Chapter 64 - Satan’s Lying Wonders And The Son Of Perdition

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2 Thessalonians 2:3-13
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 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:
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.

The question of who the man of sin is has been variously answered. These answers have alluded to many different men of influence and wide spread governance throughout history. Men such as The Roman Emperor Nero, Antiochus Epiphanes, The Pope, and even Prince Charles have been said to be this man of perdition. The phrase, “the man of sin” is actually a Hebraism which refers to one doomed to destruction as Eerdman states in his commentary[1]. This is in agreement with the understanding that this is to be an incorrigibly wicked man as John Gill posits;

And that man of sin - This is a Hebraism, meaning a man of eminent wickedness; one distinguished for depravity; compare Joh_17:12; Pro_6:12, in Heb

This phrase is not likely referring to an individual man yet to come on to the world stage. Rather, because Paul was writing to a very persecuted group of believers, it was becoming increasingly apparent that he who sat in the office of government who was responsible for the persecutions of the believers was a man of sin. It is that oppressive ruler who was a son of perdition. A human ruler who was the embodiment of wickedness and would be revealed as such. Perhaps Paul was speaking of the primary leader or leaders in the religious institution of Rome that was fast gaining power and influence over the believers in Messiah. After all, Rome typically accepted any person’s religious beliefs and most peaceable religions had the approval of the government. However, the followers of Yeshua were seen as a sect opposed to Roman rule and therefore were persecuted with increasing mercilessness as the Roman Empire evolved into the “Holy Roman Empire,” a church and state combined.

Emperors such as Nero and Caligula are known to have increased the persecution of innocent followers of Yeshua such as those who were in Thessalonica. These men however are not necessarily the ones who fit a profile of a man of sin or son of perdition. Although they performed heinous acts against the followers of Yeshua, it seems that the leader of the Roman religious institution was far advanced in propagating and encouraging the proliferation of anti-God activity. It is this Roman religious system that altered a pattern of biblical worship. Rome’s pagan sons caused Sabbath to be all but lost as a sign of the covenant between Yahweh and His people.

The change from observing the Saturday Sabbath to a wide spread adherence to Sunday worship was an innovation of the men who held office in the Roman Religious system. That said we are not to understand that Paul was referring to one individual as this notorious “man of sin.” Rather, Paul intended the hearer to perceive, one who leads others away from true Yahweh worship will be a common thread from many men with the characteristics of an Anti-Messiah. I do not fully endorse the following commentary as completely accurate, but I am able to see the message of Albert Barnes, an obvious anti-Catholic. He implores us to open our eyes to some of the notable corruption in the Papal line. This corruption handily puts the office of Pope in line to fit the profile of a man of sin or son of perdition. And this reasoning indicates the man of sin Paul spoke of in the first century was not an individual person but in fact, a religious institution made of corrupt men.

The question now is on the applicability of the phrase “the man of sin” to the Pope. That his rise was preceded by a great apostasy, or departure from the purity of the simple gospel, as revealed in the New Testament, cannot reasonably be doubted by any one acquainted with the history of the church. That he is the creation or result of that apostasy, is equally clear. That he is the grand agent in continuing it, is equally manifest. Is the phrase itself one that is properly applicable to him? Is it proper to speak of the Pope of Rome, as he has actually appeared, as “the man of sin?” In reply to this, it might be sufficient to refer to the general character of the papacy, and to its influence in upholding and perpetuating various forms of iniquity in the world. It would be easy to show that there has been no dynasty or system that has contributed so much to uphold and perpetuate sins of various kinds on the earth, as the papacy. No other one has been so extensively and so long the patron of superstition; and there are vices of the grossest character which have all along been fostered by its system of celibacy, indulgences, monasteries, and absolutions. But it would be a better illustration of the meaning of the phrase “man of sin,” as applicable to the Pope of Rome, to look at the general character of the popes themselves. Though there may have been some exceptions, yet there never has been a succession of men of so decidedly wicked character, as have occupied the papal throne since the great apostasy commenced.

A very few references to the characters of the popes will furnish an illustration of this point. Pope Vagilius waded to the pontifical throne through the blood of his predecessor. Pope Joan (the Roman Catholic writers tell us) a female in disguise, was elected and confirmed Pope, as John VIII. Platina says, that “she became with child by some of those that were round about her; that she miscarried, and died on her way from the Lateran to the temple.” Pope Marcellinus sacrificed to idols. Concerning Pope Honorius, the council of Constantinople decreed, “We have caused Honorius, the late Pope of Old Rome, to be accursed; for that in all things he followed the mind of Sergius the heretic, and confirmed his wicked doctrines.” The Council of Basil thus condemned Pope Eugenius: “We condemn and depose Pope Eugenius, a despiser of the holy canons; a disturber of the peace and unity of the church of God; a notorious offender of the whole universal church; a Simonist; a perjurer; a man incorrigible; a schismatic; a man fallen from the faith, and a willful heretic.”

