Friday, May 16, 2014

David J. Williams and the Man of Sin (Lawlessness)

David J. Williams thinks that we cannot say "who" or "what" the man of lawlessness is. He writes that the "man" might be "an individual or a group, a government or an institution" (David J. Williams, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 124). Yet Williams goes on to identify the man of lawlessness with the Beast in Rev. 13 and thinks that the man-beast is the Antichrist.

However, other commentators believe that the man of lawlessness represents a part of the Church: the part that apostatizes from God. Ralph Earle seems to take this stance, though his treatment of the issue is somewhat ambiguous to me. He suggests that the man is linked with apostasy in the Church and lawlessness in the land. He even contends that there was once a time "when the Bob Ingersolls railed and ranted against Christianity." But now "this opposition comes from within the Church" (Ralph Earle, Word Meanings, 375).

It's probably no secret that I would say 2 Thessalonians indicates that the man is a group of persons inside the realm of professed Christianity who apostatize from God; for it's in the Temple of God [the Christian congregation] that the "man" takes his seat (2 Thess. 2:4). He evidently declares himself to be "a god" and he is an apostate, suggesting that the man must be a professed worshiper of God who draws away from the living Deity. But another reason we might contend that the man is not an individual is mentioned in 2 Thess. 2:7, 8.

In these fateful passages, Paul writes that the mystery of lawlessness was already at work in the first century. And yet, the mystery (i.e. the man and his activities) is still present when the Lord Jesus Christ executes his righteous judgment upon this wicked age.

How could one human's life or influence extend from the first century until now? This view seems untenable to me. And if my memory serves me correctly, even Augustine of Hippo (in the City of God) said that the man of lawlessness was composed of those who went out from the Church because they were not, in the final analysis, genuine Christians. While I'm not being dogmatic about the identity of the man of lawlessness, I do believe that 2 Thessalonians is not talking about one man when it mentions this lawless and ungodly figure.


Anonymous said...

I find this "Man of Lawlessness" topic fascinating and worrying.

Here's my quick thoughts...

1. There is a clue in the title - "MAN" of lawlessness.

2. The label of "Son of destruction/perdition" is given to the man of lawlessness, but was also applied to Judas, an individual MAN.

3. 2Thes 2:3 "Man of Lawlessness" is REVEALED accompanied by(fake) signs/miracles VS 2Thes 1:7."...the Lord Jesus is REVEALED from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (supernatural event)". So, could this indicate a fake parousia of the Man of Lawlessness?

4. "For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion (apostasy) against God..." Now, I'm not saying there was not an apostasy of sorts in the 4th century, but when you look at what is happening with Religion/Christianity/Morals, in our time, I would say this is a scripture for the "Last Days", a sudden, big, future event.

5. The world seems to be crying out for some kind of superhuman / rockstar politician/leader
"'And at the end of their reign, when the measure of their sins is full, a king will arise, a proud-faced, INGENIOUS-MINDED MAN." - Daniel 8:23 New Jerusalem Bible

6. When you look back in history at powerful rulers/dictators - these were individual MEN who all thought they were special, god-like, and should be worshipped.

7. If the UN becomes a World Government, won't it have it's own leader? (president of the world).

8. Here's 4 SHORT YouTube videos from Anthony Buzzard, on this topic. (Buzzard is not a JW and so differs on various understandings...)






Edgar Foster said...


1) Just because it says "man" doesn't necessarily mean the writer was referring to a (actual) single male individual, does it?

In Matt. 24:45, Jesus seems to use the figure of a faithful slave (singular) to describe many trusty servants who loyally dispense spiritual food at the proper time. Cf. Ezekiel 9:1-11 which references the "man" with the writer's inkhorn.

2)Furthermore, aren't the contexts with Judas and the man of lawlessness different? It's evident that Judas is supposed to be a literal man, but that's not the case with the eschatological "man" of 2 Thessalonians.

3)I would not rule out the possibility that the man could produce a counterfeit/fake parousia. Maybe he already has.

