Two Missing Events
Two events must occur before the Day of the Lord comes, the Apostasy and the unveiling of the Man of Lawlessness. The men who were spreading false rumors in Thessalonica about the immediate future were deceiving believers by raising false expectations about the imminence of the “Day of the Lord” and the “arrival” of Jesus when he will gather his saints. Paul warned the church not to be alarmed or deceived by such rumors, especially such reports that claimed (falsely) to be from him or his coworkers.
Paul’s warning not to be “deceived” parallels the opening exhortation of Jesus in his ‘Olivet Discourse - “Let no man deceive you.” And the Apostle made this warning in a similar context of overheated prophetic expectations - (Matthew 24:4, Mark 13:5, Luke 21:8).
- (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) - “That no one may deceive you in any respect. Because that day will not set in, except the apostasy come first, 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 take his seat, showing himself that he is God.”
That day will not commence until, “first,” the “Apostasy” occurs, and second, the “Man of Lawlessness” is revealed “in the Sanctuary of God.”
The syntax of the Greek clause can mean either that the “Apostasy” will precede the “Man of Lawlessness” or that both events will occur concurrently. In this context, most likely, it means that both events must transpire before the “Day of the Lord” will come.
And here, the “Apostasy” and the unveiling of the “Man of Lawlessness” are inextricably linked. This figure will excel at propagating the very deceptions that mislead the disciples of Jesus. And most certainly, the deceivers who were active in Thessalonica were forerunners of this ultimate deceiver who will be characterized by “lawlessness” and “destruction.”
The term “apostasy” translates the Greek noun apostasia, meaning, “falling away, apostasy, defection.” In both the New Testament and the Greek Septuagint, it is used for defection from the true faith and is related to the Greek verb that means “to forsake, depart, revolt, to withdraw” - (Matthew 5:31, Acts 21:21, 1 Timothy 4:1, Hebrews 3:12).
The expectation of a future “Apostasy” is common in the New Testament and originated with Jesus. Furthermore, in his comments in the ‘Olivet Discourse,’ he linked “lawlessness” to apostasy:
- (Matthew 24:10-12) – “And, then, will many be caused to stumble and will deliver up one another and will hate one another; and many false prophets will arise and deceive, many; and because of LAWLESSNESS being brought to the full, the love of the many WILL GROW COLD” - (Compare 1 Timothy 4:1).
THE LAWLESS ONE
This dark figure is given two designations - “Man of Lawlessness” and “Son of Destruction.” The latter is used only once in the chapter. However, and possibly not coincidentally, the exact same phrase, “son of destruction,” was applied by Jesus to Judas Iscariot - (John 17:12).
And the image of a man who causes “lawlessness” and “destruction” is derived from the figure of the “Little Horn” in the Book of Daniel - (Daniel 7:24-25, 11:31-36).
In 2 Thessalonians, the “one who opposes and exalts himself on high” alludes to the passage in Chapter 11 of Daniel, but it also echoes the interpretation of the vision of the Ram and Goat given to the prophet Daniel by Gabriel in the eighth chapter of his Book - “And through his policy, he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand, and he shall magnify himself in his heart” - (Daniel 8:25).
Originally, the passage in Daniel referred to Antiochus IV, the ruler of the Seleucid empire who attempted to destroy the religion of Israel and destroyed many of the “saints” of Israel through his deceptions and “flatteries” - (Daniel 8:9-13, 8:21-26, 9:26-27 11:1-4, 11:31-36).
THE SANCTUARY OF GOD
Elsewhere in his letters, Paul applies the term “Sanctuary of God” (ton naon tou theou) consistently to the church, NOT to any building in Jerusalem or elsewhere - (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21).
The goal of this “Lawless One” is to cause the followers of Jesus to depart from the faith. That is why Paul warned of his future appearance in the “Sanctuary of God.” In other words, he will be active in the church of Jesus Christ.
Throughout the discussion in Chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians, Paul focuses on the spiritual well-being of the church in Thessalonica. His goal is to keep its members safe from misinformation about the “arrival” of Jesus and to prepare them for the future onslaught by satanic forces against the body of Christ.
And rather than provide a list of “signs” by which believers can determine the timing or nearness of that day, the Apostle provides two missing events that prove it has NOT yet arrived. Indeed, that day will not come until these two events occur.