You are hereThe Man of Lawlessness, part two: The Falling Away
The Man of Lawlessness, part two: The Falling Away
This is part two of a four part series on the man of lawlessness. To start at the beginning (part one) go here: http://planetpreterist.com/content/man-lawlessness-part-one
Having examined some of Paul’s comments about the day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians and the connections between the man of lawlessness and the king of the North, I shall now examine 2 Thessalonians 2 in more detail. According to Paul, the arrival of the man of lawlessness would indicate that the day of the Lord was imminent (2 Thess. 2:3). Given the OT background of the ultimate day of the Lord involving the judgment of God’s unfaithful old covenant people (Dan. 11:40-12:7; Joel 2:1-11, 3:12-17; Zeph. 1), and given Paul’s allusions to the earlier destruction of Jerusalem (e.g., Jeremiah 6) as well a near future capture of the Temple (2 Thess. 2:4), one would expect to find the fulfillment of what Paul is writing about in 2 Thessalonians 2 in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation. It would naturally follow that the man of lawlessness would have a key role in this soon-coming judgment on the Jews.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
1. Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
2. not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
3. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
4. who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul makes reference to the king of the North as described in Daniel 11:36:
Then the king will do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.
The king of the North/man of lawlessness would oppose God and exalt himself; he would prosper until the wrath against Israel was completed (cf. Dan. 12:7). This was the Antichrist, the prince to come who would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple (Dan. 9:26-27).
Vine says the following on the man of lawlessness’ opposition to God:
He that opposeth – antikeimai = “to be set over against”; it is used of those who opposed the Lord Jesus, Luke 13:17; of those who oppose His people, 21:15; 1 Corinthians 16:9; Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 5:14; or His doctrine, 1 Timothy 1:10; and also of the mutual antagonism between the Holy Spirit and the flesh in the believer, Galatians 5:17. In LXX it is used of Satan, Zechariah 3:1, and of men, Job 13:24; Isaiah 66:6. The grammatical form here [in 2 Thess. 2:4], i.e., the participle with the article, makes a descriptive title = “the opponent.” John . . . called the same person “Antichrist” = “the opponent of Christ,” 1 John 2:18; thus the later title supplements and defines the earlier.18
The person to whom Paul refers as the man of lawlessness is the same person to whom John refers as the Antichrist. Both titles refer to the evil ruler who would oppose Jesus at “the last hour” (1 John 2:18), at the time of his Second Advent (2 Thess. 2:8). The term “Antichrist” can either mean one opposed to Christ or the one in place of Christ. Paul, in discussing the man of lawlessness, reveals that both ideas are valid; the Antichrist would be both the one who opposes God/Christ at his coming (2 Thess. 2:4; cf. Dan. 7:21-22; Rev. 19:11-19) and the one who attempts to take his place by demanding worship (2 Thess. 2:4; cf. Dan. 11:36-37; Rev. 13:14-15). As Sproul notes: “Paul does not call him [the man of lawlessness] ‘antichrist’ here, but Paul does describe his activity in terms of being both against Christ and a substitute for Christ.”19
HOW COULD THE THESSALONIANS THINK THE DAY OF THE LORD
HAD ALREADY ARRIVED?
Looking at 2 Thessalonians 2:2, there is some disagreement over whether the Thessalonians thought the day of the Lord had actually come or simply believed it was about to come.20 Given the common conception of the day of the Lord and the parousia (“coming,” v. 1) as happening in a visible blaze of glory, it is hard for some to understand how the Thessalonians could have believed the day of the Lord had already arrived. Commentator D. Michael Martin writes the following on this:
How then could the Thessalonians have believed that the day of the Lord had “come” (v. 2)? Might they have believed that that day was near but that it had not actually arrived? The perfect tense verb (enestēken) means “has arrived,” not “is imminent.” Elsewhere Paul used enestēken to signify “present” in contrast to future events (Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 3:22) and to speak of the “present” distress in which the church lived (1 Cor 7:26). When Paul did wish to describe the imminence of the parousia, he used different terms (see Rom 13:12; Phil 4:5) . . . It seems best then to allow enestēken its normal meaning and assume that the Thessalonians had heard that the day of the Lord had arrived in some immediate and climactic sense . . . Paul sought to defuse the situation not by arguing that the parousia was distant (the events described in vv. 3-9 could occur in fairly short order) but by highlighting intermediate events that distanced their immediate suffering from the event of the parousia.21
The mistake the Thessalonians made was not in thinking the day of the Lord was about to come; rather, it was in thinking it had already come. How could this be? Paul taught clearly that the day of the Lord and the parousia were essentially simultaneous (2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:1-8). The fact that the Thessalonians believed the day of the Lord had come indicates that Paul’s teaching on the Second Coming differed significantly from that of most present-day eschatological scenarios. For example, if Paul were a current-day pre-tribulation dispensationalist, he would have corrected the Thessalonians in a very different manner than he did. He might have argued that if the day of the Lord had already come, they all should have been physically raptured to heaven by now (cf. 1 Thess. 4:16-17). Since this had not happened then obviously the day of the Lord had not arrived yet.
