COMMENTARY ON SECOND THESSALONIANS
2 Thess 2:8 "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."
(2 Thessalonians 2:8-9)
The coming of the Lord is a central consideration in First and Second Thessalonians. In First Thessalonians it is held forth as the time of our gathering to be forever with the Lord. In Second Thessalonians it is declared to be the time of the destruction of all Christ's foes. In this section, the particular focus is upon the revelation of "the man of sin," which must take place prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because there is a considerable amount of confusion on this subject, I approach it with great care. The word of the Lord is not to be handled without due sobriety and an earnest intent to obtain the mind of the Lord. Our aim is not to figure out future worldly events, but to know "the mind of Christ." We are not to allow our affections or minds to dwell upon the things of this world (Col 3:1-3). That forbidden posture can take place in one's theology. When the focus of our theology is upon things that are or will happen upon the earth, the compass of life becomes distorted and the soul disoriented. This must be kept in mind when dealing with this passage. Else, we may be drawn aside into vain jangling, taking up views and positions of the end times that are actually not declared in Scripture, but are the conclusions of men, and not the Word of God.
THE WICKED ONE REVEALED
" 8a And then shall that Wicked be revealed . . . " Already, in the middle of the first century, "the mystery of iniquity" was at work (2:7). This is iniquity with a Christian cloak -a gross misrepresentation of Christ that is fostered by the devil himself. Satan's chief subtlety is when he transforms himself into an "angel of light," and his ministers are transformed into "ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor 11:14). "The mystery of iniquity" is Satan seeking to subvert the saints from within the professed church. That is where the mysterious, or veiled, working is to be found. To draw believers away from Christ is particularly reprehensible because it puts such into eternal jeopardy. There is a point of spiritual decline from which recovery is not possible. Thus we read, "For it is impossible . . . to renew them again unto repentance" (Heb 6:4-6), "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Heb 10:26), and "the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (2 Pet 2:20-21). While men tend to apply these arresting texts to acts of immorality, or an outright denial of Jesus Christ, they are rather a solemn warning of retrogression while maintaining identity with Christ. They speak of the entrance of "an evil heart of unbelief" into the professed believer (Heb 3:12), and the adoption of a "form of godliness than denies the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5). All of this is "the mystery of iniquity" at work. From the very beginning, Satan used such to prepare the way for "the man of sin."
"The Wicked [one]"is "the man of sin" and "the son of perdition" of verse three. Other translations refer to "the Wicked" as "the lawless one," NKJV,NASB,NIV,NRSV "the evil one," BBE "that Wicked," WEBSTERS,DOUAY, and "the wicked One." NJB The word "wicked" means "without law," or "transgressor." The idea is of one that refuses to be governed by the Lord, yet represents himself as being god, sitting in the place of God. It will be helpful to observe the Scriptural references related to this despot. Each of them reveals an aspect of this Satanic effort. There is a certain vagueness in the texts that does not allow for details that will satisfy our curiosity. It is sufficient to see the principles related to these texts.
"A king of fierce countenance" (Dan 8:23-25). In the latter time of imperial kingdoms, one will arise who is noted for cunning and understanding. He will be powerful, but not of himself-i.e., his power will be derived, or given to him. He will oppose the saints. Craft and deceit will prosper under him. He will stand up against the Prince of princes, or the Messiah, and be broken, or overthrown without human intervention.
"Man of sin" (2 Thess 2:3a). A pioneer and perpetrator of iniquity, rising from the seed bed of transgression and causing sin to propser in the name of religion.
"Son of perdition" (2 Thess 2:3b). An offspring of the devil himself, and destined to be cast into the lake of fire with the devil and his angels.
"The Wicked" (2 Thess 2:6). Lawless, and refusing to be governed by the King of kings and Lord of lords. An environment of lawlessness will be the root from which he springs.
"Antichrist" (1 John 2:18). Opposed to Christ, yet coming in the name of Christ. Noted for corrupt views of Jesus Christ, which erode the foundations of the faith.
"Another beast" (Rev 13:11-14). Pictured as a system that is patterned after the first beast, who depicted the governments of this world. This is the religion promoted by "that Wicked" one, who rules the church as the Caesar's ruled Rome.
"The false prophet" (Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). Propagating falsehood in the name of the Lord with unusual success.
