Interpretations: The Mystery Program - The Mystery of Iniquity
In Paul’s epistles to the Gentiles, Romans through Philemon, he did not write directly concerning events in the tribulation, though he was well versed in all the prophecies concerning those events, Acts 22:3. What Paul taught, among many things to the Body-of-Christ, is our hope, faith and love for Christ Jesus 1Thessalonians 1:3. Our hope is the coming of the Lord in the clouds to receive us to Himself forevermore, and from the wrath to come, the day of Jesus Christ, 1Thessalonians 4:16-18, Titus 2:11-15, 1Thessalonians 1:10.
This day that the Body-of-Christ looks forward to is not to be confused with the “day of the Lord,” the prophets of Israel spoke about. Isaiah wrote that in the:” day of the Lord,” the Lord would come both with wrath and fierce anger to destroy sinners, Isaiah 13:9. John the Baptist warned the Pharisees and Sadducees concerning the wrath to come, Luke 3:7.
Paul wrote to comfort the Body-of-Christ, that we would be kept from the day of God’s wrath (the tribulation or the day of the Lord), Romans 5:9, 1Thessalonians 1:10, 2:16, 5:9. When Paul wrote his second time to the believers at Thessalonica to address a forged letter they received, he wrote that the mystery of iniquity is already at work today, but it is restrained by the Holy Spirit, 2Thessalonians 2:7. Paul provided reasons to the Thessalonians, and to us, why the day of the Lord and unrestrained iniquity had not arrived, or that the The snatching away (rapture) had not yet occurred, 2Thessalonians 2:2-3, 7.
The mystery of iniquity, when it is fully manifested, is sequentially linked to the coming of Christ Jesus in the clouds to snatch His bride (the church), up to Himself. Then, after the snatching away of the Body-of-Christ, the evil one will be revealed. First, the “day of the Lord” will not occur until after a falling away occurs, 2Thessalonians 2:3. The Greek word for apostacy is apostasia. This Greek word means more when its root meaning is examined. Dr. Andy Woods presented an excellent overview of this passage, discussing the root word in the Greek for apostasia, aphistemi and how that verb form, with nine other reasons he presents, favor a physical departure of the Body-of-Christ. Among the other nine reasons, he focused on previous versions of earlier Bibles, which translated this word as “departing first”, beginning with St. Jerome who translated the Latin Vulgate in the 4th century. Dr. Woods then lists the Wycliffe Bible from 1384 and six other Bible translations, ending with the Geneva Bible in 1608, which all translated this passage as “departing first.” Dr. Andy Woods also provided a more concise version of this talk on Gary Stearman’s show on October 16, 2018, Prophecy Watchers.
According to J. Vernon McGee’s edited transcription of his radio program, this word can mean to 'depart’ or' 'remove from’ in addition to falling away. So that when the Lord comes in the clouds to snatch away His church and bride, there will be an immediate state of apostasy in the world, or a falling away from God’s truth. There is a deliberate process in this snatching away of the church. The dead in Christ will be resurrected then the living believers will be raptured, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18. All those who believed in Christ after His resurrection, will meet Him in the clouds (the departing or removing of the believers). Then there will be a falling away from the truth by those left behind, as Jesus asked, when He returns, will He find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8, 2Thessalonians 2:11-12.
Second, after the snatching away of the Body-of-Christ, the man of sin will appear, not before. The mystery of iniquity is already at work, 1Thessalonians 2:7, but after the snatching away of the Body-of-Christ, the man of sin who appears on the world scene is The Antichrist, 2Thessalonians 2:3. He is also called the son of perdition. The only other person called son of perdition was Judas Iscariot, John 17:12, the one who betrayed Jesus.
|1||The day of Jesus Christ|
|2||The Day of the Lord|
|5||The revealing and end of the Antichrist|
The following graphic will help visualize the events that lead to the day the Lord will descend in the clouds to call up to Himself the church. The church existed from the day the Lord was resurrected from the dead and breathed the Holy Spirit upon those believers who were hiding in a room from the Jews, John 20:19-23. From that day forward, the church has been growing and increasing in numbers. The church received power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Acts 1:4-5.
The graphic shows from the Gentile perspective, the age of grace, which began as the apostle Paul preached to the Gentiles, Acts 13:7-12, to the present. Since the start of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, the Body-of-Christ has been looking for the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds, Titus 2:11-15. The anticipated event is when He will resurrect the dead in Christ and snatch away (rapture) those believers still alive, all to be with Him forevermore, 1Thessalonians 4:17.
