August 16, 2009

The Apostle Paul called antichrist, "The Man of Sin" (II Thessalonians 2:3), or, as he is called in many translations "The Man of Lawlessness."  It is primarily because of this phrase that millions have concluded that the word, "antichrist" must ultimately apply to only one Mr. Wicked.  Kids who read the popular Left Behind books sometimes call him, the "Evil Dude."  Apocalyptic Christian films like The Omega Code, A Thief in the Night, Tribulation, Judgment and Megiddo, all reflect the same idea.  Is it true?  Will there be only one Mr. Diabolical who becomes the antichrist, an Osama bin Laden number 2?

We have already seen that the Antichrist would come first and before the tribulation.  In the article of August 2nd, we discovered that John wrote about many "antichrists" (I John 2:18), and "that spirit of antichrist" (I John 4:3).  He also revealed that anyone who denies "the doctrine of Christ" (II John 9) is a "deceiver and an antichrist" (II John 7).  Therefore the idea of only one Mr. Sinister as the antichrist fails the biblical text.  Truth can afford to be fair.  It has nothing to hide and is willing to examine every bit of evidence.  So what did Paul mean when he referred to "the man of sin (lawlessness)"?  Doesn't this mean a single person?

First of all, Paul used other phrases in II Thessalonians chapter 2 to describe this same antichrist, such as "the son of perdition," (verse 3), "the mystery of lawlessness" (verse 7) and "that Wicked One" (verse 8 in KJV).  In Daniel's parallel prophecy, this same abominable horror is also called a little "horn" (Daniel 7:8); and in the book of Revelation it is labeled "the beast" (Revelation 13:2).  Almost everyone agrees these words and phrases apply to the same thing.  The big question is: Do they all apply to only one "Evil Dude," as commonly taught, or do they point to something wider and deeper - to something most prophecy teachers aren't telling us about?

Notice carefully, Daniel did not say the little horn would be a man, but rather it would have "eyes like the eyes of a man" (Daniel 7:8).  They would be eyes of intelligence.  In Revelation, the same horn is called "the beast."  Here's a key question: How does Daniel 7 define a beast?  There is no need to guess or to pull an interpretation out of a hat.  An angelic interpreter explained to Daniel, "...the fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth" (verse 23).  Got that?  Not a person, but a kingdom - a collection of people.  What is a beast?  Most doomsday preachers say it is a man.  There are those who are teaching now that it is a big computer.  The Bible says the beast is a kingdom.  And once again, just like the angels in Acts 1 who watched Jesus ascend to Heaven, this angel had his theology straight.

Let's go back to Paul's prophecy in II Thessalonians 2.  A careful study reveals the utter impossibility of "the man of sin" applying to only one Mr. Diabolical.  First of all, Paul said that in his own day this very same "mystery of lawlessness was already at work" (verse 7).  Thus this predicted antichrist was already becoming active in the first century.   Paul was also very emphatic that this "mystery" would continue all the way down to the second coming of Christ (verse 8).  Put the pieces together.  How could this refer to only one human being?  He would have to be 2000 years old!

You may ask: did Paul ever use this expression, "the man" in any of his other writings in such a way that it does nor refer to one individual?  The answer is YES!  He wrote:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.(II Timothy 3:16-17)

Look carefully at this phrase, "the man of God."  It does not (and grammatically cannot) refer to just one individual, else he would be talking about some Super Christian.  Instead, it refers to a succession of godly men throughout history who become "complete" through obeying the Word of God.

In the King James Version of Romans 13:4, a phrase is used - namely, "the minister of God" to refer to all civil officers throughout history whom God uses to restrain evil.  Therefore, if we let Paul's own writings interpret themselves, his unique phrase, "the man of sin" in II Thessalonians 2:3 need not apply to one supremely wicked person.  In the illuminating light of II Timothy 3:17 and Romans 13:4, "the man of sin," can properly apply to a historical succession of other men who follow tradition above the Word of God.

Now, as far as this "son of perdition" or "man of lawlessness" is concerned, the most popular teaching of today states that he will come into rebuilt temple of God in Jerusalem and desecrate it half-way through the tribulation.  This is supposedly based on II Thessalonians 2:4 and Daniel's statement concerning the "abomination of desolation" (Daniel 9:27) about which we have already addressed.  The idea of the antichrist setting himself and desecrating the temple is vividly played out in the Left Behind novels.  The novels swirl around the topic of the antichrist.  Book nine of these fast-selling fictitious novels is called Desecration - Antichrist Take the Throne.  It was released in October, 2001 with an initial print run of 3 million copies.  The official Left Behind website then declared, "In Desecration, Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia enters the temple in Jerusalem and declares himself God, leading the world to the brink of Armageddon."  Thus the eye of the storm is Jerusalem and the apex of the drama centers on Nicolae's abominable entrance into a rebuilt Jewish temple.

