2 Thessalonians 2:3
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
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(3) Let no man . . . by any means.—“Whatever device they may adopt—spirit, letter, or what not—they are deceivers or deceived; do not be duped by them.” The form of warning is a mark of St. Paul’s style. (Comp. 1Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:6)

For . . . except.—The words between are rightly supplied in our version. Probably, St. Paul’s first intention was to turn 2Thessalonians 2:5 differently, as, for instance:” For, except that Man of Sin, &c, ye remember that I told you the day would not come.” The length of the sentence made him break off (as he often does) without regard for grammatical completeness.

A falling away.—A great change in the purpose of the sentence will be felt directly “the” is substituted for “a.” Only one insignificant MS. omits the definite article; the same article in our version is vigorously rendered “that” before “man of sin.” In both cases the purpose is by no means to utter a new, strange prophecy, or to add to the knowledge of the readers, but to remind them of careful teaching given during the first few weeks after their conversion. “That falling away” must undoubtedly imply that the persons so apostatising had formerly held (or, perhaps, still professed to hold) the Christian faith: men cannot fall from ground which they never occupied. This vast and dreadful Apostasy (see Luke 18:8), so clearly and prominently taught of to the ancient Church, and so mysterious to us, is further defined by the following words, as the Apocalypse or Manifestation of the Man of Sin. Of this revelation of Antichrist the same word (apocalypsis) is used which is often used of Christ, as, e.g., 2Thessalonians 1:7; Luke 17:30; and thrice in St. Peter; so that we may expect to recognise him when he comes as clearly as we shall recognise Christ. The conception of the Antichrist is not merely that of an opponent of the Christ, but of a rival Christ: there is a hideous parallelism between the two.

That man of sin.—It is not absolutely certain from the Greek, but the context makes it tolerably clear that the “Man of Sin” is the head and centre of the Apostasy itself, and does not form a separate movement from it. The “Man of Sin,” then, will have at one time formed (or will still profess to form) part of the Christian Church, and the Apostasy will culminate in him. Thus, for instance, the requirements of the passage would not be fulfilled by (with Hammond) interpreting the Apostasy to mean the early Gnostic movement, followed up by the independent appearance of Nero as the Man of Sin. The phrase, “the Man of Sin,” might, perhaps, be only a poetical personification of a movement, or of a class of men, or of a succession of men (as, e.g., Psalm 89:22; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 17:3); but the analogy of the parallel passages in Daniel 8, 11 leads rather to the supposition that St. Paul looked for the coming of some actual individual man who should be the impersonation of the movement of Apostasy. The genitive (see Note on 1Thessalonians 1:3) is like a forcible epithet:” A man so wicked that, bad as other men are, wickedness should be his mark by which he is distinguished from all others; a man who belongs to sin, in whom the ideal of sin has become realised and incarnate.” What kind of sin will be most prominent in him is not expressed in the word itself; but the context points clearly to that which is, in fact, the crowning sin—spiritual pride and rebellious arrogancy (Ephesians 6:12).

The son of perdition.—The phrase which is used, in John 17:12, of the false Apostle; it suits well with the description of the Man of Sin, who, like Judas, will have “fallen away” from high Christian privileges: according to one popular interpretation, like Judas, from the privileges of the Apostolate itself. The expression signifies one who belongs by natural ties to perdition—who from his very birth chooses evil, and in such a sense may be said to be born to be lost (Matthew 26:24; 2Peter 2:12). Both his malignity and his doom are thus implied in it.


IN order to deal fairly with this difficult passage, it will be necessary sternly to exclude from our view all other passages of the New Testament which speak of a final manifestation of evil, and, reviewing the words simply as they stand, to consider what St. Paul himself meant when he so assiduously (2Thessalonians 2:5, Note) taught the Thessalonian Church on the subject, and what the Thessalonian Church was likely to gather from his Letter. For though such a passage as Hebrews 6:2 shows that the whole Apostolic Church was definitely at one in the eschatological instruction given to its converts at a very early stage of their Christian life; and though the language of 1Timothy 4:1; James 5:3-7; 2Peter 3:1-2; 1John 2:18; 1John 4:3; Jude 1:17 (not to mention the Apocalypse)—passages representing the most different schools of thought in the early Church—fully bring out this agreement, so that Christians may fairly use those passages to explain each other, yet, on the other hand, we need to put ourselves in the position of the young Church of Thessalonica, which was expected by St. Paul to make out the significant hints of his Letter with no other help than the recollection of his oral teaching and the observation of events. We, therefore, ought to be able in like manner to catch the same significant hints by a like knowledge of the then history of the world, and of the sources from which St. Paul was likely to draw his doctrine of the “Last Things.”

I. Sources of the Apostolic Doctrine of the Last Things.—The prophecy of St. Paul does not appear to be—at least, exclusively—the result of a direct internal revelation of the Spirit. Such direct revelations were, when necessary, made to him, and we have seen him claim that kind of inspiration in 1Thessalonians 4:15. But God’s ordinary way of making prophets seems to be different. He gives to those who are willing to see an extraordinary insight into the things which lie before the most ordinary eyes; He throws light upon the meaning of occurrences, or of words, which are familiar to every one externally (see Maurice’s Prophets and Kings, pp. 141-145). Even for doctrines like those of the true divinity or the true humanity of our Lord, or of the indwelling of the Spirit, or the Church’s mission, the Apostles do not rest solely on direct revelation made to their own consciences, but rather dwell on the significance of historical facts (e.g., Romans 1:4; 2Peter 1:17), or, still more frequently and strongly, on the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures (e.g., Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 2:12-13; 2Peter 1:19). If, therefore, we can find material in the Old Testament which, taken in conjunction with our Lord’s own words, could have supplied St. Paul—or rather, the catholic consent of the early Church—with the doctrine of the Last Things as we find it stated in the apostolic writings, we shall be justified in using those Old Testament materials in the explanation of the New.

II. The Book of Daniel.—Such materials we find, not only in the general threatenings of Joel, Zechariah (Zechariah 14.), and Malachi, but most clear and definite in the Book of Daniel. Into the question of the date of that book it is not necessary here to inquire. It suffices for the present purpose to know that it was much older than St. Paul’s time, and was accepted as prophetic in the ordinary sense. In fact, there was, probably, no other book of the Old Testament which received so much attention among the Jews in the apostolic age (Westcott, in Smith’s Dict. Bible, Art. “Daniel”). It was regarded with full reverence as an inspired revelation; and our Lord Himself (according to Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14) either drew from it (humanly speaking) His own doctrine of the Last Things, or at least used it emphatically for His disciples’ benefit as a corroboration. The taste for apocalyptic literature was at this time very strong, and the prophecies of Daniel attracted especial attention, inasmuch as the simplest interpretation of some of the most explicit of them pointed unmistakably to the time then present. Tacitus (Hist. v. 13) and Suetonius (Vesp. chap. 4), as is well known, speak of the certainty felt through the whole East, about that time, that universal empire was on the point of passing into the hands of men of Jewish origin. This belief, says Tacitus, was “contained in the ancient literature of the priests”—i.e., in the Scriptures, kept and expounded by them; and there can be no doubt that first and foremost of those Scriptures (for this purpose) stood the Book of Daniel. For every reason, then, we may well try to find what a believing Jew of the apostolic age would make out of the visions of Daniel, in order to throw light on this passage of St. Paul.

III. The Five Monarchies.—Now, in the Book of Daniel there are four main predictions of what was then the future history of the world. These predictions are contained in Daniel 2, 7, 8, 11. The first two visions, vouchsafed to Nebuchadnezzar and to Daniel respectively, both describe Five Monarchies, which were successively to arise and flourish in the world. Amidst a good deal which is matter of controversy, three facts remain agreed upon by all: first, that the Five Monarchies of the one vision are intended to correspond to the Five Monarchies of the other, each to each; secondly, that the earliest of these five represents the Babylonian empire, then standing, with Nebuchadnezzar at its head; thirdly, that the last of the series portrays the establishment of the Theocracy in its full development—that is, the “Kingdom of God” (which had been the main subject of St. Paul’s preaching at Thessalonica), or the visible government of the world by the Christ.

