Characters and Themes – The Man of Lawlessness Revealed

16Apr11

Thus far in our discussion of the Man of Lawlessness we have considered the difficulty of the passage, the vagueness of the description, the importance to the Dispensational model and the contextual and historical data. We saw that the coming and gathering together do not necessarily have to relate to the literal, physical Second Coming of Christ and, in fact, the fact that Thessalonians would send a letter to Paul to ask him if the Rapture had already taken place is ridiculous when considered.

So, we now will conclude this section of the Man of lawlessness by considering the several different options that have been proposed in history.

THE ANTICHRIST

The proposal most popular among Dispensationalist and most modern evangelicals is that this Man of Lawlessness is the Antichrist and the Beast of Revelation. As mentioned several times previously it is quite a popular concept to combine the descriptions of the Beast, the Antichrist and the Man of Lawlessness into one central character.

This is most popular among Dispensational proponents, but is also considered by many in Reformed circles as well, including the Reformers and the framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith. But, as we have stated before, there is nothing in Scripture that makes the connection. They may very well be connected but to bring the presuppositions of one character and use those presuppositions to be determinative of a different, possibly unrelated character, is dangerous exegesis.

But below are the bullet points in favor and against the idea that the Antichrist is the Man of Lawlessness

  • This is the primary view of the Futurist / Dispensationalist and would be the popular evangelical view by default.
  • This comes as a result of the difficulty in find historical options to fit the descriptions included.
  • Makes claims of godhood like Antichrist is supposed to do. They problem here, of course, is that it is presupposed that the Antichrist will make claims of Godhood since, as we discovered, there is no such claims made in any passages that involve the Antichrist
  • Apparently is revealed near Second Coming as the first first appears to claim
  • Restrainer is Holy Spirit. This is the crux of the argument. The Holy Spirit is removed with the Church at the Rapture. This is the only place in all of Scripture that Dispensationalist can reach for this exposition.

BUT…

  • Paul said the Thessalonians knew who was restraining the Man of Lawlessness. This dictates a first century fulfillment
  • He was alive at Paul’s time but Paul argues that he currently being restrained
  • The argument that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit is pure conjecture pulled from whole cloth. No where else does the Bible state anything close to the idea that the Holy Spirit would be removed from the earth. And consider this: This would mean that there will be world wide revival during the Tribulation (144,000) without the aid of the Holy Spirit! So during the Tribulation, the Dispensationalist must argue, man is brought to faith without the working of the Spirit.
  • New Testament makes no mention of future temple. Again, this is just assumed and brought to the text without any other Scriptural  corroboration. It is a necessary component of the system but has no Biblical data to support it. Plus this passage does not mention some future Temple, but the Temple currently in existence at the time.
  • Context leads to first century fulfillment. As previously discussed, if the Thessalonians considered the coming, gathering together and Day of the Lord as references to the Rapture or Resurrection ti would do them no good to write to Paul and ask if they missed it? The obvious nature of the presupposed event would be so plain and the Apostle would have taken art as well and would be around to answer.

THE POPE

  • This was the view of the Reformers and is stated so in the Westminster Confession of Faith
  • The Pope, it is argued, symbolically seats himself in the Temple, which is now the Church (Hebrews). He claims to speak for God
  • He promotes lawlessness with the use of indulgences, papal bulls and immoral and sinful activities
  • The rebellion is a rebellion against God as leader of an apostate church.

BUT…

  • This proposition contains very figurative views of lawlessness, apostasy and the Temple. It takes the passage too symbolically for Paul’s first century readers to ever get anything from it
  • Paul said the Thessalonians knew who was restraining him, which also hurts the argument and furthers the problems of the first point of refutation directly above
  • He was alive at Paul’s time – the one who was restraining him was doing so presently
  • No explanation of the restrainer at all in this view
  • Ulterior motive – The Reformers were men of their time and as those “rebelling” against the established Church it would serve a very positive purpose if they could align the Pope with this Man of Lawlessness

NERO

If the Beast and the Man of Lawlessness are one and the same it would be easy to make the case that the character in question in this passage in none other than Nero. He appears to be a very strong candidate and must be seriously considered.

