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It has been assumed by most Bible teachers that apostasia refers to an apostasy in the sense of a falling away from the truth. This is generally connected to the man of sin being revealed, as if to say that the forsaking of the truth brings about the manifestation of the man of sin, i.e., the antichrist.
I disagree with this completely. First of all, the so-called "apostasy" is a divorcement, a CASTING AWAY, not a "falling away." Secondly, Paul is telling us that the man of sin is going to be UNVEILED, or exposed for the world to see who he really is--not, as is usually supposed, to come to power.
So what does this mean, and what do the biblical events and patterns tell us about it?
Judas is the primary pattern of the man of sin, because Paul uses the same term that Jesus used of Judas: "the son of perdition." In John 17:12 Jesus says of Judas,
12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Jesus appointed Judas to be the treasurer of the ministry even though He knew that Judas was helping himself to some of the money and was a thief. John 12:6 says,
6 Now he [Judas] said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.
Later, during the last supper before the crucifixion, we read in John 13:27,
27 And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him [Judas]. Jesus therefore said to him, "What you do, do quickly."
Only then did Jesus give His special instructions and teaching to the other disciples, beginning in John 14, telling them that He was going to leave them shortly, but that He would send them the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. John 16:13 says,
13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide [Greek: hodegos] you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
This is important because Judas was a "guide" to those who came to arrest Him and crucify Him. Acts 1:16 says,
16 Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide [Greek: hodegos] to those who arrested Jesus.
As we will see as we proceed in our study, Judas must be viewed in contrast to the Holy Spirit, who is the true Guide, who leads into truth. Judas is the guide who leads people into the deceptive spirit of betrayal, and in this sense is like a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit. This is evident from 2 Thessalonians, where Paul speaks of the man of sin sitting in the temple of God, where the Holy Spirit is supposed to dwell.
It is also significant that Judas was replaced in Acts 1:20-26 just before the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The disciples had discerned from Psalm 109:8 that Judas was to be replaced, quoted in Acts 1:20, "His office let another man take." On the human level, they drew lots and chose Matthias, but on the higher level, the Holy Spirit was the only One who could guide us into all truth.
Even as the Holy Spirit replaced Judas, so also do we move from one guide to another Guide. Perhaps also this is a key to understanding the "spirit guides" in the modern New Age movement. They need a new Guide. The account of Judas' betrayal of Jesus is found in Matthew 27, where we read:
3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!" 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
Judas Iscariot (Ish-Kerioth) was from a town called Kerioth, or Kerjath. Iscariot means "Man of Kerioth." There was more than one town with this name, but no doubt he came from the town of Kerjath-arba, which is Hebron, for, as we will see, this fulfills all the types and shadows that prophesied of Judas in the Old Testament.
Jesus chose Judas even though He knew that Judas was "a devil" (John 6:70 and 71). He chose Judas, because He knew that Judas was the one predestined to betray him. This had been prophesied in the Scriptures many times, and each of those prophecies were written about other betrayers who were Judas types and patterns.
The primary prophetic pattern of Judas in the Old Testament is Ahithophel, who was King David's counselor and friend that betrayed him when David's son, Absalom, usurped the throne for a time. However, there is another earlier pattern that we will mention first in order to lay the prophetic foundation of understanding.
In Genesis 37 Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave to spice traders for 20 pieces of silver (Gen. 37:28) who were on their way to Egypt. Reuben, the oldest brother, had convinced the others not to kill him, but rather to cast him into a pit. The Bible says that he intended to save him later and return him to his father, Jacob-Israel. However, while Reuben was away, Judah said in Genesis 37: 26, 27,
26 And Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 "Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; for he is our brother, our own flesh." And his brothers listened to him.
This was the original pattern of betrayal. It came at the hands of Judah. Judah is the Hebrew form of the Greek name, Judas. They are the same name. Judas was named after the son of Jacob named Judah, and he did the works of his father.
It is also significant that Judah sold Joseph to Ishmaelites. Prophetically speaking, this has its New Testament counterpart in the fact that Judas sold Jesus into the hands of the chief priests in Jerusalem--who were, as Paul tells us in Gal. 4:25, spiritual Ishmaelites. Paul says that we are to cast out the bondwoman and her son, even as Judas was cast out and his office taken by another.
The bottom line is that the Judahites who were converted to Christ became inheritors of the promise as Isaac, while those who remained behind under the Old Covenant were (and still are) prophetic Ishmaelites.