IV. The Fourth Monarchy.—But the question which most directly concerns us now is how to identify the Fourth of these monarchies. In Nebuchadnezzar’s vision it was to be “in the days of these kings”—i.e., the kings of the Fourth Monarchy, while the Fourth Monarchy was still standing—that the Kingdom of Heaven was to come (Daniel 2:44). In Daniel’s vision this Fourth Monarchy (or rather, its continuation and development) was to exist side by side with the saints of the Most High, and between them and one outgrowth of the Fourth Monarchy a struggle was to take place before the final establishment of the Kingdom of the Saints (Daniel 7:25). What, then, was this Fourth Monarchy intended by the Seer (or by “the Spirit of the Christ,” 1Peter 1:11) to represent? Or, to be still more practical, What was in St. Paul’s own day, among his own countrymen, the received interpretation of this part of Daniel’s prophecy? The question is not hard to answer. With irrefragable clearness Dr. Pusey has proved, in the second of his Lectures on Daniel the Prophet, the plausibility and minuteness with which the words concerning the Second and Third Monarchies may respectively be applied to the Medo-Persian and the Macedonian empires; and if even this point be established, there can be no hesitation in naming the Fourth. It can only be the empire of Rome. But Dr. Pusey shows, with the same force, how applicable the description itself is to the Roman empire. Whether, however, this interpretation has any ground in the original intention of the Prophet, or of Him who, we believe, spoke by him, is for our present purpose a matter of secondary importance. We have already mentioned an unimpeachable piece of evidence furnished by two great Roman historians. It was in their days a “long-established and uniform belief,” entertained not in Judæa only, but “in the whole of the East,” and drawn from the Jewish literature, that a great Jewish empire was destined to appear. But that is not all. Such a belief might have been drawn from Numbers or Isaiah. But Suetonius adds, Eo tempore, “at that time;” Tacitus adds, Eo ipso tempore, “at that very time.” From what Jewish literature could the date have been made out, except from the calculation of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel? And as the same prophecy spoke of a world-wide empire, in the days of whose kings this new Jewish power was to arise, that same “long-established and uniform belief” must have recognised in the Roman empire the Fourth Monarchy which was to be shattered by it. Hence, doubtless, the hopefulness, with which insurgent leaders one after another rose in rebellion against the Roman arms. It was not only that they themselves were the Lord’s own people. Was not this vast system, “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,” definitely doomed in Scripture to utter extinction before their arms? But we have, besides, a less indirect testimony than the foregoing. The Jew Josephus (Ant. x. 11, § 7) speaks at length of the prophecies of Daniel, and how he himself was watching their gradual verification. After mentioning the prophecy about Antiochus Epiphanes and its complete fulfilment, he adds:” In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the empire of the Romans, and that our country should be made desolate by them.” He then passes on to speak of the comfort afforded by seeing so plainly the Providence of God, with true Jewish irony not disclosing that his comfort lay in the promised revenge upon Rome as well as upon Antiochus. In another place (Ant. x. 10, § 4) he is recording the vision in the second chapter of Daniel, and after describing the universal dominion of the Iron Kingdom, he proceeds:” Daniel also declared the meaning of the Stone to the king, but this I do not think proper to relate, as I have undertaken to describe things past and present, not things that are future. Yet if any one be so very desirous of knowing truth as not to waive such curious points, and cannot refrain his desire to understand the uncertain future, and whether or no it will come to pass, let him give heed to read the Book of Daniel, which he will find among the Holy Scriptures.” No doubt can be entertained that this writer understood the Fourth Monarchy to be the Roman empire, and did not wish to be suspected of encouraging sedition by speaking openly of its predicted downfall. This, then, was the common interpretation which St. Paul must have learned from a child: that Daniel’s Fourth Monarchy, which was to break up before the Kingdom of God, was the Roman empire.

V. The Fifth Monarchy.—We may then assume that St. Paul believed Daniel to foretell the coming of the Kingdom of God in the days of the kings of the Roman empire. In one sense, indeed, the prophecy was already fulfilled. The Kingdom was already come. Heralded by the Baptist (Matthew 3:2, et seq.), and expounded by our Lord (Matthew 9:35, et seq.), it had been established by the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Mission of the Holy Ghost, while the Roman empire actually stood (Psalms 2; comp. Acts 4:25; Acts 5:31; Acts 13:33). St. John regards the world as already virtually subdued in his own lifetime (1John 5:4, Note). But the Church as at present constituted does not answer completely to Daniel’s prophecy of the Kingdom of the Saints. To the Christian there are two comings of the Kingdom, not only one. In the Prophets the two are fused into one. We may almost say the same of the words of Christ Himself. Even the apostolic writers do not separate the two so sharply as God has historically taught subsequent ages of the Church to separate them. The early Church lived in a daily expectation of the return of Christ. For them, therefore, there was no difficulty in interpreting Daniel’s prophecies as applying at the same moment to the First and Second Advent. It would not be unfair, therefore, to assume that St. Paul expected the Second Advent to take place, as the First had done, “in the days of these kings” of the Fourth or Roman Monarchy.

VI. What withholdeth.—Turning now to the statement of St. Paul, we see that he is cautioning the Thessalonians not to expect the Second Coming of Christ immediately, because, as they can see, a certain great power is still in the world, which (as they have been carefully taught) must be removed before the way for Christ’s return is open. This great power—with the aspect of which his readers are perfectly familiar, though they may have forgotten its significance (“Ye know that which withholdeth”)—is summed up in a person who wields it. This person is “he which with holdeth.” His removal “out of the midst” is still a matter of futurity, yet assuredly destined to take place; and the date, though unknown to men, is fixed. The great opponent, who cannot develop so long as “he that with holdeth” remains, is to be revealed “in his time”—i.e., at the time which Divine Providence has assigned to him. It seems impossible to doubt that this great opponent is the same as the “Little Horn” of Daniel (whose “time” is very definitely marked out in Daniel 7:25), and that the power which withholds his development is the Fourth Monarchy of Daniel, and, therefore, the Roman empire. A few considerations will make the latter point clearer:—

(1) There was only one power in the world at that time, represented by a single person, in “the midst,” before all eyes, of sufficient importance to restrain the development of Antichrist. It was the Roman empire and the Roman emperor.

(2) The word rendered “withholdeth,” or “letteth,” does not necessarily imply that the obstruction actively, consciously, or designedly obstructs the way. His presence in the midst is quite sufficient for the requirements of the word. Indeed, it would, perhaps, not be necessary that Antichrist’s delay should even be directly caused by the obstruction; St. Paul might only mean that in prophecy the one thing was destined to come first, and that, therefore, so long as the first thing existed, it (in a manner) kept the second back. Now if Antichrist be the Little Horn of Daniel, and the obstruction the Fourth Monarchy, we get exactly what we want; for (unless the prophecy is to be falsified) before the Little Horn can spring up the Fourth Monarchy must have so totally changed its appearance as to have passed into ten simultaneous kingdoms: therefore, so long as the solid empire stood it was a sign that Antichrist must wait.

(3) Notice the extreme reserve with which St. Paul begins to speak on the subject. He does not teach, but prefers appealing to their memory of words already spoken: “Remember ye not?” His clauses become intricate and ungrammatical—in strange contrast with the simple structure which characterises these two Epistles. He names nothing, only hints. Nor can we account for this sudden ambiguity by saying that St. Paul is adopting the prophetic style; for his purpose is entirely practical, and he wishes not to awe his readers, but to recall to them plain facts which they knew and ignored. Now recollect the similar reticence of Josephus in speaking of the destiny of the Roman empire when it comes in contact with the Messianic Kingdom, and it will be felt almost impossible to doubt the truth of St. Chrysostoin’s shrewd observations: “A man may naturally seek to know what ‘that which letteth’ is; and after that, what possible reason St. Paul had for putting it so indistinctly. What, then, is ‘that which letteth’—i.e., hindereth—him from being revealed? Some say the grace of the Spirit, others the Roman empire. Among the latter I class myself. Why so? Because, had he meant to say the Spirit,’ he would not have said it indistinctly, but straight out; that now he is restrained by the grace of the Spirit, i.e., the supernatural gifts [presumably that of discerning of spirits in particular; comp. 1John 4:1-3]. Otherwise, Antichrist ought to have presented himself ere now, if he were to present himself at the failure of those gifts; for, as a matter of fact, they have long failed. But seeing that he says this of the Roman empire, he naturally put it enigmatically and very obscurely, for he had no wish to subject himself to unnecessary hostilities and unprofitable perils. For had he said that shortly after the Roman empire would be dissolved, they would soon have transfixed him for a miscreant, and all the believers with him, as living and fighting for this end.” Was it not, indeed, for expounding this very prophecy that he had fled for his life from Thessalonica?” These all do contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, saying that there is another emperor, Jesus.” Does not the history give startling point to his question, “Remember ye not that when I was with you I told you these things “?

VII. The Man of Sin.—We have stated our belief that “the Man of Sin” is not only to be identified with Daniel’s “Little Horn,” but that St. Paul consciously drew the doctrine from that passage. But it may be objected that some of the words in which St. Paul most narrowly describes him are taken, not from the description of the Little Horn in Daniel 7, but from that of the Little Horn of Daniel 8:5, which represents quite a different person, viz., Antiochus Epiphanes.[7] It might be thought, therefore, that St. Paul was only borrowing Daniel’s language, and not adopting his prophecy. The answer is, that even those prophecies of Antiochus in many points do not suit Antiochus at all; and not only so, but the Jewish expositors themselves held that Antiochus had not exhausted the meaning of the prophecy. They themselves applied it to some Antichrist, whose coming should precede, and be defeated by the Christ’s. Even in St. Jerome’s time, “From this place onwards” (he is commenting on Daniel 11:36) “the Jews think that Antichrist is spoken of, that, after the little help (Daniel 11:34) of Julian, a king shall arise who shall do according to his own will, and lift himself up against all which is called God, and speak great things against the God of gods, so that he shall sit in the Temple of God and make himself god, and his will be performed, until the wrath of God be fulfilled: for in him shall the end be. Which we, too, understand of Antichrist.” Thus, according to the current explanation of the Jews, Antiochus was looked upon as a type of the Antichrist, whom they expected to arise (in fulfilment of Daniel 7:8) at the overthrow of the Roman empire, whose coming was to precede the Christ’s. The only change made by the Christian Church is to apply to the Second Advent a prophecy which the Jews applied to the one Advent which they recognised. It is impossible not to do so when, in Daniel 12:2, we have the Resurrection made to follow close upon the development of this Antiochus-Antichrist. So far, then, as St. Paul’s date is concerned, the doctrine is drawn from Daniel 2, 7; traits of character are added (in accordance with Jewish interpretation) from Daniel 8, 11.

[7] Sec Daniel 8:11-12; Daniel 8:23-25, and more particularly Daniel 11:36-37.

VIII. St. Paul’s probable Personal Expectation.—Dr. Lightfoot argues, with great probability (Smith’s Dict. Bible, Art. “II. Thessalonians”), that, as a personal matter, St. Paul expected to witness in his own day the development of the Antichrist (whose “secret working” was already visible to him), and that he saw in the Jews the makings of the foe to be revealed. Theirs was the apostasy—professing to cleave to God and to Moses, but “departing from the living God, through an evil heart of unbelief,” and “making the word of God to be of none effect through their traditions.” Theirs was the lawlessness—setting the will of God at naught in the self-willed assertion of their privilege as the chosen people, and using the most unscrupulous means of checking those who preached the more liberal gospel of St. Paul. And if to St. Paul the final Antichrist was represented by the Jews, the Roman Government, which had so often befriended him, might well be called the withholder or restrainer. If such was the personal expectation of St. Paul, it was, indeed, literally frustrated; but if the Judaic spirit, of exclusive arrogance, carnal reliance on spiritual promises, innovating tradition, should pass into the Christian Church, and there develop largely, St. Paul’s expectation would not be so far wrong.

