“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 HCSB).
In seeking to comfort the members of the Thessalonian church regarding the subject of Jesus’ return, Paul the Apostle explained that “…the day of Christ” (v. 2) will not arrive until a specific period of spiritual desertion takes place. That desertion may take the form of those who once self-identified as Christians and later departed from the faith, a deliberate rebellion against God throughout humanity, or perhaps a combination of both.
Depending on the Biblical translation, this wide-scale defection from God is variously defined as…
- “a falling away” (KJV).
- “the apostasy” (CSB).
- “a great rebellion against God” (NLT).
- “a definite rejection of God” (Phillips).
One source tells us that ancient non-biblical documents associate the idea of this defection with the concept of a political rebellion. (1) So this implies something more than just a general lack of interest in the things of God; it implies a dedicated insurrection against the Creator.
While history has seen innumerable revolts against various forms of societal, religious, and/or political order, these are only precursors to the rebellion that will usher in the appearance of the person described as “the man of lawlessness” in the passage quoted above. Since Romans 13:1-2 tells us that God has established all governing authorities, this revolt will likely extend beyond the spiritual dimension to encompass other forms of governmental and societal order as well.
Before we turn our attention to the person who is described for us within this passage, one commentator leaves us with a few additional observations in the context of Paul’s original audience for this letter…
“The ancient Greek wording for falling away indicates a rebellion or a departure. Bible scholars debate if it refers to an apostasy among those who once followed God, or a general worldwide rebellion. In fact, Paul may have both in mind, because there is evidence of each in the end times (1 Timothy 4:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 4:3-4). Nevertheless, Paul’s point is clear: ‘You are worried that we are in the Great Tribulation and that you missed the rapture. But you can know that we are not in the Great Tribulation, because we have not yet seen the falling away that comes first.'” (2)
(1) G646 apostasia. Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for ‘Fall, Fallen, Falling, Fell’. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ved/f/fall-fallen-falling-fell.html. 1940.
(2) Guzik, Dave 2 Thessalonians 2 – The Coming of That Day https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/2-thessalonians-2/