by Mike Ratliff
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NKJV)
I am not an eschatology “expert” or “specialist.” I believe eschatology is important and we should learn as much as we can from God’s Word about it because it is the fulfillment of God’s plan for His creation and His people. All I know to do is to look at what God’s Word says, keep it in context and make room for the Holy Spirit to write those truths on our hearts. Therefore, let us look at the Biblical term “Day the Lord.”
1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 (NKJV)
It is obvious that Paul was responding to one or more questions from the Thessalonians about the coming of the day of Lord. These questions were sent to Paul via Timothy. What is this reference to “the times and seasons?” This phrase in the Greek source for this passage is τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν, This is strikingly similar to our Lord’s own words in Acts 1:7 just prior to His Ascension in response to His disciples questions about the fulfillment of the Kingdom.
7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. Acts 1:7 (NKJV)
7 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· οὐχ ὑμῶν ἐστιν γνῶναι χρόνους ἢ καιροὺς οὓς ὁ πατὴρ ἔθετο ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ, Acts 1:7 (NA28)
Here the words translated in the NKJV as “times or seasons” are χρόνους ἢ καιροὺς. These are the same words used in 1 Thessalonians 5:1, but here they are in the anarthrous form while they are not in Paul’s letter. The anarthrous refers to a word or group of words that appear without a definite article. Anarthrous constructions are most often intended to point out the quality of something. In other words, our Lord Jesus was telling His disciples and us that even though no one on this side of eternity is to know the date or time or season of the day of the Lord, it is so important that the Father has fixed it by His own authority and we are not able to determine it ourselves. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1, the question being answered likely arose from anxiety about some false teaching that the day of the Lord had already come. Paul reassures them that they should not worry about it based on his previous teachings.
The words “day of the Lord” are the Greek words ἡμέρᾳ κύριον, which literally says, “day of Lord.” What is this? Biblical references to this and other terms that mean the same thing are Matthew 7:22, Luke 10:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:10. It is referred to in the Bible as that great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment, that Day, the last day. These all refer to this ἡμέρᾳ κύριον. In 1 Corinthians 4:3, man’s day speaks of the opposition to the coming of the Lord. The Day of Christ or Day of our Lord Jesus Christ will appear and take His Church unto Himself.
How will this ἡμέρᾳ κύριον come? It will come suddenly like a thief in the night. Some will not be prepared while others will be. Those who are prepared are those in Christ. Those unprepared are not.
4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 (NKJV)
The prepared are not in darkness, but are children of light, children of the day. The unprepared are in darkness and are of the night. The prepared keep awake and sober. This means that they take God and His will seriously. They seek to walk before His face as living sacrifices being transformed by the renewal of their minds. However, the unprepared are temporally focused and do not walk by faith because they do not possess it. They do not wear the helmet of the hope of salvation because they know it not. The prepared wear the breastplate of faith and love and the hope of salvation as a helmet. Why is it that we are not destined for wrath my brethren? We have a propitiation that is Christ. His shed blood satisfied God’s wrath against our sins. The unprepared are still in their sins. The reference to those who are awake are the still living believers while those asleep are those who have already died in Christ. We will all be reunited in the clouds with Christ when He returns.
If you read the passage I placed at the top of this post, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 then you also should know that the ἡμέρᾳ κύριον will not come unless two things are fulfilled. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. These two things are the rebellion or apostasy and there must be a revelation of the Man of Lawlessness. Here is 2 Thessalonians 2:3 in Greek: Μή τις ὑμᾶς ἐξαπατήσῃ κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον. ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθῃ ἡ ἀποστασία πρῶτον καὶ ἀποκαλυφθῇ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας. The word rendered as “falling away” in the NKJV is ἀποστασία or apostasia.
As for the rebellion (apostasia), the word Paul uses here is used throughout the Septuagint (LXX) and elsewhere in the New Testament to speak of a religious crisis of some sort facing God’s people—a falling away from the faith in some sense. As Beale points out, “Such a meaning is apparent because of the immediate context of false teaching (vv. 1-2 and vv. 9-12) and the clear allusions to Daniel’s prediction of an end-time opponent who will bring about a large-scale compromise of faith among God’s people.” This seems to connect Paul’s comments to both John’s and our Lord’s warning about false teachers and people who claim to be believers but who fall away and take a number of followers with them (see Matt. 24:10-12, 23-24; 1 John 2:18-19). 1
I ask you my brethren, are we seeing anything in our time that appears to be place settings for this ἀποστασία? I believe the “temple of God” Paul is referring to here is the Church. There is no literal temple in Jerusalem. It was destroyed in 70A.D. In any case, the man of sin or man of lawlessness is often referred to as the Antichrist. The word Paul used in this passage that is translated as “revealed,” referring to the unveiling of this antichrist is ἀποκαλυφθῇ.
It is important to notice that Paul says the lawless one will be revealed (apocalypsis)–language that seems to make him a counterfeit redeemer with a counterfeit unveiling. The same verb is used by Paul of Jesus in the previous chapter (2 Thess. 1:7) and is used again in this chapter in reference to the coming of the Man of Sin in verses 6 and 8. The revelation of the Man of Lawlessness mocks the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Man of Sin is a counterfeit and a usurper. This fits with the counterfeit Trinity in the Book of Revelation (the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet), which mimics our Lord’s death, resurrection, and second advent in the beast who was, who is, and who will come again only to be judged and destroyed by Christ himself.2
There is so much more we could delve into on this, but it is outside of the scope of the purpose of this post. We are to be encouraged by Paul’s words to the Church in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. Until the apostasy and the man of sin is revealed we must continue to serve our Lord according to His will in all things. Those events and what happens next is in God’s capable hands.
Soli Deo Gloria!
1 Riddlebarger, Kim, The Man of Sin,(Grand Rapids,Baker Books, 2006), p125.
2Ibid, p 126.