We have been all over the Bible (not my favorite way to answer a question in a particular context, but in all honesty this is not your “normal” text to deal with) to identify Paul’s Man of Sin. The conclusion is that the beast in Daniel 7 refers to the Roman Empire, which means the beast in Revelation 13 is the Roman Empire (which I think can also be clearly established from the argument of John’s Revelation), and thus, if my theory is correct, the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians has to do with the Roman Empire.
Specifically, I believe that Paul is reminding the Early Christians that persecution from the Roman Empire would come before the Final Return of Jesus. This persecution is currently being restrained by the current Emperor’s indifference toward Christianity. However, seen in Nero and later more fully and systematically established under the Emperors Domitian, Decius, and Diocletian, Christians were going to face major persecution.
The reason for this major persecution is the Christians’ refusal to worship the Emperor. Domitian required such worship from his subjects and declared himself to be God and other Emperors followed. Christians, believing in the One True God, could not worship Domitian or any other Emperor.
This lead to a great apostasy because many Christians would denounce their Christian faith in order to be saved from persecution. This is what Paul speaks of in 2:3 as the “falling away.”
Eventually, the Roman Empire collapsed due to many forces, but the real reason was Jesus judgment upon them (2:8).
Paul is reminding the Thessalonians of these truths to assure them that Christ’s Final Return had not yet taken place. It could not until these certain events happened first. Next post will do with a few exegetical questions and then address some implications from our study.
To read earlier posts in the series click here.