When Judah sold Joseph to Ishmaelites, it is apparent that he had a sinister motive. Joseph was the holder of the birthright, while Judah was made the "chief ruler" (1 Chron. 5:1, 2). That is, Judah was to provide the kingly line that would eventually culminate with the Messiah, the true and rightful King over Israel and the whole earth. Judah apparently coveted the birthright as well, and he was willing to sell Joseph into slavery in order to get it.
Prophetically speaking, we see the same situation today with the Jews, who have coveted the birthright of Joseph and usurped his name, "Israel," which Jacob had passed down to Joseph's sons in Gen. 48:16. For thousands of years the Jews have prayed to be reunited with their brethren of Joseph, the House of Israel; but in 1948 they decided to take the birthright name for themselves in the establishment of the Jewish state, calling it "Israel."
In so doing, they have once again betrayed Joseph.
Because of a series of biblical events too long to detail here, David's son, Absalom, felt that his father was unjust and unfit to be king. He began to speak evil of his father and ultimately turned the hearts of the people against him. When the time was ripe, Absalom went to Hebron, where his friends proclaimed him king of Israel (2 Sam. 15:10).
In this conspiracy, Absalom sent for Ahithophel, who was David's counselor and friend (Psalm 41:9). Ahithophel came from Giloh, a town in the mountains of Judah (2 Samuel 15:12). Like Absalom, he was a Judahite and a prophetic type of Judas in the New Testament.
In the story, Absalom represents the chief priests who crucified Jesus, the Son of David, in order to usurp His throne. Ahithophel represents Judas, the friend who helped the chief priests in betraying Jesus. Without understanding this story and its prophetic significance, we cannot possibly understand the concept of the man of sin and son of perdition as Paul uses the terms in 2 Thessalonians 2.
David refused to fight against Absalom and his men over the throne. Instead, he meekly left Jerusalem, knowing that God would establish His throne. In this, he showed the attitude of Jesus Christ, who also refused to fight for His throne rights, even though He was the rightful Heir to the throne. 2 Samuel 15:30, 31 says,
30 And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot. Then all thepeople who were with him each covered his head and went up weeping as they went.
This is the same path Jesus took when He bore the cross to the place of crucifixion. Can we not see in David a prophetic pattern of the crucifixion?
31 Now someone told David, saying, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." And David said, "O LORD, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness."
This is a Hebrew play on words. Ahithophel's name means "my brother is foolish." I believe his name is prophetic of Judas' attitude toward Jesus, his "brother." Judas disagreed with Jesus' refusal to use violence to take His rightful place as King. It has long been believed that Judas betrayed Jesus in order to attempt to force Him into using violence to take the Kingdom by force, rather than by winning the hearts of the people by love. Ahithophel's name seems to support this view. Quoting from The Interlinear Bible, 2 Samuel 15:32 says,
32 It happened as David had come to the top [Heb. Rosh, "head"], there where he bowed [Heb. shachah, "bow or worship"] to God.
The Hebrew word translated "summit" above is rosh, which means "head." For example, Rosh Hashana is the head of the year, that is, the first day of the year, marked by the Feast of Trumpets. John 19:17 says Jesus was crucified at the place of the skull (Greek: kranion, from which we get our word "cranial"). Even as David walked up to the summit, or "head" of the Mount of Olives, so also did Jesus carry His cross to the same place where David worshiped God.
This was the ancient location of the sacrificial altar where the red heifers were burned "outside the camp," whose ashes were used to purify people as they came to worship at the temple. Jesus, of course, fulfilled this burnt offering, as He did all the offerings. He was crucified outside the camp (Heb. 13:11-13), and this was defined in those days as 2000 cubits outside the walls of Jerusalem. The top of the Mount of Olives was precisely that distance.
The place today that is presumed to be the place of the skull in Jerusalem is not located outside the camp. That hill now looks like a skull, but archeologists tell us that this is the result of erosion only in the past thousand years.
The story of Absalom's usurping the throne and David's path to the top of the mount of Olives shows that the story of Absalom's rebellion and Ahithophel's betrayal is a prophetic pattern of Jesus' crucifixion and Judas' betrayal.
In Matthew 21 Jesus told a parable of the Kingdom, in which He described the Jewish leaders of the day plotting to usurp the Messiah's throne. The vine-growers, or farmers, in God's vineyard had been given authority over the vineyard in order to render to the Owner (God) the fruits in their seasons. When the Owner of the vineyard sent servants to collect the fruits, the farmers beat them, stoned them, and sometimes killed them (Matt. 21:35, 36).
