We are going to go back to another interpretation using an article by Louis Ginzberg called “Anti-Christ” in the Jewish Encyclopedia. We refer you to the full article because we will only be using excerpts. Our comments will be in parenthesis. Quoting from the article, Ginzberg says that the Antichrist is, “Counterpart of the Messiah and opponent of God himself; one of the most important personages in Christian eschatology. The name occurs for the first time in the Johannean Epistles (1 John 2.18, 22, 4.3; 2 John 7); but the idea is met in earlier New Testament writings, and, like the greater part of eschatology of early Christianity, its beginnings are to be found in Jewish theology, and modern scholars even hold the opinion that its true origin is to be found in the Babylonian Chaos-myths (We believe this is not correct, these myths are counterfeits). In 2 Thes 2.1-12, a passage probably of Pauline origin (we believe it was written by Paul) it is stated that the day of the Lord shall not come before “the man of sin”, the lawless one, “the son of perdition” be revealed. This opponent will appear and seat himself in the Temple of God at Jerusalem, “showing himself that he is God” but he, the wicked one, will then be consumed by the Messiah through the spirit of his mouth, who thus will make an end of him “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.”
How many times have you ever heard someone say “I don’t know what my calling is” or “I don’t know what to do for the Lord.” We can see the storm clouds gathering right now. The enemy of the Lord is moving and he knows what to do, doesn’t he? So, that means he is moving in our country, and as we can see in our politics, and he is very successful. What we don’t realize is that the true believers are a barrier to him and his evil works. Whenever we do what God wants in the Torah, the Nevi’im (the Prophets), the Ketuvim (the Writings) and the Gospels and Epistles, we perform a “mitzvah” or “good work/commandment.” A “mitzvah impedes the enemy and restrains him from moving. In the first century, there was a move to impede non-Jews from entering into the faith and that was not a “mitzvah”, and it lead to the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple. Yeshua called them “murderers.”
Continuing on in the Ginzberg article, “This “little apocalypse” as this passage has well been called, has been variously expounded. It is, however, quite evident that Paul understood by Antichrist a personal opponent of the Messiah, this conception being compounded of ideas derived from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha (Dan 7.25, 9.27, 11.36; Isa 14.13; Ezek 28.2; 1 Macc 14.14). He goes on to say, “Just as unreasonable is it to assume that by the expression “he who now restraineth” (A.V. “letteth”) the appearance of Antichrist, it is intended to designate the Roman government or the emperor himself. The iniquitous one, the incarnation of evil on earth, is not a political personage held back by Roman power. The passage is to be explained by the aid of rabbinical eschatology, as for instance in Sanhedrin 98a, which teaches that the Messiah will not appear until the whole world is either entirely righteous or entirely wicked; a standpoint that explains not only the expression “that which now restraineth” the rabbis speak of various things which impedes the redemption but also elucidates Paul’s vacillation as to the period to be set for the “day of the Lord.”
Now, why were the Pharisees from Beit Shammai so afraid of letting non-Jews “come in?” Because they were afraid they would change everything. It is not only important to do the mitzvot (commandments), but to do them according to the right way (the “tavnit” or pattern/shadow/blueprint/picture). The non-Jews did come in, and they did change everything, and that is what we call Replacement Theology. Keeping the Torah “restrains” or “impedes” the enemy, according to this interpretation. Sanhedrin 98a says, “He will come in a generation that is entirely virtuous or entirely guilty.” Yochanon Ben Zakkai was a “tanna” in the first century and probably knew Paul. He said, “The son of David will come only in a generation that is either entirely righteous or entirely guilty or evil.” So, let’s look into this a little deeper.
The “gathering” that Paul is writing about in 2 Thes 2 is what Ginzberg said he was referencing from the idea that the Messiah cannot come unless the world is entirely righteous or wicked. So, how do you get the world entirely wicked? We had this before at the flood of Noah. We had this in Sodom and Gomorrah. Would God have destroyed the world by a flood if everyone was righteous? Would he have destroyed these two cities if he found ten righteous ones? There has to be a gathering of the righteous. Who would this gathering of the righteous include? Everyone who belongs to a Christian church? We don’t think so. The righteous have a resurrection, and the wicked will have a resurrection. How do you get into the resurrection of the righteous? You can’t earn it or buy it, but it comes by “emunah” or faith. That means you believe what Abraham believed and then the Lord accounts that as righteousness. You must believe what Yeshua and Paul believed. Forget Christian, forget Jewish. Everyone who is righteous by faith will be gathered, leaving only, for a short time, the wicked in the world. The righteous are “restraining” the enemy from bringing forth the false messiah.
