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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: February 05, 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).
2 Thessalonians 2:5-12 - (L 04)
Welcome to HBS.
Thank you for your faithful attendance and your commitment to the study of God’s Word, rightly divided.Please open your Bible at 2 Thessalonians 2:5-12.
“Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth (restrains) that he (Antichrist) 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.”
“Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” – What things? Paul couldn’t tell these Believers when the Lord Jesus Christ will return in the clouds above to “catch up” (Rapture) His entire Church (those who had died in Christ and those that remained alive at His coming). But there were a few “things” he needed to share with them, for instance, it came to Paul’s attention that certain members of the Jewish persuasion had falsified a letter, perhaps more than one letter, saying he believed the Rapture had already taken place. Some of these saints were led to believe this deception because they were experiencing fierce persecution for “the faith.” Said differently, thesse Jews deceived this assembly of Believers when they wrongly wrote “the day of the Lord” was upon them. Hence Paul’s exhortation near the end of chapter 1: “ Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Then we have this exhortation from Paul as well: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (the day of the Lord) shall not come, except there come (the departure or) 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” (2:3-4).
Last week we used Scripture to prove that “the man of sin… the son of perdition” is Antichrist, i.e., the counterfeit son of God,” a.k.a. in Scripture as “the beast out of the sea” and “the little horn” (Revelation 13 and Daniel 7). But we also learned God’s true Church, the Body of Christ, has no connection to “the day of the Lord” because as Paul clearly stated: “…God hath not appointed us (His true Church) to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 6:2).
“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,”
In verse 2:9 we read the coming of Antichrist will be “after,” or according to, “the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,” It’s important to bear this in mind in view of the fact that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work,” though “he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2:7).
After telling the Thessalonians the Rapture will come before “the Day of the Lord,” in a letter, and again in this letter, Paul wondered if they were paying attention (2:5) because they were behaving as though they weren’t. They were troubled and shaken in mind (2:2), so Paul said it again (2:1-3).
“Withhold” (2:6) means “to hold back” (Proverbs 11:26). This verse continues Paul's statement in verse 5 about the Thessalonians' prior knowledge. This was in regards to “the man of sin” i.e., the “beast coming up out of the earth;” (Revelation 13:11–18). Paul’s saying these Believers “know” what is holding back "the man of perdition’s” evil from coming to full fruition. So, in the following verse Paul expands on what or who is “holding him back” or preventing him from performing his evil deeds to the fullest extent possible. Wickedness will reach an unparalleled level when “the man of sin” is revealed. He will personify evil and will lead an unprecedented rebellion against God. As in the days of Noah, the human condition even now grieves God and invites His judgment (Genesis 6:5–6). But just as God witnessed to that generation through Noah (2 Peter 2:5), He confronts and restrains evil today through His Church, the Body of Christ or we might say, the influence of the Spirit through the Church. Although some believe the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth with the members of Christ’s body at the Rapture, they overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit has always been around, and “he” will be here during the Tribulation (Isaiah 59:19-20; Matthew 10:19; Revelation 11:11). Plainly said, if the Holy Spirit could be here at the same time as the devil (Luke 4:1-2), He can be here when the beast is on the scene.
When Paul said Antichrist will be “revealed in his time” (2:6), the prophet Isaiah predicted the Lords “little ones” (Matthew 10:41-42) would one day be a majority and the “nation” (Matthew 21:3) of the “little flock” (Luke 12:32) would become “a strong nation” in “the kingdom.” Redeemed Israel has always been a minority on earth, but that will change “in his time,” so in like-fashion Antichrist will be revealed “in his time.” If anyone thought he wouldn’t be revealed, Paul told them that “the mystery of iniquity” that would produce him was already in the works (2:7). But if it was, how come it hasn’t produced the Antichrist in 2,000 years? Well, remember, Paul thought he’d be among all those who would live to see the Lord come (1 Thessalonians 4:15). So it stands to reason, if the Lord came back then, “the mystery of iniquity” Paul witnessed working would have produced the beast.
So what is “the mystery of iniquity?” “The woman” of Revelation 17:4-5 is the idolatrous false Judaism called “Mystery Babylon,” and is again called a mystery in verse 2:7. God calls idolatry “iniquity” (Ezekiel 14:3; 44:10-12), and this harlot sits on the beast (Revelation 17:3), meaning he rises up under her. Paul may not have seen idolatry in Israel, but idolatry is Baal worship (2 Kings 10:26) and he saw Baal worship (Matthew 23:14). Since the Rapture didn’t come, Baal worship will rise again after the Rapture of God’s saints.
