God is Judge

Chapter 15

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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The Little Horn in N.T. Eschatology


The portrayal of the ungodly protagonist in N.T. eschatology is drawn from the “little horn” of Daniel chs.7 and 8, which functions as an archetype.  A simple comparison establishes the connection:


Daniel 8 2 Thessalonians 2
“Magnified himself to the prince of the host and took away the daily and the place of his sanctuary was cast down” (v.11). “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 forth that he is God” (v.4).
“Cast truth down to the ground” (v.12). “That they might be damned who believed not the truth” (v.12).
“His power shall be mighty but not by his own power” (v.24). “Whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (v.9).
“Shall magnify himself, and by peace he shall destroy (corrupt) many” (v.25). “God sendeth them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (v.11).


The actions of Antiochus Epiphanes (god manifest) form the basis for the Pauline “man of sin” his desecration of the temple, banning of the Torah (truth) and corruption of the priesthood are therefore typical.  Truth, should be understood as a technical term referring to the covenant promises made to the patriarchs (concerning the Messiah, cf. Micah 7:20).  Jesus was the fulfilment of those promises and the Fourth Gospel has Jesus state: “I am the truth, the way, and the life” (John 14:6).  The Pauline “man of sin” presents himself as the embodiment of the truth – in other words he proclaims himself the Messiah (God Manifest).

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The eschatological pattern is established – collaboration between a foreign imperial power and a Jewish elite (a corrupt priesthood). The invasion of Judea by Sennacherib during the reign of Hezekiah (the “Suffering Servant”) should be understood against a similar background - collaboration with the enemy and betrayal of the mortally ill monarch. Isaiah compares the pride of the Assyrian monarch to Lucifer (= day star = Venus), the son of the morning, (the Assyrian god Ishtar) who exalts his throne above the stars of God (Isa. 14:.14 cf. Dan. 8:10-11).  Sennacherib “ruled the nations in anger, with a persecution that none restraineth” (Isa. 14:6 RV). In contrast, at the time of writing Thessalonians (ca. 52 AD), Paul could say, “….there is one that restraineth now until he be taken out the way” (2 Thess.2:7).[1]  As far as Paul was concerned the eschatological pattern established by the OT was (although restrained) already at work (2 Thess 2:7) in the first century. This can be seen in the crucifixion and trial of Christ which required collaboration between imperial Rome and the Jewish Sanhedrin. However, Paul has a particular individual in mind (the man of sin) who leads many astray by proclaiming his messianic credentials and establishing himself in the temple (church?).[2]


[1] Something is presently (ca. AD 52) restraining him - you know what is restraining [katechon; present participle], that he may be revealed in his own time (2Thessalonians 2.6). The similarity of qui claudit (Latin rendering of katechon) and Claudius has led many to conclude that Paul cryptically referred to Claudius Caesar by this allusion. The restraining power of Claudius was taken out of the way when he was poisoned by Nero’s mother, Agrippina. Nero then came to the throne and was revealed as the “man of sin”. F.W. Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, Excursus XIX, (1879, Cassell and Co. ed), 727; Darkness and Dawn (1891), 73, 74; .Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., Perilous Times (1999, CMP), 104-106.

[2] The Man of Sin is able to access God’s Temple (2:4). The epistles do not mention the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 by the armies of Titus, so it would appear that the temple Paul refers to was still in existence at the time of writing. The fact that Paul never mentions the destruction of the Second Temple can only lead us to conclude that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians prior to AD 70. Therefore the Man of Sin Paul speaks of must have had access to the temple in some form, alternatively, Paul is employing the “Temple” as a metaphor for the Church (cf. 1 Cor.3:16). In light of the opposition that Paul experienced this is more likely.

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The restraining factor in the first century was the Holy Spirit, which aided preaching and prevented the inroads of Judaists, who were intent on subverting the early church. The warning in Thessalonians is repeated with more urgency in the book of Revelation and once again it echoes Daniel 8:


Daniel 8 Revelation
“And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven: and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground and stamped upon them” (v.10). “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth” (12:4).
“Yea he magnified himself even to the prince of the host” (v.12).[3] “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon” (12:7).
“Cast truth to the ground” (v.12). “Did cast them to the earth” (12:4).
“How long shall be the vision” (v.13).[4] “There should be time no longer” (10:6).
“The sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot” (v.13). “Shall they tread underfoot forty and two months” (11:2).


[3] The prince of the host is the archangel Michael who was especially committed to directing the affairs of Israel (See, Dan. 12:1; 10: 13, 21; Josh.5:14; Ex.23:20).

[4] How long?  This is the question implicitly implied in Revelation 11:13 – a tenth part of the city fell, compare Isaiah 6:11-13

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“Removal of the daily” (v.13). “Death of the witnesses” (11:7).
“I was in a deep sleep, my face toward the ground: but he touched me and set me upright” (v.18). “The spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet” (11:11).
 “A king of fierce countenance…. shall stand up” (v.23). “Another beast coming up out of the earth” (13:11).
“And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power” (v.24). “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him” (13:12).
“Shall cause craft to prosper…. shall corrupt many” (v.25). “He deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles” (13:14).
“Shall magnify himself in his heart” (v.25). Who is like the Beast? (13:4).[5]


Various candidates[6] suggest themselves for the first century “man of sin”, but none have all the characteristics. Nero persecuted the saints and thought of himself as divine, furthermore evidence presents itself that his choice of Christians as a scapegoat was influenced by his mistress who was a convert to Judaism.[7]  Nero fits the pattern established by Antiochus of a persecuting imperial power. Another first century candidate (this time religious rather than imperial) is Bar    Continued  ˃


[5] Compare – Michael: “who is like God?”

[6] The “man of sin” is variously identified with Caligula, Nero, John of Giscala and the eschatological Antichrist.

[7] Josephus (Antiq. 20.8.11) recounts how Poppea pleaded with Nero on behalf of Ismael the high priest and Helcias the temple treasurer, who were held hostage at Nero’s court, in order to force the Jews to demolish a wall that blocked Herod Agrippa’s view of the Temple precinct.

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Kochba, who liberated Jerusalem (for nearly three and a half years) and was supported in his messianic aspirations and popular rebellion against Rome by the Rabbi’s of his day.[8] This was the last rebellion against Rome and put the seal on any Jewish notions of independence. In the final analysis any first century realization of the “man of sin” is partial (already/not yet) and still awaits the full revelation of the Antichrist at the end. The “man of sin” has a definite “Jewish flavour” as he deceives those who did not have a love of the truth (covenant promises) and who believe the lie (the lie that the serpent told Adam, i.e. that man can be God).  


[8] I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. (John 5:43)