2 Thessalonians 2:4-6
2 Th 2:4 (KJB)
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Opposeth - To set against
Exalteth himself - To become conceited, arrogant, or lift oneself over others
Worshipped - Object of veneration or object of worship
Sitteth - Set down or sit down
Temple - Inner sanctuary of the temple such as the Holy of Holies
Showing - Display, demonstrate, or set forth
He is - In present tense, active voice, indicative mood
As we continue on in verse 4, we have the stage set for understanding this verse from verse 3. We saw that the man of sin does not refer to Satan but to any man or woman who brings a false gospel which leads only to destruction. In this verse we are going to see how these same people are literally usurping the place of God. The idea of man being a god has its roots back in the garden of Eden. When Satan had tempted Eve, he had tempted her with the highest temptation he could and that was claiming that if they ate from that tree, then they would be as gods.
(Gen 3:5 KJV) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
The word in Hebrew for “as gods” is “ke’lohim” which means “like gods.” In other words, they would not be God but they would be like Him and that was a superior exaltation which Satan had thrown down before them. Eve could not withstand the temptation, even though Satan had no power to force her to eat the fruit. So Eve ate the fruit and then gave some to Adam and that was the beginning of sorrows and man’s quest to become as gods.
(Gen 3:22 KJV) And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
After they ate the fruit, God had pronounced the consequences of their sin and we come to verse 22. God spoke of another consequence that in their sinful condition, if they ate of the tree of life, then they would have lived forever in a state of sin and rebellion against God. God had stated that since they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were now like gods, in the manner that they now knew the difference between good and evil. The words “as one” means “like one” and is the Hebrew word “ke’achadh.” Now man’s course was set in both good and evil. Now we progress to Genesis 6 concerning a group of mighty men which were known as “the men of renown.” Renown means “famous, exalted reputation, highly honored.”
(Gen 6:4 KJV) There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
Now to see if our definition applies we must look at Numbers 16:2:
(Num 16:2 KJV) And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
Numbers 16:2 confirms that the men of renown were both famous in the congregation and were called princes of the assembly. Now if you will notice in what milieu they are being identified, it is that of rebellion against Moses which ultimately was rebellion against God.
(Num 16:3 KJV) And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?
They had accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the congregation and that God was also among the congregation. What they said was a partial truth because God was among His people but Moses and Aaron were God’s direct representatives to the people and it was through them that God spoke to the people and gave them their instructions. Since we do not have any prophets today getting direct revelation from God, what we have is the completed word of God which is the direct representative of God’s instructions to His people.
(Num 16:32-33 KJV) And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. {33} They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
The result of Korah’s rebellion was that all of the men and their houses were all consumed in the earth by the judgment of the Lord. This is symbolic of judgment day when all those who oppose God and the truth will be consumed in a fiery hell. Now I went through this discourse to show that the men of renown are associated with evil and opposition to God.
Now let us return to 2 Thessalonians 2:4 concerning the temple. Now when the Lord Jesus Christ went back to Heaven in 33 A.D., His death signified the end of the Mosaic system of sacrifices. (Mat 27:51 KJV) And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; Matthew 27:51 confirms this fact because the veil in the temple, which separated the Holy of Holies was rent in two, from top to bottom, because this way no one can claim that a man did it. This happened at the moment Christ died on the cross. Now since there is going to be no more temple, even though it was still around when Paul penned 2 Thessalonians, he was not referring to this physical temple. The temple which he was referring to is defined in two ways. First, it is defined as the human body, and secondly, it is defined as the assembled body of believers.
(John 2:19 KJV) Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
In John 2:19, the Lord Jesus baffled the leaders in the temple as He drove out the moneychangers. That is when He told them that in three days He would raise this temple up if they destroyed the temple. They had their eyes on the physical temple while the Lord was speaking of His body. There was going to be a transition after His crucifixion and resurrection. No longer would there be any need for a physical temple because now God would be dealing with the entire world and not just one nation. The temple was only a foreshadow of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, once the anti-type came, the type was no longer needed.
