4. The coming of Christ not at hand, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17.
This chapter discusses the main topic of the epistle, the time of the Second Advent. The passage has been the subject of discussion and varied opinion from its first publication to the present hour. Good histories of the phases of interpretation may be found in Alford, (derived mainly from Lunemann,) M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopaedia, and Dr. Gloag on St. Paul’s Epistles.
The Fathers of the primitive Church agreed largely, but not unanimously, in four propositions. 1. The man of sin is identical with St. John’s antichrist, 1 John 2:18, “ye have heard that antichrist shall come.” Hence, Who or what is antichrist? and, When shall be his coming? were questions of great interest. 2. Antichrist is a personal being; the incarnation of sin, who at some future day will come and work in powerful opposition to God. 3. The what withholdeth, and the he who now letteth, (impedeth, preventeth,) were the Roman government and the Roman emperor. Hence antichrist was to rise when the Roman empire fell. 4. Antichrist will be destroyed by the Lord at his second advent.
Such being the views of the earlier Church writers, the thinkers of the Middle Ages were struck with the number of the traits ascribed by St. Paul to antichrist appearing in the popedom. Hence, in the disputes between the emperor and the pope the doctrine came out that the pope was antichrist. The Waldenses, and Albigenses, and followers of Wiclif and Huss, held this same view. The reformers, Luther, Melanchthon, Zuinglius, and the creed-books of the Lutheran Church, adopted it. The same view pervades the English Protestant authors, as Hooker, Bishop Newton, Macknight, Benson, Wordsworth, Doddridge, and many others.
In our modern times three classes of opinions besides this last have prevailed. 1. Writers rationalistically inclined, as De Wette, Lunemann, Davidson, and Jowett, deny the prophetic character of the passage, and explain away its predictive phrases. 2. Others, Grotius, Wetstein, Hammond, and Whitby, hold its predictions to be fulfilled in past times, and find its verification in various events or characters. The inventor of each particular verification finds few followers in his individual views. 3.
Another class, as Olshausen and Alford, holds the fulfilment in the far future, and so have no special events or characters to identify.
Our own view, by the adoption of a single special element, harmonizes, as we think, and brings into one, the interpretation of the early Fathers and the Reformers. That element is this: Antichrist (anti, opposed to, and Christos, Christ) is the great opponent and antithesis to Christ in the moral government of this world, the personal Satan himself; Satan under various successive historical guises, but Satan himself; and Satan truly at last incarnate, probably in human form, to be destroyed, Revelation 20:9-10, as St. Paul here predicts he will be, before the final judgment throne. 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
The antithetic traits in St. Paul’s description between Christ and antichrist are thus happily traced by Dr. Gloag:
“The apostle evidently represents ‘the man of sin’ as the counterpart of Christ. It is antichrist (ο αντιχριστος, 1 John 2:18) who is here described. He is ‘the man of sin,’ the personification or incarnation of iniquity; whereas Christ is the righteous One, the personification of righteousness. He is the mystery of lawlessness; whereas Christ is the mystery of godliness. His coming, parousia, is described by the same word as the coming of Christ. He is represented as sitting in the temple of God, which is the proper seat of Christ. He shows or exhibits himself as God; whereas Christ is the true manifestation of the Godhead. His coming is after the working of Satan; whereas Christ’s coming is in the power of the Holy Ghost. He, under the influence of Satan, performs signs and wonders, but they are miracles of falsehood, the counterpart of the real miracles which Christ performed. In short, the kingdom of light, which Christ has established, has its counterpart in the kingdom of darkness.”—Pp. 1, 211.
