2 Thessalonians 2:12
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) That they all.—This is God’s purpose in making them believe the lie—“in order that, one and all, they might be judged.” He who desireth not the death of a sinner, now is said actually to lay plans with the intention of judging him: such are the bold self-contradictions of the Bible! It must not, however, be forgotten for a moment that God did not begin to will the sinner’s judgment till after He had offered him freely the love of His own blessed truth, and had been rejected. When once the sinner is incurable, the only way to vindicate truth and righteousness is by hastening on his condemnation, whatever that condemnation may mean.

Who believed not the truth. . . .—Once more the offence for which they are condemned is insisted upon. Theirs is no fancy sin. What God wanted them to believe was not some fantastical dogma, some fiction between which and the fictions of the Man of Sin there was nothing morally to choose, but the inviolable truth by which God Himself is bound. But had pleasure in the unrighteousness (so runs the Greek): i.e., consciously gave their moral consent to the unrighteousness of 2Thessalonians 2:10, the unrighteousness which sought to impose itself upon them, and which they would never have been led into had they loved the truth.

2:5-12 Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time. Corruption of doctrine and worship came in by degrees, and the usurping of power was gradual; thus the mystery of iniquity prevailed. Superstition and idolatry were advanced by pretended devotion, and bigotry and persecution were promoted by pretended zeal for God and his glory. This mystery of iniquity was even then begun; while the apostles were yet living, persons pretended zeal for Christ, but really opposed him. The fall or ruin of the antichristian state is declared. The pure word of God, with the Spirit of God, will discover this mystery of iniquity, and in due time it shall be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming. Signs and wonders, visions and miracles, are pretended; but they are false signs to support false doctrines; and lying wonders, or only pretended miracles, to cheat the people; and the diabolical deceits with which the antichristian state has been supported, are notorious. The persons are described, who are his willing subjects. Their sin is this; They did not love the truth, and therefore did not believe it; and they were pleased with false notions. God leaves them to themselves, then sin will follow of course, and spiritual judgments here, and eternal punishments hereafter. These prophecies have, in a great measure, come to pass, and confirm the truth of the Scriptures. This passage exactly agrees with the system of popery, as it prevails in the Romish church, and under the Romish popes. But though the son of perdition has been revealed, though he has opposed and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; and has spoken and acted as if he were a god upon earth, and has proclaimed his insolent pride, and supported his delusions, by lying miracles and all kinds of frauds; still the Lord has not yet fully destroyed him with the brightness of his coming; that and other prophecies remain to be fulfilled before the end shall come.That they all might be damned - The word "damned" we commonly apply now exclusively to future punishment, and it has a harsher signification than the original word; compare the notes, 1 Corinthians 11:29. The Greek word - κρίνω krinō - means to judge, determine, decide; and then to condemn; Romans 2:27; Romans 14:22; James 4:11; John 7:51; Luke 19:22; Acts 13:27. It may be applied to the judgment of the last day John 5:22; John 8:50; Acts 17:31; Romans 3:6; 2 Timothy 4:1, but not necessarily. The word "judged" or "condemned," would, in this place, express all that the Greek word necessarily conveys. Yet there can be no doubt that the judgment or condemnation which is referred to, is that which will occur when the Saviour will appear. It does not seem to me to be a necessary interpretation of this to suppose that it teaches that God would send a strong delusion that they should believe a lie, in order that all might be damned who did not believe the truth; or that he desired that they should be damned, and sent this as the means of securing it; but the sense is, that this course of events would be allowed to occur, "so that" ἵνα hina - not εἰς τὸ eis to all who do not love the truth would be condemned.

The particle here used, and rendered "that" (ἵνα hina), in connection with the phrase "all might be damned" is employed in two general senses, either as marking the end, purpose, or cause for, or on account of, which anything is done; to the end that, or in order that it may be so and so; or as marking simply the result, event, or upshot of an action, so that, so as that. Robinson, Lexicon. In the latter case it denotes merely that something will really take place, without indicating that such was the design of the agent, or that what brought it about was in order that it might take place. It is also used, in the later Greek, so as neither to mark the purpose, nor to indicate that the event would occur, but merely to point out that to which the preceding words refer. It is not proper, therefore, to infer that this passage teaches that all these things would be brought about in the arrangements of Providence, in order that they might be damned who came under their influence. The passage teaches that such would be the result; that the connection between these delusions and the condemnation of those who were deluded, would be certain. It cannot be proved from the Scriptures that God sends on men strong delusions, in order that they may be damned. No such construction should be put on a passage of Scripture if it can be avoided, and it cannot be shown that it is necessary here.

Who believed not the truth The grounds or reasons why they would be damned are now stated. One would be that they did not believe the truth - not that God sent upon them delusion in order that they might be damned. That people will be condemned for not believing the truth, and that it will be right thus to condemn them, is everywhere the doctrine of the Scriptures, and is equally the doctrine of common sense; see the notes on Mark 16:16.

But had pleasure in unrighteousness - This is the second ground or reason of their condemnation. If men have pleasure in sin, it is proper that they should be punished. There can be no more just ground of condemnation than that a man loves to do wrong.