IX. The Development of the Horns.—The question naturally arises whether the prophecy has not been falsified. The Roman empire has disappeared, and Antichrist is not yet revealed. We do not need to answer with some interpreters that Roman law still rules the world. A closer observation of the two passages of Daniel already mentioned would in itself suggest the true answer. In Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, indeed, the Roman empire simply comes into collision with the Catholic Church, and falls before it. There is no hint of a protracted struggle between them. The long duration of the Roman empire is perhaps suggested by the words, “Thou wast gazing until that a stone” (Daniel 2:34); the division into the Eastern and Western empires may be symbolised by the two legs of the colossal figure; the ten toes may bear the same interpretation as the ten horns of the later vision: these points, however, are not the most obvious or prominent points of the dream. But in Daniel’s vision all is quite different. There, the final triumph of the Church is won only after a long struggle, and that struggle is not with the Roman empire itself. Though the Beast which symbolises the Roman empire is said to continue throughout (Daniel 7:11), it is only in the same sense, apparently, as the three other Beasts are said to have their lives prolonged (Daniel 7:12). The empire itself has altogether changed its form, and developed into ten kingdoms, among which, yet after which (Daniel 7:8, Dan_7:24), an eleventh has arisen, dissimilar from the other kingdoms, and uprooting some of them. With this power it is that the struggle which ends in the Church’s final victory takes place, and not with the old imperial power of Rome. If, therefore, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar may be said to have been fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, in the days of the Roman emperors, the vision of Daniel must wait for its fulfilment until the Roman empire has passed away into an even more different form than it has at present reached.

X. Characteristics of Antichrist.—(1) He is a human being. The title “Man of Sin” excludes Satan, as Chrysostom remarks: Satan acts through the man (1Thessalonians 2:9) to the full extent of his power—“enters into him,” as he entered into an earlier “Son of Perdition”—but does not destroy his humanity.

(2) He is a single person. This, too, is involved in the phrase “Man of Sin,” especially when followed by the “Son of Perdition.” It is not to be denied that poetically the first title, at any rate, might be a personification of a movement, or (as the “kings” in Daniel mean “kingdoms”) the title of a wicked power, the head of which might even be more innocent than his subjects. But not only is it simpler to understand the phrases themselves (especially the second) of a single person, but the sharp dramatic contrast between the Christ and the Antichrist seems to require a personal exhibition of evil. The Antichrist is to have a coming (2Thessalonians 2:9) and a manifestation (2Thessalonians 2:3), so as to be instantly recognised, and will display himself by significant acts (2Thessalonians 2:4), which all require a person. Besides, the types of him—Antiochus, Caligula, Nero, &c.—could hardly be said, according to Scriptural analogy, to be “fulfilled” in a mere headless movement. The application of the name “Man of Sin” to any succession of men (as, for instance, all the Popes of Rome) is peremptorily forbidden by the fact that the detection and destruction of the Man of Sin by the Advent of Christ follows immediately upon his manifestation of himself.

(3) This person, though single, heads a movement. He is the captain of “the Apostasy.” He has a large and devoted following (2Thessalonians 2:10). Indeed, though his dominion is “diverse” from other kingdoms, yet he is almost called a king in Daniel 7:24 : the word, however, is (perhaps) carefully avoided. The diversity between his monarchy and theirs might, for instance, consist in its not being, like theirs, territorial or dynastic; it might be a spiritual or an intellectual dominion, interpenetrating the territorial kingdoms.

(4) The movement of Antichrist is not atheistic. The Man of Sin super-exalts himself, indeed, against every God, true or false, but it is not by denial of the Divine existence. On the contrary, he claims himself to be the true God, and exacts the homage due to the true God; thereby acknowledging the existence and working of God, which he avers to have become his own.

(5) The antichristian movement does not even break openly with the Catholic Church. It is an “apostasy,” indeed, but the same Greek word is used in Hebrews 3:12, and in 1Timothy 4:1, in neither of which cases will it suit the context to understand the word of an outward leaving of the Christian Church. The persons must at any rate have been Christians, or they could not be apostates. And the apostasy is all the more terrible if, while the forms of the Church are kept to, there is a departure from the inward spirit. And in this case several points seem to indicate an apostasy within the Church. In the first place, as we have seen above, the movement is distinctly not an atheistic movement, like the German Socialism. Then, the act of session in the “Temple of God” cannot mean anything else than an attempt to exact divine homage from the Christian Church, which, of course, could only be hoped for through adopting Christian forms. The account of the Satanic miracles which the Man of Sin will work in attestation of his claim shows that the persons who follow him are duped into believing that he actually is the Lord. An atheistic materialism would deny miracles altogether. Now we may venture to say that, even if St. Paul had not (as Bishop Wordsworth supposes) St. Luke’s Gospel in his hands, yet he was familiar with the eschatological discourses of our Lord contained in the Synoptic Gospels. In these (which so frequently use the language of the Book of Daniel) our Lord holds up as the greatest terror of the last days, the constant danger, waiting even upon the “elect,” of being seduced into mistaking certain pretenders for Himself. An Antichrist (in its full meaning) expresses more than an opponent of Christ; like the compound Anti-Pope, it implies a rival claimant to the honours which he himself acknowledges to be due only to Jesus Christ. Antichrist pretends to be actually Jesus. Such pretensions would, of course, be meaningless and ridiculous to all except believers in Jesus Christ and His Church. (See Matthew 24:4-5; Matthew 24:10-12; Matthew 24:23; Matthew 24:26

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. Let no man deceive you by any means — By any of these ways fore-mentioned, or any other; for that day shall not come, unless a falling away, η αποστασια, the apostacy, come first — The article here is emphatical, denoting both that this was to be a great apostacy, the apostacy, by way of eminence, (the general, grand departure of the whole visible church into idolatrous worship,) and that the Thessalonians had been already apprized of its coming. Although the Greek word here used often signifies the rebellion of subjects against the supreme power of the country where they live, or the revolt of soldiers against their general, or the hostile separation of one part of a nation from another; yet in Scripture it commonly signifies a departure, either in whole or in part, from a religious faith or obedience formerly professed, Acts 21:21; Hebrews 3:12. Here it denotes the defection of the disciples of Christ from the true faith and worship of God, enjoined in the gospel. Accordingly, the apostle, foretelling this very defection, (1 Timothy 4:1,) says, αποστησονται τινες, some shall apostatize from the faith. See the note on that verse. And that man of sin — The head of this apostacy, given up to all sin himself, (Revelation 13:5-6,) and a ringleader of others unto sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:14. If this idea be derived from any ancient prophet, it must be from Daniel, who hath described the like arrogant and tyrannical power, Daniel 7:25; He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws. See also Daniel 11:26. Any man may be satisfied that St. Paul alluded to this description by Daniel, because he hath not only borrowed the ideas, but hath even adopted some of the phrases and expressions. The man of sin may signify either a single man, or a succession of men; the latter being meant in Daniel, it is probable that the same is intended here also. Indeed, a single man appears hardly sufficient for the work here assigned; and it is agreeable to the phraseology of Scripture to speak of a body, or a number of men, under the character of one. Thus a king (Daniel 7:8.; Revelation 17.) is often used for a succession of kings, and the high-priest, (Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 9:25,) for the series and order of high-priests. A single beast, (Daniel 7, 8.; Revelation 13.) often represents a whole empire or kingdom, in all its changes and revolutions. The woman clothed with the sun, (Revelation 12:1,) is designed as an emblem of the true church, as the woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, (Revelation 17:4,) is the portrait of a corrupt communion. This man of sin is said to be revealed when he enters on the stage, and acts as he is described. The son of perdition — One who brings destruction upon others, both spiritual and temporal, (Revelation 17:2; Revelation 17:6,) and is devoted to destruction himself, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Thus the Papacy has caused the death of numberless multitudes both of opposers and followers, has destroyed innumerable souls, and will itself go to destruction. The son of perdition is also the denomination of the traitor Judas, (John 17:12,) which implies that the man of sin should, like Judas, be a false prophet, should betray Christ, and be devoted to destruction.

Who opposeth — Or shall oppose, (the prophets speaking of things future as present,) and exalt himself above all — Greek, επι παντα, above every one, that is called God — This is manifestly copied from Daniel; He shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, and speak marvellous things against the God of gods. Or that is worshipped Εεβασμα, alluding to the title of the Roman emperors, σεβαστος, august, or venerable. He shall oppose and exalt himself, not only above inferior magistrates, who are sometimes called gods in holy writ, but even above the greatest emperors, and shall arrogate to himself divine honours; so that he, as God — Assuming the authority of Christ; sitteth in the temple of God — Exercises supreme and sovereign power over the visible church, as head thereof, even over all that profess Christianity. By the temple of God, the apostle could not well mean the temple of Jerusalem, because he knew very well that would be totally destroyed within a few years. It is an observation of the learned Bochart, that after the death of Christ the temple at Jerusalem is never called by the apostles the temple of God; and that when they mention the house or temple of God, they mean the Christian Church in general, or every particular believer; which indeed is very evident from many passages in their epistles: see 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5. Besides, in the Revelation by St. John, which was written some years after the destruction of Jerusalem, there is mention made of men’s becoming pillars in the temple of God, (Revelation 3:12,) which is a further proof that the sitting of the man of sin in the temple of God, by no means implies that he was to appear in the temple of Jerusalem. In short, the meaning of the verse is, that the wicked teachers, of whom the apostle speaks, would first oppose Christ by corrupting the doctrine of the gospel concerning him, and after that they would make void the government of God and of Christ in the Christian Church, and the government of the civil magistrate in the state, by arrogating to themselves the whole spiritual authority which belongs to Christ, and all the temporal authority belonging to princes and magistrates; showing himself that he is God — Exercising all the prerogatives of God, accepting such titles, and doing such things, as, if they indeed belonged to him, would show him to be God: an exact description certainly of the Papal power.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.Let no man deceive you by any means - That is, respecting the coming of the Lord Jesus. This implies that there were then attempts to deceive, and that it was of great importance for Christians to be on their guard. The result has shown that there is almost no subject on which caution is more proper, and on which men are more liable to delusion. The means then resorted to for deception appear from the previous verse to have been either an appeal to a pretended verbal message from the apostle, or a pretended letter from him. The means now, consist of a claim to uncommon wisdom in the interpretation of obscure prophecies of the Scriptures. The necessity for the caution here given has not ceased.

