It always amazes me that Bible believing Christians, who are almost 100% doctrinally correct, have a blind spot when it comes to the passage of scripture below. I was reading some material published by a well-known church that has a worldwide television outreach, and written by a well-known professor and Doctor of Divinity. The material was talking about the apostasy spoken of in verse three in the passage below. The article was sure that the end time apostasy was happening now, and I agree that it is. But in the same article we were also assured that Jesus is coming soon, so keep watch because He could come at any minute. I agree that Jesus will return soon, but I disagree with the any minute doctrine.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, (2) That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (3) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
The real problem here is that this article accepts the second phrase of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, but rejects the first. 1The first phrase tells us that the day that Christ returns and gathers us unto Him will not come until after the events recorded later in the verse happen. The second phrase describes those two events. The events are the general apostasy, and the revealing of the man of sin. The article accepts that there will be a general apostasy in the church before the return of Christ while saying at the same time that He could come at any minute. This rejects the fact specified in this scripture passage that the man of sin must be revealed before Christ comes. Christ cannot come at any minute because the man of sin has not been revealed. Until that event happens we should not expect an “any minute” return of Christ. Now I certainly accept that the man of sin may be revealed at any given time because the apostasy is already upon us. But not that Christ may come “at any moment”.
The man of sin is also called the son of perdition in this verse. Other versions call him the man of lawlessness, the lawless one, wicked one, man of rebellion, etc. 2The UBS Greek Text on which many modern versions are based, has ανομιας (anomias), meaning ‘lawlessness’ or ‘no law’. This is based on a few eclectic readings of the Western or Alexandrian school of texts while the King James and the other Majority Text translations (including the Textus Receptus) have nearly 5000 texts extant with the reading αμαρτιας (hamartias) meaning sin. This exposes a watering-down of the true Word of God by changing the deeply meaningful word ‘sin’, to the less offensive (and therefore more deceptive), ‘lawlessness’. According to the modern versions, this is not a man of sin, for which the wages is death, and which God abhors. But he is simply a man that may not agree with the existing laws on the books. So, when he is revealed he will simply change the existing laws and will therefore no longer be lawless. Subtle isn’t it? It is the work of the crafty one. And the scripture predicts this: Daniel 7:25, “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.“
This is why we should use a Bible version (such as the KJV) based on the Majority Text (which consists of 5000 extant Byzantine texts) as our control when studying the modern versions. Using the modern versions is a good way to study, and they help our understanding of the text. Nevertheless because of things like substituting ‘lawlessness’ in the place of ‘sin’ mentioned here, I believe we should use a Majority Text Bible Version as our ultimate authority on Scripture. Do not stop using the modern versions, just check them with a more reliable version like those mentioned here.
Who is this man of sin? He is none other than what the evangelical community calls the Antichrist. What does the Bible say about Antichrist? This:
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
1 John 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
John is the only Apostle that uses the word antichrist. The only specific reference that actually uses the name Antichrist is 1 John 2:18: “ye have heard that antichrist shall come“. The other references are to the spirit of antichrist, those who are false teachers, and spirits that do not confess that Christ is come in the flesh.
According to the verse, there are many other antichrists as well. These are explained in the other verses from John’s epistles listed above. But the Apostle explicitly says that there is an Antichrist, that is, a specific Antichrist, who is to come. Here is a clear reference to that Antichrist. Who is this Antichrist?
A. T. Robertson says, “These false Christs ( Mat. 24:24 ; Mar. 13:22) are necessarily antichrists, for there can be only one. Anti can mean substitution or opposition, but both ideas are identical in the word antichristos (in N.T. only here, 1Jo. 2:22; 1Jo. 4:3; 2Jo. 1:7)” [those verses are listed above].
Like Robertson said, these false Christs can be both opposed to Christ and can at the same time be illegitimate substitutes for Christ. These false Christs claim to be Christ Himself, yet they are pretenders and they will lead many astray by seduction and deception.
