The man of lawlessness, in the style of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:1-7 or Darius in Daniel 6:6-9, claims all the power and prerogatives of a god. He makes himself the final point of loyalty for all his subjects. He opposes every object of worship other than himself, exalts himself above them and even inserts his own authority above the God of the Bible (4). “He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law” (Daniel 7:25). This being, either an individual or institution, is fully coordinated with the purpose and plot of the great fallen angel Satan.
Having recognized their susceptibility to error in this matter, Paul gives this beloved church a written account of the teachings he had given while with them in person. He isolated a peculiarly egregious opponent of the gospel to expand the general statements of 1:6-9. The “man of lawlessness” also is a “son of destruction.” This means that as an entity thoroughly given over to lawlessness he is doomed from the beginning, he embodies all the elements that God will judge and to which he will bring “the penalty of eternal destruction” (1:9) when he comes to be “glorified in his saints on that day” (1:10).
What is the environment in which this will happen? The “apostasy” must come first. Some interpreters make this falling away refer to the “rapture,” a literal physical falling away from the earth, with the tribulation following. The concern that Paul has for gearing up their knowledge for discernment of truth seems to point to a coming apostasy from the truth. The falling away involves heresy, unrighteousness, deceit, and idolatry. The Thessalonians must be solid in their grasp of truth, for, as John said, this spirit of antichrist already is in the world (1 John 4:1-3). Paul’s understanding is the same, “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (7).
This apostasy will be in coordination with the “man of lawlessness” (3). It seems that already this figure is present and will come to a critical time of unveiling. Verses 6 and 8 also use the word “revealed” or “unveiled” for the time that the work and intent of this figure begins to exert power. A. T. Robertson observed, “The implication is that the man of sin is hidden somewhere who will be suddenly manifested just as false apostles pose as angels of light (II Corinthians 11:13ff), whether the crowning event of the apostasy or another name for the same event.” Daniel describes such a figure in Daniel 7:25, again in 8:23-25, and in 11:36. This person, or institution, becomes a law unto itself—“And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify above every god and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods” (Daniel 11:36).
This posture of autocracy and self-deification coincides with the fallenness of humanity and its propensity to rebellion and to reject the law of God and any true fear of his power and holiness: “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; … there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1; cf Romans 3:18). For this reason, so many are brought into the orbit of this purveyor of lies, lawlessness, and deceit.