12. they all … damned—rather as Greek, "that all," &c. He here states the general proposition which applies specially to Antichrist's adherents. Not all in the Church of Rome, or other anti-Christian systems, shall be damned, but only "all who believed not the truth," when offered to them, "but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (Ro 1:32; 2:8). Love of unrighteousness being the great obstacle to believing the truth. That they all might be damned, or condemned. The Greek is, judged, but often translated as in the text; the simple verb being taken for the compound: so John 3:17 1 Corinthians 11:29 Judges 1:4. It is true a man may be judged and not condemned, but the judgment of the wicked is condemnation; and damnation is here mentioned either as the event, or the effect of their believing lies, or as the purpose of God in sending them strong delusions. They are first justly punished with spiritual judgment, and then eternal, and God is just in both; whence we see that there are some errors in judgment which are damnable. As we read of damnable heresies, 2 Peter 2:1, or heresies of destruction; such are many in the Romish Church; and the apostle speaks of such, Colossians 2:19, not holding the Head, & c.; not meant of a total rejection of Christ, but of voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels, mingled with the true worship of the gospel; and such cannot be saved.

Who believed not the truth: where we have a further description of these persons who are to be damned, which is added by the apostle, either to clear God’s justice, as in sending them strong delusions to believe a lie, so also in their condemnation; or to assign the cause why they believed a lie, because they believed not the truth. Those will easily be brought to believe a lie who believe not the truth; and the belief here mentioned is that of assent, yet snch an assent as is operative and practical, which they had not; for it was said before, they received not the truth in the love of it.

But had pleasure in unrighteousness; did not only practise, but had great complacence and contentment of mind in it, as the Greek word imports, and so had rather believe a false doctrine which will countenance their practice, than the truth which doth condemn it: see Proverbs 10:23 Romans 1:32. By unrighteousness some expositors understand false doctrine, or error, because it is set in opposition here to truth, as sin is set in opposition to it, John 8:46; and that the apostle hath peculiar reference to the corrupt doctrines of Simon Magus and the Nicolaitanes, that gave liberty to the lusts of the flesh. But why not rather to the doctrines of the man of sin, which he had been before speaking of? I rather take the word in the largest sense, so all sin is unrighteousness; and the apostle St. John saith, all unrighteosness is sin, 1Jo 5:17, where unrighteousness is expressed by anomia, a word which imports transgression of the law, as in this text by adikia, a word which signifies injustice. So that we see here an erroneous mind and a vicious life going together. And when sin is come to this height, that men take pleasure in it, it makes them ripe for damnation. And how well these things agree to the antichristian church, let men consider and judge. That they all might be damned,.... Or judged, discerned and distinguished from true Christians and real believers, or rather that they might be condemned and punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and have their portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; where the devil, the false prophet, and the beast, whose followers they are, will be cast; and it is but a righteous thing with God to give them up to such delusion,

that they may be damned, since they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved; and the following character of them justifies the divine procedure:

who believed not the truth; neither the word of truth, the Gospel of salvation, nor Christ, who is truth itself; and therefore were righteously given up to believe a lie; and whose damnation is just, according to the declaration of Christ, he that believeth not shall be damned:

but had pleasure in unrighteousness; in sin, as all unrighteousness is; in sinful ways and works, and in unrighteous doctrines; as the doctrines of merit, of works of supererogation, and of justification by works, being derogatory to the justice of God, and to the righteousness of Christ; and in the unrighteous persecution and bloodshed of the saints, the martyrs of Jesus; in which the followers of antichrist take as much delight and pleasure, as an intemperate man does in drinking wine or strong drink to excess; and therefore the whore of Babylon is said to be drunk with the blood of the saints; and it is but just she should have blood to drink, or be punished both with temporal and eternal destruction.

That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but {o} had pleasure in unrighteousness.

(o) They liked lies so much that they had pleasure in them, which is the greatest madness that may exist.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Thessalonians 2:12. Ἵνα] dependent on εἰς τὸ πιστεῦσαι κ.τ.λ., not on πέμπει, as Hofmann thinks. A statement of the further or higher design.

ἵνα κριθῶσι] in order that they may be judged, i.e. according to the context, condemned.

The truth is the Christian truth, and the unbelief, shown against it, is the consequence of the love for the truth in general being wanting (2 Thessalonians 2:10).

CONCLUDING REMAEKS ON CHAP. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12The apocalyptic teaching of the apostle in chap. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 has occupied Christians of all times, and has been very variously interpreted. A chief distinction in the interpretations consists in this, that this Pauline prediction may be considered either as that which will be fulfilled in the near or more distant future, or as having already received its fulfilment.