We may then trace some of the phases of this historic antithesis between Christ and antichrist afforded by Scripture as follows: 1. In the garden of Eden, Satan, incarnated in, or in diabolical possession of, the serpent, is opposed to the Jehovah-Messiah, walking in the garden at the cool of the day—antichrist versus Christ. 2. At the temptation, Satan, in some fair guise, encounters Christ and offers him the secular kingdoms of the world—antichrist facing Christ again. 3. In the Apocalypse, next, incarnated in the great red dragon, the pagan-Roman empire personified, Satan stands in battle with the man-child—antichrist with Christ. 4. When that guise is demolished, infused into the beast, he becomes the power and soul of the papal Roman world and encounters the conquering Christ in Revelation 19:11-21—Christ versus antichrist. 5. Stripped of this guise he comes out the naked Satan, and is cast into prison a thousand years.
Revelation 20:1 to Revelation 6:6. At the close of the thousand years he emerges, probably incarnate in human form, leads the final apostasy and is destroyed. Revelation 20:7-10. It will be seen, perhaps, that this survey takes in and harmonizes nearly all the ancient patristic points with the modern Protestant.
We think that a true interpretation of both St. Paul’s brief Apocalypse and the fuller Apocalypse of St. John, will sustain this survey. The latter is a full supplement to the former. To St. Paul, the future presents but a few clear points from a dark background, just as in Acts 27:22, where see note. He professedly penetrates the future with a little knowledge in the midst of a great ignorance. He sees that the advent of Christ cannot fully come until after the advent of antichrist has come and gone; but how far in the future both are, or how far Christ’s advent is beyond antichrist’s, he does not see. He sees that antichrist cannot come, that is, the antichrist future to him, until the Roman empire ceases; but he does not see that the Roman empire is itself a previous objective antichrist, to whom his antichrist is successor, waiting his predecessor’s departure. This St. John’s Apocalypse will disclose. He sees the elements of his antichrist already working, but does not see that the antichrist to be destroyed by Christ’s advent is a succeeding and far-distant phase of his antichrist; and this development, too, St. John’s Apocalypse well unfolds.
1.Now—Rather, but. Paul has just vividly pictured the awful yet glorious advent; but their imagination must not bring that event into the present time.
By—A preposition of adjuration. It is so rendered by the Vulgate and many eminent critics, as in our translation. It may, then, mean, I pray you by that so stupendous event that you do not be discomposed by expectation of its immediateness. The ordinary meaning, however, of the Greek , is, in behalf of. The true sense, then, is neither by nor exactly concerning; but in behalf of that event, that it may not be covered with misrepresentations and false alarms.
Our gathering—Described in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
2.That—Depends upon beseech.
Soon—Hastily; as soon as the rumour reaches your ear.
Shaken—Tossed to and fro, as by billows of the sea.
In mind—Rather, from your intellect, in the higher sense; wise judgment, and so self-possession and composure.
By spirit—Neither a false understanding of the ancient prophecies, nor any sign by dreams is meant: but the declaration through the Spirit of some inspired Church member. Note on 1 Thessalonians 5:19.
Nor by word—Intelligence of some word or statement of ours.
Letter as from us—The as implies that the reference is not to his first epistle, but to some letter falsely rumoured as from him. St. Paul herein denies the having sent any such letter. Why, however, any one should forge a letter, or what motive there could be for the Church dishonestly to spread those false impressions, it is impossible to conceive. But it is plain that the Church was in high excitement under false rumours. The charismatic persons were led, by excitement, to imagine revelations, which it required the higher inspiration of the apostle to overmaster; and probably misinterpretation of his first epistle was shaped by rumour into the statement that an epistle had been received announcing the immediate advent.
Day of Christ—Better reading, of our Lord—The parousia, or second advent. Note on 1 Corinthians 15:23. The notion of any allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem, or of any double meaning in this prophecy, (as countenanced by Dr. Clarke,) is to be promptly rejected. See our notes on Matthew 24, 25.
At hand—The Greek is very strong: is present, is here. Probably a somewhat reproving hyperbole, as implying that their excited fancies made them feel and act as if the judgment throne were visible and already set! The true height of Christian calmness should prevent such billowy commotion, even if it were so; but the old man will often surge up and disturb the new man in us.
3.No man deceive you—Words very similar to those of our Lord.
Matthew 24:4. Deceive does not necessarily imply a deceptive purpose in the man.
