The Open Scroll - The Sign for the Church - Part I

The Sign for the Church - Part I

By Bob Schlenker  (Prints about 14 pages)


Although there are many signs of the nearness of our Lord's coming, there is one sign in particular that has been declared in the scriptures to be the sign for the Church. That's right, a sign for the Church. Still with me? I had been under the impression that the Church would be raptured without warning and that there would be no sign given for which to watch and by which to gauge the nearness of our Lord's coming. For me, this theory seemed to work well enough until I reached a certain stage in my quest to understand what the Lord had been showing me about the close of this present age. I had been experiencing incredible success in my quest, being led to a series of remarkable discoveries about the times and seasons hidden in prophecy, but it wasn't long before I reached an impasse. I found myself returning in my studies to the same passage over and over again - stuck in a loop. I finally realized that I could no longer avoid facing that passage which was for me so troublesome. Before I could proceed, I had to resolve its interpretation. One evening, I felt the Lord's prompting that it was time to meet the challenge and, confident that the Lord was going to open my understanding, I was quickly brought into a deeper level of understanding about the biblical text. I'm going to share with you how the Author of the scriptures has encrypted His word, placing within the text the keys to unlock its meaning. You are going to discover what I believe to be the revelation about the sign for the church. I hold this to be one of the most important discoveries I have made. I pray that you, too, will discover the sign for the church, the sign that will be recognized by the Bride as she goes out in a blaze of glory!

Hidden Knowledge

What we must necessarily come to grips with before I share what I have discovered is the fact that matters have been concealed in the Bible and are only understood when the Lord gives the understanding.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  Luke 24:45
Our Lord declared in Luke 8:16-17:
No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. {17} For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
The disclosing of the hidden matter is the lamplighter's task. The context of this passage reveals that it is the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God that will be made known.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.  Proverbs 25:2

What the Sign is Not

Although many in the church today teach that there is no sign for the church, there are others who suggest certain events as signs. The signing of a seven year "peace treaty" with Israel is often proposed as a sign, as well as the construction of another temple on the Temple Mount. Both generally derive from the following passage.
After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.  Daniel 9:26-27
There's more to the documentation of these psuedo-signs than that, but my point is that these are nowhere suggested in the scripture to be a sign to the church. This is not to say that they will not be recognized and acknowledged by the wise for what they are, but I am saying that they are not The sign. And yet, the seven "Famine" years that began in the fall of 1998 have now another significant validation in the Wye Plantation "confirmation of the (Oslo) covenant" on Oct. 23, 1998. Even though the major player involved (Can you pick him out from the following list of candidates? King Hussein of Jordan (deceased - 1999) Yassir Arafat, Benjamin Netanyahu, William Jefferson Clinton) may well be identified by the role he played (as well as by other means: see J. R. Church - Tickling the Tail of the Dragon video and Stewart Best's internet pages about America as the Little Horn and Babylon), until the appointed event occurs by which he shall be revealed, he is not yet "revealed."

Another popular doctrine suggests that the church's decline into apostasy is the sign for the church. Though I wouldn't hesitate to agree that the present status of the church is largely apostate, it is an erroneous interpretation of the sign for the church, a conclusion you may share after digesting what I've documented herein.

What is the Sign?

So, what is this sign? It's what the Bible calls the revelation or revealing of the lawless one. The following passage is the one that had been so difficult for me and that is so very important to understand.
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.  2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
The difficulty in understanding the passage is primarily due to the fact that it is cloaked, spiritually. Actually, it's not difficult, but rather impossible to understand the intended message unless the Lord opens the eyes and ears. The reality of its cloaking has caused the secondary difficulty for an English reading student like me, which is the matter of proper translation from the Greek. Translation between two languages requires a degree of interpretation, and the interpretation of such a passage as this demands insight. I'm going to address the translation issue, and, although the meaning of the passage has become quite clear to some of us, the Lord himself must open your eyes before you will see it.

