Giving way for the rise of the Son of Perdition

Posted: November 4, 2014 in Shared Thoughts

(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.

I Corinthians 3:10 – According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Consequently, due to Paul’s elusiveness in 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7, there has been a diversity of interpretations concerning “what” it was that “withholdeth” and “who” the “he” might be “who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Remember, most of what is believed today is contrary to what was almost an unanimous consensus of thought among protestant believers who believed this “man of sin… son of perdition” to be the position of the papacy, or the succession of popes of Roman Catholicism. Nowadays, the two most popular theories being promoted are, first, the rapture of the church, and second, the removal of the Holy Spirit of God from the world in the last days before the rise of an antichrist figure.

Because of this radical change of thought in the church concerning this man of sin, I think it is best to consider some scriptures that provide valuable insight into Paul’s method of ministry and documents some critical details concerning events which had transpired while he was in Thessalonica. First, it must be noted that while the Apostle Paul was a preacher of righteousness who was given revelations and vision, he did not preach solely from the position of his authority as an apostle. Rather it was always Paul’s habit to utilize the sure word of prophecy as his greatest resource to persuade others of the truth of the Gospel. For Paul knew if his message was in agreement with the prophets, then on the authority of that which was “written,” he had a solid foundation whereby he could persuade men that his message was worthy of their consideration.

Romans 16:25 – Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:  27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

Ephesians 2:19 – Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.

It is estimated that Paul either quoted, made reference to, or made clear inference to the Law and the Prophets approximately 268 times in his known epistles. Paul’s position regarding scripture is made further evident by his acknowledgement to Timothy “that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” and reminded Timothy that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they should “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Likewise he wrote to the Thessalonians that they too “became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.” Therefore when he told them to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” he did so because that was his own conviction that as a believer he too must prove all things by the scriptures. The reason I stress these things is to make the point that “what withholdeth” was something that Paul could have taught to the Church of Thessalonica from either the Law or Prophets.

This confirmed to us by Luke record in the Acts of the Apostles.

Acts 17:1 – Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

Having presented scriptural evidence that Paul’s method of revealing “the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and [was] by the scriptures of the prophets,” let us go on to the second point and examine those aforementioned “critical details which concern those events which occurred while he was in Thessalonica.”

Acts 17:4 – And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.  9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. 10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.

What we gleam from the above passage is that for three Sabbaths Paul reasoned the scriptures with the Jews and certain “devout Greeks,” or converts who already believed in the God of the Jews. However, in Paul’s first epistle we learn that many within this “great multitude of Greeks” in Thessalonica were still in their idolatry before they heard Paul’s Gospel and came to an acknowledgement of Jesus as the Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:1 – Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Based upon Paul’s account in his first epistle, it would seem they were in Thessalonica much longer than just the three Sabbaths Luke mentions, for he used the time not only to win many of the Greeks to the Lord, but also the time to teach them tenants of the faith that would enable them to endure the “much affliction” he speaks of “with joy of the Holy Ghost.” He further spoke of how they had become “ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia, for from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.” That is quite an endorsement of their well-established faith.

Likewise, Paul’s mention of their “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope” is a further indication that Paul and Silas continued to minister after their turning from “the Jews which believed not.” For Paul writes how they all “became followers of us, and of the Lord” and in so doing had “received the word in much affliction,” and yet they possessed “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore this all would seem to indicate that the duration of their stay was sufficient for them to not only lay the foundation of Jesus as the Christ in their lives, but also to teach them many other things that were foretold by the prophets. For now knowing these things and having faith, they were waiting “for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”

Accusations of Treason

 However, we must not fail to give attention to those the details recorded by Luke about the “Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.” This was no small commotion, for in Thessalonica they “drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city,” and were making charges against Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus that these whom Jason had received “that have turned the world upside down are come hither also… and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.”

These are not minor accusations, for these are words of treason against Caesar and Rome. Hence “they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things and when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.” This means Jason was required to give money as a security, or bond, before they would let him go. Understanding the seriousness with which Rome dealt with those who were seditious and traitors against Caesar, a penalty of certain death, “the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea.”