Instead of answering in the above manner, Paul simply provides two events that needed to transpire before the Second Advent occurred. First, a falling away (“rebellion,” NRSV) had to take place. In response to this, the man of lawlessness—the Antichrist—would be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3). Soon thereafter, the parousia would happen (2 Thess. 2:8). Again, Paul nowhere makes the argument that the saints would have already been raptured to heaven if the day of the Lord had begun.
Notice that Paul was discussing an event that was about to occur in the lifetime of his hearers, not thousands of years in the future (in a completely different Temple no less). In fact, Paul indicated that the mystery of lawlessness (which would give rise to the man of lawlessness) was already at work (2 Thess. 2:7; cf. 1 John 4:3; Rev. 13:18). This point cannot be stressed enough: Paul was referring to events that were going to take place within the lifetime of his readers—events that would happen in the then-standing Temple—not some supposed third Temple that, two thousand years later, has still not been built.
It should also be noted that Paul’s statement that the revelation of the man of lawlessness was an indicator of when the day of the Lord was about to happen is at complete odds with those who teach that Christians will be “raptured” before the Antichrist is revealed. Since Paul was giving his Thessalonian audience historical indicators so they could know when the day of the Lord was about to come, it would be nonsensical to give the Antichrist’s revelation as one of the (two) essential signs if the Thessalonian believers would not be around to witness his arrival.
THE FALLING AWAY
In 2 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul alludes to the fact that the ultimate day of the Lord would involve a first-century attack upon Jerusalem. This is consistent with the picture of the day of the Lord in the rest of Scripture (e.g., Joel 2; Zech. 14; Dan. 11:45-12:13, etc.). Although Paul does not explicitly mention the attack on Jerusalem by the man of lawlessness, it is implied (the attack is explicitly shown in Daniel 11:45 and the destruction of the Temple is explicitly shown in Daniel 9:26). The only way the man of lawlessness could take control of the Temple (“he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”) is if he had successfully captured Jerusalem. The Jews, of course, would (and did) fight to the death to prevent such a blasphemy. They would never willingly allow a man to usurp the worship of God in the Temple.22
In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul says that before the day of the Lord and its associated events would happen, the “falling away” would first occur. The Greek word for “falling away” is apostasia, which can mean either a religious falling away (“apostasy,” NASB) or a political falling away (“rebellion,” NRSV). In translating apostasia as “the falling away,” the translators of NKJV were somewhat noncommittal as to whether it refers to a religious or secular rebellion. It should be noted that the apostasia in no way refers to the so called rapture of 1 Thess. 4:14-17. (I shall discuss the rapture at the end of this chapter.)
