Revelation Of the Man Of Sin
May 4th, 1958 @ 7:30 PM
2 Thessalonians 2:1-10
REVELATION OF THE MAN OF SIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Thessalonians 2:1-10
5-4-58 7:30 p.m.
Now we turn to the second Thessalonian letter and the second chapter. Second Thessalonians, second chapter, and we shall read together the first ten verses: Second Thessalonians, chapter number two. And we have it? Second Thessalonians, second chapter, the first ten verses. The sermon tonight will be an exposition of those verses: the Revelation of the Man of Sin, the son of perdition, that wicked one – in other places called the final Antichrist. Second Thessalonians 2:1-10 – now let’s read it together:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him,
That ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit nor by word nor by letter, as from us, as that the Day of Christ is at hand.
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,
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Remember ye not that when I was yet with you I told you these things?
And now ye know what withholdeth, that he may 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.
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.
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders,
And with all deceivableness and unrighteousness in them that perish, because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
[2 Thessalonians 2:1-10]
Now this morning, I sought in any best way I could to present a general summarization of the thing – the idea, the conception – that you have in the Bible of revealed history, of the destiny of our race, of the flow of it, the direction of it, what ultimately it shall find in consummation – in finality.
Now this evening, we shall take this passage and expound it. That is, what does Paul say? Now, I do not invent these things. I never heard of these things until I began preaching through the Bible. You say, "Isn’t that a strange thing for a man who has a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Scriptures?"
I repeat it: I never heard of these things. I never heard them referred to; I never heard them discussed. I knew they were in the Bible. I never read them, nor did anybody else that I know, least of all any at whose feet I sat. So I repeat: I do not invent these things. They are here in the Bible; and as I have preached through the Bible, I have come to them. I have looked at them, and by God’s grace I have sought to repeat but what I find in the Book.
Now, in an exposition like this that I do tonight, why is it that the people could not see just like I see, could not read like I read, could not understand it like I understand it? Why is it that you need to expound it?
Well, the reason for it is this. When you read a thing in English, in a translation, it is many times not evident, not apparent, as it is reading it in Greek. Then another thing: you’re busy out there teaching school, pounding a typewriter, selling at a counter, working in an office, executing a great program in a corporation, and you haven’t time to compare this Scripture and this Scripture and this Scripture. It takes hours and days to do that. To have any assurance that the thing you say and the thing you understand is in keeping with the whole revelation of God takes infinite patience and infinite, infinite time. That’s what your pastor does every morning of the world unless there is an exigency that takes him away. Six days out of every week, many times late at night, many times Sunday afternoon, your pastor is pouring over these things in the Word of God. And by an "exposition," I mean your pastor is taking a passage, and he’s just trying to say what that passage means. Now we shall do that tonight.
"Now we beseech you, brethren." There are three Greek words translated "beseech." Aiteo means "to – a suppliant, an appeal," like in prayer you would appeal to God, aiteo. There’s another word, parakaleō, which means "to summon help, I beseech you." It means to come alongside and help. This word, erōtaō: "I beseech you, we beseech you" uses an editorial "we" – "we beseech you." This is affectionate solicitude. He’s talking out of great love and concern in his heart for his beloved people there at Thessalonica: "We beseech you, brethren" [2 Thessalonians 2:1].
Now your Greek word is huper. Not "by," huper – that is: "concerning, touching this matter of the coming of our Lord Jesus and our gathering together unto Him" [2 Thessalonians 2:1]. Concerning that, in affectionate solicitude he says, "that ye be not soon shaken in mind or troubled" [2 Thessalonians 2:2].