For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first - Until an apostasy (ἀποστασία apostasia) shall have occurred - the great apostasy. There is scarcely any passage of the New Testament which has given occasion to greater diversity of opinion than this. Though the reference seems to be plain, and there is scarcely any prophecy of the Bible apparently more obvious and easy in its general interpretation; yet it is proper to mention some of the opinions which have been entertained of it.

Some have referred it to a great apostasy from the Christian church, particularly on account of persecution, which would occur before the destruction of Jerusalem. The "coming of the Lord" they suppose refers to the destruction of the holy city, and according to this, the meaning is, that there would be a great apostasy before that event would take place. Of this opinion was Vitringa, who refers the "apostasy" to a great defection from the faith which took place between the time of Nero and Trajan.

Whitby also refers it to an event which was to take place before the destruction of Jerusalem, and supposes that the apostasy would consist in a return from the Christian to the Jewish faith by multitudes of professed converts. The "man of sin," according to him, means the Jewish nation, so characterized on account of its eminent wickedness.

Hammond explains the apostasy by the defection to the Gnostics, by the arts of Simon Magus, whom he supposes to be the man of sin, and by the "day of the Lord" he also understands the destruction of Jerusalem.

Grotius takes Caius Caesar or Caligula, to be the man of sin, and by the apostasy he understands his abominable wickedness. In the beginning of his government, he says, his plans of iniquity were concealed, and the hopes of all were excited in regard to his reign; but his secret iniquity was subsequently "revealed," and his true character understood.

Wetstein understands by the "man of sin," that it referred to Titus and the Flavian house. He says that he does not understand it of the Roman Pontiff, who "is not one such as the demonstrative pronoun thrice repeated designates, and who neither sits in the temple of God, nor calls himself God, nor Caius, nor Simon Gioriae, nor any Jewish impostor, nor Simon Magus."

Koppe refers it to the King mentioned in Daniel 11:36. According to him, the reference is to a great apostasy of the Jews from the worship of God, and the "man of sin" is the Jewish people.

Others have supposed that the reference is to Muhammed, and that the main characteristics of the prophecy may be found in him.

Of the Papists, a part affirm that the apostasy is the falling away from Rome in the time of the Reformation, but the greater portion suppose that the allusion is to Antichrist, who, they say, will appear in the world before the great day of judgment, to combat religion and the saints. See these opinions stated at length, and examined, in Dr. Newton on the Prophecies, Dissertation xxii.

Some more recent expositors have referred it to Napoleon Bonaparte, and some (as Oldshausen) suppose that it refers to some one who has not yet appeared, in whom all the characteristics here specified will be found united.

Most Protestant commentators have referred it to the great apostasy under the papacy, and, by the "man of sin," they suppose there is allusion to the Roman Pontiff, the Pope. It is evident that we are in better circumstances to understand the passage than those were who immediately succeeded the apostles.

Eighteen hundred years have passed (written circa 1880's) away since the Epistle was written, and the "day of the Lord" has not yet come, and we have an opportunity of inquiring, whether in all that long tract of time any one man can be found, or any series of men have arisen, to whom the description here given is applicable. If so, it is in accordance with all the proper rules of interpreting prophecy, to make such an application. If it is fairly applicable to the papacy, and cannot be applied in its great features to anything else, it is proper to regard it as having such an original reference. Happily, the expressions which are used by the apostle are, in themselves, not difficult of interpretation, and all that the expositor has to do is, to ascertain whether in any one great apostasy all the things here mentioned have occurred. If so, it is fair to apply the prophecy to such an event; if not so, we must wait still for its fulfillment.

The word rendered "falling away" (ἀποστασία apostasia, apostasy), is of so general a character, that it may be applied to any departure from the faith as it was received in the time of the apostles. It occurs in the New Testament only here and in Acts 21:21, where it is rendered "to forsake" - "thou teachest all the Jews which are among us to forsake Moses" - apostasy from Moses - ἀποστασίαν ἀπὸ Μωῦσέως apostasian apo Mōuseōs. The word means a departing from, or a defection; see the verb used in 1 Timothy 4:1, "Some shall depart from the faith" - ἀποστήσονται apostēsontai; compare the notes on that passage; see also Hebrews 3:12; Luke 8:13; Acts 5:37. The reference here is evidently to some general falling away, or to some great religious apostasy that was to occur, and which would be under one head, leader, or dynasty, and which would involve many in the same departure from the faith, and in the same destruction. The use of the article here, "the apostasy" (Greek), Erasmus remarks, "signifies that great and before-predicted apostasy." It is evidently emphatic, showing that there had been a reference to this before, or that they understood well that there was to be such an apostasy. Paul says 2 Thessalonians 2:5, that when he was with them, he had told them of these things. The writers in the New Testament often speak of such a defection under the name of Antichrist; see Revelation 13:14; 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7.


3. by any means—Greek, "in any manner." Christ, in Mt 24:4, gives the same warning in connection with the same event. He had indicated three ways (2Th 2:2) in which they might be deceived (compare other ways, 2Th 2:9, and Mt 24:5, 24).

a falling away—rather as the Greek, "the falling away," or "apostasy," namely, the one of which "I told you" before (2Th 2:5), "when I was yet with you," and of which the Lord gave some intimation (Mt 24:10-12; Joh 5:43).

that man of sin be revealed—The Greek order is, "And there have been revealed the man of sin." As Christ was first in mystery, and afterwards revealed (1Ti 3:16), so Antichrist (the term used 1Jo 2:18; 4:3) is first in mystery, and afterwards shall be developed and revealed (2Th 2:7-9). As righteousness found its embodiment in Christ, "the Lord our righteousness," so "sin" shall have its embodiment in "the man of sin." The hindering power meanwhile restrains its manifestation; when that shall be removed, then this manifestation shall take place. The articles, "the apostasy," and "the man of sin," may also refer to their being well known as foretold in Da 7:8, 25, "the little horn speaking great words against the Most High, and thinking to change times and laws"; and Da 11:36, the wilful king who "shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods; neither shall he regard any god."

the son of perdition—a title applied besides to Judas (the traitor, Joh 17:12), and to none else. Antichrist (the second "beast" coming up out of the earth); therefore he shall at first be "like a lamb, while he speaks as a dragon" (Re 13:11); "coming in peaceably and by flatteries," "working deceitfully," but "his heart shall be against the holy covenant" (Da 11:21, 23, 28, 30). Seeds of "the falling away" soon appear (1Ti 4:1-3), but the full development and concentration of these anti-Christian elements in one person are still to appear. Contrast the King of Zion's coming as Jesus: (1) righteous or just; (2) having salvation; (3) lowly; whereas Antichrist is: (1) "the man of (the embodiment of) sin; (2) the son of perdition; (3) exalting himself above all that is worshipped. He is the son of perdition, as consigning many to it, and finally doomed to it himself (Re 17:8, 11). "He whose essence and inheritance is perdition" [Alford]. As "the kingdom of heaven" is first brought before us in the abstract, then in the concrete, the King, the Lord Jesus; so here, first we have (2Th 2:7) "the mystery of iniquity," then "the iniquitous one" (2Th 2:8). Doubtless "the apostasy" of Romanism (the abstract) is one of the greatest instances of the working of the mystery of iniquity, and its blasphemous claims for the Pope (the concrete) are forerunners of the final concentration of blasphemy in the man of sin, who shall not merely, as the Pope, usurp God's honor as vicegerent of God, but oppose God openly at last.

Let no man deceive you: here the apostle urgeth again his charge against this error, though in other words, and begins his arguments to refute it. He had adjured them not to be shaken, and here he cautions them against being deceived, for the one makes way for the other; so also not to be troubled, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, for troubled minds are apt to be made a prey to seducers. And the caution in the text proves that their shaking and trouble did arise from some deceivers that were amongst them, rather than any misunderstanding of their own of what he wrote in the former Epistle about Christ’s coming. To be shaken in mind is bad, hut to be deceived is worse, for it is a going out of the path, as the word signifies; and thercfin’e his caution against it is universal, both as to persons and ways: Let no man deceive you, though he pretend to revelations, or be of the greatest reputation in the church.

By any means; either of era craft, flattery, pretending love, or plausible arguments, or misrepresenting our words, or forging of letters, or misintering our Epistle to you or any other part of Scripture, or feigned miracles, &c. Then he enters the arguments to confute it, which are.

1. The general apostacy.

2. The revelation of the man of sin.

Neither of these are yet, nor will be in this age; and yet that day shall not come till these both first come.

