II Thess 2:6-7 The Mystery of Iniquity 2/24/2002

 

 

 

#1. The Holy Spirit Is With Us Forever (John 14:15-18)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. The Mystery of Iniquity? (II Thess 2:1-10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. Our Gathering Together (II Thess 2:1)

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 2. The title of today's sermon is: "The Mystery of Iniquity". As you know, this is an expression, which appears in II Thess 2:7, and this verse is hotly debated these days, since people understand it to explain the actions of:

I will attack the problem head-on, without much of an introduction. Perhaps you have heard someone on the radio explain this verse as follows, and I literally quote his words:

"2 Thessalonians 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. (Then he goes on to say:)

The word "letteth" is an old English word that would better be translated "restraineth". The word "way" in the phrase "taken out of the way" is altogether incorrect. It is a Greek word that is found many times in the Bible, but never is it translated as "way". It is most commonly translated "midst". Many Bible scholars have correctly seen that the "he" who now restraineth must be the Holy Spirit. "The mystery of iniquity now worketh," tells us there has always been sin or iniquity in the temple, meaning the New Testament churches. But this mystery of iniquity has been restrained by God, binding Satan at the cross. However, the time was to come when this restraint, who can be none other than the Holy Spirit, would be taken out of the midst. The question is, which midst is the Holy Spirit removed from to allow Satan to rule in the churches and congregations. Obviously, the only possibility is that the Holy Spirit would be taken from the midst of the temple." So far, these are literally the words that you hear on the radio, or on the internet. Then he concludes that the temple is the N.T. church, and from here on he recommends the true believers to leave their churches.

What is wrong with this explanation? It sounds logical, doesn't it? Are we allowed to make corrections in our English KJV? Certainly we may! The English Bible is not Divinely inspired, neither is the Spanish Bible Divinely inspired, even though it was produced 50 years earlier than the KJV. Only the Hebrew Masoretic text of the O.T. and the Greek Textus Receptus of the N.T. are Divinely inspired. The KJV translators could and did make a few mistakes here and there.

The word "way" in verse 7 is indeed the word "midst". That is correct. But the conclusions arrived at are altogether ridiculous, and not in harmony with the rest of the Bible. He concludes that the Holy Spirit is taken out of our midst, and that the church worldwide is cast to the devil. Just to think that our Good Shepherd would give His sheep over to the wolf, especially when they are obeying His commands to be in the church, is utter blasphemy. How is it possible that such a good derivation ends up with so much error? Well, this is an example of how far you can go wrong if you take verses out of context. Please turn with me to the Gospel according to John, chapter 14. There are certain pillars of the Gospel, which are clearly stated in the Bible, and if we remove those pillars, then we will arrive at another gospel. For example, we may never remove the pillar that Jesus Christ is God, and we may never remove the pillar that salvation is by grace alone, and we may never remove the pillar:

#1. That The Holy Spirit Is With Us Forever (John 14:15-18), (2X)

The last discourse Jesus gave before He was crucified is written in John chapters 14, 15 and 16.

Now we begin to read John 14:15,

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:16, And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

The Lord Jesus is speaking to people who have been saved, because they love Him, and keep His commandments. The other Comforter, the Greek word Parakletos, refers to God the Holy Spirit, whom the God the Father would give us, in order that He may abide with us forever. That is not only a promise: forever! It is also a necessity! Of course, we could not remain faithful one minute without the presence of God the Holy Spirit? Where would God the Holy Spirit be with us? Would He stand beside us, or would He be in our midst when we congregate together? The answer is in verse 17,

John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you, (forever). (2X)

The world of the Reprobate cannot receive the Holy Spirit, because they are altogether opposed to God and they are haters of God. The whole world lieth in the wicked one, and he is a liar from the beginning. How then could they believe and receive the Spirit of Truth? It is impossible.