Plus remember, before going to Thessalonica, Paul and Silas had been in Philippi where they had been beaten and accused there as well of going against the customs of Rome.

Acts 16:20 – And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. 22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Thus, it is unmistakable that the brethren greatly feared for the lives of Paul and Silas and were greatly desirous to deliver them from any danger that might befall them based upon these new accusations in Thessalonica. And yet, with reasonable confidence we can be sure their apprehension was not based solely upon the events in Philippi or a few Thessalonica “Jews which believed not” and those “certain lewd fellows of the baser sort.” For from both Paul’s epistle and Luke’s account in the Acts of the Apostles we can safely conclude they understood that there were many things on the horizon which were soon going to transpire concerning God’s judgment upon Israel. This obviously being part of that to which he was referring by saying “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” It would in addition seem safe to conclude that Paul would have obviously articulated to them much of what he may have learned from Luke concerning what Jesus Christ had taught concerning this aforementioned “wrath to come.”

Luke 19:43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

However, Paul would have also reinforced these words of Jesus with what was already written before Christ by the prophets when ministering to the Jews and devout Greeks which believed. Below are passages which very likely would have been addressed by Paul.

Deuteronomy 28:49 – The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; 50 A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young: 52 And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

Isaiah 29:13 – Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

Jeremiah 26:18 – Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.

Micah 3:8 – But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. 9 Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. 10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. 12 Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

Now please take careful note of the following two passages. For again in Act’s, chapter 13, we find Paul speaking using Habakkuk’s word to warn the men of Israel of the “wrath to come.”

Habakkuk 1:5 – Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. 6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. 7 They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.

Acts 13:16 – Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience… 40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; 41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.

Quoting Habakkuk, Paul rebuked the Jews who were “despisers” of the Gospel and warned them that they too were going to perish as many did when the Chaldeans first destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem. Yet we know from history that this time the wrath to come was not going to be by the Chaldeans: rather Rome would be the instrument of God’s wrath whereby Zion was again going to “be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps.” But again what is important is if there are scriptures that speak of this happening again to Jerusalem whereby Paul could have taught this to the Thessalonians? That answer is found in the book of Daniel.

Daniel 7:1 – In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it, [Babylonian Empire]. 5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh, [Medo/Persian Empire]. 6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it, [Grecian Empire].7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns, [Roman Empire].

The scriptural portrayal and historical record of Rome agree that as an empire “it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it.” In the history of the other three empires it can be discovered how certain of the rulers thereof were brought to a place of reverence for the God of the Jews, “certain” meaning to depict the difference between Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar. With Nebuchadnezzar it is clearly noted how God had captured his attention with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego “walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Later, God humbled him, giving him the heart of a beast and causing him to live as a wild animal for seven years until God restored his Kingdom to him. Both times Nebuchadnezzar praise God as the true God.

Daniel 3:28 – Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

 4:1 – Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. 2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. 3 How great are His signs! and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.

Daniel 4:34 – And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation:  35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, “What doest Thou?”  36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.  37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.

However, just prior to the fall of Babylon, Belshazzar “brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone,” (Daniel 5:3). When Daniel was called to interpret what “fingers of a man’s hand… wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace” he told Belshazzar the following.

Daniel 5:18 – O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: 21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. 22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; 23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: 24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. 25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. 27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. 28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians… 30  In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

Though Babylon had served God’s purpose in chastising the Israelites, Nebuchadnezzar was still enlighten to the sovereignty and power of God and openly testified so both in word and decree concerning the greatness of the God of the Jews. However, not so with his son whose sins ushered in the judgment of God upon the Chaldeans. So too shall it be with fall of spiritual Babylon and the Eight Beast who carries the Mother of Harlot into perdition.