By any means—The three above enumerated means, or any other.
That day shall not come—Critics agree that the italicised words, though not in the Greek, are properly supplied by our translators. A (or rather, the definite article the) falling away—The apostasy—the well-known apostasy. Not a political rebellion or revolt. The whole passage indicates that it is a religious apostasy from Christ, led by antichrist, the man of sin, leading to the most blasphemous opposition to God.
Man of sin—Not merely sinful man, but man made up of sin. He is concrete wickedness. A deep allusion to the Satanic character lying at the base of antichrist.
Son of perdition—Applied by Christ to the antichrist among his apostles, Judas. John 17:12.
4.Who opposeth—’ , the antagonist, one lying anti, or opposite. Antagonist to whom? To Christ. “For,” says Lunemann, “he is the forerunner of Christ’s advent, and has, as Christ’s counterfeit, an advent (parousia) and a revelation of himself; his works are the direct antithesis to Christ’s works, and it is by Christ’s appearing that he is abolished. This antagonist is, then, no other than antichrist. 1 John 2:18.” And it is curious to note that anti signifies, in the Greek, instead of, as commonly as it means opposed to; so that antichrist might as well mean substitute for Christ, or, in papal phrase, “vicar of Christ,” as antagonist of Christ.
Exalteth himself above’ God—Alford argues from this clause that the pope cannot be meant, because the pope, so far from placing himself above God, is an abject adorer of gods. Alford’s words are a feeble repetition of a Romanist argument. Says the Rhemish commentator: “How can the Protestants, then, for shame, and without evident contradiction, avouch the pope to be antichrist, who, as we say, honoureth Christ the true God with all his power, or, as they say, honoureth idols, and challengeth no divine honour to himself, much less to himself only, as antichrist shall do.
He humbly prayeth to God, and lowly kneeleth down in every church at divers altars erected to God in memory of his saints, and prayeth to him.
He saith or heareth mass daily, with all devotion; he confesseth his sins to a priest, as other poor men do,” etc. To Alford and the Rhemist it may be replied, 1. Alford mistranslates Paul’s Greek preposition , which signifies not so properly , above, as against. 2. If the prophecy is to wait for a being who literally exalts himself above the Omnipresent and Omnipotent, it waits an impossibility. No finite being can exalt himself above the infinitely high. The very thought is inconceivable. 3. The only possible meaning of exalting himself above God is to arrogate and usurp the attributes and authority of God over men; making his own laws the substitute of, or validating power for and over, the divine rule. Now the papacy has assumed the attribute of infallibility; it has manifestly and manifoldly, by virtue of that attribute, truly reversed and overridden the divine law. It holds itself as the giver of Scripture, and proceeds to overrule Scripture by its traditions. It claims, against and over and above the law of God, to absolve from sin. Nor does Alford at all invalidate the strange fact that the pope “creates the God he adores;” manufacturing a wafer when he pleases, and then by consecration transforming that wafer into God. To claim the power of creating God when he pleases is one of the most flagrant self-exaltations over God conceivable. Nor does the fact that he worships the God he has created invalidate the argument. The pagan idolater first makes his fetish and then worships it.
As God— Usurping divine attributes, such as infallibility, absolution, God-making. The best critics, however, omit these words.
Sitteth—Literally, Takes his seat, and by implication keeps it.
Temple of God—Not the Jewish temple, which is never called so in the New Testament, but unquestionably the Christian Church. See 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21. This seating himself in supremacy in the Church is a vivid picture of the inauguration of each new pope. Forthwith upon his election he enters St. Peter’s Church, the claimed temple of God; is lifted by his cardinals and placed upon the high altar. There he takes his seat, and is by them adored, kneeling on their knees and kissing his feet. Their technical term for this act is adoration; and the words on the papal coin are, Quem creant, adorant: Whom they create, they adore.
Is God—He is styled, “Dominus Deus noster papa; alter Deus in terra: The Lord God our pope: a second God on earth.” This antichrist, whoever he may be, then, occupies a high, a supreme, seat in the Christian Church. He cannot, therefore, be Nero, nor Mohammed, nor any mere secular prince or warrior.
