The Apostle Paul shows that “The Man of Sin” must precede the coming of the day of the Lord. If this Man of Sin has not come, then it would veto our claim that we are now living in the Millennial Morning, the time of our Lord’s presence and the setting up of His Kingdom.
The Man of Sin. Has he or has he not yet come?
The early church looked for Christ’s return with joyful anticipation as the fruition of their hopes and the end of their sorrows. Consequently, they were interested in any teaching which claimed that the Day of the Lord was either very near or present. The Church at Thessalonica was impressed with the erroneous teaching of some to the effect that the Lord had already returned, and that they were then living in his day, evidently supposing that it was in harmony with what they had been taught:
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” – - 1 Thessalonians 5:2
They properly felt that others would not know of the Day, while the faithful would. They wrongly supposed that the Day of the Lord’s presence had already begun. Paul wrote them a second epistle, the central thought of which was the correction of this error.
“But we entreat you, brethren, concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our assembling to him, that you be not quickly agitated in mind, nor alarmed, neither by a spirit, nor by a discourse nor by a letter as from us, as though the day of the Lord was present. Let no one delude you by any means, because the apostacy must come first, and there must be revealed that , MAN OF SIN, that SON OF DESTRUCTION, the OPPONENT, who indeed lifts himself above everything called divinity or majesty; so as to seat himself in the temple of God, exhibiting himself that he is a God. Do you not remember that while I was with you, I said these things to you? and now you know what restrains, in order to his being revealed in his own season. For the SECRET of LAWLESSNESS is already working, till only the one restraining for the present shall be out of the way; and then will be revealed the LAWLESS ONE; whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the breath [spirit] of his mouth and annihilate by the appearing of his presence.” – - 2 Thessalonians 2:1- 8 (Diaglott)
It is interesting that the argument Paul used was not the one used by some today against the claim that the day of the Lord has begun. He didn’t say, O foolish Thessalonians, do you not know that when Christ comes, every eye shall see him and your ears shall hear the dreadful sound of the trump of God? Do you now know that when he comes, there will be Christians disappearing left and right and tombs opening and saints raising, and that I would be taken at that moment?
If such an argument were valid, Paul would have used it, since it is so easily grasped and so simple to follow. Isn’t the fact that he didn’t, a proof that such an argument could not be founded on truth? Paul offered but one objection to their claim, endorsing as correct their general ideas of the Day of the Lord- – that it could be commenced while many would be in ignorance of it, and that it could come without outward demonstration to mark it. The only ground of his objection was that there must FIRST come a falling away and the development of the Man of Sin.
The character of the Man of Sin is described by the titles given it by the inspired writers. Paul calls it “that Wicked One,” “The Man of Sin,” “The Mystery of Iniquity.” “The Antichrist.” and “The Son of Perdition.” Daniel calls it “The Abomination that maketh desolate.” (Daniel 11:31; 12:11) Our Lord refers to it as “The Abomination of Desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15), and again as a “Beast” (Revelation 13:1- 8), John also warned the Church, “Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come.” He then advises how to escape Antichrist’s influence. – - 1Joh 2:18- 27
The various descriptions indicate a subtle, hypocritical and deceptive character developed in the midst of the Christian Church. Creeping in slowly at first, rising in power and influence until reaching the very pinnacle of earthly power, wealth, and glory, it would at the same time exert influence against the truth, against the saints, and against the authority and power of God.
We discuss principles, doctrines, always, individuals, NEVER This Man of Sin does not apply to any individual, but rather to a system.
Just as THE Christ constitutes both the Lord and the true Church, so Antichrist is a counterfeit system consisting of a false lord and an apostate church. This apostasy is permitted to misrepresent the truth, to practice deceit and to counterfeit the authority and future reign of the true Lord and His Church. This system is permitted to intoxicate the nations with false claims and assumptions.
The apostasy was recognized as having an influence at the very beginning of the church’s history (2 Thessalonians 2:7), but was limited by the stronger influence of the Apostles. After their death, there was nothing to stop Antichrist’s growing influence from misdirecting the course of Christianity. For this to continue until the return of Christ would mean covering a period of nearly 1900 years. For a man to literally fulfill this requirement would be impossible. The system which fully answers the description given by inspiration must be professedly Christian, and must contain a large majority of those who claim to be Christians.