  • This is the view of Kenneth Gentry, Greg Bahnsen, RC Sproul, BB Warfield and many more incredible theologians. Anytime men of this caliber support a specific view it is at least worthy of our consideration
  • Paul uses “code” out of fear of Roman repercussion in much the same way John would do in Revelation
  • Lawless abounded in the actions of Nero both in the political and religious realm
  • Nero sets himself up in the Temple with his claims to godhood and his desire to have his image located in all places of worship
  • Restrained by either Claudius (claudere – which can mean “to restrain”) or Seneca, his trusted adviser he would later have killed. It is known that the early rule of Nero was rather calm as the result of Seneca’s influence. But, it should be noted the Nero’s lawless lifestyle predated his ascendancy to the throne. In that case it would have been Claudius who restrained Nero until Claudius was “removed” by suspicious manner with claims that Nero had him killed.

BUT

  • Paul plainly claims he is to sit in the Temple and one would need to take this point figuratively for Nero to qualify. It is possible and this should not be considered a major critique
  • The character appears more religious than political. This man is accompanied by “signs and wonders”
  • The talk of the Temple would lead the reader to place the setting of these events in Jerusalem and Nero stayed primarily in Rome though his power spread throughout the entire kingdom
  • Paul said the Thessalonians knew who was restraining him
  • Nero is revealed in advance of the rebellion which is said to occur first. It should be stated, though, that his more evil inclinations would be more readily apparent after the rebellion in Jerusalem begins.

RELIGIOUS LEADER IN JERUSALEM

This argument is laid out well by Gary DeMar and is worthy of consideration. Though not a very famous character bu historical standards, the false High priest Phannius is a strong possibility. He was placed into his role by the Jewish zealots during the “rebellion” of Roman rule in Jerusalem. He performed lawless acts of worship and placed a chair in the “inner section” of the Temple where no furniture for sitting was allowed. The zealots were restrained by the Roman government, specifically the Judean governor at the time. This would be both a “he” and a “what.”

  • View of Gary DeMar, David Chilton, Jay Adams, Hank Hanegraaff
  • The Thessalonians were familiar with the man and the restrainer who would be seen both as a person and a thing as the passage shows
  • The High Priest was murdered in the Temple by the zealots and replaced with a puppet High Priest named Phannius
  • Phannius mocked the High Priestly rules by sitting in the Temple
  • Lawless – performed lawless rituals / sacrifices
  • The Roman authority (who and what) restrained the zealots until the Roman army retreat
  • This took place right after the Jewish rebellion was noticed by Rome
  • Was killed during the siege of Jerusalem which would tie this passage in with the Olivet discourse, which we showed in a previous post as a distinct probability.

BUT…

  • Phannius was not a major historical character as many believe this man of Lawlessness need be
  • He possessed to power of this own and was only placed into power by the zealots during the rebellion

I would personally favor the last two and I find, despite the lack of historical recognition, that the last candidate appears to meet the qualifications listed in the passage. Suffice it to say, though, that the passage can clearly be interpreted to be related to events surrounding the first century and does not need to have it taken out of it’s historical context and force it into some future event.

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6 Responses to “Characters and Themes – The Man of Lawlessness Revealed”

  1. 1 Yeshua the Lord of Glory

    Hi David…
    This is not off point… Wether the man of lawlessness or antichrist[s] WAS Phannius and or Nero or even some first century Priest and or powerful ruler who WAS an Israelite or a Roman…Wether they or he thought in his heart that he was God the father or the Annointed Savior or just in his stead… Even if he sat in the midst of believers or in that temple made by hands and of stone…The scriptures are clear…All of these things DID take place in the first century…

    1.Independent fundamental Baptist are great soul winners but they are dispensationalists…

    2. Excellent Covenant theology is preached by the Free Presbyterians but they hold to the Westminister confession of faith…

    What to do David?