The word “restrain” means to “seize, hold fast to, restrain” (Strong’s # 2722, also see Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Satan cannot bring forth “his guy” as long as the righteous are here. He can advance his evil agenda through “his guys”, but he can’t get them into that seat in the Temple. When Messiah returns in his Second Coming, what is the status of the earth then? If you are not righteous, you will be destroyed. Then, for brief period of time, the entire world will be entirely made up of the righteous. So, the statements in Sanhedrin and what Yochanon Ben Zakkai said are true. That is not a typical “Rapture” teaching.
There are many religious Jewish Rabbis and Christian Pastors who are not believers. They may have some of the “mechanics” but they have not put “emunah (faith) with it. They have studied all the material, they understand the concepts, but it is not mixed with faith. So, they will be left out of the “Gathering.” Forget the Christian and Jewish, it’s the righteous and the unrighteous. We don’t know all of what it’s going to be. So, this is one way of looking at these verses in 2 Thes 2 with a Jewish understanding. You cannot understand Biblical Eschatology unless you understand the festivals in Lev 23, they go hand in hand. You can’t understand the festivals unless you understand the ceremonies of the festivals in the Temple.
Then, we need to look at the liturgy. Take Sukkot, for instance. People talk about “observing Sukkot” but you can’t keep the festivals outside of the Temple and Jerusalem, that is where God has placed his name. If you could keep Sukkot anywhere, why did the Lord say you had to go there? But, even if you could keep Sukkot anywhere, going to a campsite on a lake somewhere and spending a week in a tent or RV is not “keeping” Sukkot. To keep Sukkot, you must build a “sukkah” made of tree and branches and live in it for a week. You must take the Arba Minim (four species) and wave it before God. That can only be done in the land by a native-born Israeli (Deut 12.1, 16.13-17; Lev 23.39-44). You must have the 70 bulls offered, and all the other korbanot to “keep” the festival. That cannot be done at a lakeside in America, or anywhere else. So, what does “keep and observe” mean? It means to incorporate the Torah into your life and to stay true to the “tavnit” (pattern/shadow/blueprint/picture) that God has given. That means do it exactly the way he said to do it. We need to learn and understand these patterns and blueprints that each festival or command had to teach us.
Now, the prayers that were prayed, including all the scriptures that were read is one of the main tools for understanding eschatology, even though we cannot “keep” the festivals. So, we need a Siddur, a Jewish prayer book. Artscroll and the Hertz Siddur are good ones to have because they have notes. But a siddur is not a book that should sit on the shelf. Buy a siddur and read every word. Then get a Machzor, a prayer book for the festivals, and read every word. You should read all of these things in order to learn the “tavnit” (pattern/blueprint/shadow/picture) and learn the terminology. See what Scriptures are being used so that when you read the Gospels and Epistles you will pick up the terms and concepts.
If someone comes and they are a believer, then they will agree with the words in the Torah. They might not at first, but they will eventually. They may not come around to the same level of walk you are, but they will be “moving towards” the Torah. But, if a person is not a believer they will reject the Torah. There are people in churches that cast out devils “in the name of Jesus” or they perform miracles and prophesy but they say the Torah is not for today, it has been “done away with.” They teach that we are “free from the law” (Torah) which makes them “lawless.” A person can go through the motions of being “on fire for God” but if their heart is not turned towards the Lord and the righteousness found in the Torah (Rom 7.12) then they are not in the Kingdom of God. We will have to discern whether this person is just misinformed or they are totally against this. If they are totally against this, they are not truly a believer (Matt 7.21-23).
Now Paul, the “sh’liach” (sent one), gets a bum deal, both from Judaism and Christianity. They say that Paul “founded Christianity” and taught people not to follow the Torah. If you can tap into Paul and what he is really saying, he is outstanding. He is a “halakic” genius. There are rabbi’s who don’t even believe in Yeshua who think this and can see it. These rabbi’s are interested in how to deal with non-Jews, and Paul is a model for them on how to deal with non-Jews coming into Judaism and how to be compatible with them. This is trying to avoid “Two Camps” and they know Paul used old “rabbinics” and a Jewish understanding.
So, we will be beginning a new series in our study of the Torah and New Testament Foundations and we will look into what Paul actually said concerning the Torah. This must be understood if we are going to interpret his words correctly.