2 Thessalonians 2:1
Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to him,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Brethren.—The Apostles have won a hearing for the true Advent doctrine by their sympathetic treatment of it in the former chapter; now they soften their correction of the false doctrine by using tender names.

By the coming.—Literally, for the sake of the coming, just as in English we adjure persons to do a thing “for God’s sake.” It is a stronger form of adjuration than the simple “by,” inasmuch as it implies that the thing or person adjured by will suffer if the action be left unperformed. The Coming of Christ and the meeting with the beloved dead would not be so bright, so perfect, perhaps so soon, if the Thessalonians allowed themselves to be misled with regard to it.

Our gathering together.—The peculiar Greek word is the same as that used in Hebrews 10:25 of the assembling to the Lord’s Supper, and nowhere else, so that some have interpreted it in the same sense here. In verb form it is thus used in 1Thessalonians 4:17. The close connection between the two “gatherings together” may be seen in 1Corinthians 11:26. The “our” means the meeting of the dead and the quick together.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. We beseech you, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ — As you look for Christ’s second coming, and expect comfort from it; or rather concerning his coming, as the preposition υπερ is understood to signify in other places of Scripture, and in other authors. For he does not beseech by the coming of Christ, but his coming is the subject of which he is treating; and it is in relation to this subject that he desires them not to be disturbed. And by — Concerning; our gathering together to him — Namely, in the clouds. The phrases, the coming of Christ, and the day of Christ, may be understood either figuratively of his coming in judgment upon the Jews, or literally of his coming in glory to judge the world; the latter is the proper signification in this place, as the context will evince beyond contradiction. St. Paul himself had planted the church in Thessalonica, and it consisted principally of converts from among the Gentile idolaters, who had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 1 Thessalonians 1:9. What occasion was there, therefore, to admonish them particularly of the destruction of Jerusalem? or why should they be under any agitations or terrors of mind upon that account? What connection had Macedonia with Judea, or Thessalonica with Jerusalem? What share were the Christian converts to have in the calamities of the rebellious and unbelieving Jews, and why should they not rather have been comforted than troubled at the punishment of their inveterate enemies? Besides, how could the apostle deny that the destruction of the Jews was at hand, when it really was at hand, as he himself says, (1 Thessalonians 2:16,) and the wrath of God was already beginning to come upon them? He knew, and doubtless they knew, (our Lord having declared it,) that the destruction of Jerusalem would come to pass in that generation. The phrase, therefore, must necessarily be taken in a more general acceptation, of his coming to judge the world, as it is constantly used in the former epistle. That ye be not soon shaken in mind Απο του νοος, from the mind, or judgment, you have formerly held: or from the true meaning of my former letter, as Chandler interprets the clause. Or be troubled — Perplexed, or put into confusion. The original word, θροεισθαι, signifies to be agitated with the surprise and trouble which is occasioned by any unexpected rumour or bad news, Matthew 24:6. Neither by spirit — By pretence of some revelation from the Spirit of God; nor by words — Some declaration pretended to have been uttered by me; nor by letter — Some counterfeit writing, or some passage in the former epistle; as from us — As written by me, or by my appointment; as that the day of Christ — That is, the coming of Christ to judge mankind; is at hand — It was a point of great importance for the Thessalonians not to be mistaken concerning the time of Christ’s second coming; for if they had inferred from the apostle’s doctrine that it was at hand, and it had not taken place according to their expectation, they would probably have been staggered in their faith, and finding part of their creed to be false, they might have been brought hastily to conclude that the whole was so.2:1-4 If errors arise among Christians, we should set them right; and good men will be careful to suppress errors which rise from mistaking their words and actions. We have a cunning adversary, who watches to do mischief, and will promote errors, even by the words of Scripture. Whatever uncertainty we are in, or whatever mistakes may arise about the time of Christ's coming, that coming itself is certain. This has been the faith and hope of all Christians, in all ages of the church; it was the faith and hope of the Old Testament saints. All believers shall be gathered together to Christ, to be with him, and to be happy in his presence for ever. We should firmly believe the second coming of Christ; but there was danger lest the Thessalonians, being mistaken as to the time, should question the truth or certainty of the thing itself. False doctrines are like the winds that toss the water to and fro; and they unsettle the minds of men, which are as unstable as water. It is enough for us to know that our Lord will come, and will gather all his saints unto him. A reason why they should not expect the coming of Christ, as at hand, is given. There would be a general falling away first, such as would occasion the rise of antichrist, that man of sin. There have been great disputes who or what is intended by this man of sin and son of perdition. The man of sin not only practises wickedness, but also promotes and commands sin and wickedness in others; and is the son of perdition, because he is devoted to certain destruction, and is the instrument to destroy many others, both in soul and body. As God was in the temple of old, and worshipped there, and is in and with his church now; so the antichrist here mentioned, is a usurper of God's authority in the Christian church, who claims Divine honours.Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ - The phrase "by the coming," is not here, as our translators seem to have supposed, a form of solemn adjuration. It is not common, if it ever occurs, in the Scriptures, to make a solemn adjuration in view of an event, and the connection here demands that we give to the phrase a different sense. It means, respecting his coming; and the idea of Paul is: "In regard to that great event of which I spoke to you in my former epistle - the coming of the Saviour - I beseech you not to be troubled, as if it were soon to happen. As his views had been misunderstood or misrepresented, he now proposes to show them that there was nothing in the true doctrine which should create alarm, as if he were about to appear.