The passage opens with a section that seems to be translated well enough, but yet I had quite a struggle with it because I had been subject to erroneous teaching. As you know, when you're taught to think a particular way about certain combinations of words, the acquired mental habits become hard to change. Every time you read or hear the familiar words, the familiar teaching just jumps into your mind.  I had to learn to read it new, over and over again before I broke out of my former pattern of thinking - and so might you. The passage begins:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until...
When Paul wrote of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, he wrote of one and not two separate events. The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is simply the broader context  in which our being gathered to him is to be understood. The event is the harvest at the end of the age recorded in the following passage, among others.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
When I write of the harvest, or, ingathering as singular, I must clarify that there are three phases of the harvest for the entity called the church. Based upon what I have written about how Gethsemane shows the church being separated into three divisions, we know that each of them will be gathered to the Lord in proper sequence; Bride first, then those who wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb, then the remainder who soil and refuse to wash their robes. All these will take place within the context of the coming of our Lord Jesus.

Now, when Paul uses the expression "the day of the Lord," in verse 2, he refers to the seventh and Sabbath millennium but more specifically points back to the particular portion of the day of the Lord he already specified in verse 1. When, in verse 3, he mentions, "that day," he refers to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the day of the Lord when we will be gathered to him. Precisely which day of the week, month or year that will be depends upon our individual status, as each of us will go according as it is written in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 - in turn.

When we read, "that day will not come until," we should note that we are going to learn about a sign that will precede the day of our being gathered to the Lord, a sign that will not only allow those who recognize it to avoid being deceived in any way but will be of such a nature as to provide considerable assurance that the day appointed for our gathering to the Lord had not already come. This sign is to be of such substance that the absence of it would allow us to confidently refute even a prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from an apostle! This is the kind of sign for which we are to faithfully watch. Until we observe this sign, we are to understand that there will be no ingathering.

I believe there are probably two levels of interpretation of the focal passage in 2 Thessalonians addressing two distinct instances of revealing; one for each of the times appointed for the church to divide. The first instance of revealing is the one I'm going to address in this section, reserving the other for much later in the article. Since these are sequential, a sign that precedes any ingathering obviously comes before the first of the three (one for each of the three divisions of the church), so the first of the two instances of revealing is the primary subject in view.

Let's read verse 3 again.

Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.    2 Thessalonians 2:3
What the NIV translates as rebellion is the Greek word  apostasia, a key word whose meaning I will address momentarily. You might think you just read the verse as I used to read it, with the word "then" inserted between "occurs and" and "the man of," however, the text does not read that way. The apostasia is not an event which is distinct or apart from the revealing of the man of lawlessness but it rather describes that very event. I will deal with this extensively in a bit, but to help clarify this point in brief, let me share with you how The Englishman's Greek New Testament (Thomas Newberry) renders the verse. "Not anyone should deceive you in any (lit. - no) way. Because [it will not be] unless shall have come the apostasy first, and shall have been revealed the man of sin, the son of perdition." The phrase "shall have been revealed" cannot be translated "then, or, after this shall be revealed." Anyone with access to an analytical Greek lexicon can check the word from which this phrase is translated to see that, by reason of its spelling, it is in the third person, singular in number, subjunctive in mood, aorist in tense and in the passive voice. Newberry's suggested translation of the word is excellent. So, the relationship of the revealing of the man of sin to the apostasia isn't sequential. Did you get the point I made? The apostasia is not some prelude to the revealing of the man of lawlessness but rather describes the revealing. Some of you are still reeling, but please, bear with me.

The Strong's Greek dictionary says apostasia means "defection from truth," or properly, "the state of defection from truth." The English word apostasy is derived from the Greek word apostasia. My dictionaries say apostasy means "the abandonment or renunciation of religious faith." We need to know what the Greek word really means. If we come to the Bible and intend to force our own definitions upon it, we err greatly.  We must let the Bible speak for itself on its own terms. Words used in the Bible define themselves, according to the guidance of the holy spirit and the rules of language and context. If you have been taught that the word apostasia found in II Thessalonians 2 means that the Church has apostatized or departed from the pure doctrine and faith, please understand that, although the Bible speaks clearly that apostasy marks the last days, it is my claim that this is not how the word is to be understood here. Apostasia literally means "standing away from." That's it! That's all it means! It is a positional or relational word. You might ask, "what might be standing away from what?" and well you should because that's what we must ask in order to seek out and find the answer. We will get to that soon enough, but first, I'd like to address the popular teaching about apostasy as the sign for the church.