I. The Church Fathers belong to the representatives of the first view (Irenaeus, adv. haer. v. 25, 29, 30; Tertullian, de resur. carn. c. 24; Chrysostom in loco; Cyril. Hierosolym. Catech. 15; Augustine, de civit. dei, xx. 19; Theodoret in loco, and epit. decret. div. c. 23; Theodorus Mopsuestius, and others). They correctly agree in considering that by the advent (2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:8), or the day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:2), is to be understood the personal advent of Christ for the last judgment and for the completion of the Messianic kingdom. Also it is correctly regarded as proved, that the Antichrist here described is to be considered as an individual person, in whom sin will embody itself. Yet Augustin already remarks, that “nonnulli non ipsum principem, sed universum quodam modo corpus ejus i. e. ad eum pertinentem hominum multitudinem simul cum ipso suo principe hoc loco intelligi Antichristum volunt.” The restraining power by which the appearance of Antichrist is delayed, is usually considered to be the continuance of the Roman Empire (τὸ κατέχον) and its representative the Roman emperor (ὁ κατέχων). Some, however, as Theodorus Mopsuestius and Theodoret, understand by it τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν ὅρον, i.e. more exactly, the counsel of God to keep back the appearance of Antichrist until the gospel is proclaimed throughout the earth. This latter interpretation is certainly unsuitable enough. For although the difference of gender τὸ κατέχον and ὁ κατέχων may be to distinguish God’s counsel and God Himself, yet ἐκ μέσου γίνεσθαι is not reconcilable with the masculine ὁ κατέχων. Chrysostom chooses a third interpretation, that by the restraining power is meant the continuance of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. But he directly refutes this by the fact that if so, Antichrist must have already appeared, as those gifts have long since disappeared in the Christian church. The temple of God, in which Antichrist will place himself, is referred either to the Christian church (so Chrysostom, Theodoret, Augustin), the expression being taken figuratively, or to the actual temple of Jerusalem (so Irenaeus and Cyril); in which latter case the objection, that this temple was already destroyed, is met by the shift that a new temple rebuilt in place of the old one by Antichrist is to be thought on. Lastly, some, as Chrysostom,[52]—although in contradiction to the chronology of the Epistle,—interpret the ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ Τῆς ἈΝΟΜΊΑς, which already begins to work, of Nero, the forerunner and type of Antichrist in St. Paul’s time; and others, as Theodoret, of the outbreak of heresies.

[52] Νέρωνα ἐνταῦθά φησιν, ὡσανεὶ τύπον ὄντα τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου· καὶ γὰρ οὗτος ἐβούλετο νομίζεσθαι Θεός. Καὶ καλῶς εἶπε τὸ μυστήριον· οὐ γὰρ φανερῶς ὡς ἐκεῖνος, οὐδὲ ἀπηρυθριασμένως. Εἰ γὰρ πρὸ τοῦ χρόνου ἐκείνου ἀνευρέθη, φησίν, ὃς οὐ πολύ τοῦ Ἀντιχρίστου ἐλείπετο κατὰ τὴν κακίαν, τί θαυμαστόν, εἰ ἤδη ἔσται;

The common and grave error in the explanations of the Fathers, by means of which they run counter to the Pauline representation, consisted in their not doing sufficient justice to the point of nearness of the event predicted by Paul. It is incontestable, as the result of correct exegesis, that Paul not only considered Antichrist as directly preceding the advent, but also regarded the advent as so near, that he himself might then be alive. It was natural that the Fathers, as the prophecy of the apostle had not been fulfilled in their times, should disregard this point; but they held that in this prophecy a picture of the last things, fully corresponding to the reality in the future, must have been given. They therefore satisfied themselves with the consideration that the prediction had already begun to be fulfilled in the apostolic times, but that the apostle could not possibly give an exact statement of time, as he only says that Antichrist will be revealed in his appointed time.[53]

[53] Comp. Augustin, Epist. 80 (Ep. 199, ed. Bened.): … ita sane obscure sunt et mystice dicta, ut tamen appareat, eum nihil de statutis dixisse temporibus, nullumque eorum intervallum spatiumque aperuisse. Ait enim: ut reveletur in suo tempore, nec dixit, post quantum temporis hoc futurum sit.

The view of the Fathers remained in the following ages the prevalent one in the Christian church. It was necessary, however, partially to change and transform it, the relation of Christianity to the Roman state having altered, as the Christian church, instead of being exposed to renewed hostilities from the secular power, had obtained the sovereignty of the state, and, penetrating larger portions of the world, represented itself as the kingdom of God on earth, and an imposing hierarchy was placed at its head. Whilst, accordingly, the idea of the advent stepped more and more into the background in the church generally, and especially with the hierarchy, on the other hand, those who had placed themselves in opposition to the hierarchy believed themselves obliged to apply to it the description of the apostle, as well as the figures in the Apocalypse of St. John. Thus arose—whilst the early view concerning the παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου was held with only the modification that its entrance was to be expected in the distant future—the view, first in the eleventh century, that the establishment and growing power of the Papacy is to be considered as the Antichrist predicted by Paul. At first this view was expressed in the conflict between the emperors and the popes by the partisans of the imperial power; but was then repeated by all those who had placed themselves in opposition with the hierarchy, because they wished, instead of the rigid ecclesiastical power, a freer spirit of Christianity to rule; thus by the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and the followers of Wickliffe and Huss. The empire—which was regarded as nothing else than a revival and renewal of the old Roman Empire—was considered as the restraining power which still delayed the destruction of the Papacy.

