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What Is the Mystery of Iniquity?

"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed . . . even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. 2 Thessalonians 2:7-9.

"For they are spirits of devils,working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Revelation 16:14.

To assist your study of this most intriguing topic on the "mystery of iniquity" we provide an outline containing the full Bible text under consideration, a list of key points gleaned from these verses, some important questions to be answered, and then examine these texts from the Greek meaning of the key words, and from historical fact.

The Revealing of "That Wicked"

The King James Version Bible text:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12:— 1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 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. 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; 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. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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: 9 even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 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. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Examining Key Points:

  1. Early church believed that the second coming of Christ was soon to come to pass
    (see 2 Thess. 2:1-2)
  2. Paul told them the second coming couldn't take place until AFTER wickedness was fully revealed
    (vss. 3-4)
  3. Something was hindering the full revealing of "that Wicked" in Paul's day (vss. 6-7)
  4. Paul gave clues about how to identify "that Wicked" (vss. 8-9)
  5. "That Wicked" involved loving unrighteousness and believing and promoting lies about God's character (vss. 10-12)

Important Questions:

  1. What is involved in the "falling away"?
  2. Who is the "man of sin" and the "son of perdition"?
  3. What is the "mystery of iniquity" that Paul identified?
  4. What was preventing ("letteth will let") the revealing of this power?
  5. What had to be "taken out of the way" before the power could be revealed?
  6. By what power will this "wicked" be enabled to do its work in deceiving the world?

Examining the Greek for Clues:

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4: (cf: Daniel 7:25; 8:10-12; Matthew 24:15; John 17:12)

  1. "Falling away" — apostasia = defection, apostasy
  2. "That man" — anthropos = indefinite word describing a member of the human race
    (someone or "a one")
  3. "Of sin" — harmartia = straying from the Law of God
  4. "Be revealed" — apokalupto = disclosing, making manifest for all to see
  5. "Son of Perdition" — huios aploeia = inheritor of destruction or ruin (perishable)
  6. "Opposes and exalts self above all" — antikeimai kai huperairomai epi pas = adversary and power raised up over some other power ("lifted up")
  7. "Sitting in the temple of God" — kathizo naos theos = residing or abiding in the place of God
  8. "Showing himself to be God" — apodeiknumi = revealing by declaration, evidential proof, or teaching

Examining Historical Evidence for Clues:

  1. At the time Paul wrote these words, there already was persecution of Christians because they refused to exalt the caesar of Rome as a god above all men
  2. The monarchy (caesars) ceased in western Rome by A.D. 476 when Odoacer, barbarian king of the Heruli, captured the city of Rome and removed from power the boy monarch (Romulus Augustulus, son of General Orestes who had placed him on the throne in place of Julius Nepos), thus signaling the end of the western segment of the pagan Roman political empire; Odoacer ruled over Italy and Rome until A.D. 493
  3. Roman crown was returned to Zeno, emperor of the eastern half of the Roman Empire (A.D. 474-491); who became emperor of Constantinople by inheriting the throne upon the death of his young son (Leo II), who had inherited the throne from his maternal grandfather (Leo I)
  4. Odoacer refused to be a puppet king to the eastern emperor, and revolted; Zeno made peace with the Ostrogoths by appointing their king, Theodoric, to be king of Italy (A.D. 488), thus usurping the throne from Odoacer; Theodoric began a campaign against Odoacer in A.D. 489 and finally captured and killed him in A.D. 493; Theodoric established a national monarchy at Rome, which in essence absorbed the Heruli and destroyed them as a separate people
  5. With the political fighting taking place in Italy, the bishop of Rome was left to his own devices to maintain the integrity of the local church (western branch of Christianity)
  6. During all this time there was continuous religious disputing taking place regarding certain theological points, such as the nature of Christ and the "trinity" (Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325; Antioch, 341; Council of Sirmium, 347; Council of Constantinople, 381; Council of Ephesus, 431- 449; Council of Chalcedon 451; etc.)
  7. By A.D. 530 Emperor Justinian (ruled 527–565; from the eastern half of the crumbling Roman Empire), determined to wage holy war against all the Arian tribes, first destroying the Vandals in 534; (in 533–534 Belisarius, general for the Eastern emperor conquered Vandal Africa;) then the Ostrogoths in 538; during this time, in 533, Justinian issued a decree that the bishop at Rome was head of the western church districts and the "corrector of all heretics" giving the bishop at Rome absolute power over the western half of the empire
  8. Papal Rome began to rise to power as pagan Rome was receding (beginning in A.D. 476), with the bishop of Rome taking prominence in the political world by A.D. 508 when Clovis, king of the Franks, swore allegiance to the bishop of Rome (Clovis had already conquered the Alemanni [in A.D. 496], the Burgundians [in A.D. 500], and the Visigoths [in A.D. 507])
Mystery of Iniquity Part I Mystery of Iniquity part II

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