In the Septuagint, apostasia is used for both religious apostasy and political revolt. While the only other NT use of apostasia (Acts 21:21) is a religious apostasy, the meaning of apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers to a political rebellion, the Great Revolt of the Jews. As a case in point, apostasia is the word which Josephus uses in discussing the Jewish revolt of AD 66.23 Regarding this meaning, Gentry writes:
We can make a good case for its referring to the Jewish apostasy/rebellion against Rome. Interestingly, Josephus calls the Jewish War an apostasia against the Romans: “And now I perceived innovations were already begun, and that there were a great many very much elevated, in hopes of a revolt [apostasia] from the Romans” (Life 4). “When John, the son of Levi, saw some of the citizens much elevated upon their revolt [apostasia] from the Romans, he labored to restrain them; and entreated them that they would keep their allegiance to them” (ibid., 10). Probably Paul merges the religious and political concepts, though emphasizing the outbreak of the Jewish War resulting from their apostasy against God.24 (brackets in original)
The New Jerusalem Bible actually translates apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as “the Great Revolt”:
About the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers, and our being gathered to him: please do not be too easily thrown into confusion or alarmed by any manifestation of the Spirit or any statement or any letter claiming to come from us, suggesting that the Day of the Lord has already arrived. Never let anyone deceive you in any way. It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and there has appeared the wicked One, the lost One, the enemy, who raises himself above every so-called god or object of worship to enthrone himself in God’s sanctuary and flaunts the claim that he is God.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 NJB (italics in original)
It was the Jewish apostasia against Rome, the Great Revolt in AD 66, which ultimately led to the revelation of the man of lawlessness. Titus, in response to this revolt, led the attack on God’s holy mountain on the ultimate day of the Lord in AD 70 (cf. Dan. 11:40-45).
WERE THE REBELLION AND THE REVELATION OF THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
TO BE CONCURRENT OR SEQUENTIAL?
There is some debate whether the rebellion and the revelation of the man of lawlessness are concurrent (i.e., the man of lawlessness causes the rebellion) or if they form a sequence. Martin writes the following on this:
The temporal relationship between the rebellion and the man of lawlessness is not certain. Because of the sequence of the statements in the verse [v. 3] one may assume that a general apostasy as a distinct event would precede and set the stage for a second event, the appearance of the lawless one. The adverb prōton’ (first in the NASB, not translated by the NIV) seems to support this temporal sequence. Its placement in the sentence slightly favors the understanding that the apostasy comes ‘first’ and then the lawless one is revealed. But this is not necessarily the case.25
It is my contention that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 lays out a chronological sequence. I say this for the simple reason that that is the way the events played out in history. First, the Jews rebelled against Rome, then Rome responded by sending Vespasian and Titus to invade the Holy Land (this is shown in Daniel 11:40-41). This led to the revelation of Titus as the man of lawlessness when he led the attack on God’s holy mountain in the early spring of AD 70 (Dan. 11:45). Titus captured the Temple and was worshiped there when his troops sacrificed to his image/name on their standards (cf. Dan. 11:36-37).26 These events follow precisely the chronological sequence given in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. It should be remembered that the very reason why Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians was to provide a sequence of events so that the Thessalonians would know when the parousia was about to occur.
WHY WAS PAUL SO VAGUE ABOUT THE IDENTITY OF THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS?
Some wonder why Paul is so cryptic in his discussion of the man of lawlessness. The answer to this is simple: Paul did not know his identity. The man of lawlessness had not yet been revealed (2 Thess. 2:3, 8). As I have discussed, Paul’s teaching on the day of the Lord was largely drawn from Daniel 11:36-12:13. While this section of Daniel provided the prophetic background for Paul’s discussion of the man of lawlessness, an exact identification could not be given until the lawless one actually came onto the scene. As it turned out, the Jewish revolt and the subsequent coming of the man of sin occurred more than fifteen years after Paul wrote his letters to the Thessalonians. Titus was a mere eleven years old when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians; his capture of the Temple would not happen for another nineteen years! Indeed, if Paul died during Nero’s reign, it is unlikely that he ever knew the exact identity of the man of lawlessness. As late as AD 69 it appeared that Vespasian would be the willful ruler who would lead the attack against God’s holy mountain in Jerusalem. However, with Vespasian’s accession to the Roman throne, it was finally revealed that his son Titus (the little horn of Dan. 7:23-27) would be the one through whom the coming demonic prince would work in destroying Jerusalem and the Temple (Dan. 9:26-27; Dan. 11:44-45; 12:7).
