|The Real Devil A Biblical Exploration|
Contact the author, Duncan Heaster
Digression 6: "The man of sin" (2 Thess. 2)
However we understand the "working of Satan" (energeian tou Satana) in 2 Thess. 2:9, it was under the control of God- for it was part of the "strong delusion" (energeian planes) which God sent (2 Thess. 2:11). The repetition of the word energeian is missed through the mask of translation through which most read this passage, but in the original Greek it stands out clearly. The 'Satan' isn't working against God but is being used by God in His working in the lives of others. It is "evil" and "the work of Satan" which deceives the wicked (2 Thess. 2:9,10); but God works through this, it is He who sends the delusion... an indication that 'Satan' here is not radical evil, i.e. evil that is free and independent from God, lurking free in the cosmos as it were, but is sent by God, under His control. But of course, we want to know more about this 'Satan'; and in section 2-4 we analyzed the way in which Jewish opposition to the Christian Gospel was a significant adversary or 'Satan' in the first century.
Like the majority of New Testament prophecy, 2 Thess. 2 has application to both AD70 and the last days, although this does not preclude a reference to the Papacy down through the years between those times. It was inspired at a time when apostacy had already set in within the ecclesia, largely due to the inroads of the Judaizers. We can be sure that the Jewish opposition which attended Paul's first visit to Thessalonica would have continued well after he left. They were under pressure from "them that trouble you" (2 Thess. 1:6), who are defined in Gal. 5:11-13 as the Judaizers ("they... which trouble you"). The Thessalonians are comforted that these troublers would be destroyed by the Lord's second coming in fire, "taking vengeance on them... that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (preferring that of Moses): who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (cp. Gehenna) from the presence of the Lord" (1:9). This sounds very much like the punishment of the responsible at judgment day (Jude 24)- and the Judaizers fit that category. Significantly, the only occurrences of the Greek idea of a “man of sin” in the LXX describe Jewish apostates (Prov. 24:22; Is. 57:4).
A Specific Individual
This prophecy speaks of a specific "man of sin" who would arise within the people of God [be they Israel or the ecclesia]. It seems that there may have been such an individual in the first century:
"You have heard that antichrist shall come" (1 Jn. 2:18)
- "Who [singular] did hinder you… a little leaven [that] leaveneth the whole lump…he that troubleth you..." (Gal. 5:8-10)
- "He that is of the contrary part" (Tit. 2:8)
- "Who (which individual) hindered you?... (Paul's) letters, saith he, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (2 Cor. 10:7,10 A.V.mg.).
- The world- the first century Jewish world, in John’s usage of the term- was under the power of a ‘Satan’, a Prince or leader (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 1 Jn. 5:19) - perhaps the High Priest?
- A “stranger” to the flock and a “thief” would come to harm the flock of the Lord Jesus (Jn. 10:5,10).
- The existence of such an individual would make special sense of the Lord’s request for the Father to keep the disciples safe from “the evil one” (Jn. 17:15). 1 Jn. 2:13,14 alludes to this prayer and shows it to have been fulfilled in the first century- the true believers had been kept safe from “the evil one”. And there appears some connection with the promise of Rev. 3:10, given just prior to the cataclysm of AD70, to keep the brethren safe from “the hour of trial”.
- John seems to speak, at least in the Greek text, of one specific individual- e.g. "The one [singular] saying he is in the light" (1 Jn. 1:9). "Who, then, is the liar?" (1 Jn. 2:22) has evident connection with the lying antichrist figure of 2 Thess. 2:8,9; and "the deceiver" (2 Jn. 7) connects with that same figure who will follow "deceit" (2 Thess. 2:11). John saw the singular antichrist as being heralded by many antichrists who had, he felt, already arisen in the first century. They belonged to the [Jewish] world (1 Jn. 4:5)- an indication that the antichrist is somehow Semitic, at least in its first century application. John's reference to "many false prophets" (1 Jn. 4:1) connects with Mt. 24:11, which in an AD70 context predicts that "many false prophets shall arise". This indicates to me that the singular antichrist had some fulfillment in the first century. And the same will be [is?] true in our last days. The likes of Saddam Hussein and Hitler are perhaps such antichrists who presage the coming of the specific person who will be the latter day antichrist. They had some similarities to him, but were not the actual person. Significantly, John seems to have understood this person as someone who would nominally accept Jesus, but deny that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed Messiah (1 Jn. 2:22). This would fit a Moslem position far better than it would a Catholic- for Catholics believe that Jesus is the Christ. Likewise in the first century, the Jewish antichrists believed Jesus had existed, but denied He was the Christ.
