The Man of Sin
Text: II Thessalonians 2:1-12
I. Have you noticed that when little is said on a particular topic that it generates more discussion than when much is said?
A. Of course, when little is said the range of possibilities is wide open.
B. It generates strong opinions (not truths, just opinions) which cannot be shaken because my opinion is worth just as much as your’s. And to me it is worth more.
C. We could easily apply these statements to gossiping, and they do apply, but I would like us to focus on the speculations made in II Thessalonians 2:1-12.
II. Just who is the man of sin?
A. Since his is “of sin,” it is fairly clear that we are talking about a wicked person (vs 3).
1. He is also called a man of perdition (vs. 3)
a. Perdition means ruin, loss, destruction, or waste
b. It is what Judas was called - John 17:12
2. He opposes God (vs 4)
3. He is without law (vs 8)
4. Acting in accord with Satan (vs. 9)
5. No, he is not a “nice man”
B. The passage also mentions that he sits as God in the temple of God (vs 4)
1. Other passages tell us the temple of God is the church - Ephesians 2:20-22
2. Or all Christians - I Corinthians 3:11-17
C. One thought is that the man of sin is the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church
1. Not any one particular Pope, but institution
2. The problem is that Catholicism is not the only apostasy which developed from the first century church
a. Gnostics, who believed that all came from one of two Gods or states – good or bad, that everything physical was sin and based their teachings on secret knowledge
b. Ebonites, who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but denied that he was God.
c. Judaizers, who wanted Christianity to be just a sect of Judaism - Acts 15:1
d. Nicolaitans, who encouraged God’s people to follow sexual pleasures and idolatry, as did Balaam of old - Revelation 2:6, 14-15
(1) Irenaeus, who lived about 180 AD, had this to say about the group. "The Nicolaitans are the followers of that Nicholas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconatee by the apostles. the Nicolaitans lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these persons is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John. It shows that they teach that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery and to eat things sacrificed to idols."
(2) Clement of Alexander, who lived about 195 AD, wrote, "Those who say that they follow Nicholas quote the adage of that man -- "The flesh must be abused" -- which they pervert. but that worthy man [Nicholas] actually meant that it was necessary to curtail pleasures and lusts."
(3) Tertullian, who wrote about 207 AD, stated, "I do not aim at destroying the happiness of sanctity, as do certain Nicolaitans in their maintenance of lust and luxury."
e. Montanism, who believed in continuing revelation and ecstatic utterances which superseded what the apostles taught.
3. The papacy didn’t start until A.D. 606 when the current bishop of Rome accepted the title of Pope. But by this time the branch that he led no longer resembled the early church. It is difficult to say that he sat in the temple of God. They sat in an apostate church, but not in the church itself.
D. Keying off the phrase that he called himself God (vs 4), another line of thought is that Paul was referring to the Roman emperors.
1. These men established themselves as the head of a state religion and demanded that incense be burnt each year in their honor.
2. Worse, they accepted the title “Lord God Caesar.” Domitian was probably the worse of the lot.
3. But none of these men were in the church.
E. Keying off the opposition to God, many see the man of sin as being the Antichrist
1. Because the passage talks about the man of sin’s destruction at the return of Christ, a large body of beliefs (largely contradictory, but loosely similar) has arisen.
2. The thought is that just before Christ returns, a man will arise representing all that Christ opposes. Christ then comes to destroy him and establishes an earthly kingdom that will last a thousand years. (Some have the rise of the Antichrist at the end of the thousand year kingdom).
3. The problem is that the Bible does not speak of a single Antichrist.
a. I John 2:18 - many antichrists in the world already and more to come
b. I John 2:22 - anyone who denies Christ is an antichrist
c. I John 4:3; II John 7 - anyone who denies that Christ came in the flesh is an antichrist, and such were already in the world.
4. Yes, antichrist is sometimes used in the singular form, but since other verses tell us there are many, we know that it is a literary technique where the one represents the many. It is a form of personification.
F. Taking that last thought leads a very plausible explanation. The man of sin could personify many people’s actions of lawlessness.
1. David Lipscomb and E.G. Sewell suggested, “The man of sin is understood to be a principle of error or lawlessness that arose in the church ... the lawless principle is a principle among those claiming to be the Lord’s people but are not willing to be controlled in all things by the Word of God.” [Questions Answered, p. 603].
2. McClintock and Strong stated that the man of sin is an “impersonation of the sinful principle spoken of by the apostle Paul in the emphatic manner.”
3. These quotes aren’t proof, but rather illustrates that the thought is not unique.
4. With this thought, the man of sin is the disrespect for truth, represented by a man who usurps the rule of the church and leading God’s people into apostasy.
5. Such a man of sin is always present, seen in men who oppose Christ, alter the truth, speak presumptiously, go beyond what has been written, bring in innovations, or ignoring the teachings of God.
III. The coming and destruction of the man of sin
A. Paul is concerned that in regards to Christ’s second coming that the faith of Christians would be shaken by ideas, presented as if coming from the apostles, that Christ’s coming is near (or has already come).
1. Being shaken or tossed by false doctrine - Ephesians 4:14
2. The teaching that it has happened already was occurring - II Timothy 2:18
B. Paul points out that there are things which must first take place
1. There will be a falling away from the truth - I Timothy 4:1-2
2. The sedition must be revealed for what it is, usurping the God’s place of authority in the church - Ephesians 2:2; 5:6; Colossians 2:8; 3:6
a. The difference between these warnings and the one in II Thessalonians is that the disobedient are stated in the plural and in II Thessalonians in the singular.
b. Jesus warned about false Christs before the fall of Jerusalem - Matthew 24:24
c. John warns about false prophets spreading through the church - I John 4:1-3
3. When makes judgment on God’s word, one is setting himself up above God - James 4:11-12
C. At the moment man of sin (the sons of disobedience) is being restrained until the appropriate time.
1. Exactly what isn’t said, only that Paul had discussed it with the Thessalonians when he was with them.
2. It is thought that Paul couldn’t put it down in writing because it wasn’t time to tip God’s hand.
3. We only know that whatever is restraining is in the neuter, referring to a thing. Yet in verse 7 we are told that God is doing the restraining.
a. In other words, God is using something to keep the apostasy from spreading too quickly, to keep it from being completely overwhelming - I Corinthians 10:13
D. The restraint will continue until the Lord returns
1. The brightness (or appearing) of the Lord - I Timothy 6:14; II Timothy 4:1
2. That coming will be a time of destroying the destructive forces in the world - II Thessalonians 1:8-9
3. It is a time for revealing hidden things - I Corinthians 4:5
IV. Why is it happening?
A. To illustrate this, look at David’s sin in numbering the people
1. Satan was behind it - I Chronicles 21:1
2. God was behind it - II Samuel 24:1
3. It is not a contradiction. Satan is unable to do anything without God’s permission. God limits Satan - Job 1:8-12
4. Yet, God will even make use of wicked Satan to accomplish an end
B. Because Satan is behind it - II Thessalonians 2:9-10
1. Satan is using every deception in his arsenal to keep people from being saved.
2. And people are falling prey because they do not have a love of the truth
C. Because God is allowing it - II Thessalonians 2:11-12
1. God wants people to be saved - II Peter 3:9
2. But it never has been unconditional. There is a type of person God wants.
3. God permits Satan’s deception to weed out those who do not love the truth.
a. Against lying prophets - Ezekiel 14:9
b. Against those who want to sin - Romans 1:24
V. Are you on guard against deception?
A. Satan hasn’t given up yet.
B. The man of sin, thus still remains
C. It is our love of truth that leaves God on His throne in our hearts