The next graphic shows what all believers in Jesus Christ since His resurrection, will experience when the Lord calls for His church and bride. That event will commence the “The day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11, 2:14-16, which consists of three parts that all believers in Jesus Christ, will experience.
The area bounded by the blue box are the three events the church will experience on the Day of Jesus Christ. First, they will meet Christ Jesus in the clouds, 1Thessalonians 4:17. Second, they will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive their rewards, 2Corinthians 5:10, 1Corinthians 3:10-15. Third, the Lord will present His church to God the Father at His throne, where they will be through the duration of the seven years of tribulation on earth, 1Corinthians 1:8-9, 1Thessalonians 3:13, Revelation 4:4-11.
There are a number of passages that reference the “day of the Jesus Christ.” For the Christian, it is not a day of dread, but of being with Christ.
- 1Corinthians 1:7-9 - being blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ
- 1Corinthians 3:11-15 - the Christian’s work being tested
- 1Corinthians 5:4-5 - there is judgment within the church so that individuals may be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus
- 2Corinthians 1:12-14 - Being able to boast of each other in the day of the Lord Jesus
- Philippians 1:3-6 - Christ is doing a good work in each of us until the day of Jesus Christ
- Philippians 1:9-11 - that we may approve things that are excellent, to be sincere and without offence until the day of Christ
- Philippians 2:14-16 - being blameless and without rebuke on the day of Christ
The foregoing discussion is not to be confused with the “Day of the Lord,” which is often written about in the Old Testament. It is also referenced as Jacob’s trouble or the wrath of God. This is the time of judgment, of God pouring out His wrath upon the whole world. Some Old Testament passages that describe the “day of the Lord” are:
- Amos 5:18-20, Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. …
- Jeremiah 30:7, Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
- Isaiah 2:10-21, Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. …
- Isaiah 13:9-12, Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. …
Other prophets who spoke of this day, including the Lord, are
- Ezekiel 13:3-5, Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! 4 O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. 5 Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.
- Joel 1:15, Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
- Obadiah 1:15, For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.
- Zephaniah 1:7, Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.
- Zephaniah 1:14, The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
- Malachi 4:5, Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
- Mark 13:35-37, Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
The following graphic illustrates the relative timeline on when this time will occur after the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note also, that there is no indication of the church, as it has to be taken, or snatched away to be with the Lord. The church will not have any part of the wrath of God, for Jesus has taken that upon Himself by the shedding of His blood, and now those who believe in the work of Christ Jesus are justified in Christ, by God’s grace through faith, Romans 3:23-26, 5:8-10, Ephesians 2:8-10.
The above graphic shows the seven years of tribulation, when God pours out His wrath upon the whole world, is bounded by the revealing of the Antichrist, and ends with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ upon this world to establish His first 1,000 years of His eternal reign, sitting upon the throne of David.
The following graphic includes the day of the Jesus Christ. However, there is a separation in time between the day of Jesus Christ and the day of the Lord.
During the seven years of tribulation, the Antichrist is revealed but he will not come to his full satanic power until the middle of the tribulation. At that time, the Antichrist will exalt Himself in place of God, 2Thessalonians 2:4.
The man of sin who is to be revealed, is the Antichrist.
- Many antichrists are in the world, but THE Antichrist, Satan’s man, will not be revealed until the church is taken away, 1John 2:18-19, 2Thessalonians 2:3
- There are many men through history who were evil, but the one yet to come will be like Judas, whom Satan indwelt, John 13:26-27, Revelation 13:3-8
- The Antichrist in Daniel 7:25, was typified by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Daniel 8:23-25, whom John spoke of in Revelation 13:1-6
After ascending in power, the Antichrist will exalt himself above all that is called God, 2Thessalonians 2:4. By mid-tribulation, Paul writes that the Antichrist will proclaim himself as God.
- Jesus spoke of this time during the Olivet Discourse, Mark 13:14
- Jesus was connecting with the passage in Daniel, Daniel 9:27
- John wrote of this time in Revelation when the false prophet would erect an image of the Antichrist in the holy of holies in the tribulation temple in Jerusalem, Revelation 13:12
- In Daniel, world events would enable the Antichrist to occupy Jerusalem, and setup his camp there, Daniel 11:45
To understand the relative timing of all that is written in 2Thessalonians 2, against the timelines above, the following graphic is added to help in time sequence of events.
There are seven red stars, with associated verses, and a brief description of several events in 2Thessalonians 2, and the relative occurrence of each event on the timeline.
