We are discussing the identity of the Man of Sin (see part 1 HERE), of whom Paul wrote in 2Thessalonians 2:3. We have also discussed the coming of Jesus, that he returned in the first century, cir. 70 AD, after the abomination that made desolate was set up. In previous studies I had shown that Stephen’s death in Acts 7 represents the setting up of the abomination that makes desolate. In other words whatever was done to shed the blood of Stephen, the first martyr of Jesus, indicates that the abomination had been set up.
Many scholars who embrace dispensational theology point to Antiochus Epiphanes as the type of the Man of Sin who is to come (or so they think he is to come). They have the period correct for the type, but Antiochus Epiphanes does not represent the Man of Sin. He is rather a type of the Roman army or the Roman Emperor. Remember in a previous blogpost (found HERE) I had shown that Caligula was about to set up an image of himself in the Jewish Temple to be worshiped. If he had done so, there surely would have been war between Rome and the Jews and Jerusalem and the Temple would have been destroyed sometime in the thirties AD rather than 30 to 35 year later in 70 AD. Nevertheless, “repentance” was made and God’s mercy was seen in that Caligula was removed and a new emperor reigned. But what was the abomination and who was the Man of Sin?
If we can agree that Antiochus Epiphanes looks more like a type of Caligula or he whom God would use to carry out his judgment upon his people, then we should be able to see from history what the abomination is and who or what was the type of the Man of Sin who was to come. If we can agree that this is a logical approach, what occurred back in the 2nd century BC? Well, Antiochus had removed Onias III (the legal high priest) from the high priesthood, replacing him with his brother Jason who bribed the king with a sum of money, saying he would Hellenize the Jews.
Long-story-short, Menalaus, a relative of Jason, offered the king even more money, if he would make him the high priest, so he could Hellenize the Jews. The king agreed, and there was a great political struggle in Jerusalem over who should be the high priest, although these two imposters were no high priests at all. Meanwhile, the ordinary priests became so interested in the games at the gymnasium that was built for the Greek athletic competition that they had left off their duties in the Temple. In other words, there was a national movement away from God and toward a way of life that opposed God. This was the abomination, and Antiochus’ sacrificing swine’s flesh on the altar was merely God’s judgment upon his people over what was occurring. God made obvious what the spiritual condition of his people had become. He pronounced it “abominable!”
Now, if this was the scene in the 2nd century BC of the type of the abomination and of the Man of Sin in the 1st century AD, then what do we find about the time of Stephen’s death to about the time of Caligula’s reign that moved God to the point where he would have destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple 30-35 years before he actually had done so?
We really need to understand the gravity of Stephen’s death and what it represented. God was involved in a new movement and those who struck out at Stephen, struck out at God (cF. Acts 9:4-5). The high priesthood in Jerusalem had challenged God himself by beginning a persecution against the Jesus Movement among the Jews. At this time only the Hellenistic Jewish believers were persecuted to the death. The Apostles and conservatives were most likely interrogated, threatened and perhaps even beaten, but by and large they were permitted to remain in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). It is my contention that the Gospel of Luke was written during the 30s AD and presented to Theophilus, the then reigning high priest, in an effort to get him to stop the persecution of Jesus’ people (cf. Luke 1:1-4). Once Theophilus saw Petronius, the Roman governor, coming to set up a statue of Caligula in the Temple (cf. Luke 21:20), he “repented” and left off the persecution (Acts 9:31). Sadly, however, this wasn’t the end. “Repentance” was short lived, as we shall see in my next and final blog on the identity of the Man of Sin.