Seated in the Sanctuary
Jesus will not “arrive” to gather his “elect” until two events occur: The “Apostasy” and the “REVELATION of the Man of Lawlessness,” and they are inextricably linked. It is not just the presence of this dark figure but his unveiling in the Assembly that will signal the imminence of the “Day of the Lord.” Not only will he cause many to abandon faith in and allegiance to Jesus, but his “revealing” will take place when he “sits down” in the “Sanctuary of God.”
Based on Paul's usage elsewhere, more than likely, this does not predict the appearance of this deceiver in the Temple in old Jerusalem, but rather his presence IN THE ASSEMBLY OF GOD where he will perform “lying signs and wonders” to deceive those who “do not welcome the love of the truth.”
|[Photo by Harry Miller on Unsplash]|
Here, the concern is over the deceptive voices that were troubling some members of the congregation in Thessalonica. Nowhere in the larger context does Paul express any interest in Israel, the city of Jerusalem, or its stone Temple “made with hands.”
A false report was circulating that claimed the “Day of the Lord had set it.” The Greek verb indicates a belief that the event had “commenced” already. Paul responded by pointing to two prophetic events that must occur before that day arrives:
- (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) - “That day will not set in, except, first, the apostasy comes, and there be revealed the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself on high against everyone called God or any object of worship, so that he, within the Sanctuary of God, will sit down, showing himself that he is God.”
The Greek term translated as “revealed” represents the verb apocalyptô, meaning, “unveiled, disclosed, revealed.” It is related to the noun apocalyptô, the term from which the English word “revelation” is derived.
It denotes the disclosure of something that was previously hidden, an idea that fits the context very well. This man will not appear as who he truly is until the “Mystery of Lawlessness” has finished preparing the way, “and then the Lawless One will be revealed” - (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
The clause, “he will sit down in the Sanctuary,” corresponds to the verb “revealed.” His “seating” in the House of God will be his “revelation,” the moment when his identity will be exposed for those with “eyes to see.”
The sentence tells us WHEN and WHERE he will be exposed. That does not mean he will be an unknown figure prior to that time, but his identification AS the “Man of Lawlessness” will remain hidden until he places himself squarely in the “Sanctuary of God.”
His “revelation” will be the Satanic counterpart to the “revelation of Jesus” described in the first and second chapters of the Letter. At the end of the age, Jesus will be “revealed from heaven” accompanied by angels and mighty displays of power. But prior to his “arrival,” the “Man of Lawlessness will be revealed” when he “sits down” in God’s house and performs “lying signs and wonders” - (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, 2:8-9).
The passage in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians anticipates the discussion in the second. When Jesus is “revealed from heaven,” not only will he vindicate his saints, but he will also “render vengeance on them that know not God, and on them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” The latter will include the “Lawless One.”
What determines one’s vindication or condemnation is obedience or disobedience to the “Gospel.” This corresponds to the exhortation at the end of the second chapter to “stand fast” in the “traditions” taught by Paul and the Apostles. Doing so is necessary to avoid apostasy, and “everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord” will result from refusing to welcome “the love of the truth.”
This does not mean the “Lawless One” will arrive in the sky in some spectacular cosmic display. Instead, he will appear “in the Sanctuary.” Yet, on some level, his public unveiling will mimic the “revelation of Jesus from heaven.” Just as he will arrive with angels and in “flaming fire,” so the “Lawless One” will arrive with “lying signs and wonders.”
The Greek phrase rendered “Sanctuary of God” occurs five times in Paul’s letters (ton naon tou theou). Naos means “Sanctuary.” In biblical Greek, it refers to the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle or Temple, not to the entire Temple complex or hieron.
The Apostle applies the term to the congregation and believers four times in his letters to the Corinthians, and once in Ephesians he uses naos by itself for the Assembly, the “holy sanctuary to the Lord”- (1 Corinthians 3:16, 3:17, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:19-22).
The scriptural source for this “Man of Lawlessness” is the Book of Daniel, the malevolent king who persecuted the Jewish people, the one known as the “Little Horn,” the “King of Fierce Countenance,” and the “Contemptible Person” – (Daniel 7:21-25, 8:9-13, 8:23-26, 9:26-27, 11:30-36).
This ruler “exalted himself above every god and spoke marvelous things against the God of gods.” He waged “war against the saints,” causing many in Israel to abandon the faith. He desecrated the “Sanctuary” by erecting the “Abomination that Desolates” in it and banning the daily burnt offerings. All this made him the perfect model for Paul’s “Lawless One” who will attempt to destroy the Assembly from within.
DECEPTION AND APOSTASY
The “Man of Lawlessness” is linked to the coming “Apostasy.” This word translates the Greek term apostasia or “defection, apostasy, falling away, departure, abandonment.” Consistently in Scripture, it refers to abandoning the true faith.
The purpose of this deceiver is to cause believers to depart from the faith. He will be energized by Satan with “all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth.”
Not coincidentally, these words echo the warning of Jesus about “false prophets” and “false messiahs” who will employ “great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect” – (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, Matthew 24:24).
The “Lawless One” will “sit down in the Sanctuary.” This points to his imitation of Jesus. “Sit down” translates the Greek verb kathizô, the same verb used each time the New Testament quotes Psalm 110:1 where Yahweh says to his Messiah, “sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” - (Matthew 22:44, Acts 2:34-36, 7:55).
As he seats himself in the “Sanctuary,” this figure will oppose God and present himself as if he is divine, or perhaps more likely as an alternative messiah, “another Jesus.”
That he seats himself demonstrates his presumptuousness. In the ancient Tabernacle, only the High Priest entered the “Holy of Holies” once each year and stood before the “mercy seat” He NEVER “sat down.” The only one who is ever said to have “sat down” in God’s house was (and is) Jesus following his ascension – (e.g., Hebrews 1:1-4).
Considering Paul’s usage elsewhere, very probably the phrase “Sanctuary of God” refers to the Church, the Assembly of God. Thus, the passage warns the disciples of Jesus to watch for the appearance of this deceiver in the congregation. He will counterfeit the true Messiah and thus lead many BELIEVERS astray.