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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: January 28, 2021
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS.
Please open your Bible at 2 Thessalonians 2:4-12 and I’ll meet y’all there.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come (the departure) a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 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. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
The Man of Sin – The Son of Perdition
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come (the departure) a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 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” (verses 2:3-4).
For the sake of clarity I’ve included verse 2:3 from last week’s lesson because this is where we pick up these identifiers: “that man of sin… the son of perdition:” Elsewhere in the Bible this same person is referred to by the writer of Revelation as “the beast out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1-10), and the prophet Daniel called him “the little horn” (Daniel 7:7-8). These Bible verses as well as those we’re studying presently are referencing the Antichrist, and this is the name most people are familiar with. Having said that, please know I’ve also heard people refer to the Antichrist, as the Counterfeit-Christ, and I think this is because he is associated with the Counterfeit Trinity. Satan, “the great dragon,” is the Counterfeit Father (Revelation 12.9), “the beast from the sea” is the Counterfeit Son of God (Revelation 13:1-10), and “the beast from the earth” is the Counterfeit Holy Spirit (Revelation 13:11-18).
Thus, “the man of sin… the son of perdition” Paul speaks of here is the Antichrist. If more proof was required we need look no further than verse 2:4: “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.”
“Opposeth” means: “to set against; to put in opposition, with a view to counterbalance or counteract, and thus to hinder, defeat, destroy, or prevent. To act against; to resist, either by physical means, by arguments, or other means.” This word is closely associated with the term “adversary” which means: “an opponent or foe; one whose goal is to overcome and destroy their enemy:” (1 Peter 5:8).
Paul stated, “the son of perdition” will “sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This is in line with what the Bible says for the Antichrist, as he is called by Daniel and the Lord Jesus Christ, is “the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11, Matthew 24:15). Having made a seven-year peace treaty with Israel,
Antichrist will break it at the midpoint of the Tribulation (the 3.5 year mark). He’ll exalt himself “as God” in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15). This event triggers the “great tribulation” or the final 3.5 years of the Tribulation.
Concerning this the Lord said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)… For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:15, 21-22).
One other person in Scripture is called “the son of perdition.” He lived and worked with the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry to the nation of Israel (John 1:11; Romans 15:8). He is the one that betrayed Him and sealed the wicked deed with a “kiss.” His name is Judas Iscariot, the one whom our Lord said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? (literally diabolos in the Greek or the devil; Judas was not a demon. See John 6:70-71). Furthermore, this is the same person whom the Lord said, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).
I mention this because some folks in the church believe and teach “the son of perdition” of verse 2:3 is Judas Iscariot. He was indwelt by Satan and the same is true for the person Paul speaks of here but not for the first 3.5 years but the last 3.5 years. They’re saying Judas will be brought back to the earth to fulfill his role as our Lord’s traitor. But you won’t find that information in your KJV Bible. Instead of speculating about what might or might not happen in the future, I prefer to point out what the Scriptures do say. Thus, we have these truths to work with: the coming “man of sin, the son of perdition” will exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, he’ll permit no worship to any god or man, but only to himself, even sitting in the rebuilt and functioning temple of God pretending to be God in the flesh. Paul had told the Thessalonians about these things when he was with them (2:5), hence the words “yourselves know perfectly” in 1 Thessalonians 5:2.
“And now ye know what withholdeth (restrains the Antichrist) that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until (this is a time-related word. It’s telling us something will happen out future and that is) he be taken out of the way.” This begs the question, “What’s restraining the Antichrist back?
What is Restraining the Appearance of the Antichrist
When I consider verse 2:4, I picture a dam which is constructed to hold back lots of water. So the dam could be called the restraining force. The next thing I consider is this restraining force is not a thing it’s a person, “…only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Then, said Paul, the Thessalonian saints knew “what withholdeth” or what the restraining force is that is keeping the Antichrist from being revealed before “his time” (verse 2:6).
We’ll get back to that in short order. Right now we’re going to look at the verse 2:7 because I think it will help you understand what Paul’s saying in verse 2:6.
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
The “mystery of iniquity” Paul spoke of stands in stark contrast to the “mystery of godliness” he referred to in 1 Timothy 3:16, so let’s look at that verse: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
I read an article or two on this subject and they are pretty much in agreement saying, “the mystery of godliness” is about Christ. He certainly was “God… manifest in the flesh,” but here’s the thing; Paul’s talking about “the mystery of godliness,” not the mystery of God. Godly is short for God-like, and the Lord wasn’t like God, He is God. We’re the ones who are supposed to be godly or God-like, so this verse is referring to us, i.e., every member of the Body of Christ.
It was no mystery that Christ would be God manifest in the flesh (Isaiah 7:14), but it was a mystery that we’d manifest God in our flesh (Ephesians 5:32). Bear in mind the context here isn’t about Christ’s earthly ministry, as some believe, it is about God’s true Church (verses 1-15). When the Lord was here, He was “the pillar and ground of the truth” (verse 15). Now that He’s ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father in glory (Psalm 110:1), we are the pillars of God’s truths; or we ought to be.
