“The Antichrist” and “The Man of Lawlessness” are two names for the same person who will be everything that is the very opposite of our Lord Jesus Christ, hence Antichrist.
The word, “Antichrist,” is only found in the Bible in 1 and 2 John and occurs both in singular and plural forms. It represents all that is hostile to God.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul refers to this person as the Man of Lawlessness. He puts himself in place of God’s law. That’s why he’s the Man of Lawlessness. And he’s a figure who the Bible repeatedly points to arising in the end times. There have been many, clearly, who are anti-Christ in one way or another, but here is the person who will be the distillation of opposition to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In 2 Thessalonians, Paul describes him in this way: "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." (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
Paul doesn’t say simply that the Antichrist opposes God. He says the Antichrist takes his stand against every so-called god. What that means is he’s going to take his stand against all religion.
There’s increasingly a climate in our times in which many people of a secular mindset think that religion is the primary problem in the world.
“What causes all the trouble?,” they say, “What causes all the wars in the world? It’s religion.”
It’s not difficult to imagine in our time someone who will come up and say, with regards to Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism, “A plague on all your houses. What we’ve got to get rid of is religion.”
The antichrist exalts himself against every so-called god and puts himself in the place of all other religion. It’s not difficult for me to imagine there being a massive following of a person who proclaims himself in this way and for people to say, “We’re desperate to throw off the shackles of our repressive religions.” He exalts himself above everything that’s called god.
“He sets himself up in the temple of God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). In the Old Testament, what’s the significance of the temple?
If you go into the most holy place of the temple, that’s where the 10 Commandments are – in the Ark of the Covenant. The Antichrist is putting himself in the place of God’s law. That’s also where the sacrifice was made; so he’s putting himself in the place of the sacrifice. That’s where the presence of God came down. The Antichrist is putting himself in the place of God.
This is the spirit of Antichrist: “I know the law; I’m above the law; I define what’s right and wrong, not God. I’m above the sacrifice. I’m putting myself in the place of God.”
Now here’s the significance for us today because this is all future. John says in his letter that, even now, the spirit of Antichrist is at work. When we know what the Antichrist will look like – what the man of lawlessness will look like – that tells us what the spirit of this man is like when he finally comes. He puts himself above God’s law, thinking: “I’m the one who decides what’s right and wrong, not God. He puts himself above the sacrifice, thinking: “I’m a good person. I don’t need this.”
Putting oneself in the place of God goes all the way back to the garden on Eden. The spirit of Antichrist is already at work. And that’s the very center of the spiritual battle for us as we seek to be loyal to Christ and to serve him with all of our hearts today.