Now look at it: "by spirit, by word, or by letter" – epistle – "as from us, as that the day . . ." Now the Day of Christ is one thing. The Day of the Lord is something altogether different. This King James Textus Receptus made a great deal of trouble. That’s not the Day of Christ. It’s the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord is that thing you find so constantly in the Old Testament and much in the New Testament. It’s the day of the final judgment of God. In this day, God deals with us in grace and in patience. You can curse God to His face now and live. You can blaspheme the name of God now, and nothing happens. You can say "no" to every invitation of the Holy Spirit, and things go on just as usual: sun rise in the morning and set tomorrow night. But the day is coming when the man that blasphemes God and that says "no" to Christ and spurns these overtures of grace shall be damned! God shall deal with him. The Scripture so many times describe that: "It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" [Hebrews 10:31]. Now that’s the Day of the Lord. This thing’s not going to continue always as it is now. Some day God shall deal directly with sin!
Now, they were in tribulation there. They were in trouble. They were in persecution, stress [1 Thessalonians 1:6]. They were losing their property, their lives. You know the persecution of that early church: at the pain of death did they avow faith in the Lord [Acts 7:57-60].
And so – now look. There were some people there who said, "The day of that judgment of God, the Great Tribulation and the appearing of the Lord, that day’s already here; it’s come." And they said it "by spirit." That is, some of the people stood up in the congregation and said, "I have a special revelation by the Holy Spirit of God. We’re in the Tribulation now." And others said by word: "The apostle Paul said it himself. We are reporting to you what Paul said orally." Others say it: "We’ve got a letter here from the apostle Paul." It was a forged letter, but they read a letter of the apostle Paul saying that the day of the judgment and the Tribulation of the great Day of the Lord is right now: "We’re in it now."
All right, that’s what caused him to write. Paul says to them:
Now listen. Don’t let any man deceive you by spirit as though he had a special revelation, or by word quoting us, or by epistle as from us, as if that Day of the Lord is right now – enestēken, has come. Let no man deceive you by any means.
[from2 Thessalonians 2:2-3]
Then he’s going to make this apocalyptic revelation: how you will know that Day of the Lord is at hand.
There – that day shall not come – there won’t be any visitation from God, any final judgment, until first: "except there come first, hē, hē, the, hē, the apostasia" [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. And you’ve taken that Greek word and put it in the English language: "apostasy" – translated here "a falling away." Now there are some few scholars who translate that apostasia "departure": the gathering of the children of the Lord out of this world into heaven. That comes first. Well, that does come first, but that’s not what he’s talking about here.
When Paul wrote to that church at Thessalonica, they were familiar with the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, and that word apostasia is all through the Old Testament Scriptures. In the Old Testament Septuagint translation, it referred to rebellion against God – a falling away from God of the people of the Lord. Now that’s what it means here: hē apostasia, "the apostasy." There will come a time, says Paul, when there will be a great turning away from the true faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s not an unusual thing for Paul to say. Here in the second letter to Timothy, the third chapter and the eleventh verse – no, the thirteenth verse – he says: "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" [2 Timothy 3:13]. And in the next chapter of Second Timothy, he says: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lust shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" [2 Timothy 4:3-4].
I’ve told you before of one of thesemen that I made appeal to. His wife belongs to our church and she’d been praying for him, and so I asked him to come to church. His wife wanted me to plead with him. Well, he wouldn’t do it. Well, I pressed him.
"Well," he said, "I’ll tell you why I don’t go to church. I don’t like to hear you preach."
"Well," I said, "that’s all right. It’s all right." Then I just got curious. I said, "Why don’t you like to hear me preach?"
He says, "All you do is preach the Bible."
Well I said, "My soul, man, what do you want a man to preach when you go to church? What do you want hear?"
He says, "When I go to church, I like to hear a man talk about current events. And I like to have sermons on – on problems of personality and psychiatry and examine the knots on your head." And I’m – he didn’t say that. I’m just saying he meant that.
That’s anew religion. I cannot conceive of the apostle Paul turning aside from the great revelation of God in Christ Jesus to discuss knots on your head, lines in the palm of your hand, the psychiatrical interpretation of personality traits. And after you’ve listened to that 500,000 years, you’re still the same: knots on your head! And, brother, when you introvert your life, it gets worse and worse and worse. The more of those psychiatrists you see, the more you got to see. And the more of those problems of personality you start wrestling with, the more problems you’re going to have. That’s the trouble with us.
