A lot of the following is familiar to Preterists but I think it is helpful to go over this again for the benefit of others.
3, 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;
The falling away is none other than the apostasy that was prophesied elsewhere in the Bible. But consider that the very term implies a lapse from a higher position. It assumes persons who profess adherence to true religion and then deliberately move away from that position.
It also assumes an era of greater knowledge of the Truth. And that was exactly the case in in the first century. Christ Himself ministered and then His Apostles- and then their disciples – demonstrated and carried His message throughout the Empire. But the same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay. And this Potters clay was soon to be shattered.
This is when the “Last Days” came about. “Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” 2nd Timothy 3:5. They “profess to know God but in works they deny Him…” Titus 1:16
Those who turned from this unique witness were sinning against much greater knowledge than any other generation would be privileged with. There was not only a clearer message but there was also attesting miracles. This is why we could not be living in the “last days”.
Moreover the term has a special significance for Covenant Israel, Deuteronomy 33. Thie process of a judicial hardening of the Jewish despisers of the Truth was also revealed in the Old Testament. See Isaiah 6:9-13.
4, 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.
The self-deification of the Caesars, Nero especially, is well-known so this may refer to that or, if the actual Temple in Jerusalem, not speaking spiritually, then Eleazar ben Ananias or John of Gischala would fit better.
5, Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
I believe that Paul, like John in his writing of Revelation, was guarded in his mentioning of certain powerful persons lest it leads to arrests of any of his readership. So maybe this is why Paul just refers to what he had earlier told them personally.
6, And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
7, For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
There are two or three good historical candidates for the Man of Sin. There is no need to imagine a future candidate. Either Nero or Eleazar ben Ananias would fit the bill. A third would be John of Gischala. The “restrainer” would not be the Holy Spirit, as some futurists imagine, but human connections that kept these men from the full expression of their evil character. In the case of Nero it would be his wife (AD 59), his mother, Octavia (AD 62), or his advisors like Seneca. The “taking away” is ultimately what Nero did, when he had the greater opportunity, to those who hindered him.
More on this topic can be found in Ed Steven’s excellent “Final Decade Before the End”
- And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming
The character of Nero at the beginning was not obviously evil. His life reminds me of what my old pastor said about King Joash: “His piety died when his preacher died.” With the absence of Seneca (whom he pressured into suicide) and his wife and mother (both murdered) he was free to reveal his evil nature.
But he was destroyed by the “brightness of [Christ’s] coming”. I think that the comment from James Stuart Russell in page 84 of his “Parousia” makes perfect sense:
“The Lord is to slay him with the breath of his mouth, and to destroy him with the appearance of his coming. In this significant expression we have a note of the time when the man of sin is destined to perish, marked with singular exactitude. It is the coming of the Lord, the Parousia, which is to be the signal of his destruction; yet not the full – splendour of that event so much as the first appearance or dawn of it.”