Question / Comment - Does the Antichrist sit in a literal temple?
I just happened to come across a page on your site after scanning someone's dissertation on Hippolytus and Irenaeus. The upshot of the dissertation was, as you summarize on your page, that the man of sin or AntiChrist will be an actual person at the end of time who comes into a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem to present himself as the Messiah and be worshipped as God. The page that I came across was the one where you answer a question that is posed from an historicist and asserts that futurism is a later invention (1500's). I have a few thoughts that I wanted to present on some of these things. Not an overall argument, per se, but some thoughts that your site prompted me to put in a brief email.
Basically, my thoughts concern the man of sin entering the temple as Paul writes to the Thessalonians about.
1. Paul was writing to a Gentile church - not a Jewish church. The Gentiles were not looking for a Messiah to appear in a physical temple - nor would they be deceived by one. The temple was something the Jews would certainly look to, but as Paul was speaking to Gentiles, one wonders why Gentiles would think any better of someone who enters a physical temple to be worshipped as God. Paul warns them not to be deceived, but why would they be deceived by such a man? Which leads me to my second point.
2. The phrase translated as "the temple of God" is used 4 times by Paul (1 Corinthians 3:16, I Corinthians 3:17, 2 Corinthians 6:16 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4). In the other 3 cases, there is no doubt that Paul is speaking about a spiritual temple - i.e. the body of believers called the church - and not a physical building. That certainly makes it likely that this usage is no different. In fact, the alternative word "hieron" (Strongs #2411) is ALWAYS used in reference to a physical temple (Paul uses it once in 1 Cor 9:13). In fact, ignoring the gospels and Revelation, ALL the epistles use the word "naos" (meaning "temple" as well - the same in the phrase "temple of God") to mean a spiritual temple. Not a physical one. I omit Revelation because, while I believe it to be a spiritual temple, they are in visions and physical analogs are used. So I don't want to dispute that. I'm confining this to Paul's writings (and noting that all NT epistles use "naos" spiritually). That leads me to my third point.
3. Look at the phrasing of the passage in 2 Thessalonians 2:
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 thathe as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
By itself, I would agree that this position might seem a bit hard to accept. But with the above points together with this thought, I think it is a pretty strong argument that the AntiChrist (or man of sin) will enter a spiritual temple. That is, at the least, it will be a man from within the church who presents himself as Christ or to be worshipped as Christ. What do I mean? This man of sin
Exalts himself above all that is called God or worshipped SO THAT he sits in the temple of God.
Think about it. If this were a physical temple, his presence in the temple would demand worship. He would be worshipped because he enters the temple. However, if his being worshipped makes it SO THAT he sits in the temple of God, the spiritual meaning of "temple of God" makes a lot more sense. The fact of his being worshipped puts him in a place of eminence in the church - it doesn't put him in a physical temple. Contrarily, the fact of his being in some rebuilt temple doesn't make him worshipped. The phrasing, if a physical temple were in view, would more likely be reversed. Something like "...sits in the temple of God so that he is exalted above all that is called God or worshipped...".
And with verses like Acts 7:48 where Stephen preaches to the Jews in the synagogue, it becomes apparent that there is no physical temple in view. The temple of God, it is clear, is a spiritual temple here, as well.
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
So for Paul to speak of "the temple of God" so matter of fact, it seems clear to me that this is not a man entering a physical temple, but rather a pretender or replacement of Christ (subtly - thus the deception implied) who enters the church.
I won't go into identifications because that's another issue. But suffice it to say that I believe this passage clearly shows the AntiChrist or man of sin to be a counterfeit in a spiritual sense and in the midst of that which calls itself Christ's church.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
thanks for the email and your thoughts on this matter. Sorry it has taken a while for me to reply. You've obviously read some of my thoughts on this in the article on the website and have seen the quotes from the early church (and no doubt had debates with others who believe these passages should be taken literally) so you'll have to forgive me if I only reply briefly.
But just a couple of things concerning your points -
1. 'Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone
deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed...'
I think you're a little mistaken over what the deception was that Paul was talking about. The deception that Paul talks about in verse 3 is the letter or prophecy that the Thessalonians had received, supposedly from Paul (which it wasn't) that stated that the day or the Lord had already come. He didn't say the deception was that the Antichrist would put himself in the temple claiming to be God. Paul only wrote this because he didn't want them to be deceived by the letter or prophecy going around so he told them what will happen first before the day of the Lord occurs. When the 'deception' that Paul talks about is correctly identified, your first point is no longer valid.
2. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that
God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
It is interesting to look at those other verses you mentioned and ask yourself what exactly the 'temple' is. I could be wrong but it seems to be that the the temple is our physical body (for Christians have received the Holy Spirit and God's Spirit lives in us as Paul points out). I'm not sure it is completely accurate to use these passages and say the temple is the Church.
But that aside (as I may be wrong), you will notice that what Paul does do when he uses 'temple' in a not literal sense such as the Corinthians passages, is that he defines what he means. That is, he explains that he is using temple in a spiritual sense so that his readers will not get confused. Obviously in 2 Thes 2 he doesn't do this which would suggest that he wants the temple to be defined in it's normal literal sense without spiritualizing the interpretation. The Gentiles had and were quite used to temples as the Jews were. With no extra explanation from Paul, they would have interpreted this literally - a literal man sitting in a literal temple.
As for the point you made about 'naos' being used in 2 Thes 2... I actually found that point quite misleading. A simple concordance will show that the N.T writers used both naos and hieron of a physical temple. So why use naos when Paul could have used hieron? Because it is more specific. According to Strongs, Naos is 'used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the
sacred edifice (or sanctuary) itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy
So Paul wanted to be clear about the Antichrist's mission... It's not just entering the doors of the temple... He would put himself right in the Holy of Holies, where God should be, and proclaim himself God. Makes total sense for a literal temple.
I'm not wanting to be critical but there is a saying that 'if you torture the data long enough it will confess to anything.' And the 'facts' concerning naos and hieron that you have presented are one sided and seem to show a bias.
3. You wrote 'By itself, I would agree that this position might seem a bit hard to accept. But with the above points together with this thought, I think it is a pretty strong argument that the AntiChrist (or man of sin) will enter a spiritual temple.'
I'm glad that you agree that a simple reading of the 2 Thes 2 passage makes a spiritual interpretation of the passage hard to accept. I agree. You then said that when combined with your first two points it becomes a strong argument. Maybe, just maybe, I have shown above that the first two points weren't maybe as strong as you thought.
Anyway, enough arguing. Thanks again for your points which I was interested in reading. It is all worth thought and consideration. While you said you wouldn't identify the Antichrist, I'm thinking that you're pointing the finger at the Pope/Catholic Church. Feel free to comment if you like. I'm no fan of the Roman Catholic Church but for what it is worth, I would personally see them playing a leading role in the Mystery Babylon of Rev 17 - the woman (false religion) that rides (temporarily controls) the beast (Antichrist).
Anyway, thanks again and have a good day!