And by our gathering together unto him - There is manifest allusion here to what is said in the First Epistle 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "then we shall be caught up together with them in the clouds;" and the meaning is: "in reference to our being gathered unto him, I beseech you not to be shaken in mind, as if that event were near."

CHAPTER 2

2Th 2:1-17. Correction of Their Error as to Christ's Immediate Coming. The Apostasy that Must Precede It. Exhortation to Steadfastness, Introduced with Thanksgiving for Their Election by God.

1. Now—rather, "But"; marking the transition from his prayers for them to entreaties to them.

we beseech you—or "entreat you." He uses affectionate entreaty, rather than stern reproof, to win them over to the right view.

by—rather, "with respect to"; as the Greek for "of" (2Co 1:8).

our gathering together unto him—the consummating or final gathering together of the saints to Him at His coming, as announced, Mt 24:31; 1Th 4:17. The Greek noun is nowhere else found except in Heb 10:25, said of the assembling together of believers for congregational worship. Our instinctive fears of the judgment are dispelled by the thought of being gathered together UNTO Him ("even as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings"), which ensures our safety.2 Thessalonians 2:1 Paul warneth the Thessalonians against the groundless

surmise that the day of Christ was near at hand,

2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 showing that it would be preceded by a great apostacy,

and that the man of sin would be first revealed, and

by his wicked impostures draw many into perdition.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 He repeateth his good hopes concerning them,

2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 exhorting them to stand fast in his doctrine, and

praying God to comfort and stablish them in all goodness.

The apostle now comes to refute the opinion that some at least of these Thessalonians had received, as if the day of Christ was near at hand. He having said, 1 Thessalonians 4:17: We which are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, & c., then some might think his coming would be in the apostle’s time, or some other way they might fall into this conceit; and some do conceive this was the chief reason of the apostle’s writing this Epistle. And because this mistake might be of dangerous consequence, therefore he is very vehement and particular in refuting it: for hereupon they might be brought to question the truth of the whole gospel when this should not come to pass: they might be unprepared for the sufferings that were to come upon the church; their patience might fail in expecting this day, and their minds be doubting about the coming of Christ at all. This opinion also would much narrow their thoughts about Christ’s kingdom, and the enlarging of the gospel among other Gentiles; and the profane might abuse it to sensuality, as 1 Corinthians 15:32: Let us eat and drink, & c. That he might the better persuade, he calls them brethren, and beseeches them, &c. And next, conjures them, using the form of an oath, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, & c. We conjure men either by what they love, or by what they fear; as they would enjoy the one, or avoid the other. The coming of Christ was what they desired and rejoiced in, as that which would bring rest to them, and tribulation to their adversaries; and by this he doth therefore beseech or adjure them: and therefore we must understand this of Christ’s last coming, as the word parousia, in the text, is still applied to this coming, 1 Thessalonians 2:19 3:13, &c.; and not of his coming to destroy the Jewish church and state, for that coming was at hand.

And by our gathering together unto him; at his last coming, when the whole body of Christ shall be gathered to him, to meet him in the air, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. And then the sense is: As ye hope ever to see such a blessed meeting, and to be of that number, so take heed of this opinion. Yet some read the text otherwise, because in the Greek it is not dia, but uper thv parousiav, and so the same with peri, not

we beseech you by, but concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him, as denoting only the subject matter treated of. I prefer the former; and so the apostle conjures them not to be soon shaken in mind, but to stand fast in the truth about the doctrine of Christ’s coming, which they had been taught, and very lately taught, and therefore it was the greater evil to be soon shaken; as the apostle upbraids the Galatians, Galatians 1:6, and God the Israelites, Psalm 106:13.

Now we beseech you, brethren,.... The apostle having finished his first design in this epistle, which was to encourage the saints to patience under sufferings, proceeds to another view he had in writing it, and that is, to set the doctrine of Christ's coming, as to the time of it, in its proper light; and this is occasioned by what he had said concerning it in the former epistle, which was either misunderstood or misrepresented; and as he addresses the saints with a very affectionate appellation as his "brethren", so by way of entreaty "beseeching", and yet in a very solemn manner:

by the coming of our Lord Jesus: which is to be understood not of the coming of Christ in the flesh, to procure the salvation of his people; nor of his coming in his kingdom and power to take vengeance on the Jewish nation, for their rejection of him as the Messiah; but of his coming to judge the quick and dead, than which nothing is more sure and certain, being affirmed by angels and men, by prophets and apostles, and by Christ himself, or more desirable by the saints; wherefore the apostle entreats them by it, that whereas they believed it, expected it, and wished for it, they would regard what he was about to say: so that the words, though an entreaty, are in the form of an adjuration; unless they should be rendered as in the Ethiopic version, as they may, "concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"; and so express subject matter of the discourse now entering upon, with what follows:

