ANTICHRIST - WHO IS THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS?
"Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction." 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NIV).
Is the 'man of lawlessness' the same person as the man 'doomed to destruction'? We have already explored the identities of antichrist and the man doomed to destruction and argued for the case that both John and Paul were referring to the same category of people -- not an individual but rather a succession of people who manifest the same characteristics. They are people who have apostatised from the faith, having once been in it but subsequently have fallen away as did Judas whom Jesus described as the man 'doomed to destruction.'
According to John, antichrist is a spirit already present in the world in his day, arising from within the group of believers. The spirit that denies both the full deity and the full humanity of Jesus is the spirit of antichrist.
The title, 'man of sin' or 'man of lawlessness' (2 Thessalonians 2:3) has led millions to believe that he will be a single evil individual called the Antichrist. How does this tie up with John's 'many antichrists' and Paul's man 'doomed to destruction'?
Paul uses different terms, man of sin, man doomed to destruction and the lawless one, to describe the same phenomenon, paralleled by John's antichrist, Daniel's 'little horn' of Daniel 7:8 and 'the beast' of Revelation 13:2. It is generally accepted that these all refer to the same thing.
The question is, is the Bible referring to a single individual and if so, who is this person? In Daniel 7, the little horn is not a man. Rather, it will have eyes like a man. Revelation refers to the beast which, (according to Daniel 7:17, 'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth,') is a kingdom, not a man. Therefore, to be true to the way the Bible interprets itself, all these references point to a category of people rather than an individual.
The next question we must answer is, 'Is the term, 'man of', used elsewhere in Scripture and, if so, how is it used?' Did Paul ever use the expression in such a way that it does not refer to only one man? In 2 Timothy 3:16,17, Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
Can this expression possible refer to only one man? No. It makes sense that it refers to every person, man or woman, who is equipped through the word of God for good work. It cannot be understood any other way. In the same way Paul uses the expression 'he is God's servant' in Romans 13:4, to refer to all civil officers throughout history who restrain evil under God's authority.
If we allow Paul to interpret his own writings, in the light of the above Scriptures, we must conclude that the expression, 'man of lawlessness' or 'man of sin' could apply to a category or succession of people who place themselves above or outside of the Word of God.
Both John and Paul are telling us that there is a spirit in the world that was already at work in the early church, arising from within the church that represents a kingdom that sets itself against or above Christ.
Why is this a warning and why is it relevant for believers of every age? To relegate the 'antichrist' to some future evil person and to some future date is to leave the church vulnerable to both apathy and deception. Paul and John's warnings are relevant for the church of every age so that we are not caught up in the subtle deception of this kingdom that is administered by Satan to fulfil his desire to rule in the place of Christ.
(To be continued)
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