That interpretation seems largely based upon the import of meaning from other contexts. Although there are often ideas that can be transferred between passages with common words, the contextual constraints must be minutely discerned. It requires a hearing ear. Where in the context of  the passage under study do you find the condition, trend or status of the church as the subject? Take a close look. Now, here's a problem with the logic of this interpretation of apostasy as a sign for the church. The sign that is the subject of Paul's message is set forth as a substantial means by which to refute the false claims that had and would come. Apostasy has been a continual process in the church. The degree to which apostasy might exist and thus become a sign is a disputable matter. Do you suppose messages asserted to be from authoritative sources can be refuted by personal judgments about the degree of apostasy of the corporate church? If apostasia must be interpreted as a falling away from true doctrine by the church, how could it possibly be considered as a definitive sign? Knowing the history of the church and how it so rapidly fell into decline and corruption in spite of the diligent effort put forth by the early day apostles to maintain its purity, would you have argued at any time against a charge that the Church had already fallen into that condition of apostasy? And, if it had so early reached such a degree of apostasy, how could such an argument possibly convince any who remain at such a time as this, when the man of lawlessness has even yet to appear on the scene? The apostasy sign is no sign at all, and to suggest that it is, is at best to render the message of 2 Thessalonians 2 impotent. The true message of the focal passage is viable, potent, powerfully relevant and a necessary guard against deception. The sign will be of such a nature as to provide irrefutable evidence and will be a dramatic indicator that will forcefully convince and persuade. It has been given, in part, to alert us and signal our soon gathering to the Lord, but that is not all there is to it.

With that said, let's investigate the meaning of apostasia so we can learn how to identify the coming sign for the church. As I noted earlier, the word literally means, "standing away from." Now we must know what it is that will be standing away, and, away from what it will be standing. It would have been a simple matter for the author of the scriptures to include that information right here in the verse, but He didn't. It's a riddle, isn't it?

In ordinary literature and speech, we often communicate with some of the required elements of language missing, using a figure of speech that has been called Ellipsis - omission. The transmission of thought through language necessarily requires a degree of interpretation. In order to make sense of communications we receive with certain pieces missing, we simply furnish the missing part of speech based upon our knowledge of the context. Normally, we do all this omitting and supplying business without giving the mechanics a second thought, but here's the difficulty: If our knowledge of the context is incomplete or incorrect, our interpretation will be flawed. What is then implied by the sender of the message is not what we will infer. (Much of what we call humor is based upon the timing of clever twists regarding how supplied words are not what we had been led to expect.)

When the communication is from God, we can make certain assumptions about the use of Ellipsis. It is used with specific intent and is perfectly executed. Agreed? The Author's omitting certain information and placing it elsewhere can be viewed as a way of assuring the security of a message, and this what I believe is what he has done in regard to apostasia. It's a matter of such a nature that it needed to be secured! Another assumption we can make is that He intends the message to be understood (Luke 8:17). There must then be clues to enable those for whom the message is intended to apply the principle of supplying the missing piece from the context to discover its meaning. Are you following me? The clues come by way of the interpretive technique I likened earlier to a decryption key.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 was like an obstacle I just couldn't get around. Eventually, the Lord showed me how to deal with it by teaching me a special way to look at context. Technically, you might call the technique I learned "analysis of the architectural structure."  When we're able to discern the architectural structure of the passage, we may then say that we understand the context, and on that basis we can properly furnish the thoughts required by Ellipsis. I had seen extensive but superficial examples of architectural structure in Bullinger's work - the Companion Bible - but had never considered the possibility that it might be the aid to interpretation it truly is. Whenever a passage's themes are examined closely, they may be found to flow naturally in an orderly fashion, with balance and symmetry. As a result of thematic repetition, we find that certain phrases are linked together as matched pairs. The matching elements of a pair may be compared in their points of agreement or contrast, which, at times, brings to light certain matters that wouldn't otherwise be discovered. The information missing in one element of a pair may often be found in its complement, keeping in view its location within the structure as a greater whole. This is how we discover the meaning of apostasia and begin to learn about the sign!