and by our gathering together unto him; which regards not the great gatherings of the people to Christ the true Shiloh upon his first coming, and the preaching of the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles, when there were not only great flockings to hear it, but multitudes were converted by it; nor the greater gatherings there will be in the latter day, at the time of the conversion of the Jews, and when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in; nor the conversion of particular persons, who are gathered in to Christ, and received by him one by one; nor the assembling of the saints together for public worship, in which sense the word is used in Hebrews 10:25 but the gathering together of all the saints at the last day, at the second coming of Christ; for he will come with ten thousand of his saints, yea, with all his saints, when their dead bodies shall be raised and reunited to their souls, and they with the living saints will be caught up into the air, to meet the Lord there and be ever with him; when they will make up, complete and perfect, the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven: this will be the gathering together of all the elect of God; and so the Arabic version reads, "the gathering of us all"; and which, as it is certain, is greatly to be desired; it will be a happy meeting and a glorious sight; by this the apostle entreats and adjures them to regard what follows.

Now {1} we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our {a} gathering together unto him,

(1) The second part of the epistle, containing an excellent prophecy of the state of the Church, which will be from the apostles time to the latter day of judgment.

(a) If we think earnestly upon that unmeasurable glory which we will be partakers of with Christ, it will be an excellent remedy for us against wavering and impatience, so that neither the glistening of the world will allure us, nor the dreadful sight of the cross dismay us.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Thessalonians 2:1. ʼΕρωτῶμεν δέ] passing from what the apostle prays for the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12) to what he requires of them. On ἐρωτᾶν, see on 1 Thessalonians 4:1.

ἀδελφοί] an affectionate and winning address.

ὑπέρ] is in the Vulgate, as well as by Pelagius, Faber Stapulensis, Bugenhagen, Clarius, Erasmus, Zwingli, Calvin, Hemming, Hunnius, Justinian, Estius, Piscator, Balduin, Aretius, Cornelius a Lapide, Beza. Fromond., Calixt, Bern. a Piconius, Nat. Alexander, and many others, understood as a form of adjuration (per adventum); and then the meaning attributed to it is either: si vobis dies ille tremendus est … obtestor vos per illum (Zwingli), or: si vobis animo carus est adventus domini, si desiderabile est vobis ad ipsum dominum colligi, etc. (Hemming), or lastly: quam vere exspectatis domini adventum, etc. (Beza). Certainly ὑπέρ, as elsewhere πρός, sometimes occurs in protestations with the genitive; comp. Hom. Il. xxiv. 466 f.

Καί μιν ὑπὲρ πατρὸς καὶ μητέρος ἠϋκόμοιο " Λίσσεο καὶ τέκεος, ἵνα οἱ σὺν θυμὸν ὀρίνῃς, Bernhardy, Syntax, p. 244. But (1) such a usage is entirely foreign to the N. T. (2) It is hardly conceivable that Paul should have chosen that as an object of adjuration, concerning which he was about to instruct them in what follows. Therefore Zeger, Vorstius, Grotius, Hammond, Wolf, Noesselt, Koppe, Storr, Heydenreich, Flatt, Pelt, Schott, de Wette, Winer (p. 343 [E. T. 479]), Baumgarten-Crusius, Wieseler, Bloomfield, Alford, Ewald, Bisping, Riggenbach, and others more correctly take ὑπέρ in the sense of περί, in respect of. Comp. Romans 9:27; 2 Corinthians 1:8; Passow, A 3; Bernhardy, Syntax, p. 244; Kühner, II. p. 288. Yet this does not prevent the maintenance of the special import of the preposition also here. The meaning is in the interest of the advent, namely, in order to preserve it from everything that is erroneous. When, then, the apostle says: we entreat you in the interest of the advent, the meaning of this abbreviated form of expression is: we entreat you in the interest of the advent, namely, to guard it against all misrepresentations, not to deviate from the correct view concerning it.

παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου] here also, as everywhere with Paul, is nothing else than the personal coming (return) of Christ at the completion of the kingdom of God.

ἐπισυναγωγή] points back to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, denoting the act by which all believers are caught up to Christ, or gathered together to Him, to be then eternally united to Him, following the resurrection and change.

ἡμῶν] is placed first in order to obtain a more direct contrast to κυρίου.

ἐπʼ αὐτόν] up to Him. Incorrectly Grotius, Koppe, Heydenreich, Pelt, Alford, and others, that it is equivalent to πρὸς αὐτόν.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Dogmatic portion of the Epistle. Information, by way of correction, concerning the commencement of the advent. The day of the Lord is not yet. It will only then occur when Antichrist, whom now a preventing power hinders from appearing, will be manifested.