You know what we need in our life is a great taking out of ourselves. War will do it. You don’t have many suicides in war. You don’t have many personality problems in war. Brother, we not thinking about ourselves. We’re fighting for our lives. That’s what you need. The great revelation of Christ is objective, and don’t forget it. Now and always, the religion of Jesus is an objective faith, and salvation is an objective thing. It’s looking to God, not to yourself.
Now wait a minute. I was a saying – I was a saying that Paul says there shall come a falling away [2 Thessalonians 2:3], the – not just a development that you might see now, but there is coming the time of a great apostasy, a falling away. That comes first; that’s first. Then says Paul, after that – after the apostasy of the church – then there shall be revealed – and he names him by three names here: he calls him "the man of sin;" he calls him "the son of perdition" [2 Thessalonians 2:3]; he calls him "the lawless one," translated here, "the Wicked one" [2 Thessalonians 2:8].
Now Paul says the reason that that denouement has not already come is that there is a restrainer in this world. And he calls him a thing – to katechon [2 Thessalonians 2:6]. Then in the next verse, he calls him a person – ho katechōn [2 Thessalonians 2:7].
Now there has been in every generation – through the centuries – there has been identifications of this Antichrist, this man of sin, that lawless one. May I name some of those identifications to you? I do it so you can see how in every generation, unconsciously almost, expositors have turned to trying to pick out that man, that final tyrant, that great final dictator.
All right, in the beginning, there were expositors who said the Antichrist, this man of sin, is Nero [37-68 CE], and the restrainer is Seneca [4-65 CE]. And when Seneca, who was his teacher, when Seneca died, Nero gave himself to every kind of bloodthirsty persecution and destroyed the Christians by the thousands.
Then again, there were those who identified the man of sin as Satan himself, and they said the restrainer is the expediency of covering up his true character. But at the end time, the mask shall be taken away, and Satan shall be revealed as he is: the horrible antagonist of all humanity.
All right, here was another one. There were those who said that the man of sin is a figure of the chaos that results if the imperial power of the law-keeping Roman government were to be destroyed. They found in the imperial government the restrainer, and when he is taken away – that is, law and order – the whole world is plunged into chaos and anarchy.
Then in the generations that followed, in the Eastern Church when the hordes of Mohammedans began to overrun the eastern part of the empire, they found in Mohammed [c. 570-632 CE] the man of sin. I can see why. Mohammed destroyed the Eastern Church, destroyed the Eastern Empire.
Then in the days of the Great Reformation, Protestant Christianity, under Luther [Martin Luther 1483-1546 CE] especially, found the man of sin in the papacy. Then in comparatively recent history, they identified the man of sin as Napoleon Bonaparte [1769-1821]. And then, in my generation, I could not tell you the number of times that I have read where they identified the man of sin as being one of those fascist leaders and especially Mussolini [Benito Mussolini, 1883-1945].
Now I have done that just to say that every generation apparently identifies that man of sin. We have a tendency to do that. Now I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with that. If I were over in that Eastern Church and the hordes of Mohammed were cutting down the people and destroying the testimony of Christ, I might suppose that Mohammed was that man of sin myself.
But let’s look at what Paul says about him now. Paul describes him. He calls him a man [2 Thessalonians 2:3]; he calls him a son [2 Thessalonians 2:3]; he calls him somebody who exalts himself [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. God is so ruled out of the world – and you got to follow somebody and give your life to something – that he takes unto himself all of those loves and adorations that belong to God, and he himself is the great sōtēr, the savior.