It’s like how God promised to send Elijah before the Lord (Malachi 4:5) and He did (Luke 1:16-17). So, John the Baptist would have been Elijah only “if” Israel received the kingdom message (Matthew 11:7-14). Thus, Elijah will have to come again, and be one of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3-6) who could destroy their enemies with fire and cause it not to rain (2 Kings 1:10-12; James 5:17). But that doesn’t mean John wasn’t Elijah, for the Lord’s on record saying he was (Matthew 17:10-13); but there will have to be another. And the “Mystery Babylon” Paul saw in his day would have produced Antichrist, but now another will have to be formed after the Rapture takes place.
But Paul wrote: “he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2:7). The Greek word for “let” is the same as “withhold,” and the English word also means to hinder or restrain. This is what “let” means in the Bible also (Exodus 5:4). We can prove that “Mystery Babylon” will form after the Rapture, and not precede it, for if it were destined to form before, Paul would have listed it in his lists of the signs of the last days. The fact that he doesn’t proves that not only will you not see the Antichrist, but you also won’t see the idolatry form in Judaism to become the “Mystery Babylon Harlot” that will produce Antichrist. So, once again, all the stage-setting for the Day of the Lord will take place in the time-gap after the Rapture and before the onset of Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9) or the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7).
The Real Satan
We’re looking at this subject because the Bible text presents the opportunity and because there are more than a few misconceptions circulating about the devil. He is not a grotesque creature complete with horns, hooves, a tail, and a pitchfork. He’s also not a cute cartoon character such as the one I grew up reading about in a comic book. Based on what we know about him, he inspired those caricatures to draw attention away from his true self and his true purpose for when Paul warns of “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13), he adds: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
And there you have it, and it couldn’t be clearer. The Satan that appears on T.V., the movie screen, and in print is not the real Satan. If he were depicted as the Bible presents him, it would not attract the unsuspecting it would drive people away. But, “an angel of light,” with “ministers of righteousness” does the exact opposite, it attracts the unwary, especially when these ministers are not aware that they are Satan’s ministers, but have themselves been deceived by him.
Permit me to illustrate from a life experience. I was dating a woman in Florida some years ago and because of this I attended her church. All was well, until their pastor gave a sermon on salvation; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He stated quite clearly that unless you are water-baptized you cannot be saved. He provided this brief illustration: “If someone became aware of their sinfulness and their need of a Savior and salvation, but while on their way to church they were involved in a fatal auto accident they would be lost to God forever because they were not water-baptized.” He based this tenet on a few lines of Scripture which he took the time to present from Acts 2:37-40. But whether knowingly or unknowingly, he misunderstood and/or misrepresented God’s Word. You see, that’s not what that particular passage says, especially when you try to add the Body of Christ to it. It just doesn’t fit. I say this because he did not present the preceding Bible verses that clearly say this instruction or command is directed to the “whole house of Israel” or to the Jew only (Acts 11:19), and has no bearing on God’s true Church because there are precious few, if any, Gentiles in “all the house of Israel.” (See 2:14-37). To be sure, Peter is addressing his Jewish brethren in this Bible passage and not the Body of Christ... at this point in time the Body of Christ didn’t even exist!
I don’t think this man was intent on practicing evil, he merely taught his congregation what he had learned while attending Bible college. But even if this were the case he’s still misleading people by drawing their attention away from the Lord Jesus Christ’s finished work of the cross and placing the burden of salvation squarely on the shoulders of those that attended his church; it becomes the means by which people can save themselves; and that’s wrong anyway you want to approach it.
Getting back to the subject matter at hand, i.e., that Satan can transform himself into “an angel of light,” with “ministers of righteousness,” someone might attend a church service or event such as a good old-fashion revival meeting and witness a so-called physical healing, and come away from that asking, “Would Satan heal a person who can’t walk, or someone with cancer?” The answer: is “Yes,” if it is Satan who is able to inflict disease and sickness (as we know he did in the cases of the Apostle Paul and Job), why wouldn’t he withdraw said illness he has inflicted if it will cause the individual that’s been afflicted to center their attention and interest on the wrong things, causing them to walk by sight rather than by faith?
Now we’re going to revisit a Bible verse I called your attention to a while ago. It’s found in John 5:43 and are the Lord’s own words: “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.”
In case you’re not aware, this is a prediction from the Lord Himself which will be tragically fulfilled at the rise of “the man of sin… the son of perdition.” He will not be conquered and destroyed immediately. For a specified period of time he’ll be allowed to do his thing, i.e., deceive the world and Paul tells us how he’ll do this: “…with power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish” (2:9b-10a).