This reference[54] of Antichrist to the papal hierarchy became specially prevalent toward the time of the Reformation, and after that event was almost regarded as a dogma in the evangelical church. It is found in Bugenhagen, Zwingli, Calvin, Victorin Strigel, Hemming, Hunnius, Lucius and Andrew Osiander, Camero, Balduin, Aretius, Er. Schmid, Beza, Quistorp, Calixt, Calovius, Newton, Wolf, Joachim Lange, Turretin, Benson, Bengel, Macknight, Zachariae, Michaelis, and others. Accordingly it is expressed in the Lutheran symbolical books; comp. Articul. Smalcald. II. 4 (ed. Meyer, p. 189 f.): Haec doctrina praeclare ostendit, papam esse ipsum verum Antichristum, qui supra et contra Christum sese extulit et evexit, quandoquidem Christianos non vult esse salvos sine sua potestate, quae tamen nihil est, et a deo nec ordinata nec mandata est. Hoc proprie loquendo est se efferre supra et contra deum, sicut Paulus 2 Thessalonians 2 loquitur.

De pot. et prim. pap. (p. 210): Constat autem, Romanos pontifices cum suis membris defendere impiam doctrinam et impios cultus. Ac plane notae Antichristi competunt in regnum papae et sua membra. Paulus enim ad Thessalonicenses describens Antichristum, vocat eum adversarium Christi, extollentem se super omne, quod dicitur aut colitur deus, sedentem in templo dei tanquam deum. Also Luther’s powerful treatise against the papal bull bore the title: “Adversus exsecrabilem bullam Antichristi.” It was thought that the Papacy would go on more and more developing what was anti-Christian in it, and that then the last judgment would overtake it. The ἀποστασία was the falling away from the pure gospel to the traditions of men. The singular Ὁ ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟς Τῆς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς Κ.Τ.Λ. is to be understood collectively as a series et successio hominum, inasmuch as the question is concerning an imperium monarchicum which remains one and the same, although its temporal head may be changed. The godlessness of Antichrist, described in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, is historically proved by the pope placing himself above all human and divine authority, the words πάντα λεγόμενον Θεὸν κ.τ.λ., in accordance to biblical usage, being referred to the princes and great men of the world, and an allusion being discovered in ΣΈΒΑΣΜΑ to the Roman imperial title ΣΕΒΑΣΤΌς. The objection, that there have been pious popes, is removed by the proverb: “a potiori fit denominatio.ναὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ is referred to the Christian church, and the ΚΑΘΊΣΑΙ to the tyrannical power usurped over it. By ΤῸ ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝ is nearly universally understood the Roman Empire, and by Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ the Roman emperor, for which proof is deduced from history, that the papal power sprang from the ruins of the Roman Empire, whilst in reference to the continuation of the empire in Germany, it is observed that praeter titulum nihil fere remains. The declaration τὸ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, is considered as justified by the fact that at least the semina erroris et ambitionis, which paved the way for the Papacy, were present in the time of the apostle; for which Camero appeals to Galatians 1, 2, and others to other proofs. For an enumeration of τέρατα ψεύδους, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, relics, transubstantiation, purgatory, etc., afford rich material. The annihilation of Antichrist by the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ΤΟῦ ΣΤΌΜΑΤΟς of the Lord, is understood to denote the annihilation of his importance in the minds of men by the divine word of Scripture being again opened up and diffused in its purity by means of the Reformation; whilst the ΚΑΤΑΡΓΉΣΕΙ Τῇ ἘΠΙΦΑΝΕΊᾼ Τῆς ΠΑΡΟΥΣΊΑς ΑὐΤΟῦ denotes the final and material destruction of Antichrist by the coming of Christ to judgment.

[54] See against this view, Koppe, Excurs. II. p. 120 ff.

In the presence of such polemics used against them, the Catholics are certainly not to be blamed that in retaliation they interpreted ἀποστασία as the defection from the Roman church and from the pope, and Antichrist as the heretics, especially Luther and the evangelical church. Comp. Estius, Fromond., Bern. a Piconio.

Yet even before the reference of Antichrist to Popery was maintained, Mohammed[55] was already regarded by the divines of the Greek church (latterly by Faber Stapulensis and others) as the Antichrist predicted by Paul, and in the ἈΠΟΣΤΑΣΊΑ was seen the defection of several Oriental and Greek churches from Christianity to Mohammedanism. This interpretation at least so far exercised an influence on the evangelical church, that some of its theologians have assumed a double Antichrist—one Oriental, viz. Mohammed and the Turkish power, and the other Western, viz. the pope and his power. So Melancthon, Bucer, Musculus, Bullinger, Piscator, and Vorstius.

[55] See against this view, Turretin, p. 515 ff.

Related to this whole method of interpretation is the assumption,[56] made in our own century, that by the apostasy is to be understood the enormities of the French Revolution; by Antichrist, Napoleon; and by him that restraineth, the continuation of the German Empire—an interpretation which the extinction of the German Empire in 1806 has already condemned.

