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2 Thessalonians 2:4

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Who opposeth - That is, he is distinguished as an opposer of the great system which God has revealed for human salvation, and of those who would serve God in purity in the gospel of his Son. No Protestant will doubt that this has been the character of the papacy. The opposition of the general system to the gospel; the persecution of Wycliffe, of John Huss, of Jerome of Prague, of the Waldenses and the Reformers; the Inquisition, the cruelties in the reign of Mary (Queen of Scots), and the massacre of Bartholomew in France, are obvious illustrations of this.

And exalteth himself above all that is called God - That is, whether among the pagans or the Jews; above a false God, or the true God. This could be true only of one who set aside the divine laws; who undertook to legislate where God only has a right to legislate, and whose legislation was contrary to that of God. Any claim of a dominion over conscience; or any arrangement to set aside the divine laws, and to render them nugatory, would correspond with what is implied in this description. It cannot be supposed that any one would openly claim to be superior to God, but the sense must be, that the enactments and ordinances of the “man of sin” would pertain to the province in which God only can legislate, and that the ordinances made by him would be such as to render nugatory the divine laws, by appointing others in their place. No one can reasonably doubt that all that is here affirmed may be found in the claims of the Pope of Rome. The assumptions of the papacy have related to the following things:

(1) To authority above all the inferior orders of the priesthood - above all pastors, bishops, and primates.

(2) authority above all kings and emperors, “deposing some, and advancing others, obliging them to prostrate themselves before him, to kiss his toe, to hold his stirrup, to wait barefooted at his gate, treading even upon the neck, and kicking off the imperial crown with his foot” - Newton. Thus, Gregory VII made Henry IV wait barefooted at his gate. Thus, Alexander III trod upon the neck of Alexander I. Thus, Celestin kicked off the imperial crown of Henry VI. Thus, the right was claimed, and asserted, of laying nations under interdict, of deposing kings, and of absolving their subjects from their oaths of allegiance. And thus the Pope claimed the right over all unknown lands that might be discovered by Columbus, and apportioned the New World as he pleased - in all these things claiming prerogatives which can pertain only to God.

(3) to authority over the conscience, in matters which can pertain only to God himself, and where he only can legislate. Thus, it has been, and is, one of the claims set up for the Pope that he is infallible. Thus, he “forbids what God has commanded,” as the marriage of the clergy, communion in both kinds, the use of the Scriptures for the common people. Thus, he has set aside the second commandment by the appointment of image-worship; and thus he claims the power of the forgiveness of sins. Multitudes of things which Christ allows his people are forbidden by the papacy, and many things are enjoined, or allowed, directly contrary to the divine legislation.

Or that is worshipped - σέβασμα sebasmaThis word means “an object of worship;” see Acts 17:3, where it is rendered devotions. It may be applied to the worship of a pagan divinity, or of the true God. “It may refer to a person, an idol, or a place. Probably Paul refers here to the heroes and other subordinate divinities of the heathen mythology” - Oldshausen. No one can doubt that the Pope has claimed higher honors, as the vicegerent of Christ, than was ever rendered in the ancient “hero worship.”

So that he, as God - That is, claiming the honors due to God. This expression would not imply that he actually claimed to be the true God, but only that he sits in the temple, and manifests himself as if he were God. He claims such honors and such reverence as the true God would if he should appear in human form. It should be observed here, however, that there is much reason to doubt the genuineness of this phrase - “as God” - ὡς Θεον hōs TheonMill supposes that it was inserted from the context. It is marked with an asterisk in the Vulgate, the Coptic, and the Syriac, and is omitted by many of the fathers; see Mill and Wetstein. It is rejected by Griesbach and Lachmann, and marked as doubtful by Hahn. It is defended, however, by Matthaei, Koppe, Knapp, and Schott. The sense is not materially affected whether it be regarded as genuine or not.

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, because:

(1) the phrase “the temple of God” is several times used with reference to the Christian church, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; Revelation 3:12; and,

(2) the temple was the proper symbol of the church, and an apostle trained amidst 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, or 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 worshipped. 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 as 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. In 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.