In the next verse, Paul gives us some of the characteristics of this man of sin:
2 Thessalonians 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
The man of sin is opposed to the Godhead, which is all that is called God and all that is worshipped as God including the Father, Son, and Spirit. The man of sin also exalts himself above the Father, Son, and Spirit. The man of sin sits in the Temple of God, claiming to be God. Is there a more accurate definition of the word ‘antichrist’ than this? The man of sin is one that is opposed to Christ, who exalts himself above Christ, and claims to be Christ. The definition from Robertson’s Word Pictures, above is fulfilled by the opposition and substitution of the man of sin. But what does his exalting himself above God mean?
This is easily understood by reviewing what the Bible says about Lucifer: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:12-14). Lucifer (literally, “light-bearer”, the “son of the dawn”) was cast down from heaven because he decided in his heart that he would be exalted above God. In a worldly sense, he has accomplished just that for the world puts him above God. So what is the point? It is that this man of sin is either Satan himself or his emissary. And since Paul also calls the man of sin the son of perdition, the description fits even better.
The “son of perdition” is υιος της απωλειας (huios tēs apōleias), which literally means the son of ruin or destruction. A son of perdition is one that, like Judas Iscariot who is also called by that appellation, is already doomed or destined to die. Lucifer was judged by God and condemned to death: “By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.” (Ezekiel 28:16). And: “Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” (Ezekiel 28:18-19).
Is this man of sin, the son of perdition Judas Iscariot? Hardly. Unless God establishes reincarnation as a law (not!), Judas is dead and his body is decomposed. Never shall the twain return in this age. Judas is dead and gone and will not be resurrected until the resurrection of the dead to judgment. This man of sin will be very much alive when he appears. He is not a reincarnated or resurrected Judas Iscariot!
Based on all that is recorded above, this man of sin, the son of perdition, that Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, is none other than the Antichrist that John wrote about in 1 John 2:18. John said that in his own time that Antichrist was yet to come. He also made the presumption that those who received his epistle were fully aware of the fact that he was yet to come (“as ye have heard“).
Antichrist is known by a host of other names, some of which are: the little horn ( Daniel 7:8), the Prince* that shall come ( Daniel 9:26), the Beast, and the False prophet ( Revelation 19:20).
So, when looking at the passage in 2 Thessalonians, it is necessary that we take the whole passage in context and not glean out the bits and pieces that fit our on pet doctrine. Americans are so hung up on this “any minute return of Christ” teaching that they will not see the plain teaching of the Bible on the subject, which is this: Christ will not come until the Antichrist first appears. Yes, the apostasy must happen, but not until both the apostasy occur and the Antichrist is revealed will Christ return. The teaching that all the signs of the return of Jesus have already taken place and that there is no sign remaining before the return of Christ is a false doctrine.
According to the scriptures we have just studied, the any moment return of Jesus Christ is dependent upon two factors: one, the great apostasy, and two, the revelation of the Antichrist. There has been apostasy in the past on a grand scale, but these periods never ushered in the return of Christ. That is because, scripturally speaking, the apostasy is tied to the revelation of Antichrist. An apostasy by itself would not be a sign of the return of Christ. Only when a great apostasy is coupled with the appearance of the man of sin does it become a sign of the Second Advent.
Therefore, at the time of this writing, Jesus could not return at any moment. However, there is nothing to prevent the revealing of the man of sin at any moment. If he were to appear, then that event coupled with the great apostasy occurring at this very moment throughout the world, would signal the any moment return of Jesus Christ.
Again, prior to the revealing of Antichrist, the any minute return of Christ doctrine is moot. Yet the any minute revelation of Antichrist is a real possibility. If that happens then Jesus’ return would certainly be imminent.
*NOTE: There are those who think that the ‘Prince that shall come’ in Daniel 9:26, is a reference to Christ. One supposition is (I quote John Gill here) “some understand this of Messiah the Prince that should come in his power, and in a way of judgment upon the Jewish nation, and destroy them for their rejection of him; whose people the Romans would be, and under whose direction, and by whose orders, all these judgments should be brought upon the Jews; but many of the Jewish writers themselves interpret it of Vespasian.” Preterists believe this about the Messiah, that He returned in 70 AD and visited destruction upon Jerusalem.