Accordingly, when Darius conquered Babylon, he too was most likely illuminated by Daniel using the Holy Scriptures (Isaiah 44:28-45:4) which predicted the coming of Cyrus a hundred fifty years before he began his reign and accurately described his battle plan recently implemented against Babylon. Having obviously been moved by the holy scriptures which testified both of the God of the Jews and the recent Medo/Persia victory, Darius made Daniel one of his three presidents. Thus placed under Daniel was a hundred and twenty princes of Darius obligated to give an account to him of the various affairs over which they were given charged. Being filled with envy, they plotted against righteous Daniel and came up with a scheme whereby Darius would be obligated to have Daniel killed according to the “law of the Medes and Persians… That no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.” But when the King Darius humbled himself with fasting and trusted in Daniel’s God to deliver him from the mouths of the lions, he too is recorded giving public proclamation of praise to the God of the Jews.

Daniel 6:25 – Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. 26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. 27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. 28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Regarding the Greek Empire, since Alexander the Great’s entrance into the Holy Land occurred after the completion of the Old Testament books, there can be no biblical account regarding an open acknowledgement of the God of the Jews. Nevertheless, the Jewish historian Josephus records an event worthy of consideration. This is discussed again in greater further detail in another chapter.

 The Antiquities of the Jews – Book XI, chapter VIII, paragraph 5:

 “And when he (the High Priest) understood that he (Alexander the Great) was not far from the city (Jerusalem), he (the High Priest) went out in procession with the priests and the multitude of citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations … and when the Phoenicians and the Chaldeans that followed him (Alexander the Great), thought that they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high priest to death, which the king’s displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened; for Alexander, when he (Alexander the Great) saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed in fine linen, and the high priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his miter on his head, having the golden plate whereon the name of God was engraved, he (Alexander the Great) approached by himself, and adored that name (the name of God), and first saluted the high priest. The Jews also did altogether, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; where upon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him [to be] disordered in his mind (They thought Alexander was crazy for bowing before the High Priest). However, Parmenio alone went up to him (Alexander the Great) and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the high priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, “I did not adore him, but that G-d who hath honored him with his high-priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit (high priestly garment), when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself, how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he (God) would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians; whence it is, that having seen no other in that habit (high priestly garment), and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.”

Thus with the first three beasts of Daniel’s vision, representing Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, they all have accounts of God being given glory for His sovereign power over the success and judgments of nations. However, with the fourth beast, Rome, there is no such record that I know of, especially since it was the Caesars of Rome to whom deity was attributed. Some may wish to object and make reference to Constantine and his alleged conversion to Christianity, which in itself is a complete subject matter worthy of holy scrutiny. Nevertheless, it is irrelevant since Israel was already dispersed and the Temple was destroyed over two hundred years earlier. Plus it can be reasonably argued that Constantine’s alleged conversion to Christianity was little more than a political maneuver in an attempt to revitalize a dying empire. However, this conversion paved the way for the rise of the Papacy and Catholicism, to which the Anabaptists, Waldensians, and other Protestants pointed to as “that man of sin… the son of perdition.”

However, Paul would have easily been able to preach to the brethren at Thessalonica that after “the wrath to come” of God judging the Jews, that Rome too, like the three empires before it, would eventually fall. This is easy to see both in the depiction of Rome in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of “a great image” that represented these four great empires and Daniel’s vision of the “four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.” First we will examine Nebuchadnezzar’s vision.

Daniel 2:31 – Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. 37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold [Babylon].39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee [Medo-Persia], and another third kingdom of brass [Greece], which shall bear rule over all the earth.40 And the fourth kingdom [Rome] shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

It is not necessary to overly expound on this passage, other than to note that “the stone [which] was cut out of the mountain without hands… brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold.” It is unavoidable that this would inclusively speak of a fall of Rome as certainly as it does the three empires prior. Next is Daniel’s vision.

