By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
Paul’s Man of Lawlessness prophecy speaks of this dreaded character setting himself up for worship. This is not referring to some future Antichrist. Gorbachev has nothing to do with this prophecy. Rather this speaks of emperor worship during Nero’s reign. Let’s see how this is so.
He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” (2 Thess 2:5)
Soon after Paul writes, the tendency shown in Caligula (see yesterday’s blog) arises once again — in the megalomania of Nero Caesar. The Roman dramatist and statesman Seneca (B.C. 4—A.D. 65) convinces Nero that he is destined to become the very revelation of the divine Augustus and of the god Apollo [Seneca, On Clemency 1:1:6; Pumpkinification 4:15-35] Speaking as Apollo, Seneca praises Nero: “He is like me in much, in form and appearance, in his poetry and singing and playing. And as the red of morning drives away dark night, as neither haze nor mist endure before the sun’s rays, as everything becomes bright when my chariot appears, so it is when Nero ascends the throne. . . . He restores to the world the golden age.”
Suetonius remarks of Nero that “since he was acclaimed as the equal of Apollo in music and of the Sun in driving a chariot, he had planned to emulate the exploits of Hercules as well” (Suetonius, Nero 53). An inscription from Athens speaks of him as: “All powerful Nero Caesar Sebastos, a new Apollo.” 
On copper coins struck in Rome and at Lugdunum, Nero’s image appears as Apollo playing the lyre, his head radiating the light of the sun. One type has Genius (a Roman tutelary deity) sacrificing over an altar on the reverse side; another has Apollo on the reverse. As Bo Reicke notes of Nero’s Apollo fascination: “All this was more than pomp and show: Nero strove with deadly seriousness to play the role of Augustus and Apollo politically, the former primarily from 54 to 61, the latter from 62 to 68.”
As early in his reign as 55 the senate erects a huge statue of Nero in Rome’s Temple of Mars (see: Tacitus, Annals 13:8:1). The statue is the same size as that of Mars in Mars’s own Temple.
We see that the populace actually worships Nero, based on inscriptions found in Ephesus; these refer to him as “Almighty God” and “Saviour.”  We find reference to Nero as “God and Savior” in an inscription at Salamis, Cyprus (Smallwood, 142). Indeed, as his megalomania increased, the tendency to worship him as ruler of the world became stronger, and in Rome his features appeared on the colossus of the Sun near the Golden House, while his head was represented on the coinage with a radiate crown. Members of the imperial house also began to receive unheard of honours: . . . Nero deified his child by Poppaea and Poppaea herself after their deaths. All this was far removed from the modest attitude of Augustus.” 
Final comment: Tomorrow we will continue focusing on this theme.
 Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), 52.
 Mary E. Smallwood, Documents Illustrating the Principates Gaius Claudius and Nero (Cambridge: University Press, 1967), p. 52 (entry #145).
 Bo Reicke, The New Testament Era: The World of the Bible from 500 B.C. to A.D. 100 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968), 70.
 James J. L. Ratton, The Apocalypse of St. John (London: R and T Washbourne, 1912), 48.
 H. H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero (2nd ed.: New York: Barnes and Noble, 1963), 371.