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2 Thessalonians 2:7

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work - There is a system of corrupt doctrine, which will lead to the general apostasy, already in existence, but it is a mystery; it is as yet hidden; it dare not show itself, because of that which hindereth or withholdeth. But when that which now restraineth shall be taken out of the way, then shall that wicked one be revealed-it will then be manifest who he is, and what he is. See the observations at the end of this chapter (note).

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For the mystery of iniquity - On the meaning of the word mystery, see the notes on Romans 11:25; compare 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3; Colossians 1:26. It means properly what is hidden or concealed; not necessarily that which is unintelligible. The “mystery of iniquity” seems here to refer to some hidden or concealed depravity - some form of sin which was working secretly and silently, and which had not yet developed itself. Any secret sources of iniquity in the church - anything that tended to corrupt its doctrines, and to destroy the simplicity of the faith of the gospel, would correspond with the meaning of the word. Doddridge correctly supposes that this may refer to the pride and ambition of some ministers, the factious temper of some Christians, the imposing‘ of unauthorized severities, the worship of angels, etc.

Doth already work - There are elements of these corruptions already existing in the church. Dr. Newton maintains that the foundations of popery were laid in the apostle‘s days, and that the superstructure was raised by degrees; and this is entirely in accordance with the statements of the apostle Paul. In his own time, he says, there were things which, if not restrained, would expand and ripen into that apostasy. He has not told as particularly to what he refers, but there are several intimations in his writings, as well as in other parts of the New Testament, that even in the apostolic age there existed the elements of those corruptions which were afterward developed and imbodied in the papacy. Even then, says Dr. Newton, “idolatry was stealing into the church 1 Corinthians 10:14, and a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels.” (Colossians 2:18; see, however, my note on that passage.) “There existed strife and divisions 1 Corinthians 3:3, an adulterating and handling the word of God deceitfully 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2, a gain of godliness, teaching of things for filthy lucre‘s sake 1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 1:11, a vain observation of festivals Galatians 4:10, a vain distinction of meats 1 Corinthians 8:8, a neglecting of the body Colossians 2:23, traditions, and commandments, and doctrines of men Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:22; compare 3 John 1:9, “Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence.” These things constituted the elements of the corruptions which were afterward developed in the papacy, and which are imbodied in that system. An eye that could see all, would even then have perceived that if there were no restraint, these incipient corruptions would grow up into that system, and would be expanded into all the corruptions and arrogant claims which have ever characterized it; compare 1 John 4:3.

Only he who now letteth - Who now hinders, or restrains - ὁ κατέχων ho katechōnThis is the same word which is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and rendered “withholdeth,” except that it is there in the neuter gender. There can be no doubt that there is reference to the same restraining power, or the same power under the control of an individual; but what that was, is not quite certain. It was some power which operated as a check on the growing corruptions then existing, and which prevented their full development, but which was to be removed at no distant period, and whose removal would give an opportunity for these corruptions to develop themselves, and for the full revelation of the man of sin. Such a supposition as that the civil power of Rome was such a restraint, operating to prevent the assumption of the ecclesiastical claims of supremacy which afterward characterized the papacy, will correspond with all that is necessarily implied in the language.

Will let, until he be taken out of the way - This will be an effectual check on these corruptions, preventing their full development, until it is removed, and then the man of sin will appear. The supposition which will best suit this language is, that there was then some civil restraint, preventing the development of existing corruptions, but that there would be a removal, or withdrawing of that restraint; and that then the tendency of the existing corruptions would be seen. It is evident, as Oldshausen remarks, that this resisting or restraining power must be something out of the church, and distinguished from the anti-Christian tendency itself; yon der Kirche und vom Antichristenthum. It is necessary, therefore, to understand this of the restraints of civil power. Was there, then, any fact in history which will accord with this interpretation? The belief among the primitive Christians was, that what hindered the rise of the man of sin was the Roman empire, and therefore “they prayed for its peace and welfare, as knowing that when the Roman empire should be dissolved and broken in pieces, the empire of the man of sin would be raised on its ruins.”