4) Whenever the apostasy actually occurs (or occurred), the Apostle stated that the "mystery of lawlessness" was already operative in the 1st century.

5) Have yoiu read the secondary literature on Dan 8:23? It's likely already been fulfilled through events that transpired in ancient Rome and Greece.

6) Biblically, there were royal dynasties that elevated themselves to the place of God. See Isaiah 14:4, 11-14; Ezekiel 28:1-2

7) The UN may/may not become a world government. But that does not ensure that the UN will be identical to this "man."

Anonymous said...

Ok, thanks. If the Watchtower gives an explanation of what it thinks the "Man of Sin" is, do they state if the "Man" has already been revealed or is that considered a future event? I never hear any JW talking about this as something they are expecting...

One other point, and I don't mean to go off topic, but I do think it is relevant. Throughout the Bible (before we get to Revelation), there are a number of times "false prophet" is mentioned, each time the identity is that of an individual, named, man. In the book of Revelation it mentions a nameless false prophet. Using the pattern set in previous parts of the Bible, would we not conclude that this is also an individual man? It's often said that the "Bible interprets itself".

Edgar Foster said...

According to the 2/1/1990 WT, the man of lawlessness has already been revealed, but awaits "his" destruction. I also believe that this "man" has been manifested; however, we believe that adjustments in understanding may sometimes be necessitated.

I agree that false prophet often refers to an individual person, but it would seem that we have to read things in context. Revelation is usually classified as an apocalyptic work which has many eschatological components. What Paul describes in 2 Thessalonians likewise seems to be eschatological/apocalyptic. So we must then deal with potential symbols or figurative language like we find in Ezekiel 9:1-11 and Zechariah 13:1-6; Revelation 16:13-14.

Anonymous said...

Anthony Buzzard has written:-

** " Mark 13:14: “Verse 14 marks the beginning of something quite extraordinary…In Daniel 9:27, ‘The
Awful Horror’ [Abomination of Desolation] designates the pagan altar which was erected at that time upon the altar of burnt offering in the temple courtyard. [There is a yet future fulfilment too.] The discussion which follows
clearly indicates that here in Mark 13:14 [Jesus’ famous Olivet Discourse] the term refers to a person. Perhaps the seer expected a sacrilege similar to what Caligula planned when he ordered his statue to be set up in the
temple. Is it possible that he used this expression to signify the appearance of the Antichrist in the temple?
The suddenness of the event might favor this interpretation (2 Thess. 2:3ff). Undoubtedly the phrase ‘where he should not be’ refers to the temple, since the
entire passage presupposes a Jewish situation” (Schweizer, The Good News According to Mark, 1966,
p. 272).

“But the sacrilege, whatever it may be, is perpetrated by some person. Hence person and thing are
intermingled in the imagery. In the Gospel accounts exactly the same thing occurs. In Matthew the
abomination is described as a thing which stands in a holy place (24:15). But in Mark a neuter noun
(‘abomination’) is modified by a masculine participle.
This strange grammatical shift shows that for Mark the abomination is a person who stands where he ought not to stand (Mark 13:14). The man of lawlessness in 2 Thess. 2 is clearly an individual. He opposes and exalts
himself against all that is called God or is worshipped. He arrogated to himself the prerogatives of deity. He sits in the temple of God and proclaims that he himself is God (2 Thess. 2:4). This lawless one is the offshoot or product of the mystery of lawlessness which is continually
operating” (Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible, p. 293).

“Mark has a masculine adjective ‘standing’ indicating that he associates the sacrilege with an
individual” (Wenham, Paul: Follower of Jesus? p. 319). " **

Edgar Foster said...

1) To say that the lawless one is "clearly" an individual is a bit heavy-handed. Firstly, how could the "mystery of lawlessness" have already been at work 2000 years ago and been held back, if we're talking about a single individual? Secondly, see my references above where groups of people are treated as a single entity ( a king or individual man) in prophetic contexts.

