Who is the "man of lawlessness" in 2 Thess 2?

The online RSVCE identifies him as the Antichrist, but The Navarre Bible New Testament Compact Edition note on 2 Thess 2:1-12 has in part:

We do not know what the Apostle means by the "man of lawlessness" - maybe all the forces of evil taken together as a tool at the service of Satan, although the description of this adversary of God is very like that of the "Antichrist" of St. John.

Any further insights as to who or what this "man of lawlessness" is?

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    Read Matt. 24. It's pretty hard not to see this as a reminder of what Jesus taught there.
    – Jas 3.1
    Oct 7, 2014 at 19:48

3 Answers 3


Preterists might identify him as Nero or some other first century person. Premillenialists are likely to say it is the leader of a reborn Roman empire, or perhaps the pope. Many of the Reformers agreed that it was the pope. That is because Christian tradition from the ealiest times associates this person with the idea of "antichrist." I'm talking about people like Irenaeus and Hippolytus. Those early Christians correlated scriptures like the Revelation beasts with Daniel's little horn and Pauline passages to identify an end time opponent of Christ. The church historian Eusebius said that those who followed the apostles were told that the one Jesus spoke of (John 5:43) was a lying, end time antichrist as spoken of in 2nd Thessalonians.

In the Bible we see the man of lawlessness called the "son of perdition." (2 Th 2:3) That is a title used only one other place in scripture, when talking about Judas (John 17:12). This lends credence to the idea that the man of lawlessness is a betrayer in the church. Note that when Paul speaks of the "temple of God"(2 Thess 2:4) elsewhere (1 Co 3:16-17, 1 Co 6:19, 2 Co 6:16) he is talking about the body of believers, the church.

Another first or second century writing that can be associated with this is the "Ascension of Isaiah."

2:4. And Manasseh turned aside his heart to serve Beliar; for the angel of lawlessness, who is the ruler of this world, is Beliar, whose name is Mantanbuchus. and he delighted in Jerusalem because of Manasseh, and he made him strong in apostatizing (Israel) and in the lawlessness which were spread abroad in Jerusalem.

CHAPTER 4 AND now Hezekiah and Josab my son, these are the days of the completion of the world. 2. After it is consummated, Beliar the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea, he will descent from his firmament in the likeness of a man, a lawless king, the slayer of his mother: who himself (even) this king. 3. Will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted. Of the Twelve one will be delivered into his hands. 4. This ruler in the form of that king will come and there will come and there will come with him all the powers of this world, and they will hearken unto him in all that he desires. 5. And at his word the sun will rise at night and he will make the moon to appear at the sixth hour. 6. And all that he hath desired he will do in the world: he will do and speak like the Beloved and he will say: "I am God and before me there has been none." 7. And all the people in the world will believe in him. 8. And they will sacrifice to him and they will serve him saying: "This is God and beside him there is no other." 9. And they greater number of those who shall have been associated together in order to receive the Beloved, he will turn aside after him. 10. And there will be the power of his miracles in every city and region. 11. And he will set up his image before him in every city. 12. And he shall bear sway three years and seven months and twenty-seven days. 13. And many believers and saints having seen Him for whom they were hoping, who was crucified, Jesus the Lord Christ, [after that I, Isaiah, had seen Him who was crucified and ascended] and those also who were believers in Him - of these few in those days will be left as His servants, while they flee from desert to desert, awaiting the coming of the Beloved. 14. And after (one thousand) three hundred and thirty-two days the Lord will come with his angels and with the armies of the holy ones from the seventh heaven with the glory of the seventh heaven, and He will drag Beliar into Gehenna and also his armies. 15. And He will give rest of the godly whom He shall find in the body in this world, [and the sun wil be ashamed]: 16. And to all who because of (their) faith in Him have execrated Beliar and his kings. But the saints will come with the Lord with their garments which are (now) stored up on high in the seventh heaven: with the Lord they will come, whose spirits are clothed, they will descend and be present in the world, and He will strengthen those, who have been found in the body, together with the saints, in the garments of the saints, and the Lord will minister to those who have kept watch in this world. 17. And afterwards they will turn themselves upward in their garments, and their body will be left in the world. 18. Then the voice of the Beloved will in wrath rebuke the things of heaven and the things of earth and the things of earth and the mountains and the hills and the cities and the desert and the forests and the angel of the sun and that of the moon, and all things wherein Beliar manifested himself and acted openly in this world, and there will be [a resurrection and] a judgment in their midst in those days, and the Beloved will cause fire to go forth from Him, and it will consume all the godless, and they will be as though they had not been created. 19. And the rest of the words of the vision is written in the vision of Babylon. 20. And the rest of the vision regarding the Lord, behold, it is written in three parables according to my words which are written in the book which I publicly prophesied. 21. And the descent of the Beloved into Sheol, behold, it is written in the section, where the Lord says: "Behold my Son will understand." And all these things, behold they are written [in the Psalms] in the parables of David, the son of Jesse, and in the Proverbs of Solomon his son, and in the words of Korah, and Ethan the Israelite, and in the words of Asaph, and in the rest of the Psalms also which the angel of the Spirit inspired. 22. (Namely) in those which have not the name written, and in the words of my father Amos, and of Hosea the prophet, and of Micah and Joel and Nahum and Jonah and Obadiah and Habakkuk and Haggai and Malachi, and in the words of Joseph the Just and in the words of Daniel.