WHY NERO COULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
Some attempt to identify Nero as the man of lawlessness. This is impossible, however. The man of lawlessness was to be worshiped in the Temple (2 Thess. 2:4), something never accomplished by Nero. In spite of this fact, Gentry holds that an intention of Nero to be worshiped in the Temple would be enough to fulfill this prophecy. Gentry maintains that the grammatical construction of 2 Thessalonians 2:4 “indicates a purpose intended—not necessarily a purpose accomplished” (emphasis in original).27 The unlikely assertion that the mere intention to be worshiped in the Temple was enough to fulfill 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is a rather strained attempt by Gentry to bolster his position that Nero was the man of lawlessness. Unfortunately, he cannot even show this much; there is no record that Nero ever had the intention of being worshiped in Jerusalem’s Temple.28
The almost certain identification of the man of lawlessness with the beast of Revelation (both are portrayed as the evil ruler who opposes Jesus and is defeated by the sword/breath of Jesus’ mouth at his parousia, 2 Thess. 2:8, Rev. 19:20-21)29 also presents a considerable problem for those who say Nero was the man of lawlessness. First, Nero died in mid-AD 68; how then could he be the one who was defeated by Jesus’ coming in AD 70? Second, Nero never set foot in Judea; how then could he be the one to capture the Temple and be worshiped there?
Not only does Nero not fit the criteria for the man of lawlessness, he does not fit the criteria for the (individual) beast. The beast was to be the one who would destroy harlot Babylon (Rev. 17:11-17). Gentry correctly says that first-century Jerusalem is the harlot city spoken of in Revelation. Nero didn’t destroy Jerusalem, Titus did. Nero was the sixth king—he was on throne when Revelation was written. The individual beast would be an eighth king—he had not come out of the abyss yet (Rev. 17:8-11). Nero can not be both the one who is and at the same time the one who has not come yet!
Nero certainly does not fit Daniel’s description of the king of the North (the ruler that Paul is referencing in his description of the man of lawlessness). Nero never invaded the Holy Land; how could he be the one who led the attack against God’s holy mountain in Jerusalem (Dan. 11:40-45)?
Even Gentry has to acknowledge that the only Roman leader who actually fulfilled the prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2:4 of being worshiped in the Temple was Titus. Gentry writes the following on this: “the future emperor Titus actually accomplishes this ‘intention’ [of being worshiped in the Temple] when he completes the devastation of Jerusalem set in motion by Nero. Titus invades the Temple in A.D. 70 and his soldiers worship Rome within.”30 Gentry is attempting to associate Nero with Titus here in an effort to bolster his assertion that Nero was the man of lawlessness. The simple fact, however, is that it was Titus, not Nero, who fulfilled the prophecy of the man of lawlessness being worshiped in the Temple.
WHAT TEMPLE WAS THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS TO TAKE CONTROL OF?
Some commentators, unclear on a first-century identification of the man of lawlessness, argue that the temple Paul was talking about really refers to the church. Beale writes the following along these lines:
What does it mean that the antichrist will sit in the temple of God? It does not refer to some future rebuilt temple in Israel, nor is it likely to refer to some past desecration of the temple in Jerusalem . . . It is more probable that the temple is a more specific metaphorical reference to the church as the continuation of the true cultus . . . Consequently, [2 Thess.] 2:3-4 teaches that the latter-day assailant will come into the midst of the church and cause it to become predominantly apostate and unbelieving. He will then try to take control of the church by carrying out further deception in it.31
Beale argues that the other places in Paul’s writings where he uses the phrase God’s temple, it is always a symbolic usage.32 While this is true, and initially sounds persuasive, it is not so compelling when one actually looks at the verses cited. Although Paul elsewhere uses the temple as a metaphor for both the church and the believer’s body (see below, underlined emphasis mine), he makes it quite clear that the literal Temple is not meant in those contexts:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
1 Corinthians 6:19
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
2 Corinthians 6:16
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostle and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Now look at 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; the obvious symbolism in the above verses simply does not exist:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (underlined emphasis mine)
If we are going to follow Beale’s lead and allow the other places that Paul uses the phrase God’s temple to dictate the meaning of temple in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, one could almost as easily conclude that Paul was teaching that the man of lawlessness would take his place in the physical bodies of believers some time in the future! Martin makes the following cogent point on this question of whether Paul was referring to the literal Temple.
