Strong Delusion

II Thess. 2: 11-12. “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

So far, so good here in my corner of the world.  Winds are between 15-30 mph, with a gradual increase until about 5 p.m. tonight when we could get gusts over 60 mph.  Raining right now, but not in torrents. Yet. So, while I still have electricity. . . .

Paul continues in these two verses to explain why those who refuse to hear the truth will be condemned.  It is because of their own choice to refuse righteousness and instead choose evil. It is because of this choice that they are condemned, not because God is petty and vengeful.  

For this cause points back to their distaste for the truth.  Do you have anyone in your life who really, really doesn’t like to face and accept truth?  Someone who, if his lips are moving he’s lying?  Aren’t they a discouragement to you?  They refuse to say truth, accepting only what fits and promotes their own self-conceived desires.  In my business, these people fit the profile of a sociopath; one who has no conscience, no sense of right and wrong except as it affects that individual. His only sense of wrong is when he himself is thwarted in some way. These people are impossible to reason with, because you simply can’t reason with an unreasonable person. These are the people Paul is describing in this passage.  They’ve heard the truth.  They want no part of it, and can even become angry and confrontational when the gospel is offered to them.  They have no excuse. For this cause shows a clear cause-and-effect situation:  They reject God, God sends judgment on them.  The judgment will come in the form of strong delusion that they should believe a lie. 

God is the sovereign Judge. We have no right to question His will, His decisions, or His judgment. Those who reject Him are doing all of that, and more. Their judgment is a natural consequence of their choice.  God is a moral Being; He cannot remain passive toward active evil. Sin must be punished in a moral universe (I Thess. 1:10). God cannot act contrary to His character. 

Strong delusion: God will not send error to dupe or fool anyone, as Satan does. Instead, the sense here is that He will send upon them an inward working of the inevitable consequences of error. They will fall under the influence of the spirit of lawlessness that is already at work within them, and will lead them ever farther from the truth.  Since they chose falsehood and defiance, God will subject them to the power of the error they chose. Their choice of evil is the very instrument that will punish their sin. Proverbs 5:22. “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sin.” 

That they should believe a lie: The lie they will believe is the last and most evil:  That Anti-Christ is indeed Christ. Satan will succeed for a time in passing off the Man of Sin, the Lawless One, as God. This is the ultimate blasphemy, and will not be forgiven 

That they all might be damned:  God’s purpose is that they reap the consequences of their own choice of sin. The word damned is also interpreted as judged, in the sense of condemnation. This judgment will come not only because they rejected truth, but because they had pleasure in unrighteousness. This thought is perhaps the most telling, for me, because it describes the heart of the sinful who not only reject righteousness, but love unrighteousness!  They enjoy, take pleasure, prefer, love, that which is the epitome of evil. They preferred Satan and the Man of Sin over the pure, holy, righteous love of God; not only did they prefer it, they treasured it and loved it! 

I am reminded again of Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

 

They Received Not the Love of the Truth

II Thess. 2:9-10. “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish: because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

If Hurricane Sandy hits my little corner of the world as hard as the weather reports say, this could be the last you’ll hear from me for a few days.   Amazingly, this is the second year in a row that we’ve had a very damaging storm right before Halloween.  Last year it was unseasonable snow, wet and heavy, that took down power lines and created havoc with trees still in full leaf. The wet, heavy snow broke huge branches as it collected, and even took down a lot of trees.  So–we’re fastening our safety belts!

Now for today’s passage.  Paul describes in these two verses what the reign of the Man of Sin will look like.  I am impressed once again with the importance of knowing the truth of God’s Word; of digging deep and studying out what the scriptures teach, so that we are not among those who are deceived by the counterfeit junk that Satan puts out.  It is clear that Anti-Christ will come through Satan’s works.  He will also come with all power, and signs, and lying wonders. 

The Man of Sin is not Satan, but he will cooperate and work with Satan to deceive the world, a counterfeit Christ who seems to have all the powers that Jesus did when He walked this earth. Again, the word working indicates the operation of some supernatural power; this is the only place I know of where Paul uses this word to describe Satan; it is more typically used to describe Jesus. 

Power denotes the cause of the miracles.  Signs point to the significance behind the miracles. Lying wonders describes their abnormal nature and the astonishment they create in those who watch.  These words, in Acts 2:22, are used to describe the works of Jesus, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.”  Always, Satan attempts to deceive through using the appearance of truth. 

