The Man of Sin
Many interpret the Apostle Paul prophesy concerning the man of sin as the Anti-Christ but a careful examination of the scriptures will reveal who the “man of sin” actually is. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day will not come except there comes a falling away first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Paul prophesied to the congregation in Thessalonica that a time would come when the church would fall away and “man” would exalt himself in the temple of God. I will discuss the falling away in another book entitled "You Left Your First Love". This book will focus primarily on the man of sin the Apostle Paul referenced in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The Greek word Paul used to describe man in this verse is anthropos which is a generic name for mankind. Greek scholar Spiros Zodhiates states: “It is used in the NT as a name of the species without respect to sex (Matthew 5:13, 16; 6:1); a man as distinguished from a woman (Matthew 19:3, 5, 10); every man, every one, any one (1 Corinthians 4:1; 11:28; Galatians 3:12)".
The temple Paul referenced is the church, the body of Christ. Many misinterpret 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 and claim the Apostle is referring to the temple of Ezekiel vision (Read Ezekiel chapter 40 through 48) or a latter day temple which is supposed to buit in Jerusalem but Paul always referred to the church as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16). As a matter of fact, Paul never referred to the temple of God as a physical building. Stephen also declared to the religious leaders of his day that “The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48).
The Apostle Paul prophesy about the exaltation of man in the temple of God was fulfilled before the end of the first century and man is still being exalted in the church today. He is not a personified world ruler many call the Anti-Christ. The man of sin is any individual who exercise lordship and receive worship in the temple of God which is the body of Christ.
In Paul's farewell address to the church of Ephesus he called and assembled the elders together and warned them about men who would arise after his death and twist the scriptures in order to justify their positions of authority over the church: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which He brought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30 NIV).
In the scriptures referenced above, Paul used the terms overseer and shepherd to describe the duties of an elder. The Greek word for overseer is episkopos. It’s derived from two words, epi which means over and skopeo which mean look or watch. Elders are ordained by God to “oversee” his church. “For this reason I left you in Crete that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you. If any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For an overseer, (Greek episkopos) must be above reproach” Titus 1:5-7 NASB. Spiros Zodhiates adds: “An Elder denotes the dignity of the office and episkopos describes the duties”. The King James Version incorrectly translate episkopos as bishop (1Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; Philippians 1:1; 2 Peter 2:25) and many leaders use those verses to exercise lordship over the church today.
Scriptures clearly teach that elders governed individual New Testament churches (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5). Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (plural) in every church (Acts 14:23). Peter, who the Church of Rome falsely proclaims as the first Pope, called himself an Elder (1 Peter 5:1). John also referred to himself as an Elder (2 John 1:1). There is no biblical evidence of any New Testament church featuring one individual leading a congregation. A plurality of godly elders, exercising their individual spiritual gifts is the manner in which New Testament churches were governed and agrees with the scriptures teaching, that wisdom is found in a multitude of godly counselors (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20; 24:6). Any church which operates under the authority of one individual whether they are a Pope, Bishop, Pastor or any other title is placing too much responsibility on one individual. Their leaders are more likely to suffer from burnout, immorality, stress related health issues, and mental breakdowns. Burnout is often viewed as the result of a Pastor working too many hours in the ministry but more than likely it is probably the result of one individual taking on too much responsibility. Many of these leaders are suffering physically and their ministry is suffering spiritually because they are working outside of the design and structure that God ordained for his church.
We all need to take heed to the advice of Jethro, Moses father in law: “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father in law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said: “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father in law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people, men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain and all these people will go home satisfied.” Moses listened to his father in law and did everything he said (Exodus 18:13-24).
Churches that operate under the authority of one individual also quench the Holy Spirit and hinder the gifts which he gave to be exercised in his church. "And he gave some Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelist, and some Pastors and Teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying (building) of the body of Christ" Ephesians 4:11-12. Notice the scripture state the saints are supposed to do the work of the ministry and build up the body of Christ not one individual.
Jesus even commanded his Apostles not lord over his Church: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the gentile’s lord it over them and their great men exercise authority over them. IT SHALL NOT BE THIS WAY AMONG YOU” (Mark 10:42-45 NASB), but soon after the death of the Apostles men exalted themselves in the temple of God and emerged in the second century as bishops. One individual was placed over each congregation and given authority to control church doctrine.
Scripture gives us several examples of man being exalted over God's people and actually describe who the Antichrist is and where he comes from. The Epistles of John, which most biblical scholars believe were written at the end of the first century, states that false teachers and antichrists had entered the church and exalted themselves into positions of authority. John identifies one of them in 3 John: “I wrote unto the church, but Diotrephes, who love to have the preeminence among them, received us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words; and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbids them that would, and cast them out of the church" (3 John 1:9).
Others left the church on their volition and drew disciples after themselves. "Little children, it is the time, and as you heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went from us but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest they were not all of us" (1 John 2:18-19).
During the following centuries, Bishops were placed over every city and congregation in the Roman Empire and false doctrines were established as a means to control the people and the church. One of those doctrines is still being used in many churches today. Jesus referred to it as “the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes” Rev 2:15 which literally mean rulers of the people. Eventually the Bishop of Rome was given preeminence over all Bishops and thus called the Pope or the Holy Father, a title Jesus warned his disciples not to use or call any man on earth (Matthew 23:9).
There is no biblical record of any individual appointed by Jesus or his Apostles to rule over the church. The Apostles even contended with those who exalted themselves to that position in the first century but sadly today many submit to them having aspirations themselves of ruling God’s people.