The Coming and the Day of the Lord: Part 5

2 Thessalonians 2:1‑2  •  26 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Beware, brother, of a zeal not according to knowledge! Have you not too good reason to pause and consider yourself, when you compare the heavenly side of Christ's future presence to “a new god newly come up”? On the face of things we go up, not to the “old paths” of O.T. prophecy, but to the apostolic and prophetic revelations of the N. T., where alone specifically Christian truth is brought fully out. Meet, if you can, the clear indications of Christ's presence in these distinct aspects, as we gather from a full induction and a careful study of God's word. We do not expect help from Christendom as it was and is. It is not we that forget the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to lead into all the truth; still less take refuge in such dumb or blind guides, as the post-apostolic fathers, who were either altogether silent on the great and distinctive privileges of the Christian and the church, or fell into exclusively Jewish hopes with grotesque exaggeration, in denial of all the prophets' testimony to the restoration of Israel, the center of all the nations in their due place of blessing. Everything brought in since the apostles is a novelty which we repudiate, far more decidedly than such as proclaim themselves our adversaries and manifest a spirit both unreasonable and implacable. Why should our pointing to the heavenly truth they ignore sting them to such childish wrath?
Again, let us consider the testimony which 2 Thess. 1 renders. It is certain that here is the execution and display of the Lord's retributive judgment. The aim was to make known the general character of the day, before taking up and refuting the false teaching that the day of the Lord was arrived, as in chap. ii. 2. The apostle boasts in them, as he says, in the churches of God for their endurance and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations they were sustaining. This he calls a manifest token of God's righteous judgment to the end of their being counted worthy of His kingdom, for the sake of which they also suffer; “if at least it is a righteous thing with God to award tribulation to those that trouble you, and to you that are troubled rest with us [who were no less fellow-sufferers], at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven.” This implies, of course, His presence; but it says more; it will be His unveiling, after being hidden from view, His heavenly saints being already with Him. For His revelation is described as with angels of His power, in flaming fire taking vengeance on two classes, those that know not God, and those that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus [Christ]; “who are such as shall pay as penalty everlasting destruction from the Lord's face and from the glory of His might, when He shall have come [not to receive His own to Himself, but] to be glorified in His saints and wondered at in all that believed (for our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.”
Such is the character of “that day “: not sovereign grace in associating saints with Himself for heaven and the Father's house, but righteous requital on both sides of friends and foes, to the wicked trouble, and repose to saints whom they once troubled. The trouble now would be vengeance of flaming fire on unbelieving Gentiles and Jews, excluded forever from the Lord's face, and from the glory of His might. But at the selfsame time the Lord will have come to be glorified in His saints and to be wondered at in all that believed. His saints, all that believed, come with Him.
It is not said, we may just observe, “in all them that believe “: this is a vulgar error. No doubt a great harvest of blessing would begin on earth, not for Israel only but for all the nations. Here it is all the saints who come with the Lord in that day. The lost had no excuse. There had been full testimony; and the Thessalonians by grace had profited and would share in that display of glory. Part in that hope to which we are called, and in that faith of the unseen which accompanies it, was closed; though there would be exceptional favor to the Apocalyptic saints who are to suffer death for Jesus subsequently. Henceforward it would be for the world to “know” that the Father sent the Son and loved those heavenly ones as He loved Christ (John 17:2323I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)). For the world would see Christ and His own in the same displayed glory. 2 Thess. 2:3-123Let 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; 4Who 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, showing himself that he is God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8And 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: 9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3‑12) gives us the awful introduction which brings on that day; for this was the subject, not the Lord's coming which was a motive to cheer, but His day.
