PART 4: That they Would Believe A Lie
By Ed Tarkowski


What does the "mystery of lawlessness" in verse 7 mean? Robertson's Word Study states,

2:7 {For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work} . . . this mystery (musterion secret, from mustes, an initiate, muew, to wink or blink) means here the secret purpose of lawlessness already at work, . . . this secret will be "revealed" and then we shall understand clearly what Paul's meaning is here. . .

The purpose of the lawlessness, which has been kept "secret," is revealed when Satan brings the apostasy to the point where the Antichrist can be revealed to the world. In other words, the secret goal of the working of the mystery of iniquity is to bring in the man of sin. Vincent states the same thing:

7. Mystery of iniquity (musthrion thv anomiav). Better, of lawlessness. . . . A mystery does not lie in the obscurity of a thing, but in its secrecy. It is not in the thing, but envelops it. Applied to a truth, it signifies a truth once hidden but now revealed or to be revealed; a truth which without special revelation would be unknown. It is almost universally found in connection with words signifying publication or revelation. See on Matt. xiii. 11. The mystery of lawlessness is the mass of lawlessness yet hidden, but which is to reveal itself in the person and power of Antichrist. The position of the word is emphatic, emphasising the concealed character of the evil power.

How long will the working of lawlessness go on? The next part of verse 7 says ". . . only he who now letteth will let, . ."

In verse 6, WHAT restrained was the presence of the truth of the true God and the worship of Him. In verse 7, the restrainer is a HE, who controls the time when Antichrist will be revealed "that he might be revealed in his time":

    Verse 6 The "what" restrainer is the Church maintaining truth by the Holy Spirit

    Verse 7: The "he" is the Holy Spirit, one of the three that make up the restrainer in verse 6

      The Church is to keep the truth given to it, but when it will no longer listen, God sends the delusion (lies and lying signs and wonders) which gives the working of lawlessness more power to bring in the Antichrist.

      The Holy Spirit will NOT FORCE the Church to maintain truth. It must cooperate with Him in restraining lawlessness by loving the truth. When it does not and apostasy gains much ground within it, God sends a delusion to those going astray.

      The Holy Spirit, then, will restrain lawlessness until God sends the delusion. At that point, He will still speak truth to the Church, but most will listen to the delusions that come upon them because they don't love the truth. Therefore, He will allow lawlessness to rise and have its way and attain its goal: bring in the Antichrist.

It is God who sends the delusion, which is allowing the Antichrist to come forth to be followed after by those who refuse to believe the truth. The Holy Spirit allows the working of lawlessness to have its full sway so the Antichrist can come out of the midst of that work. Satan gives "his power, and his seat, and great authority" to the beast (Revelation 13:2). The Holy Spirit is strongly indicated here in verse 7 as the restrainer. Gundry explains 2:7 this way ("to come out of the midst"):

"Become out of the midst" does not demand removal from the world. "Midst" more literally means "middle." The restrainer is standing in the middle, i.e., between the person of the Antichrist and the revelation of the Antichrist. [The Church can't step aside, but the Holy Spirit can while remaining present within the body of Christ on earth-Ed.] It is as though the Antichrist stands in the wings, eager to break forth onto the stage of history. But the Holy Spirit blocks entrance until the appointed moment when He will step out of the way and allow the man of lawlessness to stride onstage before the admiring eyes of mankind. [Stepping aside does not necessitate removal-Ed.] Perhaps a misunderstanding of the expression "become out of the midst" as passive has aided the pretribulational idea of withdrawal from the world. The expression is not passive. Lenski captures the meaning exactly with his idiomatic rendering "get out of the way."

It seems to me it would better to say that the restrainer (the Church standing fast in the truth given by the Holy Spirit) stands between the working of lawlessness to bring in the Antichrist and the Antichrist, who is the one to be revealed in his time. Regardless, the restrainer steps aside, allows the delusion, and this flows into verse 8, where the man of sin is then revealed. It is here that he sits in the temple and declares himself to be God, and is therefore revealed as the Antichrist and comes upon his prey:

2 Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, . .

This, I believe, is the "what" and the "he" of 2 Thessalonians: the word of God - the Truth - restraining the working of lawlessness, the Holy Spirit stepping aside when the vast majority of the Church chooses to not believe the truth, and finally, the coming forth of Antichrist.

Satan heads the working of the mystery of lawlessness by the counterfeit signs and wonders, to bring the apostasy to the point where the man of sin can be revealed:

2 Th 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
2 Th 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Satan works his lawlessness to bring in the Antichrist, and God's word says we are to resist this working:

1 Pet 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

Part 1: The Less Truth There Is, The More Apostasy Is Present
Part 2: The "What" Of 2 Thessalonians 2:6
Part 3: The "He" Of 2 Thessalonians 2:7
Part 4: That They Should Believe A Lie
Part 5: Nothing Is Removed In 2 Thessalonians 2:7
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