While the rise of this entity is according to Satan, yet it is also by the will of God. We will find it to be a form of Divine judgment upon the world. His blasphemous mouth was "given unto him" (Rev 13:5), as well as "power to make war with the saints, and to overcome them" (Rev 13:7). Only faith can protect people from this onslaught of iniquity.
THE REVELATION. Three times the Spirit refers to the revelation of this spiritual despot. (1) " . . . and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition," verse 3. (2) " . . . that he might be revealed in his time," verse 6. (3) " . . . then shall that Wicked be revealed," verse 8). This revelation will not be to the carnal mind. God has never represented Himself as revealing things to the carnal mind, for it cannot receive things from Him - even the revelation of "the man of sin," or "that Wicked." I understand the revelation, which can only come from God, to be in order for the saints to detect and reject this "man of sin." There can be no other reason for the revelation. The meaning of our text is that Jesus will not come until this monstrous delusion has been unveiled and rejected by God's elect.
THE WICKED ONE CONSUMED AND DESTROYED
" 8b . . . whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming." There is much to be learned from the way in which this text is stated. Having mentioned the revelation of Satan's fabrication of Christ, the Spirit immediately proceeds to declare the destruction of the "man of sin." He does not spend a lengthy period of time delineating the nature of his dominance, where it will be, or the time frame in which it will occur. The introduction of this individual, or system, or individual within a system, is not intended to heighten fear, but to assure of triumph. This represents Satan's most formidable attack upon the church. We are informed in the Revelation of his hostility toward the saints. Having been cast from the presence of the Lord because of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, he has descended upon the earth "having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." Relentlessly he "persecutes" the church, attempting to drown it with "a flood" of corruption (Rev 12:12-15). Our text has localized that effort in "the man of sin."
THE LORD WILL CONSUME. There will be no battle between "the son of perdition" and Jesus! It is true that Satanic hosts are depicted as gathering together to make war with Jesus and His saints. But that war is never fought. As it is written, "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev 19:19-20). That is an animated portrayal of the truth declared in our text: "whom the Lord shall consume." The most formidable foe of all time will simply be "consumed." As Daniel put it, "he shall be broken without hand," or human agency. At the very instant Jesus returns, this will be fulfilled.
THE SPIRIT OF HIS MOUTH. To confirm this is not speaking of a violent war, the consumption of the foe will be by "the spirit" of Christ's "mouth." That is, Jesus will SPEAK an end to the dominion of this despot. Just as His word will raise the dead (John 5:28-29), so it will conclude the corrupted reign of false religion! If one speaks of "the Antichrist," he will be reduced to nothing by a word coming from the mouth of the Lord! Jesus will not fight him, but will speak His demise! The allusion is to Isaiah's prophecy of the Sovereignty of the Messiah. "But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked" (Isa 11:4). The "rod of His mouth" means the scepter by which He rules and conquers His enemies. It is His Word, for He needs nothing more than to speak a word, and all His foes are immediately vanquished. Eliphaz spoke correctly when he said, "By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His nostrils are they consumed" (Job 4:9). Speaking through Hosea the Lord said, "I have slain them by the words of My mouth" (Hosea 6:5). The sword with which Jesus fights comes from His mouth (Rev 19:15). Those who insist there will be a final battle fought between the armies of heaven and the armies of Satan, and between Jesus and the Antichrist, betray their stunted view of the Lord's Christ.
THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS COMING. As if it was not enough to declare the overthrow of "the man of sin" by the word of Jesus, the Spirit takes the matter even further. Because the enemy of the saints is a child of darkness, and because he wields the power of darkness, Jesus will destroy him "with the brightness of His coming:" no battle, no conflict, no resistence - just "the brightness of His coming!"
Christ's glory. This "brightness" is His glory. When Jesus returns, He will not only come in all of "His own glory" (Lk 9:26), but "in the glory of His Father with His angels" (Matt 16:27). He will return "with power and great glory" (Matt 24:30). The saints will then be made known as they "appear with Him IN glory" (Col 3:4). Then all of His matchless glory "shall be revealed" (1 Pet 4:13). Although that glory will transform the elect (1 John 3:2), none of Christ's enemies will be able to survive it. Not even the heavens and the earth will be able to remain in the wake of that glory! As it is written, "from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them" (Rev 20:11).
