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.
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 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.