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Antichrist is delayed till the Rapture
“He who now letteth will let”
The second chapter of second Thessalonians has been used to support both a pre- and post- tribulation position. The only way to clear it up is to read it carefully – and honestly. That means without altering any words!
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
That’s the rapture – the Lord returns and we are gathered to him. But when will it be?
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.
Evidently forged sensationalist letters were being circulated as if from St. Paul. These forgeries caused alarm as if either the tribulation and/or Christ’s return to judge the world were imminent events that the Christians were about to witness.
The gist of what follows is Paul’s attempt to show that this state of alarm is illogical because Christ’s return to judge his enemies must first be preceded by the revealing of the son of perdition and the tribulation.
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;
Notice that Paul does not say that anyone in the Church will witness either the falling away or the son of perdition. He is only asserting that these things must precede the return of Christ to judge the world – and therefore it is not ripe.
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.
This is a tribulation event showing the deeds of the son of perdition as were also described by Daniel: “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” Daniel 11:37.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
Since Paul already told them about the tribulation he is surprised at they would either think they are in it, or think that Christ would return in judgment without these events occurring first.
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
The “he” to be revealed is clearly the son of perdition since that is exactly what Paul just said about him in verse 3: “that day shall not come, except … that man of sin be revealed“. The beast is going to be revealed “in his time.” Since the time during which he is revealed is called “in his time” – it is obviously not during the current time. That is the argument Paul is making -there is no need to worry about the antichrist because he comes in his own time. And it is after that time that the Lord will return to destroy him. Therefore Paul is showing them how the chronology of events is such that they have no need to worry about these things.
Further, Paul says that something is withholding the time of the revealing of the antichrist. Paul also assumes that they “know” what is doing the withholding. This information is not mysterious – if the Thessalonians knew, then we too ought to be able to read the Bible and know what withholdeth.
Whatever it is, it is called a “what” here, but will be called a “he” in the next verse.
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
So Paul acknowledges that the current time-frame has its own antichrist iniquity, but that the time to for worry is not now, but later, after the withholder is taken out of the way.
To identify this withholder let’s review the clues:
- We already know who it is;
- it is both a “what” and a “he”;
- He comes and goes;
- He is stopping the tribulation from starting.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. … Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” John 14:16-17; 16:7.
The Comforter is both a what and a he. He is not necessarily the omni-present Spirit of God that neither comes nor goes, but rather is a special manifestation of God’s Spirit that is uniquely sent into the Christians to dwell inside of them forever. This special event – the coming of the Holy Ghost to the Church – happened on Pentecost Sunday 33 AD in the days just following the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But is the Comforter also charged with stopping the revealing of the son of perdition? Yes! In his high-priestly prayer for the Church in John chapter 17 Jesus Christ prayed:
“15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
So the Church was to remain in the world, but not when “the evil” shows up. It is the prayer of Jesus Christ that the sanctifying power of God should prevent the Church and “the evil” from co-existing in the world. Therefore, as long as the Church is in the world, the devil’s seed cannot also appear in the world.
But “the evil” has a time when he must show up. Therefore the Comforter go as he came, and when he leaves remove all saved Christians from off of planet earth just prior to the Tribulation.
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:
So the time to worry is after the removal of the withholding force – and not beforehand. Paul is telling them that the return of Christ in wrath happens after the tribulation, i.e., after the Comforter is removed from planet earth.
Notice how the Devil’s own is called “that Wicked” – which corresponds to “the evil” – as he is the person of Satan himself incarnate.
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.
Notice that the reason Satan’s Wicked is given free-reign to deceive and damn the world is because the time for salvation has come and passed: those left behind “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” That is not the present Church-Age because Paul elsewhere writes that God “…will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4.
So God offered salvation for 2,000 years, but that time is over. The men rejected it, and now God sends them the Tribulation to damn and destroy them.
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.
The purpose of the tribulation is to damn those who did not receive Christ during the Church Age. That is why the Church is removed prior to its start.
Those who wish to be saved out of the tribulation as tribulation saints and “wise virgins” – they must “endure to the end” (Mark 13:13) and they will be saved. Their salvation is only if they make it to the end undefiled. Except for the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Revelation 7 and 14), none of the tribulation saints has assurance of salvation by the sealing work of the Holy Ghost. They must not take the mark of the beast, live righteously, and be willing to die as martyrs for Jesus Christ if they wish to enter into life eternal and be caught up at the second rapture at the end of the tribulation.
13 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:
So Paul confirms here what we figured out already: that the sanctification of the Holy Spirit is he that “withholdeth” and which assures the believer of being caught up to be with Christ prior to the tribulation start.
14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
Yes, “Comfort” your heart by knowledge of who the Comforter is. Things are bound to get worse and worse as we approach the time of the end – but remember: we are sanctified by the Comforter, and according to the prayer of Jesus Christ, we will not be in the world when “the evil” shows up. This means we are assured to be taken up in the rapture before the tribulation begins.
This is a great comfort to the Church; and with that comfort we ought to simply continue to do the work of the Lord while it is still day.
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(Part 1 of this post)