The Prophecy of Paul (2 Thess. 2.1-11)
Let us inquire into a prophetic passage—of Paul’s—and see how it agrees with certain prophecies. “We beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God” (2 Thess. 2.1-4). What the apostle declares in this prophetic statement is what Daniel meant by “the abomination of desolation” (in the Old Testament, the phrase “the abomination of desolation” means an idol); and we need to recall that the prophecy of the Lord Jesus likewise mentioned this point.
Concerning how the Antichrist of Paul’s writing (that is to say, “the man of sin”—“the son of perdition”) will exalt himself and resist the Lord, we know what Daniel says about it. And here is what Paul has to say: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming” (vv.5-8). This passage tells the end of the Antichrist. As soon as the Lord Jesus comes again, Antichrist will be judged and destroyed. In his prophecies, Daniel often showed how the Lord will come again to put to nought the powers of the Gentile nations. His narrative of how the little horn is to be destroyed confirms what is said here by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2.8: the little horn will be destroyed by the appearing of the Lord.
And then the apostle ends his prophecy by saying: “Even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and sign and lying wonders, and with all deceit of righteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (vv.9-12). And what is this lie? John tells us this: “Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” (1 John 2.22)
By means of this brief study we are able to see how the prophecies of the Old Testament and of the New are one and mutually explanatory. Let us therefore take heed of Peter’s warning: “No prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation” (2 Peter 1.20). Prophecy must not be interpreted independently within its own narrow passage; it should be proven and confirmed by the entire Bible. Only thus can we arrive at an accurate understanding; otherwise, we shall suffer great loss.
Having seen how the prophecies of both Testaments fit harmoniously together, we can now return more specifically to the book of Revelation and see how it too agrees with all the aforementioned prophecies. In view of Peter’s word, we know one thing most assuredly—which is, that the prophecy of the last book of the New Testament must also coincide with these above-mentioned prophecies. We must not take the prophecy given in Revelation out of the context of the entire Bible within which it is a part and attempt to give it a special interpretation. Apart from the first and second divisions of Revelation (ch. 1; and chs. 2 and 3) which relate to the Church, its third division (chs. 4-22) concurs in substance with all the prophecies which we have up to this point examined.
Naturally, being the last book of the Bible, Revelation contains things which are found nowhere else in the preceding books of the Scriptures; nevertheless, in its broad outline, it still cannot be “privately interpreted” but must be proven and confirmed by other Scriptures. According to the key mentioned below, which key the Holy Spirit has provided us as an aid to interpret its prophecy, we are given to know that all the words in the third division really point to future time and future events. With that in mind you can well understand Revelation.
The Key to Interpreting “Revelation”. In each book of the Bible there is a key verse, by which that book can be opened. And hence we would hope to find the key verse in Revelation so as to give us the outline of this book too. Where is this verse? The Lord Jesus himself commanded John to write this book; so let us see how John received the commission: “Write therefore the thing which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter” (1.19). The Lord directed John to write down three main elements: first, the things “which [John] saw”; second, “the things which are”; and third, “the things which shall come to pass hereafter.” And John wrote accordingly. At the time he was about to write, he had already seen a vision; therefore, the first thing for him to write was a record of the vision he had just seen. John then continued to set down “the things which are” (Rev. 2 & 3) and concluded with “the things which shall come to pass hereafter” (Rev. 4-22). And thus, this one verse of Scripture alludes to the things of the past, the present (dispensation of grace), and the future (Tribulation and Parousia, Millennium, Eternity Future).