What follows is a reformatting of the passage under study. Please note that the text has not been altered except to insert space to separate it at its natural breaking points and to label each element for ease of identification.

A Structural Study of II Thessalonians 2:1-12

I have displayed the whole passage for you, but we're going to be focusing our attention on the elements I've colored blue. A close study of the passage's structure reveals that the theme shared by these two elements isn't as apparent as those of the other pairs. For this reason, our attention is naturally drawn to them. This feature of the structure invites us to make a diligent search for the theme that links them together. If you would, please take as much time as necessary so you are able to acknowledge that what I've displayed is a natural architectural structure of this passage. Ready? Let's go!

The B)elements offer a more detailed description of the revealing of the lawless one, the simple subject of the green C) elements. Recognizing that the author of the scripture has linked and locked these two elements together and that the one side is to be compared to the other is a tremendous benefit. This is where we use the decryption key to unlock the true message. Now we have a place to look for clues to the apostasia riddle. We can look to this structural element's companion to supply what was omitted because we are assured that the context is a match. We find that, although there are some more clues, our search for the meaning requires some depth of study. We need to learn some essential facts about the lawless one, the secret power of lawlessness and the matter of revealing. We will return to address the translation and the meaning of B2) and how it relates to B1)after we have acquired the appropriate background.

The Lawless One

Who is this man of lawlessness? Verse 4 tells us that he is doomed to destruction and will be the one who sets himself up in God's temple proclaiming himself to be God. Cross-referencing these facts we learn that this is the man of Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15. The man of lawlessness is a term that describes the false and counterfeit Messiah to come who is given such authority that he seems a law unto himself. He will be as a rod for chastising the Lord's people, a refiner's fire to purify them as metal. He is seen extensively throughout the Bible in typology. Known as the Beast in Revelation, he is known in Daniel as the little horn, a stern faced king, the ruler who will come, and the desolator. In Isaiah, he is the Assyrian, in Zechariah, the foolish and worthless shepherd. Psalm 92 depicts him as the senseless man, and Job 15 as the wicked man. He's also the embodiment of what is called the serpent's offspring in Genesis 3:15. There have been many men throughout history who have foreshadowed this man. The Egyptian Pharaoh who would not let the people of Israel go was a type, as was the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 3. Haman in the book of Esther and Goliath the Philistine are also prophetic profiles of this man. Even Judas Iscariot played the role for our benefit. Antiochus Epiphanes, Caesar, Herod, Nero, Napoleon and even Hitler foreshadowed the wicked one to come. There is no lack of historical evidence to give us a view of this man we know in II Thessalonians as the lawless one. The apostle John's term for this man is perhaps the most popular in use today - Antichrist.

The prefix "anti" means against, or in opposition to, revealing the purpose of antichrist. This term "antichrist" implies a certain commonality or likeness. The antichrist is therefore going to be like Christ, opposing and imitating as a counterfeit, an impersonator, an impostor. The term "christ" means anointed, the anointed one, and so "antichrist" has to do with a counterfeit anointed one in contrast and opposition to the genuine anointed one. Antichrist is a term that seems to apply more specifically to the spiritual aspect than the physical.

