Tribulation or Translation? (3)

In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, we see the process of his rise, the Person Who restrains (the Holy Spirit), and the purpose of his removal.

A. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (v7a). Literally, “For the previously hidden principle of lawlessness, rebellion against divine laws, is already at work in this world.” Before lawlessness is personified in the antichrist and his public revelation, the principle of lawlessness will be in evidence at large. This is depicted in the early verses of Psalm 2. Also, in 1 John 2:18, we are told, “Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”

Coming events cast their shadow. Just as the deeds of the Nicolaitans became the doctrine of the Nicolaitans in the letters to the seven churches, so the principle of lawlessness in our day will give rise to the personification of lawlessness in the days following the rapture of the Church.

B. “Only He who now letteth will let” (v7b). The Holy Spirit as the Restrainer has already been considered, in conjunction with the believers of the church age, in verse six.

C. “Until He be taken out of the way” (v7c). Literally, “until He is taken out of the midst.” Each era is highlighted by the official presence and interest of a specified member of the Godhead. This in no way undermines the truth of omnipresence.

In the Old Testament, God the Father is prominent; in the gospels, it is Jesus Christ; during the Church era, the Holy Spirit figures prominently; in the millennial kingdom, Christ is in the forefront. Finally, in the day of God, the triune God will be preeminent.

Here, the Holy Spirit, officially in this world after the ascension of Jesus Christ, and linked with believers and the body of Christ by indwelling them, is leaving this scene in order to present the Church to Christ. This is illustrated in the Old Testament when the unnamed servant of Genesis 24 presented Rebekah to Isaac after their pilgrim journey.

The removal of believers and the Holy Spirit is to make way for the revelation of Satan’s man: “And then shall that wicked be revealed.”

Verse eight will show: the public revelation; the punishment of the reprobate; and the parousia of the Redeemer.

A. “And then (after the departure of the Holy Spirit) shall that Wicked be revealed” (v8a). The implication is that the man of sin will be in this world prior to the Rapture but will not be manifest in his true character until we are in the glory. His character worsens following his apparent death and resurrection at the midpoint of the Tribulation. Satan enters into him and takes complete possession of him for the remaining three-and-a-half years.

B. “Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth.” Some scholars prefer the word “destroy” rather than “consume.” Others translate the word “spirit” as “breath.” Either way, the meaning is abundantly clear, and the outcome is not in doubt. Isaiah speaks of “the breath of His lips,” John of the “sword from His mouth,” and Paul of the “brightness of His coming.” In one verse, Paul takes us from antichrist’s public appearance to his ultimate doom (v8b).

C. “And shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (v8c). The Lord’s second advent, when He returns to this planet to eliminate His foes and to establish His millennial kingdom, will serve to prove His omnipotence. Armageddon is sometimes depicted as a battle, but the truth is, it will be a certain victory for our glorious Lord. It is completely one-sided. Neither saints nor angels will be involved. The Lord created the world Himself, He redeemed sinners by Himself, and He will conquer His enemies by Himself. The Word that brought creation into being, the divine fiat, will be used to speak His enemies out of existence. One look, one word from Christ, will paralyze His foes. The bloodbath that follows is described in terms of the winepress and reaping of the earth.

The word “epiphany,” translated “brightness,” is used of the appearance of a god to men and of the appearance of the enemy to an army in battle. How true, in the highest sense, of the Son of God and King of kings at His glorious appearing.

Verse nine shows the puppet of his retainer and the promotion of his regime.

A. “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan” (v9a). The two beasts of Revelation 13 are Satan’s pawns or puppets. He grants them their power. The man of sin is totally in Satan’s power and must implicitly follow his instructions. We have his coming or parousia brought to our attention, followed by the power, signs, and wonders that deceive people into mass hysteria as they welcome this lawless character as a deity to be worshiped.

B. “With all power and signs and lying wonders” (v9b). Miracles rarely occur in Scripture and, when they do, there is an economy of miracles. To support Moses and Joshua in their task of leading the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, God gave ability for the miraculous. The next cluster of miracles surround Elijah and Elisha as God establishes the role of the prophet. We move into the New Testament to see Christ and the apostles identified by God through signs, wonders, and miracles. The two witnesses in Revelation are able to call on miraculous powers to further their witness and protect their lives. Satan uses similar tactics to popularize his two henchmen, the beasts and, in particular, to persuade mankind that the man of sin is God.