The Concept of Antichrist, Part III

There are multiple parallels between the sea beast of Revelation 13 and the “antichrist” figure of 2 Thessalonians 2. Both of them exalt themselves to the place of God (2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:5-6). Both demand worship (2 Thess 4; Rev 13:4, 8, 12). Both use miracles in order to deceive (2 Thess 2:9-10; Rev 13:13-14). And both are destroyed by Jesus Christ at His second coming (2 Thess 2:8; Rev 14:9; 19:11-21). If the beast from the sea represents a counterfeit of Jesus Christ, so does the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2.

Instead of Antichrist, Paul uses the term “The Lawless One” (2 Thess 2:8– ho anomos in the Greek). Many scholars see the language of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 and 8-9 as modeled on Antiochus Epiphanes, who was understood by Jews of the time as a type of the Antichrist, and also the blasphemous king of Daniel 11:36-39. Antiochus was king of Syria around 165 BC and invaded Palestine, oppressing the Jews. Among other things he sacrificed a pig on the temple altar in Jerusalem, forced Jews to eat pork, and forbad the keeping of the Sabbath.

A flaw in that identification is that the Lawless One in Second Thessalonians is clearly an apostate figure. He usurps the throne of God, sets himself up in God’s temple, and proclaims himself to be God (2 Thess 2:3-4). So he is more of a religious leader than a political leader. Antichrist is not likely a dictator, general or president. They don’t normally demand worship or proclaim themselves God. In 2 Thessalonians 2:9 the lawless one counterfeits the earthly ministry and second coming of Jesus and is then destroyed by the brightness of Jesus’ coming (2 Thess 2:8-9). In Paul there is also a demonic side to this “Antichrist,” he comes “in accordance with the work of Satan (2:9). By his very name (“man of lawlessness,” “lawless one”– 2 Thess 2:3, 8) this figure is one who seeks to undermine the law of God, is arrogant to the point of blasphemy, is an agent of Satan, has characteristics of Satan himself, comes with miracles and signs, tries to deceive the world, and is destroyed with those who follow him.

This figure in 2 Thessalonians is not one of the many antichrists referenced in the letters of John (1 John 2:18-22; 4:3; 2 John 7). This seems to be THE future Antichrist that was still coming in John’s day (1 John 2:19), although the “mystery of lawlessness” was already at work in Paul’s day (see the “spirit of antichrist” in 1 John 4:3).