but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.  1 John 4:3
The translation of, "This is the spirit of the antichrist," is more literally, "and this is that of the antichrist." Why have the translators added the word "spirit"? By Ellipsis, they furnished the word from the context. Correctly? Yes. While you're looking at the context, make note that the spirit of antichrist is not a mood or something akin to team spirit or the spirit of 1776. The context reveals that the spirits are supernatural beings - angels or demons. The beings connected with the antichrist are demons. Demons can and do possess people, indwelling them, causing them to bend to their will and take on the characteristic behavior of the particular demons. An antichrist is a man with whom antichrist demons reside, who takes on their nature and characteristics. The nature of this spirit is to deny that Jesus is from God, as seen in 1 John 2. In 2 John 1:7, an antichrist is shown to be a deceiver who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. The power of antichrist is a spirit of antichrist, a spiritual power, a demonic entity. It is the counterpart to the holy spirit, the antithesis of the spirit of Christ, the pneuma christos. (Romans 8:9 and I Peter 1:11)  The demonic forces who have a specific "antichrist" character or function are those spoken of by the Apostle John. The man who is soon to be revealed as the lawless one will have what might be considered their "5 star general" entity, or perhaps the full force he represents in residence. The spirit of the antichrist will indwell this man as the spirit indwelled our Lord.

Although the term antichrist seems to focus upon the spiritual aspect, there is an accompanying physical aspect of the lawless one that is the flesh body of the one with whom the demons partner. Contrary to the opinion of some, the Antichrist will not be the Devil himself or another demonic entity who has merely adapted the appearance of a man. After the pattern of the true Christ, there must be a man of genetic grooming (having what may be accounted as the blood of his father the devil) who will welcome the indwelling of the antichrist.1 This arrangement will bring forth a concrete physical manifestation of the reality of Satan's power! Don't be fooled. Just as the genuine Christ was no mere intangible "spirit entity," neither will be the embodiment of the antichrist! Some have even relegated the event known as the revealing of the lawless one to that of a merely symbolic event. I couldn't disagree more strongly!

John's declaration in the next verse echoes Paul's from 2 Thessalonians. In its proper context and application, we should see that the coming of antichrist will be the sign that it is the last hour!

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.  1 John 2:18
The second chapter of 1 John holds many parallels to 2 Thessalonians 2 - you may want to become very familiar with it.

Baptism Reveals

As a counterfeit, we must expect certain similarities between the antichrist and Christ. There will be various points of comparison with little difference between them, at least from certain perspectives. The most notable point of comparison seems to be the matter of anointing, suggested in the use of the word for anointed as the common descriptive - anti-christ. The genuine was anointed when he was baptized, with holy spirit. The baptism of John is a sign, a event that reveals, and the revealing of the counterfeit will follow the baptism pattern of anointing.

John 1:31 records John the Baptist's declaration about Jesus in the record of his baptism:

I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.
Baptism leads to a revealing! John's baptism was a sign. Now, consider this: The identity of Jesus became known to John personally as he testified in the verses that follow his declaration of verse 31.
Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. {33} I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' {34} I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God. John 1:32-34
So, the identity of the one upon whom the spirit came became known to John at Jesus' baptism, and John's baptizing with water revealed their Messiah to Israel. Isn't that something? Just as the Messiah was revealed by baptism, in like manner will the antiMessiah be revealed! At his baptism, Jesus was anointed with the spirit coming down from heaven and became the anointed one, the Christ, HaMashiach, and so the pattern is established for the coming impostor. As spiritual power was evidenced at the Son of God's baptism, the son of the counterfeit god will be anointed with spirit from another realm with appropriate attendant phenomena.
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. 2 Thessalonians 2:9
What will further confirm this man's identity is the fruit of his "ministry" as he exercises his newly acquired authority, and of course for those who can hear it, the exact testimony of the scriptures borne by those who are committed to the truth even unto death.

A counterfeit is recognized by way of close comparison with the genuine. I've addressed the genuine baptism event fairly thoroughly in the article on Yom Kippur, but here's the most relevant information for this study.

As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. Mark 1:10-11
Note that there are three distinct entities involved in the event that can be thought of as the giver of a gift, the recipient and the gift itself. Yes, these are commonly known as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Jesus is seen in the account as the recipient of the spirit which descended upon him. The spirit is the gift from his Father, whose voice came from heaven. This was an anointing of holy spirit, authorizing and empowering Jesus. From that time, his ministry was marked by many notable miracles. This baptism revealed Jesus' identity and was thus a sign.