Thus, God has forewarned the world. But here’s the thing, the vast majority won’t listen to what He has to say re: these miraculous workings of “signs and lying wonders” not being of God or sanctioned by Him. So, this will not dawn on “them that perish” because it was not their desire to know the truth, but to go on living their lives apart from God and His Word. For this reason God will finally give them over to believing “a lie:”
“And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (verses 2:10-11).
Consider thoughtfully the words, “…because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” In case you missed it, Paul puts the blame squarely on unbelieving masses and not Satan. “They” were not deprived of faith and they were not deprived of God’s Word in this life so that they could not be saved. Clearly, God’s plan of redemption and salvation was available to all, but they rejected “the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” And it is “for this cause…” – because of their unbelief, their rejection of the truth, and their desire for “a lie” that “…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” (2:11-12).
For those out there who lack understanding, Paul said that Antichrist will come with “all deceivableness of unrighteousness.” The word “deceive” means to trick someone, but people are tricked by different things. For instance, the “deceivableness” of youth can make you fall for things you wouldn’t fall for if you were older and wiser. And the “deceivableness” of heartbreak will make you fall for just about anything that anyone might suggest to get your boyfriend or girlfriend back. But the “deceivableness of unrighteousness” comes from being unrighteous, i.e., unsaved. It makes people fall for things they wouldn’t fall for ordinarily if they were saved, even things as silly as the universe being born from the so-called Big Bang or evolution instead of Creationism. Millions of people have fallen for these deceptions. You starting to get the idea? Of course, some unsaved people are deceived by some things and others are deceived by other things, but when Antichrist comes he will come with “all deceivableness of unrighteousness.” So when he claims to be Israel’s Messiah or the Christ, the unsaved will be deceived by him. After all, if even the elect can barely escape his deceit (Matthew 24:24), the unsaved people don’t stand a chance. Especially since Paul said this “deceivableness” is “in” the unsaved who perish. That means Satan will have an inside man in that day working for him, namely, Antichrist “with all power, and signs,” and so the unsaved individual who knows not the Truth, will be deceived.
If you think God is unfair to let Satan work from within and without in the unsaved, notice he will only be allowed to do this “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2:10). And it won’t be God’s fault they didn’t receive “the love of the truth,” for if they didn’t receive it, that means it was offered to them.
The “truth” is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6), and they won’t receive Him for the same reason they didn’t receive Him when He was here, they love sin and know He’s against it (John 3:19-20). In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul said, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” This is actually a prayer. Paul was asking God to curse those who would come among the believing saints in Corinth to lead them away from faith in Christ through false teaching.
When people do receive the love of the truth it keeps and preserves them (Proverbs 4:5-6). The word “wisdom” in that passage is a name for Christ (I Corinthians 1:24). If they come to know the Lord in the Tribulation, He will keep and preserve them by saving them and making them part of the elect who will be impossible to deceive. But those who don’t receive the love of the Truth will receive the false-love of the Antichrist, “and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion” (2:11).
This is something God has always done. It was “because that” the Gentiles didn’t glorify God that He gave them up at the tower of Babel (Romans 1:21-24). After God raised up Abraham and taught him and his seed more about Himself, most of them didn’t want Him either, so God gave them up as well (Psalm 81:11-12; 109:17). If you don’t want God’s wise counsel, He will let you walk in your own. That’s how God judges men. I ask you, is there anything unfair about that?
Paul was probably thinking of Isaiah 66:3b-4 here. In speaking of the same Tribulation- Jews that Paul is speaking of Isaiah predicted they’ll choose something God doesn’t like, so He’ll choose a strong delusion they won’t like. The delusion they’ll choose is to offer animals in Antichrist’s idolatrous temple, which to God will be like offering something unclean (Isaiah 66:3a). Remember, Antichrist is called “the idol shepherd” (Zechariah 11:17). It is because they want idols that God will give them “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,” or the ultimate idol, “the beast out of the sea,” “That all that do so might be damned who believed not the truth” (2:12).
We should, therefore, not consider God as unjust in this and we shouldn’t feel sorry for these folks, as the psalmist wrote, “they have rejected the witness of Creation” (Psalm 19:1-3) and so they are “without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). They won’t believe for the same reason men always don’t believe; they take “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2:12).
In closing I ask, “Will God lie?” I sincerely hope y’all said, “Certainly not.” But He will give rebellious and unbelieving men and women up to “a lie. He’s done it before, and it will be done again. One example from Scripture is the Gentile nations He gave up to the sin, darkness, and the superstitions of idolatry ages ago (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). So, at the close of the dispensation of God’s grace He will give the unbelieving world up again by allowing Antichrist to appear along with his “ministers of unrighteousness” with “a lie” and the masses will be deceived. The very thing our loving and merciful Lord is trying to prevent for today remains “the day of your salvation.”
(To be continued)
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