[56] See Leutwein, das Thier war und ist nicht, und wird wiederkommen aus dem Abgrunde. Eine Abhandlung für nachdenkende Leser, Ludwigsb. 1825.

In recent times it has often been considered as objectionable to determine exactly the individual traits of the imagery used by Paul. Accordingly the representation of the apostle has been interpreted in a general, ideal, or symbolical sense. To this class of interpreters belongs Koppe, according to whom Paul, founding on an old national Jewish oracle, supported especially by Daniel, would describe the ungodliness preceding the last day, which already worked, but whose full outbreak was only to take place after the death of the apostle; so that Paul himself was the κατέχων.[57] Similarly Storr (l.c.), who understands by the ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας “potestas aliqua, deo omnique religioni adversaria, quae penitus incognita et futuro demum tempore se proditura sit,” and by the preventing power the “copia hominum verissimo amore inflammatorum in christianam religionem.”

Further, Nitzsch (l.c.) thinks on the power of atheism first come to have public authority, or the contempt of all religion generally. Further, the opinion of Pelt is entirely peculiar, who in His Commentary, p. 204,[58] sums up his views in the following words: “Mihi … adversarius illi principium esse videtur sive vis spiritualis evangelio contraria, quae huc usque tamen in Pontificiorum Romanorum operibus ac serie luculentissime sese prodidit, ita tamen, ut omnia etiam mala, quae in ecclesia compareant, ad eandem Antichristi ἐνέργειαν sint referenda. Ejus vero ΠΑΡΟΥΣΊΑ i. e. summum fastigium, quod Christi reditum qui nihil aliud est, nisi regni divini victoria,[59] antecedet, futurum adhuc esse videtur, quum illud tempus procul etiamnum abesse putemus, ubi omnes terrae incolae in eo erunt, ut ad Christi sacra transeant. Κατέχον vero cum Theodoreto putarim esse dei voluntatem illud Satanae regnum cohibentem, ne erumpat, et, si mediae spectantur causae, apostolorum tempore maxime imperii Romani vis, et quovis aevo illa resistentia, quam malis artibus, quae religionem subvertere student, privati commodi et honoris augendorum cupiditas opponere solet.” Pelt thinks that the symptoms of the future corruption of the Christian church were already present in the apostolic age in the danger of falling away from Christian freedom into Jewish legalism, in the mingling of heathenism with Christianity, in the false gnosis and asceticism, in the worship of angels, and in the fastus a religione Christiana omnino alienus. To the same class belongs Olshausen,[60] who considers the Pauline description only as a typical representation of future events. According to him, the chief stress lies on ΤῸ ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ ἬΔΗ ἘΝΕΡΓΕῖΤΑΙ Τῆς ἈΝΟΜΊΑς. Antichrist is a union of the individuality and spiritual tendency in masses of individuals. The revolt of the Jews from the Romans, and the fearful divine punishment in the destruction of Jerusalem, Nero, Mohammed and his spiritual devastating power, the development of the Papacy in the Middle Ages, the French Revolution of 1789, with the abrogation of Christianity, and the setting up of prostitutes on altars for worship, in the external world, as well as the constantly spreading denial of the fundamentals of all religious truth and morality, of the doctrines of God, freedom, and immortality, and likewise the self-deification of the ego in the internal world,—all these phenomena are the real precursors of Antichrist; but they contain only some of his characteristics, not all; it is the union of all these characteristics which shall make the full Antichrist. The preventing power is to be understood of the preponderance of the Christian world in its German and Roman constituents over the earth; i.e. of the whole political condition of order, with which, on the one hand, there is the constant repression of all ἀποστασία and ἈΝΟΜΊΑ, and on the other hand, the continued and peaceful development of Christianity. Of this condition the Roman Empire, as the strongest and most orderly secular organization which history knows, is the natural type. Baumgarten-Crusius is also here to be named. According to him, the Pauline prediction contains no new teachings peculiar to the apostle, but only representations from the old Messianic pictures in the prophets, especially in Daniel. The apostle’s design is practical, to make the Thessalonians calmly observant, attentive to the times, prepared and strong for the future; the passage has a permanent value in this reference, and in the chief thought that the development and determination of these things can only gradually take place. The passage is indeed historical and for the near future, but Paul has no definite or personal manifestations, whether present or future, in view, at least not in ἈΝΤΙΚΕΊΜΕΝΟς, which he describes as still entirely concealed; and it is even doubtful whether he understood by it an individual person. Only ΤῸ ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝ has a definite reference, but not to a person; on the contrary, the new spirit of Christianity is meant. The difference in gender, Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ and ΤῸ ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝ, is used either only to correspond with ἈΝΤΙΚΕΊΜΕΝΟς, or Paul thinks on ΧΡΙΣΤῸς ἘΝ ΑὐΤΟῖς, Colossians 1:27! Lastly, to the same class belong Bloomfield and Alford.[61] According to the former, the μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας is something still continuing; the prediction of the apostle will obtain its complete fulfilment only at the end of time, when only then the preventing power—which is most probably to be understood, with Theodoret, of the council of divine Providence—will be removed. According to the latter (see Proleg. p. 67 ff.), we stand, though 1800 years later, with regard to the ἀνομός where the apostle stood; the day of the Lord not present, and not to arrive until the man of sin be manifested; the ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ Τῆς ἈΝΟΜΊΑς still working, and much advanced in his working; the preventing power not yet taken out of the way. All this points to a state in which the ἈΝΟΜΊΑ is working on underground, under the surface of things, gaining an expansion and power, although still hidden and unconcentrated. It has already partially embodied itself in Popery, in Nero and every Christian persecutor, in Mohammed and Napoleon, in Mormonism, and such like. The ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝ and the ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ are to be understood of the fabric of human polity and those who rule that polity, by which hitherto all outbursts of godlessness have been suppressed and hindered in their course and devastations.