This display of judgment coalesces with the narrower application to Israel given in Matt. 24 It is about the same time. No one cavils at its being “seen” as the lightning, or would weaken its plainly expressed meaning. And 1 Thess. 5 pronounces it “sudden destruction.” It will be both “sudden” and “seen.” But it wholly differs from 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, 151Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51‑52)
1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (1 Corinthians 15:1)
Thess. 4:16, 17, and Jude 2424Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (Jude 24), where indisputably we are given the previous dealing of the Lord's grace, that when He will thus come in public judgment of His living enemies, the heavenly saints might accompany Him in manifest rest and glory before all eyes. No one is entitled to imagine lightning or flaming fire when the Bridegroom comes for His bride. Any such judicial terms or thoughts are then and there entirely absent. Those who foist them in are without the smallest justification. To everything there is a season; a time to love, and a time to hate. Invincible disproof appears elsewhere; but this we need not anticipate. It is enough here to say that there is no evidence for any such incongruous mixture. It is the unfounded assumption, not to say the gross interpolation, of an unsound hypothesis, the essence of which is an effort to exclude the first heavenly joy, and reduce all to the earthly expectation of the godly Jewish remnant of the future, which will be gratified in “that day,” when the sons of God are revealed, yea the Firstborn among many brethren, to the deliverance of the whole creation groaning and travailing together in pain till then (Rom. 8:19, 2119For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)
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“The revolt” goes farther and deeper than thought the Reformers and their followers since, who were limited by the pressure of the enormities of Romanism. The apostle discloses a still more guilty and rebellious reality still future. The apostasy means, on the part of Christendom, Protestants as really as Papists, the coming abandonment of all revealed truth. It far exceeds the departure of “some” “from the faith,” as we read in the earlier verses of 1 Tim. 4 This was realized first in Gnostic folly, and yet more in the determined, durable, and systematic departure of Romanism. 2 Tim. 3:1-91This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. (2 Timothy 3:1‑9) (though, like the former express saying of the Spirit, having its application then when written, it bore yet more distinctly on the independent and heady self-assertion of Protestants) was still far short of the apostasy, when all form of godliness will be discarded with scorn.
But the man of sin revealed, the son of perdition, issues from the apostasy, and is its crown of shame. All of old admitted that he is the antichrist of John, though most confound him with the first Beast of the Revelation, the head of the civil power in defiance of God at that day; whereas he is clearly the quasi-religious but really most irreligious chief that rivals Christ's position, no longer as Priest (which is exactly the Pope's atrocious pride), but as Prophet and King. He has accordingly not seven horns and seven eyes (the seven Spirits of God), nor even three, but “two horns like a lamb.” Nor need we wonder at the common confusion; for these two Beasts equally cast off God and slay His saints, and are as closely allied as their great enemies, the final Assyrian or king of the north, and Gog, Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, who sustains his ally, foes to the emperor of the west, and the willful king that is to reign in the land. It is not surprising that when grace wrought to deliver nations and countries from the wickedness and domineering of the Popes, those who took part in that great movement and suffered not a little should have it to be the predicted lawless one; for Popery was then the worst evil in Christendom, the most offensive to God in all the earth, as any can see if he weigh the denunciation of the great harlot in Rev. 17, 18.
Still even there it is apparent, that this corrupt, cruel, and idolatrous system is expressly “a mystery,” the loathsome counterpart of Christ's bride, and quite distinct from, though long associated with, the Beast or imperial power and its vassals, who at last turn against her in hatred, strip, devour, and burn her It will be no longer the mystery of lawlessness then, of which she when she sits a queen is so great a part. The man of sin will next be revealed, and the Beast and the willing kings, of whom the False Prophet is the director in that day. Here it is that the Protestant commentators, like the Fathers, fall so short of the written word as to the future. One has the fullest sympathy with their conscience awakened to judge and quit the iniquities, pretensions, and horrors of Popery. But they were notoriously ill versed either in the church's heavenly character, in the Christian hope as well as worship, and in the prophetic word, yet worthy of exceeding love for their work, their faith, and their sufferings.
Some of the Popes were monsters of impurity, deceit, and cruelty; others of egregious worldly-mindedness, and political ambition, and of outrageous vanity and pride. Others were reputable persons, and some few of piety when days were dark and evil. It is therefore untrue that they could be all fairly called “the man of sin, the son of perdition.” Scripture never speaks in terms of exaggeration. Nor does such a moral description, any more than the ominous repetition of the traitor's doom, suit a succession. They point to a person surpassing all others since the world began, in the crisis of the present evil age, reserved for condign punishment at our Lord's appearing. An office as a king or priest, admits of a succession; but here it is a person emphatically distinct and alone.
This is confirmed by the words of verse 4, “That opposeth and exalteth himself against (or, above) all that is called God or object of veneration, so that he should himself sit down in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” The lawless one is to be a sinner beyond sinners, the man of sin, and affecting to be God, claiming the honor of the Supreme on earth, in His temple, not in mere earthly things, or personal vain glory, like Herod in Acts 12. The Christ who was God became on earth a bondman to glorify His God and Father at all cost. It is a mere imposture for the Pope to dub himself vicar of Christ, and head of the church on earth, while acknowledging formally the Lord in heaven. But for this reason he does not fulfill the arrogant self-exaltation of this adversary, who raises himself above all that is called God or object of religious veneration. And the temple of God literally, in Jerusalem before the age ends, will fall in with his blasphemous claim; for many of the Jews will be back there in unbelief, whilst a godly remnant hold aloof and flee as the Lord directed. It is not well to pare down scripture to pile the agony against the Pope; and it is a danger for men who are not papists to exclude the extreme pit of destruction as only for others to their own peril.
