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    October 25, 1883

    “The Sabbath-School. 2 Thessalonians” The Signs of the Times, 9, 39.

    E. J. Waggoner

    Lesson for Pacific Coast.-November 3.
    2 THESSALONIANS.
    NOTES ON THE LESSON.

    “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9. From these verses we learn (1) that the time for the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous is when the Lord comes. No one can say that this coming is at the death of the individual, for the Lord will be “revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire.” The rewards are not given until that time comes. So Christ himself says, “Behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Revelation 22:12.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.1

    2. We learn that God’s righteousness is just as clearly manifested in recompensing tribulation to the wicked, as it is in granting rewards to the righteous. The punishment of the wicked is not an arbitrary thing which God could remit if he chose to do so. He does not punish in order to gratify malice or revenge. “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” Ezekiel 18:32. God is under obligation to punish the wicked. The principles of his Government demand it, should he not do so, but suffer his laws to be broken with impunity, no saint would have any assurance of protection. God’s Government would soon cease to exist, and he would be unable either to protect or reward his loyal subjects. It is true that God is love, and this love is manifested in the judgment of the wicked as clearly as in the reward of the righteous. Those who say that, because “God is Love,” he will not punish the guilty, do not realize that they are defaming his character and Government. Most men think that it is just and right for earthly governments to punish law-breakers; why should they imagine God less just than man.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.2

    3. To the saints Paul says, “Them that trouble you” shall receive tribulation at the last day. Then the persecuted ones can have no occasion to either do or say anything in the way of retaliation. God has pledged the honor of his Government that his loyal, persecuted subjects shall be avenged, and he will do it speedily, though he seem to bear along with them. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.3

    4. The nature of the punishment of the wicked is clearly brought to view.” Shall be punished with everlasting destruction. “No stronger term could be used to signify this final utter extinction. This verse is an inspired explanation of Matthew 25:46. Here we are told that at the coming of the Lord the wicked “shall go away into everlasting punishment.” It is claimed by many that this proves the unending existence of the wicked, because “everlasting” is the same as “eternal,” which describes the life of a righteous. But the text under consideration informs us that their punishment is to be “destruction.” As Paul says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death,” which is the same as destruction. Having once been destroyed, the wicked will to all eternity remain destroyed. The action in their case will be final. Before that destruction is fully accomplished there will be much suffering; “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” will be rendered unto “every soul of man that doeth evil.” These are but accessories to the great punishment, which is death. We firmly believe that the Bible teaches that the wicked will be punished eternally; but our readers will note that this does not necessarily mean the eternal conscious suffering; if it did, then the wicked would have eternal life, which is promised to the righteous alone.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.4

    From the first part of the second chapter, it seems evident either that some of the Thessalonians had gained the idea from Paul’s first letter that Christ’s coming was near at hand, or that some one had written to them to that effect, claiming Paul as their authority, or even personating him. However this may be, it is certain that Paul had no such idea, for he plainly says so. Some writers will persist in saying that the first epistle shows that Paul expected the Lord to come in his day; but we prefer to believe him when he says that he did not.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.5

    “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; 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, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. Dr. Barnes has given full and good comments on this text, and we give the following extracts. The facts which he states are worth preserving for reference:-SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.6

    Most Protestant commentators have referred it to the great apostasy, under the Papacy, and, by the “man of sin,” they suppose there is allusion to the Roman Pontiff, the Pope. It is evident that we are in better circumstances to understand the passage than those were who immediately succeeded the apostles. Eighteen hundred years have passed away since the epistle was written, and the “day of the Lord” has not yet come, and we have an opportunity of inquiring whether in all that long tract of time any one man can be found, or any series of men have arisen, to whom the description here given is applicable. If so, it is in accordance with all the proper rules of interpreting prophecy to make such an application. If it is fairly applicable to the Papacy, and cannot be applied in its great features to anything else, it is proper to regard it as having such an original reference. Happily, the expressions which are used by the apostle are, in themselves, not difficult of interpretation, and all that the expositor has to do is to ascertain whether in any one great apostasy all the things here mentioned have occurred. If so, it is fair to apply the prophecy to such an event; if not so, we must wait still for its fulfillment. The word rendered “falling away” (apostasia, apostasy), is of so general a character that it may be applied to any departure from the faith as it was received in the time of the apostles.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.7

    And that man of sin. This is a Hebraism, meaning a man of eminent wickedness; one distinguished for depravity. Comp.John 17:12; Proverbs 6:12, in Heb. The use of the article here-ho anthropos,-“the man of sin,” is also emphatic, as in the reference to “the falling away,” and shows that there is allusion to one of whom they had before heard, and whose character was well known; who would be the wicked one by way of eminence. See also verse 8, “that wicked”-ho anomos. There are two general questions in regard to the proper interpretation of this appellative; the one is, whether it refers to an individual, or to a series of individuals of the same general character, aiming at the accomplishment of the same plans; and the other is, whether there has been any individual, or any series of individuals, since the time of the apostles, who, by eminence, deserve to be called “the man of sin.” That the phrase, “the man of sin,” may refer to a succession of men of the same general character, and that it does so refer here, is evident from the following considerations: (1.) The word “king” is used in Daniel 7:25; 11:36, to which places Paul seems to allude, to denote a succession of kings. (2.) The same is true of the beast mentioned in Daniel 7, 8. Revelation 13, representing a kingdom or empire through its successive changes and revolutions. (3.) The same is true of the “woman arrayed in purple and scarlet” (Revelation 17:4), which cannot refer to a single woman, but is the emblem of a continued corrupt administration. (4.) It is clear that a succession is intended here, because the work assigned to “the man of sin” cannot be supposed to be that which could be accomplished by a single individual. Statement of the apostle is, that there were then tendencies to such an apostasy, and that “the man of sin” would be revealed at no distant period, and yet that he would continue his work of “lying wonders” until the coming of the Saviour to destroy him. In regard to this “man of sin,’ it may be further observed. (1.) That his appearing was to be preceded by the “great apostasy;” and (2.) that he was to continue and perpetuate that apostasy. His rise was to be owing to a great departure from the faith, and then he was to be the principal agent in continuing such a departure by “signs and lying wonders.” He was not himself to originate the defection, but was to be the creation or the result of it. He was to rise upon it, or grow out of it, and, by artful arrangements adapted to that purpose, was then to perpetuate it.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.8

