The Mysteries of God Lesson #7
The Mystery of Iniquity 2 Thessalonians 2:7
That which Paul calls “the mystery of iniquity” is called “Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth” in Revelation 17:5. The Mystery of Iniquity and of Babylon is the wicked influence of freewill, works religion, as it is used by God to be an instrument of judgment upon those who receive not the love of the truth. This great mystery is can be understood only in the context in which it is revealed. It cannot be understood apart from that which is taught in 2 Thessalonians chapter two. In the seventeen verses of that chapter the apostle Paul, writing by Divine inspiration, teaches us five things that every believer needs to understand. Here are five facts that we need to be keenly aware of at all times.
1. THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS COMING AGAIN (vv. 1-2). Paul himself had written to the Thessalonians, assuring them and us of Christ’s glorious second advent and of the gathering together of God’s elect unto him in the last day (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13-17) and of the believer’s responsibility to watch and be sober in anticipation of Christ’s coming (1 Thess. 5:1-11). However, someone had perverted Paul’s teachings and writings. They claimed to have been inspired by the Spirit of God, to have received another word from God, and to have had a new letter from Paul stating that “the day of Christ is at hand.” They taught that the Lord Jesus would be coming for certain in a matter of days, weeks, or months at the longest. In so doing, they troubled and distressed the saints. Do not imagine that these believers at Thessalonica were not anxious for Christ’s coming. They were (1 Thess. 1:10). But being told Christ is certain to come within a given time frame, these men and women were disturbed about their daily responsibilities, and relationships. Perplexing questions arose in their minds. If Christ is coming right now, what are we to do? How are we to live?
While we should live upon the tiptoe of faith, anticipating and expecting the Lord’s immediate return (Tit. 2:13), no one knows when the Lord Jesus will come again (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32; Acts 1:7). We are given absolutely no indication in Scripture as to the time, not even in a general sense, when the Lord is coming again. We are never taught, since our Lord’s ascension, to look for signs of his coming, but simply to live constantly in the anticipation of his coming. Not knowing the time of Christ’s coming, it is our responsibility to live, labor, and witness as though the Lord may not come for another two thousand years. Yet we are here told that…
2. TWO GREAT EVENTS MUST AND SHALL PRECEDE THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST (vv. 3-10). "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." There are no physical signs that will precede Christ’s coming: The regathering of Israel as a nation means nothing spiritually. Even if they should begin the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem, it would have absolutely no spiritual significance. God’s church is his Israel and his temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Gal. 3:29; 6:16).
There are no physical, material signs to indicate the time immediately preceding the Lord’s return. To the unbeliever Christ will come as a thief in the night. However, there are two spiritual signs that only those who are born again and taught of God can see. First, there will be an apostasy, a general falling away, from the revealed truth of God, a common denial by the professed church of those very truths upon which it has been built. Then, the man of sin must be revealed. He is revealed not to the world, but to the saints of God. He is revealed to us by the apostasy he causes. Yet, these two things happen so gradually that God’s saints in every age are kept in anticipation of the Lord’s return (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 1 John 4:1-3; 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:7).
Carefully observe what Paul says about this system of religion that is opposed to God. He is called the “Man of Sin” because the religion of antichrist is a religion of lawlessness and rebellion to authority. He is called “The Son of Perdition” because all who follow him are doomed. This system of religion is all freewill, works religion; it is the exaltation of man in the place of God (v. 4).
The greatest religious deception the world has ever known is modern, free-will, works, decisional religion. It is already working (v. 7). It is hindered now by the Spirit of God (v. 7). Thank God, it shall be destroyed; Babylon shall fall (v. 8; Rev. 13: 18; 19). The religion of the beast, of the false prophet, of antichrist, and of Babylon is so impressive, subtle, and deceptive that all the world, except for God’s elect, embrace it (vv. 9-10; Rev. 13:8).
I repeat myself and stress deliberately the fact that any and all forms of religion which make salvation to be, in any measure, dependent upon or determined by the will, works, or worth of man is antichrist. It matters not what name it wears, though it claims its place in the temple of God, it is antichrist. God demands a complete separation from and renunciation of all false, works religion (2 Cor. 6:14 - 7:1; Rev. 18:4).
3. THESE TWO GREAT EVENTS (THE APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH AND THE REVELATION OF THE MAN OF SIN) ARE ACTS OF DIVINE JUDGMENT UPON A REPROBATE PEOPLE (vv. 10-12). When men and women hear the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ and receive it not, they court divine reprobation (Prov. 1:23-33). And the surest path to destruction and eternal ruin is false religion (Isa. 28:14-20). Without question, these are days of spiritual famine (Amos 8:11-12). Religion is everywhere; but there is a famine for the bread and water of spiritual truth. In these days of heresy and apostate, false religion, God’s elect are made manifest (1 Cor. 11:19) by the fact that they will not embrace the vile, base religion of antichrist. They are not deceived by free-will, works religion. Christ’s sheep will not hear the strange voice of Arminianism in any form. They will not follow the stranger into the pit of works religion. They will not be forced by the flattering voice of the strange woman (Pro. 7), who has intoxicated the world with the wine of her fornications (Rev. 18:1-4).
4. GOD’S ELECT CANNOT BE DECEIVED AND DESTROYED BY THE APOSTASY AND THE MAN OF SIN (vv. 13-14). Can you imagine the shouts of joy that must have gone up in Thessalonica the first time that congregation heard the blessed words of verses 13-14? "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (14) Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." In these two verses, Paul describes the 144,000, the fixed number of God’s elect who are sealed and must be saved. Here are five aspects of God’s saving grace that all his elect experience:
· Election - “God hath from the beginning chosen you!”
· Regeneration - “Salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.”
· Faith - “Belief of the Truth.’
· Effectual Calling - “Whereunto he called you by our gospel.”
· Glorification - “To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God’s elect cannot be deceived with the world. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9).
5. HAVING SAID ALL THAT, PAUL CONCLUDES THIS CHAPTER BY TELLING US THAT THESE DARK, DARK DAYS OF DIVINE JUDGMENT ARE DAYS OF HOPE FOR GOD’S ELECT AND CALL FOR STEADFAST, PERSEVERING FAITH AMONG THOSE WHO BELIEVE GOD (vv. 15-17). We must steadfastly hold the traditions, the doctrines we have been taught from the Word of God (v. 15; 2 Tim. 1:9-13). While all the world opposes those glorious gospel truths which lay at the very foundation of our faith (Total Depravity - Unconditional Election - Limited Atonement - Irresistible Grace - Perseverance of the Saints), we must uphold them and proclaim them. Why shouldn’t we? In the midst of an apostate generation, sinners trusting Christ alone as Savior and Lord, have a good hope through grace (v. 16). Our hope is in the free, everlasting, distinguishing love of God (Jer. 31:3). The consolation of our souls is the Person and work of Christ as our Surety, Substitute, and Savior. We rest our souls upon the grace of God alone, that grace that is ours in Christ. Electing grace! Redeeming grace! Saving grace! May God himself give you the comfort and strength of his free grace, known and experienced in Christ (v. 17).
 This man of sin is not a man, but a system of religion. Antichrist is not one person, but all religion that robs God of his glory as God and as the only Savior of his people. Without question, it includes papacy. Yet, it is a very serious mistake to limit antichrist to the papacy. Every form of Arminian, free-will, works religion is antichrist.