Daniel 7:2 – Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings [Babylon]: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5 And behold another beast [Medo-Persia], a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6 After this I beheld, and lo another [Greece], like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast [Rome], dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

Note both visions reveal Rome to be like iron which breaks into pieces, both having feet, of which Daniel says “stamped the residue with the feet of it.” This Rome did to Israel; consequently, Israel as a geographical and sovereign nation with physical boundaries was destroyed and the residue of the Jews scatter among the nations. Thus Israel “which was, was not… and yet is” today.

Furthermore, the leopard which represented Greece had four horns, this “fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,” had ten horns. In the case of the fall of the Grecian Empire, when Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was divided among his four generals represented by the leopard’s four horns. In the same way when the Roman Empire fell it divided up into to smaller kingdoms which have been reckoned as such-

  1. The Roman senate.
  2. The Greeks, in Ravenna.
  3. The Lombards in Lombardy.
  4. The Huns in Hungary.
  5. The Alemans, in Germany.
  6. The Franks in France.
  7. The Burgundians in Burgundy.
  8. The Saracens in Africa, and a part of Spain.
  9. The Goths, in other parts of Spain.
  10. And the Saxons, in Britain.

.

So what does all this give credence to? First let’s rehearse a few points.

  1. Paul and Silas were accuse, beaten, and thrown in jail in Philippi for teaching customs which are not lawful to receive, neither to observe for the Romans.
  2. Shortly after Paul and Silas go to Thessalonica, only to have to flee because a strong accusation was asserted that “Jason and those he had received [Paul and Silas], were doing things that were contrary to the decrees of Caesar, and saying that there is another king, one Jesus.] These charges represent treason and seditious activity which carried the penalty of death in Rome.
  3. It is evident Paul preached on the “wrath to come” which easily can be seen to be in agreement with Jesus’ prophecy concerning Jerusalem and Israel.
  4. Paul according to the scriptures easily could have correctly taught the fall of Rome according to scripture, confirming a revelation that the Holy Spirit could have revealed to him.
  5. That historically we can see how Constantine’s alleged conversion to Christianity and the eventual fall of Rome gave way to the Rise of Roman Catholicism and the Papacy.

For these, and many other reasons, it becomes evident why those who were mercilessly persecuted for centuries for clinging to their faith in Christ Jesus by refusing to acknowledge as legitimate the usurped authority of Catholicism and the Papacy, universally considered the profane institution of Rome to be the “great apostasy” and viewed the position of the papacy as “that man of sin [which would] be revealed, the son of perdition.

In this light then we can see why it was wisdom for Paul to be elusive and not to write in his epistle to the brethren in Thessalonica that Rome was going to have to fall first in order to make way for this great apostasy and the son of perdition. Furthermore, the phrase “son of perdition” is only used twice in scripture, once by Jesus in reference to Judas who ended up being a false apostle, and here by Paul in reference to the Papacy which by Catholicism is said to be overseen by a continuation of apostles now referred to as popes. However, in the eyes of the true Protestants, the popes have all been false apostles and betrayers of truth just as surely as Judas was.

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; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth [Rome] that he [the false apostle] might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he [Rome] who now letteth will let [prevent his rise], until he [Rome] be taken out of the way [falls]. 8 And then shall that Wicked [lawless one] 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, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Another point succinctly stated by commentator Adam Clarke that is noteworthy –

“After the death of Christ the temple of Jerusalem is never called by the apostles the temple of God; and if at any time they make mention of the house or temple of God, they mean the Church in general, or every particular believer. Whoever will consult 1Co 3:16,17; 2Co 6:16; 1Ti 3:15; Re 3:12*; will want no examples to prove that, under the Gospel dispensation, the temple of God is the Church of Christ; and the man of sin sitting implies this ruling and presiding there; and sitting there as God implies his claiming Divine authority in things spiritual as well as temporal; and showing himself that he is God, implies his doing it with ostentation.”

*Verses referenced:

1 Corinthians 3:16 – Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

2 Corinthians 6:16 – And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

1 Timothy 3:15 – But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new name.

Live for the resurrected King!

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