[57] To prove this view of the κατέχων by Koppe as the correct one by a closer exposition, is the object of the above-mentioned treatise of Beyer (on 2 Thessalonians 2:7). Also Heydenreich, Schott, and Grimm (Stud. u. Krit. 1850, Part 4, p. 790 ff.) so far agree with Koppe, that they understand the neuter as the multitude of the truly pious and believers (Heydenreich), or as the veri religionis doctores (Schott), or as the apostolorum chorus (Grimm). For the removal of the objection, that Paul hoped to survive the advent, and that accordingly ἐκ μέσου γίνεσθαι would be unsuitable, Schott and Grimm consider it probable that by this expression we are to think not on death, but on “alia res externa, e.g. captivitas dura.” Akin to this interpretation of the κατέχων is Wieseler’s view (Chronologie des apost. Zeitalt., Götting. 1848, p. 272 f.), that Paul would denote with it the pious in Jerusalem, particularly the Christians, or in case κατέχων necessarily denoted an individual, the Apostle James the Just. Comp. also Böhme, de spe messiana apostolica, Hal. 1826, p. 30, according to whom the apostolic circle are denoted in general, and in particular the most prominent member, perhaps the Apostle James. Hofmann judges differently upon τὸ κατέχον and ὁ κατέχων, Schriflbeweis, Part 1, 2d ed. Nördling. 1857, p. 352 f., and in his h. Schr. N.T., Part 1, p. 318 ff., with whom Baumgarten, l.c. p. 609, Luthardt, l.c. p. 159 f., and Riggenbach coincide. According to Hofmann, as throughout the whole passage 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7 Paul refers apparently to the visions of Daniel, he must have spoken to the Thessalonians of that which hinders the man of sin from coming sooner than his proper time with reference to these prophecies of Daniel. Therefore, in agreement with Daniel, a spiritual power is to be thought of which rules in the secular world and in the various governments in agreement with the divine will, and opposes the influences of the spirit of nations and kingdoms working contrary to the divine will. This power may be designated both as neuter and as masculine, as κυριότης and as κύριος, and the words μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μἑσου γένηται· καὶ τότε ἀποκαλυφθήσεται ὁ ἄνομος are sufficiently similar to those of Daniel: וַאֲנִי יוֹצֵא וְהִנֵּה שַׂר־יָוָן בָּא (Daniel 10:20), in order to be recognised as a transfer of the same to those last times when the spiritual power which now preserves the earthly commonwealth in agreement with the kingdom of God entirely recedes, in order that every form of secular power may enter which will allow no more place for the church of God on earth. Still differently, Ewald, Jahrb. der bibl. Wissenschaft, Jahr. 3, Gött. 1851, p. 250 f. (comp. Sendschreiben des Ap. Paulus, Gött. 1857, p. 27): “We have here a mystery before us which in the early apostolic times only believers loved to talk over and to diffuse among themselves, so that Paul may have been unwilling to speak openly upon it. The appearance of Antichrist was expected according to Matthew 24:15 (?), and Paul here describes it, only more openly and freely than it is there indicated in the prophecy of Christ; but an opinion must have been formed in the bosom of the mother church at Jerusalem why Antichrist had not as yet appeared, which was imparted only to believers. We may, however, pretty nearly guess what it was from other signs. If we reflect that, according to Revelation 11:3 ff., Antichrist was not to be considered as coming until the two martyrs of the old covenant had appeared, and their destruction was the true beginning of his extreme rage; further, that instead of these two assumed martyrs, it was also, or rather originally, still more commonly supposed that only Elijah must return before Christ, and accordingly also before Antichrist. Elijah’s return is not actually denied in that passage, where this expectation is treated of in the freest manner (Matthew 17:11 f., comp. Matthew 11:13 f.), so it is most probable that by that which hindereth the appearance of Antichrist the coming of Elijah is meant (Sendschr. des Ap. Paulus, p. 27: the tarrying of Elijah in heaven); and by him who hitherto hindered, and who must be taken out of the way before the last atrocious wickedness of Antichrist, is meant Eljiah himself.” Still otherwise Noack (Der Ursprung des Christenthums, vol. II., Leipz. 1857, p. 313 ff.), who by him that hindereth—arbitrarily identifying the same with the man of sin—understands Simon Magus and his machinations. Still differently Jowett, according to whom (after the suggestion of Ewald, Jahrb. X., Gött. 1860, p. 235) τὸ κατέχον is designed to indicate the Mosaic law.