Dr. Newton. How this revolution was effected, may be seen by the statement of Machiavel. “The emperor of Rome, quitting Rome to dwell at Constantinople” (in the fourth century, under Constantine), “the Roman empire began to decline, but the church of Rome augmented as fast. Nevertheless, until the coming in of the Lombards, all Italy being under the dominion of either emperors or kings, the bishops assumed no more power than what was due to their doctrine and manners; in civil affairs they were subject to the civil power. But Theodoric, king of the Goths, fixing his seat at Ravenna, was that which advanced their interest, and made them more considerable in Italy, for there being no other prince left in Rome, the Romans were forced for protection to pay greater allegiance to the Pope. The Lombards having invaded and reduced Italy into several cantons, the Pope took the opportunity, and began to hold up his head. For being, as it were, governor and principal of Rome, the emperor of Constantinople and the Lombards bare him a respect, so that the Romans (by mediation of their Pope) began to treat and confederate with Longinus (the emperor‘s lieutenant), and the Lombards, not as subjects, but as equals and companions; which said custom continuing, and the Pope‘s entering into alliance sometimes with the Lombards, and sometimes with the Greeks, contracted great reputation to their dignity.” (History of Florence, B. i., p. 6, of the English translation.) A more extended quotation on the same subject, may be seen in Newton on the Prophecies, pp. 407,408. To anyone acquainted with the decline and fall of the Roman empire, nothing can be more manifest than the correspondence of the facts in history respecting the rise of the papacy, and the statement of the apostle Paul here. The simple facts are these:

(1) There were early corruptions in the church at Rome, as there were elsewhere, but peculiarly there, as Rome was the seat of philosophy and of power.

(2) there were great efforts made by the bishop of Rome to increase his authority, and there was a steady approximation to what he subsequently claimed - that of being Universal Bishop.

(3) there was a constant tendency to yield to him deference and respect in all matters.

(4) this was kept in check as long as Rome was the seat of the imperial power. Had that power remained there, it would have been impossible for the Roman Bishop ever to have obtained the civil and ecclesiastical eminence which he ultimately did. Rome could not have had two heads, both claiming and exercising supreme power; and there never could have been a “revelation of the man of sin.”

(5) Constantine removed the seat of empire to Constantinople; and this removal or “taking away” of the only restraint on the ambitious projects of the Roman bishops, gave all the opportunity which could be desired for the growth of the papal power. In all history there cannot, probably, be found a series of events corresponding more accurately with a prophetic statement than this; and there is every evidence, therefore, that these are the events to which the Spirit of inspiration referred.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time. Corruption of doctrine and worship came in by degrees, and the usurping of power was gradual; thus the mystery of iniquity prevailed. Superstition and idolatry were advanced by pretended devotion, and bigotry and persecution were promoted by pretended zeal for God and his glory. This mystery of iniquity was even then begun; while the apostles were yet living, persons pretended zeal for Christ, but really opposed him. The fall or ruin of the antichristian state is declared. The pure word of God, with the Spirit of God, will discover this mystery of iniquity, and in due time it shall be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming. Signs and wonders, visions and miracles, are pretended; but they are false signs to support false doctrines; and lying wonders, or only pretended miracles, to cheat the people; and the diabolical deceits with which the antichristian state has been supported, are notorious. The persons are described, who are his willing subjects. Their sin is this; They did not love the truth, and therefore did not believe it; and they were pleased with false notions. God leaves them to themselves, then sin will follow of course, and spiritual judgments here, and eternal punishments hereafter. These prophecies have, in a great measure, come to pass, and confirm the truth of the Scriptures. This passage exactly agrees with the system of popery, as it prevails in the Romish church, and under the Romish popes. But though the son of perdition has been revealed, though he has opposed and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; and has spoken and acted as if he were a god upon earth, and has proclaimed his insolent pride, and supported his delusions, by lying miracles and all kinds of frauds; still the Lord has not yet fully destroyed him with the brightness of his coming; that and other prophecies remain to be fulfilled before the end shall come.
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 356

The apostle Paul warned the church not to look for the coming of Christ in his day. “That day shall not come,” he says, “except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Not till after the great apostasy, and the long period of the reign of the “man of sin,” can we look for the advent of our Lord. The “man of sin,” which is also styled “the mystery of iniquity,” “the son of perdition,” and “that wicked,” represents the papacy, which, as foretold in prophecy, was to maintain its supremacy for 1260 years. This period ended in 1798. The coming of Christ could not take place before that time. Paul covers with his caution the whole of the Christian dispensation down to the year 1798. It is this side of that time that the message of Christ's second coming is to be proclaimed. GC 356.1

