The man of lawlessness1 is presumably, but not necessarily, a personification of lawlessness3 (e.g. sin7). Therefore, some have understood the “man of lawlessness” to be Satan himself. However, it could also be simply describing anyone that does Satan’s bidding4, such as Jesus’ reference to Judas9, or what John refers to as an antichrist5.
Was the man of lawlessness an actual person? There’s no way to know for certain. Many want to conclude this because it supports their idea of an “Antichrist”, but the Bible makes no such assertion. We do know the Thessalonians were given more specifics about this “man of lawlessness” when he was with them in person2, and if this was an actual person, it would make sense why Paul didn’t want to go further with any documentation. Additionally, Paul described him as one that “takes his seat in the temple of God”1 and if that’s understood literally, it would obviously be someone and something they would have experienced. This also bears striking similarity to Jesus’ warning regarding who He referred to as “the abomination of desolation”6.
Whether this “man of lawlessness” was a literal man in their day or was (and is still) a representation of the ever-increasing spread of sin and affront to God’s authority, two things are certain. First, it’s not a question that can be fully answered while staying within the authority of God’s word. Second, the fact still remains for Christians today that many antichrists exist5,6, men of lawlessness1,2,3 in their own right, looking to do the bidding of Satan4,9. We are to resist their influence4,6,8 and look to Jesus’ triumphant return1,3,6 when He defeats Satan once and for all3. This is exactly the same as what those in the first century were instructed to do4,6,8.