Introduction. Read 2Thes2v1to12

A great deal of confusion occurs about the Second Coming of Jesus. This is because some commentators believe the day of the Lord does not include the rapture when believers on earth at Christ's return are caught up to be with him in the air. Rather they see it as a period of suffering for the ungodly who are left on the earth. This view is almost entirely based on passages from Revelation - a notoriously difficult book to interpret. I reject the view that the godless are left to suffer on earth because it seems so pointless if they are going to be destroyed anyway. What happens to the redeemed in the meantime?

In my opinion - and that of many others - the day of the Lord includes the rapture. It will be followed by the destruction of the old earth, universe and ungodly men and the creation of a new earth and universe for all those who love the Lord to enjoy him forever. See 2Pet3.

Even more confusion occurs about the Man of Lawlessness. There are innumerable suggestions about whom Paul was referring. The reason for this is that no one really knows! It seems Paul had taught the Thessalonians about this Man of Lawlessness and about what was holding him back. See v5and6. This in itself is very strange as nowhere else does this topic figure in the epistles of Paul. The fact that so much has been written about the Man of Lawlessness in almost every age indicates man's pleasure in speculation and conjecture. It is better by far to concentrate upon what is known.

(1) The problem Paul addressed.

The Thessalonians were shaken and agitated because they had received news that the day of the Lord had begun. This information seems to have been transmitted through prophecy, a report delivered, perhaps, by visitors and a forged letter falsely purported to come from Paul. Paul tells the Thessalonians in the concluding verses of his epistle how to distinguish between one of his genuine letters and a forgery. I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is a distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. Thes3v17.

It is easy to understand why the Thessalonians were agitated. Paul, Peter and Jesus taught that the day of the Lord began, or was preceded, by Jesus' return in glory with and for his own. Everyone would witness Christ's return. So if the day of the Lord had come where was Jesus?

I do not believe that they would be shaken and agitated if they had only been told that the return of Jesus was imminent. Surely this was something they had been taught to look forward to! A belief in Christ's imminent return might result in a loss of motivation and the idleness addressed in the next chapter but surely not alarm.


(a) It is always upsetting to feel that we are losing out and spiritual blessing is being enjoyed elsewhere. This does make Christians fretful and restless in churches where not very much seems to be happening.

(b) It is very troubling when our experience doesn't match what we are taught as Christians. Jesus taught that God would treat us like favoured sons and give us what we pray for - but many of our prayers go unanswered. Preachers like quoting Paul that all things work together for good to those that love God - yet Christians get depression, schizophrenia and dementia which are not productive of good. We are promised that we shall reap what we sow - but for some dedicated Christian workers the harvest is very meagre. Perhaps the answer lies in a better understanding of Scripture!

(c) Christians get into serious trouble if they depart from the clear testimony of Scripture. Proponents of the prosperity gospel overlook the fact that Paul went about in rags and all Jesus possessed when taken for crucifixion were the clothes he stood up in. The prosperity gospel results in many disappointments and loss of faith.

(2) How Paul addressed the distress of the Thessalonians.

Paul's method of dealing with the confusion in the church at Thessalonica is what is so perplexing about this passage. Why didn't he just reiterate what Jesus taught and what he knew to be true. Normal life would go on and this inevitably involved many disasters of one sort or another. The imminent return of Jesus would be signalled by changes in the sun, moon, stars and tides. Christ's return would be witnessed by all and the believers on earth would be taken up into the air to be with him and his resurrected followers.

Jesus had not returned, Christians everywhere were still on the earth, there had been no changes in the heavenly bodies and life was going on as normal. Surely that is all the Thessalonians needed to hear. The day of the Lord had not come - it lay in the future.

Instead Paul introduces the Man of Lawlessness about whom he had apparently already taught the Thessalonians.

(a) What are we told about the Man of Lawlessness.

He was:

  • The enemy of ALL forms of religion - not just Christianity. He took God's place, usurping his authority. He was the supreme authority and not God. This is a very significant characteristic.

  • Under restraint in the time of Paul. The hidden power of lawlessness was at work but it was held in check. Man has been rebellious ever since the fall.

  • Going to be the instigator of a widespread rebellion against God and the rise of militant atheism.

  • Capable of performing counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders to the ruin of the deluded and deceived.

  • Ultimately going to be completely discredited and devastated - entirely blown away - by the splendour of Christ's coming. When Jesus comes in glory the Man of Lawlessness will be shown for the fraud he is and so, too, man's folly for being taken in.

(b) Who is the Man of Lawlessness?

The Man of Lawlessness does not appear to be a political or religious figure as many have suggested. A supreme world dictator would not in the nature of things sponsor lawlessness. Dictators in the past have maintained law and order.

The Man of Lawlessness is above the law - both free from restraint and freeing others from restraint. He opposes anything supernatural and amazes ordinary folk with what seem like miracles. I think he could be renamed, the Man of Science. The growing influence of Scientists as a body does exhibit some of the characteristics of the Man of Lawlessness.

It is growing harder to control scientific research - on human embryos as well as animals. Some Scientists are a law unto themselves. Scientific advances do give people more freedom to do wrong - like screen for and abort unwanted female babies. Lesbian couples can use sperm donors and artificial insemination to have babies. There is a growing tendency among Scientists to debunk all religion and see it as the enemy of enlightenment. There is little doubt that some scientific advances seem almost miraculous. The Internet is one example. Yet the Internet is very difficult to police. It gives information on how to commit suicide, make a bomb, hack into companies' websites and panders to all forms of sexual deviation.

If I am correct that the Man of Lawlessness is indeed the Man of Science then the restraint in the day of Paul was simple ignorance, a lack of knowledge. The restraint has been greatly weakened in the last 60 years. It has not been completely removed but things are heading that way.

(c) The end of the Man of Lawlessness.

All the bitter enemies of religion - the atheists, agnostics and humanists - will be irrevocably confounded by Christ's return. The splendour of his coming will prove them all wrong.

There is no way of being sure that I have correctly identified the Man of Lawlessness. It seems a strange thing to teach the Thessalonians 2000 years ago. I hope they were reassured that Jesus' time to return had by no means come. But if my analysis is correct the day of Christ's Second Advent is getting very close. Scientists are still under some restraint but the day may come when all restraint is lifted and then the end will be drawing nigh.

(3) The mistake made by all opponents of religion.

It is ironical that so many who believe Science has somehow disproved God's existence, discredited the Bible and shown religion to be harmful to mankind have no interest in the truth revealed in Christ. They do not want to know about Jesus. They find the mere mention of his name distasteful. Atheists would rather believe the lie that no supernatural being is necessary for the origin of the universe and that it started itself than acknowledge that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Well, the enemies of God are deluded, and the return of Jesus to this earth will show them so, by which time it will be too late to escape condemnation.

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