The antichrist John wrote about is not the same as the Man of Lawlessness Paul wrote of. One of John’s quotations defining antichrist reads, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, refusing to confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist,” 2 John 1:7. Since every reasonable person acknowledges Jesus was born in the flesh, let’s concentrate on that second name John gave him, “Christ,” to determine what John meant by confessing his “coming in the flesh.”
Christ means anointed or chosen when translated in English, the same meaning as Messiah in Hebrew. So the name Jesus Christ carries with it the idea that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. Any person who refuses to acknowledge that is an antichrist, according to John. That includes all atheists.
The Man of Lawlessness Paul wrote about is something entirely different. Since the Man of Lawlessness sits down inside the temple of God, he could not be the antichrist John spoke of. Paul wrote, “So he will seat himself in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God,”( 2 Thessalonians 2:4). If he would sit down in a pagan temple, he might have been John’s antichrist. But since he sits in the temple of God he could not be. Because sitting in the temple of God is sitting inside the Christian congregation.
The temple of God no longer has anything to do with a temple made by human hands. “Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple,” 1Corinthians 3:16,17. So the Man of Lawlessness sits among the Holy ones of God, the saints.
In scriptures below Paul continues to identify this Man of Lawlessness:
3Let no one deceive you in any way, for it [the coming of Christ and the rapture] will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness—the son of destruction—is revealed.4He will oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship. 5Do you not remember that I told you these things while I was still with you? 6And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who now restrains it will continue until he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of His mouth and annihilate by the majesty of His arrival. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8
In verse six Paul wrote something was restraining the Man of Lawlessness, at that time. That shows this Man of Lawlessness was present, at that time; but his identity wasn’t recognized by the congregation per verse 8. What was Paul referring to in verse 5, when he wrote about things he had previously told them? Note this comment Paul made to Ephesian elders:
29I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore be alert and remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears, Acts 20:29-31
Though Paul told those words to elders in Ephesus, his intense concern strongly suggests he warned all congregations he visited. Those scriptures in Acts 20 also cite Paul as the restraint on that type of lawlessness. Since Paul was that restraint, The Man of Lawlessness probably arose soon after Paul’s departure.
Most protestant teachers claim this Man of Lawlessness is yet to arrive on the world stage. But if that Man represents prominent members controlling other members inside their organizations that claim should be expected. Because the Man of Lawlessness would not self-identify in his church. He might not even be aware he fits that description. Coupled with the belief the Man of Lawlessness is not yet identifiable is the teaching the end to the Man of Lawlessness must come soon after he’s revealed. That is within an adult’s lifespan. Because teachers believing that teach the “Man” is only one person.
If true that means we aren’t able to identify him inside Christian denominations today. However, the scripture doesn’t say that his end comes soon after he’s revealed. The word used to describe when his revealing happens is “then,” which denotes a sequence in events and not a time length. And there is no indication he is destroyed soon after he’s revealed. The scripture only states Christ will destroy him, without saying when that happens. Those facts open up the possibility he could exist for centuries.
“And then [after the restraint is removed] the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of His mouth and annihilate by the majesty of His arrival,” 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
In Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders he was warning them personally. Those were not words of warning to some Christians he never met, some two thousand years after he died. He warned them individually, with tears. If the warning was for some future generation there would be no need to warn each of them. Just writing it down would have been sufficient for future generations. But that’s not what he did. Paul told them, “Therefore be alert and remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears,” Acts 20:31
Because most members who gain authority in the church do so within hierarchical structures that already controlled Christians, this is no single man who brings about this condition. The Man of Lawlessness consists of groups of men. Just as Paul spoke, “men will rise,” and not just as individuals.
When the scripture claims the Man of Lawlessness will be revealed Paul meant revealed to Christ’s anointed church. Since he sits down inside the congregation with the saints, while members are following him as they should be following God, then obviously there are many who are not aware of his identity. Members of Christ’s church would not follow someone they knew to be the Man of Lawlessness. So this revelation must only come to those made aware of his presence by Holy Spirit. They recognize it, but not the whole congregation of Christians. This select group is not granted the authority to correct the situation, not by their church hierarchy, or by God. Hence Paul’s warning was with some tears.
That should be enough to help you identify this figurative Man. Only then will the information benefit you. If you use it as Jesus did. You see the exact same condition existed within the Jewish religion. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20 (Christ)
Paul was writing about an apostasy from leaders inside Christian congregations that grows until it is clearly seen by Christ’s true church. It grows so large that it seats itself in controlling positions over many Christians. Paul was one of the chief Christians that stopped apostate leaders from dominating congregations while he lived. The other apostles also served to restrain apostasy. After the apostles died there was no single person, or single group, inside the Christian congregation as a whole to restrain false teachings from strong elders who eventually asserted themselves, forming clergy/laity classes inside denominations. So in some churches or whole denominations Christians are only acceptable members if they follow the beliefs, right or wrong, of their clergy. Those clergy members have established themselves as gods over members inside the temple of God. Paul wrote,“So he will seat himself in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God,” 2 Thessalonians 2:4. But when Christ comes he will destroy them. Read Matthew chapter 7.
