Monday, March 3, 2014

Who is the Man of Lawlessness in (2 Thessalonians 2)?

This author has just finished a teaching a course on the book of 2 Thessalonians. A great deal of class time was devoted to answering this question. Through my study I have concluded that the Man of Sin/Lawlessness is most likely in reference to the persecutions that originated from the Roman Emperors. 

Other popular theories among God’s people include the Roman Catholic Papacy, the Jewish Priesthood or a future evil yet to be revealed. Scripture does not definitively identify the Man of Lawlessness, so one should not be overly dogmatic about any conclusion that they draw. Dr. Dan Owen does a good job identifying the Man of Sin in light of the context of 2 Thessalonians 2. His thoughts on this often controversial passage are as follows.
The second chapter concerns some misunderstandings that were evident among the Thessalonians regarding the return of Christ. Some of them were convinced that Jesus was going to return immediately. Because of this belief, they had quit their jobs and become idle. Paul dispelled this belief by saying that Jesus would not return until two things happened. First, the “apostasy” or the “rebellion” must occur. Secondly, and in conjunction with the apostasy, the “man of lawlessness” must be revealed. There has been much wild speculation about what Paul had in mind here. The Scriptures are the best commentary. 
The most reasonable and biblical explanation of this has to do with the rise of the great persecutions from the Roman emperors in the first three hundred years of Christianity. The emperor cult grew very strong and emperors demanded that their citizens worship them as gods to demonstrate their loyalty. Those who would not do this were subjected to terrible persecutions, especially during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Decius, and Diocletian. The book of Daniel foretold all of this in Daniel 7. The Book of Revelation confirms that it happened. 
As 2 Thessalonians 2:4 states, these emperors literally placed themselves in the position of God and demanded to be worshiped. They actually built temples for their own worship and called upon people to worship them as gods. Those who promoted the emperor cult did lying signs and wonders to convince the people of the emperor’s deity. A comparison of Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2 demonstrates that “the Beast” of Revelation 13 is the same as the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2. The great “apostasy” refers to the great falling away that occurred when many Christians denied their faith in the face of this terrible persecution. The entire book of Revelation deals with how Christ eventually destroyed the Roman empire and brought peace to his people. 
A key passage in this chapter is 2:8-9. Here it says that Jesus will overthrow the man of lawlessness by the breath of his mouth at the splendor of his coming. The NIV translates this “by the splendor of his coming,” making it seem like we are talking about the coming of Jesus. In fact, the “coming” in view is not the coming of Jesus but the coming of the lawless one. As verse 9 begins, the text reads “whose coming is according to the work of Satan…” This does not refer to the coming of Jesus but the coming of the man of lawlessness. What the passage is saying is that at the height of his coming (the coming of the great Roman emperors) Jesus will destroy him. This is what happens in Revelation 19, which Christ and his armies destroy the “Beast” and his armies. It is talking about the destruction of the Roman empire. This is what had to happen before Jesus would return. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm and hold to those teachings they had received from him whether in person or by letter. (Owen, Dan - Study Your Bible Online - StudyYourBibleOnline.com).
Final Thoughts

Let’s be careful to not be overly preoccupied with questions that the Bible says little on. Often times we spend so much time on the controversial questions that we neglect the purpose of Biblical instruction. The Man of Sin is designed to illustrate a bigger point in 2 Thessalonians. That point is do not be “shaken” or “deceived” by false teaching about the 2nd Coming of Jesus.

By Cliff Sabroe 

Will the mentally handicapped go to Heaven?

This question is a little broad considering the number of different conditions that may fall under the umbrella of “mentally handicapped” or “disabled”. This question usually arises in a situation where a person is wondering if a loved-one with limited abilities will ever be able to truly “believe” and “obey” God. This post will provide a couple different thoughts to consider when faced with this question.

#1 God is loving, kind and just.

God has compassion for the less fortunate. Throughout Scripture the disabled are shown to be worthy of care. It would be contrary to God’s compassionate character for Him to condemn an individual for not doing something that they were incapable of doing. God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), and He will do everything consistent with His character to make that happen. 

God does require a person to “believe and be baptized to be saved” (Mark 16:16), however, there are some who are incapable of true belief in the Lordship of Christ. I do not believe that a loving God who wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), would punish a person for not doing something they are incapable of doing. Some mentally challenged individuals are unable to understand salvation, but we can trust that a loving God would still take care of these precious souls.

#2 Children are innocent

Sin is what keeps a person out of heaven. It is not possible for a child to truly sin. Sin is a willful transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Sin is knowing the right thing to do but choosing to do wrong (James 4:17). A child may do bad things, but a child cannot commit sin that would separate them from God for all eternity. This principle would also apply to the mentally disabled.

Jesus emphasized the pure state of a child in (Matthew 18:1-5).
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me
It can be concluded, that even an adult (who due to a disability has the mental functions of a child), would also be considered pure in the sight of God.

Conclusion

Every situation is different, there are some individuals with impaired mental abilities who still have the capacity to believe and obey Jesus. On the other hand, there are some who have disabilities so severe that they may never understand God’s Word in anyway.

God’s people need to be kind, compassionate and patient with those, who through no fault of their own, have different disabilities or special needs. The church needs to be a place where these individuals, loved by God, receive love and care from their fellow man.

By Cliff Sabroe 
Quotes from NASB95