Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 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." (2 Thess. 2:1-2 NIV) This reminds us of the small Adventist group that calculated Christ's return for the year 1874 and, when nothing happened, insisted that Christ had in fact returned, only invisibly. And it reminds us of the Jehovah's Witnesses who originally held to that date and later switched to 1914 as the year when Christ was supposed to have begun an 'invisible presence.'
Paul went on to say, "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 that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2 Thess. 2:3-4 KJV) That ruled out Paul's day, but what about ours?
Our world certainly has seen a great falling away from biblical Christianity. The old paganism has gained a new respectability in modern society, and the theory of darwinian evolution has made so-called 'science' the religion of many people today.
As for "the man of sin," could this be, as some have suggested, a reference to Islam, the worship of Allah who some researchers claim to have traced to the Middle Eastern moon god named Sin -- a religion that has sat itself down in the temple of God by erecting mosques on the Temple Mount where the ancient Jewish house of worship had stood? Its traditional hostility toward Christianity could certainly earn Islam status as an antichrist. Others have suggested that the Antichrist is the Pope, or the Roman Catholic Church that has enthroned him at the Vatican. But the popular view in evangelical churches today is that the "man of sin" will be an individual ruler, yet to arise, who will exercise widespread power in the world during the final days before Armageddon.
Although I am tempted to speculate in this book on the Antichrist and how the remaining prophecies concerning the last days will be fulfilled, I don't believe that would be productive to do here. Why not? There are a number of reasons.
Bible prophecy can be an intimidating subject. It is an area in which the average Bible reader may feel obliged to defer to the tyranny of authority. That is because, while a some prophetic passages speak very plainly, others that are presented in symbolic language. For example, prophecies in the book of Daniel, chapter seven, portray strange-looking beasts representing world powers and governments.
"After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it [was] diverse from all the beasts that [were] before it; and it had ten horns." (Daniel 7:7 KJV)
The angel presenting the vision to Daniel explained to him some of the symbolism, but he left much of it "sealed up" until a future time:
"But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end....I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, 'My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?' He replied, 'Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.'" (Daniel 12:4, 8-10 NIV)
The book of Revelation or Apocalypse uses very similar cryptic language: "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy." (Rev 13:1 KJV) "And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast." (Rev 17:12 KJV)
Sincere students of the Bible often look for clues as to the meaning of such symbolic language. Some passages that are unclear may be puzzled out in the light of similar passages that are plainly spoken. Taking that into consideration, as well as what authorities have written on the subject in the past, many authors have attempted to unravel the mystery of the cryptic end times prophecies. And the entire