See on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Noesselt, Opusc. ad interpretationem sacrarum scriptur. fascic. II., Hal. 1787, p. 257 ff.; Seger, Diss. philol. ad locum 2 Thess. ii. 1–12, Hal 1791; Tychsen in Henke’s Magazin f. Religionsphilos., Exeges. und Kirchengesch. vol. VI., Helmst. 1796, p. 171 ff.; Storr, Opusc. acad. vol. III., Tüb. 1803, p. 323 ff.; Nitzsch, De revelatione religionis externa eademque publica, Lips. 1808, p. 223 ff.; Heydenreich in the Neuen Krit. Journal der theol. Literatur, by Winer and Engelhardt, Bd. 8, Sulzb. 1828; Kern in the Tübing. Zeitschr. f. theol. 1839, Part 2, p. 145 ff.; Wieseler, Chronologie des apost. Zeitalters, Gött. 1848, p. 257 ff.; Baumgarten, die Apostelgeschichte oder der Entwickelungsgang der Kirche von Jerusalem bis Romans , 2 d ed. vol. i., Braunschw. 1859, p. 603 ff.; Schneckenburger on the Lehre vom Antichrist. Treated of by Ed. Böhmer in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. von Liebner, etc., Gotha 1859, p. 420 ff.; v. Döllinger, Christenthum u. Kirche in der Zeit der Grundlegung, Regensb. 1860, p. 277 ff., 422 ff.; Luthardt, die Lehre von den letzten Dingen, Leipz. 1861, p. 145 ff.; older literature in Wolf.2 Thessalonians 2:1. ἐπισυν., a term whose verb was already in use for the muster of saints to the messianic reign.—σαλ. “get unsettled”. Epictetus uses ἀποσαλεύεσθαι for the unsettling of the mind by sophistries (3:25), and the nearest equivalent for νοῦς here is our “mind”. This mental agitation (aor.) results in θροεῖσθαι = nervous fear (Wrede, 48 f.) in prospect of the imminent end.1. Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ] Lit., But we beseech you, brethren, on behalf of the coming. The prospect of this Coming has been held out in language of ardent hope (ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:10, &c.); “but” the readers must not entertain wild and unreasonable notions respecting it. The preposition (touching, R. V.) signifies “in the interest of,” and not merely “with reference to;” for the confusion of mind and the alarm existing at Thessalonica upon this matter tended to discredit the Second Advent; they obscured the features of “the blessed hope” which the Apostle has just delineated (ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12).

He adds and our gathering together unto Him, remembering what he has written in 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:10 concerning the reunion of the living with departed saints at Christ’s coming. The corresponding verb appears in the promise of Jesus (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27): “He shall gather together His elect from the four winds;” comp. the echoes of our Lord’s sayings on the Last Things noted in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11. The intense sorrow of the Apostle at his separation from the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:11) may also have prompted this thought; comp. note on “rest with us” ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:7.

On beseech (or ask) see note to 1 Thessalonians 4:1.

Section III. The Revelation of the Lawless One Ch. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12In this Epistle, as in the former, the specfic object of the letter comes into view at the beginning of the second chapter, so soon as the introductory prayer and thanksgiving have been offered. The Thessalonians were too eager and positive in their expectation of the Parousia, and the Apostle begs them “for its sake” to be cautious (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Some of their teachers declared that “the day of the Lord was already come;” and it was reported that Paul himself had written to this effect (2 Thessalonians 2:2). The Church was in danger of falling into mischievous deception (2 Thessalonians 2:3). That they may “prove the prophesyings” addressed to them on this subject (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21), the Apostle gives them a token or omen of the Second Coming, which indeed he had already supplied in his previous ministry (2 Thessalonians 2:5). He foresees that before Christ’s return in judgement there must be a supreme manifestation of evil (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12). This development, as he indicates, will be twofold—producing (1) within the Church “the apostasy;” and (2) the “revelation” of “the Man of Lawlessness” (or “Sin”), a personage in whom the sin of humanity will be consummated, reaching its furthest possibilities and taking on an absolutely Satanic character (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). This gigantic impersonation of evil is exhibited as the personal antagonist and antithesis of Christ, in such a way that though the Apostle does not himself give to his conception the name of Antichrist, yet it is probable that the designation, afterwards made familiar by St John’s use of it in his great Epistle, was derived in the first instance from the passage before us. Meanwhile, we are told, there exists a “withholding” influence, that delays the appearance of Antichrist, although the lawlessness which in him will reach its climax “is already actively at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). When the revelation of the “mystery” at last takes place, while on the one hand it will herald the return of the Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:8), on the other it will prove to be for His rejecters a signal means of judgement, captivating by its magical delusions all who are not armed against them by “love or the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

This paragraph is the most obscure to us in St Paul’s Epistles. It is written in a reserved and elliptical fashion, and bears reference throughout to the Apostle’s oral communications, without which, in fact, he did not expect what he wrote to be fully understood. In their recollection of the writer’s words the Thessalonian Church had a key to his meaning not transmitted to our hands. We must grope for it as best we can. We find, however, considerable light thrown on this dark passage by its relation to other prophetical teachings of Scripture, and to the history of the Apostle’s own time. Yet this added light casts its shadows over the field. We shall return to the subject in the Appendix attached to these Notes, on “The Man of Lawlessness.”

