“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 ESV).
Some members of the Thessalonian church had apparently been shaken by the belief that “The Day of The Lord” had already arrived within their lifetimes. Paul the Apostle sought to clarify his earlier teaching regarding that subject and calm their fears in the verses quoted above. In doing so, Paul provides us with some important information regarding a specific period of rebellion against God that will occur in the future.
That rebellion will usher in the appearance of a person whom Paul identifies as “the man of lawlessness.” This individual will be so completely under the control of sin that he will personify the spirit of the antichrist described for us in the New Testament epistle of 1 John: “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
While it may seem obvious, it’s important to note that the word “antichrist” is separable into two distinct portions: “anti” and “christ.” The first part of this word (“anti”) means “against.” This prefix is familiar to many of us due to its appearance within many well-known words and phrases. For instance, a person who is said to be “antisocial” is someone who is against the idea of socializing with others. The words “antifreeze,” “antiestablishment,” and “antibiotic” offer some additional examples.
However, the term “anti” can also mean “instead of” or “in place of.” This means the word “antichrist” may also be associated with an attempt to substitute someone or something else for Christ. Therefore, any person, teaching, or organization that attempts to take Jesus’ place may be accurately characterized by the word “antichrist” (see 1 John 4:2-3 and 2 John 1:7).
The term “antichrist” will find its ultimate definition in the future when the person described here in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is revealed. This person will personify the word antichrist in both senses of the word (see also Revelation 13-20). Because of this, “the man of lawlessness” will be the ultimate embodiment of this idea, for he will be someone who is completely against Christ while attempting to substitute for Him at the same time.