THE MAN OF SIN
Few Biblical prophetic terms have stirred people as much as the one found in II Thes 2:3, namely the "man of sin". The common thought in the Churches of God today is that it concerns a person who will arise in the end time, just prior to Christ's return.
At least one major COG identifies the "man of sin" as a specific Church leader who went astray in recent times.
However, from the Reformation onwards, the standard view among non-Catholics was that the "man of sin" referred to the Papacy. The original introduction of the 1611 King James Bible openly refers to "that man of sinne" and "Popish Persons".
I believe that the traditional identification with the Papacy is the correct one.
Let's look at the text of II Thessalonians 2:1-12:
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
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, shewing himself that he is God.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (holds back) will let (hold back), until he be taken out of the way.
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Paul states in II Thes 2:7 that the mystery (of emerging false Christianity) was already at work in his time. In Acts chapter 8 we find evidence of this, as Simon Magus, or Simon the Magician, is introduced to us, and obviously for good reason. Eusebius' "Church History" adds more information about Simon, as well as his first successor, Menander (Church History 2:13-14 and 3:26). Eusebius says that Simon Magus reached Rome before any true apostle did.
We see therefore that false Christianity started up shortly after true Christianity. It took centuries, however, for false Christianity to become organised and state sponsored. Roman Emperor Constantine began the process of making the empire "Christian" in the early 4th century AD, and in the latter part of the 4th century Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the state religion. This meant that Christianity's leaders became subject to state approval and direction. Theodosius appointed various cities in his realm as Church administrative centres, and all major cities had their Bishops, or overseers. In the middle of the 6th century, Emperor Justinian reduced the number of major centres of Christian governance to five, in what was called the Pentarchy. These five cities were Constantinople, Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, which each had their leading "patriarch", also called father (Greek "pappas"). When Islamic forces captured most of the Middle East in the 7th century, only Constantinople and Rome were left as major Christian administrative centres in the Roman Empire. From that time on there were two leaders over the "Christian" world: the Patriarch of Constantinople, today known as the head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Pope of Rome.
For a long time, newly elected Popes of Rome needed to be ratified by the Roman Emperor, based in Constantinople, before they could be installed into office. The Pope would be elected in Rome, but the name of the candidate would have to be submitted to Constantinople for approval. This clearly shows who was in charge of the Empire.
In 684AD however, perhaps affected by a five year drawn out, but ultimately unsuccessful, siege of Constantinople by Muslim forces during the previous decade, Emperor Constantine IV issued an important edict that changed the religious power balance between Rome and Constantinople, as seen in the following quote from Wikipedia.
"John V was the first pope of the Byzantine Papacy consecrated without the direct imperial approval. Emperor Constantine IV had done away with the requirement during the pontificate of Benedict II, John V's predecessor" (Wikipedia page "Pope John V").
John V was installed as Pope in 685, making his first year in office 686.
From this point on, the Papacy was an independent power, or in Biblical language, a "horn".
To be precise, it was the "little horn" of Dan 7:25.
There are three crucial years in regard to the rise of the office of the "man of sin":
638AD, when the seventh head of the Beast powers, Mecca/Medina, captured Jerusalem from the sixth head, the Roman Empire headquartered in Constantinople.
661AD, when the first of the ten Islamic "horns", the Umayyad dynasty, began its reign over Jerusalem.
686AD, the first year of rule of the Roman Papacy independent of Constantinople.
These dates can all be seen on the chart on the "HOME" page.
The apostle Paul was a Pharisee and as such was well schooled in the Old Testament Scriptures. When he wrote about the "man of sin" in II Thessalonians, he wasn't talking about something new, rather he was referring back to the prophecies in Daniel 7 regarding the "little horn". This little horn was prophesied to emerge among ten horns or powers that were going to come out of the seventh head of the Beast.
The apostle John tells us in Rev 17:10, in regard to the Beast powers, that "five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come". It is clear that Paul already understood these things, and so he knew that it was not until Rome, the sixth head of the Beast, was "taken out of the way" (II Thes 2:7), and conquered in Jerusalem by the seventh head of the Beast, that the time of the "ten horns" could begin, among which the "little horn" was prophesied to emerge. As this little horn was described in Daniel 7:20 as having "eyes", a "mouth" and a "stout look", and it was said of him in verse 25 that he would change "times and laws" (teach people to transgress God's commanded times and laws), and persecute God's people, it is no wonder that Paul labels this power the "man of sin".
But more than this, Paul knew that this power was going to be around for a long time, as Dan 7:25 mentions "time, times and the dividing of time", or a period of 1260 years pertaining to it. Paul had written his first epistle to the Thessalonians, cautioning them to ready themselves for the return of Christ. Word had then got back to Paul that the Thessalonians thought that Christ would return soon. Paul thereupon wrote his second epistle to them, and mentions this concern in II Thes 2:1-2: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand."
Paul then continued to explain (in verse 7) that "he who (the power which) now letteth (holds back), will let (hold back) until he (it) is taken out of the way". In other words, the sixth head of the Beast, Rome, had to be taken out of the way before the seventh head of the Beast powers that rule Jerusalem, i.e. Mecca/Medina, could emerge with its ten horns, after which the "time, times and dividing of time" of the "little horn" could begin.
Paul understood the sequence of powers alluded to, and the long duration of time involved.
II Thessalonians goes on to state that God allowed the deception of false Christianity to emerge, as a test to His people. The office of the "man of sin" itself, one person ruling the Church, leads to such a person becoming an idol to people, and therefore places him in direct competition with Jesus Christ. History shows unequivocally the immeasurable evil inflicted by the "man of sin".
Just because a person comes with certain elements of Biblical truth, doesn't mean he should be followed in all he says and does, without question.
This is how people in God's Church can be, and have been, deceived. The Laodicean era of God's Church has unfortunately adopted far more tenets from Catholicism than most brethren realise. See the page "THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF GOD" for more information.
God, by allowing such "strong delusion" (II Thes 2:11), tests whether His people have a "love of the truth" (II Thes 2:10) or "have pleasure in unrighteousness" (II Thes 2:12).
II Thessalonians 2:8 indicates that Christ will destroy the office of the "man of sin" at His return.
Apart from identifying the "man of sin" in II Thes 2:3 as the Papacy, it is also perfectly logical to conclude that this same office of the Papacy is synonymous with "the Antichrist" mentioned in I John 2:18, and "the false Prophet" in Rev 16:13 and 19:20.