The cornerstone Bible passage underlying the theology of Desecration and of countless other prophecy books which teach similar things is the II Thessalonians 2:4.  Describing the antichrist, Paul wrote: "...he opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so the he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."  Thus, they say, antichrist will sit "in the temple of God."  Desecration applies this to someone like Nicolae Carpathia who will enter a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem after the rapture.  The implication of this common interpretation is that Paul's antichrist-in-the-temple prediction has nothing to do with Christians today, nor has it had any real relevance to the Church for almost 2000 years.  Is this popular interpretation really what Paul had in mind?  Let's take a closer look.

It's time for another lesson in the original language here: GREEK. The Greek word Paul used for "temple" in II Thessalonians 2:4 is naos.  The Greek word that would have been used to refer to a physical or material building would have been hieron.  In fact, uses of the root to hieron come from words meaning, "priest," "priestly ministry," "to offer sacrifice," and "to perform sacred rites."  All of these having to do with function in a physical building.  But the Greek word naos is never used in reference to the building in Jerusalem.  It is used in reference to "the place where God dwells."  Now, where in the last 2000 years has God dwelt?  In the church!  And the church consists of people - not buildings! 

Let's see how this word is used in other writings of Paul.  In the letter to the early Corinthians, the apostle wrote to "the church of God which is at Corinth" (I Corinthians 1:2).  Then he inquired, "Do you not know that you are the temple (naos) of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16)  Here Paul clearly applied the word naos to the Christian church - not a physical temple in Jerusalem.  Paul did the same thing in his letter to the Ephesians.  Writing to "the saints who are in Ephesus," (Ephesians 1:1) he said they were all growing "into a holy temple (naos) in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:21).  In fact, in all of his writings, every time Paul used the word naos, he always applied it to the Church and never to a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.

Here is a very interesting point:  When Jesus died on Calvary, His death put an end to all bloody animal sacrifices once and for all!  When He cried out, "It is finished!" (John 19:30), that was it!  From God's cosmic perspective, all earthly sacrifices were over because His Son was the final sacrifice.  This is one of three main themes interwoven throughout the book of Hebrews (see Hebrews 10:12).  Think about it.  If the Jewish people ever do rebuild a temple in Jerusalem and restart bloody sacrifices, this would be a complete denial of Jesus' sacrifice - a slap in God's face.  Could a rebuilt Jewish temple ever properly be called by Paul, "the temple of God?"  Of course not!  Such a temple would not be God's temple, for it would be an open denial of His Son.  The correct interpretation of II Thessalonians 2:4, based on Paul's own use of the word naos, is that "the temple of God" refers to the Church, in other words, to Christians!  The lesson for prophecy students is this: Antichrist, subtle and deceptive, will slither into Christianity!

Paul said that antichrist will "sit" in God's temple.  This does not mean he will literally sit down on a four-legged chair.  After Jesus ascended to Heaven, He "sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12).  Has He been sitting down for almost 2000 years?  No.  When our Lord returns, He will come "sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).  Will He be sitting on a fast-moving heavenly chair?  No again.  To "sit" often means to assume the position of authority.  When George W. Bush was inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20, 2001, newspapers around the world referred to him as being officially "seated" in office.  We often refer to him as the "sitting president."  When Jesus ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, this means He was officially seated (or inaugurated) as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He has become the Supreme Mediator in behalf of the human family.  He now has all authority in Heaven and on earth (see Matthew 28:18).

Then what, you may ask, is the meaning of the antichrist sitting in the temple of God?  A little reflection should make this clear.  The chocking reality is that prophecy predicts that the antichrist will usurp the legitimate authority of Christ by assuming an unauthorized position of power inside the church  And thus, contrary to the New York Times bestselling book Desecration and countless other similar works, Paul's prediction about an evil antichrist entering the temple of God has great relevance for Christians today, and not just for those after the so-called rapture.

As I conclude this article, let me frankly point out that in light of the above discussion on the antichrist "seating himself" and where he will seat himself (naos) - if naos refers to the place where God dwells (the church) then, we need to keep a close watch out for antichrist within the church today!  He will come from within!

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