For that doth shall not come, except there come a falling away first; there is a supplement in our translation, for in the Greek it is only,

for, except there come a falling away first, & c., or an apostacy, a recession, a departing, or a standing off, as the world imports; so that apostacy may be either good, when it is from evil to good, or evil, when it is from good to evil: it is always used in this latter sense in Scripture. Again, it is either civil or spiritual: civil, as when people fall off from the civil government they were under, and so some would interpret the text of the defection from the Roman empire, the east part from the west, and the ten kingdoms that arose out of it; which was the opinion of Hierom, Epist. ad Algasiam. But the apostle writing to the church speaks not of civil government, and the affairs of state, and speaks of such an apostacy which would give rise to the man of sin, and the revelation of him. And this man of sin riseth up in the church, not in the civil state; and the consequence of this apostacy is giving men up to strong delusions to believe a lie, and then follows their damnation; and the cause of it is said to be, not receiving the truth in the love of it; so that it is not a civil, but a spiritual apostacy, as the word in Scripture is always (I suppose) so taken. And it is not of a particular person, or of a particular church, but a general apostacy of the church, though not of every individual; that church that is afterwards called the temple of God, where the man of sin sitteth, and is exalted above all that is called God; which cannot be in any particular church; and would not the apostle have specified that particular church? Neither is it some lesser apostacy which may befall the best church; but such as would be eminent, called h apostasia, that apostacy, greater than that of some believing Jews to Judaism, or of some Christians to Nicolaitanism, which some think is meant. Much less can it be Caius Caesar, as Grotius interprets, or any one person, for the apostle saith not apostate, but apostacy; else a man of sin could not rise out of it, and exalt himself above all that is called God, and worshipped. It is an apostacy from sound doctrine, instituted worship, church government, and true holiness of life, as may be further considered afterwards. Neither is the apostacy all at once, but gradual; for out of it ariseth a man of sin, who grows up to this manhood by degrees; and sin and wickedness are not completed at first, as well as holiness. Much less is this apostacy a falling off from the Church of Rome, as some papists affirm, and make the Reformation to be the apostacy, which was a return from it. Doth the man of sin rise out of the Reformation? Did any of the first Reformers oppose and exalt themselves above all that is called God, or is worshipped? Or, as God sat in the temple of God, &c.? Was any of their coming with all power, and signs, and lying wonders? Or did any of them forbid to marry, and to abstain from meats, &c.? Which is the character our apostle gives of this apostacy, 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Neither is the Mahometan religion this apostacy, for Mahomet sitteth not in the temple of God. Neither is it in the falling of the converted Jews from the Jewish church to the gospel church; the apostle would never call that an apostacy. And that man of sin be revealed: the next argumnent is from the revelation of the man of sin; this is also to precede Christ’s last coming: it is a Hebraism. A warlike man is styled a man of war; a bloody man, a man of bloods; a deceitful man, a man of deceit, &c.: so a man eminent in sin is here called a man of sin; not only personally so, but who doth promote sin, propagate it, countenance it, command it. See Platina, Sigebert, Blonetas, Beuno Uspregensis, Matt. Paris. In sins of omission, forbidding what God requireth; in sins of commission, requiring or allowing what God hath forbidden. In sins of the first table; corrupting God’s worship by superstition and idolatry, taking God’s name in vain by heartless devotion, dissembling piety, dispensing with perjury and false oaths, taking away the second commandment and the morality of the fourth commandment, and making men’s faith and obedience to rest upon a humau authority, &c. In sins of the second table; to dispense with duties belonging to superiors and inferiors; with murder, adultery, fornication, incest, robbery, lying, equivocation, &c. And besides all these, promoting a false religion, and destroying the true, by fines, imprisonments, banishments, tortures, poisons, massacre, fire, and faggot. And this man of sin is not a single person, but a company, order, and succession of men; because all are acted by the same spirit, therefore called a man; as the man of the earth, Psalm 10:18, is all men of an earthly spirit, and a man of the field, Genesis 25:27, is men whose minds and employments are in the field. Or, it is a sinful state. As the civil state of the four monarchies in Daniel is represented by four single beasts, and the antichristian state by a beast rising out of the sea, Revelation 13:1; so by man of sin is meant a sinful state, which though it consisteth of many people and nations, yet, being under the influence and government of one man, may be also styled the man of sin upon that account; impietatis Coryphaeus. Moulin. And because the sin of the whole community is chiefly centred in him, and springs out from him; a man in whom is the fountain of all sins. Hierein ad Algasiam. And the sin of this state is called a mystery of iniquity, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and so differing from the sin in all other political states; and therefore may well be judged to be the same with the whore sitting on many waters, that hath mystery written in her forehead, Revelation 17:1,5. And as no expositor takes the whore to be meant of a single woman, and the true apostolic church is represented by a woman in travail, Revelation 12:1,2, why then should we take the man of sin to be a single man, as the papists do? viz. a Jew of the tribe of Dan, that shall erect his kingdom and temple in Jerusalem, seduce the Jews, continue three years and a half, make great havoc of the church, to be opposed by Enoch and Elias, and is to come a little before the end of the world. Ridiculous! Neither call this man of sin be Simon Magus and his followers, for he was revealed in the apostle’s time, seeing the mystery of iniquity belonging to this man of sin began to work in the apostle’s days, as 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and he is the same whom St. John calls antichrist, 1Jo 2:18; and the spirit of antichrist began to be in the world in his time, 1Jo 4:3; and the nations are to be made drunk with the cup of his fornication, and to serve and obey him, &c., Revelation 13:8 17:4; all which requires more time than is allotted by them: but they set him a great way off, that none may suspect him to be among themselves; but he that will compare the Church of Rome in the apostle Paul’s times with what it is now, and the doctrine of the council of Trent with that laid down in his Epistle to the Romans, may say: How is the faithful city become a harlot! And this man of sin is to

be revealed also, which shows that he is not a single person, not yet born: revealing relates not so much to a person, as a thing; in particular to the mystery of iniquity, mentioned 2 Thessalonians 2:7: his revealing is either quoad existentiam, or apparentiam. The former is meant here, and the latter 2 Thessalonians 2:8. He grows up into an existence, as the apostacy grows, as vermin grows out of putrefaction. As the church’s purity, faith, love, holiness declined, and as pride, ambition, covetousness, luxury prevailed, so he grew up: and which was the direct point and time of his full revelation in this first sense is conjectured by many, but determined by none; it is most generally referred to the tithe of Boniface the Third, to whom Phocas granted the style of oecumenical bishop, and to the Church of Rome to be the mother church. But as the apostacy brings forth this man of sin, so as he riseth he helps it forward; so that he both causeth it, and is caused by it. As corruption in doctrine, worship, discipline, and manners brought him forth, so he was active in corrupting them more and more.

The son of perdition; another Hebraism, where sometimes that which any way proceeds from another, as its cause, is called its son, as sparks the sons of the coal, Job 5:7, and branches sons of the tree, Genesis 49:22, and the learner the son of the teacher, Proverbs 3:1; and sometimes that which a man is addicted to, as a wicked man is the son of wickedness, Psalm 89:22. Again, that which gives forth what it hath in itself, as the branches of the olive trees giving oil are called the sons of oil, Zechariah 4:14; and in the text, the man of sin is

the son of perdition, as Judas is called, John 17:12: and he is so either actively, as he brings others to destruction, and so may be called Apollyon, Revelation 9:11; or rather passively, as devoted to perdition; as Revelation 19:20, the beast and false prophet are both cast into the lake of fire and brimstone; and the beast that was, and is not, is said to go into perdition, Revelation 17:11. The destroyer of others both in soul and body will be destroyed himself: first, morally, by the word and Spirit, as 2 Thessalonians 2:8; and then judicially, by God’s revenging justice in this world, and that to come. The apostle, at the very first mentioning him, declares his destiny; at his first rising and revealing, mentions his fall and ruin. Let no man deceive you by any means,.... By any of the above means; by pretending to a revelation from the Spirit; or to have had it from the mouth of anyone of the apostles; or to have a letter as from them, declaring the day of Christ to be instant; or by any other means whatever; do not be imposed upon by them for the following reasons, for there were things to be done before the coming of Christ, which were not then done, and which required time: for that day shall not come,

except there come a falling away first; either in a political sense, of the nations from the Roman empire, which was divided into the eastern and western empire; for which, way was made by translating the seat of empire from Rome to Byzantium, or Constantinople; the former of these empires was seized by Mahomet, and still possessed by the Turks; and the latter was overrun by the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, and torn to pieces; Italy particularly was ravaged by them, and Rome itself was sacked and taken: or rather in a religious sense, of the falling of men from the faith of the Gospel, from the purity of Gospel doctrines, discipline, worship, and ordinances; and this not of some Jews who professed faith in Christ, and departed from it, or of some Christians who went off to the Gnostics; but is to be understood of a more general defection in the times of the Papacy; when not only the eastern churches were perverted and corrupted by Mahomet, and drawn off to his religion, but the western churches were most sadly depraved by the man of sin, by bringing in errors of all sorts in doctrine, making innovations in every ordinance, and appointing new ones, and introducing both Judaism and Paganism into the churches; which general defection continued until the times of the reformation, and is what the apostle has respect to in 1 Timothy 4:1 where he manifestly points out some of the Popish tenets, as forbidding marriage to priests, and ordering abstinence from meats on certain days, and at certain times of the year: this was one thing that was to precede the coming of Christ, another follows, which should take place at the same time;

