“He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4 NET).
This passage offers several insights into the man of lawlessness described earlier in verse three. For instance, he will accept no competition from “…any so-called god or anything that people worship” (NCV). Next, the act of “taking a seat” in God’s temple implies that he will seize an exalted position much like a king who claims a royal seat of authority. However, he will take this seat in a place that does not belong to him (i.e. God’s temple) in seeking to displace God from His rightful position.
Finally, this man will attempt to represent himself as something he is not: “He will announce that he himself is God” (NIRV). Taken together, these actions reveal that the man of lawlessness will seek to assume a position of ultimate supremacy, dominance, and worship.
Two commentators make several sobering observations regarding this spurious claim to deity and attempt to usurp the place of God…
“This Greek term for ‘temple’ (naos) was used for the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple, though no seat was in it. The term was also employed for pagan temples where deities were enthroned. This may imply that the Jewish temple must be physically rebuilt (cf. Dan. 9:24-27), possibly following Ezekiel 40-48, but not necessarily. Remember the Jewish temple had no place to sit. It was only a Greek temple (i.e., Zeus’) which had a throne. If literal this phrase could not refer to a Jewish place of worship. Chrysostom interpreted ‘a temple’ as a common Pauline metaphor for the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). This view sees the Anti-Christ as manifesting himself in the visible church.” (1)
“This man is not Satan, although Satan is the force behind him (v. 9) and he has motives like the desires of the devil (cf. Is 14:13, 14). Paul is referring to the very act of ultimate apostasy which reveals the final Antichrist and sets the course for the events that usher in the Day of the Lord. Apparently, he will be seen as supportive of religion so that God and Christ will not appear as his enemies until the apostasy. He exalts himself and opposes God by moving into the temple, the place for worship of God, declaring himself to be God and demanding the worship of the world. In this act of Satanic self-deification, he commits the great apostasy in defiance of God.” (2)
(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07C_02.html
(2) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Th 2:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.