Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; To the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, He that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; Even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be judged who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. II Thessalonians 2:1–12
There has been much speculation throughout the history of the church regarding the time of Christ’s return. Christ points the men of his day to the signs of the times so that they may have some indication of the progress of history. In the Thessalonian church the question concerning the time of Christ’s return was debated to such an extent that the Apostle instructs her regarding various important things connected with this return.
So often the second com ing of Jesus Christ is pictured as an event which may occur any moment. The Thessalonians also thought so. However, the Apostle informs us that certain things will occur before Christ returns, and, until these things occur, he will NOT come! Here two things are mentioned: the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin. The falling away presupposes the spread of the gospel. After the gospel has been spread abroad among all nations, there will be an apostasy. During, or closely related to tillS time, the man of sin will be revealed.
Men have always considered the idea of the Antichrist, or the man of sin, an intriguing subject. Many strange ideas concerning the Antichrist have appearcd. Many have concluded that Antichrist would be a movement or even an institution. John’s teaching concerning the present An tichrist has usually been applied to the eschatological, future Antichrist. That would mean that he is now present and has been present in the world for a long time. Then every denier of the fundamentals of Christianity would be THE Antichrist. This is an erroneous conception.
Time and again certain individuals have been called Antichrist. Nero was so considered by many. Some identified him with the pope of a certain age or even the papacy as an institution. Some judged Napoleon to be the Antichrist; others thought it was Stalin or Hitler. None of these proved to be the one, showing how dangerous it is to designate one individual as THE Antichrist. It is true that Antichrist has many precursors, forerunners. The spirit of Antichrist has been present for centuries. Yet, the one definite individual has not yet been revealed.
That the Antichrist at the end of time will be one individual is very clear from this passage. He is called the man of sin, or the man of lawlessness. He is the son of perdition. Some day the kingdoms of this world will unite. The false church wiJI be the ally of this totalitarian state. The leader of this unified evil will be the Antichrist. The religion of humanity will have found its god and its anti-christ, its substitute for Christ. The rebellion against God which began with the entrance of sin into this world will have reached its highest peak The sin of man finally gives birth to the man of sin!
Throughout history there have been difficult periods for the church of Jesus Christ. The believers looked upon their tormentors and called them antichrists. So they were. However, they were but forerunners of THE Antichrist. Their oppressions were tame compared to future oppressions under the reign of the man of sin. This one will seek to stamp out the true church. In his arrogance he knows no God but himself. He will not be satisfied with the subjection of all people; he will demand their worship! This is the end to which sin leads: “Ye shall be as God!”
The beast out of the sea is NOT the Antichrist; neither is the beast out of the earth the Antichrist. They are cruel and deceiving monsters. The man of sin is one step closer to absolute depravity. He is the product of both these beasts. He will be more closely identified with Satan than any man has ever been. When he is revealed, no true Christian will be able to doubt his identity.
1. Some believe it to be a mark of piety to say that Christ may return at any moment. In this connection, what is the significance of the distinction between individual and general eschatology (the doctrine of the last things)?
2. In which respects are the forerunners of Antichrist like him? In which way are they different?
3. How are Genesis 11:1–9 and Revelation 13 related to the person of Antichrist?