Paul revealed that the Restrainer (Holy Spirit), is holding back the Antichrist, 2Thessalonians 2:5-7. Paul reminded the Thessalonians how he told them about these things when he was with them, 2Thessalonians 2:5. They should have remembered who is holding back the revealing of THE Antichrist; it is the Holy Spirit working through the church, which is the body of Christ, 1Corinthians 12:12-13, 2Thessalonians 2:6-7. The church is not going into the tribulation, but will be surrounding the throne of God throughout that time, Revelation 4:4, 9-11. That does not mean the Holy Spirit will vacate this world. He will still be working in this world for the purposes of Christ Jesus, John 16:13-14.
God intends Israel to go through the tribulation, Daniel 9:24, 27. During the tribulation, the Lord instructed Jews not in Judea, to hide themselves and shut their doors behind them for a little while until the indignation is past. The Lord said that he was coming out of His place to punish the inhabitants of earth for their iniquity and blood they shed, Isaiah 26:20-21. He assured Israel that though He forsook them for a little while, and with a little wrath, hid His face, that they would be gathered again with God’s great mercies and with everlasting kindness, and He will have mercy on them, Isaiah 54:7-8.
God will save Israel out of the tribulation, Jeremiah 30:7. Just as the Lord revealed to Abram that his seed would go to another nation (Egypt) to be afflicted and serve them four hundred years, but that they would return to the land God promised Abram, Genesis 15:13-14. The reason for the waiting period was that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full, Genesis 15:16. This is similar to the sixth trumpet when the four angels held in the area of the Euphrates are released for a specific time, Revelation 9:13-15. Maybe during the tribulation, that the iniquity of the nations will have filled God’s cup of fury to the brim. At that time, they will be forced to take the cup and drink it, Jeremiah 25:15. This time of pending judgment will be the worst time the world will ever know, Matthew 24:21-22.
Upon the removal of the church, THE Antichrist will soon be revealed, and come into his full Satanic power, 2Thessalonians 2:8. It is important to understand that neither Satan nor the Antichrist have any say or influence on when the Antichrist will be revealed. God is in control of the times and season, Acts 1:7. It is the Father who will give the seven sealed scroll, the deed to the world, to Jesus, Revelation 5:5-7. The book of Revelation and the book of Ruth are closely knit together. It is Jesus Christ who is Israel’s kinsman redeemer. He will prohibit Satan and all his followers from ever taking possession of this world again. But to get to that point, the Lord will first reveal the Antichrist by opening the first seal. It is then and only then that the Antichrist, the rider on the white horse with only a bow, is revealed and not one moment earlier, Revelation 6:1-2. It will be at that moment that the Antichrist will confirm the seven-year covenant with Israel, Daniel 9:27.
Within the short span of seven years as the mystery of iniquity will have its full power, the Antichrist will inflict a terrible price upon the world for its rebellion, sins and neglect of so great a gift of Christ’s redemption on the cross with His blood, Hebrews 2:3. By the end of the tribulation, the world’s condition will be near total destruction. Human life will have nearly been consumed, Isaiah 13:11-13, Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:20, the sun will be darkened, and the moon not give its light, Mark 13:24. This near total disaster upon humanity and the world are a direct result of the characteristics of the Antichrist, 2Thessalonians 2:8-10, where:
- He will be in perfect harmony with Satan’s will, Matthew 4:8-10
- He will have all Satanic power, Revelation 13:2
- He will demonstrate false signs and wonders in unrighteousness, Revelation 13:3 (Antichrist), Revelation 13:11-14 (the false prophet)
- Those that follow the Antichrist will perish, 1Corinthians 1:18-23, Revelation 20:11-15
- Antichrist will be destroyed, where he and the false prophet will be the first of all the unrighteous people and angels to be thrown into the lake of fire, Revelation 19:20, 20:10
At the end of the seven years of tribulation, the Antichrist will be destroyed by the Lord’s word, John 18:6. His destruction will be as result of the brightness of the Lord’s appearing, 2Thessalonians 2:8, His judgment at His appearing, 2Timothy 4:1, the presence of the Shekinah glory, Exodus 40:33-35, 1King 8:10-11, and the Lord shinning like the sun shining in its strength, Revelation 1:16, Matthew 17:1-3. The Lord will return to earth as the King of kings, Revelation 19:15, and He will sit on David’s throne, Isaiah 11:4.
Additionally, Satan will be bound in the abyss for 1,000 years, Revelation 20:1-3. All of the saints not resurrected and taken up into the clouds to be with the Lord, and all those left behind from the snatching away (rapture), will be resurrected to enjoy all the promises and wealth of Christ during His millennial reign, Daniel 12:1-3, 13, Revelation 20:4.