(A chapter from a book I hope to complete soon on America in Prophecy)
2 Thessalonians 2:3 – Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
The above verse is widely accepted and quoted by Christendom today as referencing an end-time antichrist figure. However, when researching old commentaries, even the widely trusted Matthew Henry Commentary, it is hard to find one who fail to relate this “man of sin… son of perdition” to the position of the papacy, or the succession of popes of Roman Catholicism. Some commentators, like the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary printed in 1871, recognize this verse as being ultimately being fully realized in an individual “whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” However, they too affiliate this individual with the papacy position, but believe there would be one Pope in the later days which would boldly oppose the Lord, His word and Jesus the Christ openly.
“Doubtless “the apostasy” of Romanism (the abstract) is one of the greatest instances of the working of the mystery of iniquity, and its blasphemous claims for the Pope (the concrete) are forerunners of the final concentration of blasphemy in the man of sin, who shall not merely, as the Pope, usurp God’s honor as vicegerent of God, but oppose God openly at last.”
If so many commentators have recognized 2 Thessalonians 2:3 speaking of “a falling away first” as being the rise of Roman Catholicism and the “man of sin… son of perdition” as the succession of popes, why then has that understanding been nearly completely abandoned by Christendom today? Or perhaps a better question would be what scriptural and historical justification did the commentators have for interpreting it that way? Perhaps part of the answer is obscured in Paul’s motive for not write openly about the subject here, but only alludes to it by directing his readers to remember that which he had taught them in person.
2 Thessalonians 2:5 – Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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.
Paul’s manner of writing here raises a question that I have never heard asked before; why wouldn’t Paul plainly write these things out again if his intention was to put forth a clear and coherent teaching on the apostasy which the Holy Spirit had revealed to him was going to take place? Especially when in his other epistles Paul’s normal pattern was both methodical and thorough while presenting the oracles of God to the saints, yet here he asks them “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” It is evident Paul felt it was wisdom to trust the Holy Spirit to help them recall these pertinent things, for he continues with “ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.” Hence it seems evident that the Apostle Paul under the unction of the Holy Spirit was writing with great carefulness and was unwilling to formally document that which he had communicated to them in person.
Furthermore, when one considers how this manner of leading their focus with a question greatly differs from Paul’s normal pattern of writing, it is hard not to conclude that Paul was deliberately being obscure here. For where else in any of his other epistles can it be found that Paul asks such a steering question? In all his epistles Paul only use the word “remember” seven times. Except for its usage here in 2 Thessalonians 2:5, everywhere else he uses it as to introduce an exhortation for the believers not to forget particular truths which are then clearly articulated within the exhortation. Similarly, Paul used the phrase “Know ye not” three times in the epistle of Romans, eight times in I Corinthians, and once again in II Corinthians: yet in all of these it is clear the questioning is rhetorical since he again immediately follows clearly articulating truths which are fundamental to the Christian faith.
In those days, delivering a letter was considerably more costly, laborious, and time consuming than writing one; especially compared to the ease of email correspondence nowadays. So it wouldn’t have been prudent for Paul to be so vague unless it was intentional, and so again, we must not fail to make noted that only in 2 Thessalonians 2:5 that Paul can be found imploring his readers to “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things” without his normal manner of investing the time to clearly define those “things.” Therefore, Paul had to believe there was more wisdom in his being vague and petitioning them to recall certain things, than there was wisdom in his establishing an official documented description of these things with Silvanus, Timothy and his name attached to it. His following comment concerning “when I was yet with you,” makes it obvious he was confident they would recall what he had taught them in this private teaching and “know what withholdeth.” For though Paul openly preached to the Jews and Gentiles alike that Jesus was the Christ, there were some things that he knew should only be taught to those who by their rebirth and salvation had a firm foundation of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and therefore able to be entrusted with some “meat” from God’s word. Read the rest of this entry »