(1 Cor 3:16-17 KJV) Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? {17} If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 speaks of the individual temple of the believer. If you notice that the individual body of the believer is directly called “the temple of God” three times. This is the first way that temple in the New Testament is defined. The second way that it is defined is by the assembly of those believers.
(2 Cor 6:16 KJV) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
It is interesting that in John 2:19, when the Lord speaks of His human body, he uses the term “naos” in the Greek. “Naos” means the inner sanctuary or where the Holy of Holies would be. In the Old Testament, the Lord dwelled in the Holy of Holies, but now He dwells in the body of each individual believer through the Holy Spirit who is the third person of the triune God.
(Acts 7:48 KJV) Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
When Stephen made his discourse, he made known that God does not dwell in temples made with hands and he was referring to the physical temple which was still in existence at that time.
(Acts 17:24 KJV) God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
Then Paul spoke to the Athenians and told them that the God who made the world does not dwell in temples made with hands and he was referring not only to the pagan temples he saw but also to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
Now if you remember that the book of 2 Thessalonians was written from Corinth, while Paul was there and shortly after that, about 54 A.D., he penned 1 Corinthians, so the idea of the temple of the body was still in his mind when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write 1 Corinthians and then 2 Corinthians which also mentions the temple of the body.
One other aspect which must be factored in is that the unbeliever also has a human body which is a temple. Since they do not have the Holy Spirit living in them, they are susceptible to satanic suggestion. It was Karl Marx who said that “man is God.” The New Age Movement teaches that man is God. When men sit in places of authority, they think of themselves as gods. So 2 Thessalonians 2:4 also speaks of the fact of the unbeliever who rejects God, yet he claims he is God. Since they disbelieve that God exists, they replace the God of this universe with the “god which is within them.”
(2 Thess. 2:4) Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Now let us go directly back to 2 Thessalonians 2:4. This verse is a continuation from verse 3 which ended with “son of perdition.” We saw that the son of perdition was one who brought false gospels and false teachings. Now to verse 4. The son of perdition, who brings false Gospels, brings what is opposing the true Gospel. Now those who bring the false gospels are normally the men of renown or the famous false teachers and preachers. These men have seminary degrees and are welcomed all over and they bring Gospels which are set against the true Gospel and they bring their human rationale and instead of looking at what God has said in the Scriptures, they bring new interpretations with new versions of the Bible stating that the real Bible has errors. They sit in judgment of God’s Holy Book and by doing that, they are usurping the place of God in the local churches and to the individual believers. If they claim God’s word is erroneous and they need to correct it, then they are showing that they are God, that is, they know more than God, which means when we analyze it, they are claiming to be God.
The Holy Spirit is the one who illuminates the passages of Scriptures for us but these men are not relying on the Spirit to do that, instead, they rely on their knowledge of Greek and Hebrew and what their seminary professors taught them. Remember, what Paul is fighting against here in 2 Thessalonians and that is the false teachings and teachers which have engendered the questions by the Christians. Now Paul states that these things will happen just prior to the Lord’s return. The continued attacks upon the truths of Scripture will continue until the last day, since the words “he is” is in the present tense which means it is always up to date and will always be happening. Now we see, just like the Thessalonians, who were the temple of God that these false teachers were trying to destroy the temple of God and that is because these false teachers are driven by Satan to oppose the things of God. We can see the unsaved in many pulpits and never before our generation has there ever been a push to place sodomites into the pulpit. Sodomy is an abomination unto the Lord and yet many denominations want to place them in their pulpits. This means that these churches are under direct satanic influence and if there are any believers in them, they must leave and seek to find real fellowship with other believers. This is how Satan is seated in the temple of God through his false teachers and the man of sin are the ones who bring the false gospels, who try to do their best to ruin or destroy the body of believers. If a Christian stays in that kind of environment, they will degenerate quickly in their spiritual lives.
Now I want to widen the application of the man of sin. They are not only found in the pulpits of many churches, they are found on the radio and TV bringing the false teachings to the individual believers who may be listening. Whenever we hear a teaching, it behooves the believer to make sure it is truth or else we will fall sway to false teachings. Just like Korah and his cronies who opposed the truth of God which was brought by Moses and Aaron, the man of sin opposes the truth of God by trying to rewrite it and over-justify it with swelling words.