It’s true that God was manifest in the Lord’s flesh: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John1:14).
But that word “dwelt” here is the Greek word for tabernacle. The tabernacle of the O.T. was a portable tent ordained by the LORD God to be used for His purpose. When Christ was here on the earth, He was a tabernacle, i.e., a tent made of skin with “the glory” of God inside, to fulfill His Father’s will (John 6:38). Now that he’s not physically here, we Believers are a tent of skin (2 Corinthians 5:1) with God’s glory inside (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). So then, when we walk (live as Paul has described), we manifest God in our flesh to the world around us, as the Lord “the pillar and ground of the truth” did during His three-year ministry.
Hang on to that thought as we consider again Paul’s statement in verse 2:7. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: - think this through, how did the Thessalonian saints come to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ? Answer: this was accomplished, not in some emotional or dramatic outward way, but by the quiet working of the Holy Spirit, as they heard the Word of Truth and believed (Romans 10:17). But here’s the thing, most people are unaware that Satan works in the same way, albeit with sinister motives. In Ephesians 2:2 Paul wrote: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:”
Take note of the fact that Paul referred to Satan in this verse as, “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” And as “the mystery of godliness” quietly does its work in the believing saints, so too “the mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) doth already work” in the children of disobedience behind the scenes, but effectively, for “the prince of the power of the air” is the driving force that propels it.
To be sure Satan was revealed in Judas Iscariot, but he has not been revealed in the Antichrist as yet. Presently the devil is permitted to scheme and influence humanity, negatively, but behind the scenes; he is restrained from promoting lawlessness unchecked on a global scale. That day is coming.
This brings us back to the question, “What is restraining the Antichrist from being revealed before his time and hinders the wicked world-at-large from going “all in” for sin? There are a couple of different views on this subject. I think we need to look at those before answering the question. Some people say the restraining force is Satan himself, “until he is taken out of the way” (Revelation 12:9). But I find it difficult to believe Satan restrains the very evil he promotes, for a house divided cannot stand (Matthew 12:22-27).
Others say the restraining force is the Holy Spirit. This appears to be an acceptable solution were it not for the fact that the Holy Spirit is Omnipresent (the divine ability to be present anywhere and everywhere) and will continue His work on the earth during the Tribulation (Revelation 7:4, 14:4). People will be saved during the Tribulation but after they are saved, they will become witnesses of Jesus Christ to the remainder of lost humanity. In order to become believers, the Holy Spirit must work with them.
The Bible says that an innumerable multitude will be converted out of the Great Tribulation: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Some folks believe it’s impossible to be saved during the Tribulation, but the Bible clearly says that many people will be saved, and again, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. In addition, there are many instances of the Holy Spirit being present in the beginning, during the O.T. period, which includes the Lord’s ministry on earth, and “he” will be present during the Tribulation as well.
The Question Answered
“Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time” (2:4-6).
When Paul said “ye know what withholdeth…” (2:7), he’s saying the Thessalonians understood “he that withholdeth” is referencing the Holy Spirit working in and through the believing Church, i.e., the members of Christ’s body. Said differently, it is “he” (the Holy Spirit) that “worketh” (or is influencing) the members of Christ’s body that “restraineth” or keeps the forces of evil in check.
Paul had taught these saints although “the mystery of iniquity or lawlessness” was already at work in the world, but the full force of satanic evil would not be permitted to run free, as it were, until the Church was removed, and then unrestrained evil would be poured out upon the earth. But in the interim God would use the persecution of His saints to refine our faith and cause us to mature spiritually, as we trust in Him and hold fast to His Word.
As in the days of Noah and during the times of the judges, evil will be permitted, by God, to a certain degree (see the book of Job). But as in times past, evil will continue to be restrained until lawlessness reaches its saturation point. God restrained evil in the days of Noah, until His judgement fell, but we note that Noah and his immediate family were removed from God's wrath. God also restrained evil in the days of Lot, until judgement was sent, but Lot and his remaining family were saved from the wrath that rained down on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Paul had already told the Thessalonians who the restraining evil is, and he reminded them saying, " And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.” Although Paul did not reiterate the identity of the restrainer, Scripture teaches it is the Holy Spirit that indwells the true Believer for they are “the temple of the Holy Ghost (Spirit): “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
In closing, we now know for certain it is not the police forces of this world, the governments, or its well-equipped armies that “withholdeth” evil. It is God’s true Church. This is in line with Paul has already taught the Thessalonians for when the Church is “caught up” and away from the earth, the Spirit’s ministry through its members will no longer function on earth as the restraining force. This is the only consistent solution to the identity of the restrainer and is another strong piece of evidence that the Rapture will precede the appearance of the Antichrist, first as a political leader and then as the great blasphemer.
(To be continued)
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