Anti-Christ will try to do what Jesus did:  He will use his supernatural powers to validate his ministry, and the unbelieving world will be convinced.  His false claim does not mean that the miracles themselves are merely magic tricks.  They will be real, and that is why people will be fooled. The miracles belong to the realm of falsehood because they are false in their character and purpose.  They come from the father of lies, a liar by nature (John 8:44), who cannot tell the truth and who deceives by his very existence.  

Anti-Christ’s workings will be convincing to them that perish. They are the ones who have accepted the lies of the Man of Sin and are  on their way to the same ruin as he. They will perish not because God has condemned them, but because, hearing the truth, they willfully reject it and do not love it. This deliberate choice is what condemns them. It is lawlessness–placing their own ideas, wants, desires and lusts above the truth of God. 

God is not a monster Who delights in the condemnation of His creation (Ezek. 33:11). He desires, and has provided for, our salvation (I Tim. 2:4-6). Those who go to perdition with the Man of Sin have no concern for their eternal welfare, and are indifferent to their need and to the way of escape that God has provided.  It is willful lawlessness. God is not to blame. 

This entire chapter has really lodged in my heart and mind.  I keep thinking of the evil of the spirit of lawlessness that inhabits each one of us, believers and nonbelievers alike.  We are so selfish; so willful; so filled with self-esteem that we hold our own selves to be above reproach. Years ago, my pastor said that our problem is not a lack of self-esteem; just the opposite.  We think way more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.  God forgive us for our inflated sense of our own importance. 

That Wicked be Revealed

II 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.”

Again, it would be good to go back and read the entire passage as we look at each verse. It’s very important to keep the context and the continuity.

Before Paul describes the scope of the work of the Man of Sin in verses 9-10, he says that this Wicked will be destroyed by the Lord.  There are several interesting things to look at in this verse.

Remember, the Lawless One will be fully revealed when the Restrainer is removed; this one who is the personal embodiment and head of open lawlessness. He will be clearly identified with the Man of Sin in verse 3.  Remember also that the spirit of lawlessness is to set oneself above God, above all gods; to be the sum and substance of all law.  This spirit has been alive and active since Adam and Eve sinned.  It is not new to God, and it shouldn’t be new to us.  The phrase shall be revealed, for you grammarians, is in the passive voice, indicating that the action will not be done by the Man of Sin himself, but that he will receive this action.  The actual unveiling will be through the power of Satan.  His efforts toward that event are now being frustrated (v. 7) but with the removal of the restraint he will be free to accomplish his goal.  This is the third mention of the revelation of this awful man (verse. 3, 6, 8), indicating what an important event this is. One writer describes this event as “of some portentous, unearthly object holding the gazer spell-bound.” I believe the unregenerate world will look on this event with awe, reverence, and complete adoration. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

But then, the Lord will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and the brightness of His coming!

It is significant that Paul names him “that Wicked” in this verse.  He is so evil, so foul, that he is the picture of wickedness.  He is named what he is.  How can anyone who is so evil be so attractive to so many?  Well, think of Lucifer, the Light-bearer; a beautiful, powerful, magnificent angel. Yet, he was evil in his presumption against God, and still today there are those who worship him.  Lawlessness.

We do not know who this man is. There have been assertions since Jesus went back to heaven that the Roman emperors were Anti-Christ; that all the  kings, princes, priests and destroyers down through the centuries are Anti-Christ;  the Pope, other leaders of major religions around the world; Hitler, Mao, Ho Che Min, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and so on.  the list is endless.  None of these men proved to be the Anti-Christ, although all of them were certainly anti-Christ!  We do not know, and will not know for sure, who he is.  We do know that he represents the greatest evil ever perpetrated on mankind.

A careful study of the end times would seem to indicate that this man’s career will not span decades of time, but will begin suddenly and end suddenly.  The groundwork, of course, could be being laid even today, but his actual assumption of power will be sudden and dramatic. And his career will be brought to a sudden and decisive end when the Lord Jesus Christ returns and, by the word of His mouth and the brightness of His coming the Man of Sin is consumed.

By the breath of His mouth implies the ease of ending the Man of Sin.  Maybe it’s frivolous, but I have a mental picture of Christ “blowing him out” as one would blow out birthday candles on a cake.  There won’t be a long, white-knuckled battle. Jesus will consume and destroy the Man of Sin, leaving nothing but maybe an ash pile. He will simply be gone.  The very breathing of the glorified Jesus will slay the lawless one like the blast of a fiery furnace.  All his operations will come to an end.