5.Remember ye not—No reproof here, but one of several appeals to the memory of his readers, with which these epistles abound.
I told you— Probably not in his public preaching, but in private conversation. St. Paul, then, is not here giving them any new revelation, or any after-thought. He had told the Thessalonians at his first visit that events of unknown magnitude intervened between the present hour and the parousia.
6.Ye know—So that all the specific points, the characteristics of antichrist were already known to them.
What withholdeth—He who now letteth, or hindereth, or prevents from coming. This hindering, or holding back, is done (2 Thessalonians 2:7) both by a what, in the neuter gender, signifying a thing, and by a who, in the masculine, signifying a person. This thing and person, who thus hinder antichrist, his readers know; but St. Paul persists in not here naming it and him. Now there is a universal Christian tradition, held in the Greek, Roman, and Protestant Churches alike, which explains both the hinderer and the reason for this mysterious silence. The hindering thing was the Roman empire, and the hindering person was the emperor. And says Chrysostom, “If St. Paul had said that the Roman empire was to be destroyed, the heathen would have destroyed him as a rebel, and all the faithful with him as persons who took up arms against the Roman empire; and when that shall have been taken away, then the ‘man of sin’ will come.” Similar in very explicit terms (as given by Bishop Newton) were the views of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Lactantius, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine.
We have already said that John’s Apocalypse largely supplements this Apocalypse of St. Paul. With a great body of commentators, we identify this “man of sin” with the “beast” of Revelation 13; and the Roman empire with the great red dragon of 11 and 12. Each, as we have noted, is the antichrist, the historic guise of the personal Satan of his period. And we thus can understand why the man of sin cannot appear until the emperor disappears. For the beast antichrist cannot develop until the dragon antichrist has finished his career, both beast and dragon being guises and phases of the personal Satan.
When the dragon (Satan under insignia of the Roman empire) is cast down, his guise drops off, and he is the naked “Satan.” Revelation 12:9. He next infuses his “power” into the “beast,” and gives him his “seat” and external “authority.” Revelation 13:2. Though he does not merge his personality in the “beast,” yet he is the corporate soul of the organic monster, (papal Rome,) and constitutes it the regular successional antichrist of history. While the beast is in power, Satan is latent in him; but when the beast is destroyed by the conquering Christ, Revelation 19:11-21, (Christ versus Antichrist,) the naked Satan reappears, as at Revelation 12:9, is arrested, and cast into prison. At the close of the thousand years he makes his true literal, personal, incarnate parousia, and perishes before the divine parousia. He probably “deceives the nations” by professing to be the glorious Messiah, but turns out to be Satan-Messiah, such a Messiah as he tried to tempt Christ to be. Note on Matthew 4:8. He will exhibit all the traits described in this, St. Paul’s, Apocalypse in a far deeper atrocity than the more immediate subject, and will verify the primitive Christian belief of a personal “man of sin.” The climax of blended human and diabolic wickedness will be attained, and the “brightness of His coming” before the “great white throne” will cut it short.
7.The mystery of iniquity—As antithetical to “the mystery of godliness,”1 Timothy 3:16, which is the incarnation, including its kindred truths, the mystery of iniquity is Satanic possession, (see note on 2 Thessalonians 2:9,) with its kindred errors and lies, as described in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.
Now—Literally, already. Surprisingly early. This word hints at an unknown distance of development of existing seeds of guilty error.
Work—In-work, operating secretly and lurkingly in the minds of men. Same word as rendered working in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, where see note.
