We are introduced to the mystery of lawlessness by Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonian Church. Translated from the Greek, this is what he says:-
- ‘But we beseech you brethren, concerning the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together with Him,
- that you not be quickly unsettled in mind nor be alarmed either through a spirit, a word or a letter as if from us, that the day of the Lord has come.
- Let no-one deceive you in any way. It will not come except the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition,
- the one opposing and rising in pride over every so-called god or place of worship, in order to sit down in the temple of God attesting himself that he is God.
- Do you not remember that while I was with you I was telling you these things?
- And you know what (neuter) is restraining him now, for him to be revealed in his own season.
- For the mystery of lawlessness already works, the One (masculine) now alone restraining, until out of the midst he (the mystery of lawlessness) becomes
- and then the lawless one will be revealed – who the Lord will destroy with the spirit of His mouth and will nullify by the appearance of his parousia;
- whose (the lawless one’s) coming is according to the working of Satan in all power and signs and counterfeit wonders
- and in all deception of unrighteousness to those being lost, because they did not take hold of the love of the truth in order for them to be saved.
- And for this reason, (that they did not love the truth sufficiently) God sends to them a supernatural working of deception in order for them to trust in the lie
- so that they all may be condemned, those not trusting in the truth.
- But we are bound to give thanks to God at all times on account of you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning into salvation in sanctification of Spirit and faith of truth.
- To this He called you through our gospel, to gaining the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Therefore, brethren, stand firm and hold fast the traditions (of teaching) which you were taught whether through our word or letter.
There are some comments to make on this scripture.
Firstly, it is a direct translation from the Greek text and, to that extent, it differs significantly from most orthodox translations in respect of verse 7, where most translations translate the Greek ek mesou genetai as “he is taken out of the way”, rather than what it actually says, which is “out of the midst he becomes”. This manipulation of the text is undertaken to accommodate an erroneous religious paradigm that the “One restraining” is the Holy Spirit and that when “He is taken out of the way” He takes the Church with Him, this being the doctrinal position of those who believe in a pretribulational rapture.
This mistranslation is, in itself, an example of the mystery of lawlessness at work and arises from other misunderstandings and mistranslations of the scriptures. In particular, it reinforces the error from Matthew 24:40, in which, of the two men in the field, the one taken is presumed to be raptured, while the one left is presumed to be left behind. This error, widely embraced in modern orthodox Christianity, overlooks the fact that Jesus likens His second coming to the days of Noah, and in those days, it was those left in the ark who were saved whilst the rest were “taken away”. The reference here is to the flood of lawlessness in the end times in which many of God’s people will be carried away; those left are left in the Ark of Salvation, who is Christ Jesus.
About this error in translation, we simply make three points:-
a) The role of the Holy Spirit is clearly delineated by Jesus in John 14, 15 and 16. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is to Jesus, in this dispensation, what Jesus was to the Father during His time on earth; He did not speak or act on His own volition, but did and spoke the things the Father told Him. The Holy Spirit clearly is not the one restraining the mystery of lawlessness.
b) The Father, we are told, has entered His rest (Hebrews 4:10) and handed over all things to the Son, who has been given “all authority in heaven and upon earth” (Matthew 28:18). If all things are under His authority then He is clearly the One restraining – a masculine participle – the mystery of lawlessness.
c) Moreover, that which restrains – a neuter participle – the mystery of lawlessness until he is “revealed in his own season” (verse 6) is the prophetic word and Jesus, as the Prophet of scripture who is in charge of the prophetic timeline, is clearly the “One alone restraining” (verse 7). The prophetic season for the manifestation of the man of lawlessness is upon us.
This passage of scripture is dealing with the “day of the Lord”, which refers to His prophesied second coming, an event much written about in both the Old and New Testament scriptures. Here it only informs the Thessalonians that it will not come before the man of lawlessness is revealed and secondly, it warns the Thessalonians that the “mystery of lawlessness” is already working.
This title, “mystery of lawlessness”, refers to the spirit of anti-Christ who, with the demonic spirits under his direction and control, is working amongst God’s people, just as he has always done. His “season”, or prophetic era, is going to come and when it does, he will manifest in a man (verse 8) and become the False Christ of end-times scripture and the False Prophet of the Apocalyptic revelation.
What the passages in 2 Thessalonians 2 concerning the mystery of lawlessness are saying can be paraphrased in this way;
“We should not be confused about the timing of the Day of the Lord because that day will not occur before another prophesied event; the manifestation of the anti-Christ, or false Christ, or literally, the “instead of” Christ. At the present time, Christ Jesus is restraining him until the prophetic season for his manifestation is reached, which is when “the season of the gentiles is fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
In the meantime, the spirit of anti-Christ is at work deceiving God’s people and, when he eventually manifests as the anti-Christ, he will be accepted by Christianity generally as the returning Christ at His prophesied and expected second coming. He will seat himself in the temple of God, which is the Church, and set himself up as being God, thus fulfilling his own claims – “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14)”.
In summary then; 2 Thessalonians 2 teaches that a time is coming when this mystery of lawlessness will manifest into a man as the False Christ, “the man of lawlessness”, “the son of perdition”, that is the son of Satan, God’s adversary. He will seat himself in the temple of God, that is, in the midst of God’s people, and be accepted by them as God Himself. In the meantime, the mystery of lawlessness works unobserved and unrecognized amongst the people called by God to be His; he uses the Word of God and is quite content with crossless Christianity; indeed, this latter day form of corporate Christianity is to become his vehicle; it will not only receive him, but belong to him.
This is what the scriptures reveal.