Monday, August 04, 2014

That Wicked Be Revealed

Part 3: Bible Prophecy, Circa 1600

Excerpted and adapted from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12*
Read Part 1 

Read Part 2

For many decades the evangelical world has been caught up in trying to figure it out: who is the antichrist? Multitudes of books have sold, all purporting to identify a man, or offering elaborate formulas to decode hidden messages to supposedly assist in identifying this man of sin.

But Matthew Poole, writing in the earlier years after the Reformation, identifies the man of sin as someone who is thought to be genuinely devout, and only later reveals his terrible nature.

This viewpoint offers food for thought, especially in our current era with its focus on alien "monsters of sin" invading earth, rather than warning about the subtle deceptions of the coming "man of sin" in an increasingly apostate church. Poole warns that those who will be most susceptible to being deceived by the antichrist do not hold to a love of the Truth; i.e. doctrine, Scripture, the Gospel.

VERSE 8: “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:” 

“And then shall that Wicked be revealed.” This revealing I think differs from that mentioned before (verse 3). He is first revealed… when he comes into being, and then… when he comes to be discovered. And this I suppose is meant here, because his destruction is mentioned as following upon it. For the discovering of him is the first step to his ruin…. At his first rising he is a man of sin; but after he has violated the laws of God and the laws of Christ by setting up his own, he is well called “Wicked” (ἄνομος anomos, Gk), that lawless one. And now he that pretended so highly for Christ is discovered to be antichrist. The mystery of iniquity (verse 7) that before lay hid comes to be revealed, God enlightening the eyes of many learned ministers and princes, yea, and of multitudes of people herein….

The stone cut out of the mountain without hands (Dan. 2:34) smites the image in the time of the fourth monarchy, when Christ came into the world, and in the latter end of it, under the antichristian state, it is broken in pieces.

“With the spirit of his mouth,” as was prophesied of him (Is. 11:4: “With the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked”), even this wicked one here in the text…. And this, as some interpret, He shall do with ease, as by a word speaking, or by a word of command…. Or, as we may read it, with the spirit of His lips, because of the power or spirit that goes along with His Word.

This mystery of iniquity (verse 7) will be unveiled by the clear preaching of the Word, and the primitive pure institutions of Christ, and doctrines of the Gospel, will be vindicated from the antichristian corruptions and innovations. And the spirit of Christ going forth with the Gospel will make it effectual hereunto….

“With the brightness of His coming”: the breath of His mouth wasted [this man of sin], and the brightness of His coming destroys him. Some interpret this of Christ’s personal coming to judgment, which will be with great brightness, as Matthew 24:27: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be”… The apostle Paul here mentions nothing of a destruction by the material sword.… He will be destroyed… by the breath of Christ’s mouth, and the brightness of His coming. 

VERSE 9: “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,”

Christ’s coming is in power, and so is his. Christ comes with the Spirit of God, and his is with a spirit also, but it is of Satan…. [T]he spirit of Satan [works] with the man of sin in his coming….

The true church has the Holy Spirit, that forms it into a spiritual temple (Eph. 2:21-22). The false church has the spirit of the devil, forming it into the synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9). The dragon is said to give the beast his power seat, and great authority (Rev. 13:2)… His coming is like the working of Satan; either with great power and energy, as the word imports,… or by the same methods, by pretenses of piety and devotion, as Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. Or by keeping men in blindness and ignorance, so does Satan by setting before men secular grandeur, and the pomp of the world.… Or by suggesting lies instead of truth….

“With all power.” Besides that energy of Satan that works inwardly in this man of sin,… he has outward strength or power wherein he comes…. He has the secular power to assist him, the kings of the earth giving their power to the beast. And we read of ten horns upon his head, which are the emblems of strength and power (Rev. 13:1).

“And signs, and lying wonders.” Observe how Satan is God’s ape. God confirmed the Gospel with signs and wonders (Rom 15:19 and Heb. 2:4). And Satan brings this man of sin into the world in the same manner. God did it to confirm the truth, but Satan to countenance a falsehood. But though he comes with signs and wonders, yet not properly with “miracles” (as the Greek word is rendered in Hebrews 2:4), because though the devil can work the one, he cannot the other. He can by his great natural knowledge and experience improve natural causes to their utmost, but he cannot effect things above all possibility of nature, which is the same power as creating…..

All miracles are wonders, but all wonders are not miracles – [but] yet are esteemed miracles when their cause is not known. … A sign is anything that is used to make signification, whether it be a natural or artificial, an ordinary or extraordinary sign; used either for a good end, as those shown by Christ and the apostles, or for a bad end, as those used by this man of sin. People are apt to be affected with signs (1 Cor. 1:22)....

This man of sin comes with signs… called ψεῦδος (pseudos) τέρας (teras), or wonder of a lie, Hebrew. Though the Greek word is often used for a real miracles, yet not so here. For miracles are the effects of a Divine power only (Rom. 15:19, Heb 2:4), and not diabolical. And called “lying wonders” – either because they are used to confirm a lie, or because they are not real, but feigned wonders – impostures, to cheat the people, and make them wonder… And Christ foretells of false prophets that should “show great signs and wonders, to deceive, if possible, the very elect” (Matt. 24:24). See Deut 13:1-4; Rev. 13:13-14. 

Verse 10: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

“And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.” Or deceit of unrighteousness, unrighteous deceit, or deceitful unrighteousness. And it is universal, all.  It is unrighteousness managed with great subtlety to deceive. And so the same with the mystery of iniquity, mentioned before, or the mystery of unrighteousness as we may read it. All sin is unrighteousness whether against God or man…. The apostle here means unrighteousness so cloaked and covered that men discern it not, but are deceived by it.…

Thus comes this man of sin, and by such ways he has advanced himself.