The seed doctrine here alluded to was the radical principle of Simon Magus, and the vital germ of Gnosticism, the inherence of all evil in matter alone. See note, Acts 8:9. This doctrine (note, Acts 6:5) had two sides to it. First, it could be said by one class of GNOSTICS, that the material body could be consigned over to all licentiousness, while the soul remained pure and holy; or, Second, it could be said by others that the body should be abhorred, scourged, starved, and ascetically crucified. Of the former of these two classes Conybeare and Howson say:
“Their immorality is the subject of constant animadversion in the writings of the Fathers, who tell us that the calumnies which were cast upon the Christians by the heathen were caused by the vices of the Gnostics. Irenaeus asserts that they said, ‘as gold deposited in the mud does not lose its beauty, so they themselves, whatever may be their outward immortality, cannot be injured by it, nor lose their spiritual substance.’—Iren., 6. 2, quoted by Burton. And so Justin Martyr speaks of heretics, who said ‘that though they lived sinful lives, yet, if they know God, the Lord will not impute to them sin.’—Tryph., 141. And Epiphanius gives horrible details of the enormities which they practised. Again, their addiction to magical arts was notorious. And their leaders, Basilides and Valentinus, are accused of eating idol-sacrifices (like the Nicolaitans of the Apocalypse) to avoid persecution.”—Vol, i, p. 453. Note on 1 Timothy 6:20.
Against the holders of this former view St. John affirms that any such denial of sin is untrue, 1 John 1:6-10; that the truly regenerate does not practice sin, 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9; that all transgression of law is sin, 2 Thessalonians 3:4; and he denounces these licentious hypocrites in Revelation 2:14, etc. The latter view led in the Corinthian Church to the denial of the resurrection of the body, (1 Corinthians 15:12-19;) in the Colossian Church to ascetic fastings, celibacies, and mysticisms, (Colossians 2:18;) and in Asia Minor generally to Docetism, or the denial of the unity of the Logos with a body of real flesh, condemned by1 John 4:3, and expressly identified by him with antichrist, “whereof ye have heard that it should come.”
St. John’s allusions to antichrist are, indeed, here very instructive. They are three: 1 John 2:18-22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7. In the last two antichrist is expressly identified with the last of these two classes of views. In the first we have three points: 1. That the coming of the antichrist was generally known to be predicted as taking place at the last time; 2. That there are many (without the article) elemental antichrists now; and, 3. From this it is inferred that it is a (without the definite article) last time. This is not asserting, as Alford ineffectually maintains, that the real antichrist, or the real advent, is approaching; but that some terminus is approaching analogous to the final catastrophe, (see note, 1 Timothy 4:1,) since there are some antichrists existing analogous to the final antichrist.
The above described asceticism, based on the inherent evil of matter, was wrought at a later period into the system of Gnosticism. Thence it was embraced in the Popish system in the form of clerical celibacy, abstaining from meats, bodily flagellations, and monasticism. The forbidding to marry, consummated by Pope Hildebrand, completed the absoluteness of the papacy, by cutting the clergy from all human ties and compacting them into a devoted hierarchy, profoundly servile to the pope. And the enactment of the dogma of the “immaculate conception” of the blessed mother by Pope Pius Ninth, in our own day, is the last articulate expression of the ascetic Gnosticism which was already working in Paul’s day.
8.Then—As soon as the hinderance is withdrawn. The Roman-pagan empire must disappear, before the Roman-papal power can disclose itself. The Roman emperor must cease before the Roman pope can commence supremacy. The great red dragon must be cast down before the beast can rise. One antichristic guise must be dropped before another can be assumed.
That Wicked—That Lawless; who overrules God’s laws and substitutes his own.
Revealed—Clearly alluding to the personal Satan. For as Christ is revealed, being pre-existent, so is this antichrist revealed, being pre-existent.
Consume’ destroy—We have now a vivid semi-poetic picture of the double destruction of antichrist. Our apostle, in the glow of inspiration, interrupts his description to hasten to the destruction. He has a moment of old Hebraic rapture, and gives us a splendid specimen of Hebraic parallelism:—
Shall consume with the breath of his mouth,
Destroy with the brightness of his coming.
But the Hebrew parallelism was not always the reiteration of the same thought, but two richly varied phases of the same subject. The subject here, as just noted, is the double destruction of antichrist, first under his beast guise, as in Revelation 19:12-21, and the second in his incarnate form, as in Revelation 20:7-10.
