2 Thessalonians 2: The "Man of Sin"
What false teaching led to Paul’s discussion of the "man of sin"?
The "man of sin" is perhaps better known as the "Antichrist" as he is named in 1 John 2:18ff. The Scriptures speak of many "antichrists," who oppose the will and word of God in any way, but they also speak specifically of the "Antichrist," as John names him, or the "man of sin" as Paul refers to him. There would be one individual or institution, which above all others would oppose the kingdom and work of Christ.
What information are we provided concerning the "man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12?
What does Paul emphasize after describing the "man of sin"?
What kind of individual or institution would the "man of sin" be? (cf. Verses 3,4,9-12)
What is the significance of the fact that the man of sin would sit in the "temple of God"? (cf. Verse 4)
What was restraining the "man of sin" in Paul’s day? (Cf. Verse 6)
What is the significance of the fact that the "mystery of lawlessness" was already at work in Paul’s day, but would not be destroyed until the Lord’s coming at the end of time? (cf. Verses 7-8)
What was the fundamental error both of the "man of sin" and those who would follow him? (cf. Verses 9-10)
Who or what is the "man of sin"?
The question of who or what is the "man of sin" or "Antichrist" has long fascinated the minds of men. Suggestions have ranged from the Roman Emperor Nero to the American statesman Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, too often people’s discussion of this question and their speculation as to its answer are separated from what God has revealed in Scripture. There are those, who, in view of the many and seemingly wild suggestions as to the Antichrist’s identity, have despaired of ever identifying the Antichrist, and who in fact deny that such an identification is possible. This would not appear to be the case in view of the fact that Paul states that the "man of sin" will "be revealed in his own time" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:6 ). It is Paul’s purpose in this entire section of his letter to calm the fears of the Thessalonians by giving them a sign they would be able to witness, and which had to occur before Christ would return. Paul certainly believed that the "man of sin" would be identified before the end of time. Who or what then is the "man of sin"?
When one considers the facts as presented in 2 Thessalonians 2, it becomes apparent that the "man of sin" must be a religious figure or institution rather than a political one, for he opposes God, the truth of salvation, and is determined to destroy the souls of men. At the same time he is to sit "in the temple of God," which is a figurative expression for the Christian church. The "man of sin," however, cannot be a single individual, if his lawlessness was at work in Paul’s day, but would not be destroyed until the Lord’s Second Coming at the end of time. The "man of sin" or "Antichrist" must, therefore, be a religious institution within external Christendom.
If one considers the characteristics given by Paul--that the "man of sin" would exalt himself above all that is called God, even showing himself as God; that he was active in Paul’s day, but would not be destroyed until the end of time; that he would be revealed in time; that his coming would be with all power, signs, and lying wonders; and that his central error would be that of denying the truth of salvation--there is only one institution that fits. That institution is the Roman Catholic Papacy. The Lutheran Church has historically recognized the Antichrist in the Roman Papacy. The Papacy has exalted itself above the Church claiming to be Christ’s sole vicar on earth. They have claimed the right of God to control the gates of heaven. Consider the Papal Decree issued around 1300 AD called the "Unam Sanctam," in which it was declared, "It is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Consider as well the fact that the Roman Church has through the mass and its other institutions supported itself with supposed powers and miracles. Anyone being proposed for "sainthood" in the Roman Church must have performed at least three miracles through their prayers. Consider above all the denial of the central truth of salvation--that one is saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ. In each of the following canon laws, which remain the official teaching of the Roman Church this truth is denied:
Canon 11--If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.
Canon 12--If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.
Canon 14--If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.
Canon 20--If anyone says that a man who is justified and however perfect is not bound to observe the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe, as if the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life without the condition of observing the commandments, let him be anathema.
Canon 24--If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.
In the Smalcald Articles we find the following observation: "…the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above and opposed himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is properly speaking, to ‘exalt himself above all that is called God,’ as Paul says, 2 Thess.2:4 ." Later in that same document we read, "Now, it is manifest that the Roman pontiffs, with their adherents, defend godless doctrines and godless services. And the marks of Antichrist plainly agree with the kingdom of the Pope and his adherents. For Paul (2 Thess. 2:3 ) in describing to the Thessalonians Antichrist, calls him an adversary of Christ, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God. He speaks therefore of one ruling in the Church, not of heathen kings, and he calls this one the adversary of Christ, because he will devise doctrine conflicting with the Gospel, and will assume to himself divine authority."
In closing it might be said to those who still doubt that the Roman Catholic Papacy is the Antichrist, the "man of sin" of the Scriptures, that if the Papacy is not the Antichrist, then it will be something identical to the Roman Papacy, for the Papacy fits all of the Scriptural signs.