Now, he says that this man of sin – look at him, "even him whose coming is after the working of Satan" [2 Thessalonians 2:9]. Now the Greek word there is energeia – the "energizing" of Satan. What Paul describes in there is he is a somebody, and he is Satan’s somebody. He’s coming after the working, the energizing of Satan. That is, the power and the glory and the honor that Christ refused when Satan offered it to him [Matthew 4:8-10], this man accepts. He is Satan’s man. God has a Man: Christ Jesus, "the Man of sorrows" [Isaiah 53:3].Satan has a man: "the man of sin" [2 Thessalonians 2:3].Satan is an imitator from the beginning [John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14] and he usurps, if he could, the very throne of God [Isaiah 14:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4]. This is Satan’s great exponent. This is Satan’s great hero and great leader. You’ll find him described at length in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 13:1-18].
People shall wonder at him: "Who is like unto to thērion? Who is like unto that Antichrist?" [Revelation 13:4]Brother, this world is in for some marvelous things. He has a coming this tyrant, this dictator, this man of sin, this Antichrist: "coming after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, with deceivableness and unrighteousness" [2 Thessalonians 2:9]. This world is going to see a tremendous personality, and he’s going to be Satan’s man.
I could see how Satan could make a man glitter and glow. Think of the power in oratory alone of Hitler [Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945]. That tremendous German nation rising and rising in culture and in power and in technology sat spellbound under the oratory of Adolf Hitler. Did you ever hear him on the radio? I couldn’t understand a word that he said, but it was hard for me to leave the place or to turn it off when he’dbegin to speak. That’s a gift of the devil.
Think of the majesty that Satan is able to place at the disposal of a man that he’dchoose: magnificent in appearance, stentorian voice, a genius in mind. And when the whole world is in chaos: "This is the man that going to lead us out. This is the man that can bring peace to us." And that’s exactly what’s going to happen. He’sthe white horseman of the Apocalypse [Revelation 6:1-2], and he rides and he promises every glorious thing to the world. But the next rider is a red rider [Revelation 6:3-4] – war; and the next rider is a black rider [Revelation 6:5-6] – famine; and the next rider is the pale horseman [Revelation 6:7-8] – death. He’s a substitute. He comes for a moment; and in temporary and in temporalities he has great power, great program, but he doesn’t last – he never does. And this one won’t.
I have no idea when that was, and Paul didn’t either. You cannot make this program conform to any calendar or mathematical table. The appearance of that tremendous leader is known but to God. All that I could do, I did this morning. I can just point out to you that the things that you see develop in this world, the flowing of humanity and the upward convulsions of history, they all follow these revealed patterns that you find in the Word of God. And Paul says the outreach of those great movements in religion and in history, in politics and in religion, and in state: in politics, in religion, in economics, in militarism – all of those things – they reach out toward that great final consummation, that federation, that conflict which heads up in this man that he describes here.
All right, what keeps the consummation from now? Why doesn’t Satan bring forth his man now? Why don’t we see it now? Satan would like to. He’d like to plow up the earth and damn every soul and dethrone God. Why doesn’t he do it now? Why isn’t the appearing of this man now?
Well, that’s what Paul is saying to us. First, he says there’s going to be the apostasy.Then, he says, second, there has to be taken out of this world that hinderer. And he calls him first a thing – to katechon. In the sixth verse: "And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time" [2 Thessalonians 2:6]. Now ye know the thing that restrains that he might be revealed in his time." Now in the seventh verse, he calls him a person: "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work" [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. Brother, Satan is in it now. It’s not something Satan’s going to do; he’s at it now. Only – now here he calls him a person: ho katechōn – "only he" – and you have it translated: "He who now letteth."
"To let" in 1611 meant to prevent, to hinder, to restrain. "Only He who now letteth will restrain until He be taken out of the way" [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. But when that tokatechon, that thing, when that ho katechōn, that somebody, is taken out of the way, then Satan has his day. Oh, that’s the Tribulation! That’s the judgment. That’s the – that’s the damnation of this world. That’s the awful time: time of Jacob’s trouble [Jeremiah 30:7], the time of the Revelation; oh, when Satan has it.
All right, what is that restrainer? Now, I don’t need to go through again. A moment ago, a little while ago, I mentioned what they said in times past – the restrainer. Now here is a persuasion on my part. Paul doesn’t name that restrainer. He doesn’t say who he is. Now I’m going to tell who I think he is.
