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.
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(7) For.—Logically, the “for” belongs to the clause “he that letteth;” thus:” For, although the mystery is already at work, the wicked one will not be revealed until he that now withholds shall disappear.”

The mystery of iniquity doth already work.—Both “mystery” and “iniquity” have the article in the Greek, perhaps (as in 2Thessalonians 2:3) because the phrase was well known to the Thessalonians. Lawlessness is a more literal rendering than “iniquity”; the same word in 1John 3:4 is rendered “the transgression of the law.” The word “mystery” in Greek does not necessarily involve any notion of mysteriousness in our modern sense. It means a secret (which may be, in its own nature, quite simple) known to the initiated, but incapable of being known until it is divulged. Here the whole emphasis is thrown, by a very peculiar order of the Greek words, upon the word “mystery.” It may be paraphrased thus:—“For as a secret, into which the world is not yet initiated, that lawlessness is already at work.” Thus the word “mystery” stands in sharp contrast with the word “revealed” in 2Thessalonians 2:6; 2Thessalonians 2:8 : the time for publishing, openly avowing, the secret is not yet come. To whom, then, is the mystery of that lawlessness now known? Not to all those who are contributing to its ultimate manifestation, for most of them are deceived by it (2Thessalonians 2:10), and, while sharers in the Apostasy, still believe themselves members of the Church. The mystery is known to God, and (1) to enlightened Christians like St. Paul; (2) to Satan and a few Satanic men who avow to themselves their real object in joining the movement. Though the mystery is said to work (the verb expresses an inward activity, e.g., 1Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 7:5, like that of leaven on the lump), it is not a personal thing, not (like “Man of Sin,” “that which withholdeth,”) a covert description of any person or set of persons; it is solely the unavowed design which is gradually gaining influence over men’s hearts: it is the same movement as the “falling away” of 2Thessalonians 2:3. In several places (e.g., 2Peter 2:1 et seq.; Jude 1:18 et seq.) the coarser side of the “falling away” is spoken of, but here the “lawlessness” seems not so much to mean ordinary antinomianism as insubordination to God—rebellion.

Only he. . . .—More correctly, Only [it cannot be revealed] until he that now withholdeth disappear from the midst. The English version has obscured the meaning by putting “letteth,” although the word is precisely the same as in 2Thessalonians 2:6—the only difference being that there it was neuter: “the thing which withholdeth;” while here it is masculine:” he.” Evidently to St. Paul’s mind there was a great obstructive power, which was gathered up in, and wielded by, the person so described:” he that withholdeth.” How this potentate would “disappear out of our midst” St. Paul gives no hint; but obviously not by death: for, unless the power itself was to disappear with him, his successor would equally be “he that now withholdeth.” We may therefore say that the prophecy would be satisfied if “he that withholdeth” proved to be a whole succession of persons; we have hardly the same right to say so of the “Lawless One.”

2 Thessalonians 2:7. For the mystery of iniquity — There is a mystery of iniquity as well as of godliness, the one in direct opposition to the other. The expression, a mystery, in the Scripture sense of it, is something secret or undiscovered. See note on Ephesians 1:9. The mystery of iniquity, therefore, is a scheme of error, not openly discovered, whose influence is to encourage iniquity. Doth already work Ενεργειται, worketh inwardly, in men’s minds, or in the church, and perhaps also secretly. The seeds of corruption were sown, but they were not yet grown up to any maturity: the leaven was fermenting in some parts, but it was far from having yet infected the whole mass. To speak without a figure, the apostle means that the false doctrines and bad practices, which he foresaw in after times would be carried to a great height by the power which he denominates the man of sin, were already operating in the false teachers, who then infested the church. Accordingly, in his speech to the elders of the church at Ephesus, not long after this epistle was written, he told them, (Acts 20:29,) that grievous wolves would enter in among them, not sparing the flock; and that of themselves men would arise speaking perverse things, &c. And before he wrote his epistle to the Colossians, false teachers had actually arisen in Phrygia, who earnestly recommended the worship of angels, (Colossians 2:18,) abstinence from certain meats, and various bodily mortifications, (Colossians 2:21-22,) according to the traditions and doctrines of men. For the apostle wrote that epistle expressly for the purpose of condemning these idolatries and superstitious practices. To these things may be added an excess of reverence for pastors, and setting them up as heads of factions, 1 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 3:22; the ambition of pastors themselves, and contending for rule and precedence, 3 John 1:9; errors in point of doctrine already promulgated, as justification by the merit of works, Galatians 2:16; external performances put in the room of faith and love; the having recourse to other mediators besides Christ Jesus, and various human inventions added to the written word. Only he who now letteth — That is, restraineth, will restrain, &c. Chandler thinks this verse should be translated thus: The mystery of iniquity already worketh, only until he who restrains it be taken out of the way; that is, it works in a concealed manner only until then. The restraining here spoken of refers to the mystery of iniquity, as the restraining, mentioned 2 Thessalonians 2:6, refers to the man of sin. These were connected together, and were restrained by something which the apostle had mentioned to the Thessalonians, in his sermons and conversations, but which he did not choose to express in writing. This, as was observed on 2 Thessalonians 2:6, was generally understood by the fathers to be the Roman emperors and empire, as it is plain from Tertullian, who says, (Apol., p. 31,) “We Christians are under a particular necessity of praying for the emperors, and for the continued state of the empire; because we know that dreadful power which hangs over the whole world, is retarded by the continuance of the time appointed for the Roman empire.” “To this conjecture,” says Macknight, “the fathers may have been led by tradition, or they may have formed it upon Daniel’s prophecies. But, in whatever way they obtained the notion, it seems to have been the truth. For the power of the emperors and of the magistrates under them, first in the heathen state of the empire, and afterward when the empire became Christian, was that which restrained the man of sin, or corrupt clergy, from exalting themselves above all that is called God, or an object of worship civil and religious.” The reader must observe, the Roman empire, united under one powerful head, was extremely jealous of every other authority and power, and therefore was watchful to prevent the establishment of every such spiritual tyranny and usurpation as that by which Satan was attempting to make his grand effort against Christianity. It must be observed, however, that though the Roman empire, for several ages, restrained the progress of the mystery of iniquity, and the increase of the power of the corrupt clergy, by keeping the church under persecution, and curbing all authority but its own, and thereby retarded the establishment of the ecclesiastical tyranny here spoken of; yet, as Mr. Scott remarks, “the conversion of the Roman emperors to Christianity, in the beginning of the fourth century, tended greatly to prepare things for this apostacy, by giving scope to the ambition and avarice of the ecclesiastics, and by multiplying exceedingly merely nominal Christians; but it was not till the subversion of the western empire by the northern nations, and the division of it into ten kingdoms, that way was made for the full establishment of the Papal usurpation at Rome, the capital city of the empire.”