It is noteworthy that this individual is not named. Martin Hengel comments, correctly: “One of the riddles of Jewish and early Christian polemic is that it hardly ever really names its opponents, but tends to use derogatory paraphrases. This is [also] true of Essene polemic, which conceals its opponents in ciphers” (1). In this context we recall the references to Babylon and Egypt in the Old Testament as, e.g., “Rahab”. Paul likewise doesn’t seem to refer to his enemies by their names but rather hides behind almost taunt phrases (2 Cor. 11:5,13; 12:11; Gal. 5:12; Phil. 3:2; and see too Gal. 1:7; 3:1,10; 4:17; 2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; Rom. 3:8; 15:31). The references to the prophetess “Jezebel” in Rev. 2:20 and “the teaching of Balaam” (Rev. 2:14) don’t actually name the individuals concerned, but rather give them a kind of code name.
It is against this background that 2 Thess. 2:2 warns them not to be "soon shaken in mind, or be troubled (cp.1:6; Gal. 5:12), neither by Spirit, nor by word (from those claiming the Spirit gift of prophecy), nor by letter as (if it were) from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand" (R.V. "here"). This all indicates Judaist activity; they had elsewhere used the tactic of forging letters in Paul's name (Gal. 6:11; Heb. 13:22; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 3:1). Thus Paul concludes this second letter to the Thessalonians with "the salutation of me Paul with mine own hand which is the token in every epistle, so I write" (2 Thess. 3:17). Their reasoning was that the day of Christ, i.e. the Kingdom, was already present. This was a basically Jewish argument- hence the Judaist cancer at Ephesus had lead to Hymenaeus and Philetus "saying that the resurrection (and therefore the Lord's return) is passed already; and overthrown the faith of some" (2 Tim. 2:18).
The Jewish nature of the man of sin which Paul warns the Thessalonians of is also suggested by a careful reflection upon 1 Jn. 2:11,19: " He that hateth his brother... walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth... they went out from us, but they were not of us" . This is all alluding back to the example of Cain going out from God's presence and wandering in the land of Nod with no direction to his life. Cain is a type of the Judaizers and the Jewish system (Jn. 8:44); the primary reference of John's letters was probably to the Judaizers. These people are described in 1 Jn. 2:18 as "antichrists" whose presence heralded the full manifestation of "the antichrist". This is why the New Testament repeatedly stresses that the appearance of false teachers and fake Christs will be a sign of the end. If these antichrists of the first century were Jewish, then "the antichrist" probably also was. There is ample evidence that John's letters were primarily intended for ecclesias facing this Judaizer problem. The copious links with his Jewish-based Gospel should make this evident. Note too that the Qumran Essenes described the apostate High Priest as “the man of lies”. Tertullian’s interpretations of John’s letters clearly understood the “antichrists” to be referring to contemporary false teachers.
Paul warns that the Lord's coming will not be until there has come a marked further apostacy, and the full public revelation of the man of sin, whose "mystery of iniquity" was already quietly at work. It would be fully revealed once God's withholding patience had ended. At this stage the man of sin would show "lying wonders" which would deceive many; but he would soon be destroyed by "the brightness of (the Lord's) coming". This "mystery of iniquity" was the Judaist false doctrine undermining the ecclesia, resulting in many believers being influenced by them, until in the immediate prelude to Christ's 'coming' in AD70 the Jewish system seemed to have the upper hand over the true believers. We know from Heb. 6 and elsewhere that the Judaist elders were able to do miracles. Such a bout of impressive miracles to be done by false teachers in the last days is predicted in the Olivet prophecy and parts of Revelation. The events of AD70 then totally destroyed the Jewish system.
The following verse by verse commentary seeks to interpret 2 Thess. 2 from these two perspectives- of AD70 and the last days. The fact that "the man of sin" appeared in the first century in the form of Judaist false teaching within the ecclesia means that "the wicked one" sitting in the temple is to be read on a figurative level- as referring to the temple of the ecclesia. Indeed, most N.T. usage of "temple" is with reference to the ecclesia. The Lord's mysterious reference to an idolatrous abomination sitting in the holy place in the last days (to which Paul is alluding) must therefore also have at least some reference to a gross evil within the latter day ecclesia.
V.3 "That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition".
"The son of perdition" was Judas (Jn. 17:12), the epitome of sin and the Jewish Devil (Jn. 6:70,71 cp. 8:44). We will see that throughout 2 Thess. 2 there is frequent reference to the events surrounding our Lord's suffering and death; as we also note in the Revelation passages concerning the saints' final sufferings. Judas was concealed among the disciples until he finally flew his true colours at his betrayal of Christ, which marked the beginning of His passion. The Judaizers were only revealed for what they really were in the traumas of AD69/70. And if the man of sin has a latter day equivalent, this group of false teachers will only show their hand immediately prior to the second coming, at the beginning of the tribulation, which matches the beginning of Christ's final sufferings which began after Judas' betrayal. This indicates that any witch hunt for this group is doomed to failure. The disciples tried to expose Judas, "the man of sin", before his proper time to be manifested; and ended up accusing each other of fitting the role. Such is the inability of human nature to make accurate judgment in this respect. There were three and a half days from the time of Judas being openly revealed for what he was to the end of Christ's sufferings, marked by the resurrection. It may be that there will be a three and a half year tribulation period for the latter day believers, beginning with the open revealing of the "man of sin" .