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 created power, and extends itself to things celestial, terrestrial, and infernal. The Pope doeth whatsoever he listeth, even things unlawful, and is more than God;” see the authority for these extraordinary declarations in Dr. Newton book on the Prophecies, Dissertations xxii. How can it be doubted that the reference here is to the papacy? Language could not be plainer, and it 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.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
If errors arise among Christians, we should set them right; and good men will be careful to suppress errors which rise from mistaking their words and actions. We have a cunning adversary, who watches to do mischief, and will promote errors, even by the words of Scripture. Whatever uncertainty we are in, or whatever mistakes may arise about the time of Christ's coming, that coming itself is certain. This has been the faith and hope of all Christians, in all ages of the church; it was the faith and hope of the Old Testament saints. All believers shall be gathered together to Christ, to be with him, and to be happy in his presence for ever. We should firmly believe the second coming of Christ; but there was danger lest the Thessalonians, being mistaken as to the time, should question the truth or certainty of the thing itself. False doctrines are like the winds that toss the water to and fro; and they unsettle the minds of men, which are as unstable as water. It is enough for us to know that our Lord will come, and will gather all his saints unto him. A reason why they should not expect the coming of Christ, as at hand, is given. There would be a general falling away first, such as would occasion the rise of antichrist, that man of sin. There have been great disputes who or what is intended by this man of sin and son of perdition. The man of sin not only practises wickedness, but also promotes and commands sin and wickedness in others; and is the son of perdition, because he is devoted to certain destruction, and is the instrument to destroy many others, both in soul and body. As God was in the temple of old, and worshipped there, and is in and with his church now; so the antichrist here mentioned, is a usurper of God's authority in the Christian church, who claims Divine honours.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Who opposeth and exalteth - He stands against and exalts himself above all Divine authority, and above every object of adoration, and every institution relative to Divine worship, σεβασμα, himself being the source, whence must originate all the doctrines of religion, and all its rites and ceremonies; so that sitting in the temple of God - having the highest place and authority in the Christian Church, he acts as God - taking upon himself God's titles and attributes, and arrogating to himself the authority that belongs to the Most High.

The words ως Θεον, as God, are wanting in ABD, many others, Erpen's Arabic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, the Vulgate, some copies of the Itala, and the chief of the Greek fathers. Griesbach has left them out of the text, and Professor White says, Certissime delenda; "They should most certainly be erased." There is indeed no evidence of their being authentic, and the text reads much better with out them: So that he sitteth in the temple of God, etc.

Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 402.1

Antichrist—Those Who Exalt Themselves Against God—Will Feel His Wrath—The greater man's influence for good, under the control of the Spirit of God, the more determined will be the enemy to indulge his envy and jealousy toward him by religious persecution. But all heaven is on the side of Christ, not of Antichrist. Those who love God and are willing to be partakers with Christ in his sufferings, God will honor. Antichrist, meaning all who exalt themselves against the will and work of God, will at the appointed time feel the wrath of Him who gave Himself that they might not perish but have eternal life. All who persevere in obedience, all who will not sell their souls for money or for the favor of men, God will register in the book of life.—Manuscript 9, 1900. 3SM 402.1

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 53

In the early part of the fourth century the emperor Constantine issued a decree making Sunday a public festival throughout the Roman Empire. (See Appendix.) The day of the sun was reverenced by his pagan subjects and was honored by Christians; it was the emperor's policy to unite the conflicting interests of heathenism and Christianity. He was urged to do this by the bishops of the church, who, inspired by ambition and thirst for power, perceived that if the same day was observed by both Christians and heathen, it would promote the nominal acceptance of Christianity by pagans and thus advance the power and glory of the church. But while many God-fearing Christians were gradually led to regard Sunday as possessing a degree of sacredness, they still held the true Sabbath as the holy of the Lord and observed it in obedience to the fourth commandment. GC 53.1

The archdeceiver had not completed his work. He was resolved to gather the Christian world under his banner and to exercise his power through his vicegerent, the proud pontiff who claimed to be the representative of Christ. Through half-converted pagans, ambitious prelates, and world-loving churchmen he accomplished his purpose. Vast councils were held from time to time, in which the dignitaries of the church were convened from all the world. In nearly every council the Sabbath which God had instituted was pressed down a little lower, while the Sunday was correspondingly exalted. Thus the pagan festival came finally to be honored as a divine institution, while the Bible Sabbath was pronounced a relic of Judaism, and its observers were declared to be accursed. GC 53.2

The great apostate had succeeded in exalting himself “above all that is called God, or that is worshiped.” 2 Thessalonians 2:4. He had dared to change the only precept of the divine law that unmistakably points all mankind to the true and living God. In the fourth commandment, God is revealed as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and is thereby distinguished from all false gods. It was as a memorial of the work of creation that the seventh day was sanctified as a rest day for man. It was designed to keep the living God ever before the minds of men as the source of being and the object of reverence and worship. Satan strives to turn men from their allegiance to God, and from rendering obedience to His law; therefore he directs his efforts especially against that commandment which points to God as the Creator. GC 53.3

