Lawlessness In The Temple Of God
2 Thessalonians 2

2 Th 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 Th 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
2 Th 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (apostasia: G646) first, and that man of sin (lawlessness) be revealed, the son of perdition;
2 Th 2:4 Who opposeth and 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. (see this page)
2 Th 2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
2 Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
2 Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
2 Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked (lawless one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
2 Th 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
2 Th 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness (lawlessness) in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
2 Th 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
2 Th 2:12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (lawlessness).

Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (lawlessness).

Sin, Iniquity, Wicked, and Unrighteousness

1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

John gives us this precise definition of sin, which would also apply to iniquity, wicked, and unrighteousness, as shown in the parenthesis above. The terms are synonymous (1 John 5:17). So what is the truth that the lost refuse to receive?

Psa 119:142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

The Temple of God

The word Paul uses for temple in verse 4 is the Greek word naos, which is G3485 in Strong's dictionary:

3485. naos, nah-os'; from a prim. naio (to dwell); a fane, shrine, temple:--shrine, temple. Comp. G2411.

The Apostle Paul only uses the word naos in his epistles to refer to the people of God:

1 Cor 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1 Cor 3:17 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 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

2 Cor 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
Eph 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The same association is expressed by Christ in the letter to the church of Philadelphia in Revelation:

Rev 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, ...

Apostasy Enters The Church

Paul also warned in the book of Acts of apostasy arising from within the church:

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Acts 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Acts 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

The Apostle Peter specifically warned the church of falling into the apostasy of lawlessness:

2 Pet 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked (lawlessness), fall from your own stedfastness.

The word Peter uses is G113 in Strong's concordance:

113. athesmos, ath'-es-mos; from G1 (as a neg. particle) and a der. of G5087 (in the sense of enacting); lawless, i.e. (by impl.) criminal:--wicked.

Note that athesmos has the sense of the negative of enacting, which is to say lawless, criminal, opposed to law. This is what characterizes the apostasy of the man of sin in the church, he opposes God's law.

Son Of Perdition

This phrase is only used twice in scripture, by Paul to describe the man of sin, and by Jesus in John 17:12 who applied it to Judas. Like Judas, the man of lawlessness is in the Church. He professes and appears to be a faithful disciple of Christ, but he is actually a deceiver, secretly working iniquity, plotting to betray Christ and the Church.

The Restrainer

The man of lawlessness is inhibited, not able to pursue his intents, until a restraining entity is removed. Paul is unwilling to openly identify this restrainer, but he mentions that the Thessalonians already knew who it was (vs. 5-7). The testimony of the early church fathers is that the restrainer was the pagan Roman Empire, and after its fall, the man of sin, the antichrist, would flourish such that he could then be identified.

At this point, we can say with certainty that the falling away that Paul describes in 2 Thess 2:3 is apostasy entering into the professing Christian Church (naos), and that this apostasy is promoted by the man of sin who exalts himself above God by subtly deceiving the church into transgressing the law of God. This was well understood by Protestants of a century ago:

... 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 real antagonist, of Christ, undermining His authority, abolishing His laws, and oppressing His people. Observe the words, "who opposeth" It is possible effectually to oppose another without being his avowed antagonist; so the professions of the predicted power might be friendly, while his actions would be those of an opponent of the gospel of Christ.

    We have said that the principles which were ultimately to produce the man of sin had already begun to operate in Paul's own day. His words are, "The mystery of iniquity doth already work"; and these principles would continue to work until the full development of the apostasy, and its final destruction at the second advent: that is, throughout the eighteen Christian centuries. The sphere of their operation therefore cannot be the Jewish temple, which was destroyed in the first century, but must needs be the professing Christian Church.

    An important point in the prophecy is the existence in apostolic times of a certain restraining power, withholding while it lasted the manifestation of the man of sin. Paul, for good reasons, speaks of it in guarded language, as "he who letteth," or "that which hinders." What it was Paul knew, and the Thessalonians knew from him: "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you ? "The early Church—from whom alone we can learn what Paul told them by word of mouth, but refrained from committing to writing—has left it on record that the Apostle had told them that this hindering power was the dominion of the Roman Caesars ; that while they continued to reign at Rome, the development of the predicted power of evil was impossible. Hence it would seem that ROME would be the seat of the man of sin. During the continuance of the Roman empire there was no opportunity for him to rise; he would only be manifested on its fall. While the Caesars reigned he could not appear, but when they passed away he would succeed them.

    Notice particularly that, just as the expression, "he that letteth," comprehends the line or succession of the Caesars, so the expression, "he that sitteth," may well comprehend an analogous line or succession of rulers. Both expressions refer to dynasties, and not to individuals.

Source: Romanism And The Reformation: from the standpoint of prophecyby Henry Grattan Guinness, 1887, pgs. 93-95.

This man of lawlessness is also described by the prophet Daniel as the little horn:

Changing The Law of God

Dan 7:25 And he (the little horn) shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

The Apostle Paul and Daniel the prophet have given us enough information to look back on the history of the Christian Church and precisely identify the apostasy that reveals the man of lawlessness. We need only to look for any examples of the law of God, the Ten Commandments, being changed by the church that professes to be Christian. For example, has the church at some point decreed a change in the commandment prohibiting coveting? Not that I am aware of. How about the commandment prohibiting bearing false witness? Has the church changed it? Again, no. Neither has the church decreed a change in the commandments regarding stealing, adultery, killing, or honoring your father and mother. These commandments of God all involve a horizontal relationship between people, and to my knowledge they stand as written, unchanged.

The remaining commandments are vertical in nature, dealing with mankind's relationship to God. Here we find what we are looking for. The commandment of God regarding the seventh day Sabbath has been changed.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Sunday - fulfillment of the sabbath

2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:107

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.108

The commandment of God regarding the Sabbath is special because it explains who God is, and how and why we are to worship Him. This has made it the primary target of Satan and the man of lawlessness.

Exo 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exo 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Exo 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exo 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Revelation also explains why God is worthy of worship:

Rev 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

By introducing Sunday keeping as a replacement for the seventh day Sabbath, the law of God has been subtly subverted, such that people are deceived by the professing Christian church into thinking they are honoring God, while they are actually in transgression of God's law.

Next, we find that the commandment prohibiting bowing down to any statues or images has also been changed.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the "cloud of witnesses" who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man "in the image of God," finally transfigured "into his likeness," who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets. 31
31 Council of Nicaea II: DS 600.

2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images.

2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it."70 The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.71

The commandment of God strongly prohibits what the Catholic Church expressly permits. Idolatry that God condemns becomes sacred image veneration in Catholicism. The most egregious example of this idolatry is Divine Mercy Sunday.

Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Exo 20:6 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Note this again, from Paul:

2 Cor 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Sadly, Revelation tells us that some will not repent and give up their useless impotent idols:

Rev 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

The Apostle Paul also makes the following observation:

Rom 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

As seen above, the Catholic Church freely admits these Traditions of Sunday keeping and venerating statues and images involve changing one of the 10 commandments of God. These changes, in fact, contradict and violate God's commandments: they are sin. Paul and Daniel clearly prophesied a subtle imposter would be leading the professing Christian Church into apostasy (falling away), deceiving them into transgressing God's law while claiming to represent and honor God. However, by thinking to change God's law the man of sin is exalting himself above God, and that violates the first commandment:

Exo 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

This topic is further developed in The Mark Of The Beast In Daniel 8 - 12