Now, heretofore, I’ve just told you what Paul said. Now, I’m going to tell you what I think Paul was referring to, and there’s a lot of difference ’cause I am not the apostle Paul and I have no apocalyptic revelation from God. I’m just reading the Word like you can read it.
What is that restrainer? All right, this is what I think Paul is talking about. He calls Him first a thing [2 Thessalonians 2:6], then he calls Him a somebody: "the one that restrains" [2 Thessalonians 2:7] – that is, to keep Satan back, keep him down, keeping us in the way of opportunity and grace. I think he uses the word "thing" to refer to the instrument that the somebody uses. They’re the same thing. One of them, when you use it in the neuter gender, to katechon, refers to the instrument, and the other, ho katechōn, that somebody who restrains – the restrainer – that refers to somebody.
All right, who is that somebody, and what is the instrument that He uses to restrain? I think the restrainer is the Holy Spirit of God. I think the instrument is the people of the Lord, His church. And when the Holy Spirit of God and God’s people are taken out of this world, then you have the whole creation in the hands of the Wicked one, Satan, and the awful days of the Tribulation are upon us.
Now why do you think that Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit of God as being the restrainer? Well, this is why. God is presented in the Bible as that. He’s the restrainer of Satan. Were it not for the restraining power of God, we all would be damned, but God holds Satan in leash. It is God that restrains men, wicked men, sinful men. For example, in the Book of Genesis, the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man . . . some time, 120 years from now, I’m going to take him away" [from Genesis 6:3]. And when God withdrew His pleading Spirit, the judgment came, the flood came [Genesis 7:1-24].
Now let’s take another instance. In the Book of Job when God said, "That man – the best man in all the world," Satan said, "No wonder he’s a good man. No wonder he’s a good man. Look at the hedge You built around him. Pays him to be good. Any man would be good if he’d get a reward for it like that" [Job 1:7-11].
And the Lord said to Satan: "So you think he’s good because I put a hedge around him? All right, I’ll take down the hedge, and you take away everything that he has; only, touch not his life" [Job 1:12]. And then you know the rest of story. Finally, the Lord pulled the hedge down more [Job 2:1-6]. That shows you that Satan cannot do beyond the permissive will of God. God restrains him.
Well, that’s true with us today. Were it not for the restraining power of God in our lives, God keeping us, Satan would destroy us all. We’re no match for him. Even Michael, the archangel, dared not accuse him face to face, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee" [Jude 1:9]. Michael, the archangel, is no match for Satan, the prince, and how much less we. We are kept by the power of God, and were it not for that power of God, Satan would destroy us [1 Peter 1:3-5], and we’d all fall into the pit, into hell, and into death – into the consuming flames of fire.
So I say, I think that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit of God, and I think the thing – the neuter of it – I think that is His church. And Paul says when the restrainer and when that instrument, the church, when they are taken away, then Satan, in apparent triumph, will present the great Antichrist who can lead this whole world out of its misery and out of its woe [2 Thessalonians 2:8]. And Satan knows that beyond it, there is the rising of death and destruction and blood and fire and hell. It’s Satan’s program, and he deceives the people. I must quit – should have a long time ago.
He’s at that now. It’s no different then, only in the grave, from what it is now. Satan deceives "with all manner of deceivableness in them that perish, because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" [2 Thessalonians 2:10]. And next Sunday night, this is the sermon: "For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they might be damned who believe not the truth" [2 Thessalonians 2:11-12].
Oh, what happens to a man, what happens to a man? He is deceived by Satan. He thinks and he chooses and he supposes, and Satan blinds his eyes [2 Corinthians 4:3-4], and he believes a lie [Romans 1:21-23, 25], and God gives him up [Romans 1:24, 26, 28]. That unpardonable sin that these preachers preach about every once in a while [Matthew 12:30-32], that’s not a subject that is designed to get the ears of curiosity seekers. That is an awful reality. That’sa terrible reality! I can say "no," and I can say "no," and I can say "no," and finally, I don’teven hear the appeal. It’s not in my heart anymore. I have died to God. Oh, how Satan can blind a man! And he’ll choose a lie and not the truth, and he’ll turn away from God and love the world, and he’llsay "no" to Jesus, and he dies.