No such message has ever been given in past ages. Paul, as we have seen, did not preach it; he pointed his brethren into the then far-distant future for the coming of the Lord. The Reformers did not proclaim it. Martin Luther placed the judgment about three hundred years in the future from his day. But since 1798 the book of Daniel has been unsealed, knowledge of the prophecies has increased, and many have proclaimed the solemn message of the judgment near. GC 356.2

Like the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, the advent movement appeared in different countries of Christendom at the same time. In both Europe and America men of faith and prayer were led to the study of the prophecies, and, tracing down the inspired record, they saw convincing evidence that the end of all things was at hand. In different lands there were isolated bodies of Christians who, solely by the study of the Scriptures, arrived at the belief that the Saviour's advent was near. GC 357.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 712

The National Reform movement, exercising the power of religious legislation, will, when fully developed, manifest the same intolerance and oppression that have prevailed in past ages. Human councils then assumed the prerogatives of Deity, crushing under their despotic power liberty of conscience; and imprisonment, exile, and death followed for those who opposed their dictates. If popery or its principles shall again be legislated into power, the fires of persecution will be rekindled against those who will not sacrifice conscience and the truth in deference to popular errors. This evil is on the point of realization. 5T 712.1

When God has given us light showing the dangers before us, how can we stand clear in His sight if we neglect to put forth every effort in our power to bring it before the people? Can we be content to leave them to meet this momentous issue unwarned? 5T 712.2

There is a prospect before us of a continued struggle, at the risk of imprisonment, loss of property, and even of life itself, to defend the law of God, which is made void by the laws of men. In this situation worldly policy will urge an outward compliance with the laws of the land, for the sake of peace and harmony. And there are some who will even urge such a course from the Scripture: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.... The powers that be are ordained of God.” 5T 712.3

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Ellen G. White
Evangelism, 576

Expose Fallacy by Presenting Truth—Decided proclamations are to be made. But in regard to this line of work, I am instructed to say to our people: Be guarded. In bearing the message, make no personal thrusts at other churches, not even the Roman Catholic Church. Angels of God see in the different denominations many who can be reached only by the greatest caution. Therefore let us be careful of our words. Let not our ministers follow their own impulses in denouncing and exposing the “mysteries of iniquity.” Upon these themes silence is eloquence. Many are deceived. Speak the truth in tones and words of love. Let Christ Jesus be exalted. Keep to the affirmative of truth. Never leave the straight path God has marked out, for the purpose of giving someone a thrust. That thrust may do much harm and no good. It may quench conviction in many minds. Let the Word of God, which is the truth, tell the story of the inconsistency of those in error. Ev 576.1

People cannot be expected to see at once the advantage of the truth over the error they have cherished. The best way to expose the fallacy of error is to present the evidences of truth. This is the greatest rebuke that can be given to error. Dispel the cloud of darkness resting on minds by reflecting the bright light of the Sun of Righteousness.—Manuscript 6, 1902. Ev 576.2

We May Have Less to Say—There is need of a much closer study of the Word of God; especially should Daniel and the Revelation have attention as never before in the history of our work. We may have less to say in some lines, in regard to the Roman power and the Papacy, but we should call attention to what the prophets and apostles have written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit has so shaped matters, both in the giving of the prophecy, and in the events portrayed, as to teach that the human agent is to be kept out of sight, hid in Christ, and the Lord God of heaven and His law are to be exalted.—Counsels to Editors, pp. 45, 46. (1896). Ev 577.1

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 384

A Roman Catholic work argues that “if the Church of Rome were ever guilty of idolatry in relation to the saints, her daughter, the Church of England, stands guilty of the same, which has ten churches dedicated to Mary for one dedicated to Christ.”—Richard Challoner, The Catholic Christian Instructed, Preface, pages 21, 22. GC 384.1

And Dr. Hopkins, in “A Treatise on the Millennium,” declares: “There is no reason to consider the antichristian spirit and practices to be confined to that which is now called the Church of Rome. The Protestant churches have much of antichrist in them, and are far from being wholly reformed from ... corruptions and wickedness.”—Samuel Hopkins, Works, vol. 2, p. 328. GC 384.2

Concerning the separation of the Presbyterian Church from Rome, Dr. Guthrie writes: “Three hundred years ago, our church, with an open Bible on her banner, and this motto, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ on her scroll, marched out from the gates of Rome.” Then he asks the significant question: “Did they come clean out of Babylon?”—Thomas Guthrie, The Gospel in Ezekiel, page 237. GC 384.3

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