Jesus will destroy the evil works of the “Man of Lawlessness” and “paralyze” him at his “arrival” in glory – 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.
Next, Paul explains how Jesus will respond to the “man of lawlessness” at his own ‘parousia’ or “arrival.” In doing so, he employs language from Daniel’s vision about the wicked ruler he described as the “little horn speaking great things.” Originally, that image represented the Seleucid ruler who attempted to destroy the faith of Israel through deceit and persecution, Antiochus Epiphanes.
The Apostle defined both the “revelation” of this man AND the return of Jesus with the term, ‘parousia’ or “arrival.” This indicates the “arrival” of the former will be a counterfeit of the latter.
- (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) – “And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth, and paralyze with the appearance of his arrival, whose arrival shall be according to an in-working of Satan, with all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood, and with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves, because the love of the truth they did not welcome that they might be saved. And for this cause, God is sending them an in-working of error, to the end, they should believe in the lie; in order that they should be judged who would not believe in the truth, but were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.”
“Whom the Lord will slay with his mouth,” a clause alluding to the vision of the “little horn” from Daniel, and to the messianic prophecy from the Book of Isaiah:
- (Daniel 7:11, 26) – “I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame… But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.”
- (Isaiah 11:4) – “And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit… And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the spirit of his lips shall he slay the wicked one.”
In Daniel, the “little horn” was destroyed, and consequently, the “saints” began to “possess” the kingdom. The schemes of that evil ruler were undone when the “Ancient of Days” rendered judgment on behalf of the “saints.”
“And paralyze with the forth-shining of his arrival [parousia], whose arrival [parousia] shall be according to an in-working of Satan.” Both “arrivals” are labeled with the Greek noun parousia. The language echoes the descriptions of the “little horn” in Daniel:
- (Daniel 8:23-25) – “In the after time of their kingdom, when transgressions have filled up their measure, there will stand up a king of mighty presence, and skillful in dissimulation; and his strength will be mighty, but not through his own strength, and wonderfully will he destroy and succeed and act with effect, and will destroy mighty ones, and the people of the saints; and by his cunning will he both cause deceit to succeed in his hand, and in his own heart will he shew himself to be great, and by their careless security will he destroy many, and against the ruler of rulers will he stand up, but without hand shall be broken in pieces.”
- (Daniel 11:36-45) – “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished… Yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
“In-working” or energeia, a Greek term that occurs in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters, always to refer to the effectual working or “energizing” of either God or satanic powers. Thus, something beyond the “man of lawlessness” will be working within him. The same word is applied to the deception that God will send to men and women who refuse to receive the truth – (“For this cause, God is sending them an in-working of error.” Ephesians 1:19, 3:7, 4:16, Philippians 3:21, Colossians 1:29, 2:12).
“Whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze with the appearance of his arrival.” The Greek term rendered “slay” or analiskō means “to consume, to use up.” “Paralyze” or katargeo signifies rendering something “inactive; to deactivate.” Here, it provides the opposite effect of the “in-working” of Satan. Jesus will “deactivate” the “energizing” of Satan in the “man of lawlessness.” The point is not his destruction, but the voiding of Satan’s efforts.“
Appearance” or epiphaneia occurs in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters and consistently for the “appearance” of Jesus at the end of the age – (1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 4:8, Titus 2:13).
“With all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood.” The language echoes the saying of Jesus from his ‘Olivet Discourse’:
- (Matthew 24:24) – “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
Christ did not deny the genuineness of such “signs and wonders,” but their purpose was to deceive “the elect.” Likewise, in Thessalonians, “wonders of falsehood” does not mean phony miracles, but ones performed to deceive. This understanding is confirmed by the next clause, “and with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness, in them who are destroying themselves.” Believers will be deceived by the very real miracles performed by the “man of lawlessness” because “they did not welcome the love of the truth.”
“Them who are destroying themselves.” The Greek verb is either in the middle (“destroying themselves”) or passive voice (“them who are being destroyed”). The point is not that some men are predestined for destruction, but many will be destroyed because of their refusal to believe the truth. Behind the image lies a warning from Moses. Regardless of how impressive or real a miracle is, if the man performing it steers God’s people to follow other gods, his “ministry” must be rejected – (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).
Paul is discussing two events that must precede the “day of the Lord,” the unveiling of the “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy.” The men who are “not welcoming the love of the truth” are consciously rejecting it. This refers to men and women who apostatize from the true faith.
It is for “this cause” – Not welcoming the truth – that this group will be destroyed. Implicit is that they heard and understood the truth BEFORE rejecting it, therefore, they will be judged for refusing to believe “in the truth and were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.” The description should be compared to Paul’s other warnings to Timothy about the coming apostasy – (1 Timothy 4:1,2 Timothy 4:2-4).
Throughout the chapter, Paul is not discussing sinners in general or the plight of fallen humanity. Instead, he is describing the future destruction of the “Man of Lawlessness” and those who apostatize because of his deceptive activities. Thus, the Apostle links the arrival of the “Man of Lawlessness” inextricably with the “Apostasy.”