[58] In only an unessentially modified form Pelt has latterly maintained the same view in the Theolog. Mitarbeiten. Jahrg. 4, Kiel 1841, H. 2, p. 114 ff.

[59] Comp. Pelt, p. 185: … “tenentes, illum Christi adventum a Paulo non visibilem habitum.”

[60] Bisping follows him in all essential points.

[61] Comp. also Düsterdieck, die drei johanneischen Briefe, Bd. I., Gött. 1852, p. 306: “John, as Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), in conformity to the instruction of the Lord, recognises in the powerful errors of the present the signs of an approaching decision. The last hour is present, the advent is at hand. The last hour is the concluding period of αἰὼν οὗτος, the period of travail, which continues in an unbroken connection from its commencement, the destruction of Jerusalem, even to the end, to which the advent directly succeeds.” John has not erred in that he soon expected the real commencement of the crisis, continually carried on throughout the whole historical development of the kingdom of Christ; for that generation, as our Lord had predicted, survived the destruction of the holy city, an event of whose importance in the history and judgment of the world there can be no doubt. Moreover, in reference to 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες κ.τ.λ.), Düsterdieck (l.c. p. 308) recognises that there Paul has shortened the chronological perspective too much; but then he thinks, referring to 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ff. and Romans 11:25 ff., that this is an imperfection which was gradually overcome in the apostle by the moral development of his life in God, and that it was changed for the real truth. But it is assumed, without right, that an entirely different view of things lies at the foundation of the section 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 than of the section 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff., as the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written only a few months after the First; and besides, 2 Thessalonians 2:5 points to the agreement of the written explanations there given with the oral instructions to the Thessalonians given even previously to the First Epistle. Further on, Düsterdieck (p. 330) concedes that because Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff. has abbreviated the interval to the advent, he was also in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ff. constrained to represent the personal appearance of the opponent incorrectly in point of chronology.

It is evident that all these explanations are arbitrary. The Pauline description is so definitely and sharply marked, and has for its whole compass so much the idea of nearness for its supposition, that it can by no means be taken generally, and in this manner explained away.

II. Others have regarded the apocalyptic instruction of the apostle as a prophecy already fulfilled. Thus Grotius, Wetstein, Hammond, Clericus, Whitby, Schoettgen, Noesselt, Krause, and Harduin.[62] The reference of the παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου to the coming of the Lord in judgment at the destruction of Jerusalem, is common to all these writers. In reference to the other chief points of the Pauline representation they differ as follows:—

[62] What is necessary to be said on Kern’s view has already been observed in the Introduction, sec. 3. Döllinger (l.c.), who like Kern understands by Antichrist Nero, thinks, however, that with this assumption the authenticity of the Epistle, and even its composition in the year 53, are perfectly reconcilable. According to Döllinger, the prophecy in all its essentials was fulfilled close upon the apostle’s days, although a partial fulfilment at the end of time is not excluded by this assumption. Already Paul has recognised the youthful Nero as the future Antichrist, whose public appearance was already prepared, but was yet prevented by Claudius as the then possessor of the imperial throne. The coming of Christ is His coming to execute judgment on Jerusalem. Nero, although he personally undertook nothing against the temple of Jerusalem, yet entrusted Vespasian with the guidance of the war, and accordingly brought—certainly only after his death—the abomination of desolation into the holy city. Lastly, the apostasy is the being led astray into the false doctrines of the Gnostics.

Grotius[63] understands by Antichrist the Emperor Caius Caligula, notorious for his ungodliness, who, according to Suetonius, Caligul. xxii. 33, ordered universal supplication to himself as the supreme God, and according to Joseph. Antiq. xviii. 8, and Philo, legat. ad Caj. p. 1022, wished to set up his colossal statue in the temple of Jerusalem; by the κατέχων, L. Vitellius, the proconsul of Syria and Judea, who dissuaded from the erection of the statue; and by the ἄνομος, Simon Magus.

This opinion is sufficiently contradicted, partly by the impossibility of distinguishing the ἄνομος from ἌΝΘΡΩΠΟς Τῆς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς as a separate person, and partly by its incongruity with the period of the composition of the Epistle. See sec. 2 of the Introduction.

[63] See against him, Turretin, p. 483 ff.

According to Wetstein, the ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας is Titus, whose army, according to Joseph. de bello Jud. vi. 6. 1, brought idols into the captured temple of Jerusalem, sacrificed there, and saluted Titus as imperator. The κατέχων is Nero, whose death must precede the rule of Titus; and the ἀποστασία is the rebellion and murder of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. But how can Titus, the ornament of the Roman emperors, pass for Antichrist; and Nero, that monster in human form, the power which hinders the outburst of Antichrist?