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.For the mystery of iniquity - On the meaning of the word mystery, see the notes on Romans 11:25; compare 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3; Colossians 1:26. It means properly what is hidden or concealed; not necessarily that which is unintelligible. The "mystery of iniquity" seems here to refer to some hidden or concealed depravity - some form of sin which was working secretly and silently, and which had not yet developed itself. Any secret sources of iniquity in the church - anything that tended to corrupt its doctrines, and to destroy the simplicity of the faith of the gospel, would correspond with the meaning of the word. Doddridge correctly supposes that this may refer to the pride and ambition of some ministers, the factious temper of some Christians, the imposing' of unauthorized severities, the worship of angels, etc.

Doth already work - There are elements of these corruptions already existing in the church. Dr. Newton maintains that the foundations of popery were laid in the apostle's days, and that the superstructure was raised by degrees; and this is entirely in accordance with the statements of the apostle Paul. In his own time, he says, there were things which, if not restrained, would expand and ripen into that apostasy. He has not told as particularly to what he refers, but there are several intimations in his writings, as well as in other parts of the New Testament, that even in the apostolic age there existed the elements of those corruptions which were afterward developed and imbodied in the papacy. Even then, says Dr. Newton, "idolatry was stealing into the church 1 Corinthians 10:14, and a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels." (Colossians 2:18; see, however, my note on that passage.) "There existed strife and divisions 1 Corinthians 3:3, an adulterating and handling the word of God deceitfully 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2, a gain of godliness, teaching of things for filthy lucre's sake 1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 1:11, a vain observation of festivals Galatians 4:10, a vain distinction of meats 1 Corinthians 8:8, a neglecting of the body Colossians 2:23, traditions, and commandments, and doctrines of men Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:22; compare 3 John 1:9, "Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence." These things constituted the elements of the corruptions which were afterward developed in the papacy, and which are imbodied in that system. An eye that could see all, would even then have perceived that if there were no restraint, these incipient corruptions would grow up into that system, and would be expanded into all the corruptions and arrogant claims which have ever characterized it; compare 1 John 4:3.

Only he who now letteth - Who now hinders, or restrains - ὁ κατέχων ho katechōn. This is the same word which is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and rendered "withholdeth," except that it is there in the neuter gender. There can be no doubt that there is reference to the same restraining power, or the same power under the control of an individual; but what that was, is not quite certain. It was some power which operated as a check on the growing corruptions then existing, and which prevented their full development, but which was to be removed at no distant period, and whose removal would give an opportunity for these corruptions to develop themselves, and for the full revelation of the man of sin. Such a supposition as that the civil power of Rome was such a restraint, operating to prevent the assumption of the ecclesiastical claims of supremacy which afterward characterized the papacy, will correspond with all that is necessarily implied in the language.