Consume with the spirit (or breath) of his mouth—An allusion to the beautiful words of Isaiah 11:4: “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” This figure is not to be degraded into a description of a physical or bodily destruction by an uttered word of Christ.
“The rod of his mouth” is the powerful truth that he utters to the world; and “the breath of his lips” is that divine doctrine by which the old man is slain that the new man may be born. This passage is virtually reproduced in Revelation 19:15: “Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations.” As a material image this would be very gross; but as an emblem of all-conquering truth going forth from the lips of Jesus, cutting and smiting down all before it, it is a parable of beauty. And so the entire passage (Revelation 19:11-21) is a picture of spiritual conquests and providential overrulings by Jehovah-Christ in behalf of his earthly kingdom. Kings, there, are, as in ancient prophecy, antitheistic dominations and organisms; the beast and false prophets are not so much men as antichristic systems; their overthrow is the emancipation of “the nations” of 2 Thessalonians 2:15, who are still existing in Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:8. This battle and overthrow are not the work of a day, but of an age; and it is the preparation for that predominance of Christ’s kingdom symbolized by the reign with Christ of the imparadised “souls” of the martyrs in the battle, who are enthroned over the world, Satan having been bound.
And—As the previous member of this parallelism describes Revelation 19:11-21, so the following corresponds with Revelation 20:7-10.
Destroy—Bring to naught. Not “annihilate,” as Alford (apparently following Lunemann’s vernichten) translates it; but, abolish, nullify. To “annihilate” would imply the putting the very elements of his being out of existence.
Brightness of his coming—The , by the resplendence of his parousia. Very flatly rendered by Alford “annihilated by the appearance of his coming.” It is by the epiphania, and not by the parousia, that antichrist is said to be destroyed. The word in the New Testament uniformly implies either physical or moral resplendence; as an adjective, Acts 2:20; as noun, 2 Timothy 1:10; as verb, Acts 27:20; Luke 1:79. In Revelation 20:9, antichrist’s armies are “devoured” by “fire out of heaven,” just before the parousia.
This interpretation does, with a slight yet effective variation, ratify the view taken of this parallelism by the best Protestant writers. Thus says Dr.
Gloat: “The spirit or breath of his mouth has been understood to denote the preaching of the pure gospel, the diffusion of the word of God, and the revival of evangelical doctrines, which will undermine popery. By the brightness of his coming is meant’ the final destruction of popery by the coming of Christ to judgment.” Substitute antichrist here for popery, embracing our historic-prophetic view of antichrist, and these words express our exposition of this parallelism. And so says Bishop Newton: “If the two clauses relate to two different events, the meaning manifestly is, that the Lord Jesus shall gradually consume him with the free preaching of his gospel, and shall utterly destroy him at his second coming.” The former began to take effect at the Reformation, and the latter will be accomplished in God’s appointed time.
And this puts into our hands a key for the solution of the most important section of the Apocalypse, Revelation 10-20. It is a tracing the history of the stages of contest between Christ and antichrist from the first to the second coming. The former appears under successive phases of his true Person, as man-child, conquering hero, and final judge; the latter lurks through various guises and exposures as dragon, beast, naked Satan, and incarnate anti-messiah. At the successive time-points the two, Christ and antichrist, meet; at every point Christ is increasingly victorious; until at last his glorious advent consigns the adversary to hell forever.
9.Even him—Italic words inserted by our translators to indicate that Paul returns from the destruction of antichrist back to a completion of his description of antichrist.
Whose coming—Antichrist is the caricature, the black shadow, of Christ. Like Christ, he has his parousia, his revelation.
Is after the working of Satan—Lunemann (followed by Alford) does not penetrate the full truth here; but he furnishes the interpretation that establishes it. The working of Satan, he says, does not mean activity after the model of Satan; but is “an energizing equivalent to a Satanic possession; that is, the devil in and through him works.” Alford says: “Satan being the agent who works in the lawless.” It is not a true incarnation, but a mock incarnation, a possession. So that here again antichrist is a mockery of Christ. The pattern of this possession is found in the demoniac of Gadara, Mark 5:9, (where see note,) where the man and demon are so identified, that predicates may be applied of the individual that suit either nature, or include both; just as in the divine unity of Christ predicates are affirmed often that suit one or the other nature, or both inclusive.