and that man of sin be revealed; who was now hid, though secretly working; by whom is meant not only any particular person or individual; not the devil, for though he is the wicked one, a damned spirit, an opposer, an adversary of God and Christ, and his people, and who has affected deity, and sought to be worshipped, and even by Christ himself; yet the man of sin is here distinguished from Satan, 2 Timothy 2:9 nor is any particular emperor of Rome intended, as Caius Caligula, or Nero, for though these were monsters of iniquity, and set up themselves as gods, yet they sat not in the temple of God; nor is Simon Magus designed, who was a very wicked man, a sorcerer, and who gave out himself to be some great one, and was called the great power of God, before big profession of faith in Christ; and afterwards affirmed that he was God, the Father in Samaria, the Son in Judea, and the Spirit in the rest of the nations of the world; and, because of his signs and lying wonders, had a statue erected by the Roman emperor with this inscription, "to Simon the holy god"; but then this wicked man was now already revealed: nor is this to be understood of a certain Jew, that is to be begotten by the devil on a virgin of the tribe of Dan, and who is to reign three years and a half, and then to be destroyed by Christ, which is a fable of the Papists; but a succession of men is here meant, as a king is used sometimes for an order and succession of kings, Deuteronomy 17:18 and an high priest for that whole order, from Aaron's time to the dissolution of it, Hebrews 9:7 so here it intends the whole hierarchy of Rome, monks, friars, priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and especially popes, who may well be called "the man of sin", because notoriously sinful; not only sinners, but sin itself, a sink of sin, monsters of iniquity, spiritual wickednesses in high places: it is not easy to reckon up their impieties, their adulteries, incest, sodomy, rapine, murder, avarice, simony, perjury, lying, necromancy, familiarity with the devil, idolatry, witchcraft, and what not? and not only have they been guilty of the most notorious crimes themselves, but have been the patrons and encouragers of others in sin; by dispensing with the laws of God and man, by making sins to be venial, by granting indulgences and pardon for the worst of crimes, by licensing brothel houses, and countenancing all manner of wickedness; and therefore it is no wonder to hear of the following epithet,

the son of perdition; since these are not only the Apollyon, the king of the bottomless pit, the destroyer, the cause of the perdition of thousands of souls, for the souls of men are their wares; but because they are by the righteous judgment of God appointed and consigned to everlasting destruction; the devil, the beast, and the false prophet, will have their portion together in the lake that burns with fire, Revelation 20:10 the same character as here is given of Judas, the betrayer of Christ, John 17:12.

Let no man deceive you by any means: {3} for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and {e} that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

(3) The apostle foretells that before the coming of the Lord, there will be a throne set up completely contrary to Christ's glory, in which that wicked man will sit, and transfer all things that appertain to God to himself: and many will fall away from God to him.

(e) By speaking of one, he singles out the person of the tyrannous and persecuting antichrist.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. An emphatically-repeated exhortation, and the reason of it. The readers were by no means to be misled into the fancy, that the day of the Lord was now to dawn; for the apostasy and the appearance of Antichrist must precede it.

ἐξαπατᾶν] does not precisely convey the idea of a deceit occurring from wicked intention, whilst it may be correctly imagined that nothing evil was seen in the mode of deception mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2—rather it was considered as an excusable vehicle for the diffusion of views which were believed to be recognised as true; only the idea of delusion, i.e. of being misled into a false and incorrect mode of contemplation, is expressed by the verb.

When, then, the apostle says, Let no man befool you, it is, similar to a form of representation usual to him, in the meaning of suffer yourselves to be befooled by no one. Comp. Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:18.

κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον] not only recapitulates the three modes of misleading mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 (Bengel, Baumgarten-Crusius), but is an absolute expression, so that accordingly it may be supposed that some other mode of deception might be employed.

The sentence 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 is grammatically incomplete. The finite verb to ὅτι is wanting, which Paul intended to accompany the conjunction, but easily forgot as he added to ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας a longer description. It is perfectly clear from the connection that οὐκ ἐνέστηκεν ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου from 2 Thessalonians 2:2 is to be supplied to ὅτι. In a very forced manner Knatchbull attempts to remove the incompleteness of the construction by placing a comma after ὅτι, supplying ἐνέστηκεν to ὅτι, and uniting it with μή τιςτρόπον into one sentence. “Suffer yourselves to be deceived by no one that (the day of the Lord is at the door), unless first there shall have come,” etc. To maintain this meaning ἐνέστηκεν must necessarily be added to ὅτι. But still more arbitrary is the attempt of Storr and Flatt to remove the ellipsis by explaining ἐὰν μή as analogous (!) to the Hebrew אִם לֹא, in the sense of most certainly, most positively.

ὅτι] is to be separated from the preceding by a colon, and does not denote indeed (Baumgarten-Crusius), but for.

ἀποστασία] a later Greek form for the older ἀπόστασις. See Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 528. The expression is to be left in its absoluteness, not, with Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Augustin (de civitate dei, xx. 21), and Bolten, to be taken as abstractum pro concreto, so that Antichrist himself is to be understood. But not apostasy in the political sense, but entirely religious apostasy—that is, a falling away from God and true religion—can have been meant by ἀποστασία. (1) What is said of the ἄνθρωτος τῆς ἁμαρτίας in direct internal connection with the apostasy, (2) the characteristic of the ἀποστασία, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, by ἀνομία, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and (3) the constant biblical usage, constrain us to this view. Comp. LXX. 2 Chronicles 29:19; Jeremiah 2:19; 1Ma 2:15, etc.; Acts 21:21; 1 Timothy 4:1. Accordingly, also, Kern’s view (comp. already Aretius and Vorstius) is to be rejected as inadmissible, that we are to think of a mixture of political and religious apostasy.

Moreover, the apostle speaks of ἡ ἀποστασία (with the article), and also ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας κ.τ.λ., either because the readers had already been orally instructed concerning it (comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:5), or because the Old Testament prophets had already foretold the apostasy and the appearance of Antichrist. But the apostasy is not the consequence of the appearance of Antichrist, so that Paul by καὶ ἀποκαλυφθῇ κ.τ.λ. goes backwards from a statement of its effect to a specification of its author (so Pelt and de Wette, appealing to 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10); but it precedes the appearance of antichrist, so that this is the historical climax of the ἀποστασία, and serves for its completion (2 Thessalonians 2:7-10).

The apostle considers Antichrist as a parallel to Christ; therefore he here speaks of an ἀποκάλυψις (comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:7), a revelation of what was hitherto concealed, as well as, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, of an advent of the same.

ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας] the man of sin, i.e. in whom sin is the principal matter, and is, as it were, incorporated—who thus forms the climax of wickedness.

ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας] the son of perdition, i.e. who on account of his wickedness falls a prey to perdition. Comp. John 17:12. See Winer, p. 213 [E. T. 298]. Schleusner and Pelt erroneously take the expression as transitive: “who will be the cause of perdition to others.” Equally erroneously Theodoret, Oecumenius, and others; also Heydenreich and Schott: the transitive sense is to be united with the intransitive.2 Thessalonians 2:3. καὶ ἀποκ., the apostasy and the appearance (so of Beliar, Asc. Isa., iv. 18) of the personal anti-Christ or pseudo-Christ form a single phenomenon. From the use of ἡ ἀποστασία as a Greek equivalent for Belial (LXX of 1 Kings 21:13, A, and Aquila), this eschatological application of the term would naturally flow, especially as אישׁ בליעל might well be represented by ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας on the analogy of 2 Samuel 22:5 (LXX) = Psalms 17 (18):4. Lawlessness was a cardinal trait in the Jewish figure of Belial, as was persecution of the righteous (2 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, see Asc. Isa., ii. 5, etc.). The very order of the following description (ἀπωλείας set between ἀνομίας and ὁ ἀντικείμενος, etc., unchronologically, but dramatically) suggests that this incarnation of lawlessness was a doomed figure, although he challenged and usurped divine prerogatives. He is another Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 11:36, καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἐπὶ πάντα θεὸν καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν θεὸν τῶν θεῶν ἔξαλλα λαλήσει, though Paul carefully safeguards himself against misconception by inserting λεγόμενον in his quotation of the words). This conception of a supernatural antagonist to Jesus Christ at the end is the chief element of novelty introduced by Paul, from Jewish traditions, into the primitive Christian eschatology. The recent attempt of Caligula to erect a statue of himself in the Temple at Jerusalem may have furnished a trait for Paul’s delineation of the future Deceiver; the fearful impiety of this outburst had sent a profound shock through Judaism, which would be felt by Jewish Christians as well. But Paul does not identify the final Deception with the Imperial cultus, which was far from a prominent feature when he wrote. His point is that the last pseudo-Messiah or anti-Christ will embody all that is profane and blasphemous, every conceivable element of impiety; and that, instead of being repudiated, he will be welcomed by Jews as well as pagans (cf. Acts 12:21-22).3. Let no man deceive you by any means] beguile you,—as the Revisers commonly render this Greek verb, and the A. V. in 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14, and Romans 7:11 (comp. Genesis 3:13, “the serpent beguiled Eve”). It implies a thorough, commonly a wicked deception; comp. also Romans 16:18. The kindred noun (deceit) appears in 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

in any wise (R. V.) points to the variety of ways (“by spirit, word,” &c., 2 Thessalonians 2:2) in which the readers were being plied with this delusion.

for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first] The R. V. supplies the ellipsis more simply: for it will not be. The Apostle’s mind becomes absorbed in his description of “the Man of Lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:4), and he forgets to complete the sentence; but his meaning is clear enough. For a similar dropped, or broken sentence comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:11 (see note, and Introd. Chap. VI, on the Style of St Paul). His manner is that of a speaker rather than a studied writer, and such lapses are natural in the freedom of conversation.

“A falling away” is a mistranslation. The Apostle uses the definite article; he refers to the apostasy of which he had spoken distinctly to his readers (2 Thessalonians 2:5). This word in common Greek denotes a military or political revolt, a defection; then in the LXX it is applied to revolting from God—e.g. in Jeremiah 29:32 (“rebellion against the Lord”), 1Ma 2:15 (“revolt,” consisting in sacrificing to idols): so the corresponding verb in Hebrews 3:12; comp. Acts 21:21 (“thou teachest apostasy from Moses”), 1 Timothy 4:1. Here this ominous expression appears for the first time within the Christian Church, as signifying revolt from Christ, the faithless defection of men “denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). It is sad to find such a prediction in the earliest writings of the N. T. It originated, doubtless, in the words of Christ, Matthew 24:10-13 : “Then shall many stumble … Many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of the many shall wax cold.” Comp. the mournful prophecy of Moses concerning the future of his people (Deuteronomy 31:28-29, &c.). This presentiment of St Paul grew in distinctness and was expressed with increasing emphasis, as time went on; comp. Romans 16:17-20; Acts 20:29-30; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 4:1, &c. Such words as those of 1 Corinthians 16:22 (“If any man love not the Lord, let him be anathema”), and Colossians 2:19 (“not holding fast the Head”), shew that in his view personal loyalty to Christ was the safeguard of Christianity.