Paul commonly used naos [temple] metaphorically of the believer as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). But here it must be used literally if the passage is to depict an observable, symbolic event the church could recognize as an indication of the nearness of the day of the Lord.33
It would be very strange if, in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, Paul was not talking about the Jerusalem Temple. First, Paul was writing c. AD 50, when the Temple was still in existence and would remain standing for another twenty years. Given that there is no indication whatsoever of a symbolic reference to the Temple in verse 4, the Thessalonians would have logically concluded that Paul was talking about the physical Temple in Jerusalem.
A second (more decisive) indication that Paul is referring to the Jerusalem Temple is the fact that he draws from Daniel 11:36-45 in his teaching in 2 Thessalonians 2. Daniel 11:36-45 describes the king of the North’s attack against God’s holy mountain (v. 45), his attack against the literal Jerusalem Temple at the end of the old covenant age. Thus, Paul is expounding on a section of Scripture that describes a physical assault on the Temple in Jerusalem. To say that Paul is, in this context, using the Temple as a symbol for the church makes absolutely no sense. Lastly, the object of Paul’s discussion is Jesus’ parousia (2 Thess. 2:1, 8). When Jesus discussed this topic of his Second Coming, it was clearly in the context of the assault and destruction of the Jerusalem Temple at the end of the age (Matt. 24:1-3).
TITUS’ CAPTURE OF THE TEMPLE
Titus was worshiped in the Temple after his capture of it in late summer of AD 70. Josephus relates that, as the Temple was burning, Titus’ troops brought in the Roman standards and offered sacrifices to them:
As the rebels had fled into the city, and flames were consuming the sanctuary itself and all its surroundings, the Romans brought their standards into the Temple court, and, erecting them opposite the Eastern gate, they sacrificed to them there, and with thundering acclamation hailed Titus imperator.34
The Roman standards would have held images of the reigning Caesar as well as his name (cf. Rev. 13:17):
Under the eagle or other emblem was often placed a head of the reigning emperor, which was to the army the object of idolatrous adoration (Josephus, The Jewish War 2,9,2; Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars Tiberius 48, Caligula 14; Tacitus, Annals 1.39,40; 4.62). The name of the emperor, or him who was acknowledged as emperor, was sometimes inscribed in the same situation (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars Vespasian 6). . . . [Later, when] Constantine had embraced Christianity [in the fourth century AD], a figure or emblem of Christ, woven in gold upon purple cloth, was substituted for the head of the emperor.35
Since Titus was the son of the reigning emperor and had been given the title of Caesar by his father in AD 69, and since his troops were proclaiming him as Imperator—a title that, during this time in the empire, was almost exclusive to the emperor—there were almost certainly images of Titus on the standards. Since Titus had the same name as his father (Titus Flavius Vespasianus), it is certain that some form of his name was on the standards being worshiped.
Given Titus’ inflated ego from his triumph, and given how Daniel 11:36-37 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4 describe the large ego of the king of the North/man of lawlessness, it is probable that the only images on the standards were those of Titus. Having captured the Temple, Titus was not inclined to share his glory with anyone, even his father. Roman historian Michael Grant describes Titus’ conceit over his conquest of the Jews:
Titus’ capture of Jerusalem caused honours to be showered upon him in the east. At Memphis, in Egypt, as part of a traditional ritual, he allowed himself to be crowned with a diadem. For a short time too, eastern coinages issued in his name have him the prefix of imperator, to which only the emperor was entitled; and his legionaries, who greatly admired him were said to have hesitated initially whether to offer the throne to his father or to himself.
