John of Gischala
'Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day [the return of Jesus] shall not come, except ... that the man of sin [Man of Lawlessness] be revealed, the son of perdition...'
(2 Thessalonians 2:3)
Since 'history provides the best commentary on prophecy', we should ask, 'Did a Man of Lawlessness' appear after AD50 and did he do all the things predicted?
One person who was very prominent in the events leading up to the Fall of Jerusalem was John of Gischala. The following is summarised from Josephus' 'The Wars of the Jews':
- He hoodwinked the Romans at the Siege of Gischala and escaped, he abandoned the women and children who had escaped with him, and they were slaughtered.
- Upon arriving in Jerusalem, he persuaded the inhabitants to go to war, saying that the Romans were in a weak condition - which was not the case.
- He made a close friendship with the temple priests but only so that he might betray them into the hands of zealots, resulting in a great slaughter. Many ordinary citizens died and the temple and city were ransacked.
- According to 2 Thessalonians 3:4, the Man of Lawlessness would exalt himself above all that is called God and sits as God in the temple. John of Gischala invades and occupies the temple in Jerusalem.
- He melts down the sacred vessels and plunders the temple. This abuse of the temple artefacts reflects a similar abuse of the same vessels by Belshazzar before the Fall of Babylon to the Persians. Jerusalem was invaded shortly after John of Gischala's act of sacrilege. This is not a specific fulfilment of prophecy but surely it is more than a coincidence that he repeats the sacrilege of Belshazzar with the same results?
- In 2 Thessalonian 2:7, the Man of Lawlessness is restrained. The man restraining him was either Nero or Vespasian. Vespasian had been pursuing John of Gischala for some time. After Nero died, Vespasian suspended his plans to besiege Jerusalem (and capture John of Gischala). Vespasian's nephew (Titus) resumes the siege. During the period of suspension of the siege, John of Gischala increased his violent activity.
- In 2 Thessalonians 2:9 it is said that the Man of Lawlessness would deceive the unrighteous with power, signs and lying wonders. According to Josephus, 'a great many false prophets appeared with many lying wonders.' Since John of Gischala had previously promised the people that the Romans would be easily defeated, and it was becoming clear that they were not going to be defeated, it is not beyond the realm of reason to assume that he procured the services of 'false prophets' who created false signs. It is also possible that the 'false signs' were the result of demonic activity, since there was heavy demonic influence at that time, in accordance with several scriptures.
- While on his way to the cross, Jesus predicted that some of the children of women then alive would say to the mountains 'fall on us' and to the hills 'cover us'. (Luke 23:27) John of Gischala spent the last days of the siege underground in caverns. Again, this is not a specific fulfilment of a prophecy about the Man of Lawlessness but surely it is more than a coincidence that he forms part of the fulfilment of a prophecy by Jesus?
The Man of Lawlessness was John of Gischala. His time came to an end when the Lord:
'destroyed him with the breath of his mouth and the brightness of his coming'
(2 Thessalonians 2: 8, NKJV)
But was John of Gischala destroyed by the breath of Jesus at his coming (in AD70)? Did Jesus return in AD70? Verse 8 is mistakenly considered by Futurists to be a picture of the Second Coming of Christ. It is therefore inferred that the Man of Lawlessness (and his demise) belongs to the distant future. This need not be the case. The language used here is figurative and quotes from Old Testament sources, and are found together in Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22.
'Destruction by the breath of his mouth'
(2 Samuel 22:16 and Psalm 18:8, 15 Context: David's deliverance from the hand of Saul)
'The brightness of his coming'
2 Samuel 22:23 (repeated in Psalm 18:12, 14)
In addition, Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1 picture God using similar 'fiery' language in the context of judgement. The image of God coming in brightness is a prophetic image seen by prophets. It depicts a heavenly scene only seen by a prophet but which has a message for those on earth: imminent judgement. No one saw Jesus above the clouds of heaven in AD70 or at any other time. 'This brightness of his coming' is seen in a prophetic vision.
The context of Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 is that of David rejoicing on account of the demise of King Saul. There are some similarities between the 'career' of Saul and that of John of Gischala. There is no particular reason to associate Psalm 18 or 2 Thessalonians 2:8 with a yet future coming of Christ.
If the expression in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 is taken figuratively, and scripture is used to interpret scripture, then what was promised was delivered in AD70.