As to the particular form and direction of the apostasy, nothing is said, nor as to the time of its rise or duration. Disloyalty to Christ confronted St Paul in his later years in many forms; and ever since the Church has had to straggle with inward corruption, as well as with outward foes. The Apostle anticipates this conflict; he foresees that tares will spring up along with the wheat, and “both” must “grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:24-30). Such development of internal evil had not yet taken place, and by this the Thessalonians might be sure that the Day of the Lord had not dawned.

and that man of sin be revealed] Lit., and there be revealed the man of sin; or, according to the reading of the Greek preferred by Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, in agreement with the two oldest MSS, the man of lawlessness. In 2 Thessalonians 2:7 the writer speaks of “the mystery of lawlessness,” as of something present to his readers’ minds; and in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 this same “man” is styled “the lawless one.” Throughout St Paul lays the utmost stress upon this attribute of the system of evil, with which he apprehends that the Kingdom of Christ must have a final and conclusive struggle. Lawlessness is the essence of that system, and “the man of lawlessness” its complete impersonation (comp. 1 John 3:4).

Now “lawlessness” is in the Apostle’s eyes a characteristic of the Gentile world, which “knew not God” (ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:5) and had cast off moral restraint. But he looked beneath the formal and outward possession of God’s law in the letter, and recognized in the Jewish people the like lawlessness of spirit (Romans 2:1; Romans 2:17-19); while “Gentiles not having law,” sometimes “shewed the work of the law written in their hearts” (Romans 2:14-15). “The man of lawlessness” is therefore one in whom St Paul sees the lawlessness of a godless world culminating—the ne plus ultra of “the carnal mind” that is “enmity against the law of God,” which “is neither subject to His law nor can be” (Romans 8:7). And he is emphatically “the man of lawlessness” (with no distinction of Jew or Gentile; comp. Romans 3:19; Romans 3:23), being the person in whom human nature, in so far as it is separated from and opposed to God (see next ver.), finds its ultimate realisation.

We must distinguish, then, between “the apostasy” and “the man of lawlessness,” in that the former is the corruption of the church, while the latter is the culmination of the evil of the world. (Comp. “the wild beast” of Revelation 13:1, “rising out of the” murmuring and restless “sea” of the nations, the “many waters” of ch. Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:15.) But the two influences, though not identical, are in combination. The former naturally contributes to the latter, an apostate Church paving the way for the advent of an atheistic world-power. We shall find in the next verse an echo of the prophecies of Daniel, so clear as to justify us in regarding these two evil powers as analogous to those of Daniel 8:23 : “When the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance shall arise;” where, as it proved in the Maccabean times, the apostasy within Israel gives the signal for the rise of the heathen despot.

“The man of lawlessness” is “the son of perdition,” being the one to whom this doom peculiarly belongs, who like Judas Iscariot (John 17:12) in going to “perdition” will “go to his own place” (Acts 1:25). For the Hebraistic phrase “son of” comp, 1 Thessalonians 5:4, and note.

Perdition is synonymous with destruction, ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:9; there it falls on the godless, here on the Lawless One—lawlessness being the moral counterpart of godlessness, and both fatal to man’s true life.2 Thessalonians 2:3. Κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον, by no means) He indicates three means in which they might be deceived, 2 Thessalonians 2:2.—ὅτι, because) Supply from what goes before, the negative particle with the substantive verb, it does not come to pass (that day shall not come), unless, etc. But this ellipsis shows εὐλάβεια, pious, reverent caution. He is εὐλαβὴς, reverently cautious, who comprehends well, and receives in a right spirit, the matter set before him, not with an unseasonable and foolhardy rashness, sachte, scheu, etc. Εὐλάβεια is shown in the fact, that Paul does not expressly say: The day of Christ does not come, unless, etc. He speaks mildly (moderately); he abstains from words to which the lover of the coming of Christ would not willingly listen.—ἐὰν μὴ, unless) What we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 demands a fuller consideration. And, first, we shall look closely into this paragraph by itself; then we shall compare the Apocalypse with it. The former aspect of it comprehends something like the following positions:

I. The object of Paul is to admonish the Thessalonians not to think the day of Christ nearer than it really is.—The expectation of future events, which is supposed to rest upon Divine testimony, and which after all is discovered in the end to be false, occasions great offence (raises a great stumblingblock in the way of religion). Such an expectation of the day of Christ might occasion very great offence: wherefore Paul anxiously obviates it. The Thessalonians had been prepared to receive the Lord with joy, ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 : and indeed a desire of that sort presupposes hope and faith; but yet this very desire may be out of due order. It is therefore reduced to order.

II. Paul especially teaches, that some great evil will first come.—Paul does not enumerate all the events which were to intervene between that age and the day of Christ; but he points out a certain one thing, especially remarkable, the explicit declaration of which was even already at that time seasonable and salutary to the Thessalonians. He therefore describes the apostasy, the Man of Sin, etc.

III. Not only does the apostle point out the evil, but also the check upon it.—He who hindereth or checketh, ὁ κατέχων, is made mention of, the person who checks or holds back the Man of Sin. That check is in some measure prior to the evil itself, and therefore the announcement of it appertains much (in a great degree) to the design of the apostle, which is, that the time may be defined, though with a proper latitude, when the adversary is to be revealed.

IV. The evil extends itself from the times of Paul, even up to the appearance of the coming of Jesus Christ.—That evil is not only most widely extended, 2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:12, but also very long continued; and although it rises up by various degrees, yet it is also continuous from its first beginnings (staminibus, threads in weaving the web) even to its end. Now already, says the apostle, the mystery of iniquity is working. It already wrought in the time of the apostles, but more after their death, most of all after the death of the men who were the contemporaries and immediate successors of the apostles (i.e. the apostolic fathers). They do not arrive at the best and wisest conclusion, who entertain the opinion, that the ideal and rule of the Church lie in the ancient practice (the antiquity) of some of the earliest ages, rather than in the truth itself, seeing that those ages merely rebuke the greater declension of posterity [and do not, by the fact of their antiquity, establish their own complete coincidence with the truth].

V. There was also a check in the time of Paul, and that check then, and not till then, ceases to exist in the way, when the evil breaks out in all its force.—He who now holdeth (the evil) back [“letteth,” Old Engl.], says Paul, until he be taken out of the way. Hence it is evident, that the restraining check was not the preaching of the Gospel, either universal or apostolical. The check remained even after the time of the apostles, who finished their course long before the check ceased to act as a check; but the preaching of the Gospel is never wholly taken from among men [“out of the way”].

VI. The evil is described first in the abstract, then in the concrete.—The mystery of iniquity is said to be now already working; but after an interval, that Iniquitous one (Wicked) himself[10] shall be revealed. The event turned out corresponding with this order. Not dissimilar is the fact, that in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, previously, the appellation given is first apostasy, then the Man of Sin. In preaching of Christ, it was said first, in the abstract, the kingdom of heaven is at hand; then Christ Himself, with His glory, was more openly manifested. So, on the opposite side, the testimony is similarly framed concerning [the coming] evil. The vicious humour is drawn together, and breaks out at length in one abscess.

[10] ὁ ἄνομος, ver. 8, the embodiment and incarnation of the previous ἀνομία.—ED.

VII. The apostasy and the mystery of iniquity are a great evil.—The description of the evil in the abstract and concrete has different parts, and these mutually explain each other. Apostasy is a falling away from the faith, and is clearly described, 1 Timothy 4:1. This apostasy is not determined in its extent by any particular place;—as widely as the faith extended, so widely, for the most part, does the apostasy extend;—yet it prevailed in the greatest degree among the Jews. There is also the apostasy of those to whom faith had been offered, although they did not receive it. Some of those who had received it [11]drew back [“departing from the living God”]: comp. Hebrews 3:12. The people is treated as equivalent to one man, whether regard is had to the Divine grace, which offers itself, or to man’s refusal of it, under whatever circumstances. It was apostasy in the people who refused to enter into the promised land, LXX. Numbers 14:31. The bitterness of the Jews was excessive, especially at Thessalonica, Acts 17:5; Acts 17:11; Acts 17:13; and Judaism at Rome occasioned great damage to Christianity. In like manner, iniquity, the mystery of which was then already working, is not iniquity of any kind whatever, although it be manifold, Matthew 24:12, but that from which the Iniquitous one (‘Wicked:’ ὁ ἄνομος) himself is denominated, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, with which comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. The mystery of this iniquity was then already working (comp. Deuteronomy 31:21; Deuteronomy 31:27), and was so concealed, that it crept in among men almost without themselves being conscious of it, and went on increasing for many ages. But even yet it is working, until the working of Satan shall bring forth the Iniquitous one himself (“that wicked”): 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Judaism, infecting Christianity, is the fuel; the mystery of iniquity is the spark.

[11] Perhaps the italicised resilierunt of Beng. refers to the ὑποστείληται and ὑποστολῆ of Hebrews 10:38-39, which see; also Psalm 78:57.—ED.

VIII. The Iniquitous one (‘Wicked’) himself is the greatest evil.—He is the Man of Sin, the son of perdition, opposed to and exalted above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sits himself as God in the temple of God, and declares himself to be God (a god). He is the very Iniquitous (‘Wicked’) one, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, etc. These points we shall afterwards consider one by one.

IX. The check is used indifferently in the masculine and neuter gender [ὁ κατέχων and τὸ κατέχον]: unless the neuter be put first in the text for this purpose, namely, in order that ὁ κατέχων, He who holdeth back (‘letteth,’ viz. the evil), may be afterwards opposed to the adversary, who is described in the singular [2 Thessalonians 2:8].—HE WHO NOW holdeth back (‘letteth’), says he, will cease to be in the way (to be among men); and a little before, Now ye know THAT WHICH withholdeth (holds back), so as that he may be revealed in HIS TIME [and not sooner; but for τὸ κατέχον, he would be revealed sooner than the proper time].