    The question now is on the applicability of the phrase “the man of sin” to the Pope. That his rise was preceded by a great apostasy, or departure from the purity of the simple gospel, as revealed in the New Testament, cannot reasonably be doubted by any one acquainted with the history of the church. That he is the creation or result of that apostasy, it is equally clear. That he is the grand agent in continuing it, is equally manifest. Is the phrase itself one that is properly applicable to him? Is it proper to speak of the Pope of Rome, as he has actually appeared, as “the man of sin?” In reply to this, it might be sufficient to refer to the general character of the Papacy, and to its influence in upholding and perpetuating various forms of iniquity in the world. It would be easy to show that there has been no dynasty or system that has contributed so much to uphold and perpetuate sins of various kinds on the earth as the Papacy. No other one has been so extensively and so long the patron of superstition; and there are vices of the grossest character which all along have been fostered by its system of celibacy, indulgences, monasteries, and absolutions, that it would be a better illustration of the meaning of the phrase “man of sin,” as applicable to the Pope of Rome, to look at the general character of the Popes themselves. Though there may have been some exceptions, yet there never has been a succession of men of so decidedly wicked character as have occupied the Papal throne since the great apostasy commenced. A very few references to the characters of the Popes will furnish an illustration of this point. Pope Vagilus to the Pontifical throne through the blood of his predecessor. Pope Joan-the Roman Catholic writers tell us-a female in disguise, was elected and confirmed Pope, as John. Pistana says that “she became with child by some of those that were round about her; that she miscarried, and died on her way from the Lateran and to the temple.” Pope Marcellinus sacrificed to idols. Concerning Pope Honorius, the Council of Constantinople decreed: “We have caused Honorius, the late Pope of Old Rome, to be accursed; for that in all things he followed the mind of Sergius the heretic, and confirmed his wicked doctrines.” ... Of the popes, Platina, a Roman Catholic, says: “The chair of Saint Peter was usurped, rather than possessed, by moniters of wickedness, ambition, and bribery. They left no wickedness unpracticed.” See the New Englander, April, 1844, p. 285, 286.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.9

    Sitteth in the temple of God. That is in the Christian Church. It is by no means necessary to understand this of the temple at Jerusalem, which was standing at the time this epistle was written, for (1.) the phrase “the temple of God” is several times used with reference to the Christian Church: 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Revelation 3:12; and (2.) the temple was the proper symbol of the church, and an apostle trained amid the Hebrew institutions would naturally speak of the Church as the temple of God. The temple at Jerusalem was regarded as the peculiar dwelling-place of God on earth. When the Christian Church was founded, it was spoken of as the peculiar dwelling-place of God. See the passages referred to above. He dwelt among his people. He was with them, and walked with them, and manifested himself among them-as he had done in the ancient temple. The usage in the New Testament would not lead us to restrict this language to an edifice for a “church,” as the word is now commonly used, but rather to suppose that it denotes the Church as a society; and the idea is, that the Antichrist here referred to would present himself in the midst of that church as claiming the honors due to God alone. In the temple at Jerusalem God himself presided. There he gave laws to his people; there he manifested himself as God; and there he was worshiped. The reign of the “man of sin,” would be as if he should sit there. In the Christian Church he would usurp the place which God had occupied in the temple. He would claim divine attributes and homage. He would give laws and responses as God did there. He would be regarded as the head of all ecclesiastical power; the source from which all authority emanated; the same in the Christian Church which God himself was in the temple. This does not then refer primarily to the Pope is sitting in any particular Church on any particular occasion, but to his claiming in the Church of Christ the authority and homage which God had in the temple at Jerusalem. And whatever place, whether in a cathedral or elsewhere, this authority should be exercised, all that the language here conveys would be fulfilled. No one can fail to see that the authority claimed by the Pope of Rome meets the full force of the language used here by the apostle.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.10

    Showing himself that he is God. This does not necessarily mean that he actually, in so many words, claimed to be God; but that he usurped the place of God, and claimed the prerogatives of God. If the names of God are given to him, or are claimed by him; if he receives the honors due to God; if he asserts a dominion like that of God, then all that the language fairly implies will be fulfilled. The following expressions, applied to the Pope of Rome by Catholic writers without any rebuke from the Papacy, will show how entirely applicable this is to the pretended head of the church. He has been styled “Our Lord God the Pope; another God upon earth; King of kings, and Lord of lords. The same is the dominion of God and the Pope. To believe that our Lord God the Pope might not decree as he decreed, is heresy. The power of the Pope is greater than all creative power, and extends itself to things celestial, terrestial, and infernal. The Pope doeth whatsoever he listeth, even things unlawful, and is more than God.” See the authority of these extraordinary declarations in Bishop Newton, On the Prophecies, diss. xxii. How can it be doubted that the reference here is to the Papacy? Language could not be plainer, and is not possible to conceive that anything can ever occur which would furnish a more manifest fulfillment of this prophecy. Indeed, interpreted by the claims of the Papacy, it stands among the very clearest of all the predictions in the sacred Scriptures. E. J. W.SITI October 25, 1883, page 473.11

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