The N.I.V. (correctly) translated "man of sin" as "man of lawlessness" , highlighting the contradiction in the fact that the law-crazy Judaists were actually lawless. Because lawlessness abounds in the last days, the majority of the ecclesia will lose their love (Mt. 24:12). The beast is epitomized by a man- " the number of the beast...is the number of a man" (Rev. 13:18) (3), in the same way as the system described in 2 Thess. 2 is personified as a man of sin. The figure of Rev. 13:5,6 is clearly based around an Old Testament ‘man of sin’, Goliath- a real, historical person. Rev. 11:4,13 draw a contrast between a god of the earth / land of Israel, and the true God of Heaven. The “god of the earth” has two olive trees and two candlesticks standing before him, with evident allusion back to Zech. 4:14; 6:5, where the Lord / King of the earth / land appears to refer to the King of Babylon.
These passages all imply that there may well be one specific "man of sin" in the last days. Judas, the prototype “son of perdition”, influenced the other disciples, as shown by the complaint concerning Mary's 'waste' of ointment being described as made by Judas in Jn. 12:4, but by the whole group in Mt. 26:8. Jude's letter is a warning against the Jewish-influenced apostacy of the first century. He cites "the gainsaying of Korah" as typical of the false teaching that was infiltrating the ecclesias. He could have spoken of "Korah, Dathan and Abiram", but instead he focuses on Korah, as if he was the outstanding influence. By doing so, was Jude suggesting that there was one specific individual in the "last days" who was to be resisted?
The connection with Judas would suggest that the man of sin being in the temple may refer to the presence of this individual or system within the ecclesia. But there is a clear link with Mt. 24:15, concerning the abomination of desolation standing in the temple as a clear sign that Christ's return is imminent, just as Paul says the man of sin in the temple is the clear sign of the second coming (2 Thess. 2:3). The Lord’s words are looking back to Daniel’s prophecy that a desolator (RV) is to appear in the temple, and also to Jeremiah's description of Nebuchadnezzar as a ‘desolator’ of God’s people and His cities, who achieves his ‘desolation’ by a fake theophany, coming with clouds and chariots just as the Lord Jesus will (Jer. 4:7,13). The language used by Jeremiah in that section is very similar to that used in Ezekiel 38 about the individual named as ‘Gog’. The abomination that desolates is at the hands of an individual desolator- the man of sin of 2 Thess. 2. The likely application to an abomination within the ecclesia notwithstanding, one is tempted to look for a physical temple to be built in Jerusalem in order to ease the fulfillment of this prophecy. It cannot be insignificant that the right wing Rabbis are enthusiastic for this, and have already drawn up the plans for one! It could be that Rev. 13:14,15 predict that the man of sin will set up a literal image of himself there in the temple. And as has been pointed out, Caligula had ordered a statue of himself to be erected in the temple, and although this never actually happened, this would've been an enduring memory amongst the New Testament readership. This background again points to the personality cult of a specific individual being developed in the temple.
v.4 "Who opposeth and exalteth" is used in 2 Tim. 2:25 concerning the Judaizers and Jews, and it is translated "adversary" in the same Judaist context in Lk. 13:17; 21:15; 1 Cor. 16:9; Phil. 1:28 and 1 Tim. 5:14. Their arrogance is well described as exalting themselves above anything that is 'worshipped', whether Christian or otherwise. This is the same word as " devotions" in Acts 17:23 concerning pagan idols. They made themselves "as God" , perhaps by imitating Moses, the god of this (Jewish) world" (2 Cor. 4:4 and context); James 4:11,12 is just one example of the Judaist-influenced eldership making themselves equal to Moses. There are two Greek words translated "temple" , one referring more to the physical building and the other to the spiritual dwelling place of God, i.e. the ecclesia (1 Tim. 3:15). It is this latter one which is used here- the man of sin sits down (Gk. 'takes his place') in the ecclesia, showing himself (Greek 'demonstrating') that he is God. This word is translated "approved" in Acts 2:22 concerning Christ's approval as God's representative by His miracles. This indicates that the man of sin is an imitation of Christ- a true antiChrist. The showing that he is God would be through the pseudo miracles of v.9- in the same way as Moses was made as God to Pharaoh through the miracles he did (Ex. 7:1). The Judaist-influenced elders of the Jewish ecclesias seem to have retained the power of the miraculous gifts for a short time after their apostacy (Heb. 6:4-6); the Jews also had their false miracle workers (Acts 13:6; 19:14). The beast of Revelation also works impressive miracles. Thus as the man of sin did false miracles in the first century through the Jewish miracle workers and their Judaist friends within the ecclesia, so both in the beast system of the last days as well as in the ecclesia, the latter day "man of sin" will work false miracles.
v.5,6 "Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I told you these things? And now ye know (appreciate) what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time".