Will let, until he be taken out of the way - This will be an effectual check on these corruptions, preventing their full development, until it is removed, and then the man of sin will appear. The supposition which will best suit this language is, that there was then some civil restraint, preventing the development of existing corruptions, but that there would be a removal, or withdrawing of that restraint; and that then the tendency of the existing corruptions would be seen. It is evident, as Oldshausen remarks, that this resisting or restraining power must be something out of the church, and distinguished from the anti-Christian tendency itself; yon der Kirche und vom Antichristenthum. It is necessary, therefore, to understand this of the restraints of civil power. Was there, then, any fact in history which will accord with this interpretation? The belief among the primitive Christians was, that what hindered the rise of the man of sin was the Roman empire, and therefore "they prayed for its peace and welfare, as knowing that when the Roman empire should be dissolved and broken in pieces, the empire of the man of sin would be raised on its ruins."

Dr. Newton. How this revolution was effected, may be seen by the statement of Machiavel. "The emperor of Rome, quitting Rome to dwell at Constantinople" (in the fourth century, under Constantine), "the Roman empire began to decline, but the church of Rome augmented as fast. Nevertheless, until the coming in of the Lombards, all Italy being under the dominion of either emperors or kings, the bishops assumed no more power than what was due to their doctrine and manners; in civil affairs they were subject to the civil power. But Theodoric, king of the Goths, fixing his seat at Ravenna, was that which advanced their interest, and made them more considerable in Italy, for there being no other prince left in Rome, the Romans were forced for protection to pay greater allegiance to the Pope. The Lombards having invaded and reduced Italy into several cantons, the Pope took the opportunity, and began to hold up his head. For being, as it were, governor and principal of Rome, the emperor of Constantinople and the Lombards bare him a respect, so that the Romans (by mediation of their Pope) began to treat and confederate with Longinus (the emperor's lieutenant), and the Lombards, not as subjects, but as equals and companions; which said custom continuing, and the Pope's entering into alliance sometimes with the Lombards, and sometimes with the Greeks, contracted great reputation to their dignity." (History of Florence, B. i., p. 6, of the English translation.) A more extended quotation on the same subject, may be seen in Newton on the Prophecies, pp. 407, 408. To anyone acquainted with the decline and fall of the Roman empire, nothing can be more manifest than the correspondence of the facts in history respecting the rise of the papacy, and the statement of the apostle Paul here. The simple facts are these:

(1) There were early corruptions in the church at Rome, as there were elsewhere, but peculiarly there, as Rome was the seat of philosophy and of power.

(2) there were great efforts made by the bishop of Rome to increase his authority, and there was a steady approximation to what he subsequently claimed - that of being Universal Bishop.

(3) there was a constant tendency to yield to him deference and respect in all matters.

(4) this was kept in check as long as Rome was the seat of the imperial power. Had that power remained there, it would have been impossible for the Roman Bishop ever to have obtained the civil and ecclesiastical eminence which he ultimately did. Rome could not have had two heads, both claiming and exercising supreme power; and there never could have been a "revelation of the man of sin."

(5) Constantine removed the seat of empire to Constantinople; and this removal or "taking away" of the only restraint on the ambitious projects of the Roman bishops, gave all the opportunity which could be desired for the growth of the papal power. In all history there cannot, probably, be found a series of events corresponding more accurately with a prophetic statement than this; and there is every evidence, therefore, that these are the events to which the Spirit of inspiration referred.

7. the mystery of iniquity—the counterwork to "the mystery of godliness" (1Ti 3:16). Anti-Christianity latently working, as distinguished from its final open manifestation. "Mystery" in Scripture means, not what remains always a secret, but that which is for a while hidden, but in due time manifested (compare Eph 3:4, 5). Satan will resort to a mode of opposition more conformed to the then imminent "appearing" and "presence" of the Saviour, and will anticipate Him with a last effort to maintain the dominion of the world [De Burgh], just as at His first advent he rushed into open opposition, by taking possession of the bodies of men. "Iniquity," Greek, "lawlessness"; defiant rejection of God's law (compare Note, see on [2455]Zec 5:9, Zec 5:10). "Wickedness" (translated by the Septuagint by the same Greek, meaning "lawlessness," which Paul employs here), embodied there as a woman, answers to "the mystery of iniquity," here embodied finally in "the man of sin": as the former was ultimately banished for ever from the Holy Land to her own congenial soil, Babylon, so iniquity and the man of sin shall fall before Michael and the Lord Himself, who shall appear as the Deliverer of His people (Da 12:1-3; Zec 14:3-9). Compare Mt 12:43. The Jewish nation dispossessed of the evil spirit, the demon of idolatry being cast out through the Babylonian captivity, receives ultimately a worse form of the evil spirit, Christ-opposing self-righteousness. Also, the Christian Church in course of time taken possession of by the demon of Romish idolatry, then dispossessed of it by the Reformation, then its house "garnished" by hypocrisy, secularity, and rationalism, but "swept empty" of living faith, then finally apostatizing and repossessed by "the man of sin," and outwardly destroyed for a brief time (though even then Christ shall have witnesses for Him among both the Jews, Zec 13:9, and Gentiles, Mt 28:20), when Christ shall suddenly come (Da 11:32-45; Lu 18:7, 8).

