I’m not exactly sure why I feel compelled to write this post. It could be to help me understand these issues better, or because some one else needs to read it, or both. It could also just be my own vanity. I struggle with vanity and pride. I’m also not sure exactly how to write it so that it will make sense to others. This is probably because I am still working through these issues, myself. They are not yet clear in my own mind, so I won’t expect others to fully understand what I’m trying to explain when I don’t fully understand it, myself. Still, I need to write this, if for no other reason than to still the voice that keeps telling me to write. So, with that said, I return again to 2 Thessalonians 2.
To refresh our recollection of this passage:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 New American Standard Bible 1995Man of Lawlessness
2 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man* of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
There is so much here, and so many have written about it. Far be it for me to declare that I know the true meaning of the Spirits intent behind us to understand from Paul’s words. All I know is that I keep feeling that they have been largely misunderstood. Many believe this is about a single person who is known as the Antichrist: Satan in the flesh. But I do not see it that way. Every time I try to find the Antichrist in Scriptures, I fail. Instead, I keep coming back to the feeling that what is being described here applies to every single person who rejects the Truth in favor of their own desires. This is why I wrote this post: in order to attempt an explanation of why I feel this way when I read this passage and — hopefully — to figure out why I keep being brought back to this passage in the process.
I need to start by explaining something I have learned about the Ancient Near East (ANE) world view. To the ancients — and this includes the Hebrews — a god was any being that could bring order out of chaos. In fact, this is usually the primary qualification for claiming to be a god: that the god brought order from chaos. With the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, also came the ability to speak things into existence. Therefore, in the mind of the ancients, to be a god, a being had to be able to create order from chaos and/or speak things into existence. We should not dismiss this aspect of the ANE world view, as it forms the background upon which the whole of Scripture is written. To dismiss it and still expect to understand the Scriptures would be the same as if we dismissed the whole of what makes up our culture and then expected a foreigner to be able to properly understand the things we have written. It’s simply not possible. However, if we know and accept this fact of the ANE world view, and we look closely, with the whole of Scripture in mind, we will find that these two traits of the ANE world view — bringing order out of chaos and speaking things into existence — are lurking just beyond the surface of 2 Thessalonians 2.
Let me start with the Greek word, translated here as ‘apostasy,’ which is, ‘apostasia.’ It means, “a falling away, a rebellion, apostasy” (Strongs G646). I know that many will believe otherwise, and I have no wish to suggest correction or seek an argument here. I just wish to call your attention to the fact that one cannot have a rebellion by one’s self. True, an individual can rebel, but — at least to me — a rebellion suggests an uprising of more than one person. Furthermore, a ‘falling away’ also seems of carry the though of a mass movement. In this case, a movement away from the allegiance and obedience to YHWH. For this reason, I suspect that this passage in Thessalonians is not aimed at a single character in the Prophetic Word (i.e. ‘the’ Antichrist), but rather, I believe it is aimed at anyone to whom it applies. Now, let’s keep looking to see whether or not the passage could support this understanding.
OK, remember I said we have to keep the whole of Scripture in mind when we read this passage? So, where is the Temple now, under the new (renewed) covenant?
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
“I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
Scripture seems fairly clear here: in the time of the New (or restored) Covenant, the body of every believer is the Temple of God, which would then make the heart of every believer the Seat of God within that Temple. If this is the proper understanding, then the rest of the warning here would also seem pretty clear: anyone who, in their heart, acts as though they can bring order out of chaos, or speak things into existence, is exalting themselves above the One, True God and declaring themselves to be a god.
Now, please, stick with me as I move to the latter section of this passage.
Look at the words I highlighted in red. Why will those who exalt themselves be destroyed? Those who perish will do so because they rejected the truth. So, what is truth? Well, Yeshua, of course (John 14:6). But Yeshua is also the Word of God, and that means the whole Word. In short, Yeshuah — Messiah — is the sum of all YHWH’s Laws made flesh. And, as Scripture tells us, God’s Law is Truth — the ultimate Truth. So too is Yeshua the Truth. But this is where many people misunderstand what is meant by ‘God’s Law.’ We are not just speaking about the Law of Moses, or even the Ten Commandments. We are talking about all of God’s Laws, and that includes things such as the laws governing physics, logic, mathematics, language, etc.: what we might call, ‘Natural Law.’ Therefore, rebelling against God is more than just rejecting His revealed Law. It includes the rejection of His Natural Law, as well.
