The Coming of the Lawless One

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (vv. 9–10).

- 2 Thessalonians 2:8–10

Biblical eschatology—the teaching of Scripture regarding the end times—is frequently thought to concern things that have not yet happened. When God’s Word addresses eschatological topics, many people suppose, it is speaking only of things that, from our perspective, are still to come. However, while biblical eschatology certainly involves things that lie ahead, we must not forget that according to the New Testament, the last days began during the ministry of Jesus and His death and resurrection. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 makes this point, but we also see it in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Paul notes that at the time of his writing, “the mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work.” Before Christ’s return, this mystery must reach its apex in the revelation of the man of lawlessness, one who embodies the spirit of antichrist most fully. But the presence of this mystery in the first century—and its continuing presence today—demonstrates that we are living in the final era of redemptive history. As 1 John 4:3 confirms, “the spirit of the antichrist . . . now is in the world already.”

Although lawlessness characterizes the current age—as evident in the presence of sin and hostility to the gospel in this world, we should not fear that lawlessness or the man of lawlessness will have the final say. After all, Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 that at the parousia of Christ—His final advent or second coming—this man of lawlessness will be killed with the breath of Jesus’ mouth and be brought to nothing. Paul here leans on Isaiah 11:4, a text that prophesies the righteous rule of the Messiah, particularly His just judgment. The Apostle is telling us that when Jesus returns in judgment, His decree of guilt for the man of lawlessness and all who support him will bring an end to his wickedness. Christ’s final judgment is sure and true, and when He speaks His judgment over His creatures, they will be consigned infallibly to everlasting punishment if they have not sought refuge in Him by faith alone.

Second Thessalonians 2:9–10 reveals that the man of lawlessness, the “lawless one,” will be a counterfeit Messiah. He will perform false signs and wonders that will confirm the reprobate in their hatred of the truth. John Calvin writes, “Christ puts forth the power of his Spirit for salvation, and seals his gospel by miracles; the adversary, by the efficacy of Satan, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, and by his enchantments confirms miserable men in error.”

Coram Deo

Satan loves to disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), so we should expect him to present himself as a counterfeit savior and even as one who can do signs and wonders. The true messenger of God is not one who claims to be able to do miracles but is one who loves God’s gospel, teaches God’s Word faithfully, and does not practice deception.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 11:16–17
Psalm 33:6
Revelation 13:11–18
Revelation 19:11–21

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.