already—(2Jo 9, 10; Col 2:18-23; 1Ti 4:1); compare "even now already" (1Jo 2:18; 4:3) as distinguished from "in his own time" of being revealed hereafter. Antiquity, it appears from hence, is not a justification for unscriptural usages or dogmas, since these were "already," even in Paul's time, beginning to spring up: the written word is the only sure test. "Judaism infecting Christianity is the fuel; the mystery of iniquity is the spark." "It is one and the same impurity diffusing itself over many ages" [Bengel].

only he who now letteth will let—The italicized words are not in the Greek. Therefore, translate rather, "only (that is, the continuance of the MYSTERY of iniquity-working will be only) until he who now withholdeth (the same Greek as in 2Th 2:6) be taken out of the way." "Only (waiting, Heb 10:13) until he," &c. Then it will work no longer in mystery, but in open manifestation.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; the way was prepared by degrees for the man of sin, before he came actually to be revealed, or constituted in his complete existence; and this was by the working of the mystery of iniquity. A mystery is something in general which is abstruse, intricate, and not easily discerned. And there are mysteries in doctrine, and in practice; mysteries of godliness, and mysteries of iniquity; mysteries of the kingdom of God, and of the devil’s kingdom. So there are the deep things of God, 1 Corinthians 2:10, and the depths of Satan, Revelation 2:24. The mystery ushering in the man of sin is a mystery of iniquity. It is not open sin and wickedness, but dissembled piety, specious errors, wickedness under a form of godliness cunningly managed, that is here meant: see the book called The Mystery of Jesuitism, or the Provincial Letters. And it is a mystery that worketh; it doth exert and put forth itself, but secretly, as a mole which worketh under ground. And its working is not against the being, providence, and attributes of God, or natural religion; but to undermine Christianity in the peculiar doctrines, worship, and practice of it. In doctrines are brought in privily damnable heresies, 2 Peter 2:1. In worship, inventions and commandments of men, under pretences of greater reverence, devotion, and humility, Colossians 2:22,23. In practice, dispensations to moral impieties under colour of service to the catholic church. And this mystery, saith our apostle, already worketh; in the false doctrines of the false teachers of his time, in the traditions and inventions of men obtruding themselves into the worship of God in his time, in the affectation of pre-eminence in the church in his time, and making merchandise of the gospel in his time, and gain godliness; and in mingling philosophical notions with the simplicity of the gospel, and gratifying the flesh under a form of godliness, and pretence of gospel liberty. And it was not among the heathen, or the Jews, but among the professors of Christianity, that this mystery was then working, as I suppose the apostle meaneth. And when the man of sin was fully revealed all these corruptions did centre in him, as sinks in the common sewer; the lesser antichrists in the great antichrist.

Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way: the idolatries and persecutions of the heathen emperors must be taken out of the way, to make way for those that arise under a Christian, or rather antichristian, state, the dragon giving his seat, spirit, and power to the beast. And the power that was in the Roman emperor, whether heathen or Christian, must be taken out of the way to make room for the exaltation of this man of sin. For notwithstanding all corruptions; in doctrine, worship, or practice which might be introduced before, yet he is not fully revealed till he hath his jurisdiction and secular power also in his hand. And then this mystery of iniquity is arrived to its height; which St. John saw written in the forehead of the great whore, Revelation 17:5: Mystery, Babylon the great, & c., and which, some have said, was written anciently in the pope’s mitre.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work,.... Or "the mystery of that wicked one", as the Syriac; meaning either antichrist himself, and the spirit of antichrist, which were already in the world, 1 John 2:18, "mystery" being one of the names of antichrist, Revelation 17:5 and anciently this word was engraven on the mitres of the popes of Rome: or the evil doctrines and practices of antichrist may be intended; for as the doctrine of the Gospel is called a mystery, and the mystery of godliness; so the doctrines and practices of antichrist may be called the mystery of iniquity, especially as they were now secretly spread, imbibed, and practised: the foundations of it were now laying in the church by false teachers; for errors and heresies of every sort, respecting the person and offices of Christ, and in opposition to them, were now broached; idolatry, and holding communion with idolaters, now obtained; worshipping of angels was used by some; and superstition and will worship, worship after the commandments of men, were practised; days, and months, and years, distinguished by Jews and Pagans, and difference of meats, were observed; celibacy and virginity began to be admired and commended; dominion and magistracy were despised, and church authority contemned, and many, as Diotrephes, loved to have the pre-eminence; and the doctrine of justification by the works of the law was industriously spread, and zealously preached and received; all which laid the foundation, and are the life and soul of popery:

only he who now letteth, will let, until he be taken out of the way; that is, the Roman empire and Roman emperors, and which were by degrees entirely removed, and so made way for the revelation of this wicked one: and which was done partly by Constantine the emperor receiving the Christian faith, whereby the Roman empire as Pagan ceased; and by increasing the riches of the church, and feeding the pride, ambition, and covetousness of the bishops, especially the bishop of Rome; and next by removing the seat of the empire from Rome to Byzantium, which he called Constantinople: here the Greek emperors continued in succession, and neither they themselves, nor even their exarchs, resided at Rome, but at Ravenna; so that way was made for antichrist to come to his seat, and there was nothing to rival and eclipse the grandeur, power, and glory of the Roman popes: and that which let was also taken out of the way, by the division of the empire, by Theodosius, giving to his elder son Arcadius, the eastern, and to the younger, Honorius, the western parts of it: the eastern empire was in process of time seized upon and possessed by Mahomet and the Saracens; and the western empire was overrun by the Goths, Vandals, and Huns, and became extinct about the year 476, in Augustulus, the last of the Roman emperors, who was obliged to abdicate the government by Odoacer king of the Heruli; when the kingdom of the Lombards took place in Italy, and afterwards that was translated to Charles the great, king of the French; so that there was nothing more of the Roman empire remaining than the bare name, as at this day; and by this means the popes of Rome got to the height of their power and glory, which is meant by the revelation of the man of sin.

{6} For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: {7} only he who now {h} letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

(6) Even in the apostles time the first foundations of the apostolic seat were laid, but yet so that they deceived men.

(7) He foretells that when the empire of Rome is taken away, the seat that falls away from God will succeed and hold its place, as the old writers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain and interpret it.

(h) He who is now in authority and rules all, that is, the Roman Empire.

2 Thessalonians 2:7.[48] An explanatory justification of εἰς τὸ ἀποκαλυφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ, but not a parenthesis (Hemming). The mystery of wickedness is certainly even now active, but Antichrist cannot be manifest until the power preventing him be overcome.

μυστήριον] is contrasted with ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, and ἤδη with ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ. But the chief emphasis of the sentence lies on μυστήριον, which on that account is not only placed first, but is besides separated from its further definition τῆς ἀνομίας by the verb and adverb. Comp. Galatians 2:6; Galatians 2:9; Arrian, Exp. Al. i. 7. 16: καὶ εὑρέσθαι συγγνώμην τῷ πλήθει τῶν Θηβαίων τῆς ἀποστάσεως.

ἀνομία] means lawlessness, then ungodliness or wickedness generally. The expression corresponds to ἀποστασία, 2 Thessalonians 2:3. For the ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἁμαρτίας was mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as the historical crown of the ἀποστασία; whilst here, in like manner, ἀνομία appears as its forerunner (ἤδη). The genitive τῆς ἀνομίας is not a genitive of the working cause—wickedness, which lays its concealed snares (Theodoret), or which works under the appearance of good intentions, but uses secret unworthy means for its object (Flatt); or the plan of ungodliness (Baumgarten-Crusius); or the secret counsel of the supernatural power of darkness (κατʼ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ σατανᾶ, 2 Thessalonians 2:9), which is placed in parallelism with God’s eternal counsel or μυστήριον in reference to Christ and His kingdom (Kern); but is the genitive of apposition. But neither is Antichrist himself meant, who, as Christ, because God manifest in the flesh, is called in 1 Timothy 3:16 : τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον, is likewise named τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας, because he is an incarnation of the devil (Olshausen); nor is μυστήριον a mere intensification of the idea ἀνομία, so that a hitherto unheard of, unexampled godlessness was designated (Krebs, Hofmann, comp. also Heydenreich, p. 41, and Schott, p. 22).[49] Rather, taking into consideration the emphatic antithesis which ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ forms to ἈΠΟΚΑΛΥΦΘῆΝΑΙ, the natural meaning of the words can only be the mystery of wickedness, i.e. wickedness in so far as it is still a mystery, something concealed, not yet publicly brought to light. Paul thinks on the detached traces of wickedness, recognisable in their true import only to a few as to himself, which already appeared, but which only at a later period will concentrate themselves, and reach their climax in Antichrist.

ἐνεργεῖται] is not passive, as Estius, Grotius, Kypke, Nösselt, Storr, Schott, Bloomfield, and others assume, but middle, is active, begins to bestir itself or to develope its activity. The subject of ἐνεργεῖται is ΤῸ ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ, not Antichrist, as Zeger thinks.

ΜΌΝΟΝ] is still by Heinsius[50] and Kypke connected with the preceding, and separated from what follows by a comma. Erroneously, as μόνον is irreconcilable with ἬΔΗ in the same clause. But also ΜΌΝΟΝ does not begin a protasis to which ΚΑῚ ΤΌΤΕ, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, introduces the apodosis (Koppe). Rather a comma is to be put after ἈΝΟΜΊΑς, and a colon after ΓΈΝΗΤΑΙ. Accordingly 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is divided into two halves, of which the first forms a concession, and the second a limitation. The meaning is: as a mystery wickedness certainly works even now, only, before Antichrist can be manifested, we must wait until, etc.

