Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Autumn falls to reveal Winter, photograph by Tobias Mayer, November 2020

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;
2 Thessalonians 2:3

Depending on one's belief of when (and by whom) 2 Thessalonians was written, whether 51-52 AD by Paul, or around 80-115 AD by someone else, many years after Paul's death, the identity of the man of sin, the son of perdition is differently interpreted. In the first case it is more likely to be a real, historical figure, perhaps Caligula, Claudius or Nero, successive emperors of Rome all concerned with the persecution of Christians, in the second case more likely a fictional, symbolic character aligned with John of Patmos' antichrist in the Book of Revelation. It is not known and can only be guessed at.

Given that many believe the Bible, both old and new testaments, are books for our time—for all time—then the more interesting question becomes, who (or what) is the man of sin today? We are given a further clue. In the next verse we read 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.1 This is too big a job for one person. It needs an entire system to take this on. We've been building that system ever since the agricultural revolution, when humans came to the idea that individuals could "own" the land we lived on, God's land—and could "own" other people, God's people. Call it greed, capitalism, consumerism, classism, elitism, wealth or simply money, the world it has created fits almost exactly the dictionary definition of 'perdition': a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unrepentant person passes after death. Only the last bit, "after death" is inaccurate. We don't have to wait for that; we get it while alive, right now, all the time.

Until we learn how to rightsize our system of wealth-as-power, to reframe money as a force for community rather than one for individualism we will stay in the limbo of perdition, never truly able to welcome the son home. The economy of the future must be a sacred economy,2 led by kindness, generosity and sincerity. While it continues to be led by cruelty, selfishness and deceit we'll stay in perdition—or worse, keep sliding into a true living hell. Some would say we are already there.

1 2 Thessalonians 2:4
2 The term "sacred economy" is inspired by the book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Eisenstein, 2011 (revised 2021)