Hence it appears that though the apostasy is the starting point, the man of sin revealed is a great advance of an audacious and unbounded impiety under Satan's power, to which the total abandonment of the Christian revelation leaves the door open. Grace scorned and Christ the gift of God for sinful men utterly derided, the man of sin follows; man not only without God, but ignoring and spurning all divine restraint; atheistic lawlessness denying sin and wallowing in it without shame or fear. As God was Himself in Christ, the image of Him who abides invisible, the man of sin will be His personal adversary, exalting himself above all that is called God or object of veneration. “Who is the liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:2222Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22)). Though beginning as a false Christ, at last He will flout the hope of Israel, no less than the Christian testimony. As the culmination of the extreme pitch of defiance, in claiming to be God supreme, he seats himself in the temple of God. Thus apostate Judaism amalgamates in that hour with Christian apostasy; and the first temptation for man to become as God ends in the lie of man ousting God and showing forth himself to be God in His very temple.
As for the alleged difficulty raised on the sitting of the man of sin in the temple of God on Mount Moriah at the end of the age, it is essential to bear in mind that the apostle here incorporates the testimonies of two prophets who treat of Jewish iniquity at that very time. The first of these, Dan. 11:36-3936And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. 39Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36‑39), is explicit of the place. It is no other than the land of Juda. The second, Isa. 11:44But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4), is equally clear that he is the “lawless one” destined to his awful doom at the breath of the lips of Jehovah Jesus. Into neither scripture can one foist Christendom. Haggai also enables us to see that, whatever be the iniquity, destruction, or renewal, the house of Jehovah has its unity to the ear of faith. “Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith Jehovah; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high-priest I will fill this house with glory, saith Jehovah of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith Jehovah of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith Jehovah of hosts” (2:3-9). Neither the hostile Antiochus IV. nor the evil patronage of the Idumean Herod, nor the blasphemous self-deification of the antichrist, destroys God's title and rights. It is His house throughout, whatever the faithlessness of His people, and the seeming triumph of Satan meanwhile; and the end will be glorious and permanent, and forever.
The apostle predicts a time when the church will have been gathered on high, the Jew and the once professing church becoming alike apostate, and the man of sin revealed, the awful contrast of His revelation, who, though true God, became the most humbled bondman for our redemption to the glory of God. Thus there is no real difficulty in the lawless one seating himself in the Jewish temple to show off as God. This is very different from the pretended successor of Peter, the spurious Vicar of Christ, and hypocritical servant of God's servants; nor is there the least ground in God's word to call St. Peter's at Rome, the house of God, or to allow that the Pope so sits in Christendom as a whole, seeing that half or more utterly reject his assumption. Again, while succession is quite allowable in the office of a king or a priest, it is quite excluded from the description of a personage so unique as “the man of sin,” “the son of perdition,” the lawless one here portrayed, no less than his awful end. But is it not plain on the face of our chapter that the lawless one opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped? This the most aspiring of the Popes never did on any fair interpretation of their words and deeds, however dissolute and flagitious in life, however arrogant and ambitious in sacerdotal or secular power. Many and various antichrists there have been; but they all point to one individual at the end, who as here written will surpass every person that preceded in impious and audacious setting up to be God in His own house, Jew and Gentiles uniting to worship him as they did of old to crucify the true King of Israel, yea the true God incarnate.
But from apostolic days the germs were sown and actually there, which were to bear these fatal fruits when the divine restraint (6, 7) should be removed, and the season come for their full display. The departure in the churches of Galatia from the sovereign grace of God that saves sinners was an early stage in declension. So was at a later day Satan's effort at Colosse to interpolate philosophy, the principle of Gentiles, and religious ordinance, the principle of Judaism, between Christ the head and the members of His body; for both principles struck a death-blow at Christ's union with the church. Other evils already noticed in the two Epistles to Timothy contributed their quota; and so did that slipping back or away, of which Heb. 6 and x. treat; which, if yielded to, could only end in apostasy and irremediable ruin. How could it be otherwise, if those, who had in any measure enjoyed the effects of the Holy Spirit's presence, or who had owned Christ's sacrifice and eternal redemption, renounced that only salvation of God's grace and power? All this was but the mystery of “lawlessness” at work, which when the apostles were gone rushed on to greater ungodliness, with tradition, human and angelic mediators, Mariolatry, transubstantiation, earthly priesthood, the mass, the confessional, relics, Papal assumption, and all the other, heterodoxies and horrors of Rome.