X. That check, whatever it is, does not restrain the apostasy and the mystery of iniquity—but the Man of Sin himself that iniquitous, or wicked one.—The mystery of iniquity, and he who holdeth back (‘letteth’), fall upon one and the same time [are coincident in time]; but, when he who holdeth back, and that which holdeth back (‘withholdeth’), have ceased to be in the way, then the Iniquitous one (Wicked) is revealed.

XI. At length out of the apostasy arises the Man of Sin; moreover, the political power of Rome, as a check, holds this very person back.—We clearly see, from the mutual comparison of the evil and the check upon it, and of the qualities of each, what both are. That Iniquitous one (‘Wicked’), besides marks of falsehood, has also a certain degree of majesty, set off under a spiritual disguise, as if he were a god. The civil authority acts as a check upon him; and this authority was assuredly in the hands of the Romans in the time of Paul, and comprehended Jerusalem; Rome, and Corinth, from which he was writing, as also Thessalonica, to which he was writing, etc.

XII. The date of this epistle in no small degree helps the interpretation.—It was written in the time of Claudius; comp. Acts 18:2; Acts 18:5, with 1 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:6 : and this very circumstance utterly refutes Grotius’ attempt to interpret the prophecy of Paul concerning Caligula. The ancients were of opinion, that Claudius himself was absolutely this check; for from this circumstance, as it appears, it came to pass, that they considered Nero, the successor of Claudius, to be the Man of Sin; and when the wickedness of Nero, how furious soever it might be, had not, however, filled up that measure, they accounted Domitian, and the other emperors of a similar character, as a kind of complement to make up the full measure of the evil. They certainly did not by this interpretation exhaust the prophecy; but yet they attained to some part of the truth, namely, that something connected with Rome is here intended, whatever might be the mode of its exhibition.

Let us go a little closer. The check is something with which the Thessalonians were unacquainted when Paul had been with them not long before: and ‘now,’ when the same apostle wrote these things, they ‘knew’ it, from the fact of the beginnings of the events corresponding [to his words] more than many, a little before, would have thought. This is evident from the antithesis between the fifth and sixth verses. The epistle was written about the eighth year of Claudius, 48 of the Dion. æra, as we show in Ordo temporum p. 278. At that period Claudius had expelled from Rome the Jews, whether believers or unbelievers, and this because the latter were constantly raising tumults; and in Judæa itself, too, Cumanus was grievously oppressing them. Therefore, in the provinces, the prefects and procurators, in Italy and at Rome the Emperor himself, was holding back the evil. It is a remarkable proof of this fact, that the Jews did not kill James until after the death of Festus, and before the arrival of Albinus. Whatever they did on that occasion, they would willingly have done on other occasions against Christ, but could not for the Romans. So Gallio held them back at Corinth, Claudius Lysias at Jerusalem, Acts 18:14; Acts 18:21; Acts 18:23. In the time of Paul, the Roman power certainly held back the evil; not immediately (directly): therefore it must have been mediately (indirectly). Moreover, the instrumentality or medium of holding it back was severity towards the Jews, who would have proceeded farther, if they had been permitted by the Romans. I shall willingly listen to an easier and simpler (I should be glad to hear a more ready and probable) interpretation.

XIII. When the check ceased to be in the way, that Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’] is revealed.—This position agrees with the fifth, and yet it also differs from it. The former marks the long continuance of the check; the latter, the time of revealing the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’]. The coming of the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’] is according to the working of Satan in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, etc. This coming has not yet taken place, although its preludes are for a long time not wanting; therefore the check still exists. And it is evident from this most powerful argument, that the political power in the hands of the Romans is the check. For no other check, so powerful and so long-continued, will anywhere be found. This check, however, did not restrain the working of Satan, but the setting up of the dominion of the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’]; and when it is removed, Satan lends his aid to the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’].

We shall now take the assistance of the Apocalypse.

XIV. That Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’] is the beast ascending out of the bottomless pit.—So long and so continuous is the evil described by Paul, § iv., that it cannot but fall in at some period with the times of the apocalyptic beast; and the resemblance between the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’] and the beast is so great, the power so widely spread and so exalted, that they can only be one subject [they must be one and the same person or existence]. The Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’] will not finally perish [his destruction will be deferred] until after the destruction of the beast; for in that battle, which is described in Revelation 19, the Lord’s enemies are so completely destroyed, that the calamity described by Paul cannot be extended to a period farther on. Moreover also the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’] will not perish previously [before the destruction of the beast, etc., in Revelation 19]: for he remains even till the appearing of the coming of the Lord, [2 Thessalonians 2:8.]

XV. Therefore the whole evil described by Paul is strictly and intimately connected with the Roman empire.—What tie of relationship the apostasy and the Man of Sin himself had with the city Rome, could not be known by the Thessalonians, unless Paul taught them it face to face. The Apocalypse and the event teach us, and will teach posterity more and more fully. We then, according to our present ability, will institute a comparison.

XVI. That Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’] is yet to come.—It is one and the same beast which ascends first from the sea, then from the bottomless pit. That beast has very much to do with the woman, who is Babylon, Rome. Sometimes it carries the woman, at length it destroys her with the assistance of the ten horns [Revelation 17:16]. The beast out of the sea is the papacy of Hildebrand; but the beast from the bottomless pit, excepting the succession in the papacy (which does not take away the ancient tradition concerning the rise of Antichrist from the Jews, but leaves it in its own place [just as it finds it]), will have a quite new and singular character of wickedness, on account of which he is called the Man of Sin, etc. All these observations are demonstrated in my German and Latin interpretation of the Apocalypse. Antichrist, or the Man of Sin, as being about to come in the nineteenth century, could not be retarded by the Roman power of the first and following centuries, on which comp. Revelation 8:9. Therefore the Roman Emperor will be among the ten kings; and when he, with the nine others, shall give his power to the beast, he will be taken out of the way, and will give place to the Man of Sin. The Roman power is the check even up to the time of the rising of the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’], who, after he has arisen, makes the whore desolate, with the assistance of the ten horns.

XVII. Rome is, notwithstanding, the channel in which the apostasy and the mystery of iniquity have flowed for many ages.—Claudius did not long exclude the Jews, and along with them the Christians, from Rome; a short time after, they returned, and with the good the evil also obtained abundant opportunity of being increased. The two parts of the evil are, the apostasy [“falling away”], and the mystery of iniquity. Apostasy from the faith, and διχοστασίαι or divisions, which lead men to forsake the doctrine of the apostles, are very closely connected; and the latter already at that time were arising at Rome on the part of some, who were under the influence of Satan; Romans 16:17, with which comp. Romans 2:20. Moreover, apostasy from the faith, bringing in doctrines concerning the worship of intermediate divinities (intercessors),[12] concerning the avoiding of marriage under pretence of spiritual perfection, and abstinence from meats, only indeed some kinds of meat, 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:3, is peculiarly applicable to Rome, although it was long untainted by other heresies. The iniquity [ἀνομία 2 Thessalonians 2:7] chiefly consisted in the most deadly sin of pride, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. The beginning of man’s pride was his apostatizing from God; since his heart withdrew itself from Him who made him. For pride is the beginning of all sin.[13] Sir 10:14-15. The seeds and commencing fibres lay concealed in the elevation of human authority, in Petrism [“I am of Cephas”]; 1 Corinthians 1:12, note. Hence by degrees arose the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, and the whole system of the papacy.

[12] Alluding to the “doctrines of δαίμονες1 Timothy 4:1, not ‘devils,’ as Engl. Vers.; but inferior divinities, genii, etc.—ED.

[13] The Wisdom of Sir 10:12-13Verse 3. - Let no man deceive you by any means; in any way, not only in any of the foregoing methods, "by spirit, or word, or letter," but in any way whatever. For (that day shall not come). The bracketed words are not in the original, but are correctly supplied for the completion of the sense. Except there come a falling away; or, the apostasy; namely, that apostasy about which the apostle, when in Thessalonica, had instructed his readers. The falling away here alluded to is evidently religious, not political. Hence it cannot be the revolt of the Jews from the Romans, or any of those revolts and disturbances which then occurred in the political world. Nor must we conceive that the man of sin himself is here meant; for this apostasy precedes his coming - prepares the way for his advent; it is not the result, but the cause, of his appearance. The word, then, is to be taken generally to denote that remarkable "falling away" from Christianity concerning which Paul had instructed the Thessalonians (comp. 1 Timothy 4:1-3). First; namely, before the coming of the day of the Lord. And that man of sin; in whom sin is, as it were, personified, as righteousness is in Christ. Be revealed. The apostle considers the man of sin as the counterpart of Christ; as Christ was revealed, so shall the man of sin be revealed. The son of perdition; whose sin necessarily conducts to perdition; not here the perdition of his followers, but his own perdition. The same name which was applied by our Lord to Judas Iscariot (John 17:12). Deceive (ἐξαπατήσῃ)

Better beguile; since the word means not only making a false impression, but actually leading astray. Except there come a falling away. Before except insert in translation the day shall not come. Such ellipses are common in Paul.

Falling away (ἀποστασία)

Only here and Acts 21:21. Comp. lxx, Joshua 22:22; 2 Chronicles 29:19.

The man of sin - the son of perdition (ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας)

See on children of light, 1 Thessalonians 5:5. The phrase man of sin (lawlessness) does not occur elsewhere, either in N.T. or lxx. Son of perdition is found John 17:12, olxx: τέκνα ἄπωλείας children of perdition (A.V. transgression), Isaiah 57:4. The man of sin has been thought to refer to Caligula, Titus, Simon Magus, Nero, the Pope of Rome, Luther, Mahomet, etc.

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