawlessness” may also be destroyed in the process.

Forth-shining” (epiphaneia). The Greek noun means “appearance.” It occurs in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters and is applied consistently to the “appearance” of Jesus at the end of the age - (1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 4:8, Titus 2:13).

With all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood.” The language echoes the saying of Jesus:
  • (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 all such “signs and wonders,” but their purpose would be to deceive “the elect.” Likewise, in Thessalonians, “wonders of falsehood” does not mean phony miracles but ones performed to deceive. This 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 falling for fake miracles. Instead, believers will be deceived by the very real miracles performed by the “man of lawlessness” because “they did not welcome the love of the truth.” Signs and wonders do not constitute evidence of divine calling or 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 for destruction, but many men and women will be destroyed because of their refusal to believe the truth.

Behind the image lies a warning from Moses. Regardless of how impressive or real a miracle is - If the man performing it steers God’s people to follow other gods his “ministry” 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.”
Paul is discussing two events that must precede the “Day of the Lord” - The unveiling of the “Man of Lawlessness” and the “Apostasy.” The men and women who are “destroying themselves and not welcoming the love of the truth” are consciously rejecting the truth - The description refers to men and women who apostatize from the true faith.

It is for “this cause” - Not welcoming the truth - That this group will be destroyed. Implicit is that these individuals heard and understood the truth BEFORE rejecting it, therefore, they will be judged for refusing to believe “in the truth and were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.” The description should be compared to Paul’s warnings to Timothy about the coming apostasy:
  • (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 fallen humanity. Instead, he is describing the future destruction of the “Man of Lawlessness” and those who apostatize because of his deceptive activities. Thus, the Apostle links the arrival of the “Man of Lawlessness” with the “Apostasy.”


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