2 Th 2:5 (KJB)
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
Here Paul states that when he was present with them that he told them that these things would happen but what they were concerned about was that the day of the Lord was close at hand and that is why Paul had to write to them that these things would happen right before the Lord’s return. Obviously, when Paul had preached, the false teachers were probably hearing him and waiting for their opportunity when Paul left, so they could twist his words and try to enslave the Thessalonians back into Judaism or into another false religion. Unfortunately, when words are spoken, they can be lost after they leave your ears and if someone is astute in false teachings, can do what Satan did to Eve, “Yeah hath Paul said?” He who has ears to hear.
2 Th 2:6 (KJB)
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
Withholdeth - Restrains
Revealed - Disclosure or manifestation
Paul now speaks of the revealing of “he.” Now who is the he that Paul is referring to? For a while we have seen that Paul was explaining to the Thessalonians concerning the timing of the Lord’s return which would be preceded by the great falling away and the revealing of the man of sin. Now we are going to focus on the man of sin behind the man of sin. This is none other than Satan. Since all false gospels are brought by unbelievers and unbelievers are in the camp of Satan. Satan is referred to as a man in Isaiah 14:16.
(Isa 14:16 KJV) They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
The word behind “the man” in the Hebrew is “Ish” which is the Hebrew word for man. Now because Satan is referred to as a man of sin does not mean he is the physical man of sin in 2 Thessalonians. In Isaiah 14:16, Satan is looked upon as if he is just as a man and not some mighty spirit because Isaiah 14:16 is looking at the time in the future when Satan will be brought down. Satan is a spirit and will never become flesh and blood. 2 Thessalonians 2:6 is focusing upon him at this point that he has a specific time when he will be manifested.
There are two basic things which are restraining him at this time, which means that he does not have the power to wage full war against the Kingdom of God. The first thing that is restraining him is the fact that he was bound at the cross. No longer could Satan ever stop someone from becoming saved. Just look at the salvation progression.
When Christ was on earth, He only had 12 disciples. Then when He went back to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, then we saw increasing numbers of those who became saved:
(Acts 1:15 KJV) And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
(Acts 2:41 KJV) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
(Acts 4:4 KJV) Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
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(Acts 8:1 KJV) And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
The second thing which restrains Satan is the fact that his timing for manifestation has been established by God to the time just before the Lord Jesus Christ returns. We see this very clearly in Revelation 20:7-9:
(Rev 20:7-9 KJV) And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, {8} And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. {9} And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
According to Revelation 20:7-9, Satan will be loosed once again, right at the end of time and will go out to deceive the nations again. We saw that the main theme of 2 Thessalonians 2 is deception and apostasy. When Satan is loosed from being bound, his weapon of choice is going to be deception and in our day, deception is running rampant among Christians and Christianity. This would indicate that Satan has been loosed and is now in the little season which comes right before the Lord’s return.
(Rev 20:3 KJV) And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
In Revelation 20:9, it states that Satan is going to target the body of believers and make war against them. He will do this by assaulting the body of believers with false gospels through his false teachers or men of sin. Luke 21:20-21 speaks of this very time that we are in.
(Luke 21:20-21 KJV) And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. {21} Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
The Jerusalem which will be compassed or surrounded by armies is not the physical Jerusalem but is the spiritual Jerusalem which is the body of believers. It is going to be an army of unbelievers with false gospels. We are to flee from them for our spiritual lives. The man of sin will begin to take over and remove the truths from churches, ministries, missions and whatever organization we are linked to and if they go apostate, then we are to flee from them to the truth of Scripture. (Prov 23:23 KJV) Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding. We must stay with truth and never sell it, that is, compromise with false gospels or false teachers.
The second part of Revelation 20:9 states that when Satan surrounds the body of believers or invades them with false gospels to the point there is almost no truth left, then cometh the end when the Lord returns and Satan will be destroyed.
To summarize this verse the two things which are holding Satan back is the timing of God and the binding of Satan, and when all the Elect are saved, then the end comes.