The brightness of His coming: The word brightness is a manifestation, a shining forth.  It comes from the Greek word that is the basis of our word epiphany.  The very presence of the Lord Jesus will be so bright, shining forth with such truth, that the presumption and arrogant activity of the Lawless One will simply be consumed.

The Mystery of Iniquity, continued

II Thess. 2:7. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only  He Who now letteth will let until He (the Holy Spirit) be taken out of the way.”

The mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only because God restrains it has it not yet reached its climax.   It should comfort us to know that there WILL be a climax, after which the power of lawlessness will be permanently destroyed. 

Work indicates the active operation of some supernatural power; it is the energetic satanic activity behind the working of lawlessness.  Because Satan cannot yet bring the Man of Sin onto the scene, he actively promotes the spirit of lawlessness.  This spirit, sadly, is  at work not only in the hearts and minds of nonbelievers; it also influences the hearts and minds of those of us who call ourselves Christians.  Lawlessness is something most of us regard with distaste and aversion; yet, we rebel against anything and everything that we see as making any attempt to rob us of our independence in behavior.  Jeremiah 17:9.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately (incorrigibly) wicked. Who can know it?” I can feel a rant coming on, so I’d better get back to business! 

In the New Testament, mystery means something which was previously hidden and unknown to man, and undiscoverable by mere human search; but it has now been divinely revealed. Paul uses the word often in connection with words which indicate revelation and publication (Rom. 16:26; I Cor. 2:6-12; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-5; Col. 1:25-27).

Lawlessness  does not merely denote disorder and violation of law, but rather that definite aim of the Devil to overthrow the law of God and establish his own rule. Satan has never stopped working to thwart the plan of God, not from the moment he decided, as Lucifer, to raise himself above God in heaven, and ended up being cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14: 12-17). The first prophecy of Satan’s ultimate plan is in Genesis 3:15.  That prophecy was fulfilled at the Cross when Satan “bruised His heel”  but Jesus “bruised Satan’s head.”  Satan didn’t win then, and he won’t win in the end.  You can take that hope to the bank!

The spirit that will dominate the career of the Man of Sin is already operative. The depth of iniquity perpetrated by the man of lawlessness is so monstrous that, apart from divine revelation, human thought could never have conceived of it.  Today, we shudder at the memory of Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, and dozens of others who have perpetrated terrible evil on mankind.  Their evil will be as nothing compared to what the Man of Sin will do.  

I’m so glad I won’t be here!

Who now letteth:  Let is also translated as restrain. He Who restrains can be only one Person; only God is able to hold back the efforts of Satan. Only a supernatural Person can truly frustrate the supernatural workings of Satan.  There is some argument that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit. What we believe, however, is that when Christ calls His Church to Himself at the Rapture, the presence of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Indweller of the saints, will also be removed or taken out of the way.  Please understand that there is much more that could be said on this topic, but my purpose here is not to split fine hairs. I’ll leave that to the experts in the language, and take their word for the interpretation here that indicates that once the Church has been removed, the Man of Sin will be revealed. 

We’ll see what happens after that in our next post. 

The Mystery of Iniquity

II Thess. 2:5-7. “Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things?  And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time, For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”

There’s a lot going on here, and I’m not sure how far we’ll get today.

I love verse 5. Paul steps aside for a moment and says, “Hey, have you already forgotten what I taught you?  Come on, people, get a grip!”  Well, okay, that’s a slight  restatement, but if he were writing today, that’s what he may have said 🙂

Withholdeth:  Paul says, “You know what keeps the Man of Sin from being revealed!” The word could also be translated as restrains. It indicates a restraining force actively at work; it is exercised “to the end that he (man of sin) may be revealed in his own season” (the time divinely appointed for him). The time will be ripe for his unveiling; it will be neither too soon nor too late. Evil is, after all, under God’s control.  Moral evil exists because we have moral freedom; the two seem to be inseparable. Still, He knows how to control the activity of evil, and He will continue to do so until its full manifestation will best lead to its overthrow and judgment.