There is a definite allusion here to Lk. 24:6: "He is... risen; remember how (with what earnestness, the Greek implies) he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee", concerning his sufferings and resurrection. The connection runs deeper; as the Angel spoke those words in Lk. 24, the disciples were about to turn back, to capitulate to the reasoning of the Jewish Satan, due to their failure to truly appreciate earlier prophecy. The believers of AD70 and the last days have parallels with the position of those men. They had frequently heard about the coming sufferings of their Lord, but somehow turned a deaf ear to them. We too can let the reality of these warnings about our future suffering just pass us by.
Paul says that these things had previously been explained to the Thessalonians, perhaps in 1 Thess. 5:3-5; there they were told that the pre-eminent sign of the Lord's coming is the "peace and safety" cry within the ecclesia. Now in 2 Thess. 2 Paul puts it another way: "that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first" , or most importantly, as the most obvious sign. "Withholdeth" is also translated as "stand fast" and also " keep hold" , often in the context of resisting Judaist infiltration by retaining true doctrine. This would imply that the spiritually strong within the ecclesias were withholding the revealing of the man of sin and the Lord's return ("that he might be revealed in his time" can neatly refer to either, cp. 1 Tim. 6:15). However, it was only a matter of time before the falling away was so widespread that they would be "taken out of the way"; "for the mystery of iniquity (literally 'law-breaking', another pun on the Judaizers' position) doth already work" (v.7). This is the opposite to "the mystery of Godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16), and refers to the Judaizers claiming to be so spiritually deep that the Truth was a "mystery" known only to them (cp. Jude 19; Rev. 2:24). That which hindered the revealing or coming (cp. 1:7; a false second coming) of the man of sin would be taken out of the way. "Out of the way" here is normally translated "from among them" - the spiritually minded members of the ecclesia were to be taken away, so that God's punishments could come upon the rest of them. In the first century this was shown in the command for the faithful to flee the Jerusalem ecclesia (Lk. 21:21), to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4), which is a common symbol of Israel and apostate Jewry in the prophets. The word for "mystery" is also used in a negative sense in Rev. 17:5,7 concerning the woman of sin riding the beast- hinting at a specific individual who will be the figurehead of the beast?
v.8 "And then shall that wicked (one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming" .
It was the Jewish system which was destroyed by the 'coming' of AD70; there is a close connection between 'the evil one', i.e. the Devil, and the Jewish system, as discussed in section 2-4. The Spirit and brightness of the Lord's coming parallels the description of judgment on the Judaizers in 1:6-9: "...mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance...punished...from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power". This judgment is against "them that trouble you" (1:6), i.e. the false Judaist 'brethren' who were leading the early church astray (Gal. 1:7). The link with 2:8 shows that it is such false brethren within the ecclesia (temple) who are "the wicked one" which will be destroyed by the second coming. 2 Thess. 1:6-9 also recalls the description of coming judgment on the apostate Jews in Rom.1:18: The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all unGodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness". Paul's words in Thessalonians can also be traced back to Is. 11:4: "He (Christ) shall smite the earth (Heb. 'eretz'- land, of Israel) with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" in Israel, primarily. The Greek for "wicked" is translated "without law" in Romans, again making a play on the Judaizers who were claiming to keep the Law. There is a parallel between " the mystery of iniquity" in v.7 and the "wicked one" of v.8- the revealing of "that wicked" is therefore the revealing of a mystery, which mimics the 'revealed mystery' of the true Gospel (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3; 6:19; Col. 1:26). The wicked one was to be "destroyed", the Greek for which is also translated "abolish", "do away", "make of no effect", "vanish away", "make void" etc., all in the context of the doing away of the Jewish Law and the system which supported it. This was only fully done with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD70.
"The spirit of his mouth" looks forward to Rev. 19:15,21 concerning Christ's destruction of the beast, which has close links with the man of sin. The emphasis on the destruction of the man of sin by Angels and fire recalls Dan. 7:10,11 concerning the beast's destruction by the Lord's return. Perhaps the man of sin will appear associated with the latter day ecclesia, the temple of God, but he will be linked with the political 'beast' which will then be in control of the world.
v.9 "Him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" .