Sometimes historians associate these passages with Nero who supposedly murdered his mother, but it appears to be taking about Judas (4:3) which has nothing to do with Nero. This could be a reference to Rev 17:16 if an apostate church is understood as a mother (Gal 4:26). The image, lawlessness, no other God, miracles, etc, remind us of 2nd Th 2.

More importantly the Ascension of Isaiah establishes a connection with the Belial/Beliar tradition, which means something like lawless or worthless one.

Deu 13:12 If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the LORD thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying, Deu 13:13 Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known; Deu 13:14 Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you; Deu 13:15 Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword. Deu 13:16 And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again. Deu 13:17 And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; Deu 13:18 When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the LORD thy God.

2Co 6:15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 2Co 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.


The view that the church fathers held that persisted in Christian theology down through the Reformers was that the Papacy was the man of lawlessness. Their understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2 was that the Roman Empire was "that which was restrains" the revealing of the man of lawlessness. It was only in the 1600's, in an attempt to divert attention away from the Papacy, that Francisco Ribera wrote a commentary on Revelation that pointed to a future Antichrist. This view was later picked up by a pastor that influenced John Nelson Darby and C.I. Scofield and led to a futuristic understanding of end time events.


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  • It would be excellent if you could reference or even paste in some quotes from the church fathers showing that they held the Papacy to be the man of lawlessness. Jun 3, 2021 at 12:45
  • No, church fathers didn't consider the papacy the antichrist. Perhaps if you define "church father" as a prominent figure of the post-renaissance reformation movement you can get there, but that's not what most people think of when they hear the expression. Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Jerome, Chrysostom, Athanasius, the Eastern Fathers -- none of these would agree with you.
    – Robert
    Aug 22, 2021 at 2:44


The “man of sin” speaks of those who love to be first among the churches of men. They will be many acting as one in their evil deeds in this coming time.

They all have the same characteristics and one is that they love to be first. They are already in our presence as the mystery of iniquity is already at work and they are to be revealed by the Word of Truth which they will oppose in this coming time when they hear it .

2 Thessalonians 2:3-5 KJV (3) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

They love to be first and will oppose the Word of Truth that they will hear it. They will exalt themselves in the churches of men and will do evil things against those brothers sent to speak the Lord's words of life and spirit.

They will claim that they are doing these things in the name of God…in His authority. They will show themselves as God by supposedly doing these evil things in His name.

(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, shewing himself that he is God. (5) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

They will follow the pattern of Diotrephes who also loved to have the preeminence (love to be first) among men and did not receive the brothers sent to speak His words. The same thing will happen again.

3 John 1:9-12 KJV (9) I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

The “man of sin” will not cease speaking evil against those who will be sent to their churches. They will prate against them with malicious words (“killing” them with false accusations….labeling them as “devils”, “evildoers”, etc)and will not receive the brothers who are sent by Him.

They will not have brotherly love and will forbid others from receiving them as well and will cast out of the church those who will receive them. They will want many to follow after them in their deeds.

These evil deeds will be claimed to be in His (God’s) name or authority.

(10) Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

They will be revealed that they do not know God nor the Son by their evil deeds. They will be manifested that they are not of God and will want others to follow their bad example.

(11) Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (12) Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

They will do these things supposedly in His name or authority. They will cast out any who will not follow after them (“in your name” we have cast out “devils”). They will falsely accuse those they will cast out labeling/judging them as “devils” and all the while proclaiming they are doing it in the authority of God.

Matthew 7:21-23 KJV (21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (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? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

The following are the words of Jesus found in 2 Thessalonians 2…

2 Thessalonians 2: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”

….as He said these very words to the disciples in John 16. The time will come that whosoever will “kill” you (with false accusations…labeling them as “devils”)will think that he does God service (part of the original Lie of Satan in Genesis).

Jesus has told us these things ahead of time so that we will not be tripped up by them...not rendering evil for their evil.

They will put us out of their gatherings and “kill” us and all the while think that they are doing God “service” in His name…in His authority.

John 16:1-4 KJV (1) These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. (2) They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

But those of God will not sin. they will not return evil for their evil.

The children of the devil will be manifested that they are not of God…showing that they know not the Father nor the Son.

(3) And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

“Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”

(4) But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

In this way are the children of the devil are made manifest: those who will not do righteousness are not of God and neither are those who do not love their brother.

1 John 3:9-10 KJV (9) Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (10) In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother

The righteous will not be destroyed with the wicked. They will be taken out of the way so as not to share in the judgment that comes upon those who think they are doing God “service” for killing you with false accusations and putting you out of their gatherings because you will receive the Word of Truth….the revealed Word of God.

2 Thessalonians 2:5-10 KJV (5) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (6) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. (7) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. (8) And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (9) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, (10) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

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