When we come to 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8, we find Paul speaking in terms that may seem a bit cryptic, until we can peel them apart. For example, while Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, he plays a sort of “inside” comment with them, “when I was with you, I told you these things.” While he is not explicit about all the things that he had told the Thessalonians, we are grateful that he mentioned a few of them in the text here. For example from verses 3-4, there will be a massive “falling away first,” where people defect from the truth. Then “the man of sin” (the Antichrist) will “be revealed,” and will “exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped.” There will be a very obvious revelation of the Antichrist in those last days. As we saw last time, 1 Thessalonians 4 would seem to indicate that the believers will already be taken from here in the Rapture of the saints. So when reading verse 5, we can understand that Paul had already taught this extensively with the Thessalonians, and was now just giving a paraphrase of eschatology. (end times events)
But if verse 5 was a bit cloudy, verses 6-7 become even more murky. Part of the problem is that our modern understanding of words changes what we read in the text to mean something completely different than it originally meant. We can see that something is “withholding” the Antichrist from being revealed before his time. But when we get to verse 7, he is then “letting” him. Here is where our modern vocabulary and understanding in the English language have changed over time. The word here “letteth, let” is a word that means “to hinder, or hold back.” In our modern English, it means the exact opposite, “to allow, or permit.” So understanding first, that Paul is speaking about something holding back in verse 6, and then something “letting” (holding back) in verse 7, we can clearly see that God is working something important here. What is being held back in both verses?
Satan desires nothing greater than to unravel God’s perfect timing and the redemption of His people. It is the desire of Satan that the Antichrist appear and establish his throne before God’s timetable is up. God, however, is stronger than Satan, and while Satan would love to upend the plan of God, God will always upend the plan of Satan even to the extent that Satan’s evil plans only further accomplish the purposes of God. For now, God has sent His Spirit to hold back the overwhelming tide of moral insanity and the subsequent appearing of the Antichrist. But one day, God will “take out” as verse 7 says, the one that is “holding back” the day of the Antichrist. The Antichrist will be free to reveal himself on that day in all his power and all of his self-worship. He will be the most powerful man in the world, and the nations will rise to praise him.
But don’t miss this point. Even when the Antichrist is revealed, it can only happen when God allows it. This great rebel spirit of Antichrist cannot have power, or timing, or any praise of men until God says he can. When we see that even the plans of Satan are held fast by the omnipotence and almighty power of God, we must agree with Martin Luther in our referring to Satan like he is a lap-dog of God: “Even the devil is God’s devil.” The Thessalonians were certainly encouraged to realize that God would always maintain power and control. Similarly, we should be encouraged in the face of such cryptic, archaic, and yet timeless truth. Our God is powerful and we can trust Him.
Food for Thought: Read Mark 13:32-33. What does Jesus tell his followers to do until the end times come ?