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Bible Commentaries
2 Thessalonians 2

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-17

2II 1-12 The Parousia and the Antichrist— This pericope contains much matter the interpretation of which still remains obscure. Paul not only borrows words and phrases from the apocalyptic passages of the OT and NT but speaks elliptically as well. He develops further the teaching of 1 Thess 4:13 ff. The basis of his teaching is, however, to be found in Mt 24 and Daniel 11; cf. § 914i.

1. ’And as regards the coming of our Lord . . . we beseech you’; cf.Mt 24:31, Mk 13:27. The Apostle proceeds to answer two questions that have been put to him on the coming of the Lord and on the gathering together of the faithful to Christ.

2. ’. . . nor be troubled, neither by spirit nor by discourse nor by epistle, as though from us, as if the day of the Lord was here’. It appears that some had not only ignored the Apostle’s previous letter (1 Thess) but had actually falsely invoked his authority for spreading a rumour that the Day of the Parousia was actually ’dawning’.

3. They are not to be deceived; the Parousia is not imminent. ’For [the Day of the Lord will not come] unless there come the revolt first’ against Christ (which itself presupposes the conversion of a large part of the world) and there be revealed ’the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition’, i.e. the man who is not only destined to perdition but brings perdition (as Christ brings salvation).

4. The phraseology is apocalyptic and need not be taken literally: the meaning is that the opposer (whom we may justly equate with the Antichrist of Jn 17:12, 1 Jn 2:18, etc.) will endeavour to substitute himself for the true God and to obtain full divine honours from men.

5. It is clear that when St Paul was personally instructing them he had expounded carefully and at length (cf.1 Thess 5:2) the apocalyptic teaching of Mt 24 and Dan 7:25 ff., 11:36 ff., cf. § 914i.

6. The meaning seems to be: And now you have yourselves had experience of the working of the withholding or restraining power which keeps the Man of Lawlessness in check until his appointed time. The revelation of the Man of Lawlessness is dependent on the removal of a mysterious obstacle that is described in 6 as t? ?at???? (what withholdeth) and in 7 as ? ?at???? (he who withholdeth). Among the many suggestions as to the nature of this obstacle, the following seem to be the most plausible; (a) Tertullian’s view that it is the Roman Empire seen as ’a restraining power of law and order’; (b) the view (proposed by Buzy and followed by Amiot) that it is the collectivity constituted by the sum total of the preachers of the Gospel; and (c) the view of Prat that it is the Archangel St Michael who appears as the champion against the forces of evil in Dan 12:1 and Apoc 12:7-9; 20:1-3, 7, where the angel binds and looses Satan. There is no tradition of the Church on this point to assist us to decide.

7. ’Mystery’ here means ’a secret to be revealed’.—’the mystery of lawlessness’ probably denotes the present secret and partially ineffective activity of the Man of Lawlessness; cf. Buzy, RSR ( 1934) 404 f. This verse confirms the statement of 6. The lawlessness is at present working secretly on account of the check imposed, but ’only until he who now withholds be taken out of the way’.

8. ’Then shall the Lawless One be revealed’, only to find himself destroyed by the mere breath of the Lord’s mouth, imagery borrowed from Is 11:4.

9-11. A description of the Parousia of the Antichrist, the Man of Lawlessness. The removal of the withholding or restraining power will permit the Parousia of the Antichrist, a lying counterpart of the true Parousia of Christ that will follow it and immediately destroy the Lawless One.

9. ’in all lying power and signs and wonders’.

10. ’The love of the truth’ may be taken objectively as the love the truth has for men, or subjectively as the love of men for the truth. ’To believe the Lie.’

11. ’have consented to unrighteousness’. For further discussion of the nature of this apostasy, see art. Eschatologie, op. cit.

The Character of the Antichrist— Is the Antichrist to be an individual or a collectivity? Most modern commentators consider him to be a mere personification of the evil forces that will, it seems, get the upper hand at the end of the world. According to St Paul the activity of the Man of Lawlessness is already taking place, although he is not yet revealed. He certainly cannot be Satan himself as he receives his powers from him. As this activity has been going on for nineteen centuries, the Antichrist would seem to be an apocalyptic personification of the powers of evil let loose. Moreover in the Gospels (esp. Mt 24) our Lord nowhere speaks of one Antichrist but of many false Christs and false prophets. With this agrees St John’s teaching in his Epistles, whilst in the Apocalypse he symbolizes the sum total of persecuting political powers and false prophets by the two beasts who are the emissaries of Satan. On the other hand, the teaching of St Paul on the Antichrist is quite compatible with his being a single person, and the manner in which all the Sacred Books from Daniel to Apocalypse speak of him, as a man incarnating all the forces of evil and as the false counterpart of Christ himself in the last days of the world, does not permit us to lay aside as improbable the view that the Antichrist is indeed an individual; cf. Rigaux, L’Antichrist, Paris, 1932.

12-III 5 Further Encouragement and Exhortation— 12. ’firstfruits’: another reading in the Greek which gives the meaning ’from the beginning’ has slightly more MS support. ’of the spirit’, i.e. the Holy Spirit.

13. ’unto the acquisition of’ the glory of the Lord when he returns at the Parousia.

14. Revealed truth is transmitted both by oral and written tradition, as the Church has always taught.

15. ’in [his] grace’. The traditional character of St Paul’s own teaching in the matter of the Parousia is discussed in § 914g-l.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1951.
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