“In them that perish.” This shows who they are that are deceived by him. Reprobates are often so described (2 Cor. 2:15; 14:3) and it is the same as elsewhere signifies damnation. The word signifies men that are lost (Matthew 18:11), or destroyed (2 Cor. 4:9). They are such as have not their names written in the book of life (Rev. 13: 8)….

“Because they received not the love of the truth.” And the apostle gives the reasons why they are thus deceived. He says not they had not received the truth, but the love of it, and so hold it not fast, but are carried away with the general apostasy. Truth is either natural, which the heathen had, and detained in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), or supernatural, from Divine revelation. This is meant, but he speaks not of heathens, but Christians; not the world, but the church.

“That they might be saved.” And the truth here meant is saving truth as the Gospel is called “the word of truth” (Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5) for had they received it in love they might have been saved. But for want of that they perish. So that it is unsound, notional professors [i.e., people who profess the faith, ed.] that are carried away by the man of sin, and deceived by him. Truth if it be not received into the heart as well as the head, will not secure against apostasy or popery, nor prevent perishing. And the amiableness that is in the Gospel truth calls for love, as the certainty of its revelation calls for faith; and had they so received the truth they might have been saved. 

Verse 11: “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:”

“strong delusion.” We had account in the former verse of such as are deceived by the man of sin, of their sin, and here of their punishment.
  • They were first deluded, which was their sin; and God sends them strong delusion, and that is their punishment. 
  • They did not receive the truth in the love of it, which was their sin; and therefore are given up to believe a lie, which is their punishment. 
  • Had they received the truth aright, they might have been saved; but not receiving it, they are damned. 

And they were said to be such as perish, and their perishing is here called damnation. So that though God is not the author of sin or falsehood.... Yet He may in justice give men up to them,… which implies either:
  1. Tradition, delivering men to Satan to tempt and deceive 
  2. Desertion, withholding or withdrawing that grace that might preserve them. 
  3. A judicial permission, God purposing not to hinder men to fall into that sin or delusion which He sees their own hearts incline them to….

God in Scripture is often said to do what which He permits to be done…. And it is not a bare permission for what evil God permits, He decreed to permit it, and He decreed the circumstances attending it, and the end to which He would order and dispose it, and the degree to which it should break forth. They were deceived into error, and God gave them up to it. And it did work with great efficacy; which either relates to the man of sin, that did lead them strongly into sin, or to them that were led by him.

When error doth vitiate the life, and one error begets another, and makes men violent against the truth, then it is the efficacy of error. And thus God doth judicially punish sin with win, and delusion with delusion; and then they are always most operative, and most incurable. But men fall not presently under these judicial acts. Men first refuse to see, before God sends blindness, and first harden their own hearts before God hardens them. These in the text first refused to receive the truth, before they were given up to believe a lie (see Romans 1:24).

“That they should believe a lie.” And the lie they were  given up to believe is a doctrinal lie. False speaking is a lie in words, hypocrisy is a lie in fact, and error is a lie in doctrine. (Hos. 11:12, Acts 5:3). Some by “lie” here suppose is meant the lying wonders before mentioned; and this sense need not be excluded, but I rather interpret it of false doctrine, as that which stands opposite to the truth….

Verse 12: “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 

“That they all might be damned,” or condemned…. It is true a man may be judged and not condemned. But the judgment of the wicked is condemnation. And damnation is here mentioned either as the event, or the effect of their believing lies, or as the purpose of God in sending them strong delusions. They are firstly punished with spiritual judgment, and then eternal, and God is just in both. Whence we see that there are some errors in judgment which are damnable. As we read of “damnable heresies” (2 Peter 2:1) or herseies of destruction.

“Who believed not the truth.” Where we have a further description of these person who are to be damned, which is added by the apostle – either to clear God’s justice, as in sending them strong delusions to believe a lie, so also in their condemnation – or to assign the cause why they believed a lie, because they “believed not the truth.” Those will easily be brought to believe a lie who believe not the truth….

“But had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Did not only practice but had great complacence and contentment of mind in it, as the Greek word imports, and so had rather believe a false doctrine which will countenance their practice, then the truth which does condemn it (see (Prov. 10:23; Rom 1:32). By “unrighteousness” some expositors understand false doctrine, or error, because it is set in opposition here to truth, as sin is set in opposition to it (John 8:46)…. So that we see here an erroneous mind and a vicious life going together. And when sin is come to this height, that men take pleasures in it, it makes them ripe for damnation.

And how well these things agree to the antichristian church, let men consider and judge.
*From A Commentary on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole, Volume III: Matthew-Revelation (Hendrickson Publishers), p. 758-759. These excerpts have been amended, abridged, and reformatted for blog usage, along with some updated punctuation, spelling and word usage.

Note to reader: This excerpt from Matthew Poole’s Commentary, circa 1600, is an example of what evangelical prophecy leaders and organizations used to teach 20-40 years ago. Not so long ago, before the postmodern prophecy paradigm era, this sort of article was commonplace. Writings such as this served as an encouragement to the reader to 1) expect the Lord's imminent return and 2) be ready to meet the Lord "here, there or in the air." Believers exhorted one another that He could return at any time because all events on earth were coinciding to fulfill Bible prophecy, and that before the end the Gospel of salvation should be shared far and wide, especially to family and friends. As yet another sign of the times we note that publishing such an article today, especially with this eschatology, is likely to be met with scoffings (2 Pet. 3:2), even open disbelief (2 Pet. 3:4). For some of you, this may be the first time you have ever encountered this (now) old-fashioned Bible prophecy teaching. Read and consider: what if it is true?