Bringing the “Man of Lawlessness” to Nothing
1. Why, never before now, has there been a demand of so many people for peace between nations?
NEVER before has there been such a demand by so many people for peace between the nations. Apparently it is because we are living in the “nuclear age,” with already five leading nations possessing the nuclear bomb and many more nations destined to become possessors of the nuclear bomb shortly as the secret of it becomes more widely known and made use of. Nuclear bombs now menace mankind not only from missile sites on dry land but also from missile-launching submarines lurking at strategic places under the waters of the seas.
2. What unusual maneuverings for international peace do we therefore witness today?
2 It is no cause for amazement, then, to behold political rulers making what appear to be honest efforts to prevent the first nuclear war. Faced with a real nuclear holocaust, world rulers incline to become more considerate in their attitudes toward one another. Compromising peace-oriented measures are taken by hitherto intransigent foes of one another. More and more it is being felt that everything must be done to guarantee the peace of the future. Hope rises of “peace for a generation.” The 1973 Conference on European Security and Cooperation of thirty-four nations evidences international feeling on the matter. The aim is to curb international lawlessness!
3. (a) The current of world affairs seems to be nearing the state where what self-congratulatory cry will be raised? (b) Whose day will then be at hand, and why will it be a surprise to those crying out?
3 The current of world events appears to be flowing toward the situation when men in control of affairs will jubilantly cry out in a self-congratulating way, “Peace and security!” When that stage of affairs is reached, under the benign approving smile of the United Nations, does it mean the start of a “generation of peace for mankind”? Bible prophecy has a word to say on the matter. It has much to say on the times and seasons for things to occur, because the Bible’s Author, man’s Creator, is a Timekeeper. He will have His day! The seeming success of international politics in at last establishing “peace and security” will not postpone His day. His day is not set by men. Their very arranging of an international accord on the basis of which they feel justified in crying out, “Peace and security!” will be the foretold sign that His day is ready to dawn. What it brings will surprise mankind. Their surprise will be because they have not believed what he predicted in his Word and what he has had proclaimed by his witnesses.
4. What did Paul write to the Thessalonian Christians about the time of crying out, “Peace and security!”?
4 Centuries before now there were searchers of His inspired Word of prophecy who were looking for the coming of His day. Nineteen hundred years ago the apostle Paul wrote to the newly established Christian congregation in Thessalonica, Macedonia, and said to those Bible researchers: “Now as for the times and the seasons, brothers, you need nothing to be written to you. For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day* is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape. But you, brothers, you are not in darkness, so that that day should overtake you as it would thieves, for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We belong neither to night nor to darkness. So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.”—1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.
5. (a) Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonian Christians about midway during a period for which Jesus predicted what? (b) Yet some of them thought that what was near, and they inclined to wanting what?
5 The apostle Paul wrote that first letter to the congregation in Thessalonica, Macedonia, about the year 50 C.E. That was about midway in the time period from 33 C.E. to 70 C.E., the period that Jesus Christ in his prophecy on the Mount of Olives said would be marked by “wars and reports of wars,” for, during that period, “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” Anything but a peaceful time. (Matthew 24:4-7) And yet, during the year that followed Paul’s writing of his first letter, there came to be Christians in Thessalonica who yielded to the impression that “the day of Jehovah is here.” And yet there is no evidence that during that time, 50/51 C.E., men of affairs were saying, “Peace and security!” the saying that, as Paul had written in his letter, was immediately to precede the coming of “sudden destruction” on the peacemakers of the world. The Thessalonian Christians were going through a time of tribulation because of persecution from religious opposers, and they inclined toward wanting to be gathered at once to heaven to be with the Lord Jesus Christ and away from trouble.
6, 7. Because they needed to demonstrate faith under further tribulation, what did Paul write to those Thessalonians?
6 Consequently, about the year 51 C.E., the apostle Paul deemed it advisable to write the Thessalonian Christians another letter in order to restore their spiritual equilibrium. He expressed pleasure at their endurance and faith under persecution and tribulation and said: “This is a proof of the righteous judgment of God, leading to your being counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering.” He did not assure them that they would shortly be relieved of the troublemakers, but pointed forward to the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels.” Realizing that they had to go on demonstrating their Christian faith under difficult circumstances, he said:
7 “To that very end indeed we always pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling and perform completely all he pleases of goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in union with him, in accord with the undeserved kindness of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”—2 Thessalonians 1:5-12.
8. That their expectations might not be disappointed in connection with Jerusalem’s coming destruction, Paul requested them not to get excited over what idea?
8 The destruction of earthly Jerusalem (in 70 C.E.) was approaching, within that generation, and the apostle Paul did not wish the Thessalonian Christians to be disappointed in their unfounded expectations before or immediately after that Jewish national calamity. Seeing the need to readjust their thinking, he now proceeded to write: “However, brothers, respecting the presence [Greek: pa·rou·siʹa] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of you not to be quickly shaken from your reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here.”—2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2.
9. In his first letter, what did Paul tell the Thessalonians about Christ’s presence and about Christians being gathered to him?
9 Along with his fellow missionaries Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy, the apostle Paul had founded that congregation at Thessalonica, and in his first letter after he was obliged to leave the congregation he wrote to them about what he calls the “presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 he wrote: “For if our faith is that Jesus died and rose again, so, too, those who have fallen asleep in death through Jesus God will bring with him. For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Consequently keep comforting one another with these words.”
10, 11. From the apostle Matthew’s account of Christ’s life, what feature of his prophecy might have been called to their attention?
10 Besides such information through Paul, the Gospel of Matthew was circulating by that time, it having been written about the year 41 C.E., in Hebrew as well as in the common Greek of the first century C.E. So it is possible that the congregation in Thessalonica had had called to their attention what the apostle Matthew had recorded of Jesus’ prophecy on the Mount of Olives. Matthew’s account tells that, after Jesus had foretold the destruction of Jerusalem (in 70 C.E.), he went on to say:
11 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.”—Matthew 24:29-31.
12. (a) Did Paul expect the gathering of the Christians to the heavenly Christ immediately after Jerusalem’s destruction? (b) What did Paul remind them must come first before the destructive day of Jehovah?
12 Now the apostle Paul knew that right after the destruction of Jerusalem within that generation the gathering of God’s chosen ones by the angels under the glorified Son of man would not occur, resulting in a gathering of the Christians in Thessalonica together to the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew that, before the arrival of the destructive “day of Jehovah,” more had to occur than the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the deceptive cry of “Peace and security!” on the part of political rulers. This additional preliminary thing the apostle Paul reminded the Thessalonian Christians of, in these words: “Let no one seduce you in any manner, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.”—2 Thessalonians 2:3.
13. (a) What did Paul not mean by the word “apostasy”? (b) How did Paul know what the word meant by himself having been accused of apostasy?
13 Ah, yes! First there must come an apostasy. What did the apostle Paul mean by “apostasy”? Did he mean a mere careless falling away, a dropping off indifferently of Christ’s disciples as respects the Christian faith and practice? No! The word means something far stronger. The apostle Paul knew that. Why, he himself was accused of being guilty of apostasy, but that accusation was made by the unbelieving circumcised Jews. That is why, on his last visit to Jerusalem, Paul was given counsel by the governing body of the Christian congregation for a stated reason, namely: “You behold, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews; and they are all zealous for the Law. But they have heard it rumored about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses, telling them neither to circumcise their children nor to walk in the solemn customs. What, then, is to be done about it? In any case they are going to hear you have arrived [Greek: e·leʹly·thas]. Therefore do this which we tell you.” (Acts 21:18-23) For Paul to turn his back on Moses meant apostasy, in Jewish minds.
14. What does the original Greek word literally mean, in itself, and what meanings has it taken on?
14 According to the Greek word used, “apostasy” means, literally, “a standing off from,” “a departing,” “a withdrawing.” For instance, we read, in Luke 8:13: “In the time of testing they desert.” (NE) Also, in 1 Timothy 4:1: “In after times some will desert from the faith.” (NE; Je) “Certain people will rebel against the faith.” (Mo) Also, Hebrews 3:12: “See to it, brothers, that no one among you has the wicked, faithless heart of a deserter from the living God.” (NE) “Brothers, take care lest there be a wicked, unbelieving heart in any of you, moving you to be apostates from the living God.” (Mo) “A wicked, unbelieving heart, that turns away from the ever-living God.” (AT; Je) So, to the ancient Greeks, their word from which our “apostasy” is derived meant a “defection” or “revolt,” as well as “departure; disappearance.” This is why some modern translations convey the thought of “rebellion” at 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
15. How do modern translations show that a strong view is taken of the word “apostasy”?
15 For example, the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible there reads: “It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared.” An American Translation reads: “For that is not until the rebellion takes place and the embodiment of disobedience makes his appearance—he who is doomed to destruction.” The Revised Standard Version reads: “For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition.” Moffatt renders it: “It will not come till the Rebellion takes place first of all, with the revealing of the Lawless One, the doomed One.” And The New English Bible reads: “That day cannot come before the final rebellion against God, when wickedness will be revealed in human form, the man doomed to perdition.” From these various renderings of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 we can see that a strong view is taken of the word “apostasy.”
16. (a) How do we know from what it is that the apostasy or desertion takes place? (b) What indicates whether this “man of lawlessness” is a single man, and whether this “man” is just an antichrist?
16 Against whom, then, is this apostasy, this revolt, this rebellion, this defection? The further description of this rebellious development makes it plain that it is against Jehovah God, whose Day this apostasy is to precede. This apostasy is to result in the revealing of “the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction.” A literal man? No, for one single man could not have lived over the long period of time that is embraced within the fulfillment of this prophecy. Quite in line with this explanation is the rendering of An American Translation that uses the expression “the embodiment of disobedience, . . . who is doomed to destruction.” We note that this one is not called “The Antichrist.” True, he turns out to be an antichrist. Just as the apostle John, writing about the year 98 C.E., says concerning his own day: “Even now there have come to be many antichrists; . . . Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:18, 22) Not only is the Son of God denied, but also God the Father is denied.
17. What is meant by calling this anti-God the “son of destruction,” and when does the destruction come?
17 So, then, it is more proper to call the “man of lawlessness” an anti-God. This anti-God is lawless toward God, and, being against God the Father, he is also against the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Before ever he appears, the “man of lawlessness” is termed the “son of destruction.” That figurative expression means that he is an heir of destruction, he is condemned to destruction, “doomed to destruction.” The “man of lawlessness” deserves destruction; he cannot escape it. This deserved destruction will come to this one on the “day of Jehovah.” This anti-God is revealed before that day.
18. (a) Since the lawless one is connected with the “apostasy,” what does this indicate as to that one’s relationship with God? (b) Were the natural Jews of Paul’s day in peaceful relationship with God, from which to apostatize?
18 This “man of lawlessness” who is destined for destruction is connected up with the foretold “apostasy,” the revolt, the rebellion against God. This fact makes it certain that the “man of lawlessness” was originally associated with God, in peaceful relations with God. At the time that the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonian Christians, it was not the natural, circumcised Jews who were at peace with God and in harmonious relationship with Him. It was the Jews that roused up a mob in Thessalonica and obliged the apostle Paul to flee from that city, and, later also, from Beroea. (Acts 17:5-15) In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote: “They [the congregations in Judea] also are suffering at the hands of the Jews, who killed even the Lord Jesus and the prophets and persecuted us. Furthermore, they are not pleasing God, but are against the interests of all men, as they try to hinder us from speaking to people of the nations that these might be saved, with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But his wrath has at length come upon them.”—1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.
19. From whom, then, could the apostasy be expected to start, and why from them?
19 Where else, then, could the apostasy be expected to start from but in the Christian congregation? It was to the Christians, as represented by the congregation at Thessalonica, that the apostle wrote: “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the congregation of the Thessalonians in union with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2) These Christians could apostatize from God, could revolt and rebel against God, because they were in union with Him and with his Messiah Jesus and were receiving undeserved kindness and peace from God their heavenly Father and through his Son Jesus Christ. Who, therefore, are such rebels from the Christian congregation?
20, 21. (a) Why was it that the apostasy would start, not from within the Jewish nation, but from within the Christian congregation? (b) With what words did Paul warn the presbytery of Ephesus about the coming apostasy?
20 The apostle Paul himself warned that the apostasy, the religious revolt or rebellion, would come from the midst of the congregation that now belonged to God, inasmuch as He had rejected the Jewish nation as his chosen people. God’s congregation was composed now of spiritual Israelites, spiritual Jews, and was no longer the nation of natural, circumcised Jews. Some years after Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul found himself at the city of Miletus, Asia Minor, on his last trip to Jerusalem. At Miletus he addressed himself to the presbytery or “body of elders” of the nearby congregation of Ephesus. Pointing ahead to the apostasy, Paul said to those elders or overseers:
21 “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”—Acts 20:28-30.
22, 23. (a) In which of his letters, and to whom, did Peter also warn against the coming apostasy? (b) How did Peter, by what he there said, help us to identify the lawless “son of destruction”?
22 Like the apostle Paul, his fellow apostle Peter was also aware of the coming apostasy. In his second and last letter, written about the year 64 C.E., Peter addressed himself “to those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours, by the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ.”
23 In the course of his letter to these, Peter went on to say: “Prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit. However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. Also, with covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words. But as for them, the judgment from of old is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering.” (2 Peter 1:1, 21 through 2Pe 2:3) This helps us to identify that lawless “son of destruction.”
24, 25. In view of what Paul and Peter said above, what questions do we ask toward identifying what the “man of lawlessness” is?
24 In the light of what the apostles Paul and Peter say about the apostasy, who really is “the man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction”? To “elders,” the “overseers” who represented the congregation of Ephesus, the apostle Paul said that men would rise and “speak twisted things,” in the religious field. This narrows the matter down to the religious leaders of the Christian congregation, those ordained or appointed to “shepherd the congregation of God.” Who, then, are the religious leaders who professed to be of God’s congregation and who were like “oppressive wolves”? Who were the professedly Christian leaders who did not “treat the flock with tenderness”? Who were the leading religious men who rose and spoke “twisted things” in order to “draw away the disciples” in the congregation “after themselves”? Who are the men that, like the false prophets among the people of ancient Israel, have proved to be “false teachers” among the spiritual Israelites?
25 Yes, who are the religious leaders that have brought in “destructive sects” among those who think themselves to be God’s congregation? Who are those sectarian leaders who, by their religious teachings and their practices really have disowned the heavenly “owner that bought them”? What religious leaders have shown themselves guilty of “loose conduct” in their relations with the secular, worldly authorities? What religious leaders have set the bad example for imitation by their flocks so that the “way of the truth” came to be “spoken of abusively”? What religious leaders have coveted the things that the people of their congregation had and then have exploited them “with counterfeit words”?
IDENTIFYING THE “MAN OF LAWLESSNESS”
26. To whom does the identifying finger point, and how does The Encyclopedia Americana describe the one identified?
26 The identifying finger of human history over the past sixteen hundred years points to the religious clergy of Christendom. Is anyone unclear as to what is meant by the “clergy” of Christendom? If so, then let The Encyclopedia Americana (1929 edition), Volume 7, page 90, make it clear for the individual, in the following words:
CLERGY (Latin clericus, from Greek kléros, a lot), in the Christian Church, that portion of the faithful which is set apart for the ministry of religion. The separation from the laity became more marked through the multiplication of offices and titles, privileges, rights, peculiar dress and habits. In the Roman Catholic Church there are eight grades or distinctions of clergy, namely, that of the simple cleric, those of the four minor orders and those of the three sacred orders of subdeacon, deacon and priest. . . . The last three are regarded as being of divine institution. The simple cleric is one who has received the ecclesiastical tonsure; by that rite he is made a clerk or cleric, and as such is entitled to certain rights, privileges and immunities and assumes certain obligations not incumbent on the laity. In Protestant churches the distinction between clergy and laity is much less wide.
27. (a) What words of Jesus are against dividing the congregation up into clergy and laity? (b) How did John, in the Revelation, classify all members of the congregation?
27 Did Jesus Christ, the Head of the Christian congregation, give instructions for his disciples to be divided up into clergy and laity? Nowhere in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John or in the book of Acts of Apostles or in the book of Revelation are there instructions to split up his disciples into two general classes. His instructions are to the direct contrary. In the temple at Jerusalem, to his disciples and to the crowds of Jews, Jesus said: “But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister.” (Matthew 23:8-11) In the Revelation given to him through Jesus Christ, the apostle John refers to all the disciples of Christ as being priests, saying: “He made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father. . . .” “You made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 1:6; 5:10.
28. How did Peter’s first letter also classify all those of the congregation alike?
28 Likewise, the apostle Peter writes the Christians that they are all priests, saying: “Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”—1 Peter 2:5, 9, Roman Catholic Douay Version.
29, 30. (a) In 1 Peter 5:1-3, how does the Douay Version Bible apply the word “clergy”? (b) How do modern Catholic translations render the Greek word here involved?
29 The English word “clergy” does occur once in the Douay Version of the Bible, in Peter’s first letter, as follows: “The ancients therefore that are among you, I beseech who am myself also an ancient and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as also a partaker of that glory which is to be revealed in time to come: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint but willingly, according to God: not for filthy lucre’s sake but voluntarily: Neither as lording it over the clergy but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart.” (1 Peter 5:1-3, Dy) But even in this translation of the Bible the whole flock of God’s spiritual sheep are called the “clergy,” and the “ancients,” like the apostle Peter, are told not to lord it over this “clergy.” However, not satisfied with that Douay Version rendering of the Greek word kleʹros (in the plural number) in 1 Peter 5:3, the modern Roman Catholic translations of the Bible render the Greek word differently in English. For example:
30 “Neither be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow.” (The Jerusalem Bible) “Be examples to the flock, not lording it over those assigned to you.” (The New American Bible) “Nor yet as lording it over your charges, but becoming an example to the flock.”—The New Testament in the Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures.
31 Since the inspired apostles of Jesus Christ apply the terms “priesthood” and “clergy” (Douay Version) to the whole flock of God and do not confine those terms to the “ancients” or “elders” like the apostle Peter, it is not impertinent here to ask: Who are these religious leaders of Christendom who entitle themselves as “priests” and who call themselves “the clergy” as separate and distinct from what they call “the laity,” a term that does not occur in the inspired Holy Scriptures? What is the motivation of these religious leaders in thus distinguishing themselves? What are they trying to make of themselves? We remember that Jesus Christ, when denouncing the Jewish scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites” and “serpents, generation of vipers,” said: “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, Christ. He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”—Matthew 23:10-12, 14, 33, Douay Version.
32. When did the religious leaders of Christendom begin to call themselves “the clergy” as distinct from “the laity”?
32 When, in fact, did the religious leaders of Christendom begin to call themselves the clergy and to reserve for themselves the title of “priest”? Following the heading: “2. Distinction of Clergy and Laity,” M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume II, page 386, says of the “antithesis” or contrast between clergy and laity:
The Jewish antithesis of clergy and laity was at first unknown among Christians; and it was “only as men fell back from the evangelical to the Jewish point of view” that the idea of the general Christian priesthood of all believers gave place, more or less completely, to that of the special priesthood or clergy. . . . So Tertullian, even (De Baptismo, c. 17, before he became a Montanist): “The laity have also the right to administer the sacraments and to teach in the community. The Word of God and the sacraments were by the grace of God communicated to all, and may therefore be communicated by all Christians as instruments of the divine grace. But the question here relates not barely to what is permitted in general, but also to what is expedient under existing circumstances. We may here use the words of St. Paul, ‘All things are lawful for men, but all things are not expedient.’ If we look at the order necessary to be maintained in the Church, the laity are therefore to exercise their priestly right of administering the sacraments only when the time and circumstances require it.” From the time of Cyprian . . . the father of the hierarchical system, the distinction of clergy and laity became prominent, and very soon was universally admitted. Indeed, from the third century onward, the term clerus (kleʹros, ordo) was almost exclusively applied to the ministry to distinguish it from the laity. As the Roman hierarchy was developed, the clergy came to be not merely a distinct order (which might consist with all the apostolical regulations and doctrines), but also to be recognised as the only priesthood, and the essential means of communication between man and God.
33. Who was this Cyprian, and what office did he hold in the congregation during the third century?
33 According to The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 8, page 368, the above-mentioned Thascius Caecilius Cyprian was born about 200 C.E. and died at Carthage, Africa, September 14, 258. “Shortly after being baptized (246) he was ordained priest and then was elected by the Christians of Carthage to be their bishop (248). . . . He did much to relieve and strengthen his episcopate. Under him seven councils were held, the last in 256.” Although this African bishop was considered as one of the Church “fathers” and sainted by the Roman Catholic Church, the fact remains that he was a clergyman, one of the clergy that came into existence after the death of the apostles of Jesus Christ and their immediate associates.
34. By the expression “the man of lawlessness,” what kind of individual does the Bible mean, and why so?
34 It is this so-called “Christian” clergy that demonstrated itself to be “the man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction,” in connection with the “apostasy,” the “revolt” or “rebellion.” It is evident that by the use of this expression the Holy Bible means a composite “man,” who exists over a long period of time and whose makeup or personnel changes as time goes on. Thus the membership of this “man of lawlessness” today differs from that of the third century.
PRETENSIONS TO GODSHIP
35. Why is it no cause for surprise that the “man of lawlessness” should aspire to Godship? To what extent?
35 Since the “apostasy” or “rebellion” of this clerical “man of lawlessness” is against Jehovah God, it is no cause for surprise that this composite “man” should aspire to Godship, try to make a god of himself. The first rebel against Jehovah God, namely, Satan the Devil, made a god of himself, so that the apostle Paul calls him the “god of this system of things.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) Under Satan the Devil the pagan king of ancient Babylon tried to make himself appear equal to Jehovah God whose temple was at Jerusalem. According to Isaiah 14:14, the king of ancient Babylon said in his heart: “I shall go up above the high places of the clouds; I shall make myself resemble the Most High.” He thought he had achieved his ambition when he destroyed Jerusalem and the temple of Jehovah God in the year 607 B.C.E. However, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by that Babylonian aspirant to equality with Jehovah God is something minor when it is compared with all the destruction of things connected with Jehovah God as caused by this clerical “man of lawlessness.”
36. How does that composite “man” act as if not responsible to Jehovah, and what did Paul use to tell the Thessalonians about that “man”?
36 Being a lawless rebel in things religious, he has acted as if he were not responsible to the Most High and Almighty God, Jehovah, as if he were above the law of the one living and true God. The apostle Paul does not go to any extreme when he says prophetically of this composite “man of lawlessness” this astonishing thing: “He is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god. Do you not remember that, while I was yet with you, I used to tell you these things?”—2 Thessalonians 2:4, 5.
37. In confirming how Paul’s prophecy has been fulfilled, to what prominent religious personage might one point, and why?
37 Of course, in confirming how the clerical “man of lawlessness” has fulfilled this prophecy, a person might point to how a member of the so-called “Christian” clergy has spoken and acted or to the claims of godship that have been made for him. For instance, a person might point to the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and quote what is said concerning this papal bishop of Rome in Ferraris’ ecclesiastical dictionary,* namely:
The pope is of such dignity and highness that he is not simply a man but, as it were, God, and the Vicar of God. . . . Hence the pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven, of earth and of hell. . . . Nay, the pope’s excellence and power are not only about heavenly, terrestrial and infernal things, but he is also above angels, and is their superior . . . So that if it were possible that angels could err from the faith, or entertain sentiments contrary thereto, they could be judged and excommunicated by the pope. . . . He is of such great dignity and power that he occupies one and the same tribunal with Christ . . . So that whatsoever the pope does seems to proceed from the mouth of God. . . . The pope is, as it were, God on earth, the only prince of the faithful of Christ, the greatest king of all kings, possessing the plenitude of power; to whom the government of the earthly and heavenly kingdom is entrusted. . . . The pope is of so great authority and power that he can modify, declare or interpret the divine law. . . . The pope can sometimes counteract the divine law by limiting, explaining,” etc.
38. However, in pointing to an individual clergyman, what should be remembered, and so how has this prophecy concerning the “man of lawlessness” really been fulfilled?
38 However, it is not to be forgotten that the “man of lawlessness” is not a single individual religious leader like the pope of Rome or the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Athens, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) or other religious patriarch. The foretold “lawless” one is a composite “man,” the whole religious clergy of the professed “Christian” church. Of course, what one prominent member of this clerical “man” does attaches blame to all the other members of the clergy class for their agreeing with what is done or not protesting against it or for acquiescing in it and remaining with the clergy organization. They all share a community responsibility and culpability for what a member of the clergy class does in a representative way as when speaking or acting for the whole group. It is what the clergy class as a whole does or joins in doing through the centuries of time that fulfills the prophecy concerning the “man of lawlessness.”
39. How has the “man of lawlessness” class proved itself to be “set in opposition” to Jehovah?
39 The “man of lawlessness” class has proved itself to be “set in opposition” by making itself the “friend” of the world, according to the rule stated by the inspired disciple James in his letter: “The friendship of this world is the enemy of God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world becometh an enemy of God.” (James 4:4, Douay) He opposes Jehovah God when he opposes and tries to nullify the inspired written Word of God and even tries to take or keep away the Bible from the church-supporting members. He opposes Jehovah God when he opposes and persecutes those disciples of Christ who are worshiping Jehovah God with spirit and truth through Jesus Christ. (John 4:24) He opposes the one living and true God by taking away the worship and adoration that belong to this God and attracting such worship and adoration to a glorified clergy class.
40. How has the “man of lawlessness” class endeavored to be the only earthly god on the scene, as in the matter of Church and State?
40 The “man of lawlessness” class wants to be the only god on the earthly scene, in fact, the god of earthly gods. This has been demonstrated during the relations that the religious Church of Christendom has had with the political State. In this marriage of Church and State, the clergy has always endeavored to be the party on top, to do the dictating. From the time of Constantine there has been this marriage of Church and State. This has really been a marriage of convenience, for what the clergy can get out of it in the way of authority, prestige, protection and immunities, support and other selfish benefits. Concerning “Church and State,” The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 6, pages 657, 658, says:
Between these two institutions, in modern times, there has rarely, if ever, existed perfect harmony. This struggle, so long protracted, bids fair, unless some astonishing upheaval occurs, to last for all time. It has been a bitter one. It has involved large interests and brought to the forefront momentous discussions. It has fomented uprisings of all kinds and originated a literature of vituperation without parallel outside of political strife. It has been, not seldom, mere political contention. . . . Under Constantine the Church entered the arena of universal activity as a collaborator in the task of civilizing the peoples. Acknowledged as the spiritual ruler, it gradually acquired a local habitation and a name as a temporal potentate. It became a world power. This success was the beginning of all the many disasters of the Church. . . . From Constantine to Charlemagne the civil power, while giving legal recognition to the Church, interfered in its government. From Charlemagne to a period approaching that of the Reformation, Church and state were closely united and there was a generally acknowledged subordination of the civil to the spiritual authority.
41. (a) What religious rank did the Roman emperors hold, above which the “man of lawlessness” needed to set itself up? (b) What religious office did the Roman emperor hold, and how was this used respecting the apostate church?
41 It is a fact of history that the emperors of the pagan Roman Empire were ranked as gods, and incense was offered to them as gods or divinities. From the time of Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century, the bishops of the “apostasy” became wedded to the State and they sought to gain the ascendancy above the deified Roman emperor. Emperor Constantine endeavored to create a fusion religion between paganism and Christianity, and decreed the religion of the apostate bishops to be the State religion. Down to the day of his death in 337 C.E., he bore the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus, the head of religious matters; and it was as Pontifex Maximus that the as yet unbaptized Constantine called the Nicaean Council of 325 C.E. for the settling of the religious disputings of the church bishops. At the time he decided in favor of the pagan doctrine of the Trinity (One God in Three Persons) as taught by the majority of the church bishops.
42. At the first opportunity, how and through whom did the “man of lawlessness” lift itself up “over everyone called a ‘god’ or an object of reverence”?
42 In the year 379* there came the opportunity for the papal bishop of Rome. This was when Emperor Gratian, professing to be Christian, gave up the pagan title and office of Pontifex Maximus. Without qualms of conscience, Pope Damasus picked it up for all the religious power, authority, influence and control it would give him over all the population, the larger part of which was still pagan and recognized the pagan title. This elevated the papal bishop of Rome above the Roman emperor in religious matters. Down to this day the pope of the Roman Catholic Church has continued to claim and use that pagan title. As represented in the pope, the most prominent member of the clergy class, the “man of lawlessness” was lifting himself up “over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence.” Everybody knows that the priests and preachers of Christendom like to be addressed and titled as “Reverend,” “Most Reverend” and “Most Right Reverend.” They command and demand the reverence of their parishioners or church members.
43. In what temple is it that the “man of lawlessness” class seats itself as “a god,” and whom does it compel to recognize its power?
43 The “temple of The God” in which the “man of lawlessness” sits down, “showing himself to be a god,” is what professes to be the Church of God. To the true Christians of the first century the apostle Paul wrote: “Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; also 2 Corinthians 6:16) It was from this spiritual “temple” class that the founders of the “apostasy” first broke away. They refuse to recognize the original true “temple” class, and the apostate congregation that these apostates establish they call “the temple of God.” It is in this apostate “temple” that they sit down and maintain their seat as a “clergy” distinct from those whom they call “the laity.” There the clergy class of Christendom shows itself to be “a god.” It forces the politicians, businessmen and military officers to recognize its power. The power and support of the clergy class is invariably sought by the political governments in time of war.
THE FIRST-CENTURY “RESTRAINT”
44, 45. (a) What acted as a “restraint” on the development and formation of the “man of lawlessness” in the first century? (b) How did the apostle John illustrate such a restraining influence, as described in his third letter?
44 Now after so long a time the “man of lawlessness” has stood revealed for centuries. But this was not the case in the first century, in the days of the genuine apostles of Jesus Christ. It was then yet to be revealed. So the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians in his letter of about 51 C.E.: “And so now you know the thing that acts as a restraint, with a view to his being revealed in his own due time.” (2 Thessalonians 2:6) Those first-century Christians knew what the “restraint” was, for Paul made it known to them, in fact, demonstrated it to them. Well, what was the thing that was acting as a “restraint” back there? It was the body of genuine apostles of Jesus Christ, including the apostle Paul. Unitedly they resisted the development and formation of the “man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction.” As an illustration of this, here is what the apostle John, writing about the year 98 C.E., said in his third and last letter to the Christians:
45 “I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words. Also, not being content with these things, neither does he himself receive the brothers with respect, and those who are wanting to receive them he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation.” (3 John 9, 10) That Diotrephes was indeed showing traits of the “man of lawlessness.” The apostle John made an effort to put him under check, under due “restraint.” Other apostles acted likewise in similar cases.
46. How did Paul indicate to the Thessalonians that there was even then a tendency toward forming the “man of lawlessness” class?
46 Even back there, less than twenty years after the founding of the Christian “temple” class on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., the apostle Paul was aware that there were evidences of a tendency to form the “man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction.” That was why he continued on to say to the congregation at Thessalonica: “True, the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work; but only till he who is right now acting as a restraint gets to be out of the way.”—2 Thessalonians 2:7.
47. Why did Paul speak of what was already at work as the “mystery of this lawlessness”?
47 There was a mystery or religious secret about the identity of this coming “man of lawlessness.” To this day there are expounders of the Bible in Christendom who argue that this “man” is an individual male person, whom they designate as The Antichrist. But quite fittingly An American Translation renders the designation of this mysterious figure as “the embodiment of disobedience.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) This agrees with the fact that the “man of lawlessness” turns out to be a composite man, a clergy class that is lawless toward Jehovah God and that endures over centuries of time. With good basis the apostle Paul could say that the “mystery of this lawlessness” was already at work in his day. It had not yet taken definite form to be designated under the symbol of a man. But there was an operation that was going on in the Christian congregation that would eventually work out in producing this definitely established and identifiable class. But in Paul’s day “mystery” was still connected with the coming of the “lawless one.”
48. As evidence that the “mystery of this lawlessness” was already at work, what did it become necessary for Paul to write to the Corinthian Christians?
48 Proving that the “mystery of this lawlessness” was already at work within the Christian congregation, the apostle Paul found it necessary, just a few years after the foregoing discussion of the matter, to write to the congregation in Corinth, Greece: “Now what I am doing I will still do, that I may cut off the pretext from those who are wanting a pretext for being found equal to us in the office of which they boast. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works.”—2 Corinthians 11:12-15.
49. How was it pointed out through John that the operation of the “mystery of this lawlessness” was still going on in the last decade of the first century?
49 This religious operation for the producing of false leaders, “false apostles,” persisted even down into the last decade of the first century C.E. In proof of this, the aged apostle John received the Revelation about the year 96 C.E., and in it he was instructed by the glorified Jesus Christ to write to the “body of elders” of the congregation in Ephesus, Asia Minor. In telling what Jesus in the vision instructed him to do, John says: “To the angel of the congregation in Ephesus write: These are the things that he says who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, ‘I know your deeds, and your labor and endurance, and that you cannot bear bad men, and that you put those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars. . . . Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.’”—Revelation 2:1-4; 1 Timothy 4:14, footnote.
50. As proving that even in the days of the apostles the “mystery of this lawlessness” was at work, what did John write about antichrists in his first letter?
50 Before finishing his earthly life course, the aged apostle John wrote three letters to the Christians. In evidence of there being an operation of the “mystery of this lawlessness” even in the days of Christ’s apostles, John wrote in his first letter: “Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But they went out that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort. And you have an anointing from the holy one; all of you have knowledge. Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” (1 John 2:18-20; 4:1; written about 98 C.E.) By not having the Son of God any longer as the Messiah or Christ, those antichrists did not have God the Father either.—1 John 2:22-24.
51. What is meant by the expression “he who is right now acting as a restraint,” and when was this taken “out of the way”?
51 From such apostolic writings exposing bad conditions that were coming to the surface here and there in the congregations, we can identify whom the apostle Paul means by the expression “he who is right now acting as a restraint.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) He means, not some individual male member of the entire congregation of God on earth, not any individual apostle like himself, but the entire body of the true apostles of Jesus Christ in that first century. That body of apostles, like a composite person, was then, “right now,” as Paul times it, standing in the way of the organizing of a corporate “man of lawlessness” within the entire Christian congregation and in control of it. Consequently, that which was “right now acting as a restraint” was taken “out of the way” of the developing “mystery of this lawlessness” when the last one of Christ’s true apostles was taken away in death. This may have been the apostle John, who died near the end of the first century C.E.
52. By means of whom will the destruction of “the son of destruction” be brought about, at what time?
52 That composite “man of lawlessness” was called “the son of destruction.” This was another way of saying that this lawless one was condemned by Jehovah God to destruction. In the carrying out of His sentence of destruction upon the lawless one, Jehovah God uses his glorified Son Jesus Christ. So, in telling what is to happen after the apostolic “restraint” gets to be out of the way by death of all the apostles, Paul says: “Then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.”—2 Thessalonians 2:8, NW; NA.
53. (a) Why, then, is ours the time or the generation for the doing away with the “man of lawlessness”? (b) On the other hand, the bringing of this “man” to nothing will be a proof of what fact?
53 The Lord Jesus does not do away with the “man of lawlessness” immediately after its being revealed in full, identifiable form, seated in the “temple of The God” and “publicly showing himself to be a god.” The apostle Paul locates the time for the bringing of the “man of lawlessness” to nothing as being during the “presence” or parousia of the Lord Jesus. That means now, in our generation, for the royal “presence” or parousia of the Lord Jesus began at the end of the Gentile Times in the year 1914 C.E. We behold the “sign” in proof of this, and we know that we are in the “conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3 through 25:46) Ours, then, is the time for persons of this generation to witness the doing away with the “man of lawlessness” by means of the “spirit” of the Lord Jesus’ mouth and the bringing of that “lawless one” to nothing by means of the manifestation of the Lord Jesus’ presence, his parousia! This destructive work will be a “manifestation” proving that the Lord Jesus is invisibly present, that his parousia is a reality. The “spirit,” the motivating force, from his mouth will be for the destruction of the entire “man of lawlessness.”
EVIDENCE OF THE LAWLESS ONE’S “PRESENCE”
54. (a) When does the presence of the “lawless one” begin in comparison with the presence of the Lord Jesus? (b) By what is the parousia of the “lawless one” to be marked?
54 At this point of the discussion the apostle Paul turns from the mention of the “presence” of the Lord Jesus to a consideration of the “presence” or parousia of the “man of lawlessness.” The presence or parousia of this lawless one precedes or begins before the “presence” of the Lord Jesus in Kingdom power. Note how Paul presents the evidence of the presence of the lawless one. He writes: “But the lawless one’s presence [Greek: pa·rou·siʹa] is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing.”—2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10a.
55. How do we know that the parousia spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 refers to that of the “lawless one” rather than that of Jesus?
55 Here the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible reads: “But when the Rebel comes, Satan will set to work: there will be all kinds of miracles and a deceptive show of signs and portents, and everything evil that can deceive those who are bound for destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10; see also The New American Bible; The New English Bible; Murdock’s The Syriac New Testament.) In the opening of verse 9 the Greek text literally reads: “Of whom is the presence.” However, just because the words “lawless one” do not occur in this verse 9, it does not mean that the word “presence” or parousia applies to the “presence” (parousia) of the Lord Jesus just mentioned in the preceding verse (8). Rather, the reference is to the “presence” of the other one who is under discussion, namely, the lawless one. That is why An American Translation opens up verse 9 by saying: “The other’s appearance, by the contrivance of Satan.” The Westminster Version of “The New Testament” reads similarly: “But that other’s coming is through Satan’s working.” So the Greek relative pronoun “of whom” in verse 9 lines up with “whom” in verse 8, which applies to the lawless one. The connection would be like this: “The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with . . . of whom is the presence.”
56. The official “presence” of the “man of lawlessness” can be attributed only to whom, and why?
56 The official “presence” or parousia of the anti-God, “the man of lawlessness,” since after the death of Christ’s apostles and down till now can be attributed to no one but to Satan the Devil. Because this composite “man of lawlessness” seated himself in the “temple of The God,” it cannot be argued that this “lawless one” originated with God, Jehovah. The long “presence” of this “embodiment of disobedience” has had all the earmarks of being due to or according to an “operation of Satan.” The name Satan means “Resister,” and he is the instigator of all resistance to Jehovah God in heaven and on earth, including the resistance of the “lawless one” to the Most High God. It certainly was not of Jehovah God that the fomenters of the “apostasy” or rebellion raised themselves to the rank of “clergy” and thereby distinguished themselves from the other members of the congregation whom they called “the laity.” This was a trick of Satan the Devil to try to turn all the congregation of Christ’s disciples against Jehovah God.
57. To get the clergy to the position of power and to keep the clergy there, what means were used, and for what purpose such kind of means?
57 To get the so-called “Christian” clergy to power and to keep them there, the operation and activity of Satan had to be “with every powerful work [miracles, Je] and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception.” The purpose of all this lying, deceptive evidence of supernatural backing for the “clergy” is to get the members of the congregation to believe that the clergy represent the true God and have his appointment, his approval and his backing and are his earthly agents. They are given the appearance of being the ones exclusively set apart and appointed to the ministry of God’s Word, with special powers, privileges, rights, immunities, rank and titles not shared by the inferior “laity.”
58. Why would the powerful works, signs, portents, and so forth, by the clergy be, not due to connections with the apostles, but by the operation of Satan?
58 Hence, those powerful works or miracles, those signs and portents and unrighteous deceptions are for a purpose that is selfish and not for the glory and exaltation of Jehovah God. These manifestations of Satan’s operation and activity were produced after the death of Christ’s apostles. Those apostles did indeed work miracles, signs and portents, because they had God’s spirit through Christ. Those apostles had the power and authority to impart to baptized believers the spirit with its various gifts of the spirit for the doing of miraculous things, such as speaking with foreign languages, prophecies, interpretations, healings, and so forth. At the death of Christ’s apostles, the imparting of the spirit accompanied by such miraculous gifts ceased. Likewise, when those who had been thus gifted through the apostles died, not later than in the second century C.E., those miraculous gifts ceased to exist, and no longer were such things an evidence to prove who are true servants of God and who make up the true Christian congregation. (Acts 8:14-18; 1 Corinthians 13:8) Hence, the seeming display of such “gifts” after that would be, not of God, but of Satan.
59. (a) Do the impressive things that are pointed to in behalf of the clergy prove these to be God’s ministers? (b) To what do the true ministers refer for proof of divine appointment?
59 So, then, let the clergy-ridden churches of Christendom point to all the powerful works, miracles, signs and portents that they want to in behalf of their clergy down through the centuries. Let them point to the grandiose position of the clergy in this world, the high esteem and reverence that have been paid to the clergy, their grand, eye-dazzling regalia, their high-sounding titles, their magnificent church buildings and cathedrals, their impressive church rituals, their transubstantiation of bread and wine in the “Mass,” their superior education, their standing and influence with the political State and the military, yet all those things and the effects of those things upon the so-called “laity” prove that the self-exalting clergy of Christendom did not originate with God and are not his ministers. Satan, who transforms himself into an “angel of light,” moves his earthly ministers of religion to “keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15) True Christian ministers of Jehovah God prove themselves to be his appointed, approved ministers, not by such external things, but by God’s written Word of truth.
60. To what extent were the numerical proportions of the clerical “man of lawlessness” class world wide highly impressive?
60 Highly impressive were the numerical proportions that the clerical “man of lawlessness” class reached world wide. In the year 1971 C.E., when Christendom reached its all-time peak of 985,363,400 members, the number of religious clergymen had risen into the hundreds of thousands. For the Roman Catholic Church alone the published figures showed 419,611 clergymen for 566,771,600 church members world wide in that year of 1971.
61. For whom did Paul say that those deceptive things were designed by the slyly operating Satan? And why by God’s permission?
61 Who are the ones whose credulity is played upon by such outwardly impressive things? Who are the ones favorably impressed and deceived by such unscriptural “powerful work and lying signs and portents”? For whom are such things designed by the slyly operating Satan? The apostle Paul says that the “operation of Satan” during the presence of the clerical “lawless one” is “with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.”—2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.
62. Does God directly send an “operation of error” to the deceived ones, and what does He determine by means of this “operation of error”?
62 God does not directly send an “operation of error” to these deceived ones. He lets it go to them, in order to prove what it is that they want and also because this is really what they want. This is what the apostle Paul pointed out to his fellow missionary Timothy in a final letter to him. Paul explained why he wanted Timothy to preach God’s Word urgently in all seasons in the Christian congregation. Paul said: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4) By means of the inspired Word of God a person can protect himself against an “operation of error” during the presence of the “lawless one.” But by letting Satan carry on an “operation of error” and by thus letting this operation go to the professed Christians, Jehovah God puts them to the proof as to whether they “accept the love of the truth” or love the lie.
63. The approaching of what makes the world situation very serious for all mankind, and what choice must we now make?
63 More than ever before during the remaining time of the “presence” of the clerical “man of lawlessness” and during the presence or parousia of the Lord Jesus, an “operation of error” has gone to the people by God’s permission. The approaching execution of adverse judgment against those who do not “accept the love of the truth” and who take “pleasure in unrighteousness” makes the world situation a very serious one for all the people. Bible students with spiritual discernment have, since the year 1914 C.E., long seen the “sign” of Christ’s invisible presence or parousia, and they appreciate that the time will suddenly be upon us for the “manifestation of his presence” against the clerical “man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8) What, therefore, do we desire—to suffer destruction with the “lawless one” or to experience salvation with lovers of the truth?
THE DOING AWAY WITH THE “MAN OF LAWLESSNESS”
64. How has the “man of lawlessness” class made itself a part of Babylon the Great?
64 The clerical “man of lawlessness” class has for centuries taught pagan doctrines that originate with ancient Babylon and has put such pagan doctrines and traditions of men above the inspired Holy Bible. Christendom’s clergy has opposed and persecuted lovers of Bible truth who have preached that truth to others and who live in harmony with it. The clergymen have made themselves friendly with the world and committed spiritual fornication (immorality) with the political rulers and men of Big Business, and they have served as the handmaid of war makers and military elements. They have thereby made themselves a powerful part of Babylon the Great, which symbolizes the world empire of false religion. Yes, the “man of lawlessness” class is a part, the most reprehensible part, of Babylon the Great, the religious “great harlot,” with whom the “kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”—Revelation 17:1, 2.