Moreover, after Titus’s success in Judaea, the senate voted him an independent Triumph. But this was soon afterwards converted into a joint Triumph with his father. For the situation had begun to get somewhat out of hand. Titus was conceited about the position he had won, regarding himself as the decisive factor in the rise of the dynasty to power, and showing little backwardness in parading this conviction.36
While I believe that Josephus’ version of what happened when Titus captured the Temple is enough to fulfill the prophecy of the man of lawlessness being worshiped in the Temple, I have suspicions that Josephus is not reporting all the facts. As mentioned previously, Josephus likely minimized or omitted Titus’ more reprehensible acts against the Jews. This would have been especially true when it came to Titus’ actions against God’s Temple. This probable minimization was not to preserve Titus’ reputation with the Romans as much as it was to preserve Josephus’ reputation among his fellow Jews (he had been Titus’ right-hand man in these events).37
The Roman historian Dio Cassius presents a very different picture than Josephus of Titus’ intentions concerning the Temple. Dio writes that it was the Roman troops who were afraid to violate the sanctity of the Temple and that Titus compelled them to profane it: “. . . the temple was now laid open to the Romans. Nevertheless, the soldiers because of their superstition did not immediately rush in; but at last, under compulsion from Titus, they made their way inside.”38
I believe that Jewish tradition gives an even more correct (albeit exaggerated) sense of Titus’ actions when he captured the Temple. The Babylonian Talmud records that Titus entered the Holy of Holies, spread out a scroll of the Law, and fornicated upon it with a harlot:
Vespasian sent Titus who said, Where is their God, the rock in whom they trusted? This was the wicked Titus who blasphemed and insulted Heaven. What did he do? He took a harlot by the hand and entered the Holy of Holies and spread out a scroll of the Law and committed a sin on it. He then took a sword and slashed the curtain. Miraculously blood spurted out, and he thought that he had slain [God] himself,39 as it says, Thine adversaries have roared in the midst of thine assembly, they have set up their ensigns for signs.40 (emphasis in original)
While admittedly a bit over the top, the account of Titus fornicating on God’s Law in the Temple’s most holy place certainly sounds like behavior consistent with the man of lawlessness! Interestingly, the curtain of the Temple, torn in two when Jesus completed his mission (Matt. 27:50-51), is again torn as Titus completes his own mission: Christ and Antichrist.
THE RESTRAINING OF THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 Paul discusses how the man of lawlessness was being restrained at that time:
6. And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.
7. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
Paul said that the man of lawlessness was being restrained until the time of his revelation. There has been much discussion by commentators over who and what was restraining the man of lawlessness. The “what” of verse 6 is the neuter participle; the “He” (or “he”) of verse 7 is the masculine participle. Russell Spittler observes that “in grammatical terms, what is restraining the Man of Sin is neuter, referring to an impersonal force, while He who now restrains is masculine, suggesting a personal figure”41 (emphasis in original). Unfortunately, we do not have Paul’s teaching on who and what were restraining the man of lawlessness; as a result, most of the discussion on this topic is speculative in nature.
The book of Revelation, written approximately fifteen years after the Thessalonian epistles, may be of some help in understanding who and what were restraining the Antichrist. As mentioned previously, the beast of Revelation is the same as the man of lawlessness, as both are shown to be the evil ruler that would be defeated by Jesus at his Second Coming (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:11-21). In Revelation, the “what” which was restraining the beast was the abyss (Rev. 17:8). That would mean that the “he” who was restraining the beast/man of lawlessness was either God or, more likely, one of his angels (cf. Rev. 9:1-11; 20:1-3). The fact that the restrainer was to be taken out of the way (2 Thess. 2:7) sounds much more appropriate of an angel rather than of God himself. It of course makes little sense for Satan or his forces to restrain evil.
In AD 40, the emperor Gaius (Caligula) ordered that a statue of himself be set up in the Jewish Temple. However, in AD 41, before his order could be carried out, Gaius was assassinated. This near-occurrence of a Roman Caesar being worshiped in the Temple appears to have been a possible case of the mystery of lawlessness “already being at work,” yet at the same time restrained (2 Thess. 2:7). The following from Beale aligns with my proposition that it was probably an angel restraining the demonic forces that would end up working through the man of lawlessness:
Possibly comparable to the activities of Paul’s “restrainer” [in 2 Thess. 2:7] is the observation of the following pattern of action in Daniel 10:13, 20-21: (1) a heavenly being together with Michael withstand (= restrain?) a malevolent angelic head of an evil world kingdom; (2) the two (together apparently) then depart from resisting the wicked angel; (3) afterwards, the two return to continue resisting the same hellish angel, who quickly passes from the scene only to be followed by another demonic heavenly being with whom they begin again their resisting activity. The word used for their withstanding is antechō, (also possibly rendered “hold,” “hold against,” “resist,” “cling to”), which could in some contexts overlap with the meaning of katechō, the word Paul uses in [2 Thess] 2:7. What further favors the angelic identification of the “restrainer” is the fact that Paul has already alluded to Daniel 11:31, 36 in [2 Thess.] 2:4 and the reference to “mystery” in [2 Thess.] 2:7 also ultimately derives from Daniel 2, which is the only place in all of the Old Testament where “mystery” occurs with an eschatological meaning. This enhances even more the possibility that Paul had in mind an angel like that in Daniel 10 who was resisting supernatural evil forces.42
[Duncan McKenzie, The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination (Xulon, 2009), 344-360]
For part three go here: http://planetpreterist.com/content/man-lawlessness-part-three-destructio...