'Satan' in the New Testament frequently refers to the Jewish system. "Coming" can be translated 'coming in', referring to the subtle entry of Judaist agents and ideas into the ecclesia (Gal. 2:4 etc.). The coming of Christ was associated with miracles, and this would be matched by 'Satan's' miracles at his 'coming'. The Greek for "working" is often used concerning the working of the Holy Spirit. "Power, signs and wonders" is a phrase always used concerning the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 2:22,43; 4:30; Rom. 15:19; Heb. 2:4); and in 2 Cor. 12:12 concerning the qualifications of an apostle. This would portray the man of sin as a false apostle (cp. 2 Cor. 11:13-15) doing false miracles to accompany a false Gospel; he is "the son of perdition" after the pattern of Judas. The Greek for "lying" is used about the apostate Jews in Jn. 8:44; Rom. 1:25; 1 Jn. 2:21.
Jannes and Jambres were another prototype of these Judaizers (2 Tim.3:8). Perhaps these magicians who replicated Moses' miracles were apostate Jews. Israel's experience in Egypt points forward to ours at the time of the second coming. Perhaps the beast, symbolic 'Egypt' of the last days, will also have a group of renegade Jews in tow, who match the miracles performed by the latter day Moses. Showing "signs and lying wonders" is an evident allusion back to Mt. 24:24, concerning this happening in the last days of AD70 and our own times. If the miraculous gifts are possessed by some of the faithful in the last days, e.g. in connection with the Elijah ministry, the ability of the apostate believers to do miracles will seem the more credible. There are many links between 2 Thess. 2 and the Olivet prophecy:
The description of those deceived in 2 Thess. 2 is amplifying that of the judgment seat in 1:6-9, which is concerning those responsible to judgment, i.e. those who know Christ. We therefore conclude that the many who are deceived by false claims of miracles are actually within the ecclesia. Only the elect will not be deceived. This was what happened in the run up to AD70, and must presumably be seen in our last days too. The establishment of the beast's power in Jerusalem, accompanied by powerful miracles and the support of some Judas-like brethren within the ecclesia for it, will persuade some in the church to think that Christ is back. The connections between Matt. 24 and 2 Thess. 2 indicate that many (Gk. the majority, Mt. 24:12) within the ecclesia will be deceived, egged on by a subtle group of false Christians who will be the counterpart of the first century Judaizers.
v.10 "With all deceivableness (used concerning the Judaizers in 2 Pet. 2:13) of unrighteousness (used about the Jews in Rom. 1:18,29; 2:8; Heb. 8:12; 2 Pet. 2:13) in them that perish (cp. 1 Cor. 1:18- about the Jews?); because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" .
This implies that they received the truth, but not the love of it. Is this true of the latter day church?
v.11 "For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie".
This same word for "lie" is used in v.9 about "lying wonders". This implies that the beast / false prophet / man of sin is somehow allowed by God to do the lying wonders; they will be sent by God to test the faithful. God deluded the unfaithful within the first century ecclesia into false doctrine and alienation from Him; and it seems, it we are interpreting correctly, that He will do the same in these last days.
Who Will He Be?
We have seen that the latter day man of sin will have some association with the people of God, after the pattern of Judas. He may be partly Jewish. He may even have Christian connections. Or it may be that he is an Arab, a half Jew, who will enthrone himself as the head of the Arab beast and make his capital and temple in Jerusalem. Nah. 1:15 RV describes the leader of the Assyrian invasion as “the wicked one”, the “wicked counsellor” (1:11), “he that dashes [Israel] in pieces” (Nah. 2:1). Further evidence for a charismatic Arab antichrist is provided in my study of the revival of latter day Babylon in The Last Days. Of particular significance is the way that the man of sin exalts himself “against all that is called God or that is an object of worship” (2 Thess. 2:4 RVmg.). This is exactly relevant to Islam, whose insistent belief in one God leads them to be aggressively against any icon, idol or object of worship. This is the very opposite to the Catholic way of venerating objects of worship.
(1) Martin Hengel, The Johannine Question (London: S.C.M., 1996 ed.), p. 41.
(2) This is explored in detail in section 2-4 'The Jewish Satan'.
(3) The following table shows the evident links between the personal “man of sin” spoken of in 2 Thess. 2, and the beast systems of Revelation. I am grateful to Phil Edmonds for tabulating these connections:
The Beast And The Man Of Sin
There are some connections between Mt. 24 and 2 Thess. 2 which show that the " man of sin" has specific reference to the last days, as Mt. 24 does:
It seems reasonable to equate this "man" with the specific "antiChrist" of 1 Jn. 2:18. The beast / horn system is also an imitation of Christ. It breaks in pieces the whole earth (Dan. 7:23)- the same word used in Dan. 2:40,44 to describe Christ's breaking in pieces of the nations at his return. The little horn will "think to change times and laws". This is clearly alluding to Dan. 2:21, where God alone is described as changing the times and seasons. The little horn thus makes himself as God- the man of sin "as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:4). This man of sin will be destroyed by the brightness of the Lord's second coming (2 Thess. 2:8). He will therefore be actively in existence in the last days. This man of sin will be revealed during a falling away from the Truth just prior to the return of Christ (2 Thess. 2:2,3). Thus whatever fulfillments of this power there may have been over history, it has to be accepted that it will have a particular manifestation in the last days.
