ANTICHRIST IN THE TEMPLE OF GOD
In verse 4 Paul gives a further description of Antichrist: “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or an object of worship, so that he seats himself in the temple of God, proclaiming himself that he is God.” This fulfills the prophecy concerning Antichrist in Daniel 11:36 and 37. This will take place in the midst of the last week, as prophesied in Daniel 9:27.
The temple of God mentioned in verse 4 is “the holy place” in Matthew 24:15. Verse 4 indicates that the temple of God will be rebuilt before the Lord comes back. The temple was destroyed more than nineteen centuries ago. But this verse says that Antichrist will seat himself in the temple of God. Therefore, the temple must be rebuilt. The nation of Israel has been formed again, and the city of Jerusalem has been returned to Israel. However, the temple has not yet been built. Some Jews are deeply stirred concerning the rebuilding of the temple. One day, this temple will be rebuilt, and, according to the prophecy of Daniel, Antichrist will seat himself in it.
In verse 5 Paul says, “Do you not remember that, when I was yet with you, I said these things to you?” Although Paul had been with the Thessalonians for only three weeks, he had spoken to them concerning these things.
THE MYSTERY OF LAWLESSNESS
In verse 6 Paul goes on to say, “And now you know that which restrains, that he might be revealed in his own time.” This verse indicates that some power hinders the revelation of the man of lawlessness, Antichrist. The words “in his own time” denote the time appointed by God, which will be the last of the seventy weeks, as prophesied in Daniel 9:27; 7:24-26; and Revelation 13:1-8.
In verse 7 Paul continues, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already operating; only there is one who restrains now until he comes out of the midst.” The lawlessness that will characterize Antichrist is already operating in this age mysteriously. It is the mystery of lawlessness working today among the nations and in human society. Even now there is a tendency for lawlessness to be prevailing.
Antichrist will be the totality of lawlessness. No one can have unlimited power unless he is lawless. A lawful person cannot have unlimited power, because he is limited by the law. Those who are lawless, who are not limited by the law, but do whatever they please, may become very powerful. Hitler, an example of lawlessness, was such a one.
According to God’s sovereignty, “there is one who restrains now until he comes out of the midst.” This probably means that the restraining factor will be taken out of the way. Although the mystery of lawlessness is already operating, this lawlessness is at the present time restrained, restricted. But one day this restrainer will be taken away. We need to realize from the prophecy of the Bible that one day the restraining factor will be removed, and then Antichrist will be unrestricted.
In a democratic country such as the United States, even the President is limited by laws. He is not free to do whatever he pleases. But if the limitation of law were to be removed, the one in power could become lawless and do whatever he wants. In such a case, the ruler of a country could become extraordinarily powerful. Today lawlessness is operating, but the restraining factor still exists. Because of this restraining factor, no one can be lawless and become so powerful. But when the restraining factor is removed, someone will rise up to be lawless and do whatever he desires. Then he will become extraordinarily powerful. That man of lawlessness will be Antichrist.
Verse 8 says, “And then the lawless one shall be revealed (whom the Lord Jesus will slay by the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearing of His coming).” This will be fulfilled in Revelation 19:19-20. This verse indicates that the Lord’s coming (parousia) is hidden before it appears openly. This also indicates that the Lord’s coming involves a period of time. It will remain in secret, and then it will appear to the public.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 26, by Witness Lee)