SYNOPSIS – Jesus will destroy the evil works of the “Man of Lawlessness” and “slay” him at his Parousia or “Arrival” in glory – 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.
Next, the Apostle Paul explains how Jesus will respond to the “Man of Lawlessness” when he returns in glory at the end of the age. Whether he believed there will be any lapse of time between the “revelation” of this malevolent figure and the “arrival” of Jesus, or any further intervening events, Paul does not say.
In discussing the “Man of Lawlessness” and the “apostasy,” Paul employs language from the vision of Daniel about a wicked ruler symbolized by a “little horn speaking great things.” Originally, the little horn represented the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV – (Daniel 7:7-26, 8:9-25, Revelation 13:5-7. Daniel 8:21-23).
Antiochus attempted to destroy the faith of Israel through violent persecution AND by seducing many Jews to compromise their faith. In the attempt, he banned circumcision, calendrical observances, and other ritual practices required by the book of Leviticus, and he ordered the destruction of Jewish religious books. All this made him an excellent model for the “Man of Lawlessness” who will cause “apostasy” from the true faith.
Noteworthy is that the Apostle designates the “revelation” of the “Man of Lawlessness” AND the return of Jesus parousia or “arrival.” This suggests the “arrival” of the former will be a counterfeit of the latter, at least on some level. In the translation below from the Emphasized Bible, parousia is rendered “presence.”
(2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) – “And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth, and paralyse with the forthshining of his Presence: Whose presence shall be according to an inworking of Satan, with all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood, And with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves, because the love of the truth they did not welcome that they might be saved. And for this cause, God sendeth them an inworking of error, to the end they should believe in the falsehood, In order that they should be judged who would not believe in the truth, but were well-pleased with the unrighteousness” – (The Emphasized Bible).
“Whom the Lord will slay with his mouth.” This clause alludes to the vision of the “little horn” from the book of Daniel, and to a messianic prophecy found in the book of Isaiah, as follows:
- (Daniel 7:11, 26) – “I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame… – But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.”
- (Isaiah 11:4) – “And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit…and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the spirit of his lips shall he slay the wicked one.”
In Daniel’s vision, the “little horn” was destroyed so the saints would “possess” the kingdom. The plans of this evil ruler were undone when the “Ancient of Days” rendered judgment on behalf of the “saints.”
“And paralyze with the forth-shining of his arrival [parousia]: Whose arrival [parousia] shall be according to an inworking of Satan.” Noteworthy is that both the arrival of the “Man of Lawlessness” and the arrival of Jesus are called a parousia. The language echoes the descriptions of the “little horn” in Daniel, as follows:
- (Daniel 8:23-25) – “In the aftertime of their kingdom, when transgressions have filled up their measure,—there will stand up a king of mighty presence, and skillful in dissimulation; and his strength will be mighty, but not through his own strength, and, wonderfully, will he destroy and succeed and act with effect,—and will destroy mighty ones, and the people of the saints; and by his cunning will he both cause deceit to succeed in his hand, and in his own heart will he shew himself to be great, and by their careless security will he destroy many,—and against the ruler of rulers will he stand up, but without hand shall be broken in pieces.”
- (Daniel 11:36–45) – “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all…And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the sea and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
Likewise, the sudden appearance of Jesus will result in the destruction of the “Man of Lawlessness.” Although not stated, implicit in this scenario is that his wicked efforts will occur BEFORE the “arrival” of Jesus.
“Inworking” (energeia). This Greek term occurs in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters and always refers to the effectual working or “energy, energizing” of either God or satanic powers. The point is that something beyond the “Man of Lawlessness” himself will be working within him. In verse 11, the same word is applied to the deception that God will send to men and women who refuse to receive the truth – (“For this cause, God is sending them an inworking of error.” – Compare – Ephesians 1:19, 3:7, 4:16, Philippians 3:21, Colossians 1:29, 2:12).
“Whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze with the forthshining of his Presence.” The Greek term rendered “slay” or analiskō more accurately means “to consume – to use up.” “Paralyze” or katargeo signifies the rendering of something “inactive” – To “deactivate.” Here, the word provides the opposite effect of the “inworking” of Satan within the “Man of Lawlessness” – Jesus will “deactivate” the “energizing” of Satan. The point is not this man’s destruction, but the voiding of Satan’s plans and efforts, although the “Man of Lawlessness” may also be destroyed in the process.
“Forth-shining” (epiphaneia). The Greek noun means “appearance.” It occurs in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters and is applied consistently to the “appearance” of Jesus – (1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 4:8, Titus 2:13).
“With all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood.” Paul’s language echoes the saying of Jesus from Matthew 24:24 – “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Jesus did not deny the genuineness of such “signs and wonders,” but their purpose is to deceive “the elect.” Likewise, in Thessalonians, “wonders of falsehood” does not mean phony miracles but ones performed to accomplish deception.
This latter understanding is confirmed by the next clause, “And with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness, in them who are destroying themselves.” The problem is not with individuals who will believe in fake miracles. Instead, they will be deceived by very real ones performed by the “Man of Lawlessness” because “they did not welcome the love of the truth.” Signs and wonders do not constitute evidence of divine calling and endorsement.“
Them who are destroying themselves.” The Greek verb is either in the middle (“destroying themselves”) or the passive voice (“them who are being destroyed”). The point is not that some men are predestined to destruction, but that these men will be destroyed as a result of their refusal to believe the truth.
Behind this image lies a warning from Moses. Regardless of how impressive or real a miracle is if the man performing it is steering God’s people to other gods his effort must be rejected:
(Deuteronomy 13:1-3) – “If there arise in the midst of you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, whereof he spoke to you, ‘Let us go after other gods, which you have not known,’ you will not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.”
Paul has been discussing two events that must precede the “day of the Lord” – The unveiling of the “Man of Lawlessness” and the “Apostasy.” The men and women who are “destroying themselves and not welcoming the love of the truth” refers to the conscious rejection of the truth, not to men in general who are blinded by sin. That is to say, the description refers to men and women who apostatize.
It is for “this cause” – Not welcoming the truth – That this group is destroyed. Implicit in this statement is that these individuals heard and understood the truth BEFORE rejecting it, therefore, they will be judged because they refused to believe “in the truth and were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.” The description should be compared with Paul’s warning to Timothy about the coming apostasy:
- (1 Timothy 4:1) – “But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron.”
- (2 Timothy 4:2-4) – “Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.”
Throughout this chapter, Paul does not discuss sinners in general or the plight of humanity. Instead, he describes the future destruction of the “Man of Lawlessness” and those who apostatize because of his deceptive activities. Thus, the Apostle links the arrival of the “Man of Lawlessness” with the “Apostasy.”
At no point does Paul mention this man’s political aspirations or power, or his rule over the nations of the world. While he may prove to be a global political figure, the concern of the Apostle centers on his ability to deceive the elect.