Take heart, all you believers!  No matter how things turn out on November 6, God is in control.  No matter how persecution grows and gathers momentum against Christians, God is in control.  No matter how difficult things may become, even to the point of martyrdom, God is in control!  Evil will not forever prevail over righteousness!  We need to keep our eyes fastened on the truth that God has a plan, the He is working His plan, and that He is never surprised or weakened by Satan’s attacks.

If you’ve never read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, give it a try. It’s a wonderful allegory of how any believer struggles through difficulties–and it’s just a good story.  What we forget is that we in this age are not unique.  Believers have been facing harsh treatment, hatred, temptation, persecution and death ever since Jesus was born.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Others have endured, and will endure after we are gone.

The Man of Sin has his short moment in the spotlight, but he’ll have eternity in fire.  Don’t be afraid.

Joshua 1:9. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Who Exalteth Himself

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II Thess. 2:4. “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.”

The picture above is an artist’s rendering of what Nebuchadnezzar’s image to himself may have looked like.  Do you see the arrogance?  It is nothing compared to that of the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition who will exalt himself against God, opposing Him and all other forms of worship in order to place himself above all powers as the ultimate object of worship.

I loved the story of Nebuchadnezzar when I was a child because it was so dramatic and exciting!  The king had this image created, then demanded that all people prostrate themselves to his image.  Those who refused would be incinerated. Daniel 3-4 details this event.  Nebuchadnezzar is brought very low before he finally humbles himself under the hand of Daniel’s God.

The Man of Sin will go so far as to usurp God’s place in the holy of holies, the inner sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem. We know from other passages ((Daniel 9:27Matthew 24:15). Second Thessalonians 2:4)  that a new temple will be constructed in Jerusalem. This outrageously blasphemous man will actually seat himself in the inner sanctuary, the holiest place, where only the priests could lawfully go under the Old Testament law.

I wonder with what pomp and ceremony this act will take place. Think of modern technology; our ability to broadcast around the world in real time whatever event is happening so that all may observe at the same time.  This man will take upon himself the place, position, and authority of God before the adoring gaze of the population of the world that has accepted him as God.

His supremacy will not last very long. He will be personally slain by the returning Christ (v. 8).  Throughout this passage, Paul describes this man in terms that suggest a deliberate parallel to Christ: Each has “coming”; each has a “revelation”; and each has his own gospel, one a lie and the other the truth.  The Anti-Christ will have satanic powers that appear to rival the power of Christ (2:9). But he is doomed.

I’ve asked you before to go back and re-read the entire passage in order to keep the continuity.  That would be a good idea here, as well; and you may also want to read ahead as we continue to pick through these incredibly interesting verses.

 

That Man of Sin. . .the Son of Perdition

II Thess. 2:3b. “. . . .and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition”

The second event that must take place before the Day of the Lord takes place is that the Man of Sin be revealed. This revelation comes in conjunction with the falling away that comes from within Christendom. 

The word revealed indicates a definite time when the veil will be removed from this man, and his true intent will be clear. His revelation  will herald the fact that the Day of the Lord has actually arrived. When he takes his place in the forum of human history, his true identity will be revealed; it is clear that he will already have been living for many years before he is known as the Anti-Christ. 

Three labels are applied to this man:  Man of sin, son of perdition, and he that opposeth and exalteth himself. . .against God.

Man of sin: This is not a personal name, but a characterization of the man, describing his evil character. He is so dominated by sin that he is the embodiment of it.  Evil personified, he is a man of lawlessness whose only adherence to law is that of his own making.

Son of perdition: This phrase describes his certain doom. The Hebrew term son of  marks him as a person who stands in relation to perdition as a son stands with his father.  The word perdition is destruction, ruin; loss of well-being, an everlasting state of torment and death; it is a destruction which consists in the loss of eternal life, eternal misery, the lot of all those who are excluded from God for all eternity. 

He that opposeth  and exalteth himself. . .This phrase, in verse 4, describes a man who is the adversary of Jesus Christ; he opposes God and all who worship God; he is not only anti-Christian, he is anti-ANY other god than himself.  He exalts himself by lifting himself above all other gods to become the only figure of worship in the religious sense as well as the secular. 

What is so amazing to me is that such a man, who embodies evil, will fool so many!  He will make promises that the whole world will believe; he will convince everyone that he is indeed above all powers, above all gods, and especially above the very God. That is why we know him today as the Anti-Christ; but at God’s Presence,  every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Rom. 14:11).  At that time, even Anti-Christ will be forced to acknowledge his own helplessness in the face of God’s wrath.