ἕως] until that, should properly stand before ὁ κατέχων; but it is placed after, in order to bring forward more emphatically Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ as the chief idea. Comp. Galatians 2:10 : μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν. See Winer, p. 485 [E. T. 688]. Erroneously Tychsen: the construction is “somewhat distorted;” it should have been ΜΌΝΟΝ Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ ἝΩς ἌΡΤΙ. Others, equally erroneously, assume that for the completion of the sentence an additional verb is to be taken from the participle Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ. Thus, in conformity with the Vulgate (tantum ut qui tenet nunc, teneat, donec de medio fiat), Nicolas de Lyra, Erasmus, Zwingli, Zeger, Camerarius, Estius, Lucius and Andrew Osiander, Balduin, Menochius, Cornelius a Lapide, and others, who supply ΚΑΤΕΧΈΤΩ; Jac. Cappellus, Beza, Calixt, Joachim Lange, Whitby, who supply ΚΑΘΈΞΕΙ; Bengel, Storr, Pelt, who supply ΚΑΤΈΧΕΙ. Not less arbitrarily do Knatchbull, Benson, and Baumgarten proceed, who would add ἘΣΤΊΝ after ΜΌΝΟΝ. For not the mere copula ἐστίν, but the emphatic and independent ἔστιν, would warrant the sense assumed by them; but a word which has the emphasis cannot be left out.

ὁ κατέχων] must be essentially the same as what was designated in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 by the neuter τὸ κατέχον. For the same function is ascribed to both, whilst in a similar manner as τὸ κατέχον formerly, so now also Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ (comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:8) appears as that by which the ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙς of Antichrist is still delayed. The restraining power, on which Paul thought, must accordingly have been so constituted that it can be brought under a twofold form of description, and be represented both as a thing and as a person. To make ὁ κατέχων denote the ruling power (qui obtinet, i. e. rerum potitur, Beza, and so also Whitby, Noesselt, and others) is as contrary to the context as it would be to supply fidem as an accusative to it (Nicolas de Lyra: “qui tenet nunc fidem catholicam, teneat eam firmiter”), or fidem atque caritatem (Zeger), or Christum et veram ejus religionem (Estius), or Christi adventum (Vatablus), or τὴν ἀνομίαν (Flatt, Heydenreich, Schott), and the like.

ἌΡΤΙ] is closely connected with Ὁ ΚΑΤΈΧΩΝ, and brings specially forward the reference already contained in the present participle to the immediate present time of the writer. Schott, after Flatt and Pelt, thinks that if ἌΡΤΙ is to be limited to the time of the speaker, it is not suitable to the view of the apostle (see on 1 Thessalonians 4:15); that it may accordingly be understood generally: “tempus efficientiae ΤΟῦ ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝΤΟς opportunum, quod porro elapsurum sit ad initium usque temporis illi oppositi i. e. donec, remoto Τῷ ΚΑΤΈΧΟΝΤΙ, palam sit proditura Ἡ ἈΠΟΣΤΑΣΊΑ.

ἘΚ ΜΈΣΟΥ ΓΊΝΕΣΘΑΙ] is not necessarily to be considered of death or violence (Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius). It can denote any removal or being taken out of the way, however it may happen. Comp. 1 Corinthians 5:2; Colossians 2:14; Plutarch, Timol. p. 238: ἔγνω ζῆν καθʼ ἑαυτὸν ἐκ μέσου γενόμενος. The opposite of ἘΚ ΜΈΣΟΥ ΓΊΝΕΣΘΑΙ or ΑἼΡΕΣΘΑΙ is ἘΝ ΜΈΣῼ ΕἾΝΑΙ, to be in the way, or to be obstructive. Comp. Xenoph. Cyrop. v. 2. 26: καὶ σφόδρʼ ἂν εἴ πῃ γε δύναιντο συμμίξαι. Τί δʼ ἐν μέσῳ, ἔφη, ἐστὶ τοῦ συμμίξαι; Ἀσσύριοι, ἔφασαν, τὸ αὐτὸ ἔθνος, διʼ οὗπερ νῦν πορεύῃ.

[48] Comp. C. Th. Beyer, de κατέχοντι τὴν ἀνομίαν, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, commentatio, Lips. 1824.—J. Grimm, the κατέχων of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (Regensburger Lyceal-Programm), 1861.

[49] For this meaning an appeal is made to Joseph, de bello Jud. i. 24. 2 Thessalonians 1 : καὶ τὸν Ἀντιπάτρου βίον οὐκ ἂν ἁμάρτοι τις εἰπὼν κακίας μυστήριον.

[50] Heinsius finds the thought expressed: what was only begun in the time of Nero, Antichrist will at a later period bring to a conclusion.

