Jesus will destroy the works of the “Lawless One” and “paralyze” him at his “arrival” in glory – 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.
Next, Paul explains how Jesus will deal with the “lawless one” at his “arrival.” In doing so, he employs language from Daniel’s vision about the “little horn speaking great things.” Originally, that image represented the Seleucid ruler who attempted to destroy the Jewish faith through deceit and persecution, Antiochus Epiphanes.
Paul applied the same term to both the “revelation of the lawless one” man AND the return of Jesus, namely, ‘parousia’ or “arrival.” We can infer from this that, on some level, the “arrival” of the former will counterfeit the latter.
- (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 paralyze with the appearance of his arrival, whose arrival shall be according to an energizing 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 is sending them an energizing of error, to the end, they should believe in the lie; in order that they should be judged who would not believe in the truth but were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.”
“Whom the Lord will slay with his mouth.” This clause alludes to Daniel’s vision of the “little horn,” and to the messianic prophecy from Isaiah:
- (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, the “little horn” was destroyed, and the “saints” then came to “possess” the kingdom. The schemes of that evil ruler were undone when the “Ancient of Days” rendered judgment on behalf of the “saints.”
“And paralyze with the appearance of his arrival [parousia], whose arrival [parousia] shall be according to an inworking of Satan.” Both “arrivals” are labeled with the Greek noun parousia. The language used to describe the “lawless one” echoes the descriptions of the “little horn” in Daniel:
- (Daniel 8:23-25) – “In the after-time 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… Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
“Energizing” or energeia is a Greek term that occurs in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters to refer to the effectual working or “energizing” of either God or satanic powers. Thus, something beyond the “man of lawlessness” will be working within him. 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 energizing of error.” – 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 appearance of his arrival.” The Greek term rendered “slay” or analiskō means “to consume, to use up.” “Paralyze” or katargeo signifies rendering something “inactive; to deactivate.” Here, it provides the opposite effect of the “energizing” of Satan. Jesus will “deactivate” Satan’s “energizing” power in the “lawless one.” The point is not his personal destruction, but the voiding of Satan’s efforts in him.
“Appearance” or epiphaneia occurs in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters, and consistently so for the “appearance” of Jesus at the end of the age – (1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 4:8, Titus 2:13).
“With all manner of mighty works and signs and wonders of falsehood.” The language echoes the saying of Jesus from his ‘Olivet Discourse’:
- (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.”
Christ did not deny the genuineness of such “signs and wonders,” but their purpose is to deceive “the elect.” Likewise, in Thessalonians, the term “wonders of falsehood” does not mean phony miracles, but ones performed to deceive. This understanding is confirmed by the next clause – “and with all manner of the deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves.” Unwary believers will be deceived by the very real miracles performed by the “man of lawlessness” because “they did not welcome the love of the truth.”
“Those who are destroying themselves.” The Greek verb is either in the middle voice (“destroying themselves”) or the passive (“them who are being destroyed”). The point is not that some men are predestined for destruction, but many will be destroyed because of their refusal to believe the truth. Behind the image lies the warning from Moses about false prophets. Regardless of how impressive or real any miracle is, if the man performing it steers God’s people to follow other gods, his words must be rejected – (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).
Paul has been discussing two events that must precede the “day of the Lord,” the unveiling of the “lawless one” and the “apostasy.” Men who do “not welcome the love of the truth” consciously reject it. Here, Paul is referring to the men and women who will apostatize from the true faith.
It is for “this cause” – Not welcoming the truth – that this group will be destroyed. Implicit is that they heard and understood the truth BEFORE rejecting it, therefore, they will be judged for refusing to believe “in the truth and were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.” The description should be compared to Paul’s other warnings about the coming apostasy – (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:2-4).
Throughout the chapter, Paul has not been discussing sinners in general or the plight of fallen humanity. Instead, he has been describing 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 “lawless one” inextricably with the coming final “apostasy.”