APPENDIX

The Man of Lawlessness (or Man of Sin)

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12To give a full account of the interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 would be almost the same thing as to write a history of Christendom. This is one of those dark passages of Scripture which in ordinary Christian teaching, and in peaceful and prosperous times, receive little attention; they are traversed with hasty step, and willingly dismissed as things hard to be understood. But in seasons of conflict and danger, such as those which gave them birth, and when some critical struggle arises between the kingdoms of God and Satan, the Church turns to these neglected prophecies; from their obscurity there breaks out a new and awful light; again she hears in them the “voices and thunders” that “proceed out of the Throne” and the shout of His coming Who “brings forth judgement unto victory.” To such epochs we must look for the interpretation of these words of destiny. History is the expositor of Prophecy. For the seeds of the future lie in the past; and not the seeds alone, its buddings and beginnings, its leaves and blossomings are there, if we had eyes to see them. “First the blade, then the ear,” said Jesus,—“then the full corn in the ear.” The growth is continuous, until full ripeness.

Let us endeavour, therefore, to trace in its historical outline the development of the doctrine of Antichrist—first, as it appears in Scripture; and secondly, as it has been unfolded in the belief and teaching of the Church.

1. The Apocalypse of Daniel

We must go back to the Book of Daniel[9] for the origin of St Paul’s conception of the Man of Lawlessness, as well as for that of the kindred visions of St John. Daniel’s Apocalypse has its starting-point in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 2): the Fourfold Metal Image, with its feet of mixed iron and clay, broken in pieces by the “Stone cut out of the mountain without hands.” This dream takes another and enlarged form in Daniel’s first Vision, that of the Four Wild Beasts (ch. 7). Amidst the “ten horns” of the fourth Beast there springs up “a little horn,” before which “three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots,” having “eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:8). In a moment the scene is changed: the “thrones” of the Last Judgement are placed; “the Ancient of Days” is beheld sitting; and there is “brought near before Him” the “One like unto a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven,” whom the Lord Jesus at the High Priest’s tribunal identified with Himself. To Him the prophet assigns universal and everlasting dominion (Daniel 7:9-14). As the judgement is proceeding, and before the appearance of the glorified Son of Man, the fourth Beast is slain and “his body destroyed, and given to be burned with fire” (Daniel 7:11), “because of the voice of the great words which the little horn spake.” The idea is here presented of a cruel, haughty and triumphant military power, to be overthrown suddenly by the judgement of God, whose fall, apparently, gives the signal for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven, which is to be ruled by one like unto a son of man yet sharing the Divine attributes.

[9] See the article in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, by Bishop Westcott, on the Book of Daniel. There is nothing written on the subject, within our knowledge, more penetrating and suggestive.

In the next vision, ch. 8, of the duel between the Ram and the He-goat the Little Horn reappears, and takes on a distinct personal shape. He becomes “a king of fierce countenance and understanding dark sayings,” who will “destroy (or corrupt) the people of the saints … and stand up against the Prince of princes; but shall be broken without hand” (Daniel 8:22-25). The third vision, ch. 11—of the wars of North and South—leads up to a further description of the great Oppressor, in which his atheism forms the most conspicuous feature: “Arms shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary … and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate … And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods: and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished” (Daniel 11:31-36). This series of tableaux gives a continuous view of a polity or empire evolved out of the warring kingdoms of this world, from which emerges at last a monster of wickedness armed with all earthly power and bent on the destruction of Israel’s God and people, in whose person the realm of evil receives its decisive judgement.

2. The Messianic Times

Antiochus Epiphanes[10], it is agreed, was the primary subject of Daniel’s visions of judgement. In his overthrow, and in the Maccabean revival of the nationality of Israel, this Apocalypse had its verification; it received a fulfilment adequate and appropriate to the age. But when the period of the Maccabees was past, and no further sign appeared of the Messiah, it grew plain to believing readers that the revelation had a further Import. In this faith the sufferings of the Jewish people under the Herodian and Roman oppression were endured, as “birth-pangs of the Messiah;” it was felt that Israel’s hope was nigh at hand, even at the doors. Our Lord by assuming the title Son of Man appealed to and justified the expectations of those who in His day “looked for Israel’s redemption,”—expectations founded to no small extent upon the Apocalypse of Daniel, and coloured by its imagery. Again “the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” was to “stand in the Holy Place” (Matthew 24:15); and the “sign of the Son of Man” would be “seen in heaven,” and at last the Son of Man Himself, “coming with the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64).

[10] Antiochus IV., or Antiochus Epiphanes—i.e. the Brilliant, called also in mockery Epimanes, the Madman—was the seventh king of the Græco-Syrian dynasty of the Seleucids, and reigned from 175 to 164 b.c. His father was Antiochus III. (called the Great), after whose defeat by the Romans (188 b.c.) he was given to them as a hostage, and brought up at Rome. He returned to take his father’s throne, full of wild ambition and of reckless impiety and prodigality. On the character and career of Antiochus Epiphanes see Stanley’s History of the Jewish Church, vol. iii; Ewald’s History of Israel, vol. v. (Eng. Trans.); Smith’s Bible Dictionary.

But the Messianic anticipations of our Lord’s time, being drawn from this source, could hardly fail to be attended with their counterpart in the image of Daniel’s Antichrist. In later Judaism Antichrist was known as Armillus (or Armalgus), under which name he figures largely in the Jewish fables of the Middle Ages, the Rabbinical conception being developed in forms partly analogous and partly hostile to the Christian doctrine. Armillus appears already in the Targum of Jonathan upon Isaiah 11:4, the passage quoted by our Apostle in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 above: “With the breath of His lips shall He (Messiah) slay Armillus, the wicked one.” This interpretation was traditional, and may have been older than Christianity. The existence of an earlier Jewish doctrine of Antichrist, in however incipient a form, would make it easier to understand the rapid development which this conception receives in the New Testament, and the manner in which it appeals to the mind of the Apostolic Church.