2 Thessalonians 2:7. γὰρ, explaining οἴδατε. The κατέχων is a fact of present experience and observation, which accounts for the ἀνομία being as yet a μυστήριον, operating secretly, and not an ἀποκάλυψις. Paul does not say by whom (the ἄνομος himself?) the restraint is removed.—μόνον, the hiatus must be filled up with some phrase like “it cannot be manifested”. Its real character and full scope are not yet disclosed. For ἄρτι = νῦν, cf. Nägeli’s note in der Wortschätz des Apostels Paulus (36, 37), and for omission of ἄν, Blass, § 65, 10.

7. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work] Better, of lawlessness (R. V.)—same word as that we adopted from the marginal Revised reading of 2 Thessalonians 2:3; comp. “the lawless one,” 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

“Doth work,” i.e. is operative, or in operation. See note on “working,” 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

Lawlessness has indeed been “at work” ever since man fell from God by sin. But this “mystery of lawlessness” is surely some embodiment of the universal principle of sin which it has assumed in times recent to St Paul (“doth already work”), and which contained, in his belief, the germ and potency of the supreme revelation of evil reserved for the eve of Christ’s advent.

A mystery is not some secret knowledge or practice reserved to a select few, like the Mysteries of Greek Paganism; it is, in St Paul’s dialect, the counterpart of revelation, and the word here takes up again the “revealed” of 2 Thessalonians 2:6 : “until he be revealed, I say; for the mystery (the thing to be revealed) doth already work.” It denotes something by its nature above man’s knowledge, which can only be understood when and so far as God reveals it Comp. note on “revelation,” ch. 2 Thessalonians 1:7; also the various “mysteries” of Colossians 2:2-3; Ephesians 3:4-6; Romans 11:25, &c. So monstrous and enormous are the possibilities of sin in humanity, that with all we know of its present and past effects, the character of the Man of Lawlessness must remain beyond comprehension,—till he be “revealed in his season.”

only he who now letteth will let, untill he be taken out of the way] Again, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, there is a hiatus in the Greek, due perhaps to the excitement raised by the apparition of this awful personality in the writer’s mind. The R. V. completes the sense more simply and naturally: only there is one that restraineth now,—or, there is at present the Restrainer. “Let” has this sense in the Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, as often in old writers: “We are sore let and hindered in running the race set before us.”

On “the Restrainer” see note, 2 Thessalonians 2:6. It passes from neuter to masculine; while the thing restrained makes an opposite transition, and appears predominantly in a personal form (comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 with 7, and again with 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9). For the Apostle contemplates the power of Lawlessness in its ultimate manifestation, as embodied in some one human antagonist of Christ; whereas the restraint that delays his appearance is thought of rather as a general influence, or principle, which at the same time has its personal representatives. We prefer, therefore, to render St Paul’s phrase he that restraineth rather than one that restraineth; for it signifies not an individual, but a class.

Where then are we to look, amongst the influences prevalent in the Apostle’s time and known to his Thessalonian readers, for the check and bridle of Lawlessness? Where but to law itself (Staat und Gesetz Dorner)? The fabric of civil law and the authority of the magistrate formed a bulwark and break water against the excesses both of autocratic tyranny and of popular violence. For this power St Paul had a profound respect (see Romans 13:1-7). He was himself a citizen of Rome, and had reason to value the protection of her laws. (See Acts 16:35-39; Acts 22:23-29; Acts 25:10-12.) About this very time he found in the upright Proconsul, Gallio (brother of Seneca, the tutor and ill-fated “restrainer” of Nero), a shield from the lawlessness of the Jewish mob at Corinth; the Thessalonian “politarchs” at least tried to do him justice (Acts 17:5-9). We must distinguish between the laws of the Roman State and the personal power of the Emperor, whose despotism habitually trampled on the laws and yet was checked by them. Within a year of the writing of this letter Nero assumed the purple, who pushed the principle of lawless autocracy, the idolatry of a wicked human will, to lengths unimagined before. In Nero’s reign it seemed as though St Paul’s vision of the Man of Lawlessness were already realised. This monster of depravity, “the lion” of 2 Timothy 4:17, stood for the portrait of “the wild beast” of St John’s Apocalypse, which carries forward Paul’s image of the Lawless One, as the latter takes up Daniel’s conception of the godless king, impersonated In Antiochus Epiphanes. The absolutism of the bad Cæsars found, after all, its limit in the strong framework of civil legalism and the sense of public justice, native to the Latin race. Nero fell, and did not drag down Rome with him, nor bring about the final ruin. Wiser rulers and better times remained for the Empire. In the crisis of the 8th Century, “the laws of Rome saved Christianity from Saracen domination more than the armies … The torrent of Mohammedan invasion was arrested”—for 700 years. “As long as Roman law was cultivated in the Empire, and administered under proper control, the invaders of the Byzantine territory were everywhere unsuccessful” (Finlay, Hist. of Byzantine Empire, pp. 27, 28). Nor did Roman Law fall with the Empire itself, any more than it rose from it. It has been in spirit, and to a large extent in substance, the parent of the legal systems of Christendom. Meanwhile Cœarism survives, a legacy from Rome and a word of evil omen,—the title and model of illegal sovereignty.