18. W. E. Vine with C. F. Hogg, Vine’s Expository Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 182-183.
19. R. C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, 179.
20. See Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, 240.
21. D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, The New American Commentary, vol. 33, eds. E. Ray Clendenen and David S. Dockery (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 227-229.
22. Josephus recorded an incident during the administration of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36) that showed the Jews were ready to die to keep the Roman standards out of Jerusalem (Josephus, The Jewish War, 2, 9, 2). How much more violently would they react to a usurper being worshiped in the Temple?
23. Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus (Vita), 4 & 10.
24. Kenneth Gentry, Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil, 103-104.
25. D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, 232.
26. Josephus, The Jewish War, 6, 6, 1.
27. Gentry, Perilous Times, 107.
28. Ibid., 107-110. While making the case that Nero was worshiped in Rome and Greece, Gentry can give no support to his contention that Nero had the intention to be worshiped in the Temple at Jerusalem. Gentry has to admit that Titus was the only Roman leader who was actually worshiped in the Temple (p. 110).
29. The beast faced Jesus at his coming in AD 70 (Rev. 19:11-21). Gentry would agree with me on the AD 70 timing although he would say it was merely a metaphorical coming of Jesus in judgment on Israel at that time, not the Second Advent. The problem for Gentry is that Nero died in mid-AD 68, making him dead for over two years by the time of Jesus’ AD 70 coming (whatever coming one wants to say that was). Given this fact, how could Nero be the beast (or the man of lawlessness) that faced Jesus at this AD 70 coming?
30. Gentry, Perilous Times, 110.
31. Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians, 209-210.
32. Ibid., 207-208.
33. D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, 236.
34. Josephus, The Jewish War, 6, 6, 6 (!), trans. Gaalya Cornfeld, 429.
35. James Yates, “Signa Militaria” in A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1875, ed. William Smith, Bill Thayer’s Website, LacusCurtius, http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Sign....
36. Michael Grant, The Twelve Caesars, 229.
37. Titus’ liaison to the Jews during the Jewish war, Josephus’ mission had been to convince the Jews to submit to Rome. If it was admitted that Titus had deliberately profaned and destroyed the Temple, Josephus would be even more loathed in the eyes of his fellow countrymen than he already was. Josephus, besides needing to please his financial backers (Vespasian and Titus), was attempting damage control in his writings to help his reputation with his fellow Jews and posterity.
38. Dio Cassius, Roman History, 15, 6, 2, Dio’s Roman History, vol. VIII, trans. Earnest Cary, 269.
39. In the original, it says Titus “thought that he had slain himself,” but the translator notes that this is a euphemism by the writers for claiming he had killed God. The blasphemy attributed to Titus was so repugnant that the Talmud writers dared not repeat it directly. Similarly, the sin that Titus committed with the harlot is not named (although it is clear what it was) because it was too blasphemous.
40. Hebrew-English Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 56a, trans. Maurice Simon. Some parts of this section are clearly mythical. For example, the narrative goes on to say that Titus was killed by a gnat that bored into his brain, which is not how he died. Even though this section of the Talmud contains mythical elements, the part about Titus’ blasphemous attitude against God when he captured the Temple is consistent with Titus’ egotistical nature.
41. Russell P. Spittler, footnote on 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 in the Spirit Filled Life Bible: New King James Version, 1836.
42. Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians, 216-217.