There are some moments in your life that you never forget. They make an indelible imprint upon your heart and mind. One of those moments for me was in a Greek class in Seminary. It was a class on the Thessalonian epistles, studied right out of the Greek New Testament. Not the whole of the classes in that course, but one session in particular. It established two core truths upon which much of my life has been built upon. First, I came to the conclusion that knowing how to interpret Scriptures from the Greek is not an infallible, indispensable means of understanding God’s truth. Because, even studying the Greek, the interpreter still brings with him all of his theological presumptions and biases. Baggage, you might call it. Second, I look back in my life-long venture to understand the prophecies of the Last Days, and I view this moment as the launching pad.
We were studying and interpreting II Thessalonians 2 that day in class. It is one of many passages in Paul’s writing where he speaks very pointedly and prophetically about the Last Days. In this passage Paul wrote about the day of the Lord, and the second coming of Jesus, that it will not happen until after the man of lawlessness is revealed, and after the great rebellion has occurred. And then Paul wrote that the man of lawlessness “will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” Then one more detail is reveled by Paul. The man of lawlessness will be restrained until the time that the restraint is taken out of the way. That is when he will be revealed. Oh, yes, and one more detail. The Lord himself will overthrow this man of lawlessness and destroy him by the splendor of His coming.
I cannot describe to you the emptiness in my heart as I sat and listened to all the theories proposed as to what these various concepts might mean. And how hollow the consideration of these theories was as we quickly retreated to the tried and true theology of the Baptist, dispensational eschatology. The man of lawlessness was determined to be the Antichrist, and I would agree with that, even to this day. But no mention was made to the fact that Paul never uses the term antichrist in all of his writings, nor that the term antichrist is not used anywhere in all of Revelation. It was presumed that the man of lawlessness was the same person being prophesied by the imagery of the Beast in Revelation 13. But that is not accurate. I did not know it at the time, so I could not disagree. But it has become absolutely fundamental to understanding Revelation to interpret accurately that the Beast is a nation, not the antichrist. That leaves this passage written by Paul as the most significant description of the antichrist, the man that most of have made bigger than life. It is very misleading to think that antichrist will be a supernatural imitation of Christ, who can do incredible miracles, even rising from the dead. Those images need to be jettisoned, since they come from Revelation 13, where the beast is revealing a nation at the end of the age, not a man, not the antichrist.
The rebellion at the end of the age, prior to the second coming of Jesus, was determined to be a great apostasy, linked to the statement of Jesus, “many will fall away.” But in reality, it is the overwhelming rebellion that will be led by the man of lawlessness, the Islamic mahdi, when he leads 200 million soldiers against Israel and Jerusalem in a jihadi attempt to destroy and annihilate the Jews. That is what is revealed clearly in Revelation 17.
Also in that class, it was determined that the man of lawlessness would set himself up in the temple in Jerusalem, in the middle of the Great Tribulation. That did not come from studying the Greek, I guarantee you, but from theological blinders so restrictive that truth could not be seen. The temple is not ieron in the Greek, meaning the brick-and-mortar temple in Jerusalem, but it is naos in the Greek, meaning the holy dwelling place of God. The man of lawlessness will declare himself to be God, usurping the place of the one true God, and millions of Muslims, worldwide, will be caught up in this great deception.
The rebellion that holds back that great rebellion until the appointed time was suggested, in that class, to be either the Holy Spirit or the church itself. Either, or both of these would be removed at the pre-tribulation rapture, thereby removing the restraint of lawlessness. That fits well with the theological baggage of a seven-year tribulation and pre-tribulation rapture. But all of those presumptions need to be jettisoned to understand correctly the prophecies of Revelation. The restraint is clearly identified in the vision of Revelation, in the seventh trumpet judgment and the seventh bowl judgment. The angels who hold back the enormous army at the Euphrates river will be released, and the armies will be led in to the Valley of Decision, the battle of Armageddon. (Rev 9:14-16)
Yes indeed, that Greek class proved to be quite momentous for me. I am so glad, so thankful, that the Holy Spirit stirred my heart to keep seeking for the truth.