The sign that will reveal the counterfeit will follow that pattern. There will be a baptism, an anointing involving three entities. A spiritual gift will be given to a man from his father. The gift is UN-holy, the spirit of antichrist, the counterpart to the holy spirit, given by the devil to his son. The demonic spiritual power antichrist will empower the man's ministry at that time, the fruit of which will reveal him as the man of lawlessness. Just as the baptism of the holy Anointed one revealed him, the baptism of the unholy anointed one will reveal him. This is the main key to understanding the sign for the Bride!

When I mention only three entities involved in baptism, I neglect to take the one baptizing into account. It seems fitting that there will also be a counterpart to John, a man specially ordained for the work that is his destiny. Perhaps this role will be filled by the false prophet -- we shall see.

Still further background is necessary before we return to 2 Thessalonians. Concerning the antichrist demonic power that will indwell this man, we must know where it is and what it is doing. As we read earlier in 1 John 4:3, "This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."  It is already in the world (kosmos) and is also said to be coming, so there is a change appointed in either influence or abode. The word kosmos has a broad range of usage. In the very relevant second chapter of 1 John it is used six times in three verses.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.  1 John 2:15-17
I believe the antichrist is already in the kosmos by way of influence or by way of inhabiting a particular realm assigned for the present time. The spirit of antichrist against which we struggle must also be currently active among spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
When John wrote that it is coming, I believe he wrote of such a time when its realm of influence, authority and probably residence would change at the revealing of the lawless one. For now, the demonic entity referred to as antichrist may be in a continuing state of preparation, awaiting the proper time and conditions for its upcoming change, waiting "in the wings," so to speak, until it is brought center stage and the curtain goes up on this act in the drama of Satan's grand offensive.

Another relevant piece of information concerns where the man will come from. I'm not going to address a physical location or genealogy, but rather that he will arise from association with the church. This much is evident in the type, Judas Iscariot (to be addressed in some detail later in this article), but established more conclusively by the following verse.

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 1 John 2:19
The antichrist will have been accounted as a member of the church, though not truly belonging, just as Judas Iscariot was accounted as one of the 12, yet, was not one with them. We know something more about this from the verses that follow.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2:20-22
Are there those in the church today who deny that Jesus is the Christ? Oh, yes indeed. In fact doesn't Bill Clinton go to such a "liberal" (apostate) church as that? I met one of Bill's spiritual advisirs during the time of the Monica scandal who came to the local church the Lord had me most closely associated with. He was modeling for us how he built his own big church so our local capitol building campaign could follow suit. Honest people would call it extortion. Exekiel 34 style. Now, I'm not saying the former President is the man of lawlessness, but that his positioning is like that of the one who will arise. Until such time as the lawless one is revealed, speculation as to his identity is just that and nothing more - speculation. Based upon other criteria by which he will be known, some educated guesses will probably land on the mark, but the identity of the lawless one will absolutely not be known in the degree of certainty required for a sign until he is supernaturally revealed to us at the appointed time. Soon.

From the above passage, I want to bring to your attention that, in verse 20 (as well as 27), the word anointing is used because it is a primary issue in the context of the antichrist.

The final piece of information I want to establish by way of background before we return to 2 Thessalonians 2 concerns who has authority over the antichrist in matters of timing, etc. In the typology of Judas Iscariot, the matter of revealing began at what we call the last supper. From John's gospel record, we read the relevant verses from chapter 13.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  John 13:2

Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him,  John 13:26-27

First, Judas was prompted by the devil, but he wasn't released until Jesus gave him the bread he dipped and gave him command. Our Lord has the authority. Now, the essential foundation has been laid upon which to build in 2 Thessalonians 2.

As a reminder, these two elements are entirely within the context of the revealing of the lawless one as the sign for the church. Numerous poor translations mark section B2) for the same reason apostasia was poorly translated in its companion - poorly supplied Ellipsis. I'll address translation issues first and then offer a more highly interpreted version of the passage.

