|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:5-12 Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time. Corruption of doctrine and worship came in by degrees, and the usurping of power was gradual; thus the mystery of iniquity prevailed. Superstition and idolatry were advanced by pretended devotion, and bigotry and persecution were promoted by pretended zeal for God and his glory. This mystery of iniquity was even then begun; while the apostles were yet living, persons pretended zeal for Christ, but really opposed him. The fall or ruin of the antichristian state is declared. The pure word of God, with the Spirit of God, will discover this mystery of iniquity, and in due time it shall be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming. Signs and wonders, visions and miracles, are pretended; but they are false signs to support false doctrines; and lying wonders, or only pretended miracles, to cheat the people; and the diabolical deceits with which the antichristian state has been supported, are notorious. The persons are described, who are his willing subjects. Their sin is this; They did not love the truth, and therefore did not believe it; and they were pleased with false notions. God leaves them to themselves, then sin will follow of course, and spiritual judgments here, and eternal punishments hereafter. These prophecies have, in a great measure, come to pass, and confirm the truth of the Scriptures. This passage exactly agrees with the system of popery, as it prevails in the Romish church, and under the Romish popes. But though the son of perdition has been revealed, though he has opposed and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; and has spoken and acted as if he were a god upon earth, and has proclaimed his insolent pride, and supported his delusions, by lying miracles and all kinds of frauds; still the Lord has not yet fully destroyed him with the brightness of his coming; that and other prophecies remain to be fulfilled before the end shall come.
Verse 6. - And now. The particle "now" has been variously interpreted. Some connect it with the restraining influence: "And ye know what now withholdeth;" but if so, there would have been a different arrangement of the words in the original Others consider it as a mere particle of transition: "Now, to pass over to another subject;" but there is no transition, the apostle continues his description of the man of sin. It is rather to be considered as a particle of time: "Now ye know, because you have been instructed on this point." Ye know; Paul having told them when he was at Thessalonica. What withholdeth; hindereth. The hindrance does not refer to the prevention of the apostle from speaking freely on this subject, lest he should involve himself in political difficulties; nor to any delay in the coming of Christ; but to a restraint upon the appearance of the man of sin: "Ye know what prevents his open manifestation." That he; namely, the man of sin. Might be revealed in his time; literally, in his season; in his proper time, the time appointed by God. Events were not yet ripe for his appearance. Just as there was a "fulness of time" when Christ should appear (Galatians 4:4), so there was a "fulness of time" when the man of sin should be revealed; there was a series of events going on which would culminate in his revelation. The nature of this restraining or withholding influence will afterwards be considered; whatever it was, the Thessalonians were formerly explicitly informed.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And now ye know what withholdeth,.... Or hinders the revelation of the man of sin, or antichrist; by which is meant not the Apostle Paul, though he by his ministry was a very great hinderance of the growth of error, and the spread of evil practices in the churches, and so of the more open appearance of the man of sin in his forerunners; and after his departure from Ephesus, and imprisonment at Rome, and suffering death, there was a great falling off in the churches, and among professors of religion, which made way for the manifestation of antichrist in due time: nor the preaching of the Gospel, in its power and purity, in the several parts of the world; though so long as this obtained, got ground, and gained success, the man of sin could not show his head; and therefore it must, as it did, decline, and was gradually taken away that he might appear: nor the Spirit of God, as the spirit of truth and holiness, though as long as he continued in his gifts and operations of grace in the churches, they were preserved from antichristian doctrine and worship; but when he removed from them, this enemy and adversary of Christ and his Gospel came in like a flood: nor the general defection in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 though that was to be previous to the revelation of antichrist, and was to be what would usher him in; nor could he appear until the wickedness of men was come to a pitch, that they would be ready to receive him, and pay homage and worship to him: nor is the decree of God meant, though till the time came fixed by God for his appearance, the decree must be a bar in his way; since as there is a time for every purpose, nothing can come to pass till that time comes: but by that which withheld, let or hindered the open appearance of antichrist, were the Roman empire and emperors; these stood in his way, and while this empire lasted, and the emperors wore the imperial crown, and sat on the throne, and held the government in their hands, the popes could not come at the height of their ambition, dignity, and authority, nor shine in their glory; nor could the whore of Babylon take her seat, and sit upon the seven hills of Rome until the Roman emperor was taken out of the way: this therefore hindered,
that he might be revealed in his time. The Ethiopic version renders it, "until his time appointed came": wherefore till the time that God had fixed for the appearance of this monster of iniquity, this son of perdition, the Roman empire must continue, and Roman emperors must keep their place and dignity to prevent his appearance sooner: the reason why the apostle expresses this not in plain words, but in an obscure manner, and with so much caution, was, that he might not offend the Roman emperors, and provoke them to a severe persecution of them as seditious persons, that sought the destruction of the empire: the word here used, which is rendered "withholdeth", or "letteth", as in the next verse, signifies a ruler or governor, and answers to the Hebrew word "to keep back, or restrain"; and which is used of kings, who by their laws and government restrain and withhold people from doing what they would; see 1 Samuel 9:17 to which the apostle, who well understood the Hebrew language, doubtless had reference; so , is rendered, "a magistrate", in Judges 18:7.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. now ye know—by my having told you. The power must have been one "known" to the Thessalonians.
what withholdeth—that which holds him back; "keeps him in check": the power that has restrained the man of sin from his full and final development, is the moral and conservative influence of political states [Olshausen]: the fabric of human polity as a coercive power; as "he who now letteth" refers to those who rule that polity by which the great upbursting of godlessness is kept down [Alford]. The "what withholdeth" refers to the general hindrance; "he who now letteth," to the person in whom that hindrance is summed up. Romanism, as a forerunner of Antichrist, was thus kept in check by the Romanemperor (the then representative of the coercive power) until Constantine, having removed the seat of empire to Constantinople, the Roman bishop by degrees first raised himself to precedency, then to primacy, and then to sole empire above the secular power. The historical fact from which Paul starts in his prediction was probably the emperor Claudius' expulsion of the Jews, the representative of the anti-Christian adversary in Paul's day, from Rome, thus "withholding" them in some degree in their attacks on Christianity; this suggested the principle holding good to the end of time, and about to find its final fulfilment in the removal of the withholding person or authority, whereupon Antichrist in his worst shape shall start up.
that he might be—Greek, "in order that": ye know that which keeps him back, in God's purposes, from being sooner manifested, "in order that he may be revealed in his own time" (that is, the time appointed by God to him as his proper time for being manifested), not sooner (compare Da 11:35). The removal of the withholding power will be when the civil polity, derived from the Roman empire, which is to be, in its last form, divided into ten kingdoms (Re 17:3, 11-13), shall, with its leading representative head for the time being ("he who now letteth," Greek, "withholdeth," as in 2Th 2:6), yield to the prevalent godless "lawlessness" with "the lawless one" as its embodiment. The elect Church and the Spirit cannot well be, as De Burgh suggests, the withholding power meant; for both shall never be wholly "taken out of the way" (Mt 28:20). However, the testimony of the elect Church, and the Spirit in her, are the great hindrance to the rise of the apostasy; and it is possible that, though the Lord shall have a faithful few even then, yet the full energy of the Spirit in the visible Church, counteracting the energy or "working" of "the mystery of lawlessness" by the testimony of the elect, shall have been so far "taken out of the way," or set aside, as to admit the manifestation of "the lawless one"; and so De Burgh's'S view may be right (Lu 18:8; Re 11:3-12). This was a power of which the Thessalonians might easily "know" through Paul's instruction.
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