The Lord Jesus speaks here also to us, saved people, that the promised Spirit of God is with us, and in the midst of us, and He dwells within us, which means He dwells within our souls. We have become little dwelling places, or temples for the Spirit of God. And He will be within us and in the midst of us, forever. Eternal life is forever! That is a sure promise. Then we read in verse 18,

John 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless (Lit: orphans): I will come to you.

The Greek word is "orphanos", from which we derive our English word "orphan". Would the Spirit of Christ ever leave us to make us like orphans? Will we ever be like little sheep without a Shepherd, helpless sheep in hostile world, forsaken orphans without a Defender, left to the mercy of strangers? NO! The Lord Jesus says: "I will come to you". He will personally come to take us to be with Him, rather than leave us in this hostile world. And this He literally does at the end of time. The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the promise that the Spirit of Christ is indwelling us individually and as well is in the midst of us when we are assembled together. And verse 23 in this chapter makes it altogether clear that the unity of the triune Godhead is present with and within His people. Perhaps you recognize these statements from the Bible: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age" (Matt 28:20). "Christ liveth in me", said the Apostle Paul (Gal 2:20). "Christ among you, the hope of glory"(Col 1:27). "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee"(Heb 13:5). He will never leave us orphan

The Lord Jesus said in John 14:19,

John 14:19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall

live also (forever).

The world of the Reprobate cannot see Me, because in order to see Me you must be born again. The Disciples saw Him again and again after His resurrection. He instructed them even to the last moment before He was taken up into heaven. They saw Him by faith, and we see Him by faith. Do we not read in Heb 2: "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor" (Heb 2:9)? Therefore we see Jesus in the Scriptures.

The Lord Jesus said: "Because I live, ye shall live also", and I am legitimately adding the word "forever". In other words, Jesus said: "Your spiritual life now and your eternal life hereafter are both secured by My life. I shall live on to eternity. I am in you and you are in Me. Therefore you shall live also. Your life is secured forever. You have everlasting life now and you shall have everlasting glory hereafter. And I shall continue to instruct you in My Word". Then Jesus said:

John 14:20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you (forever).

At that day when you have been born again in this life, when you have received your spiritual eyes and ears, then will I instruct you through My Holy Spirit and you will see Me by faith, and you shall know that I am in My Father and that you are in Me and I am in you, forever.

Now please turn over one page to your right, to John 16:12-13. The Bible declares the same doctrines everywhere. We read in John 16:12,

John 16:12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (That is a promise!)

How long will the Holy Spirit continue to guide and instruct us? Until the End of time! Let me explain that. There are three classes of people who need to be guided: Those who are blind, those who are too weak to walk alone, and those who are traveling through unknown territory. In each of these three groups of people God is guiding His elect people. By nature we are spiritually blind, and therefore The Holy Spirit must guide us in the way of truth. Then as newborn babes the Holy Spirit must teach us how to walk as children of the King. And as we walk through the wilderness of this life, God the Holy Spirit must point out to us the narrow way, which leadeth unto life eternal. God the Holy Spirit leads us in an orderly way, which is gradual and progressive: We grow in grace and we grow in the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ. That is what God says in II Pet 3:18. And without the guidance of God the Holy Spirit we would instantly fall away.

"And He will show you things to come". When God says seven times in Rev 2 &3, "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches", it is evident that the God the Holy Spirit is continuing to reveal the Truth to us, from the Scriptures. Of course this should be understood within the limits of Rev 22:18 and 19. God the Holy Spirit must give us understanding when we study the Revelation of Jesus Christ, so that we can compare Scripture with Scripture. Then we read in V14

John 16:14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (Until the End)

That is one of the primary works of the Holy Spirit, to glorify the Lord Jesus, because the glorification of Jesus Christ is the ultimate goal in view. God the Holy Spirit must continually guide us in that direction. For emphasis the Lord Jesus repeats this in verse 15,

John 16:15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (Until the End)

Not only must the Holy Spirit guide us until the end, but He must also give guidance to everyone who is to become saved.

