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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Man of Sin
( ὁ ἄνθρωτος τῆς ἁμαρτίας ,
1. The Pauline Description:
The name occurs in Paul's remarkable announcement in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 of the manifestation of a colossal anti-Christian power prior to the advent, which some of the Thessalonians had been misled into thinking of as immediately impending ( 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ). That "day of the Lord," the apostle declares, will not come till, as he had previously taught them (2 Thessalonians 2:5 ), there has first been a great apostasy and the revelation of "the man of sin" (or "of lawlessness"; compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8 ), named also "the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3 ). This "lawless one" (2 Thessalonians 2:8 ) would exalt himself above all that is called God, or is an object of worship; he would sit in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4 ). For the time another power restrained his manifestation; when that was removed, he would be revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:6 , 2 Thessalonians 2:7 ). Then "the mystery of lawlessness," which was already working, would attain its full development (2 Thessalonians 2:7 , 2 Thessalonians 2:8 ). The coming of this "man of sin," in the power of Satan, would be with lying wonders and all deceit of unrighteousness, whereby many would be deceived to their destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:9 , 2 Thessalonians 2:10 ). But only for a season (2 Thessalonians 2:6 ). Jesus would slay (or consume) him with the breath of His mouth (compare Isaiah 11:4 ), and bring him to nought by the manifestation of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8 ).
2. The Varying Interpretations:
Innumerable are theories and speculations to which this Pauline passage has given rise a very full account of these may be seen in the essay on "The Man of Sin" appended to Dr. J. Eadie's posthumous Commentary on Thessalonians , and in Lunemann's Commentary , 222 ff, English translation). (1) There is the view, favored by "moderns," that the passage contains no genuine prediction (Paul "could not know" the future), but represents a speculation of the apostle's own, based on Daniel 8:23 ff; Daniel 11:36 ff, and on current ideas of Antichrist (see ANTICHRIST; BELIAL; compare Bousset, Der Antichrist , 93 ff, etc.). This view will not satisfy those who believe in the reality of Paul's apostleship and inspiration. (2) Some connect the description with Caligula, Nero, or other of the Roman emperors. Caligula, indeed, ordered supplication to be made to himself as the supreme god and wished to set up his statue in the temple of Jerusalem (Suet. Calig . xxii. 33; Josephus, Ant. ,
It seems safest, in view of the difficulties of the passage, to confine one's self to the general idea it embodies, leaving details to be interpreted by the actual fulfillment.
3. The Essential Idea:
There is much support in Scripture - not least in Christ's own teaching (compare Matthew 13:30 , Matthew 13:37-43; Matthew 24:11-14; Luke 18:8 ) - for the belief that before the final triumph of Christ's kingdom there will be a period of great tribulation, of decay of faith, of apostasy, of culmination of both good and evil ("Let both grow together until the harvest," Matthew 13:30 ), with the seeming triumph for the time of the evil over the good. There will be a crisis-time - sharp, severe, and terminated by a decisive interposition of the Son of Man ("the manifestation of his coming," the Revised Version margin "Gr presence"), in what precise form may be left undetermined. Civil law and government - the existing bulwark against anarchy (in Paul's time represented by the Roman power) - will be swept away by the rising tide of evil, and lawlessness will prevail. It may be that impiety will concentrate itself, as the passage says, in some individual head; or this may belong to the form of the apostle's apprehension in a case where "times and seasons" were not yet fully revealed: an apprehension to be enlarged by subsequent revelations (see REVELATION ,
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Man of Sin'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/m/man-of-sin.html. 1915.