The Man of Lawlessness

Here is the second benchmark indicating Christ's return is imminent.

2 Thessalonians 2 (2)

Pray Psalm 2.1-3.
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

Read 2 Thessalonians 2.3, 4.

1. What is lawlessness? Why did Jesus warn us against lawlessness in Matthew 24.12?

2. Paul elsewhere describes the church as the temple of the Lord, and believers individually are temples as well (Eph. 2.19-22; 1 Cor. 6.19, 20). Should this have any bearing on how we understand temple in verse 4? 

The second benchmark, beside the falling away or apostasy, indicating that the way is clear for the Lord to return is the appearance of the man of sin (v. 3). The Greek term, as we have seen, is man of lawlessness, whom Paul further identifies as the son of perdition. The Greek word ἀπωλείας, means destruction or waste. The lawless man destroys and wastes whatever comes under his power. He thinks of himself and acts like he is God, a law unto himself, with no regard whatsoever for the true God or His ways.

Who is this man of lawlessness?

Paul may be having a prophetic insight here to the blasphemous actions of the Romans in destroying the temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD, thus making themselves above God, not unlike what we read in Psalm 2.1-3.

He also may be thinking of one particular man, generally referred to as antichrist, who, many believe, will be manifest in the last days just prior to the return of the Lord, and who fits the remit described here. But then John said that “many antichrists” had already made themselves visible in his day (1 Jn. 2.18, 19), and many of these lawless and destructive people had previously associated themselves with the Church.

More likely – and here I am not completely alone in my view – Paul may be referring to a type of man, like the type of the righteous and the unrighteous man in Psalm 1 (“Blessed is the man…”). A type of man is coming who will have no regard for God or His Law, will set himself up as his own god, and who will bring to waste and destruction whatever comes under his sway. This type of man – like the many antichrists to whom John referred – will even be found in the temple of the Lord, the Church, and his tendencies may reside even in our own souls. These are people who act without regard to God and His Law, or who intentionally vaunt their own views above the revelation of God.

Where lawlessness abounds, love for God and neighbors falls into serious decline, as Jesus warned. If we regard the man of lawlessness as a type of man, a particular kind of person, we have to say that such antichrists exist already in our day, and can be found even in the Church, where they deny the Law of God and push their own agendas rather than that of the Lord.

The apostasy and the man of lawlessness may well be upon us already.

1. How can we make sure in our own lives that we’re not drifting into lawlessness?

2. Is lawlessness always as blatant as in Psalm 2.1-3, where people deliberately throw off the bonds and cords (Law) of God? Explain.

3. In what ways might the man of lawlessness show up in your own soul?

But Paul calls him “the son of perdition,” because he is also to be destroyed. But who is he? Satan? By no means. Rather he is a man in whom Satan fully works. For he is a man.… For he will not introduce idolatry but will be a kind of opponent to God. He will abolish all the gods and will order men to worship him instead of God. He will be seated in the temple of God, not that in Jerusalem only, but also in every church. John Chrysostom (344-407 AD), Homilies on 2 Thessalonians 3

Search me, O God! Show me where any lawlessness may be lingering in me, and help me to…

Pray Psalm 2.

Today, as you pray this psalm, let the Word of God reveal any lawlessness in you, any area of your life which you have not submitted completely to Him. Give it to Him today, repent, and ask the Lord to show you how to obey Him in this area.

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 2 (Agincourt: O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High!)
Why do the nations vainly rage, conspiring together from age to age?
Earth’s kings and all of their counselors stand against the Lord and His Right Hand:

“Now let us cast His yoke below, His Kingdom authority overthrow!
Throw off His Law, reject His Word; no more be governed by this Lord!”

The Lord in heaven laughs in wrath at all who embark on this cursèd path.
His angry Word to them is plain: “Yet shall My King in Zion reign!”

Proclaim the message far and wide, that God has exalted the Crucified!
From heav’n He sent us His only Son, Who has for us salvation won!

To Christ the Lord be given all who humbly embrace Him and on Him call.
Be wise, be warned: His judgment comes to break the prideful, sinful ones.

Rejoice with fear in Jesus’ grace, and worship before His exalted face!
Beware His anger and judgment grim: how blessed are all who rest in Him!
T. M. Moore

Where do 1 and 2 Thessalonians fit in the unfolding of God’s covenant? Order our workbook, God’s Covenant, and find out how all Scripture fits within this redemptive framework (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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