The words of Christ fixed the attention of His first disciples upon Daniel’s prophecies, and supplied the impulse and starting-point from which proceeded the revival of the O.T. Apocalypse in the teaching of SS. Paul and John. Besides His express citations of Daniel, there were other traits in our Lord’s picture of the Last Things—the predictions of national conflict, of persecutions from without and defections within His Church (Matthew 24:3-13)—which reproduced the general characteristics of this prophet’s visions, and lent emphasis to the specific and most solemn references that He made to them. His use of this obscure and suspected Book has raised it to a position of high honour and importance in the regard of His Church.

3. Antichrist in the Book of Revelation

St Paul treats the subject in the passage before us in an incidental fashion, and nowhere in his extant Epistles does he again advert to it. His language, so far as it goes, is very positive and definite. There is scarcely a more matter-of-fact prediction in the Bible. While he refuses to give any chronological datum, his description of the personality of Antichrist is vividly distinct; and he asserts the connection between his appearance and Christ’s return from heaven with an explicitness that leaves no room for doubt as to his meaning. But John’s Apocalypse was cast in a different mould. Like that of Daniel, his revelation came through visions, received apparently in a passive and ecstatic mental state, and clothed in a mystic robe of imagery through which It is difficult and indeed impossible altogether to distinguish the body and substance of truth, which one feels nevertheless to be everywhere present underneath it. St John’s visions border upon those “unspeakable things” of “the third heaven,” which it may be lawful for the human soul in rare moments of exaltation to see and hear, but not “to utter” in clear discourse of reason (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

The visions of the Wild Beast, contained in Revelation 13-20, do nevertheless present a tolerably distinct and continuous picture; and it is just in this part of John’s Apocalypse that it comes into line with the Apocalypses of Daniel and Paul, and, as at least It seems to us, into connection with the course of secular history then proceeding. It accords with the nature of the two Revelations that St John’s mind is possessed by the symbolic idea of the Horned Wild Beast of Daniel (chh. 7, 8), while St Paul reflects in his Man of Lawlessness the later and more definite form which Daniel’s conception of the great enemy of God assumes in ch. 11. But the representations of the two Apostles coincide in their essential features. The first Beast of St John, seven-headed and ten-horned, receives the “power and throne of the Dragon and great authority,” from “him that is called Devil and the Satan, that deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13:1-2), just as St Paul’s Lawless One comes “according to the working of Satan” and “in all deceit of unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). He “opens his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and tabernacle” and everything Divine; and “all that dwell in the earth worship him,” whose names were “not written in the book of life;” and “torment” is promised to them, who “worship the Beast and his image” (Revelation 13:5-8; Revelation 14:11): so the Man of Lawlessness “exalts himself against all that is called God or worshipped,” he “takes his seat in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God;” and men are found to “believe the lie,” who will be “judged” for their “pleasure in unrighteousness” and are of “them that perish” (Revelation 14:4; Revelation 14:10-12). Again, the authority of the Wild Beast is vindicated by means of “great signs,” through which “they that dwell on the earth are deceived” (Revelation 13:13-14): similarly, in our Apostle, Satan’s great emissary “comes with all power and signs and wonders of falsehood” (Revelation 13:9-10). This token of false miracles was furnished by our Lord as the sign of “false Christs and false prophets” generally (Matthew 24:24). Finally, having “come up out of the abyss,” the Wild Beast “goes into perdition” (Revelation 17:8), like the Lawless One, with his Satanic coming, who is “the son of perdition” (Revelation 17:3; Revelation 17:9).

The ten-horned Beast of John is set forth as the secular antagonist of the Man-child, son of the Woman[11], who was born “to rule all the nations,” as His would-be destroyer and the usurper of His throne; by Whom at last when He appears as Conqueror upon the “white horse[12],” the Beast is taken and cast with his followers “into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone” (comp. Revelation 12 with 13, and then see ch. Revelation 19:11-21). This conflict translates Into an expanded picture the antagonism between the Lord Jesus and the Lawless One, Christ and Antichrist, which breathes in every syllable of St Paul’s condensed and pregnant lines. The outlines etched in rapid strokes by Paul’s sharp needle, are thrown out upon the glowing canvas of the Apocalypse in idealized and visionary shape; but the same conception dominates the imagination of the seer of Patmos which haunts the writer of this sober and calm Epistle.

[11] Mr W. H. Simcox with good reason sees the woman who brings forth the Man-child, and then “flies into the wilderness unto her place” till the appointed time, in the Jewish Church: see his notes, in Cambridge Bible for Schools, on Revelation 12. Comp. Romans 9:5, “of whom is the Christ according to flesh.”