The lawlessness of the world holds this “mystery” of St Paul In solution, ready to precipitate itself. It betrays itself in many partial and transitional manifestations, until “in its season” it shall crystallize into its complete expression. Let reverence for law disappear in public life, along with religious faith, and there is nothing to prevent a new Cæsar becoming master and god of the civilized world, armed with infinitely greater power.

2 Thessalonians 2:7. Γὰρ, for) Hereby is given the reason why he just before spoke of the revelation as still future [2 Thessalonians 2:6]. For there is subjoined μυστήριον, the mystery, which is already present.[16]—[17]ἐνεργεῖται, is at work) The verb is in the middle voice (as Romans 7:5), with the personification, indicating the most secret conduct of the enemy.—μόνον, only) This word shows, not the short continuance of the person, or power, “who holdeth back” the evil, nor the speedy full realization of the event, but the fact of the person or power who holdeth it back being the one and only check to its development. ἕως, until, presently after, denotes delay. The subject is, he, who now holdeth back [‘letteth’]: the predicate is elliptical, holdeth back, or continues to be in the way, till he be taken out of the way or ceases to exist, so that he can nowhere be a hindrance to the Iniquitous one [‘Wicked’]. The power of him that holdeth back, as a whole, possessed of authority [an authoritative whole], has been successively divided into many parts: and yet the Withholding power or person is but one.

[16] Beng. means, The revelation of it is still future; for (γὰρ), though it is in a sense already present and at work, it works now only as a mystery, not as a thing revealed.—ED.

[17] Ἤδη, already) It is the one and the same impurity, diffusing itself over many ages.—V. g.

Verse 7. - For the mystery. "Mystery" here denotes something which was unknown or secret before it was revealed (comp. Ephesians 3:3-5). So also one of the names of Babylon, the seat of the antichristian power, is Mystery (Revelation 17:3). Of iniquity; rather, of lawlessness; namely, this apostasy which shall precede the coming of the man of sin. The genitive here is that of apposition - "that mystery which is lawlessness," whose essence and sphere of operation is lawlessness. Doth already work; or, is already working. The mystery of iniquity even now works in secret; but the man of sin himself will not appear until the restraining power be removed. Even at the time the apostle wrote the seeds of apostasy were already sown; the leaven of lawlessness was fermenting inside Christianity; the foundations of a false Christianity were being laid. Thus the apostle warned the Ephesians that false teachers would arise from among themselves; to Timothy he writes of those perilous times which were then present; and, in his Epistles, mention is made of false practices and doctrines, such as the worship of angels, abstinence from meats, bodily mortifications, and the honour conferred on celibacy. So also John, in his First Epistle, refers to this working of this antichristian power when he says, "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists .... Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3). "Antichrist does not step on the scene suddenly without any preparations; on the contrary, a stream of anti-christian sentiment and conduct pervades the whole history of the world" (Olshausen). Only he that now letteth; or, restraineth, the old meaning of the word "let." Will let. These words are not in the original, and ought to be omitted. Until he be taken out of the way. The whole clause ought to be rendered, "The mystery of lawlessness is already working, only until he who restraineth is removed;" when that takes place, when the restraining influence is removed, the mystery of lawlessness will no longer work secretly, but will be openly manifested. 2 Thessalonians 2:7Mystery of iniquity (μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας)

Better, of lawlessness. The phrase is unique in N.T. and olxx. Mystery is found in various combinations, as mystery of the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 13:11 : of God, 1 Corinthians 2:1 : of his will, Ephesians 1:9 : of Christ, Ephesians 3:4 : of the gospel, Ephesians 6:19 : of faith, 1 Timothy 3:9 : of godliness, 1 Timothy 3:16 : of the seven stars Revelation 1:20 : of the woman, Revelation 17:7. A mystery does not lie in the obscurity of a thing, but in its secrecy. It is not in the thing, but envelops it. Applied to a truth, it signifies a truth once hidden but now revealed or to be revealed; a truth which without special revelation would be unknown. It is almost universally found in connection with words signifying publication or revelation. See on Matthew 13:11. The mystery of lawlessness is the mass of lawlessness yet hidden, but which is to reveal itself in the person and power of Antichrist. The position of the word is emphatic, emphasizing the concealed character of the evil power.

Only (μόνον)

The sentence is elliptical: "only we must wait," or "only it must work in secret, until he that letteth," etc. For a similar instance see Galatians 2:10. The collocation of A.V. is wrong.

Letteth (κατέχων)

The same word as restraineth, 2 Thessalonians 2:6. Let is old English for hinder, prevent. Often in Chaucer.

"May I him lette of that?" (prevent him from it).

Troil. and Cress. ii.732.

"And bothe in love y-like sore they brente (burned)

That noon or alle hir (their) frendes might hit lette."

Legend of Good Women, 731.

So Shakespeare:

"What lets but one may enter?"


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