How does this fit in all this?
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
2 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and 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 that he is God.
OK, I'll try, but I will have to extend my comments beyond v. 4 to make sense of the passage.
V. 1 - Paul is "beseeching them" - that is he is appealing to their common believe that Jesus Christ would return, and that we would be gathered to Him. This is the issue that binds them together, and that now he wants to address
v. 2 - This doctrine of the Lord's return should not shake us or trouble us. The false doctrine that was being taught then, as seen in II Timothy 2:16-18 is that the resurrection had ALREADY OCCURED, and that it was a "spiritual resurrection" and not physical. This false doctrine taught that the return of Jesus Christ was not LITERAL but "spiritual" in that Christ had "returned" spiritually in the hearts of the believers. (That teaching is still with us today....). Some people were apparently forging letters in Paul's name to advance this false doctrine. We should not be troubled by them. The Day of Christ is not a fearful thing for the believer, because (v. 1) we will be gathered to him.
v. 3 How then, and WHY should we not be troubled by this false doctrine? Because the apostle Paul gives us clues as to the timing of "the Day of Christ." There is no date setting here, so please do not think that I am an advocate of setting dates. But we can discern the times and seasons, and we should be observant enough to see what is happening around us.
1. "except there come a falling away" - this is nothing more than an apostacy, a global apostacy. It was Kenneth Wuest, the great Bible corrector who suggested that this is a reference to a pre-trib rapture, and he did so by running to "the Greek." But the rapture of the church is never referred to as a "falling away" but rather as a "catching up." We don't FALL off the earth, the Lord TAKES us off the earth. This is a false interpretation of the text.
2. It refers to a great "falling away" from the truth, as is evident from the rest of the text (see v. 9-12 - "lying wonders, deceivableness, believe a lie, etc."). It is my opinion that we are living in those days, because the apostacy is now evident within our own circles, and across the globe, according to the accounts I receive from missionaries. When those who have historically been the guardians of the truth (i.e. the Baptists) start falling into apostacy in regards to Bible doctrine and Bible practice, then that should be a clear indicator of where we are!
3. The next clue is that the "man of sin" would be revealed. Historically, the Baptists and even men like Martin Luther identified the Pope as the Antichrist, and the man of sin. I happen to think that they are correct. The point here is that if in fact the prophecies were fulfilled in 70 AD, as some suggest, then the church would have known who the "man of sin" was. Since there is no record of this identity by the early church, then it cannot be so. It must point to a future event, Ian's comments notwithstanding.
So what else does the Bible say about this man? Revelation 13 tells us that this "beast" will have a deadly wound that will be healed. To summarize what I believe, I believe the "man of sin" is killed, and resurrected somehow demonically, and at that point he becomes the "son of perdition." The "son of perdition" is the antithesis to "the son of God."
The Bible refers to two mysteries regarding this subject: The mystery of Godliness (I Timothy 3:16), and the mystery of iniquity. Just as we can never fully understand in our finite minds how Jesus Christ could be all God and all man at the same time, and then die physically to be later resurrected, so can we never fully understand how a man could be "the son of perdition". That is, this person will be 100% human, but also 100% DEVIL at the same time. The son of perdition is the exact opposite of Jesus Christ.
Thus, I believe the text here means that the man of sin will be revealed AS the son of perdition. While we have seen many "antichrists" in the world, this man will be THE antichrist referred to in Rev. 13.
4. We are not to allow ourselves to be troubled until we see this revealing - or unveiling. Now this opens up another question - will believers know who the antichrist is before the rapture? I think so. I believe the HOly Spirit will identify him to the church prior to our "catching away". But the world will only see this demonic character as the "messiah" who will bring in world peace (Rev. 6).
Verse 4 - How can we identify this "man of sin?" He claims to be God. His claim is so strong that he proves it by entering into a physical building that the Jews refer to as "the temple" (i.e. this is not a spiritual application to our bodies), and this demonic man sits down in the Holy of Holies, on the mercy seat, and claims that he is God. After all, if he was NOT God, would not the REAL God kill him??? This fits with Rev. 13:5 - the blasphemies that come out of the mouth of the resurrected "son of perdition."
I do not believe the church will be on the earth when he goes into the temple and sits down on the mercy seat. I believe that it will be clear to the Bible-Believing Christian who this man is because he will oppose the true God, and exalt himself above the true God. The non-discerning Christian and the lost person won't have a clue as to what is happening. At some point of the 7 year tribulation period, this demonic "son of perdition" will make that claim, and sit down in the Temple.
Anyway, John, I don't know if this answers your questions or not....hopefully it does.
I recommend Larkin on this point.