Now, Let’s apply this to our modern world. Who are those who have set themselves in the Seat of God and said to themselves that they are gods? What are the indications that a person has done this? What does the fruit of this rebellion look like?
Well, Scripture says, judgment starts at the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17). So, let’s start with those who claim to be disciples of the Lord. What would be some of the signs that those who call themselves by Christ’s name are in rebellion to God’s Laws? How about justifying sexual immorality? This doesn’t just include homosexuality, but also any sex outside of marriage. According to Scripture, they are both against God’s Law. How about rationalizing murder? This doesn’t just include abortion, it also includes ‘euthanasia’ and suicide. According to Scripture, they are all forms of murder. How about rationalizing theft? This comes in many forms today. Welfare is theft. It is the forcible taking of property to one so as to give it to another, and the Scripture defines this as theft. Yet, many in the church support such government actions. They even go so far as to suggest it is obedience to Scripture because it cares for the poor. But that way of thinking leads to idolatry. If the church leads believers to trust in government , which Scripture defines as a beast, then it leads believers to trust in and depend on something other than YHWH, and that is idolatry. And how about the notion that Yeshua did away with TORAH, with YHWH’s Law? The Scriptures say exactly the opposite. For that matter, Yeshua said that His brothers and sisters are those who obey His and the Fathers commandments. And yet, the majority of churches teach that the Law has been set aside. Scripture says one of the prime indications of the spirit of antichrist will be that it seeks to change the Times (feasts of the Lord) and Law (TORAH). Well, all of the things I just listed are the result of people in the church convincing themselves that they have the authority to change the Word of God — including the Times and the Law. Wouldn’t this be defined as ‘lawlessness’ according to 2 Thessalonians 2?
Now, let’s look at how this spirit of lawlessness manifests outside of the church. How often have we heard the phrase, “That’s your truth, no mine?” Well, there is only one Truth, so, if a person claims to be able to create their own truth, according to the ANE world view, they are actually declaring themselves to be a god. This is because they are claiming to be able to speak things into existence (i.e. create a new order). This is exactly what is happening when people claim to be able to change sexes. Ever wonder why Socialism doesn’t work? Because it is a violation of God’s Laws governing economics. So, when a person insists that they are the one who can finally make it work, they are declaring themselves to be a god. The same thing applies to those who think they can control the environment. Some have gone so far as to think they can ‘dim the sun.’ All of this is based on the assumption that man knows how to operate the physical laws of this universe better than the True Creator, which means that such people believe themselves to be gods. In fact, some have gone so far as to openly declare that man is — or can become — his own god:
The teacher is engaged not simply in the training of individuals, but in the formation of the proper social life…. In this way, the teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer-in of the true Kingdom of God.
–John Dewey, father of modern American public education
[Note: Dewey thought man was his own god, and could direct his own natural and social evolution. When you read his work, he literally thought men could become gods — well, some men, men like him: those who were smarter than the rest. This is the thinking behind this quote, and you will see I am correct if and when you start to research Dewey.]
Does Mormonism also come to mind here, with the notion that man can become a god?
This is also what is behind the many different groups that are trying to destabilize the world. The idea is to create chaos so that the leaders of these groups can then bring about a new order. Soe even boast about it (i.e. the New World Order). Whether they consciously realize it or not, these people are trying to demonstrate that they are gods. Islam, the New World Order/Global Rest, the Communist Global Revolution, American Progressivism: all seek to tear-down the current order so they can rebuild it, thereby demonstrating that they are god.
