Son of Destruction

Many saints will apostatize when the Lawless One, the Son of Destruction, seats himself in the Sanctuary of God. As the Apostle Paul explained to the Thessalonians, the “Day of the Lord” would not arrive until the “Apostasy” occurred and the “Man of Lawlessness” was unveiled, the one who would seat himself “in the Sanctuary of God.” Paul also labeled him the “Son of Destruction,” but is there any additional significance to this second designation?

In his letters, the phrase “Son of Destruction” occurs only here. The English noun “destruction” translates the Greek term apôleia, meaning, “destruction, ruin, loss” - (Strong’s - #G684).

Caracalla - Photo by Ian Noble on Unsplash
[Photo by Ian Noble on Unsplash]

The same term is found on the lips of Jesus in the 
Gospel of John where he calls Judas Iscariot the Son of Destruction.” Certainly, Judas was an excellent model for the ultimate apostate, though other than his betrayal of Christ, nothing in his life parallels the predicted activities of the “Lawlessness One” – (John 17:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

The phrase could refer to this figure’s final fate when he is destroyed at the “arrival” of Jesus. That possibility fits well with Paul’s description of his demise - “Whom the Lord will consume with the spirit of his mouth and DESTROY with the brightness of his coming.”

However, in verse 8, the English term “destroy” translates a different Greek word, katargeô, and the latter more correctly means “disable, disarm, bring to nothing.” The natural sense of the genitive construction in the clause, “son of destruction,” is that “destruction” characterizes him, it defines WHAT HE DOES.

Paul’s scriptural source for the term is the Book of Daniel, especially the passage in its eleventh chapter describing an evil ruler of Greek descent:

  • 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” – (Daniel 11:36).

This ruler is prominent in Daniel’s several visions in which he is called the “little horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” and the “contemptible person.” He originated from the “fourth beast” and “waged war against the saints and prevailed over them,” though only for the time allotted by the “Ancient of Days.”

This creature’s “war” included the desecration of the “Sanctuary,” the cessation of the daily burnt offering, and the erection of the “Abomination of Desolation” in the “sanctuary” – (Daniel 7:21-25, 8:9-13, 8:23-26, 9:26-27, 11:30-36).


This background explains Paul’s warning that the “Lawless One” will “take his seat in the Sanctuary.” Did he mean that he would enter a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem? It is noteworthy that Paul used the Greek term for the inner sanctum or naos, the “holy of holies,” not the word for the entire Temple complex.

Nowhere else does Paul express interest in the Jerusalem Temple or say anything about a future rebuilt temple. However, he does apply the same term, the “Sanctuary of God,” metaphorically to the Church.

Since the topic in the present passage revolves around the “Apostasy,” the context makes it likely that Paul was referring to the unveiling of this figure in the Church, the “Body of Jesus Christ” - (1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21).

In Chapter 8 of Daniel, the “Little Horn” is a “king” from one of the four Greek kingdoms that succeeded the empire of Alexander the Great, the same “Little Horn” that waged war against the “saints” in the seventh chapter - (Daniel 7:21, 8:8-13, 8:21-25).

The only historical figure that meets the descriptions in Daniel’s visions is Antiochus IV, the ruler of the Seleucid kingdom who persecuted the Jewish people for over three years (168 B.C. to 165 B.C.), the allotted “season, seasons, and part of a season.”

That king’s “war” included the corruption of Jewish leaders, the banning of Jewish religious rites, the burning of the scriptures, the cessation of the sacrificial rituals, and the erection of an altar to his god, Zeus Olympias, on the altar of burnt offerings in Jerusalem, the so-called “Abomination of Desolation.”

According to the Book of Daniel, this “king of fierce countenance… corrupted the holy people… and magnified himself in his heart, and caused the destruction of many.

Abandoned Church - Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
[Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash]

In the Greek 
Septuagint version of Daniel, the term rendered “destruction” is the same one used by Paul for the “Son of DESTRUCTION,” that is, apôleia. Most likely, considering the language and context of the passage in Thessalonians, this is the Apostle’s source for his term, “Son of Destruction.”

Thus, Paul employed Daniel’s “little horn” as the model for the final deceiver who would arise in the Church and work to deceive followers of Jesus and cause their apostasy, using “all power and signs and lying wonders” to do so.

Just as the “Little Horn” caused many in Israel to fall, so this creature will cause the destruction of many men and women in the Body of Christ before his own demise at the “arrival” of Jesus. He is, therefore, appropriately labeled the “Son of Destruction.”

  • Until Revealed - (The mystery of lawlessness is at work preparing the way for the unveiling of the Lawlessness One – 2 Thessalonians 2:5-7)
  • Seated in the Sanctuary - (The Man of Lawlessness will be unveiled when he seats himself in the House of God - 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
  • The Apostasy - (Paul warned the Thessalonians of the future apostasy which he linked to the unveiling of the Man of Lawlessness, the Son of Destruction)