When the Lord Jesus returns, He will sit "on the throne of His glory" (Matt 19:28). No enemies will reject Him, resist Him, or compete with Him. His glory will thrust them from His presence like the chaff of the summer threshing floor. The "brightness of His coming" will dispel the darkness that was the environment and source of the power of Christ's enemies. They will not be able to stand when the darkness that covered them is dissipated. Thus the seemingly formidable rule of the wicked one will abruptly conclude with Christ's "coming."
THE WORKING OF SATAN
" 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." The announcement of the sudden demise of Satan's "prince" appears so simplistic that the Spirit must elaborate upon it. This is no ordinary foe, no common opponent. It is one against which human wisdom and strength is to no avail. From the view of man, this foe is supernatural and invincible, even though he instantly falls at a word from Jesus and the appearance of His glory. Human wisdom in all of its variety and strength is utterly powerless before this great deceiver. Only faith can survive his aggression.
HIS COMING. The "coming" of "the lawless one" NIV refers to his rise to prominence. This is what occurs when the hindering influence is removed (verse 7). You can see from this proclamation that, while Satan is powerful, he is not all powerful. He could not cause the rise of "the man of sin" prematurely. Satan could not overcome the hindering influence, or "what is restraining" him. NKJV That means the restraining influence is something ordained of God, for nothing ordained by man can restrain Satan. While God uses means to accomplish His will, it is His will that gives that means its power. The "man of sin" could not rise to prominence until God allowed him to, Satan or not! The next verse will explain WHY God allowed him to rise with corrupting and delusive power.
THE WORKING OF SATAN. Other versions read, "is according to the working of Satan," NKJV "is in accord with the activity of Satan," NASB and "is apparent in the working of Satan." NRSV Just as the work of God bears His nature, so the working of Satan is in strict accord with his nature. The "coming" of "that Wicked" one occurs according to God's will, but is accomplished through Satan's work. Satan is a prodigious worker, and it is always with wicked intent, and in moral and spiritual depravity. Those who "give place to the devil" (Eph 4:27) must know that he always works with malicious intent, bringing a curse wherever he is allowed to do his diabolical work. Those who flirt with sin, exposing their hearts and minds to the devices of the wicked one, are in a most jeopardizing situation.
ALL POWER. Remembering that "there is no power but of God" (Rom 13:1), Satan raises up the "son of perdition" whose coming is in "ALL power." The phrase "all power" does not mean the "man of sin" supplants the Lord Jesus, who has been given "all power in heaven and earth" (Mat 28:18). It does not mean he is omnipotent. Rather this is all the power Satan can possibly confer. It is to be employed in an onslaught of delusion against which none but "the elect" will be able to stand. Of course, that is true of ALL of Satan's delusions. The meaning here extends a bit further. I understand this to mean that those who are casual about their faith, or are lukewarm, will be swept away by this powerful delusion. The call to spiritual stability and maturity, among other things is in view of this sobering reality.
SIGNS AND LYING WONDERS. As he is allowed, Satan parades supernatural things before men. Those with a penchant for miracles do well to consider this. An unlawful appetite for the supernatural puts one squarely into the arena of Satan's work. Even Moses spoke of a false prophet who gave a "sign or a wonder" that came to pass (Deut 13:1-2). Jesus forwarned of false Christs and false prophets that "shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matt 24:24). He did not say they would pretend to show such signs. Jesus revealed an opponent to John who "performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do . . . " (Rev 13:13-14). The purpose of these "signs and lying wonders" is not to entertain, but to deceive. That is what makes them "lying wonders." A "lying wonder" is NOT a wonder that is a lie, or not true, but one that leads to trust in a lie. What Satan did to Job was, indeed, supernatural. A fire fell from heaven, burning up his sheep (Job 1:1:16). A "great wind from the wilderness" also caused the house in which Job's children were to fall, killing them all (Job 1:19). Satan also "smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown" (Job 2:7). Those who imagine Satan's wonders are only delusions will eventually have to explain their notion to Job! "Lying wonders" are the offspring of the lie, and lead to all that is false.
The thought of such a one rising to dominance AFTER the saints have been removed from this world is an utter absurdity. The very doctrine itself reveals the effectiveness of Satan's craftiness. The revealed objective of the devil is to make war with those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev 12:17). If the saints are removed, Satan has none against which to make war, for there would, in such a case, be none to oppose him. Even Satan does not fight those who do not resist him. Such a notion is the epitome of ignorance. Even the devil fights only when he has opponents. Satan CAN only oppose those who resist him. If he launches an initative, the saints are still present.