The man of sin is "the son of perdition", clearly alluding to Judas (Jn. 17:12). This associates this power with the apostate element within the ecclesia. Through infiltrating the ecclesia, he will sit "in the temple of God" (2 Thess. 2:4), i.e. the ecclesia. Judas was a betrayer; we have seen from the Olivet prophecy that there will be betrayers within the ecclesia in the tribulation period. The link with Judas surely teaches that there will be a 'Fifth column' within the latter day church, who are connected with the latter day Babylon / beast / man of sin.
However, it is possible that these prophecies refer to a specific individual who claims that he is Christ- a real 'antiChrist', possibly associated with a renegade Christian (after the pattern of Judas being one of the twelve). It may even be that he builds a literal temple, which would then be the abomination which makes desolate standing in the holy place. Remember that the horn / beast blasphemes the temple (Rev. 13:6), and in their manifestation as the King of the North, "he shall plant the tabernacle of his palace... in the glorious holy mountain" of Zion (Dan. 11:45). 2 Thess. 2:8,9 point the contrast between the Lord's coming and that of the man of sin- as if the latter is a replica of the former. This new power will break in pieces opposing nations just like Christ will (Dan. 7:23 cp. 2:44); he will institute a new set of laws world-wide as if he has God's authority (Dan. 7:25 cp.2:21).
Some may be duped into thinking that Christ has come back, when actually it is the 'antiChrist' of the beast. The beast may have its adherents within the ecclesia who will promulgate this view. The beast has a mouthpiece in another beast that speaks like a dragon- i.e. like the beast- but has horns like a lamb, i.e. a fake Christ. This beast "does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on earth in the sight of men (i.e. this is conscious exhibitionism), and deceives... by the means of these miracles which he had power to do" (Rev. 13:11-14). Bringing fire from Heaven means that this is a conscious imitation of Elijah, implying that the Elijah ministry is active during the tribulation. It will be opposed by the publicity stunts of the beast system.
The idea of an anti-Christ as a replica of the real Christ also occurs in Proverbs, where there is a designed contrast between the woman of wisdom (representing Christ, the seed of the woman, 1 Cor. 1:24), and the "foolish woman" who does the same external things as "wisdom" (e.g. Prov. 9:1-5 cp. 9:14-17). This prototype antiChrist is a whore, which is a symbol associated with the dragon / Babylon / beast of Revelation. Thus the antiChrist and the beast are closely linked. Because of the false miracles, the weak believer will worship the image of the beast and join the 666 system (Rev. 13:14-18). This is based on the image in the plain of Dura, which many of God's people were duped into worshipping. Only the three friends seem to have refused to do so. Perhaps the furnaces which were the means of punishment for those who refused to worship the image are related to the furnaces of the concentration camps, which we may well see repeated in the future.
"A time of trouble"
We have suggested that the blasphemous power building his palace on the temple mount in Dan. 11:45 is the man of sin of 2 Thess. 2, and thus also the little horn power. This is immediately before the second coming of Christ and resurrection described in Dan. 12:2. It is during this period that "there shall be a time of trouble such as never was" for God's people, natural and spiritual- the time of Jacob's trouble that occurs after Israel's present regathering to the land. "That day is great, so that none is like it" (Jer. 30:7). Those who are written in the book experience it, but are saved from it. This group must surely be true believers. Seeing that this will be a time of trouble for God's people such as never was, the previous sufferings of the Jews and the tribulation of the second world war will be nothing compared to this. It will be so bad that it will seem that every one of us will perish- "there should no flesh be saved" (Mt. 24:22). But for those who doggedly hold on to the patience and faith of the saints, the glorious, miraculous deliverance will come. Even an Angel was so amazed by the extraordinary nature of this time of trouble that he asked: "How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?". The answer was "For a time, time and an half (i.e. three and a half years); and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished" (Dan. 12:7,8). The Hebrew for "the holy people" is literally 'the people of the holy ones'- i.e. all those among natural and spiritual Israel who belong to their holy guardian Angels. "All things" being fulfilled in Dan. 12:8 is probably alluded to in the fig tree parable- the generation that see the revival of Israel (fruit instead of leaves on the tree, as a result of Christian preaching) during that three and a half year tribulation will live to see the end of all things. The holy people are to be scattered (Dan. 12:7). The Hebrew means 'to break in pieces', and is also used regarding the beast / horn breaking in pieces the whole earth / land (Dan. 7:23). As it treats God's people, so it will be judged, seeing that the little stone breaks in pieces the beast / image.
