Lawless One - Forerunner

The Little Horn in Daniel is the model for the Man of Lawlessness described by Paul to the Thessalonians. In his visions, Daniel sees a malevolent ruler called variously the “Little Horn,” the “King of Fierce Countenance,” the “Contemptible One,” and the “King who does according to his will.” This figure is an arrogant ruler with a “mouth speaking great things.” He profanes the Sanctuary, causes the cessation of the daily burnt offerings in the Jerusalem Temple, erects the “Abomination that Desolates,” and “exalts himself against God.”

This pagan ruler “makes war against the saints” and causes many in Israel to ally “themselves to him through his flattery” - (Daniel 7:20-21, 8:8-9, 8:22-25, 11:21-36).

In the second Letter to the Thessalonians, this historical figure becomes the model for the future “Man of Lawlessness, the Son of Destruction” that the Apostle Paul states will appear “in the sanctuary” before the arrival of the “Day of the Lord” - (Daniel 7:20-21, 8:8-9, 8:22-25, 11:21-36).

  • (Daniel 11:36) - “And the king shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods; and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done.
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) - “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 opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped; so that he sits in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God.”


The “Little Horn” represents a king from the fourth “Beast that has ten horns.” He seizes power by removing three of the “ten horns.” In Daniel’s vision of the “four beasts from the Sea,” the identities of this fourth kingdom and its “little horn” are difficult to ascertain – (Daniel 7:1-8).

In Chapter 8, the “Kingdom of the Medes and the Persians” is overthrown by “Greece” and its first “great king,” undoubtedly, Alexander the Great.

After Alexander’s death, his domain was divided into four “lesser kingdoms.” From one of them came the “Little Horn,” a “King of Fierce Countenance” who desecrated the sanctuary in Jerusalem, erected the “trespass that desolates,” caused the cessation of the burnt offering, and “destroyed the saints.” Additionally, he “magnified himself against the Prince of Princes” – (Daniel 8:9-25).

The only historical figure that fits this description is Antiochus IV, the eighth ruler of the Seleucid Empire. He was “diverse” from his seven predecessors because he was not the legitimate heir to the throne. He gained political power through subterfuge, having removed three contenders for the throne before seizing it (thus, the “ten kings, three of which were removed”). Antiochus styled himself Epiphanés - “god manifest” – that is, he portrayed himself as an incarnation of Zeus Olympias.

For three years he suppressed the Jewish people by profaning the “Sanctuary,” causing its sacrifices to cease, erecting an altar to Zeus Olympias on the altar of burnt offerings, and outlawing many Jewish rituals and the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus, Antiochus IV fits the description in the Book of Daniel perfectly.


And this figure became the model for Paul’s “Man of Lawlessness.” The “King of Fierce countenance destroyed wonderfully, but not by his own power… he destroyed the saints.” Likewise, the “Son of Destruction’s arrival will be according to the in-working of Satan.” Just as the “Little Horn” magnified himself against the “Prince of Princes,” so the “Man of Lawlessness” will “exalt himself against God” and take his seat in the “Sanctuary {naos} of God.”

Just as the “Contemptible King” in Daniel Chapter 8 perverted many in Israel who did wickedly “against the covenant by his flatteries,” so the “Lawless One” will cause “apostasy” and deceive those who “receive not the love of the truth with all power and signs and lying wonders.”

Moreover, the verbal and conceptual links are pronounced between the descriptions of the “Little Horn” and Paul’s man and “mystery of Lawlessness”:

  • (2 Thessalonians 2:5-8) - “Now, you know THAT WHICH PREVAILS to the end he may be revealed IN HIS SEASON…until he comes out of the midst. Then will be revealed the Lawless One whom the Lord Jesus WILL CONSUME WITH THE BREATH OF HIS MOUTH AND DESTROY BY THE APPEARANCE OF HIS ARRIVAL.”
  • (Daniel 7:8, 21-26) - “I considered the horns and there came up among them another horn, a little one…this horn made war with the saints and PREVAILED AGAINST THEM until that the Ancient of Days arrived and justice was granted to the saints of the Highest, and THE SEASON ARRIVED that the saints should possess the kingdom…and words against the Most-High will he speak, and the saints of the Highest will he afflict and will presume to change seasons and law, and they will be given into his hand for a season and seasons and the dividing of a season; but Judgment will take its seat, and HIS DOMINION WILL THEY REMOVE TO CONSUME AND TO DESTROY UNTO AN END.”

Like the “Little Horn,” the “one who prevails,” the “Man of Lawlessness” will “come out of the midst” at his appointed “season.” So, also, the “Little Horn” appeared “among the ten horns.” At the “arrival” of Jesus, this deceiver will be “consumed” and “destroyed” just as the “King of Fierce Countenance” was “destroyed without hand.”

As for taking his “seat in the Sanctuary,” Paul uses the Greek noun for the “sanctuary” proper or naos, not the term for the “Temple” complex itself, or heiros. Likewise, the “Little Horn” profaned the “Sanctuary” where the altar of burnt offerings was located.

Moreover, Paul consistently applies the term “Sanctuary of God” (naos theou) to the saints, the church - “For we are a sanctuary of the living God” - (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21).

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is not simply quoting passages from Daniel. He adapts clauses and terms from them that originally applied to the “Little Horn,” Antiochus IV, and his campaign against the Jews, by applying them now to the church and its coming confrontation with the “Son of Destruction” and the “apostasy” that he will cause.



The Living Word

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