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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
2 Thessalonians 2

 

 

Verses 1-17


The Great Apostasy

2. Spirit] i.e. a pretended revelation uttered by a false prophet. Letter as from us] perhaps a forged letter (the probable meaning), cp. 2 Thessalonians 3:17, or a misunderstanding of the First Epistle.

3-10. It will be convenient to. treat this difficult passage as a whole. Literally translated, it runs thus: 'Let no man deceive you in any wise: for [the Final Presence of our Lord shall not be] except (or till) the falling away come first and the Man of Lawlessness be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalted himself against all that is called God or an object of worship, so that he sitteth in the Sanctuary of God, setting himself forth as God (Do ye not remember that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?) And now ye know about that (power) which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed to his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness is already working, only there is one that restraineth now till he be taken out of the way. And then shall the Lawless one be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and bring to naught by the Epiphany of His Presence— even him whose presence is according to the working of Satan, in all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and in every deceit of unrighteousness for the ruin of those who are perishing because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.' In the first place, we must remember that St. Paul is here speaking of something which is already at work, and the overthrow of which is to precede that Final Presence of the Lord which the Thessalonians thought to be immediately impending. Realising this, we shall at once reject all those interpretations which see in the Man of Sin (Lawlessness) some historical character (e.g. one of the Popes, or of Napoleon I) who lived after St. Paul's time. We must also remember that the Thessalonians had the key to the interpretation of the passage which we do not possess, since they had been orally instructed by St. Paul on the subject. But, though certainty is now impossible, we may be guided to a probable solution by studying the passage in connexion with the Revelation of St. John, and (especially) our Lord's great prophecy recorded in Matthew 24 Mark 13 and Luke 21. When, further, we remember how bitterly St. Paul felt the opposition of his fellow-countrymen to Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16), and how full the Gospels are of denunciation of Jewish sins, we shall be led to the conclusion that 'the Apostasy' is the Jewish apostasy, and that the 'Man of Sin (Lawlessness)' is either some false Christ (Matthew 24:24), many of whom appeared among the Jews about this time, or (more probably) the spirit of Judaism personified. (A somewhat similar personification may be found in Revelation 2, 3, where 'the angel' of each of the seven churches seems to denote, not any official, but the Church itself.) The Jews had been chosen of God to bear witness to Him, and they had betrayed their trust. Their worship was a lie (Matthew 23:16-22). They were 'a synagogue of Satan' (Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9). They had made the Temple a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13). Some of them could perform lying wonders (Matthew 12:27; Mark 13:22; Acts 19:13). They were persecuting the Church of Christ and opposing the truth (Acts 13:6, Acts 13:45; Acts 14:19; Acts 17:5-13; Acts 18:12; Acts 22:22; Acts 23:12). And so their apostasy was to be revealed and punished by the utter (but not final, Romans 11:25-27) overthrow of Judaism, and the destruction of the Holy City and the Temple in 70 a.d. by the Romans. This great event would come before the final advent, which the Thessalonians were expecting immediately. The further question who, or what, is the Person or Power that restrains the Man of Lawlessness, is one of considerable difficulty. The usual answer is 'the authority of the Roman empire, or perhaps the reigning Roman Emperor Claudius' (41-54 a.d.). Inthe very earliest days of Christianity the Romans did protect the Christians from Jewish violence (Acts 18:14-15; Acts 23:23-24; Acts 25:14-21). But soon, under the Emperor Nero, this attitude was exchanged for one of hostility, after the fire at Rome in 64 a.d. And it is hard to see how the words 'until he be taken out of the way' can apply to a Roman emperor or to the Roman empire in its dealings with Judaism. It is possible that by the Restrainer St. Paul means the Christian Church in Jerusalem—the Mother-Church of which the Thessalonians 'became imitators' (1 Thessalonians 2:14). We know that St. James, the head of that Church, had great influence over his unbelieving fellow-countrymen, and may well have exercised a restraining power over them. Some Jews even appear to have seen in the siege of Jerusalem the punishment for his murder by the high priest Ananus. It is to be noted that the Jerusalem Church, obeying the Lord's command (Matthew 24:15-16), left the doomed city on the approach of the Roman army and fled to Pella. Thus she might be said to be 'taken out of the way' of the evil to come.

3. Falling away] Gk. 'apostasy.'

4. The reference is to the pretensions of a false Messiah.

7. Mystery] This word in NT. always denotes something once hidden, but now revealed, or soon to be revealed (1 Corinthians 4:1; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 4:3; Ephesians 6:19).

8. Brightness, etc.] rather, 'manifestation of His presence.'

11. Strong delusion] better, 'inner working of error.' Those who obstinately refuse the truth at last become incapable of receiving it.

12. Damned] RV 'judged.'

13. From the beginning] perhaps (with the oldest MS), 'as firstfruits.'

15. The traditions] i.e. the truths taught, whether orally or by writing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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