Finally He sent His Son, thinking they would surely reverence His Son. But verse 38 says,
38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance." 39 And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
Even as Absalom knew that his father was the king, and for that reason he usurped the throne, so also did the chief priests know that Jesus was the Heir. They killed Him because they knew who He was. It was a deliberate revolt and rebellion to seize His inheritance.
Take note also that the Romans were not the vine-growers. They had not been given custody of the Kingdom of God, nor had they killed the prophets, who were the king's servants in the same parable. The Romans did not crucify Jesus. In fact, Pilate wanted to release Jesus. (Acts 3:13). John 19:15-18 tells us who did the crucifying:
15 They therefore cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." 16 So he [Pilate] then delivered Him to them [the chief priests] to be crucified. 17 They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. 18 There they [the chief priests] crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.
In the days following Pentecost, the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin objected to Peter's preaching, saying he intended "to bring this Man's blood upon us" (Acts 5:28). Peter responded in Acts 5:30, saying,
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom YOU had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.
But perhaps the most important passage showing the connection between the chief priests of the Sanhedrin and Absalom's usurpation of David's throne is found in Acts 7:51-53, where Stephen gives his sermon rehearsing the story of God's Kingdom. His sermon ended with this:
51 You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.
In Matthew 22:1-7 Jesus told another parable that was directed against the chief priests. Those who had first been called to the wedding feast refused to come, so the King invited others in their place. Verse 7 gives the verdict:
7 But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.
This was obviously fulfilled in 70 A.D. when God sent the Roman army to set Jerusalem on fire and to destroy "those murderers." In other words, God used the Romans to execute judgment upon Jerusalem. To blame the Romans for Jesus' crucifixion would be a false accusation that is certainly prohibited in the divine law.
Many today prefer to blame the Romans, because it is more politically correct and because it makes it easier to convert Jews to Christianity. On the other hand, we believe the Word to be inspired Scripture, and our purpose is to teach what it says, for only the truth sets people free.
On the other hand, we also admonish our Christian brethren to rid themselves of any emotional hatred that they might have toward Jews or any other people. Such things are unbecoming in those who profess the name of Jesus Christ. It is one thing to believe and teach what is written in the Scriptural record; it is quite another to harbor hatred and bitterness in one's heart. While we certainly affirm that the Aaronic priests crucified Jesus, we must also understand the necessity of this sacrifice at their hands. They were, after all, the only ones qualified to offer this great Sacrifice. Without them, Jesus' sacrifice would have been unacceptable by the divine law. These priests could not have been Roman, Edomite, or of any other descent, for that would have violated the law of sacrifice.
Hence, in the bigger picture of the plan of God, they unintentionally did us all a great service.
Acts 1:20 quotes David's writings about Ahithophel and applies them to Judas. It says,
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, "Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it;" [Psalm 69:25] and, "His office let another man take" [Psalm 109:8].
Psalms 69 and 109 are prophetic about Judas and the chief priests. These are too lengthy to quote here, but many of these verses were later quoted in the New Testament, applicable either to the priests or to Judas.
As we pointed out earlier, Judas Iscariot was a "man of Kerioth," or Keriath-arba, also called Hebron. Absalom began his revolt there and called for Ahithophel to back him there. Hebron means "friendship."
6 And one will say to him, "What are these wounds between your arms [hands]?" Then he will say, "Those with which I was wounded in the house of my FRIENDS."
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of friendship, and Jesus called him "friend" in Matthew 26:49, 50.
49 And immediately he [Judas] went to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed Him. 50 And Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
Judas later regretted what he had done and hanged himself, as we read in Matthew 27:5,
5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
In this manner he again fulfilled the prophetic type in the death of Ahithophel, the betrayer of David. 2 Samuel 17:23 says,
23 Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled [hanged] himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father.
In studying the story of Absalom's usurping the throne, we can understand the chief priests' motives in crucifying the Messiah. In studying Ahithophel, we can understand Judas' part in this conspiracy and rebellion, as well as his final end. All of this taken together gives us an understanding of the son of perdition and his prophetic role.
The chief rulers of Judaism have again betrayed Joseph by usurping his birthright and name, Israel. They have done so with the help of Jesus' friends and disciples, playing the role of modern Judas. That is rather sobering.
But there were two Judases among the disciples, one good and one bad. They represent two fig trees with very different fruit. We are to reject and cast out the bad, but join with the good. Next time we will develop this theme.