Joseph Benson likewise writes in his commentary:

"The man of sin may signify either a single man, or a succession of men; the latter being meant in Daniel, it is probable that the same is intended here also. Indeed, a single man appears hardly sufficient for the work here assigned; and it is agreeable to the phraseology of Scripture to speak of a body, or a number of men, under the character of one. Thus a king (Daniel 7:8.; Revelation 17.) is often used for a succession of kings, and the high-priest, (Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 9:25,) for the series and order of high-priests. A single beast, (Daniel 7, 8.; Revelation 13.) often represents a whole empire or kingdom, in all its changes and revolutions. The woman clothed with the sun, (Revelation 12:1,) is designed as an emblem of the true church, as the woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, (Revelation 17:4,) is the portrait of a corrupt communion."

2) The masculine participle is being given more weight than it probably deserves in the Markan verse. Gender is a grammatical feature of language that does not necessarily harmonize with the gender of extramental referents.

Edgar Foster said...

Here are 2 other perspectives on Mk 13:14:

Robertson Word Pictures:

Standing where he ought not (εστηκοτα οπου ου δε). Mt 24:15 has "standing in the holy place" (εστος εν τοπο αγιω), neuter and agreeing with βδελυγμα (abomination), the very phrase applied in 1Macc. 1:54 to the altar to Zeus erected by Antiochus Epiphanes where the altar to Jehovah was. Mark personifies the abomination as personal (masculine), while Lu 21:20 defines it by reference to the armies (of Rome, as it turned out). So the words of Daniel find a second fulfilment, Rome taking the place of Syria (Swete). See on Mt 24:15 for this phrase and the parenthesis inserted in the words of Jesus ("Let him that readeth understand").

Expositor's Greek Testament:

τὸ βδέλυγμα τ. ἐ. The horror is the Roman army, and it is a horror because of the desolation it brings. Vide on Mt. The reference to Daniel in T.R. is imported from Mt.—ἑστηκότα, the reading in the best texts, masculine, though referring to βδέλυγμα, because the horror consists of soldiers (Schanz) or their general. (Cf. ὁ κατέχων, 2 Thessalonians 2:7.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "Great Apostasy" - I took the following from various Bible translations of 2Thessalonians 2:3

This list reads like something we now recognise in our time, not the 4th century.

Many people will stop believing God
Many people turn away from God
People will rebel against God
Great rebellion against God
People rise up against God
Definite rejection of God
Turning away from God
A falling away

The Man of Lawlessness turns up soon after the above situation has occurred, or reached a certain level.

Anonymous said...

Thought this was quite good...

Ben Witherington - Who is the Beast of Revelation 13?

Anonymous said...

If Paul had multiple men in mind when talking about the man of lawlessness, wouldn't he have written "men of lawlessness" declaring themselves "gods" instead of "the man of lawlessness" declaring himself to be "a God"?

Why use the singular if the reference is plural?

Anonymous said...

If the Lawless One was a man already at work in the first century who performed counterfeit miracles and declared himself to be a god while in the temple of God, wouldn't that make the Lawless One the Roman Emperor Titus? Titus was at work in the first century, performed miracles according to Tacitus and Suetonius, and literally declared himself to be a god while sitting in the temple of God in Jerusalem in the year 70.

Furthermore, Titus was the eleventh Caesar, making him the eleventh horn (king) of the fourth beast (Rome). Cf., the little horn in Daniel 7.

My theory is that the Lawless One was a spirit that possessed Titus which Christ destroyed at his second advent, which was a spiritual event that happened in seventy A.D.

Read the two volume book "The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination" by Duncan W. McKenzie

Edgar Foster said...

While I understand the reasoning that you've presented, there are other possibilities for the man of lawlessness. Some early church writers connected the "man" with apostasy in the church. They believed the man has to come from among them and would be someone who defected from the Christian faith.

Edgar Foster said...

The word "man" could be composite just like the term "slave" is used that way for Israel in Isa 43:10ff and debatably for some Christian overseers in Mt 24:45.