PAUL'S PROPHECY - THE MAN OF SIN
Continuing now in Paul's prophecy, we see that he links the man
of sin with a falling away. "That day shall not come, except
there come a FALLING AWAY first, and that man of sin be re-
vealed..." (2 Thess.2:1-3). Therefore, if we can determine when
this falling away occurred and where, we will have another point
of identification regarding the man of sin.
The Greek word that is here translated "falling away" is
'apostasia.' Strong's concordance defines this word as "defection
from the truth." It is from this word that we get our English
word "apostasy." This falling away or apostasy of which Paul
spoke was not to be a falling away from religion into atheism,
but rather a corruption of Christianity through false doctrine.
It would be a departure from the true faith - a departure that
would develop right WITHIN the realm of the Christian church. As
Lenski has said: "This is apostasy. It is, therefore, to be
sought IN the church visible and not OUTSIDE the church, not in
the pagan world, in the general moral decline, in Mohammedanism,
in the French Revolution, in the rise and spread of Masonry, in
Soviet Russia, or in lesser phenomena."
Is the falling away from true Christianity yet to happen at some
future time or has it already happened? Those who are acquainted
with church history know the answer.
The falling away to which Paul referred took place many centuries
ago. The only way the falling away could be future is if
Christianity had remained pure in doctrine and Spirit until now.
This has obviously not been the case.
Originally the New Testament church was filled with truth and
spiritual power. The book of Acts gives an account of those
glorious days. But as time went on, even as the inspired apostles
had warned (Acts 20:29,30; 1 Tim.4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:2,3), there
began to be departures from the true faith. The mystery of
iniquity was at work. Compromises were made with paganism in
order to gain numbers. Finally, what the world recognized as the
"Church" in the fourth and fifth centuries had actually become
the fallen church. And - as is well established in history - this
apostasy cantered in ROME!
The bishop of Rome rose to power claiming to be "Bishop of
bishops" and that all the Christian world should look to him as
head and to ROME as headquarters for the church. This apostasy
has continued through the centuries with a "man" at Rome exalting
himself above all others, claiming divine honours and worship - a
continual reminder that the falling away took place centuries
ago. It is not future, it is FULFILLED!
Newton has well said: "If the apostasy be rightly charged upon
the church of Rome, it follows that the man of sin is the Pope,
not meaning this or that Pope in particular, but the Pope in
general, as the chief head and supporter of this apostasy. The
apostasy produces him and he promotes the apostasy." Or as Barnes
put it: "That his the Pope's rise was preceded by a great
apostasy, or departure from the purity of the simple gospel, as
revealed in the New Testament, cannot reasonably be doubted by
any one acquainted with the history of the church. That he is the
creation or result of that apostasy, is equally clear."
Understanding that the falling away occurred centuries ago and
cantered at Rome, provides more evidence that the Papacy has met
the requirements of the prophecy about the man of sin.
According to Paul, the man of sin was to "exalt himself above
all... in the temple of God" (2 Thess.2:4). It is quite important
that we understand just what Paul meant by his use of the term
temple of God.
Those who hold the dispensational interpretation of prophecy with
its secret rapture, gap theory, etc. think that Paul was speaking
of a future rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem. But a careful
study of every reference that Paul made to the "temple God"
reveals that he NEVER applied this term to the Jewish temple.
The word that is translated "temple" in 2 Thess.2:4 is used many
times by the apostle Paul. The first is Acts 17:24: "God... _.
dwelleth not in temples made with hands." In what kind of temple,
does God now dwell? Looking through the epistles, we find that
Paul always used the expression in reference to BELIEVERS, the
CHURCH - never to a literal building.
"Know ye not that YE are the TEMPLE OF GOD, and that the Spirit
of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the TEMPLE OF GOD, him
shall God destroy; for the TEMPLE OF GOD is holy, which temple YE
are" (1 Cor.3:16,17). In this passage, three times he refers to
Christian believers - the church - as the temple of God.
"What? know ye not that your body is the TEMPLE of the Holy Ghost
which is in you, which ye have of God?"(1 Cor.6:19). Each
believer is as a stone, a living stone, in that great "spiritual
House", "the church of the living God"(1 Peter 2:5; 1 Tim.3:15).
This same truth is seen in 2 Corinthians 6:16: "And what
agreement hath the TEMPLE OF GOD with idols? For YE are the
TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD." Writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul
said: "Ye are built on the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in
whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy
TEMPLE in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an
habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph.2:20-22).
None of these references could possibly refer to a literal Jewish
temple in Jerusalem!
