2 Thessalonians 2:3-8
The Man of Lawlessness
So Paul encourages the Thessalonians that they need not fear the ridiculous notion that somehow our Lord had already come. Granted, the first time he came was in humility when only shepherds beheld his glory; but the second time he comes, every eye shall see him (Revelation 1:7). This is the coming we await.
But what we learn in this place, and which is confirmed in other passages of Scripture, is that before our Lord returns, two things must happen. First, Paul says that there will be a rebellion. The scholars I read suggest that what is spoken of is not so much a great apostasy within the Church but a great rebellion of mankind in general against the Almighty. This is certainly the picture which is presented in Revelation where regardless of the punishments God metes out to rebellious man, he would not repent of his evil deeds (9:20; 16:9-11). The Christian might respond that man has been rebellious since the Garden. Yes, but it seems that man only gets worse. Not only so but as we see in our own day, the worse man gets, the more enlightened he thinks he is, dreaming he is making progress, when in truth the more he “progresses,” the further he slides into perdition.
The second thing which Paul tells us must occur is that the “man of lawlessness” must be revealed. This is no doubt the “antichrist” of 1 John 2:18ff. We learn there that this man does go “out from us,” meaning that he is an apostate—the arch-apostate, we might say. He is practically the incarnation of Satan working signs and wonders. He “takes his seat in the temple” which, in tandem with Revelation 13 and following, suggests that he shall have immense worldwide political and religious power. The sense is that the whole world will be given over to evil. The Apostle goes on to say that the only reason he has not yet appeared is that some force currently restrains him. Many scholars see all of this as referring to some Roman emperor of the first century. Indeed, many of these men were antichrists as John indicates in the cited passage above. But Paul is here speaking of the end of the era in which we now live—anno domini—when our Lord returns, not in humility, but glory and quickly dispatches this pretender with his word (Revelation 19:11-21). I agree with those who think that it is the Lord himself who restrains the appearance of the antichrist until the appointed time. God has a plan—His plan. And it is all for the display of his glory. Things are going to get really bad—as is happening now. But then they will get really good. May God grant us strength and courage for the days ahead.