The Scriptures are replete with mysteries. A Biblical mystery is some truth that is knowable only by special revelation or illumination from a supernatural source; in this case, from God through His Spirit by His Word. Mysteries include the mysteries of which Jesus spoke when, in Matthew 13, he related a series of parables He labeled “mysteries of the kingdom,” outlining for His disciples what was going to happen in the kingdom program in light of Israel’s rejection of Him (Matt. 12) as their King. Jesus, in these parables, revealed Church-age truths even before His Apostles had an inkling of an idea of the Church that He would build. (Matt.16) There are several other “mysteries” in the Bible, most of which are unveiled in the New Testament, but the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2) is in a category all by itself.
This mystery, mentioned by Paul in the eschatological context of 2 Thessalonians where the Apostle is expanding his instruction on “the day of Christ,” (2:2) also called the Day of the Lord referring to that day “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. (2 Thess. 1:7) Jesus spoke solely of that day, and the Great Tribulation week of seven years that would precede it, in Matthew 24, 25 and it is commonly referred to as the “Second Coming.” Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2 that the great Day of Christ (2nd Coming) will not come until there is first a “falling away,” (v.3) which could well refer to the rapture or catching up of the Church-age saints, and then the unmasking of “that man of sin,” known also as “the son of perdition,” (v.3) or plainly as “the Anti-Christ,” (Rev. 13:1 ff.)
Then, Paul in this discussion says that the “mystery of iniquity” is already (then) at work only “he who will let (hinder, restrain) will let until he be taken out of the way.” (v.7) This speaks of the restraining, hindering ministry of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world today, convicting of sin, of righteousness and of judgement (John 16:8-11) without which unbridled sin, corruption and violence would be even more rampant, blatant and destructive that it already is!
So, back to the “mystery of iniquity,” which Paul says was already at work then, and apparently is still at work today. It has been, in fact, at work since Man’s Garden of Eden plunge into disobedience. Every thing about sin is inexplicable. Why would Adam and Eve, with a lush garden at their fingertips, feel compelled to believe the Tempter’s lie that they would be even wiser and happier if they would only eat of that one tree that God forbade them to eat of, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? There is no reasonable explanation. It is the “mystery of iniquity.”
Why did the Israelites, fresh out of 400 years of bondage in Egypt as slaves, wish they could return to those Egyptian leeks and garlic just days into their journey toward God’s land of promise? No one can explain why they built a golden calf that they could fall down before while acclaiming it as their god not long after they had witnessed God’s dramatic and miraculous parting of the sea so they could walk across it on dry ground, then when the last Israelite was through, God’s bringing the walls of water down upon the heads of Pharoah’s army as they were instantly buried at sea! Who would have the nerve, the audacity, the spiritual ignorance to want to worship an inanimate object, attributing to it God’s power, after having witnessed that and scores of other definite, divine interventions on behalf of these ex-slaves? Who can give any objective explanation for this “mystery of iniquity?”
Sin is that way, isn’t it? We do not know why we want to return as a dog to its vomit, knowing full well we are, in our strength, no match for it. Promise to ourselves as earnestly and as often as we will that we will never do it again, we seem sometimes doomed to experience the bitter bite of “the mystery of iniquity!”
Alexander Pope must have contemplated this mystery when he penned: “Sin is a monster of such hideous mien that to be hated is but to be seen; but seen too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
Why would men love darkness rather than light? Yes, because their deeds are evil, but when light and love are so much more liberating and life-giving, why? The “mystery of iniquity.”
Why would a woman buy into Satan’s deception that her “body is her own,” and, therefore, an unwanted baby due to an unexpected pregnancy is expendable and can nicely and neatly be terminated through the murdering of her own flesh and blood? The “mystery of iniquity.”
Why would a God-blessed, freedom founded people, living in union as 50 United States, choose communism, totalitarianism, socialism where a few godless power brokers determine what is best for the bourgeoise employing, if necessary, genocide to establish their atheistic regime? “The mystery of iniquity.”
Why, when God came to earth in infant flesh, wrapped in our humanity yet without our sin nature, so that He could offer Himself to His own as their King and to the world as its Savior, would this Son of God be totally and tragically rejected and crucified by those He had come to save? “The mystery of iniquity.”
Why do men still refuse His light? His love? His life? “The mystery of iniquity.” Paul said in 60 A.D. that it was already at work, and it has been at work since earth’s earliest days. It will intensify when the Day of Christ arrives, when the Church has been raptured, when the man of sin has been revealed and when the Anti-Christ energized by Satan and accompanied by the false prophet works signs and wonders on a Christ-less world where the Holy Spirit is no longer restraining through His convicting work.
What is the solution to the “mystery of iniquity?” Jesus: “I am come that men might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). Look and live! It is the ONLY way to escape, for time and eternity, the ubiquitous “mystery of iniquity!”
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in 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.” (I Cor. 15:51)