Paul’s Footsteps #108

Footprints #108

The confusion in Thessalonica over the second coming caused Paul to write his most extensive outline of final events. Had he not done so, it would not have been preserved for us.

For instance, in Chapter 2 Paul lists the things that have to happen before Jesus can come. There will be a “falling away” ( Greek = apostasia ), and then “the man of lawlessness” will be revealed. That revelation is described in 2:8-10 as the working of Satan just before Jesus comes. But before that revelation of wickedness, there is a period of “mystery” and restraint (2:6, 7).

V4 is a description of the man of sin (or “lawlessness”), who operates under cover for a time and is then revealed at the end. He opposes God, exalts himself above God, sits in the temple, and proclaims that he is God. This verse is filled with allusions to Old and NT texts. The “opposer” recalls Satan in Zech.3:1. Exalting himself above God and usurping God’s place in the heavenly temple is a reference to the little horn of Dan.8. Showing himself to be God recalls satan in Isa.14 and Eze.28; it also points to the blaspheming power of Dan.11:36-39. So, the description of the man of sin contains elements pointing to both satan himself and the wicked agents of satan in the course of Christian history.

Combining these verses with the previous ones, we can see that Paul is outlining three stages of history from his time until the end. The final stage begins at the Second Coming. Before this stage is the revelation of the man of sin (2:3), also known as the lawless one (2:8). And before that stage is a time of mystery and restraint (2:6, 7).

Who is the ‘restrainer?’ It is present in Paul’s day; it is upholding the law (a power that restrains lawlessness, v7); it is on a divine time mission; and it is powerful enough to restrain the working of satan (v9). In the NT the events leading to the second coming are preceded by the final proclamation of the gospel. It is probable then that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit – God Himself!

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