Please turn a few pages to your right, to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1. Before the Lord Jesus went up into heaven, He instructed His disciples that they would be declaring the Gospel of salvation unto the ends of the earth. God saves people who have come under the hearing of the Gospel, so that "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God". We read in Acts 1:6-8,

Acts 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Acts 1:7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (How long shall we receive that power? Until the End)

The Lord Jesus promised that God the Holy Spirit would come upon the disciples and be with them until they had reached the uttermost part of the earth. The disciples were the church that Jesus had commissioned. They in turn commissioned other disciples, and so on. The Holy Spirit was promised to be with the church until the last of the elect has become saved. Of course, this is the Eternal Church, consisting only of those who truly have been born again. And even though this is only a fraction of the corporate church, throughout history it has always been the same fraction, it always has been the Eternal Church that has done the work for the furtherance of the Gospel. But this also means that the Holy Spirit will remain in our midst until the last day, to save the last one of the elect. The Holy Spirit will continue in our midst to open eyes and ears and minds until the last one is saved.

Therefore, we have to conclude that God the Holy Spirit will not be taken out of our midst. As long as there are saints in a local church, God the Holy Spirit is present there. The moment the candlestick of that church has been removed is when the last saint leaves that local church, because the saints are the candlesticks. What then is:

#2. The Mystery of Iniquity? (II Thess 2:6-7)

Please turn again to the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 2. And now we should start in verse 1, because we want to know the context wherein this mysterious verse 7 is found. The church at Thessalonica was concerned that the Lord Jesus Christ would be coming soon, very soon. Therefore God, through the Apostle Paul, calms their fears and gives them encouragement that the Day of the Lord is not near at hand. He says in II Thess 2:1,

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

2 Thessalonians 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

2 Thessalonians 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.

2 Thessalonians 2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

2 Thessalonians 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

2 Thessalonians 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.

2 Thessalonians 2:8 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:

2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

2 Thessalonians 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.

What is the main focus here? The main focus is "the falling away". God is not referring to a few million people defecting the Christian churches and joining the Mormons, or the Jehovah's Witnesses. O No! Verse 3 sets the stage. Verse 3 really defines the content of this chapter. God says in verse 3 that the Day of the Lord does not come except there is first "the falling away" under the leadership of "the man of sin, the son of perdition". It is a striking parallel to Judas Iscariot, who is also called "the son of perdition", which means "the son of Hell". Judas Iscariot, a man who has been trained to know the Truth, like a Pastor; a man who knows all the inside tracks of Jesus, like a Pastor; a man who really knows how to attack the Bible, like a Pastor; a man who has had a personal experience with miracles, signs and wonders, like a Pastor, is going to be indwelt by Satan and is leading many astray by his good appearance and by his excellent skills to handle money. I am not suggesting that it will be one man. One man is not able to stand in the churches around the world. There will be many Pastors and Bible teachers who will be indwelt by Satan and his demons, and who will lead many in the Christian churches astray by their smooth talking. They will be able to do so because the people they lead astray have not been saved. Therefore, this "great falling away" comes after a period of time when the true Gospel is no longer preached in most of the churches. This "great falling away" is called "the mystery of iniquity" in verse 7. Therefore, it is no wonder that God calls Satan:

Hold one finger in II Thess 2, and turn with me to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 11. God speaks about these same Pastors and Bible teachers here in II Cor 11. They have been appointed Undershepherds of the flock of the Lord Jesus, but they turned out to be hirelings. They do not have a heart for the sheep, but they do have a heart for money and fame. We read in II Cor 11:13

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

2 Corinthians 11:15 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.

Satan comes to us like an angel of light, meaning like Christ. He comes with a good appearance, with knowledge of the Bible, pleading the blood of Christ, but bringing a gospel of death. His gospel is so much like the true Gospel that even the Elect might be deceived, if that were possible.