The horn who scatters God's people in the last days, the "he" of Dan. 12:7 is the "King of the North" of Dan. 11:45- suggesting that the beast / horn has something to do with latter day Assyria and Babylon, the historical / Biblical "King of the North". The faithful will be "tried" (Dan. 12:10) by this invader, as Israel were by the Babylonian invasion of the past (Jer. 9:7). The same word is used in Zech. 13:9 and Mal. 3:2 concerning the faithful remnant in Jerusalem enduring their future sufferings.
There are a number of similarities between Daniel 11 and the prophecies concerning the persecution of the saints by the horn / beast / man of sin:
There are too many similarities here for this to all be coincidental. The primary fulfillment of Dan. 11 appears to be in the persecution of the Maccabees. The effective tribulation which they went through then, preparing as it did a faithful remnant who accepted Jesus as Messiah at His first coming, must be a dim shadow of what the church and natural Israel are to undergo in the last days. Note that Dan. 11:33 and 12:10 emphasize that only those who understand will spiritually survive the persecution. This should serve as the ultimate inspiration to zealously apply ourselves to the study of prophecy, rather than give up because it seems too difficult. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
The Old Testament Basis
In searching for an Old Testament basis for "that wicked one", we find that very phrase used in the Septuagint of Esther 7:4 to describe Haman. He too was 'revealed' for who he was- the Persian leader plotting the total destruction of Jewry, from which they were saved by grace. The entire story of Esther can be read as a detailed type of Israel's latter day weakness, persecution and deliverance by grace. The idea of a "man of sin" within the temple of God surely has its source in the Ezekiel passages (e.g. Ez. 8:8-16) which describe the idolatry ("abomination") which occurred within the temple in the days just prior to the invasion of Israel by the Babylonians. These passages lead up to the vision of the purged, perfected temple of the Messianic Kingdom in Ez. 40 - 48. The 'men of sin' which Ezekiel saw within the temple were the "elders of the house of Israel", the corrupted priesthood. The connection with 2 Thess. 2 suggests that in the last days, before the final neo-Babylonian holocaust, the elders of both natural and spiritual Israel will practice corruption in the temple / ecclesia of God.
There is an incident in the experience of Nehemiah, Governor of Jerusalem (a type of Christ, Mt. 2:6) which points forward to all this. Nehemiah (cp. Jesus) returned to the Emperor to have his authority over Jerusalem confirmed (cp. Christ to God, Mt. 25:19; Lk. 19:12,13). He then returned to the holy land, to find Israel indifferent to the state of God's house, taken up with the petty materialism of daily life, with the result that the Arab Tobiah had been permitted by the elders of Israel to live in the chambers of the house of God (Neh. 13:6-9). Nehemiah in fury expels him and "cleansed the chambers", throwing out all his things, after the pattern of Christ cleansing the temple (Mt. 21:12). Along with the type of Moses returning from the mount to a corrupted Israel, this points forward to the state of affairs at Christ's return.
Is. 8:5 speaks of an “image of jealousy” being placed in the temple by the Jews just prior to the Babylonian invasion. This was the original image behind the Lord’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation being placed in the temple by the Romans. And yet His prophecy has a distinct latter day reference. All this points to a similar literal fulfillment in some way, in a literal latter day temple.
The Antichrist In Daniel
Without doubt, Daniel’s prophecies repeatedly refer to a specific, evil individual of the last days. These prophecies have largely, in my view, been misinterpreted through seeking to limit their fulfillment to Antiochus or some other person who persecuted the Jews before the time of Christ. Daniel 7:25 speaks of an individual who will persecute the Lord’s people for three and a half years, and change “times and law”- as if he is a fake Jesus Christ, who likewise changed the Law. This person arises in the time of the end (Daniel 8:23)- and this phrase in Daniel always has some reference to the time of the Lord’s return. He is to arise out of the Syrian Kingdom, i.e. part of the divided empire of Alexander the Great. The time when he will arise will be the time when “iniquity is come to the full”- which fits most comfortably with the very last days. Daniel 8:17,19 make it clear: “The vision pertains to the time of the end... the final period of indignation... the appointed time of the end.” Note that Antiochus Epiphanes didn’t reign at the end of the Syrian dynasty [as sometimes claimed].
Daniel 9 gives more detail about this person. Keil translates Daniel 9:26,27: “The city, together with the sanctuary, shall be destroyed by the people of the prince who shall come, who shall find his end in the flood; but war shall continue to the end, since destruction is irrevocably decreed. That prince shall force a strong covenant for one week on the mass of the people, and during half a week he shall take away the service of sacrifice, and borne on the wings of idol abominations [cp. Ps. 18:10, where the true God is also borne on wings] shall carry on a desolating rule, till the firmly decreed judgment shall pour itself upon him as one desolated” (Commentary p. 373). Antichrist’s destruction with the flood [note the definite article] comfortably connects with the Lord’s usage of the flood as a symbol of the latter day judgment upon His enemies (Mt. 24:39). The person spoken about will be involved in war until the end of his days; he will die at the end of his military campaign against God’s people. This was certainly not true of Titus in AD70.
