Firstly in Luke the pharisees question Jesus’ authority and find themselves trapped by their own gamesmanship. In response Jesus condemns them in a parable. The vineyard is Israel and they are about to kill the vineyard-owner’s son. Wow! Imagine Jesus eyeballing them and saying ‘I know what you are about to do’. More than that, he tells them how this story will end…tragic judgement. The saddest part of this story is that the vineyard is given to others.
By the time we read 2 Thess we hear detail of the day of judgement and how the new vineyard workers should be ready—not for the first coming of the vineyard owner but the second…the final judgement.
Paul says, ‘don’t imagine you might read about it on Fb, or that you might even miss it. You will know when it comes, and when you see the man of lawlessness ruling and declaring himself to be God, get ready because this is the last rebellion’.
Over the years (and one particular best seller called Late Great Planet Earth) the identity of this mysterious man of lawlessness has speculated. In his book LGPE, Hal Lindsey predicted that the then ‘6 member’ European Economic Community would grow to ’10’ and then be ruled over by the antiChrist as a revival of the Roman Empire. He thought this would take place in the late 1980’s. (thank you Wikipedia for refreshing my memory of the book that shaped the expectations of my generation). As it turned out, the EEC did reach 10 members but then kept growing to 27 which kind of messed up the numeracy. In addition, the 1980’s came and went and no Armageddon.
Paul’s original readers would endure two waves of institutionalised Roman persecution over the first three centuries. Why? “the basic reason for persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was refusal of the church to permit emperor-worship by its members” A Short History of the Early Church, Harry R De Boer.
Closer to recent history, the GFC nearly brought down a world economic order which might have made a handy platform for an economic saviour to arise and rule the world…but it didn’t.
Paul is saying don’t get caught up in that kind of delicious speculation. But rather watch carefully for a great manifestation of evil and be ready. By this description the Man of Lawlessness could have easily been Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Mugabe or Kim Jong-iL …maybe even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg?
Every generation has had a man of lawlessness to be concerned about. Every generation should have their toothbrush packed and ready for the Lord’s return. To quote Bruce Clarke, ‘Maybe today’.
So should we look for a literal Man of Lawlessness’. Well, its entirely possible for a ‘man’ to arise in a literal political or religious way that personifies evil, but we should also recognise that Satan himself is constantly the man of lawlessness, ramping up an anti-christian world order and declaring himself to be God. Many world leaders regularly speak out from that nefarious dark cloak. As we speak, western Christian values are being written out of constitutions, not with the sword but the pen.
Just as Jesus says elsewhere, ‘like a thief in the night’, we will never read the times perfectly to predict the hour. However, what Paul was emphasising was, ‘do not be easily unsettled or alarmed’, but be wise, be alert, be ready.