In a1), the pronoun him in the phrase "holding him back" was supplied by ellipsis. Similar but not identical to the word from which "holds it back" is translated in a2), the word literally means holds back or restrains. In c1), the expression "secret power of lawlessness" has had the word power supplied by Ellipsis, the expression being more literally secret of, or, mystery of lawlessness. In c2), the phrase "taken out of the way" is more literally rendered as "gone from among."

Here's how the Newberry interlinear renders what I've labeled B2). And now that which restrains ye know for him to be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already working; only [there is] he who restrains at present until out of [the] midst he be [gone].

The literal is pretty difficult to understand. Given the background of information I've assembled so far, we should have a pretty good idea about how an interpreted version might read.  "And now you know that which restrains the man of lawlessness from being revealed until his appointed time (It is Jesus who wields the authority and awaits the appointed time when all factors are perfectly prepared. John 13:27), For the mystery of lawlessness (the spirit of the antichrist and attending demonic influence) is already working (in its present heavenly realm assignment, exerting influence in the world to the extent of its presently appointed limits)" Now, what about the balance of it? Here is where we need the benefit of having discerned the structure of the passage!

We first knew these "blue" elements were linked together because we discerned that they are structural companions. Now we need to identify the linking theme. Both elements in the pair exhibit Ellipsis where the missing pieces seem to be the same on either side of the equation. On the one side we have Newberry's  literally interpreted phrase "unless shall have come the standing away from (apostasia) first," and on the other side, "until out of midst he be."  Here is the link. The "unless...first" and the "until" are equivalent, right? The "standing away from" and the "out of the midst he be" are also equivalent.  These describe the baptism event that reveals the lawless one, the event with three entities involved whose action is the transferal of a gift from the father to the son. I see the description from two perspectives - the spiritual and the material.

First, from the spiritual perspective, when the demonic counterpart to that which was seen descending like a dove upon the Son of God departs from where it had been with its father, it is no longer where it had been but has come to be standing away from its former location or position, a place Ephesians 6:13 called "the heavenlies." This is the apostasia, the standing away from. We read from Newberry's literal of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (with the literal meaning of apostasia substituted), "...unless shall have come the standing-away-from  first and shall have been revealed the man of lawlessness." From 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8, Newberry's literal (excluding the suggested Ellipsis additions) reads, "...until out of midst he be, and then will be revealed the lawless." Again, from the spiritual perspective, the demonic power antichrist will have been restrained within certain limits, abiding with the father the devil in the midst of the other demons in some assigned realm, as best I can explain my present understanding of the matter. At the appointed time, when no longer restrained by the Anointed Son of God, from out of the midst he be... he is...he becomes! He, the one appointed to be the lawless one, becomes the lawless one - and he is then revealed. The big debut!

And so goes the interpretation of a key but difficult passage that relates important information about the sign for the church. The difficult phrases that comprise the matching pair of architectural elements I labeled B) describe the spiritual reality behind the baptism, the conditions that will initiate the time of open evidence in the physical realm.

The revealing of the lawless one takes place when the man is anointed with power and authority at his baptism. The man groomed for this particular destiny and who willingly accepts it will thus be identified as the lawless one to the watchful among the church, but the attendant deception unleashed will mask his true identity from all but the very elect. He will be hungrily received by the world as their own! The unveiling of his identity to those who are alert and watching is given in part for us to know that our present condition is about to pass. The race in which we compete will have its waving checkered flag in full view of the field's leaders. Following this signal event, the Lord will shortly gather his Bride to himself, stealing her away in the night! But this is not the cue for a going-away party filled with irresponsible merriment, for that is not the way of the Bride. She will understand what the sign portends and will joyfully express the character of her love, sounding the alarm, alerting all who will hear about the deception.

