The Man of Lawlessness

Paul had taught the Thessalonians, and other believers and churches, that the end would come when a rebellion had occurred and a man of lawlessness appeared. This man would lead people into the belief that God had been overthrown and would set himself up to lead the people, even declaring himself to be God:

He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

2 Thessalonians 2:4

Paul is speaking of the end times and is noting this in his letter to the Thessalonians because they had become alarmed that this time had already come and gone. We had seen previously, in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, that he had encouraged them to continue to live normal, quiet lives of faith until Christ would return. They would know when it happens because Christ will come with a shout and with trumpet blasts. Paul is now reminding them to continue on this way, not believing that the day of the Lord had already come, as they had heard some say.

Another of the signs will be that this man will set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Presumably this will be in Jerusalem, literally at the temple mount as a specific historic event. I anticipate that this will happen in the physical world with a specific person, just as Paul has said.

However, I wanted to make a note that it is also possible for us to see ourselves in this same picture, and it is a warning for each of us as well.

At one time, the temple stood in Jerusalem on the temple mount, a place that still exists today but has a mosque-type of museum standing on it today. But at this point, our bodies, instead of a physical structure, are considered to be God’s temple:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

1 Corinthians 6:19

In this way, we can understand also that each of us represent the temple.

And this same verse tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Previously, as the temple was built by Solomon, God’s presence filled the temple. Now, God’s Holy Spirit fills us as we believe in Christ:

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

So as people who are the temple of God and have received the Holy Spirit within us, we want to stay on guard that we do not try to overthrow God either in rebellion and setting ourselves up as God within his holy temple. Instead, God needs to maintain his place within us. He needs to remain the king. The one who is in charge. He must remain as God over each of us.

But within each of us is a desire to be God. It is for this reason that Adam and Eve at the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Satan told them that their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. And in fact, that is what happened. Their eyes were opened, and in the sense of knowing the difference between good and evil, their eyes were opened. But this wasn’t for their benefit. This was only for their detriment.

Yet even today, we continue to do the same thing. At the foundation of the problem, we can tend against worshiping God as God and instead looking to ourselves as little gods. We refuse to worship him or even acknowledge him and instead look only to ourselves:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:21

So this is an important warning for each of us. Yes, I believe that there will be an actual Man of Lawlessness. Yes, I believe that he will precede the coming judgement. But I also believe that within each of us is a desire to be God himself and so we must stay on our guard to not believe the lie that we can be him, but instead continue to worship and glory God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *