2 Thessalonians 2:4

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 322 - March 1883


2 Thessalonians 2:4

Bur there is further light from God cast on the man of sin, the son of perdition, (ominous as are these indications of evil beyond precedent and measure,) who is to be revealed before the day come which is to be his destruction. "He that opposeth and exalteth himself exceedingly against every one called, god, or object of veneration; so that he sitteth down in the temple of God, sheaving himself that he is God." (ver. 4). There is n sufficient warrant for the words "as God" in the Received Text as in our Authorised Version. They rather soften the force; where the true text leaves the assumption in its unmitigated arrogance.

Scripture in its various notices of this future head of. evil brings into prominence different characteristics which are to meet in him distinctively. He is to come in his own name, the impersonation of self-sufficiency as of independence of God. This will suit the then spirit of the age. Men, the Jews in particular, will be ripe for it and hail it gladly. It will gratify and crown their selfishness. Of old they would not have the One who came in His Father's name. It was irksome to their proud spirits to see and hear One who was here only to do the will of Him that sent Him, only to manifest the Father's name, only to make known His love and glory. They admired a bold and free spirit, daring, and self assertive. The lowly mind was as far from their ideal of man as abhorrent to them practically. "I do nothing pf Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things." Such servant-like humility and devotedness was hateful in their eyes, as it could only condemn their ways and words. Had they known the glory of Him who there spoke, that He was the Son, the Word, the Creator of all, it would have increased their amazement and forced them to own themselves at deadly issue with that only and true God, of whose testimony they considered themselves the exclusive and faithful guardians. Faith in Christ would have broken them down in utter self-abasement and self-judgment; and they would have seen the Father, by and in the Son, wholly different from all their thoughts. The Jews then rejecting their Messiah, the Son of God come in the infinite humiliation of divine grace, were manifestly of the devil as father, not of Abraham whose seed they were, still less of God whose name they claimed only for pride; and as they had no standing in the truth, so they were more and more developing into lawless violence like him who from the beginning was a murderer and a liar. By and by the Jews will take the further step of receiving one to come in his own name, and this as their Messiah. This will be no doubt the depth of moral darkness; for Scripture is not silent as to the righteous and holy character of Jehovah's Anointed. Psalms xvi., xxii., xl., lxix., lxii., lxxv., xci., ci., cii.; Prov. viii.; Is. ix., xi., xii., xxv., xlii., xlix., 1., lii., liii. lix., lx., lxi., lxiii., are ample testimonies from a small part of Scripture. But indeed space fails to merely cite the barest references• in the Old Testament to the moral perfectness of Jehovah-Messiah and His future reign. So that, as the Jews were .without excuse when they failed to discern the true and divine Messiah, so will they be yet more after rejecting Him to receive the full and final representative of selfishness, which Satan will bring before them in the Antichrist of the latter day. "Him" said the Saviour, "ye will receive." This awaits "the many" in the land, and the time hastens.

John brings out other features of their coming leader. "Who is the (not "a") liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is the antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son. (chap. ii. 22.) Here we learn that there are two steps: the denial of the Jewish confession that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah, which is the fatal unbelief of that nation, the denial of the Father and the Son, which is the equally fatal repudiation of the christian confession. The antichrist' will be the chief expression of the twofold blasphemous infidelity. The spirit of apostasy not only among the Jews, but of Christendom. He will be the Head of both; and that the unbelieving Jews and Christians can and will have a common head is enough to shew low complete must be the apostasy. The denial of the Father and the Son is the rejection of the fullest revelation of grace and truth from God to man; and this is now going on in Christendom, not ignorance only of such infinite love in the person of the Lord Jesus, but heart opposition and unbelieving dislike and defamation. Into this outward professors are gradually falling from a mere creed-confession; from it nothing will truly preserve, but the living faith of God's elect according to His power who saved and called us with a holy calling, not according to our work, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began—the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.

But the lie of Satan will go farther than the denial of that especial display of grace and truth, of the Father and the Son; for it will, as we have seen, reject even the Messiahship of Jesus, and thus pave the way for that awful amalgam of unbelieving Jews and Christians who will accept the antichrist as their one head. " For many deceivers," as John says in his Second Epistle, "are gone out into the world, those that confess not Jesus coming in flesh,—this is the deceiver and the antichrist." If they refused the highest and deepest revelation, it might be supposed that they would allow the least. But no; the hour approaches when the work of deceivers will be complete, and Christendom, proud and effete, will fall under the power of the lie to the utmost, along with the blinded Jews. And this gives distinctness to the sitting in the temple of God spoken of in the end, and disposes of all need to soften it into any figure whatever. Where else would the apostate head of Jews and Christians sit but there?

But the intimation in our chapter, if it convey not the personal depth and immense scope of John, gives particulars of the greatest weight and interest. The man of sin is further described as " he that opposeth and exalteth himself exceedingly against every one called god or object of veneration." Here appears antagonism and arrogant self exaltation against every Divine or even reverent claim. How humbling and awful to know from God that such is to be the issue of not the law only but the gospel, iii the hands of men prone and skilful to corrupt all, έnd to make of the best thing the worst corruption! The evil will not be only an apostate state, embracing all, even the most opposed, but it will have a head, and this a religious head.

There will be a worldly head also; and many have confounded the two, because they play each into the other's hands. The political chief will own the religious head, as the latter will uphold the former. Indeed they are so closely bound together in their policy and doings and issue, that one need not be surprised that in ancient as in modern times many have mixed them up, attributing to the one what is properly true of the other, an error equally true of historicalists as of futurists. Thus of old as now not a few think of the seven-headed and two-horned beast out of the sea (Rev. xiii. 1-10) where they read of the man of sin; whereas in truth the second beast out of the earth, or the false prophet (Rev. xiii. 11-18), is the evil power which is here . before us. He imitates Christ's power as Sing and Prophet( "two horns like. a lamb"), but his utterance is of Satan (" he spake as a dragon"), a religious or irreligious much more than a merely secular potentate. So the antichrist in 1 and 2 John is clearly he who supplants and denies the blessed One held out in hope throughout the Old Testament, and no less the same One revealed in the New Testament, as already come to give communion with the Father, and with Himself, the Son of the Father in truth and in love.

Here it is not otherwise: it is the antagonist of God we have, not the conqueror of kings or captains. He opposes and exalts himself exceedingly against every one called God or object of veneration. It is deliberate and unspeakable arrogance in putting down all rivalry;, yet it is not the mere negation of God, but this in every shape, in order to deify self after the most open way, and the most exorbitant degree. We see the first evil aim proposed to man by the serpent carried out at length defiantly, man taking the place of the only true God to the exclusion and. denial of all above himself."50 that he sitteth down in the temple of God showing himself that he is God."

It will be observed that it is not in the sphere of the world, but "in the temple of God" that he is said to sit. This gives a peculiarly daring and awful character to the opposition and self-glorification of the man of sin. "The king of Babylon," type of the last holder of the imperial power which began with that Gentile empire, said in his heart (as we are told in Asa. xiv. 13, 14), "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the north; I will be like the Most High." This might seem so aspiring as to leave no room for a higher flight. But mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King, is not such an encroachment on divine prerogative as to sit in the sanctuary, showing himself that he is God. This audacious assumption is not that of the world-power or first beast, but of the second, when he takes the exclusive place of the God of Israel in His temple. A figurative sense of the temple, whether of the believer's body or of the church as God's habitation through the Spirit, is here out of the question. The revealed character of the person, and the antecedent apostasy, forbid any such application. It was in the temple of Jerusalem that the glory of God was once enthroned above the mercy-seat; it was in that temple that He who will yet be the glory of Israel, and of the earth, as He is of heaven, presented Himself in grace and healed those blind and lame who were of old the hated of David's soul.

There will this sad contrast of the man of righteousness and Saviour of the lost take His seat, not like God or "as God," (which words of the Received Text disappear as wanting adequate authority), but showing himself that he is God. He is no vicar, no earthly reprehensive. He claims to be the true God of Israel, and this in His temple. It might seem past belief that any creature could so deceive himself or at least hope to deceive others into a pretension so egregiously profane and in a place so unspeakably aggravating his wickedness. But we must remember on the one hand that God will give up men in Christendom to a judicial blindness, and on the other, that Satan will be permitted for a little to display his evil power unchecked. Of both the mau of sin will avail himself to the uttermost; and one may conceive how the blessed truth of the Incarnate Word may be perverted to the damnable lie of Satan at the end of the age, and this in Jerusalem, where the latter glory of this house will be awaited once more to surpass the former, by the same unbelieving generation which saw no beauty in the true Son of David why they should desire Him. Those who despised God become man are morally prepared iu due time to adore man assuming to be God. Grace is hateful in their eyes, which greedily accept self-glorification. And if it be in general the hour of high looks and words of blasphemy, we can understand the power of darkness culminating in the chief who assumes supreme Godhead in God's temple.

Thus is the man of sin the unspeakably evil counterpart of the blessed Lord; who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it a matter of grasping (or robbery) to be on equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking a bondman's form, coming in likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, death of the cross. Wherefore also God exceedingly exalted Him—the very word which the Spirit uses to describe the son of perdition in his self-inflation. God, on the contrary, highly exalted the Saviour, and gave Him the name that is above every name. Here we have two parts deeply distinguished: His emptying Himself as the divine Son, His humbling Himself as man. Not that He ever ceased to be either. He was intrinsically and eternally God; it could therefore be no matter of seizing such dignity, as did in principle the first Adam, who was a mere man, and as will fully do this son of perdition in his own time, to become the slave and dupe and victim of Satan, disobedient unto death, yea unto divine and eternal judgment, as antichrist is to be beyond doubt.

Indeed it is notable that our Lord, even when found in figure as a man, humbled Himself in becoming obedient as far as death, fur it had no claim on Him who knew no sin, had He not deigned to be the willing Victim, whom God made sin for us, as Ho emptied Himself in taking a bondman's farm. The highest creature, Michael, is but a servant, as the Son emptied. Himself to become one. What a testimony to His deity! What a contrast with him who being the vilest of men vaunts himself God in the temple of God! What mill this last and worst usurper he in the hand of Him that blasts him with the breath of His lips, and consigns him to the lake of fire! For this impious adversary of the God of Israel, with all the deeper guilt of denying Him as alone fully revealed in the Son, as Christians know Him, it will be a question of the earth only. He denies the unseen and eternal; heaven is nothing to him any more than hell, and therefore he daringly assumes to be God on earth where the glory of Jehovah was once displayed. But he will be manifestly a man and no God when the Lord Jesus from heaven smites him with the rod of His mouth; for then His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire.