ANTICHRIST - WHO IS THE MAN DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION?
According to popular prophecy teaching, the antichrist and the man of lawlessness, the man doomed to destruction, are one and the same person, an evil political individual who will be revealed after the church is secretly raptured, who will sign a peace treaty with Israel but will usher in a time of tribulation during the second half of the last week of Daniel’s ‘seventy weeks’.
Both Paul and John speak of these sinister characters. To John he is the antichrist and to Paul the ‘man of lawlessness’ (sin) ‘doomed to destruction’ (2 Thess 2:3). But we have to ask, are they speaking about the same person? Do these individuals match in Scripture or are they two different characters?
From the writings of the Apostle John we have learned that antichrist is a spirit, present in the world from John’s time; that it operates in people who were in the church but left; and that every spirit that denies that Jesus is God or that He has come in the flesh, is antichrist. John was dealing with heresies already circulating in the early church and warning believers to be aware of them but not afraid of them because the One in them is greater than the one in the world.
Who is the man ‘doomed to destruction’ of whom Paul wrote? Paul was also dealing with an error in the church. People were teaching that Jesus had come again secretly and that believers still present on the earth had missed His coming. Believers were worried that those who had died before Jesus returned would be left behind.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul explains that Jesus’ coming will not be secret because it will be accompanied by shouting and trumpet blowing (a fulfilment of the Feast of Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets which prepared the people for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, or the Day of Judgment) – 1 Thess 4:16. Those believers who had already died would rise first and those still alive would be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air.
Before this cataclysmic event happens, certain things have to take place:
Firstly, there would be a ‘falling away’ of believers from the faith (2 Thess 2:3). Unlike the current teaching about a massive end-time harvest, Jesus warned that “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most would grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). The Greek word for ‘falling away’ is ‘apostasia’, which means apostasy. People can only fall away from the faith if they have once been a part of it.
Secondly, the man doomed to destruction, would be revealed after the falling away and, by implication, out of and as a result of the apostasy. Two questions have to be answered. Firstly, when does (or did) this ’falling away’ happen and secondly, who is the man ‘doomed to destruction’?
Since both answers tie together, I will examine the second question first which makes it easier to answer the first.
Paul used a code word to identify the man doomed to destruction. It is used only once in the rest of Scripture, by Jesus in His high-priestly prayer in John 17:12: “While I was with them I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” It is quite clear that Jesus was speaking of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Him.
Who was Judas?
1. He was one of the Twelve, chosen by Jesus after a night of prayer – Luke 6:12,16.
2. He was given power and authority, as were the other disciples, to drive out demons, heal the sick and preach the good news of the kingdom – Luke 9:1.
3. He was present with, and in close proximity to Jesus at the Last Supper – Luke 22:21.
4. Satan entered into him – Luke 22:3, John 13:27.
5. He went out from them and schemed with the chief priests to hand Jesus over to them – Luke 22:4-6; John 13:30.
6. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss – Mark 14:44,45.
From these references it is clear that the identity of the man ’doomed to destruction’ was easily recognisable as coming from within the circle of those who followed Jesus. He was not some mystery political figure to come sometime in the future but a person or persons identifiable by the same characteristics as Judas displayed.
Does Paul’s man ‘doomed to destruction’ match John’s ‘antichrist’ who comes from within the fellowship of believers, someone who was in and is now out? If we understand the terms correctly, the answer is yes. This means that antichrist cannot be a political figure from outside the church as we will see in the next episode.