Power—The three terms here used present the miracle in three aspects, or three classes. Power is a miracle, as being a display of supernatural might; a sign is a miracle, as proof of a doctrine or authentication of a religious teacher; a wonder is a miracle viewed as an external marvel. We all know that popish history is full of professed miracles. Transubstantiation assumes to be a miracle of stupendous power; nothing less than transmuting a wafer into God! Even at the present day large communities are excited by rumoured miracles, and extensive pilgrimages are made to the scene of their performance.
Lying—This epithet properly characterizes all three classes.
Against identifying the man of sin with the papal power it is often objected that the Roman Church of the Middle Ages fills a large part of Church history, possessed a large amount of piety, and was the author of a large amount of good to mankind. This may all be cheerfully granted; for the text expressly says that it was in the very temple of God that he enthroned himself. The Western Church of the Middle Ages retained a large amount of Christian truth and power, by which she took the dead corpse of falling pagan Rome, and uniting it with the barbarians of Europe, whom she slowly civilized, laid the foundations of modern Europe and America. The churches and monasteries were built with much of holy purpose, and were largely the abodes of piety and learning. The schoolmen were among the moral and intellectual benefactors of mankind. All this proves that the Western Church could truly be called the temple of God. But to such a history there are two sides. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome are splendid objects in human history. They were human governments, and as such, “ordained of God,” and their rulers were “ministers of God.” And yet, on the other side, as idolatrous, apostate from God, despotic and worldly, they are in prophecy figured as “beasts.” And so in the very temple of God the papal power arose, forged the most stupendous falsehoods and the most abject superstitions, and thereon founded the most absolute despotism, sustained by the direst cruelties recorded in history. But this forbids not the trust that there is many a true saint in the Roman communion.
10.Deceivableness—Rather, deceivingness, actively taken; referring to the deceiving operations of the man of sin.
Of unrighteousness—The deceptiveness of his iniquity.
In them that perish—The objects of the unrighteous deception; literally, towards or upon them who are the perishing: namely, those who receive, and become partisans of, the iniquity of antichrist. They are now sinking to perdition.
Because—Reason why they are the perishing; first, they loved not the truth; secondly, they consequently believed not the truth; thirdly, they incurred from God these strong delusions to the belief of the deception of the man of sin, that they might be (not damned) but judged.
Received not the love of the truth— Back of their disbelief of truth was their hatred of the truth. And this hatred was voluntary and not necessary, for they received not—they rejected the possible predisposition towards the truth. Back of all was a free responsible will. For these followers of antichrist had, or might have had, knowledge of the true Christ. They were in the Church, as he was seated in the Church, 2 Thessalonians 2:4; and they were guilty of a falling away, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, an apostasy.
That they might be saved—The result which would have followed their choosing the love of truth.
11.For this cause—Namely, that they first hated and rejected the love of the truth.
Shall send—Rather, present tense, sends; or, as the mischief was already working while St. Paul was writing, is sending.
Strong delusion— Greek, a working of deception, that is, the deceiving operations of the man of sin. God, as God of providence, sends these deceptive operations as part of our probation; not to make us sinful, but to afford us means of trial, triumph, and salvation. St. Paul is full and formal in tracing their perdition and their being deceived to their own previous volitional and responsible act, and their mental state in consequence of that act. But for that state and act the delusion would have been no delusion. But, for those who hate the truth, the events sent by the providence of God will furnish ample grounds for being deluded, if they please. Note, Romans 8:11.
