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.
4. Da 11:36, 37 is here referred to. The words used there as to Antiochus Epiphanes, Paul implies, shall even be more applicable to the man of sin, who is the New Testament actual Antichrist, as Antiochus was the Old Testament typical Antichrist. The previous world kingdoms had each one extraordinary person as its representative head and embodiment (thus Babylon had Nebuchadnezzar, Da 2:38, end; Medo-Persia had Cyrus; Greece had Alexander, and Antiochus Epiphanes, the forerunner of Antichrist); so the fourth and last world kingdom, under which we now live, shall have one final head, the concentrated embodiment of all the sin and lawless iniquity which have been in pagan and papal Rome. Rome's final phase will probably be an unholy alliance between idolatrous superstition and godless infidelity.
Who opposeth and exalteth himself—There is but one Greek article to both participles, implying that the reason why he opposeth himself is in order that he may exalt himself above, &c. Alford takes the former clause absolutely, "He that withstands (Christ)," that is, Antichrist (1Jo 2:18). As at the conclusion of the Old Testament period, Israel apostate allied itself with the heathen world power against Jesus and His apostles (Lu 23:12; and at Thessalonica, Ac 17:5-9), and was in righteous retribution punished by the instrumentality of the world power itself (Jerusalem being destroyed by Rome), Da 9:26, 27; so the degenerate Church (become an "harlot"), allying itself with the godless world power (the "beast" of Revelation) against vital religion (that is, the harlot sitting on the beast), shall be judged by that world power which shall be finally embodied in Antichrist (Zec 13:8, 9; 14:2; Re 17:16, 17). In this early Epistle, the apostate Jewish Church as the harlot, and pagan Rome as the beast, form the historical background on which Paul draws his prophetic sketch of the apostasy. In the Pastoral Epistles, which were later, this prophecy appears in connection with Gnosticism, which had at that time infected the Church. The harlot (the apostate Church) is first to be judged by the beast (the world power) and its kings (Re 17:16); and afterwards the beasts and their allies (with the personal Antichrist at their head, who seems to rise after the judgment on the harlot, or apostate Church) shall be judged by the coming of Jesus Himself (Re 19:20). Anti-Christian tendencies produce different Antichrists: these separate Antichrists shall hereafter find their consummation in an individual exceeding them all in the intensity of his evil character [Auberlen]. But judgment soon overtakes him. He is necessarily a child of death, immediately after his ascent as the beast out of the bottomless pit going into perdition (Re 17:8, 11). Idolatry of self, spiritual pride, and rebellion against God, are his characteristics; as Christ-worship, humility, and dependence on God, characterize Christianity. He not merely assumes Christ's character (as the "false Christs," Mt 24:24), but "opposes" Christ. The Greek implies one situated on an opposite side (compare 1Jo 2:22; 2Jo 7). One who, on the destruction of every religion, shall seek to establish his own throne, and for God's great truth, "God is man," to substitute his own lie, "Man is God" [Trench].
above all that is called God—(1Co 8:5). The Pope (for instance, Clement VI) has even commanded the angels to admit into Paradise, without the alleged pains of purgatory, certain souls. But still this is only a foreshadowing of the Antichrist, who will not, as the Pope, act in God's name, but against God.
or that is worshipped—Rome here again gives a presage of Antichrist. The Greek is Sebasma; and Sebastus is the Greek for Augustus, who was worshipped as the secular ruler and divine vicegerent. The papacy has risen on the overthrow of Cæsar's power. Antichrist shall exalt himself above every object of worship, whether on earth as the Cæsar, or in heaven as God. The various prefigurations of Antichrist, Rome, Napoleon, and modern infidel secularism, contain only some, not all, his characteristics. It is the union of all in some one person that shall form the full Antichrist, as the union in one Person, Jesus, of all the types and prophecies constituted the full Christ [Olshausen].
in the temple of God … that he is God—"He will reign a time, times, and half a time" (Da 7:25), that is, three and a half years, and will sit in the temple at Jerusalem: then the Lord shall come from heaven and cast him into the take of fire and shall bring to the saints the times of their reigning, the seventh day of hallowed rest, and give to Abraham the promised inheritance" [Irenæus, Against Heresies, 30.4].
showing himself—with blasphemous and arrogant DISPLAY (compare a type, Ac 12:21-23). The earliest Fathers unanimously looked for a personal Antichrist. Two objections exist to Romanism being regarded the Antichrist, though probably Romanism will leave its culmination in him: (1) So far is Romanism from opposing all that is called God, that adoration of gods and lords many (the Virgin Mary and saints) is a leading feature in it; (2) the papacy has existed for more than twelve centuries, and yet Christ is not come, whereas the prophecy regards the final Antichrist as short-lived, and soon going to perdition through the coming of Christ (Re 17:8, 11). Gregory the Great declared against the patriarch of Constantinople, that whosoever should assume the title of "universal bishop" would be "the forerunner of Antichrist." The papacy fulfilled this his undesigned prophecy. The Pope has been called by his followers, "Our Lord God the Pope"; and at his inauguration in St. Peter's, seated in his chair upon the high altar, which is treated as his footstool, he has vividly foreshadowed him who "exalteth himself above all that is called God." An objection fatal to interpreting the temple of God here as the Church (1Co 3:16, 17; 6:19) is, the apostle would never designate the apostate anti-Christian Church "the temple of God." It is likely that, as Messiah was revealed among the Jews at Jerusalem, so Antimessiah shall appear among them when restored to their own land, and after they have rebuilt their temple at Jerusalem. Thus Da 11:41, 45 (see on Da 11:41; Da 11:45), corresponds, "He shall enter the glorious land (Judea), and he shall plant the tabernacles of his palaces between the seas in the glorious holy mountain"; and then (Da 12:1) "Michael, the great prince, shall stand up" to deliver God's people. Compare Note, see on Da 9:26, 27. Also the king of Assyria, type of Antichrist (Isa 14:12-14). "Lucifer" (a title of Messiah, assumed by Antichrist, Re 22:16); "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." "I will sit upon the mount of the congregation (that is, God's place of meeting His people of old, the temple), in the sides of the north (Ps 48:2); I will be like the Most High." Re 11:1, 2, "The temple of God … the holy city" (namely, Jerusalem, Mt 4:5), compare Ps 68:18, 29, referring to a period since Christ's ascension, therefore not yet fulfilled (Isa 2:1-3; Eze 40:1-44:31; Zec 14:16-20; Mal 3:1). "In the temple of God," implies that it an internal, not an external, enemy which shall assail the Church. Antichrist shall, the first three and a half years of the prophetical week, keep the covenant, then break it and usurp divine honors in the midst of the week. Some think Antichrist will be a Jew. At all events he will, "by flatteries," bring many, not only of the Gentiles, but also of "the tribes" of Israel (so the Greek for "kindreds," Re 11:8, 9), to own him as their long-looked-for Messiah, in the same "city where our Lord was crucified." "Sitteth" here implies his occupying the place of power and majesty in opposition to Him who "sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3), and who shall come to "sit" there where the usurper had sat (Mt 26:64). See on Da 9:27; Re 11:2, 3, 9, 11. Compare Eze 38:2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, as to Tyre, the type of Antichrist, characterized by similar blasphemous arrogance.