Barnes states that Paul's use of the expression "temple of God"
refers to "the Christian church" and that "it is by no means
necessary to understand this of the temple at Jerusalem... The
idea is, that the Antichrist here referred to would present
himself in the midst of the church as claiming the honours due to
God alone... No one can fail to see that the authority claimed by
the Pope of Rome, meets the full force of the language used here
by the apostle." (Barnes' commentary, p. 1114).
When the Bible speaks of the complete, literal temple, the word
"hieron" is used. This word appears 71 times in the New Testament
in reference to the temple at Jerusalem. On the other hand, the
word that Paul used for temple is "naos" which refers not to the
complete, literal temple, but to the holy place, the dwelling of
God. And the dwelling place of God is now the church.
In what sense, then, are we to understand the term as used in 2
Thess.2:4? Since this verse links the "temple of God" with the
falling away, the term must be understood in the sense of
profession. The Church of Rome professes to be the one true
church, but is actually the fallen church, having departed from
the teaching that the church at Rome had originally received.
(cf. Book of Romans).
We see, then, that the man of sin was not to be merely a
political leader, but would claim to be above all others within
the very framework of professing Christianity! How different this
is from the futurist ideas about an atheistic, political superman
of the last days!
The man of sin is mentioned as he that "sitteth" in the temple
of God. His sitting within the church realm "as God" suggests
that he would claim a place of rulership there. The word
"sitteth" is translated from the word "kathizo." The sitting
implies a "seat" in which he would sit. The word translated seat
is "kathedra" which is a related term. From this term we get the
word "Cathedral" which means "the bishop's seat"; also "ex
cathedra", the expression used to describe the Pope's words as he
speaks from his seat officially, such pronouncements being
Guinness says: "There, in that exalted cathedral position, and
claiming to represent God, the man of sin was to act and abide as
the pretended vicar, but the real antagonist, of Christ,
undermining His authority, abolishing His laws, and oppressing
His people" (Guinness, Romanism and the Reformation, p. 57).
The man of sin is further described as he that "exalteth himself
above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he
as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is
God" (2 Thess.2:4). We understand from this description that the
man of sin would exalt himself in great pride, would make great
claims, would magnify himself above all others.
Similar expressions are found in various ways through the
scriptures. The prince of Tyrus is represented as saying: "I am a
God, I sit in the seat of God" (Ez.28:2). The king of Babylon
being lifted up with pride is represented as saying: "I will
exalt my throne above the stars of God... I will be like the most
High" (Isaiah 14:4,15,14). Concerning a king in Daniel 11:36,37,
it is said that "he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself
above every god... for he shall magnify himself above all."
Another king is said to "magnify [exalt] himself in his heart"
(Dan. 8:25). Concerning Herod, certain ones after hearing his
speech, said: "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man" (Acts
12:21-23). Concerning Edom, Obadiah 4 says: "Though thou exalt
thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the
stars, thence will I bring thee down." Or concerning Capernaum,
Jesus said: "And thou, Capernaum which art exalted unto heaven,
shall be brought down to hell"(Mt. 11:23).
Verses which speak of kings, countries, or cities exalting
themselves unto heaven, exalting themselves above every god,
sitting in the seat of God, being like the most High, etc., are
expressions which convey the meaning of pride and arrogance. In
the case of the man of sin, he would exalt himself above all
others - above all others in the church! That is, he would not
only claim to be "a" leader in the church, but would actually
claim to be "the" leader of the church.
The man of sin would claim to be "AS God", exalting himself as
head of the church - a position that belongs only to the Lord
himself - "showing that he is God." There is no article before
"God" in this case; the meaning is that the man of sin would
claim to be divine. Concerning this passage, Barnes has written:
"This expression would not imply that he actually claimed to be
the true God, but only that he sits in the temple, and manifests
himself AS IF he were God. He claims such honours and such
reverence as the true God WOULD if he should appear in human
form" (Barnes' Commentary, p. 1114 - note on 2 Thes.2).
Have the Popes claimed to be above all THAT is called God, have
they claimed to be AS GOD in the temple of God, and have they
attempted to show that they are DIVINE? The answer is yes!
The Popes have claimed to be above all kings and emperors. They
have claimed not only the rule of the earth, but of heaven and
hell also - these three realms being symbolized in the triple
crown which they wear. They have claimed attributes and titles
which can rightly pertain only to God.
At the coronation of Pope Innocent X, the following words were
addressed to him by a Cardinal who knelt before him: "Most holy
and blessed father! head of the Church, ruler of the world,
to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed, whom the
angels in heaven revere, and the gates of hell fear, and all the
world adores, we specially venerate, worship, and adore thee!"