Yet will the end be still worse, not corruption but rebellion against God bold and open, as our chapter intimates. For the Popes confess their sins to a priest, and worship God, Christ, with the Virgin, &c. The Popes enjoin worship divine, and human in varying degrees, to save appearances. How can fairminded men say (in the face of such worship of God, wretched as it is, with abundant idolatry) that they oppose and exalt themselves above all that is called God or object of veneration? How contend or conceive that this rather polytheistic character of Popery agrees with setting up self in the temple of God, showing forth one's self as God?
One could not expect the men who took the Protestant view to know that the Restrainer will be out of the way only when the saints are translated, in whom Be dwells individually and collectively; and then the temple of God will be no longer on earth in a spiritual sense. Nay, some little after that, He ceases to act in ordaining the powers that be. Satan's brief season will then come, and the season proper to the revelation of the lawless one, the man of sin. Dan. 11:36-3936And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. 39Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36‑39) is plain and positive proof that his field of operation is “the glorious land “; and it is no less plain that the apostle applies that prophecy to the personage he here describes for his blasphemous self-exaltation and self-deification above every object of reverence or worship, real or false. It is also equally plain that he applies Isa. 11:44But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4) to the Lord's slaying him with the breath of His mouth, the true reading of ver. 4. This again confirms the locality of this wicked person. It has nothing whatever to do with the church or professing Christendom; for all that will either be gone, or have sunk into the apostasy and the blasphemous worship of man as God. All these texts explain why the daring apotheosis will be in the temple of God in Jerusalem. There the blessed Spirit came down and filled all the confessors of the Lord Jesus. At this time He will be clean gone; and Satan will have filled his minion, the antichrist, worshipped as God in the temple by Jews and Gentiles banded against the true God. But the Reformers and their descendants have been slow to believe the prophets, being absorbed in the urgent questions of Popery, and hence indisposed to allow the uprise of an evil even more appalling than that which was the worst then extant.. Who can wonder at this? But the revival of the true hope has given a great impulse to the prophetic word also, so that the truth of the future has shone out brightly in precision and full extent according to scripture.
But one error leads to many more, as for instance to the unsound interpretation that prevailed and still does among Protestants that “consuming with the spirit of His mouth” means the gradual and gracious work of the gospel; whereas it is solely the Lord's immediate and destructive action at His appearing, as the last clause of Isa. 30:33Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. (Isaiah 30:3) may convince the most stubborn, if there be subjection to scripture. The gospel is certainly not like a stream of brimstone, which destroys judicially.
Though it cannot be drawn from the words of the text that the apostle had explained to the saints the details of the restraint and the restrainer, yet it is not improbable that he told them of these things also. What he says is, “And now,” i.e., since things are so, as he had set out in vers. 3, 4, “ye know that which restraineth as to his (the man of sin's) being revealed in his own season.” God raised a barrier meanwhile. “For the mystery of lawlessness already worketh: only [there is] he that restraineth at present, until he be gone out of the way.” Every saint ought to know Who that mighty agent is, now here below, to resist the overflow of Satan's power. It may be that the apostle taught those young believers who He is in a general way. Assuredly they to whom “our gospel” came, not in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance, should of themselves be conscious that neither the church nor any world-power could avail to keep down the frightful energy of Satan if let loose to do his worst.
That the church has the chief place as an instrument of that restraint, they might readily conceive who had just experienced God's power in gathering to Christ's name in truth, peace, and love, Jews and Gentiles that believed on Jesus, notorious for implacable hostility, especially in the religious domain. How could there be that renunciation of this grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ as long as He was here? Is not God's house on earth, a living God's assembly, pillar and basement of the truth? As long as such a witness of the mystery of godliness bore up, Satan could not force his scheme to efface or trample down the truth, and set up undisputed his lie.
The empire too had its authority from God, as the apostle Paul in particular and indeed all the apostles were careful to affirm, whatever its abuse in the hands of its head; and never was a more extravagantly wanton one than when the Epistle to the Roman saints laid subjection down as the Christian's duty. But even then it was enjoined in terms so broad as to cover all change in the form of government. “Those that be” are set up by God. As long as this authority from God subsists, believers were bound to respect and be subject, not only for wrath but also for conscience. It was not merely the empire but any government divinely! sanctioned. Satan they knew could not set up his man of sin supremely, as long as there were rulers in God's providence. It is not likely that these young saints were instructed in the possible control of the Spirit governmentally for a while after the rapture of the saints, till the last half-week of the Seventy of Daniel, when all restraint ceases, and the dragon in a great rage and knowing his short season, begins the final campaign of this evil age on the earth given up to his worst.
There is an element in the restraint far more direct and influential as well of nearer interest, which seem to have escaped the tradition-mongers old and new. For the Spirit of God has in the church a most special and congenial sphere of loving care and continual action personally in connection with the Father and the Son. To it He has imparted unity, constituting believers, Jew or Greek, the one body of Christ; as also by His indwelling He makes it God's house or habitation. No factor in the barrier against the antichrist is so decided as this, which has been ordinarily left out of the account, because the real and exceptional character of the church was so quickly lost by all of old, and is in general so little apprehended still. He is here acting in power according to Christ's victory over Satan, not only in life, but in redemption. Who but the Spirit could adequately restrain Satan? He made use externally of an earthly government and yet more the church; yet who but He working on earth could be the real restrainer? Of course the Holy Spirit has no such close or intimate relation to any world-power. Yet when the Roman governor talked of his having authority to crucify as well as to release, the Lord told him what to the Gentile that knew not God must have sounded strange, but is the truth, Thou hadst no authority against Me except it were given thee from above. The powers that be are ordained by God, and the Spirit is the agent in their unsuspected control also; so that, however godless the nations or their rulers may be, the issue is by His determinate counsel and foreknowledge; and the Jews and their rulers, because in unbelief they knew not their own Messiah, fulfilled also the voices of the prophets, read every sabbath, by condemning Him.
His presence in the church then, as long as it is here, is much the weightiest part in that restraint; and thus Satan cannot go beyond “the mystery of lawlessness,” while the great mystery as respects Christ and as respects the church is being carried on. Hence the man of sin cannot be revealed till his own season shall have come: the restrainer forbids it. When that heavenly work is completed on earth, and the last member of Christ's body in his place, the Lord will come and receive to Himself not only them but all that were His from the very first. Though the rapture will close that peculiar association here, the Holy Ghost will still act for a time as He did before Pentecost, as it appears, spiritually and governmentally. Both Jews and Gentiles, not then joined in one body as now, will be brought to a saving knowledge of the truth, as is plainly taught, where above all we might expect it, in the Revelation; which also discloses the later epoch, when for the first time in the history of man not God but Satan ordains the Roman empire in its last and fatal form, and empowers the False Prophet, who shall reign as king in the holy land (Dan. 11:36-3936And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. 39Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36‑39), doing his own will, as Christ ever and only His Father's will.
These are the proofs and marks that the Restrainer will be then and there clean gone (ἐκ μεσοῦ γένηται).
Almost all versions unwittingly add to the word here. For it is not said “taken,” as might well be of an earthly power, or person, that does not vacate but is forcibly removed (ἀρθῇ). Not so the true Restrainer, behind all the visible and varying forms of the restraint; He goes of Himself, and quits the scene, judicially left open for a while to Satan's abominable pride and mischief. It means “till he become out of the way,” which as I believe precisely suits the Holy Spirit. But it suits no other person so well; still less that traditional impediment, of which some are confident still, though evidently long falsified by the event. Yet the Fathers, who furnished that tradition, looked for the personal antichrist, whom the Lord Jesus personally is to destroy. And so Dean Alford and Bp. Ellicott, &c., concede in deference to the terms of plain and positive scripture.
Observe another plain disproof of the application to Popery in vers. 9, 10, however earnestly able and pious men have argued to that effect. The true force points to an evil not yet accomplished and far more tremendous in the personal antichrist. “Whose presence (or, coming) is according to the energy of Satan in every power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and in every deceit of unrighteousness to those that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” For it is a very mistaken enfeebling of that awful fact then allowed to Satan in an exceptional way, that they are the mere juggling tricks of a deceitful priesthood, or “lying wonders” as in the A. & R. Vv.
As the Lord will manifest His presence in overwhelming power and glory, so will the presence of the lawless one be according to Satan's energy in every form of power and signs and wonders of falsehood to deceive and destroy. The same incredulity which refused the evidence of God's power and truth in Christ will fall under Satan's lie in these powers and prodigies. They are superhuman. Wonders were wrought to a certain point by Pharaoh's magicians; as in another way we see surprising effects by natural agents in Job's trials. But here similar language is employed about the man of sin, as the apostle Peter used about the Righteous One (Acts 2:2222Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: (Acts 2:22)). They were real miracles to promote falsehood, not pretended ones; and the issue will be, not only his own perdition, but the deceiving of all his abettors to ruin everlasting, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. His lie, the deceit of unrighteousness, was incompatible with salvation by Christ and the truth. They all perish without doubt: is it so with every Papist? I dare not so say.