Let us return to II Thess 2. Are you ready for what is God saying in verses 6-7? In V. 6 we read:

2 Thessalonians 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

Actually, the Greek text goes as follows: "And now you know the holding back (comma) for him to be revealed in his time" (2X). God is saying "the great falling away is held back until the time is ripe for the son of perdition to be revealed". Two Greek words, translated "the holding back", are repeated in the next verse, because the next verse is essentially saying the same thing. We read in verse 7,

2 Thessalonians 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.

Actually the Greek text goes as follows: "For the mystery of iniquity already works (comma) only now the holding back (comma) until it comes out of the midst" (2X). The personal pronoun "he" does not occur in this verse (2X). The KJV translators did not translate this verse faithfully. In this verse God is saying, "The mystery of iniquity, which is the great falling away, is held back until the time is ripe and then it comes out of the midst". The mystery of iniquity is already working now, at the time the Apostle Paul was writing, and the Apostle John confirmed this in I John, chapter 4, but not to the great extent that it is spoken of here in II Thess 2. The great falling away, (Remember: verse 3 defines the context) the great falling away is held back, but it will come out of the midst of the congregation and will be revealed in the time the son of perdition is revealed, which is Satan.

Now, this interpretation of verse 7 completely fits the context. Verse 3 sets the stage: There will come a falling away, and then the man of sin will be revealed. First the restraining of the falling away is announced in verse 6, and then it is repeated in verse 7 with the additional information that the apostasy shall come out of the midst of the congregation. Then in verses 8, 9 and 10 God continues to speak about the man of sin and about those who follow him. All we needed to do was just check a few interlinear Greek-English Bibles, and check the lexicons to make sure that we are not taken in by the translators of the interlinears. And remember the context.

Why is it called the mystery of iniquity? It certainly is a mystery why people will abandon the only true God and the only true Gospel, stated so firmly in the Bible, and go to worship other gods who cannot save. It is also a mystery that this movement will come out of the midst of the congregation. Keep one finger in II Thess 2, and please turn to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 20.

In this historical setting the Apostle Paul is giving his farewell address to the Elders of the church at Ephesus. The Apostle is telling the church at Ephesus that this mystery of iniquity will come out of the midst of the congregation. He gives them one last admonition, and one last warning. We read in:

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

The warning to the church at Ephesus may just as well apply to our church. You cannot say that I did not warn you. And then the Apostle Paul looked the Ephesian Elders straight in the eye, and said:

Acts 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Acts 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Out of your own selves, you Elders, out of the midst of you shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could say this, because God had revealed to him what was going to happen to that church. I do not know what will happen to our church. But this I know: Apostasy does not originate with some ignorant person in the pew. Apostasy originates with some well-known Bible teacher saying things that are utterly ridiculous, and he will get people to follow him because he is such a well-known Bible scholar.

We need to have a mindset of "The Church Militant". We must have our sword of the Word of God always drawn. The sword is an offensive weapon. It is offensive and it also offends people. With it we strike at the heart of every unbeliever, telling them that we are all sinners on the way to Hell. With it we tell them that God, in His great mercy, decided to save certain people, and for their benefit has sent the Lord Jesus Christ to bear their sins on the cross. With it we tell them that "you must be born again", or actually "you must be born from above". How can we make ourselves born from above? We cannot! God, through His Holy Spirit must open the spiritual ears and eyes of those for whom the Lord Jesus has died on the cross. God does that by causing us to hear the Gospel and by giving faith to those who are being saved. God draws to Jesus those whom He wants to save (John 6:44). Now, that offends most people. But to those whom God is drawing it is not offensive at all, but it sounds like a sweet melody. Of course, the Bride of Christ rejoices when she hears the voice of the Bridegroom.