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 424.1

Sabbath Is the Issue That Divides the World—The Lord of heaven permits the world to choose whom they will have as ruler. Let all read carefully the thirteenth chapter of Revelation, for it concerns every human agent, great and small. Every human being must take sides, either for the true and living God, who has given to the world the memorial of Creation in the seventh-day Sabbath, or for a false sabbath, instituted by men who have exalted themselves above all that is called God or that is worshiped, who have taken upon themselves the attributes of Satan, in oppressing the loyal and true who keep the commandments of God. This persecuting power will compel the worship of the beast by insisting on the observance of the sabbath he has instituted. Thus he blasphemes God, sitting “in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). 3SM 424.1

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 979

(Ch. 18:1-5.) A Loyal Company—The churches have become as described in the eighteenth chapter of Revelation. Why are the messages of Revelation fourteen given? Because the principles of the churches have become corrupted.... [Revelation 14:6-10 quoted.] 7BC 979.1

Apparently the whole world is guilty of receiving the mark of the beast. But the prophet sees a company who are not worshiping the beast, and who have not received his mark in their foreheads or in their hands. “Here is the patience of the saints,” he declares; “here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Manuscript 92, 1904). 7BC 979.2

Large Numbers Accept the Truth—The time of God's destructive judgments is the time of mercy for those who have no opportunity to learn what is truth. Tenderly will the Lord look upon them. His heart of mercy is touched; His hand is still stretched out to save, while the door is closed to those who would not enter. Large numbers will be admitted who in these last days hear the truth for the first time (The Review and Herald, July 5, 1906). 7BC 979.3

7. Giving Glory to God—To give glory to God is to reveal His character in our own, and thus make Him known. And in whatever way we make known the Father or the Son, we glorify God (Manuscript 16, 1890). 7BC 979.4

8 (Daniel 7:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4; see EGW on Revelation 18:1-5). World Drunk With Wine of Babylon—God denounces Babylon “because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” This means that she has disregarded the only commandment which points out the true God, and has torn down the Sabbath, God's memorial of creation. 7BC 979.5

God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, sanctifying this day, and setting it apart from all others as holy to Himself, to be observed by His people throughout their generations. 7BC 979.6

But the man of sin, exalting himself above God, sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself to be God, thought to change times and laws. This power, thinking to prove that it was not only equal to God, but above God, changed the rest day, placing the first day of the week where the seventh should be. And the Protestant world has taken this child of the papacy to be regarded as sacred. In the Word of God this is called her fornication. 7BC 979.7

God has a controversy with the churches of today. They are fulfilling the prophecy of John. “All nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” They have divorced themselves from God by refusing to receive His sign. They have not the spirit of God's true commandment-keeping people. And the people of the world, in giving their sanction to a false sabbath, and in trampling under their feet the Sabbath of the Lord, have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication (Letter 98, 1900). 7BC 979.8

9-12 (ch. 13:11-17; see EGW on chs. 12:17; 18:1; Isaiah 58:12-14). The Real Issue in the Final Conflict—[Revelation 14:9, 10 quoted.] It is for the interest of all to understand what the mark of the beast is, and how they may escape the dread threatenings of God. Why are men not interested to know what constitutes the mark of the beast and his image? It is in direct contrast with the mark of God. [Exodus 31:12-17 quoted.] 7BC 979.9

The Sabbath question will be the issue in the great conflict in which all the world will act a part. [Revelation 13:4-10 quoted.] This entire chapter is a revelation of what will surely take place [Revelation 13:11, 15-17 quoted] (Manuscript 88, 1897). 7BC 979.10

What Is the Mark of the Beast?—John was called to behold a people distinct from those who worship the beast and his image by keeping the first day of the week. The observance of this day is the mark of the beast (Letter 31, 1898). 7BC 979.11

(Ch. 13:16, 17.) Warning Against Mark of the Beast—The third angel's message has been sent forth to the world, warning men against receiving the mark of the beast or of his image in their foreheads or in their hands. To receive this mark means to come to the same decision as the beast has done, and to advocate the same ideas, in direct opposition to the Word of God. Of all who receive this mark, God says, “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” ... 7BC 979.12

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