As I have written in preceding posts, I believe the prophecies of Daniel and Jesus had a fulfillment during 0 – 70 A.D. But, as I showed in the most recent post, prophecy is not confined to a particular period of time. The spiritual factors at play in the first century are still at play today, and will continue to be so throughout this age. So, the question becomes, in addition to the first century fulfillment, are there any other fulfillments prior to Christ’s return that are specifically addressed in Scripture? Although I am not really dogmatic about this matter, I do find some evidence for a future fulfillment.
First, let’s revisit 2nd Thessalonians.
“As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming (2 Thess. 2:1-8).”
There are several things important to note here. The first is that Paul opens the chapter by mentioning the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and then tells the church not to worry about rumors that the “day of the Lord” had already come. Thus, the context seems to indicate that the “day of the Lord” is synonymous with the Rapture and associated events, described in Chapters Four and Five of First Thessalonians.
Paul writes that two events must precede the Day of the Lord. The first is “the rebellion.” I consider this rebellion to have been fulfilled in the first century. Many of the late-New Testament writings describe a serious departure from the Gospel taking place in their day. For example, in 2nd Timothy Paul writes,
“You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me (1:15).”
“Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds. You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! (4:14-16)”
Also note some passages from the epistle of Jude:
Jude 4: “For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
16-19: “These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage. But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.’ It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions.”
But now, what about the “man of lawlessness” that Paul describes, who “takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.” In light of all the other prophecies we have looked at, and the events of 66-70, it is tempting to say that the man of lawlessness was the Roman General Titus, who led the destruction of Jerusalem and was worshipped in the temple by other Roman officers. However, a “problem” for this interpretation comes in Paul’s statement that the man of lawlessness would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s return. Since Titus did not die in 70 A.D., and Christ did not physically return, could these prophecies be awaiting a future fulfillment?
First, keeping in mind that Bible prophecy is not strictly confined to certain eras, I consider it a valid interpretation to say that, while the physical person known as the man of lawlessness lived and died in the past, the spirit which drove that person to do the things he did is still alive today, and has infected various individuals throughout history. That spirit will not be destroyed until Christ returns and establishes a new spiritual order.
I also find Scriptural evidence for this interpretation. For example, the Apostle John wrote,
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world (1st John 4:1-4).”
John depicts the antichrist as a spirit that was alive in his own day, inspiring false prophets. This suggests that the concept of antichrist in Scripture is not limited to a single, physical individual. Undoubtedly, this spirit will find its way into some evil individuals at the time Christ returns, just as it has throughout history. Now, the big question is, does the Bible say anything about a specific person who will be possessed by this spirit at the time Christ returns? I believe that evidence of such a person may be hidden in the text of Daniel 7. In the next post, we will examine that in detail.