Moreri, a noted historian, wrote: "To make war against the Pope
is to make war against God, seeing the Pope is God and God is the
Pope." Decius said: "The Pope can do all things God can do." Pope
Leo XIII said of himself in 1890: "The supreme teacher in the
Church is the Roman Pontiff. Union of minds, therefore, requires,
together with a perfect accord in the one faith, complete
submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman
Pontiff, as to God himself." In 1894, he said. "We hold the place
of Almighty God on earth."
On April 30, 1922, in the Vatican throne room before a throng of
Cardinals, bishops, priests, and nuns who fell on their knees
before him, Pope Pius XI in haughty tones said: "You know that
I am the Holy Father, the representative of God on earth, the
Vicar of Christ, which means that I am God on the earth."
The pagan Caesars were styled, "Our Lord and God." For centuries
the Popes accepted the same title! On the arches raised in honour
of Pope Borgia were the words: "Rome was great under Caesar; now
she is greater: Alexander VI reigns. The former was a man: this
is a god"!
Pope Pius X, when Archbishop of Venice, said: "The Pope is not
only the representative of Jesus Christ, but he is Jesus Christ
himself hidden under the veil of the flesh. Does the Pope speak?
It is Jesus Christ who speaks."
The following is an extract from the actual wording that has been
used by Popes in making their claims: "The Roman Pontiff judges
all men, but is judged by no one... We declare... to be subject
to the Roman Pontiff is to every creature altogether necessary,
for salvation... That which was spoken of Christ, 'Thou has
subdued all things under his feet' may well seem verified in
me... I have the authority of the King of kings. I am all in all
and above all... I am able to do almost all that God can do...
Wherefore if those things that I do be said not to be done of man
but of God: what can you make me but God?... Wherefore no marvel
if it be in my power to change time and times, to alter and
abrogate laces, to dispense with all things, yea, with the
precepts of Christ; for where Christ biddeth Peter to put up his
sword and admonishes His disciples not to use any outward force
in revenging themselves, so do not I, Pope Nicholas, writing to
the Bishops of France, exhort them to draw out their material
swords?... Wherefore, as I began, so I conclude, commanding,
declaring, and pronouncing, to stand upon necessity of salvation,
for every creature to be subject to me", etc.
The man of sin is referred to as "the son of perdition" (2 Thess.
2:3). This same title was applied to Judas Iscariot - John
17:12).By this duplication of the term, the Holy Spirit is
apparently showing that the man of sin would resemble Judas.
Judas was to outward appearances a bishop and apostle (Acts
1:20,25). Nevertheless, he "was a thief, and had the bag, and
bare what was put therein" (John 12:6). Such things are a picture
of Papal practices, especially during the dark ages. Claiming to
have apostolic authority, the Popes propagated such things as
indulgence selling, prayers for the dead in purgatory, payment
for masses, relic sales, offerings before idols, etc., by which
they enriched themselves. Though Judas had received thirty pieces
of silver to betray Jesus, he approached him in the garden with a
kiss and the words, "Hail Master"? And likewise, the Papacy has
claimed to be Christ's apostle and friend, but has betrayed the
Lord by promoting doctrines and practices which are contrary to
what Christ taught.
The man of sin's rise to power was to be accompanied by claims of
supernatural signs and wonders. "Whose coming is after [according
to) the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying
wonders" (2 Thess.2:9). The rise of the Romish church to a
world-wide system of religion is in itself a wonder, for though
claiming to be the church of Jesus Christ, it has actually
promoted practices and teachings that are the opposite of what
Christ taught. Millions have been deceived by its claims.
A full account of all the miracles which have supposedly happened
within the Romish system would fill volumes. The following are a
few of the claims that have been made:
crucifixes have spoken; images have come down and lit their own
candles; idols have sweat, turned their eyes, moved their hands,
opened their mouths, healed sicknesses, raised the dead, mended
broken bones; souls from purgatory have appeared on lonely roads
and begged that masses be said in their behalf; many have claimed
that the virgin Mary visited them, etc. All of these miracles -
whether supposed, real, or faked - greatly increased the fallen
We see, then, that the man of sin would appear in connection with
the falling away; he would rise to power within the very
framework of Christianity, claiming to be above all others, as
God; and his rise to power would be accompanied with lying signs
and wonders. We have seen the evidence, point by point, that
these things have found their fulfillment in the Papacy.
(Yes, the Church at Rome was in the beginning a very real part of
the body of Christ, a very real part of the true Church of God.