In addition, we must have our sword of the Word of God always drawn to defend the pure Gospel in our Church, for the protection of our children. When we preach from this pulpit, we do not simply do a Bible study, but in our preaching we fight against this error and against that error that is floating around. I hope you have detected in my sermons this fighting spirit, which you also must have when anyone of you is preaching in this pulpit. You do not simply choose any odd sermon topic, but you choose a sermon that fights against the errors that are besieging our church. In this church we do not preach moralizing sermons. If you have been saved you do not need a moralizing sermon, and if you are not saved you need to hear the Gospel. We are not just "The Church Victorious", but we are also "The Church Militant". We are in a spiritual warfare, whether you like it or not. God says in Rom 16:

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

God warns us again and again against those within the congregation that want to draw away people to their own kind of a gospel. God says: AVOID THEM! (2X) Are you continuing to debate them? Will you be wiser than God? God says: AVOID THEM!

Now, let us return to II Thess, chapter 2 and let us expand on the context. Verse 1 speaks about:

#3. Our Gathering Together (II Thess 2:1, John 15:12-13). We read in II Thess 2:1,

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

Which "gathering together" is God speaking about? It is our gathering together at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, as is so well described in I Thess, in the second half of chapter 4.

Can you see that our gathering together on Sundays is a foretaste of our gathering together on the Last Day? If we do not like to gather together on Sundays, then we do not love the body of believers, the saints. If we do not love the saints, then we also do not like to join them on the Last Day and then we should question if we truly have been saved. The Lord Jesus said in John 15:12-13,

John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

This is a plain and simple commandment: That ye love one another. Can we love one another as Jesus loved us? No! I would not want to go to Hell for anyone of you. But I love you people as my own family. I like to bring you a message that is calming your spirits. I like to be here among you, and I like to meet you in your homes, because the Holy Spirit is in the midst of us and within us, forever.

What did Jesus have in mind when He said: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"? First of all, He was referring to the love that Jesus has for each one of those whose sins He was bearing. He was prepared to endure the equivalent of eternal Hell for each one of them. That is how much he loves us. He loved us and died for us. But HOW do we lay down our life for our spouse, or for our children, or for our neighbor? We love them and live for them. We make ourselves available for them day in and day out. That is how we lay down our life for our friends. We lay down our life on the altar of service. We do not do that because they are nice to us; then we do it for selfish reasons. But if we lay down our life, or our living, for those who are the unlovable, then we do it in obedience to Jesus. Paraphrased, the Lord Jesus says: "This is what I want you to do for Me: Love the unlovable, expecting nothing in return". Therefore, this is what we do when we gather together on Sundays: we love one another because Jesus commanded us to love one another. Then God says in verse 2

2 Thessalonians 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us (2X), as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Do not be troubled by those who tell you that the Day of Christ is at hand. Even if you get a letter from Paul that the Day of Christ is at hand, do not get disturbed. And these days there are many who try to shake us in our mind that the Day of Christ is at hand. Keep on doing what you are doing.

If you have been saved, you are safe and secure, and you have nothing to fear. If you have not been saved, you should be worried, but you could care less if Christ was coming or not. Therefore, to all of you, keep on doing what you are doing. I am not promoting a passive lifestyle, and I am not promoting a life of complacency. If we are saved, as we claim to be, then we live our life as if Christ is coming tomorrow. We live our life as an example to those around us, and we witness wherever the Lord has opened the door for us. As soon as the last one of the Elect has been saved, the Lord returns. When we witness, we do all we can to hasten the coming of our Lord.

The church at Thessalonica was troubled that the Day of Christ was at hand. They were concerned about the many who were still unsaved. Today we can say the same thing. We see many who are still unsaved. They are on a slippery slide going to Hell. Should we feel troubled for the unsaved? Yes! But does God need more time to make up His mind about who is going to be saved? No! Therefore, when you see the signs of the great falling away, then know that "your redemption draweth nigh". God knows what He is doing, and let us have peace with that. Let us pray.