    Who will truly fulfill the Great commission? Countless souls are awaiting regeneration by God the Holy Spirit…But how can they come to the faith that saves them if what they hear preached is a Gospel tainted by the teachings of John Darby and his cohorts? Should they instead hear a most excellent reformed Covenant theology although still tainted by centuries of hatred for Rome and her Popes?

    David you yourself knows what the truth of God’s written Word does for the soul of the regenerated…Imagine what the truth would do for the souls of the NEWLY born children of God… What to do indeed.
    Whatever you do,please do not stop writing and teaching i can hardly put down the scriptures these days!!!

    • 2 low5point

      I would challenge you not be so harsh in regards to the Westminster Confession. Most Presbyterians have problems with two areas, one being the discussion of the Pope as Antichrist. I include myself amongst those, but as a document that articulates the doctrines of the faith there are few (if any) that compare. As I stated in my ost, the Reformers and those that followed were men of their times. The vast and horrific theology of the Roman Church along with some very evil acts of the Popes would lead many to agree with them. In hindsight I think there are many today who would rather not have it written as is, but, like me, agree with the fact that the Roman Church can act in an “Antichrist” manner in some respects, though i think more in a “lawless”manner given the limitation of what defines Antichrist.

      But when it comes to salvation, holiness, the life and work of Christ there is no other document as fine that was written by fallible men…

      The call of the Reformation was … Reformed and always Reforming. So it is true as the faith, once handed down, becomes more acutely and Biblically refined as we ourselves.

  2. 3 Yeshua the Lord of Glory

    Hi David.
    What i wrote really had nothing at all with the Westminister doctrine of faith and salvation…Like you i agree that their doctrine of faith and salvation is bublically sound..As is the doctrine of faith and salvation of Independent fundamental baptists… However,for me Westministers confession concerning the doctrine of ” Eternal Generation ” Which i read for the first time last week,does mirror Romes version of the phrase “Only Begotten” which is NOT scripturally sound…Okay maybe that one is probably off point…

    However,the free Presbyterians partial furturism if you will is a huge problem…By this i mean that their view and teaching that 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 [the man of sin] it YET to come…And their belief and teaching that the LITERAL and PHYSICAL second coming of the Lord Jesus and the POSTRIB rapture are taught in Matthew 24:29-31…
    Yes i was taught and believed this when i was saved but i was taught this by dispensationalists…However,i do accept and respect your challenge not to be harsh…

    Since my previous post was long [like this one] and my attempted point got lost in the attack [kidding]… My question of “WHAT TO DO” had only to do with the urgency for the souls of the unsaved or better said “the great commission”…Studying with you for the past few weeks has caused me to remember that urgency…David many [not you] are about proving that their eschatological theories are correct…Even the greatest of all soul winners like Independent baptists and Free Presbyterians are teaching the Newly born children of God as well as the grown-ups things that the scriptures do not teach…David you know for yourself that neither Matthew 24 or 2 Thessalonians teach these things…So statements and confessions of faith are fine…But where should the line be drawn? Is it with God and the truth of scripture or do we broaden line for some because they hold to the true doctrines of faith and salvation?

    • 4 low5point

      Without “spoiling” things a bit…I am Postmill…I believe in a huge conversion!!! Eschatology discussions are only so much sound and fury unless coupled with a worldview directed at proclaiming the Gospel…I just believe it will actually fruitful!!!

  3. 5 Yeshua the Lord of Glory

    YEAH!!!
    Ok then… Someone who knows the truth [like you] Has to preach the Gospel and win souls SPURGEON style then!!!

    Good Nite David…

  4. “…in the light of Scripture!”


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