Pope John II, was publicly charged at Rome with incest. Pope John XIII usurped the Pontificate, spent his time in hunting, in lasciviousness, and monstrous forms of vice; he fled from the trial to which he was summoned, and was stabbed, being taken in the act of adultery. Pope Sixtus IV licensed brothels at Rome. Pope Alexander VI was, as a Roman Catholic historian says, “one of the greatest and most horrible monsters in nature that could scandalize the holy chair. His beastly morals, his immense ambition, his insatiable avarice, his detestable cruelty, his furious lusts, and monstrous incest with his daughter Lucretia, are, at large, described by Guicciardini Ciaconius, and other authentic papal historians.” Of the popes, Platina (a Roman Catholic) says: “The chair of Saint Peter was usurped, rather than possessed, by monsters of wickedness, ambition, and bribery. They left no wickedness unpracticed;” see the New Englander, April, 1844, pp. 285, 286. To no succession of men who have ever lived could the appellative, “the man of sin, be applied with so much propriety as to this succession. Yet they claim to have been the true “successors” of the apostles, and there are Protestants who deem it of essential importance to be able to show that they have derived the true “succession” through such men.[2]

Many scholars have found the man of sin to be referring to one or to a line of corrupt leaders. Although they may not have been officials of the catholic Church when Paul spoke of the man of sin, they are most certainly human leaders and not in any way supernatural Satans. Finding the term son of perdition put to use again regarding Judas, we are reminded of the intent of the term as we discussed previously.

John 17:12
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

This term also has been seen through the eyes of the demonologically minded as a reference to a supposed cosmic Satan. However, the son of perdition is a human being who does not conform to the will of Yahweh but works to damage the message of truth. We see in Robertson’s Word Pictures a lucid understanding of the phrase and its intention to identify a human man as this son of perdition. Robertson however, suggests that the son of perdition is doing the work of “Satan.” I would agree with him on that point if he in fact were referring to the evil in man’s heart and the wickedness that opposes the work of the Creator as it comes from man. Yet I truly doubt Robertson had recognized the doctrine that taught “Satan” is a real entity came from the minds of men and is not contained in the Holy Scriptures. It is clear however, Robertson’s understanding of the “son of perdition” is that it was a man.

The terrible phrase, the son of perdition, is applied to Judas in Joh_17:12 (like Judas doomed to perdition), but here to the lawless one (ho anomos, 2Th_2:8), who is not Satan, but some one definite person who is doing the work of Satan. Note the definite article each time.[3]

Allow me to repeat a statement made about Matthew 23 in my commentary from “Who’s The Devil Jesus Knew?”.

The man who deceives others is the man of sin known to be the son of perdition spoken of in 2nd Thessalonians and will be revealed as such. This is so because, in teaching false doctrine he opposes God and is exalting himself above God by putting his knowledge ahead of, or in place of, God’s knowledge of truth. If a person alters the correct and true teaching of the Creator, in essence he or she is placing himself or herself as God as if they were sitting in the Temple. A false teacher, a man of sin, displays himself to have the power of God because he has chosen to alter the unalterable words and instructions of the Creator.

Again in Thessalonians we see man is said to be the deceiver not Satan. This identifies the son of perdition as men because men deceive men with their false teachings and institutionalized doctrine.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
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.


What Makes Iniquity A Mystery?

So what then is the mystery of iniquity that is already at work? If we are to believe that the mystery of iniquity is “Satan” then there really is no mystery. In common thought, it is “Satan” who causes men to be iniquitous and has been said to be responsible for sin in the world. That does not seem to qualify for a mystery. A better option for a subject to fill this description of the “mystery of iniquity” is to place the human heart into the role. When one considers how the human personality is ever bent on doing sin and neglecting righteousness, yet most humans say that they are intent to do what is right and good, we then have a mystery. How is that in one’s choice they can justify an action or behavior that is iniquitous and still exhibit a desire to choose righteousness? Time after time, the choice is made and righteousness is not the result of that choice. Time after time, man makes the choice for iniquity and then doesn’t understand why future choices for righteousness are difficult and iniquity becomes a way of life. The mystery of iniquity may well be the result of setting in motion sin choices in the life of a human.

Once the sin choices are made, there is a mysterious advancement of further sin. It is quite likely that the idea presented to Cain in Genesis, is seen to be the mystery of iniquity. Yahweh told Cain that sin will beget sin, and the mystery of iniquity that already existed at the time of Paul, was the very concept learned by Cain. If we sin then we will sin. Sin changes a person and iniquity becomes a much less resisted force in a human’s life. The mystery becomes less mysterious when we consider that Yahweh created us to walk in fellowship with Him and if we obey His commands, we are going to prosper and find our internal man will yield to righteousness. If we don’t obey, then sin waits at the door and is ready to overtake us as somewhat of a lion seeking to devour us. A mystery indeed, but not entirely elusive when we consider our ways and hold them up to the ways of the Creator who asks us to be holy because He is Holy.


Is Iniquity A Mystery?

There is another concept as to what or who the mystery of iniquity is. False teachings from the religious leaders may be the mystery of iniquity.