[12] In the Conqueror’s name of Faithful and True, and in the “righteousness” with which “He judges and makes war,” and “the righteous acts of the saints”—the “fine linen, clean and white” which clothes His army—we may see another antithesis to the moral picture given in Revelation 19:10-12.

The first Wild Beast of Revelation 13 is the centre of a group of symbolic figures. There “comes up out of the earth another Beast,” kindred to him, and called afterwards the “false prophet,” who acts as his apostle, re-establishing his power after the deadly wound he received, and performing the “signs” by which his worship is supported and enforced. To this second actor, therefore, a religious part is assigned, resembling that of a corrupt Church serving a lawless, despotic State. The False Prophet supplies a necessary link between the Apostasy and the Lawless One of a 2 Thessalonians 2:3; by his agency the “lying miracles” of 2 Thessalonians 2:10 are provided, and superstition is enlisted in the service of atheism.

While the Beast has the False Prophet by his side for an auxiliary, he carries on his back the Harlot-woman, the antithesis of the Church, Christ’s Bride. She is identiied in the plainest manner with the imperial city of Rome. On her forehead stands written the legend, “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and the abominations of the earth.” This is but Paul’s “mystery of iniquity” writ large and illuminated. What Babylon was to O.T. prophecy, that Rome became to the prophets of the New, being the centre of the world’s evil and the nidus of its future development. And the imperial house of Rome—Nero in particular for St Paul, and Domitian, probably, as Nero redivivus for St John—held to the prophetic spirit of the Apostles a relation similar to that of the Syrian monarchy and Antiochus Epiphanes toward the prophecy of Daniel, serving as a proximate and provisional goal of its anticipations, the object around which the secular forces of evil were about to gather and the fittest type of their further and ultimate evolution. But as history pursued its course and the Church passed beyond its Apostolic horizon, the new Apocalypse was found like the old to have a wider scope. The Wild Beast survived many wounds; it survived the fall of the great city, mistress of the earth,—the Woman whom John saw riding upon its back. The end was not yet; the word of prophecy must run through new circles of fulfilment.

It is only in the barest outline that we may pursue the subsequent history of the doctrine of Antichrist[13]. It has passed through four principal stages.

[13] For the history of this question, see the Article Antichrist, Vol. i. (2nd ed.) of Smith’s Bible Dictionary, also Herzog’s Real-Encyklopädie (2nd ed.). There are valuable dissertations on “The Man of Sin” by Lûneroaon (Meyer’s Handbook), Riggenbach (Lunge’s Commentary), and Olshausen ad loc., also in Alford’s Prolegomena to the Epp. Döllinger elucidates the subject with great learning and exactness in Appendix I. to his First Age of the Church (translated by Oxenham); and Eadie in the Appendix to his Commentary on Thessalonians. For the interpretation of the parallel texts in the Apocalypse, see Simcox’s Notes in this Series and his most interesting and valuable Introduction. As to the bearings of the subject on the doctrines of Eschatology at large, see the profound remarks of Domer in his System of Christian Doctrine, vol. iv., 373–401 (Eng. Trans.). We find ourselves in general agreement with Dorner, Olshausen, Rigeenbach, Alfard, Ellicott, Eadie; and, to a large extent, with Hofmann.

4. Antichrist in the Early Church

In the age of the early Church, ending with the conversion of the Empire and the Fall of Rome (410 a.d.), one consistent view prevailed upon this subject,—viz. that Antichrist was an individual destined one day to overthrow the Roman Empire and to establish a rule of consummate wickedness, which would quickly be terminated by the appearing of the Lord jesus from heaven. Chrysostom probably represents the popular belief when he speaks of Nero as “a type of Antichrist,” and “the mystery of iniquity already working.” In the earliest times men associated with this tradition the expectation, long current in the East, of Nero’s return and re-inthronement.

Many of the Fathers, after the manner of 1 John 2:18-22, pointed ont the workings of Antichrist in the various forms of heresy. It was frequently inferred from 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that the Jewish Temple would in the last days be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and made the seat of Antichrist’s empire and worship. In connection with this opinion, a Jewish origin (from the tribe of Dan, Genesis 49:17) was assigned to the Man of Sin. Others regarded the Church, either in a spiritual or local sense, as “the temple of God” signified by St Paul (see note on 2 Thessalonians 2:4).

“The withholder” was commonly understood to be the Roman Empire, with its fabric of civil polity,—Romanus status, as Tertullian says; its downfall imported the end of the world to the Church of the first three centuries. By some the withholding influence was seen in the Holy Spirit, or in His miraculous gifts.

5. Antichrist in the Middle Ages

The Western Empire was submerged under barbarian invasions. But the fabric of society still held together; and out of the chaos of the early Middle Ages there gradually arose the modern polity of the Romanized European nations, with the Papal See for its spiritual centre, and the revived Roman Empire of Charlemagne—magni nominis umbra—holding the leadership of the new world (800 a.d.). Meanwhile the ancient Empire maintained a sluggish existence in the New Rome of Constantino on the Bosphorus, where it arrested for centuries the destructive forces of Mohammedanism, until their energy was comparatively spent. This change in the current of history, following upon the union of Church and State under Constantine, disconcerted the Patristic reading of prophecy. And the interpretation of Scripture, along with the general cultivation of the human mind, fell into decline after the fourth century. Things present absorbed the energy and thought of the Church to the exclusion of things to come. The Western Church was occupied In converting and assimilating the Barbarian hordes, the Eastern Church was struggling for its very existence against Islam; while they contested with each other for supremacy. For the most part, the teaching of the Fathers respecting Antichrist was repeated by medieval divines, and embroidered with their fancies.