Hammond[64] understands by the man of sin Simon Magus and the Gnostics, whose head he was. The ἐπισυναγωγὴ ἐπʼ αὐτόν, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, is the “major libertas coeundi in ecclesiasticos coetus ad colendum Christum;” the ἈΠΟΣΤΑΣΊΑ is the falling away of Christians to the Gnostics (1 Timothy 4:1); ἈΠΟΚΑΛΥΦΘῆΝΑΙ denotes the casting off the mask of Christianity; 2 Thessalonians 2:4 refers to the fact that Simon Magus “se dictitaret summum patrem omnium rerum, et qui ipsum Judaeorum deum creaverat.” ΤῸ ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝ is the circumstance that the apostles and orthodox Christians still preserved union with the Jews, and had not yet turned themselves to the Gentiles. The neuter ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝ and the masculine ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ are equivalent; or if a distinction is to be maintained, Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ must be regarded as the same as Ὁ ΝΌΜΟς. The ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ Τῆς ἈΝΟΜΊΑς is the “duplicis generis scelera horum hominum, libidines nefariae et odium in Christianos.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8 refers to the contest of Peter and Paul with Simon Magus in Rome, which ended in the death of the latter.2 Thessalonians 2:12. Like the prophet John half a century later (John 13:2 f.), Paul distinguishes his anti-Christ or antitheistic hero from the Satan whose campaign he executes; but, unlike John, the apostle has nothing to say about the fate of Satan. The tools and the victims of Satan are destroyed, and they alone.—εὐδοκ. not with ἐν as usual, but with the less common (cf. e.g., 1Ma 1:43, καὶ πολλοὶ ἀπὸ Ἰσραὴλ ηὐδόκησαν τῇ λατρίᾳ αὐτοῦ) dative. “And the greater number of those who shall have been associated together in order to receive the Beloved he [i.e., Beliar] will turn aside after him” (Asc. Isa., iv. 9).12. that they all might be damned who believed not the truth] that they may be judged is what the Apostle says.

Here is the further, judicial purpose of the great imposture. God intends that men who are so disposed should “believe the lie,” so that their false belief may be a touchstone and demonstration of their falseness. Men without love of truth naturally believe the lie when it comes; there is nothing else for them. And this is a terrible judgement upon them. As Christ came at first “for judgement into this world” (John 9:39, &c.), by His presence discriminating the lovers of truth and falsehood, so it will be with Antichrist at his coming. He will attract his like; and this attraction will be the exposure of their hatred of the truth. Comp. Romans 2:8 : “To those who obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness … wrath and indignation.”

This is not yet the Last Judgement, and it is possible that some under this retribution may yet repent, seeing how shameful is the delusion into which they have fallen by rejecting Christ.

all (probably all together, in the Greek) marks the universal range of this judgement; the delusion takes effect everywhere; it will be the one thing in which the enemies of Christ agree, and it furnishes a decisive test of their character. Comp. “the mark of the Wild Beast” in Revelation 13:3; Revelation 13:16 : “The whole earth wondered after the beast … All that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

That they had pleasure in unrighteousnes explains the readiness of these unhappy men to accept the “deceit of unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). They are credulous of that which falls in with their evil inclination. Wicked men are the dupes of wickedness. Comp. Romans 1:32, where the fact that men not only do the vilest things, but “take pleasure in those who do them,” adds the finishing touch to the Apostle’s black picture. Such an one does wrong not through force of passion or example or habit, but out of sheer delight in wrong. “The light that is in him has become darkness.” He says with Milton’s Satan,

“Farewell remorse, all good to me is lost;

Evil be thou my good!”

Men of this type will welcome eagerly the reign of Antichrist. But their triumph will prove shortlived.2 Thessalonians 2:12. [20] Πάντες, all) That error then is to exhibit extensive, long-continued, and violent prevalence.

[20] Εἰς τὸ, that) Endeavour therefore with all your might to believe the truth.—V. g.Verse 12. - That; in order that. The statement of purpose depending, not upon "that they should believe a lie," but upon "God sends them a strong delusion" - denoting a still more remote purpose of God. God, as the moral Ruler of the universe, will pronounce sentence of condemnation against them, this sentence being the necessary result of their receiving not the love of the truth. Its reception would have been the cause of their salvation; its rejection results in their condemnation. They all might be damned; or rather, judged (R.V.). The verb employed does not here, or elsewhere, express the idea of condemnation, though this is implied by the context. Who believed not the truth; namely, the Christian truth; their unbelief of it was the consequence of their want of love of the truth, and was the cause of their being judged. But had pleasure in unrighteousness. Their delight in unrighteousness was wholly incompatible with their belief in the truth; their want of faith arose, not from any defect in their understanding, but from the perversion of their moral nature. Here the description of the man of sin concludes, and hence the second division of the Epistle closes. The succeeding verses should have been attached to a new paragraph, being the commencement of the third or hortatory portion of the Epistle. Might be damned (κριθῶσιν)

More correctly, judged. See on damnation, 1 Timothy 5:12.

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