This mystery may very well be the subtle undercurrents of false teaching, apostatizing ways, and heretical lies that came from the religious leaders. There existed a general principle of rebellion already and were it not for the imperial power of the Emperors of Rome, the persecuting force would have been unrestrained and entirely free to completely stamp out the followers of Yeshua in Thessalonica as well as elsewhere. As well as arresting their political and religious leaders. Much could be said about the persistent persecution and tribulation foisted upon the believers in Yeshua by the Roman government, but the fact remains that were it not for the restraining force of said government, the true believers would have been culled from society by those in a state of apostasy and rebellion. This one who is full of lies and has deceived many by the false visions and signs said to be produced by the man or perhaps the system Paul is speaking of, is the “wicked” and will not only be completely revealed as such, but will be utterly destroyed at the coming of Messiah. We are not so much here dealing with a “wicked one”; rather we are dealing with what is wicked. The Psalmist indicated the ultimate destruction of the wicked and the prophet Daniel spoke of the time of the end when the Messiah comes to put an end to wickedness, which is the sin of man.

Psalms 7:9
Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.

Daniel 9:24
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

The manner of speech with which Paul refers to the Messiah’s destruction of wickedness seems to be a quote or partial quote from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah says it thus;
…the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

And Paul says it in this manner;

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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: 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Clarke’s Commentary teaches that this wicked which is ultimately destroyed was seen to be the Roman system. A system of religion that was subtly deceiving the people of God and is still deceiving millions today. The iconolatry and the saint worship that teaches the use of a mediator other than Messiah are only two examples of the continued deception that comes out of the Roman Catholic system.

This is partly taken from Isa_11:4, And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked one; where the Jews put an emphasis upon the words the wicked one; as appears from the Chaldee, which renders it, “He shall destroy the wicked Roman.”[4]

The coming of this system or person as a force is after the work of deception, lies, opposition, and accusation, as described by the word “Satan.” The use of the word satanas to describe the manner in which this force comes is a comprehensive expression that characterizes the attributes and intentions of the wicked party soon to be revealed and ultimately destroyed. For the wicked to come after all power, signs, and lying wonders, is seen by some as evidence that this force of mysterious iniquity is imbued with supernatural power from a cosmic Satan. This is categorically not so. The “power” mentioned here is only a reference to a force as the Thayer’s Greek definition allows. This force comes from an exertion by humans with a will to build an empire, a religious following, and control the masses while motivated by the evil inclination. It is this part of man that is at enmity with Elohim and restrains man from subjecting him or herself to Yahweh’s laws. The signs are merely tokens that distinguish one person or system from another according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, and the lying wonders are merely false prodigies or false omens. There is no indication of any supernatural power or force contained in these words when they are translated to fit the context of Paul’s words. The only way to conclude Paul is talking about something supernatural, is by interpreting his statement through the eyes of a superstitious culture that purports the existence of “demons.”

The “wicked,” who is also “the man of sin,” will continue to deceive those who have not received a love of the truth. They are those who have not received the love of the truth and are considered to be perishing. The KJV says this force will come with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. According to this, there is nothing that these forces will not do to deceive and continue to deceive those who are trapped in the web of lies. Adam Clark says the person or persons who are the dynamic factor in this great deception that causes such a profound apostasy before the Messiah returns, are intentionally employing “every art that cunning can invent and unrighteousness suggest, in order to delude and deceive.” It is at this point that loving and finding the truth becomes so vital to our existence. For those who do not love the truth, and have decided to do that which opposes Yahweh and His ways, they receive the reward of their desires by way of Yahweh allowing them to believe the lies they choose. God actually provides them with further delusions which will lead them to eternal death where they will be absent from the presence of the Creator forever.

Although the simple solution for many is to believe and teach “the son of perdition,” “the wicked,” and “the man of sin” are Satan in regard to this passage, we find the simple solution is not correct in this situation. Seeing “Satan” in this passage is not a matter of simply reading the word Satan and taking it at face value according to Christianity because the context of this passage reveals otherwise. Also, the fact that Paul calls this one of sin a “man” reveals the facts that there is no supernatural Satan in view here. To restate that point, Paul calls this force a man and Satan is not a man.

True Paul’s words are difficult for some to understand but that is the case only for those who have not spent time learning Yahweh’s words through Torah study. This is the understanding Peter has when he tells the hearer that the “unlearned” twist Paul’s words. To be unlearned in a Hebraic context speaks of not learning Torah. This is how Peter has spoken of it in his writings.

2 Peter 3:16
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Yet due to the lack in understanding the Hebrew Scriptures from a correct historical, cultural, and linguistic perspective, the notion that there exists a “Satan” has furthered the misunderstanding of the passage in Thessalonians, which comprises our present discussion. For those who were in Thessalonica hearing Paul’s words, it would have been very simple to understand that Paul was talking about human men as the force of wickedness and sin. This results in these men going to perdition. His words are clear who the deceiver is right from the start of this instruction; it is a man.

“Let no man deceive you by any means”
signed; Paul the Apostle

1. The New Bible Commentary Revised, Eerdman pg 1163, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co

2. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes (1798-1870)

3. Word Pictures in the New Testament, by Archibald Thomas Robertson

4. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832)


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