2 Thessalonian 2:3 confirms that this Man of Lawlessness is synonymous with apostasy inside the Christian church. That verse uses the Greek word apostasia, translated apostasy in English. This Man is not some leader outside the church, as most Christian denominations claim that this Man of Lawlessness will come to lead the whole world. He never leads the whole world. Instead he only leads Christians away from following Christ to following his (their) words.
The Greek apostasia (apostasy) has nothing to do with being gathered to Christ or the departing of the Holy Spirit as I heard one Christian claim. And many teach that after the Christian church is raptured, then this Man of Lawlessness reveals himself. I don’t know if they believe that from translating the word apostasy, like the fellow I mention above, or not. They also claim it is God’s church that acts as a restraint preventing the revealing of the Man of Lawlessness. That teaching contradicts Paul’s words that the Man of Lawlessness is revealed before Christ’s return, and before the rapture.
“Let no one deceive you in any way, for it [the coming of Christ and the rapture] will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness—the son of destruction—is revealed” 2 Thessalonians 2:3
The point is “apostasia” can be translated as a departing. But that word here means leaving the truth about Christ after a person, or a complete church, was already in the truth with Christ. The churches Paul started accepted the truth about Christ when he established them and as long as Paul taught them. He said when he left their situation would change. When? After his departing according to his scriptures. There is no reason to believe “after” means two thousand or more years after Paul died.
These quotes below from Biblehub.com speak to what apostasy means in 2 Thessalonians 2:3:
FIRST THE GREEK, THEN THREE ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS
2 Thessalonians 2:3 N-NFS
GRK: ἔλθῃ ἡ ἀποστασία πρῶτον καὶ
NAS: you, for [it will not come] unless the apostasy comes
KJV: there come a falling away first,
INT: shall have come the apostasy first and
646. Apostasia ►
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
falling away, apostacy
Feminine of the same as apostasion; defection from truth (properly, the state) (“apostasy”) — falling away, forsake.
Because this Man of Lawlessness threatens the church by misleading some members while ostracising others, he could not be someone that first appears after the church is raptured. According to scripture he must come and influence members inside the church, Christ’s anointed church, while the church is present on earth doing Christian works.
The idea that the apostasy comes before the church is gathered to Christ has nothing to do with the length of time in between those events. The events are separate as Paul states. His point is that the first must come before the second. He made no mention that the second event occurs soon after the first event. He spoke instead of the sequencing of the two events. The whole Bible does this many times about various events. You can see it from the creation account, from the Genesis 3:15 prophecy and many other statements in scripture. To assume this sequence in 2 Thessalonians speaks of the apostasy coming, and then right after that the church must be raptured and the world ends, is reading into that scripture what it does not say.
That apostasy that gained control after Paul died still permeates Christendom today. It is, and historically has been, only obvious to those who are informed by Holy Spirit. Because other people who believe they are following Christ are instead following some of its teachings inspired by demons and fallen humans. See 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 and 2 Corinthians 4:4:
9“The coming of the lawless one will be accompanied by the working of Satan, with every kind of power, sign, and false wonder,10and with every wicked deception directed against those who are perishing, because they refused the love of the truth that would have saved them.11For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,12in order that judgment will come upon all who have disbelieved the truth and delighted in wickedness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
Paul in 2 Thessalonians and in other scriptures was warning those he spoke to not to be deceived by these apostate leaders in their churches. The apostasy he spoke of as coming was only coming to the CHURCH, because only people already inside Christ’s church could defect from Christ’s words. You cannot leave a place you were never in. You cannot forsake a belief you never had.
First notice that in vs6 Paul claims these Christians he wrote to knew what was restraining the Man of Lawlessness, and that his lawlessness was already at work. That fact shows this could not be a single man as many Christians claim. Because no single man lives from the day of the apostles until Christ comes to destroy him and the world. Second, note Paul’s scripture(vs4) does not say he sits himself down in the temple of a false god. It says he sits down in the temple of God. So he sits down inside the Christian congregation, since anointed Christians were described by Paul as God’s temple. The Man of Lawlessness’ appearance is associated with a rebellion. Where would this be? Obviously inside the churches he sits inside. Those that are part of his group rise themselves above every so-called god, and object of worship, thus demanding Christians follow them. If congregants under their authority are to remain labeled Christians and treated fairly by these apostate leaders, some leaders demand obedience to their rules and doctrines, biblically right or wrong. They claim obedience to their ideas is necessary to follow God. Thus they lead Christ’s sheep after themselves, unwittingly declaring themselves a god, in God’s eyes.