O, Lord, Lord, Lord, that the Spirit might quicken us and lead us to Jesus, to a faith that shall save us in Him.
Now, may I make my appeal? My friend, in this day of grace and opportunity, you may not feel now as you would have were you ten years old. There’s hardly a child that’sten years of age that a praying father or mother can but bring and set him down by my side, and I talk to little fellow about Jesus; and pretty soon, he’llfill up and he can’t talk to me – he just looks at me, and he cries.
And you let the years pass and the years pass and the years pass, and his heart hardens! I can get down on my knees, as I have many times, and cried unto God, and he’s perfectly unmoved. My brother, I’m saying what faith you have, act on it. I may not be moved as I was when I was ten, but I have a day of opportunity. I have now. Come! Come! Come! What little I do feel, I’ll act on that. What promise I can accept, I’ll accept that. What little faith I can muster, like a grain of mustard seed, may God make it grow. I’ll act on it – what little I do feel and what little I can believe.
Would you? That you might be saved, that you might not be damned, that you might not be condemned with the world, that you might see God when you die, that you might have an inheritance with the children of the Lord. Would you? Why should a man plead, when it’sall of grace and goodness of God and yours for the having and the asking? [Ephesians 2:8-9] It’s everything. It’s all in all beside which the world is dust and ashes [Mark 8:36]. Would you come? Would you make it now? As our people pray, as our people sing, as we wait for you, into that aisle and down here to the front, would you come? "Pastor, what faith I have, I’ll act on that, and here I come. I give you my hand. The best I can, I give my heart in faith to God, and here I stand."
Is there a family you who ought to come or one somebody you? Give your heart in re-consecration to the Lord. Put your life in the church. Answer a call to special service. Take Jesus as Savior. It is God’s appeal and not mine. As the Spirit shall open the way and bid you come, would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?
OF THE MAN OF SIN
I. "Now we beseech you, brethren"(2 Thessalonians 2:1)
Three Greek words translated "beseech"
– "to be a suppliant, an appeal"
– "to summon help"
– "affectionate solicitude"
II. "By the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ"(2 Thessalonians 2:1)
– not "by", but "concerning, touching this matter"
III. "As that the Day of Christ is at hand"(2 Thessalonians 2:2)
Day of the Lord – the day of the final judgment of God (Hebrews 10:31)
were in tribulation and trouble; some said it was the Tribulation now
Paul’s response – do not let any man deceive you (2
IV. "Except there come first a falling away"(2 Thessalonians 2:3)
A. How you will know
that Day of the Lord is at hand
He apostasia – "the apostasy", a great turning away, will come first
Also spoken of elsewhere by Paul (2 Timothy
V. "That man of sin be revealed"(2 Thessalonians 2:3)
him by three names – "the man of sin"; "the son of perdition"; "the lawless
one", translated "the Wicked one"
denouement has not already come – there is a restrainer in this world
katechon – "that which restrains", a thing (2
katechon – "he who restrains", a person (2
every period of history there have been identifications of this Antichrist
VI. The man of sin – the final Antichrist
person – a man who exalts himself (2
Satan’s somebody(2 Thessalonians 2:9, Revelation
– he is coming after the working, the energizing of Satan
is a mystery of iniquity that is already working, but a power restrains and
holds it back
When the withholding agency is taken out of the way, then Antichrist revealed
Paul does not name the restrainer
I believe Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit of God, as the person (Genesis 6:3, Job 1:10)
We’re no match for Satan – we are kept by the power of God(Jude 9)
I believe the thing that restrains is His church
Satan deceives now (2 Thessalonians 2:12)