That they should believe a lie—Greek, to the result that they believe the lie. Men may infer, but the words do not say, that it was the divine intention that they should believe falsehood. It states only a result, a result which the believers were fully, as free agents, able to avoid. We reject the absurd statement of Alford, “whatever God permits, he ordains.” The non-prevention by God of the voluntary sin of a free agent is not the ordaining of it. All that St. Paul affirms here is, that God sends a working of deception (by its own will already existing) to these persons, who are voluntarily predisposed to it. One set of sinners gratifies the willingness to be damned of another set.
A lie—Rather, THE lie. The stupendous systematic lie of the “man of sin.”
12.That they all might be damned—Not damned, but judged. And damned if judgment justly goes against them. But a true translation should give only what the apostle says, and let the inferential results take care of themselves. God’s purpose is not that any man should be damned.
Believed not—St. Paul reiterates, as if anxious to secure a true view of man’s responsibility and God’s justice, that they were voluntary rejecters of truth which it was in their power to accept.
Had pleasure—Not from necessity, nor from God’s decree, but from free choice.
13.But—In contrast with the dark picture of 10-12, we are relieved with the beautiful portraiture of the believers of the truth in Thessalonica. St. Paul presents the divine side of their salvation, the human conditions being subordinately assumed.
From the beginning—From the first founding of the Thessalonian Church, when they were first called’ by our gospel, as said in 2 Thessalonians 2:14. This, in contrast with the unbelievers of 2 Thessalonians 2:10, who by their own rejection became victims of delusions, Lunemann, followed by Alford, interprets from eternity, a sense which the phrase never has in the New Testament. It is entirely uncritical to quote as they do such phrases “before the foundation of the world,” etc. Equally uncritical to quote St. John’s “In the beginning was the Word,” where the sense of eternity arises from the verb was, as see our note there. In the following passages the phrase is used, limited by the adjoining words to the commencement of human history with Adam. Matthew 19:4; Matthew 19:8; John 8:44; 1 John 3:8; Matthew 24:21; Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; 2 Peter 3:4. So, limited by the context to particular things, in Luke 1:2; John 15:27; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 2:7; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:11; 2 John 1:5-6; Acts 26:4.
Chosen—in consequence of faith, just as those of 2 Thessalonians 2:10 were rejected because of unbelief.
Through—The preposition of instrumentality. On the divine side God uses the free act of the creature’s faith as his instrument in bringing them to salvation. Sanctification of, or from, as agent, the Spirit— Depends on salvation. It was not, then, first justification by faith which was wrought through sanctification of the Spirit, as Lunemann strangely puts it. Such an idea as sanctification being the primary means of our being chosen is wholly unbiblical.
Belief of the truth—The firm permanent faith of the believer in contrast with the unbelievers of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.
14.Whereunto—Refers to the entire clause salvation’ truth.
By our gospel—Where the word our clearly limits it to Paul’s first preaching at Thessalonica, and fixes the meaning of from the beginning, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
Glory—At and beyond the advent.
15.Therefore—In view of the gracious things from the divine side, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, perform your duty of perseverance in faith.
Stand fast—In contrast with be shaken of 2 Thessalonians 2:2.
Traditions—His written or verbal deliverances to them. These traditions they had received from him personally. They have no connexion with the pretended traditions of the Romish Church, which have no valid proof of authenticity, and yet are reckoned by Romanists as authoritative part of “the word of God,” co-ordinate with the Scriptures.
16.Now—The heart of our apostle now ascends in prayer to God, for the completion of the hopes and exhortations he has uttered. His prayer ascends through the Mediator, Christ, to the primal fountain of all salvation, God.
Hath loved—For do not imagine that the Father is all justice, and Christ alone all love. Christ is the offspring of the Father’s love to us.
Consolation—Of which, as truly forlorn beings and condemned sinners, we stand in great need. This consolation must be also everlasting, for if it terminate we shall be as forlorn and lost as ever.
Good hope—By the divine assurance which sustains our consolation, given us through grace received by the mediation of Christ.
17.Comfort your hearts—By the present immediate application of that everlasting consolation.
Stablish you—By the rich inspiration of that good hope. In the performance of every good word we can utter and every good work we can perform.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany