The apostles kept the congregations strong and unified. Nevertheless, they repeatedly warned of a split to come, an apostasy. Paul, in writing to the Thessalonian congregation, brought this to their attention. That congregation had mistakenly had the idea that the “day of Jehovah”—the day for his destruction of this world’s system of things—was immediately at hand. They thought that they would be relieved of the persecutions they were then undergoing and would receive their heavenly reward very soon.
The apostle therefore wrote them: “Let no one seduce you in any manner, because [that “day of Jehovah”] will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.”—2 Thess. 2:3.
What is an “apostasy”? Is it a mere careless falling away or dropping off from Christian faith and practice? No. The word “apostasy” has a much stronger flavor. The Greek word used is defined as “a standing off from,” “a departing,” “a withdrawing.” Moffatt’s translation of the verb form at 1 Timothy 4:1 reads: “Certain people will rebel against the faith.”
And at 2 Thessalonians 2:3, above quoted, the apostle said (as translated in the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible) that the “day of Jehovah” “cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared.” The Revised Standard Version reads: “For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first.” Moffatt and The New English Bible also use the term “rebellion” in this text.
REBELLION AGAINST WHOM?
Against whom was this rebellion directed? Against certain individuals in authority in the church? Of course, in the apostles’ days, their authority was questioned by individuals trying to bring about a rebellion. But the rebellion was actually against God. For it challenged, not only authority, but also doctrine, and additionally it tried to bring disunity and division in God’s congregation. When anyone takes an unfaithful course, challenging Jehovah’s word or arrangement, he is ranging himself up against God. The description of this rebellious development makes it plain that it is against Jehovah God.
Is the rebellious one, the “man of lawlessness,” a literal man? No, for no one man could 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.”
This rebellious “one” is not called “The Antichrist,” though he turns out to be an antichrist, in harmony with the apostle John’s description at 1 John 2:18, 22. He denies the authority of the Father, Jehovah God, and it follows that he therefore denies Christ, God’s Son and anointed king. So he is really anti-God, a lawless one toward God. He is called the “son of destruction,” which means that he is doomed to destruction, extinction. This will come upon him in the “day of Jehovah.” He is to be fully revealed before that “day.”—Compare John 17:12.
We can observe the religious leaders of Christendom and ask: Who have done and are today doing these same things? Who have, by their religious teachings, disowned the heavenly “owner that bought them”? What religious leaders have been guilty of “loose conduct,” and have condoned it among their flocks, so that “the way of the truth” has come to be “spoken of abusively”? What religious leaders have coveted the things that the people of their congregation possessed and then have ‘exploited them with counterfeit words’?
The spiritual and moral condition of the people in the lands called “Christendom” is evidence that such has been the case among the sectarian religious leaders. And because of their greedy, haughty, materialistic attitude and actions, they have brought the hatred of peoples in “pagan” lands not only upon themselves and their flocks, but also upon God’s Word, the Bible. For this they must answer to God.
By observing these facts it is clear why there are so many religious sects in Christendom. For our own safety and well-being we need to know the truth about them. This truth as to the position of Christendom’s leaders in the sight of God is revealed in the apostle Paul’s description of the “man of lawlessness.” A consideration of this description will help us to see the danger of the philosophy that ‘all roads lead to the same place.’ It will enable us to identify the “man of lawlessness” and his destiny. To this end, succeeding issues of The Watchtower will discuss the apostle’s words at 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.