There is a system which fits all the requirements perfectly- – one whose record, whether written by secular historians or its own servants, agrees exactly with the prophetic delineations of Antichrist. But when we say that this system is Papacy, don’t misunderstand us to mean that every Roman Catholic is a man of sin; nor the priests; nor the popes. No MAN is the Antichrist. Popes, bishops, and others are at most only parts of the Antichrist system.
And the Church of Rome as an ecclesiastical system ALONE is not the “Man of Sin.” On the contrary, a woman is always used as a symbol of a church separate from its head and lord. The true Church is pictured as a “chaste virgin,” while the apostate church, fallen away from its primitive purity and fidelity to the Lord is symbolically called a “harlot.” The true Church continues to be a chaste virgin until the end of the age, when she is to be united to her Lord and take His name- – Christ. Likewise, the apostate church was not the Antichrist or Man of Sin until she united with her lord and head, the pope, the claimed vicegerent of Christ, and became a religious empire, falsely named Christendom- – which signifies Christ’s kingdom.
The history of Antichrist
The name “Antichrist” has a twofold meaning. First, it means against (i.e., in opposition to) Christ; secondly it means instead (i.e., a counterfeit) of Christ. It is the second meaning of “Antichrist” that we feel describes the false system best, for the scriptural authority to govern the people was taken from Christ’s Kingdom and prematurely applied.
The thought that Papacy is Antichrist is not new, although few continue to proclaim this today. Quoting from McClintock & Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 1, page 258, paragraph 4: “The Hussites followed the Waldenses in this theory of Antichrist, applying it to the papal system. So did Wycliffe and his followers … As early as 1520 Luther began to doubt whether the pope were not Antichrist … In the Reformation era the opinion that the papal system is Antichrist was generally adopted. …”
The fact that this view is not wide- spread today is no proof that the names of the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, were not properly applied. It will be remembered that history clearly marks the period of Papal power not as a period of enlightenment, as would be expected from the influence of Christ, but rather it was called the “Dark Ages.” During Papacy’s reign of 1,000 years (799- 1799), Christians were persecuted for trying to understand God’s Word. Possession of a Bible was cause for death. Only priests could interpret scripture. Bibles were written in Latin as an effort to discourage outsiders from the benefit of the Word.
Yet, it wasn’t these evils which labeled Papacy as the Antichrist as much as their claim to be Christ’s Kingdom and carrying out such evils under the claim of Divine authority.
The careful student will note four periods, more or less distinctly marked, in the development and exaltation of Antichrist, and the same number marking its fall.
1.A.D. 50- – In Paul’s day a beginning of the secret working of iniquity was started.
2.A.D. 300- 494- – Gradually, Papacy, the Man of Sin, was organized as a hierarchy; i.e., the church came to an organized condition, and the popes came to be recognized as the head, representing Christ, reigning in the church and over nations.
3.A.D. 539- – The time when the popes began to exercise civil authority and power.
4.A.D. 800- – The time of exaltation, when the Holy Roman Empire was formed, and the pope, crowning Charlemagne emperor, was recognized as King of Kings, Emperor of Emperors, another God on earth.
1.A.D. 1400- – The period of the Reformation, beginning in the writings of Wycliffe- – followed by Huss, Luther and others.
2.A.D. 1800- 1806- – The period of Napoleon’s success, the degradation of the popes, and the casting aside finally of the title “Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire,” by Francis II.
3.A.D. 1870- – The final rejection of the pope as ruler over Rome and the so- called Papal States of Italy, which deprived Antichrist of civil authority.
4.The final extinction of this counterfeit hierarchy is near the close of the “Day of Wrath” and judgment already begun. This fourth phase of Antichrist’s fall will be as a result of Christ’s second advent.
“Then will be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and annihilate by the appearing of his presence.” – - 2 Thessalonians 2:8
Even now Antichrist is seeking cooperation with Protestant and civil systems, struggling for power with temporary success. But the system will be consumed by the dissident peoples she desires to rule.
“Rejoice over her, heaven, and holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea (anarchy, restless masses), saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” – - Revelation 18:20, 21