Very similar language to Daniel 9:26 occurs in Is. 10:23: “For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, shall the Lord of Hosts execute in the midst of the land”. The context is speaking of “the Assyrian”. The same language of the last days is found in Is. 28:22: “a final destruction on all the earth.” The latter day antichrist is therefore modelled upon the “Assyrian” of the Old Testament. Note that “the man of sin” of 2 Thess. 2:8 alludes to “the wicked one” of Is. 11:4 LXX, who is, again, “the Assyrian”! So it would appear very likely that the antichrist figure is somehow associated with ‘Assyria’. And what’s going on in Iraq and the territory of ‘Assyria’ right now is gripping the whole world’s attention. Note how the Assyrian is described in Is. 30:31-33 as being thrown into a lake of fire- just as the future beast will be (Rev. 19:20).
But Daniel 11 and 12 [which are one vision, chapter 12 explaining the details of chapter 11] provide yet more insight. The antichrist rages against God’s people for 1290 days after he sets up the abomination that makes desolate- until he is destroyed by the Lord’s coming (Dan. 11:31, cp. 12:11). The Lord Jesus specifically interprets the “abomination that makes desolate” as occurring in the last days. Therefore Dan. 11:31- the first reference to this abomination- must refer to a time after the time of Jesus in the first century. The whole section Daniel 11:31 – Daniel 12:11 gives more detail about this “abomination” and the person and power who places it. That whole passage therefore speaks of the final tribulation- defined as three and a half years in Daniel 12. Yet it’s clear enough that the events in Daniel 11 prior to verse 21 speak of things in Old Testament history. There’s therefore, I suggest, a sudden jump in fulfillment at Dan. 11:21, reaching ahead to the last days. This is the section which starts speaking of the “vile person” who places the “abomination that makes desolate”, and finally meets his end in the final conflict of Dan. 11:45. But this kind of ‘sudden jump’ is not at all uncommon in Old Testament prophecy; in fact, it’s a fairly common feature of Daniel’s prophecies in particular! Daniel 2 presents an outline of the powers that would dominate Israel, and then jumps to the very last days. And the later prophecies in Daniel which expand upon that opening vision do just the same.
The evil man who places the desolating abomination meets his end in war (Dan. 11:45)- just as the same individual does in Dan. 8:23. And this leads in to the resurrection and judgment at the Lord’s return (Dan. 12:1,2). Likewise the Lord predicted that the final tribulation- which He says is that prophesied in Daniel- would be followed “immediately” by His return (Mt. 24:29). So the Lord’s own interpretation of Daniel 11 leaves us with no doubt that the whole section about the abomination and the individual responsible for it applies to our last days. Any partial fulfillment it may have had in Antiochus Epiphanes, Nero or Titus only makes those men prototypes of the final abuser yet to come.
So Who Is He?
As with so many prophecies, the intention of this prophecy is surely so that when the prophecy is fulfilled, then we will know. It’s not intended to pinpoint the individual far ahead of time. What we do know from Daniel 11 is that the “vile person” is also called “the king of the north”, and this is a common title for the ruler of Assyria- present day Iran / Iraq / Kurdistan / Syria. And we’ve shown above that Old Testament passages about the ruler of Assyria are the basis for other ‘antichrist’ prophecies of the New Testament. The phrase “vile person” in Dan. 11:21 is interesting in itself. If the first usage of a word in Scripture is significant, then Gen. 25:34 is indeed helpful here- because it is used of Esau, father of many of the Arab tribes. And it recurs in describing Edom in Obadiah 2, Goliath the Philistine / Palestinian (1 Sam. 17:42), “Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arabian” (Neh. 2:19), and Haman the persecutor of the Jews (Esther 3:6). All these men were Arab prototypes of the “vile person”, the ruler of Assyria, who is to again persecute God’s people.
This latter day “king of the north” will be troubled by “ships from the West”, will have a conflict over the land of Israel with his opposite number, “the king of the south”; will sit at a conference table and be deceitful; and will persecute God’s people, and receive assistance from those of them who deny the faith. He will rise to power in the name of “peace” (Dan. 11:21); connecting with the ‘peace and safety’ cry which there will be just prior to the Lord’s return, according to 1 Thess. 5. He will rise to power suddenly from a weak and broken people [Iraq?] (Daniel 11:23). During all this, there will be energetic preaching of the Truth (Dan. 11:33; 12:3). Quite how all this will work out is impossible and futile to speculate upon. But when it happens, those who understand Daniel, as the Lord bids us to, will understand. And this is the purpose of this study- “let him that readeth understand” was the Lord’s comment about studying these very prophecies!