In the second century we have recorded in church history that
Polycarp and Polycrates, went to debate with the bishop of Rome
over the Passover/Easter issue and practice. The bishops of Asia
Minor still help the church of Rome to be part of their
fellowship and part of the true Church of God. And so indeed it
was that the "man of sin" - did come from within the true
fellowship and body of Christ. The bishop of Rome was in the
second century A.D. beginning to fall away from the true word and
teachings and practices of the true Church of God. And so the
prophecy of Paul in 2 Thes 2 came to pass, and the man of sin,
came from within the "temple of God" - the Church of God - Keith
Some object to this interpretation on the basis that Paul spoke
of "the man of sin" and that such wording must refer to one
individual man, not a succession of men. But this is not
necessarily true. For example, "the" is used in the expression,
"the man of God" (2 Tim.3:17) - a reference to a class of men of
a certain character, a succession of similar individuals. Or we
read about "the high priest" (Heb.9:7) - meaning a succession of
The church - the long line or succession of believers through the
centuries - is spoken of as "one new man" (Eph. 2:15), but
certainly no one would insist that the church is one man in a
literal sense. The statement about a "woman" called "Babylon the
Great, the Mother of harlots" (Rev.17) is not taken to mean one
literal woman, nor is the "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev.12)
thought of as a literal woman. A single beast in prophecy often
represents a whole empire or kingdom in all its changes and
revolutions from beginning to end. The four beasts of Daniel 7
are mentioned as four kings, yet the meaning is not limited to
individual kings, for each of these empires referred to included
a succession of rulers.
Gramatically, the expression "the man of sin" could mean either
an individual or a succession of similar individuals. The use of
the singular expression neither asserted nor excluded a dynastic
However, there was a strong hint that such could be a succession
of men, for since "he that letteth" was a line or succession of
Caesars, it would not be inconsistent to believe that "he that
sitteth" would also be a succession of men.
It has been said that prophecy is a wonderful combination of the
clear and the obscure; enough to show the hand of God, but not
enough to make fatalists of the readers; enough to prove the
message to have been from God, but not enough to enable man to
know all the details of how that purpose is to be realized. We
believe that such has been the case here.
Since the man of sin was to come to power upon the fall of the
Roman Empire, and would not be destroyed until the Lord's coming,
it is evident that one individual man could not be meant. Such
requires a succession of men. Nevertheless, the idea of ONE MAN
is not actually eliminated by this interpretation, for there is
only one man at a time who occupies the Papal office.....
Rome did fall, but it was a decline and fall - taking place over
a period of years. The rise of the Papacy was also gradual, many
years passing before it met all the requirements of the
prophecy. With its rise to power, darkness covered the earth, and
very little preaching was done on prophecy. But when the light of
the Reformation began to shine through, the study of prophecy was
revived. People began to re-examine things. They knew Rome had
fallen and had been divided into ten kingdoms. They could now see
that the power that rose up in Rome which thought to change laws,
wore out the saints, and made great claims, was the Papacy....
End of study by Ralph Woodrow
END NOTE by Keith Hunt
Realizing that the church at Rome, into the second century was
still regarded by the bishops of Asia Minor as part of the
"church" of Christ, makes then full sense to understand that Paul
was prophesying that a large and very significant "falling away"
would come to the "church" the Temple of God, after the
constraining power of the civil Roman Empire had come to an end
or had been "taken away." God was working it all out according to
His time plan for the restraining power of the Empire of Rome to
be taken away, and then would come the panicle of the falling
away in the Church of God, with the rise of the full Papal force
of the vicar or bishop of Rome - who became known as the Pope.
THERE IS ONE LARGE DIFFERENCE I WOULD HAVE WITH MR.WOODROW
And that is that I fully BELIEVE THERE WILL BE A **ONE** MAN OF
SIN, A **FALSE PROPHET,** OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION, THAT WILL
COME ON THE WORLD SCENE, FOR ESPECIALLY THE LAST THREE AND ONE
HALF YEARS OF THIS AGE, BEFORE JESUS RETURNS IN POWER AND GLORY.
2 THES.2:8 CLEARLY TELLS US THAT AT JESUS' COMING, A MAN OF SIN,
"THAT WICKED" SHALL BE DESTROYED BY THE SPIRIT OF HIS MOUTH AND
BY THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS COMING. THIS VERSE THEN GOES WITH
THE MAN OF SIN AT THE END OF THIS AGE WILL INDEED TO IN THE PAPAL
OFFICE OF THE POPE OF THE BABYLON WOMAN CHURCH, WHICH NEARLY ALL
THE PROTESTANT BIBLE COMMENTARIES SINCE THE REFORMATION, HAVE
DECLARED TO BE THE PAPACY.
Entered on Keith Hunt's Website August 2003