SUMMARY.--Not to Be Troubled Supposing the Day of the Lord at Hand. An Apostasy Must First Come. Then the Revelation of the Man of Sin. The Wicked One Destroyed at the Lord's Coming. Exhortation to Stand Fast.
This chapter is written to remove misapprehension on the subject of the Lord's coming. It shows that it might not be expected until certain events have taken place. These are, (1) A falling away, or apostasy; (2) The removal of some power which hindered the manifestation of the man of sin; (3) The manifestation of the man of sin, and following this, the coming of the Lord. He had told them of these things while with them (verse 5), but now writes more fully. He does not seek to show all, but some of the events which will precede Christ's coming.
1, 2. By the coming. Rather, concerning the coming. His importunity is respecting this and "the gathering of the saints." 2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind. Be not agitated, or in distress (troubled). Neither by spirit. By some one who says he has a revelation of the Spirit. Nor by word. Nor by one who claims to quote a word or letter from us. It is thought that a forged letter had been circulated to which Paul alludes. In the close of this Epistle he shows how his letters may be known to be genuine. Some suppose, however, that by "letter" he refers to an incorrect interpretation which was placed on his first letter.
3. Except there come a falling away first. An apostasy must precede the Coming. That is, there shall be a general falling away from the purity of the faith. No apostasy of magnitude occurred in the history of the church for centuries, which could answer to Paul's description, but the gradual declension, corruption, and departure from the ancient faith, which was fully developed a few hundred years later, has always been spoken of by Protestant church historians as The Apostasy. There is no good reason for doubting that it is to the apostle refers. And that man of sin be revealed. He shall be revealed then in connection with the apostasy. The son of perdition. This expression occurs once elsewhere, and is there applied to Judas, an apostate. Here it evidently has a similar application. Some power, once Christian, falls away and becomes opposed to Christ.
4. Who opposeth and exalteth himself. I shall endeavor in a few words to identify this power. Various explanations have been given, but there is only one power that exhibits all the marks given by Paul. Observe these: (1) The man of sin exalts himself above God. (2) He sits in the temple, that is, in the church, for that is always the sense in which Paul uses the term. He is a church power. (3) He claims powers that only belong to divinity. (4) He shows off signs and lying wonders (verse 9); or, in other words, lays a claim to miraculous powers. Every one of these marks applies to the papacy: (1) Its development was simultaneous with that of the apostasy. (2) Its development was let (hindered) until the pagan Roman empire fell, but was rapid after it was taken out of the way (verse 7). (3) The papacy has set aside divine laws and has made other spiritual laws to bind men, and has claimed divine prerogatives. A newly-elected Pope is adored and styled "Lord God, the Pope." (4) It is in the temple of God, that is, it arose in the church, and still claims to be the "Holy Catholic Church." (5) The claim of Infallibility is "sitting as God in the temple." (6) The papacy has always claimed miraculous powers, and it is a fact well known that it has often worked off lying wonders (verse 9). No fact is better established than that the hierarchy of the church have often deceived by false miracles. Indeed, these have often been detected and explained.
6-10. Ye know now what withholdeth. They knew because Paul had told them when with them. We have not that advantage, but I believe that he told them that this development could not take place until pagan imperial Rome fell. We know that it did withhold, or prevent it. 7. For the mystery of iniquity. This revelation of the man of sin. It was a mystery, that is, something yet hidden. Doth already work. Causes are beginning to work which will lead to it. Only he who now letteth. He that hindereth must first be taken out of the way. There was no room for an arrogant spiritual power in Rome as long as imperial Rome continued to persecute the church. A persecuted church cannot be a haughty church. Two things were needful before the papal power could be developed; viz., the overthrow of paganism, and the removal of the capital of the Empire from Rome. When these things were done, it was free to seize the old Roman scepter. 8. Then shall that Wicked be revealed. After the hindering power is removed. Whom the Lord shall consume. The Wicked power will be destroyed by the Lord's coming, and will continue to exist, possibly, until that event. 9. Whose coming. That of the Wicked power. Is after the working of Satan. That is, it will deceive men as Satan does. Lying wonders. False miracles. 10. Deceivableness of unrighteousness. Unrighteous delusions which will be accepted by its votaries, them that perish. Those that perish, receive not the love of the truth. They have a disinclination to receive it.
11, 12. For this cause God shall send them strong delusion. Because they do not receive the truth. He who refuses to receive the truth will at last believe lies. It is the law of human nature. God sends the delusion by natural laws. 12. Be damned. Because "they had pleasure in unrighteousness."
13-17. Chosen you to salvation. In contrast with those who fall victims to the man of sin, the Thessalonian Christians had been chosen to life. From the beginning. From the beginning God had determined on the salvation of the Gentiles, and arranged the plans by which they were saved. See notes on Romans, chapter 9, for a full discussion of this subject. Through sanctification of the Spirit. This clause tells how God chose them to salvation. To this there are two sides, the human and the divine. On the human side they believed the truth. On the divine side, God sanctified them by the Spirit. He had chosen from the beginning all that believe and accept the truth. 14. Whereunto he called you. See how God calls! It is by the gospel. 15. Therefore, stand fast. In view of your calling. Hold the traditions. Instructions. 16. Everlasting consolation. God's consolations are eternal in their effects.