Revelation 13

From the perspective of the material or physical realm of the flesh, consider the following view of the appearance of the lawless one.
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.  Revelation 13:1-2
"Coming out of the sea" can be understood according to the usage in the following verse.
The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.  Revelation 20:13
The sea holds dead people that are different from the dead that come out of death and Hades. The kind of people in the sea are dead in one way but not another, which suggests that they lack eternal spiritual life but yet have temporal body-animating life. This sea is thus a symbol of the multitude of people who are physically alive but lack the eternal life of the spirit. When the beast is seen coming out of the sea, though he had been accounted among the multitude of the "living dead," he comes to be seen by John for what he is, the one who received the three-fold gift from the dragon. Having been accounted among the membership of the church, this wolf-dressed-in-sheep's-clothing will be distinguished from the flock. Coming out of the sea separates the beast from the others who remain in the sea. This separation, from the human perspective, finds the lawless one coming out of and standing away from the sea as one who is singled out. As he arises out of the sea to be distinguished as the one gifted of the dragon, out of the midst he is!

This view of the revelation of the lawless one from the thirteenth chapter of Revelation follows one from the twelfth.

Revelation 12

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." 13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. Revelation 12:1-13
The 1260 days of verse 6 begin at the time of the Bride Theft, for which the revelation of the lawless one is appointed for a sign. When verse 7 begins with "and," what is then described does not follow after in sequence what was previously described but is concurrent with it. The "apostasia" or "standing away from" is first seen in the passage as the dragon's tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. Another view appears in verses 7-10 as Satan is hurled to the earth and his angels with him (the aforementioned stars). The announcement in verses 10-11 affirms what we have learned to be true, as the prerequesite revelation of the lawless one has now made provision for the subsequent Bride theft. His hurling down is the cause of woe to the earth and the sea.

How Will We Recognize the Sign?

Few details by which to recognize the man's identity are given openly in the scriptures. We know that the number of his name will be 666 (and perhaps 616), a number we usually assume to be the value calculated by gematria. His lineage is another matter about which we might speculate. His participation in a "Daniel 9:27 covenant," yet another. (Could it actually be WJC who might be causing deceit to prosper? Well, who else???)  Although these factors are useful, their predictive value has often been overrated because so many men have met these criteria over the years to the satisfaction of many a watchful saint. I believe there are other and more definitive means by which to identify the man. What we have just learned will reveal him to the church is his baptism, not any other thing, including agreement within the church as to the most likely candidate.

In regards to the probable nature of the unveiling event, I seems rather certain that the lawless one will be involved in some kind of alien encounter. These beings considered alien will only be alien in that the spiritual beings (demons) are not of this physical realm. If I may speculate here, these beings will probably claim to have endowed the lawless one with leadership authority. 2 This man will arise from whatever position of governmental and/or military authority he presently holds and, so it would seem, suddenly become elevated in the world's eye. Aha, Prince Charming - Mr. Perfect. Infatuation will be the order of the day. I suspect that this man will immediately utilize the throne and authority given by the dragon to make a decree that will bring persecution upon those of us who are not deceived (Patterned after Haman, as we shall see). This is our destiny, who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

By this information alone (not to mention the testimony of the prophets and the conviction of the holy spirit), the man's identity at his revelation should be known to the Bride, but will the Bride be able to substantiate their testimony with evidence? How well documented will their claims be? There are some very skeptical Jews out there who demand proof - and some very sleepy Christians! Imagine for a moment what kind of impact our testimony might have if we can present documentation of having had advance knowledge of the very date of his revelation? It seems the Lord's intention to provide such documentation because that's what he's shown me, though I never set out to find a date in this matter. Advance knowledge of the date is not only an ingredient for a powerful witness but is the kind of evidence necessary to be an irrefutable sign for the church!

End notes:

1) The Nephilim (Genesis 6) were the products of genetic tampering of the descendants of Adam by the evil angels and were wiped out in the Noahic flood, but the problem didn't end there. By reason of the reappearance of such a people as the Rephaim after the flood, it seems unreasonable to assume that beings of such a nature no longer exist. Have you ever considered the book of Jude in this light? E. W. Bullinger offered an interesting commentary on these corrupted people in Appendix 25 of the Companion Bible. return There is much information to be found on the 'net about such things.

2) I recommend reading books such as one by Dr. David Lewis and Robert Schreckhise called: UFO, The End-Time Delusion return

The Sign for the Church - Part II