65. How is it that the “man of lawlessness” clergy ride the “scarlet-colored wild beast,” and what is their wish for it?
65 As being included in religious Babylon the Great, the clerical “man of lawlessness” class rides the symbolic “scarlet-colored wild beast that was full of blasphemous names and that had seven heads and ten horns.” That symbolic wild beast is the present-day man-made world organization for international peace and security, the United Nations. This is the symbolic “eighth king,” the Eighth World Power, of Bible prophecy. (Revelation 17:1-11) It suits the “man of lawlessness” class, the clergy of Christendom, to speak favorably and commendably of any man-made international organization for world peace and security, even to assigning to that unchristian organization a Messianic role. The wish of the “man of lawlessness” clergy is that such international organization may save the world from a third global conflict, a nuclear war.
66. Why will the ride of the “man of lawlessness” clergy not be for long now, and what will the end of the ride mean for such clergy?
66 The ride on the back of that symbolic “scarlet-colored wild beast” will not be for much longer now. As goes the religious harlot Babylon the Great, so too goes the “man of lawlessness” clergy. As surely as the Revelation vision foretells it, the ten governmental “horns” of the symbolic wild beast will turn upon the filthy rider, Babylon the Great, in hatred. Yes, the seven heads that direct the body movements of the wild beast will hate this international fornicatrix. They will move the body into action against her. What will body, heads and horns do to her? “These will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.” (Revelation 17:16) In her being devastated and stripped naked, in her being devoured and burned completely with fire, the “man of lawlessness” clergy gets devastated, denuded, devoured and burned to ashes.
67. Why will this signify for the “man of lawlessness” clergy a “tribulation” that is indeed “great”?
67 That will signify “great tribulation” for the “man of lawlessness” clergy, for the clergy are the dominant part of the modern-day antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem, Christendom. Earthly Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E. was a type of the destruction coming upon Christendom and her religious rulers, the professed “Christian” clergy. Ancient Jerusalem’s tribulation at the time that she still had her temple and officiating priesthood was “great” indeed. But what of the tribulation that is soon to smite Christendom and her “man of lawlessness” clergy? It will be the worst tribulation ever to smite the race of mankind. In it that clerical “son of destruction” will be brought to nothing in utter destruction.—Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20.
68. From what foretold historical example can we imagine what this will mean for religious Christendom?
68 Can we imagine what that will mean? Those who still have an awe-inducing reverence for the ordained clergy of Christendom cannot imagine these sanctimonious “men of the cloth” violently destroyed with Babylon the Great, for it seems sacrilegious even to think of such a thing. Such persons shrink from daring to imagine the church buildings, in which the clergy sat and seemed to be deserving of reverence like a religious god, reduced to ruins. To them such a thing seems like a profanation of what is holy, consecrated. But that was the way in which the devout, yet unchristianized Jews of the first century viewed any prediction of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and its holy temple. Nevertheless, what Jesus Christ foretold in his prophecy while seated on the Mount of Olives came true, in all its horrible reality.—Matthew 24:1, 2.
69. (a) To religionists, destruction of the “man of lawlessness” class will be astounding because of its being reverenced as what? (b) Like whom will that class fall and die, being put to death by whom?
69 To the devoted adherents of Christendom, the bringing of the clerical “man of lawlessness” class to nothing will be astounding, shocking their religious susceptibilities. It will mark the death of a god, for the “man of lawlessness” class is one that “sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4) Jesus Christ himself agreed with the inspired Hebrew Scriptures that there are men on earth who are ranked as “gods,” mighty ones. To prove this point, according to John 10:34-36, he quoted from the eighty-second psalm, which says:
“God is stationing himself in the assembly of the Divine One; in the middle of the gods he judges: ‘How long will you keep on judging with injustice and showing partiality to the wicked themselves? . . . Be judges for the lowly one and the fatherless boy. To the afflicted one and the one of little means do justice. Provide escape for the lowly one and the poor one; out of the hand of the wicked ones deliver them.’
“They [these judicial gods] have not known, and they do not understand; in darkness they keep walking about; all the foundations of the earth are made to totter.
“‘I myself have said, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Surely you will die just as men do; and like any one of the princes you will fall!”’”
The clerical “man of lawlessness” class is no immortal god, but will die like an ordinary man, like the traitorous Judas Iscariot who also was called “the son of destruction.” (John 17:12) In spite of lifting itself up “over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence,” that princely “man of lawlessness” will prove to be like any one of the unfaithful human princes and will fall, put to death by Jehovah’s Messiah.—Psalm 82:1-7.
70. In view of those things, what questions do we need to ask ourselves because of what Paul wrote about the “operation of error”?
70 In view of these things, we need to ask ourselves some personal questions now, without postponement: Am I still under the “unrighteous deception” that Satan has created in connection with Christendom’s “man of lawlessness” class? Have I been affected by the “operation of error” that God has let go to those who are perishing, and so am I still believing the lie? Have I refused to “accept the love of the truth,” and therefore do I prefer the lie and take pleasure in the unrighteousness committed by Christendom’s clergy?
71. Our now being dishonest with ourselves in this connection will mean what for us, and on what “day” evidently now close at hand?
71 No benefit comes from being dishonest with oneself, self-deceiving, in answering these questions. By being unfair with oneself one walks deliberately into destruction, for, as the apostle Paul said: the “unrighteous deception” is designed “for those who are perishing.” What reasonable person cares to perish when God’s adverse judgment is executed against the deceived ones? Such execution is now close at hand for those who persist in believing the lie. We are not mistaken about this, inasmuch as the “man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction” has been revealed and exposed. We are also far along into the parousia or “presence” of the Lord Jesus. The foretold “apostasy” has come to its climax. These are the things that had to precede the coming of the destructive “day of Jehovah.” That day means the fulfilling of the doom upon the “man of lawlessness” as expressed in his title, “the son of destruction.”
72. Dissociating ourselves now from that “man of lawlessness” will mean avoidance of what for ourselves?
72 This is no mere “scare” story. It is God’s own Word that now sounds the solemn warning amplified by the sounding board of the conditions and events in Christendom! Is it not high time, then, for every lover of God’s law to dissociate himself from that revealed “man of lawlessness”? Our doing so means avoiding destruction with him in the world’s approaching “great tribulation.”—Revelation 7:14, 15.
Seven distinct Hebrew translations of First Thessalonians read “Jehovah’s day” here, whereas fourth- and fifth-century Greek manuscripts and the Latin Vulgate read: “day of Lord.”
Prompta bibliotheca canonica, juridicao-moralis, theologica partim ascetica, polemica, rubricistica, historica, prepared at Bologna, Emilia-Romagna region, in Italy, in 1746 by Lucio Ferraris, Vol. VI, pp. 31-35; according to copy at Columbia University, New York city.
New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, page 706, under “Gratian.”