Gradually new interpretations forced themselves to the front. The Greeks naturally saw “the lawless one” in Muhammad, and “the apostasy” in the falling away of so many Eastern Christians to his delusions. In the West, the growing arrogance of the Bishops of Rome and the traditional connection of Antichrist with Rome united to suggest the idea of a Papal Antichrist. This view has high Papal authority in its favour; Gregory I. (or the Great, 590 a.d.), denouncing the assumptions of the contemporary Byzantine Patriarch, wrote as follows: “Ego autem fidenter dico quia quisqnis se universalem sacerdotem vocat, vel vocari desiderat, in elatione sua Antichristum præcurrit;” he further styles the title of Universal Priest “erroris nomen, stultum ac superbum vocabulum … nomen blasphemiæ.” By this just sentence the later Roman Primacy is marked out as another type of Antichrist.

In the 13th century, when Gregory VII. (or Hildebrand, 1073–1085 a.d.) and Innocent III. (1198–1210 a.d.) had raised the power of the Roman See to its highest point, this doctrine was openly declared by the supporters of the Hohenstaufen Emperors; and the German State resumed the office of the Roman State as “the restrainer” of the Man of Sin. This century witnessed a general revival of religious zeal, of which the rise of the Waldenses, the theology of Thomas Aquinas, the founding of the Dominican and Franciscan orders, the immortal poem of Dante, and the widespread revolt and protest against the corruptions of Rome were alike manifestations. This awakening was attended with a renewal of Apocalyptic study. The numbers of Daniel 12:6-13, Revelation 12:62 Thessalonians 2:1. Ἐρωτῶμεν, we beseech) There are five divisions of the epistle, of which the principal one begins here.

I.  The Inscription, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2.

  II.  Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4. With prayer, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.

  III.  The Doctrine concerning the man of sin, who is to come before Christ, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.

Whence he comforts the saints against that calamity, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.

With the addition of exhortation and prayer, 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17.

  IV.  An exhortation to prayer, accompanied also with a prayer for them, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2.

And an exhortation to reduce to order the brethren who are walking disorderly, with a prayer also for them subjoined, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

  V.  Conclusion, 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18.

ὑπὲρ) with respect to [not by, as Engl. Vers.]. The particle is intended for clearly indicating the subject in hand, not for adjuration; although the subject under discussion ought in itself to rouse the Thessalonians: comp. ὑπὲρ, 2 Corinthians 5:20.[7]—ἐπισυναγωγῆς, (final) gathering together) which will take place at the time of the coming of Jesus: care must be taken lest any falls away. Believers are already gathered in to the Lord; but that gathering together then at last will be the complete and crowning one. This is the force of the double compound when it is broken into its component parts: comp. Hebrews 10:25, note.

[7] “We are ambassadors for Christ,” i.e. with respect to Him. He and His Gospel are the foundation of our mission.—ED.Verse 1. - Now; literally, but; a particle of transition. We beseech you. Passing from what he besought God for them to what he beseeches them. Brethren, by. Considered by some, as in the A.V., as a form of adjuration. Thus Calvin: "He adjures believers by the coming of Christ; for it is customary to adjure by those things which are regarded by us with reverence." But such a construction is unknown in the New Testament, and is besides unnatural. Others render the preposition "in behalf of" or "in the interest of," "as though he were pleading, in honour of that day, that the expectation of it might not be a source of disorder in the Church" (Jowett); but such a sense is too artificial. It is best to render it "concerning," or, as in the R.V., "touching." The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some (Whitby, Hammond) suppose that by the coming of the Lord Jesus was here meant his coming in spirit at the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the apostasy was the revolt of the Jews from the Romans; the restraining power being differently interpreted. But this is a forced and extravagant interpretation, and is completely overthrown by what the apostle says in the next verse, for the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent. Besides, the Thessalonians, who were chiefly Gentile converts, were too distant from Jerusalem to be much troubled by the destruction of that city. By the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, then, is here meant, as is the uniform meaning of the phrase in the writings of Paul, the second advent. And by (or, concerning) our gathering together unto him. The word translated "gathering together" occurs only once again in the New Testament, where it is used with reference to the assembling of Christians for worship (Hebrews 10:35). Here it is used with reference to the assembling of believers to Christ, when he shall be revealed from heaven; it refers, not to the raising of the dead, but to the gathering together of those who are then alive (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17). By the coming (ὑπὲρ)

More correctly touching. Comp. Romans 9:27; 2 Corinthians 1:8. Ὑπὲρ never in N.T. in a formula of swearing.

Gathering together (ἐπισυναγωγῆς)

Only here and Hebrews 10:25. The verb ἐπισυνάγειν is used, as the noun here, of the Lord's gathering together his elect at his coming. See Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27; comp. 2 Macc. 2:7.

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