I may be way off base here, but I don’t believe I am. In fact, the more I pray on this, the more I believe there is something solid in my understanding here. It has helped me to understand a great many things about the material world. For example; it shows me that the unifying force behind things such as Socialism, Marxism, Secular Humanism and Progressivism is the desire to re-order the laws which govern the universe according to the desires of those trying to do the re-ordering. In this case, these people think they are their own gods. Then there are those who create an image of their god and then pretend to worship him/her. This is Islam, Mormonism, Gaiaism, but also much of Judaism and Christianity. Yes, that’s correct: Jews and Christians alike have both altered the Scriptures to the point that they have created false religions, which means they worship a false god. In fact, when we worship a god of our own making, we are no different from those who think they are their own gods. The only difference is that we hide behind the veil of worshiping a false god instead of admitting we believe ourselves to be god.
My understanding of ‘The Man of Lawlessness’ has also helped me to understand why some people cannot seen to be reached by reason. In order to properly apply the rules of logic, one must first understand them. However, before one can understand the rules of logic, one must acknowledge they exist, that they are fixed, and that they are outside of our control. In short, they are a law, like any other law governing the universe. It is in this manner that people such as Ayn Rand, an atheist, can properly use logic without acknowledging the Creator of Logic. For her, reason was her god. She acknowledged reason as existing outside of her control, and she bowed to it, but not to it’s Creator. Therefore, for Rand, reason was and remains a false god. But it was a god to her none the less, and it is why she was able to use it properly (to an extent, anyway). But for those who refuse to acknowledge and bow to reason, there is no way to reason with them. Before they could be reached by reason, they would have to admit that soemthing exists outside of their control. This would require them to admit they are not their own god, and they simply will not do so. Herein is where I find another reason to believe my understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2 is built on solid ground: because the ability to see and understand the Truth rests on our willingness to acknowledge and surrender to it — exactly as Scripture teaches!
Messiah is Truth. Messiah’s voice is the voice of Truth. All who acknowledge and kneel before Him hear His voice. Conversely, all those who reject the Messiah or the Father cannot hear the voice of Truth. They are spiritually blind to it. This does not mean that those who acknowledge and bow to the Creator will see perfectly. We won’t. We will make mistakes. This is what Paul meant when he said believers see, as through a mirror (i.e. a polished plate of bronze). But we still hear the Master’s voice, however dimly, and to the extent that we hearken to it, our vision improves. The more we obey Truth, the better we see. The more we rebel against Truth, the dimmer our vision gets. How well we see and obey the Truth is then reflected in how we live. Scripturally, this is our fruit and our witness. It is how we, as believers, shine the Light of God into the world: by reflecting His Truth into the darkness of lawlessness. It is also how we recognize those who have rebelled in their hearts, and who — whether consciously or not — think of themselves as their own gods. These people are lawless. They act as though the laws of this world answer to them, and as if they can change those law by the force of their own will. This is why they cannot reason, and why they always appear to be so hypocritical in their words and actions: because they acknowledge and bow to no one but themselves — and sometimes, not even to themselves.
How much more lawless could such a person be than this? And how much better could they match the description Paul gives us of the Man of lawlessness than they do today? So many people have allowed themselves to be fooled by the miracles of modern technology. They no longer believe in the Creator, or the spiritual world. They have not only convinced themselves that there is no God, but that they can be their own god. No wonder they create such chaos with the beliefs and actions; they live in open rebellion not only to the laws which govern this universe, but also to He Who Created them. In fact, when we look around, we see such people everywhere. Our world is filled with and governed by them — and society is crumbling for it. And it’s not just our society. The whole world is falling apart: as if the pillars of the earth are being shaken. Nothing is solid anymore. Everything is in chaos and no one lives righteously — not even those who claim to be disciples of the Messiah. Were we, as members of the remnant, the faithful believers, to stop and look — really look — we might almost think we are living as though we were, “In the days of Noah!”
[NOTE: The Greek word, translated here as ‘man,’ is anthrōpos. It can be used to mean a single man, but it is also used to mean mankind, the human race. Thus, the Greek actually supports my understanding here, especially when we consider that many of the other uses of the word, anthrōpos, are used in Scripture to mean Man, as in, mankind; humanity.]