The Handbook to Bible Study (1 occurrences in 1 articles)

Mystery of iniquity

Mystery of iniquity.

As found in the AV, the satanically energized plan that issues in the attempt during the tribulation to establish a human being, the Beast, as a counterfeit Messiah; the phrase is also translated as “mystery of lawlessness” (NASB) and “secret power of lawlessness” (NIV); 2 Th.2:7.


The attempt at direct and unmediated knowledge and experience of God, as opposed to acting by faith based on written revelation from God.

Karleen, P. S. (1987). The handbook to Bible study : With a guide to the Scofield study system. "This book is intended as a companion to the Scofield Reference Bible"--Pref.; Includes indexes. New York: Oxford University Press.


The Bible Knowledge Commentary (2 occurrences in 2 articles)

B. the Mystery of Lawlessness (2:6-12). [2 Thessalonians 2:6] 1

Outline [2 Thessalonians 1:1]

B. The mystery of lawlessness (2:6-12).

The Apostle Paul continued his correction by giving more information about the man of lawlessness in relation to the removal of the One who now partially restrains lawlessness. This removal constitutes a third event referred to by Paul that must take place before the day of the Lord will begin. The theme of lawlessness pervades this whole section of the epistle

2:6. And (kai) connects what precedes with what follows; the same subject continues, but the emphasis shifts to what is presently restraining the revelation of the man of sin. Paul said the Thessalonians knew what it was, but he did not identify it here. Perhaps he had told them in person. Something or Someone is holding back the culmination of lawlessness. Part of the purpose of this restraint is to keep the man of sin from being revealed prematurely.

2:7. This verse explains and expands on verse 6. Paul reminded his readers that the secret power of lawlessness was already at work. The “secret power” (mystērion, whence “mystery”) is one of the mysteries of the New Testament (Rom. 16:26; 1 Cor. 2:6-12; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-5; Col. 1:25-27). A mystery in the New Testament is a new truth previously unknown before its revelation in the present dispensation. In this case the mystery is the revelation of a future climax of lawlessness in the world. Then and now a movement against divine law directed by Satan was and is operative. But it is being restrained somewhat, and this restraining will continue until the time appointed for revealing the man of sin and the climax of lawlessness.

Who or what is restraining the satanically empowered movement against God’s law and is postponing the revelation of the man of sin? Some say it is the Roman Empire. But the empire has long vanished and “the holder back” is not yet revealed. Another suggestion is that this is Satan, but it is difficult to see why he would hold back sin. Others suggest that human governments are holding back sin and the revealing of the Antichrist. But human governments will not end prior to the Antichrist’s unveiling. Nor do all governments restrain sin; many encourage it!

The Holy Spirit of God is the only Person with sufficient (supernatural) power to do this restraining. Some object to this being the Holy Spirit on the grounds that to katechon in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 is neuter (“what is holding back”). But this is no problem for two reasons: (a) The neuter is sometimes used of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14). (b) In 2 Thessalonians 2:7 the words are masculine: ho katechōn, the one who . . . holds it back. How does He do it? Through Christians, whom He indwells and through whom He works in society to hold back the swelling tide of lawless living. How will He be taken out of the way? When the church leaves the earth in the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way in the sense that His unique lawlessness-restraining ministry through God’s people will be removed (cf. Gen. 6:3). The removal of the Restrainer at the time of the Rapture must obviously precede the day of the Lord. Paul’s reasoning is thus a strong argument for the pretribulational Rapture: the Thessalonians were not in the Great Tribulation because the Rapture had not yet occurred.

2:8. After the removal of restraint the world will plunge headlong into lawlessness and the man of sin will be revealed (see comments on v. 3). This man’s name is never given in the Bible, but he will be known by his actions. He is the same person referred to in verse 3. He is also spoken of in Daniel 9:26-27 and 11:36-12:1. Paul was conscious of the spiritual forces behind this individual, and for this reason described his revelation as something that will take place by the power of another, not himself.

This powerful person will be destroyed by the mere breath of the Lord Jesus. Antichrist may control mankind, but he will be no match for Messiah. Jesus is Lord indeed. “The very breathing of the glorified Jesus will slay the lawless one like the blast of a fiery furnace” (Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles, p. 315). He will be killed and his work will be destroyed, brought to nothing. The shining forth of Christ’s presence when He comes to earth will immobilize the Antichrist’s program as certainly as the revelation of the glorified Christ on the Damascus Road stopped Saul in his tracks and terminated his program of fighting against God.

This verse (2 Thes. 2:8), spans the seven-year career of the Antichrist from the time he makes a covenant with Israel soon after the Rapture, till his overthrow by Christ at His second coming at the end of the Tribulation.

2:9. The career of this lawless leader is described in more detail in verses 9-12. His career will be empowered by Satan (cf. Rev. 13:2b) and characterized by Satan’s method: counterfeiting. Satan’s desire to counterfeit God’s miracles in the world can be traced from Genesis through Revelation. Paul employed three terms to describe the supernatural power this man will demonstrate. Miracles (dynamei) emphasizes the inherent power behind the works he will perform. Signs (sēmeiois) refers to the fact that they will have significance. Wonders (terasin) indicates the attitude of awe that they will evoke when people behold them. He will, in short, perform such powerful miracles that it will be evident to all that he has supernatural power, and people will stand in awe of him. One such miracle and the people’s awe are mentioned in Revelation 13:2b-4 and 17:8.

2:10. His miracles are not the only thing that will deceive people into thinking he has divine power. Everything he does will mislead people, especially those whose minds are blinded to the truth of who he is and what he is doing because they do not believe God’s Word. The meaning of this verse is not that everything he does will be perceived as evil by people, but that it will be evil in its essence because it misrepresents the truth and leads people away from worshiping God. The same three words used to describe his miracles in verse 9 (miracles, signs, wonders) were used of the miracles of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22) and the apostles (Heb. 2:4). It will appear to unbelievers living on the earth at that time that he is indeed God. He will be able to pass himself off as God and receive worship as God.

Those who are being deceived by the man of sin are perishing (apollymenois, pres. part.; the noun “destruction” [apōleias] in 2 Thes. 2:3 is related to this part.) as the result of their refusal to love the truth of God and accept His gift of salvation. Their own choice brings about their condemnation. In spite of the inherent attractiveness of the saving truth of the gospel, these unbelievers refuse it. To love the truth of the gospel indicates true acceptance of it and adherence to it; it does not imply a higher requirement than simply believing it. The truth contrasts with the lies of the man of sin. The consequence of believing and loving the truth is salvation. One’s responses to the gospel must be a matter of the heart (love), rather than simply of the head.

2:11. God desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4-6). But when people refuse to entertain the truth, He lets them pursue and experience the consequences of falsehood (cf. Rom. 1:18-25). In fact God, as the Judge of men, begins this judgment at the moment of their rebellion and subjects them to the powerful delusion (energeian planēs) which comes from choosing error over truth. They choose to believe the lie and God sends them the delusion that is inherent in their choice. This powerful judgment from God is justified by the unbelievers’ decision to refuse the truth. “The lie” is the claim that the man of lawlessness is God.

2:12. The purpose of God in acting thus is to execute justice (cf. 1:6). Eternal condemnation will be the fate of all who on the one hand choose to disbelieve the truth and on the other hand delight in wickedness. The opposite of believing the truth is delighting in wickedness; a spiritual decision leads to its moral manifestation. This consequence befalls everyone who disbelieves the gospel. Paul’s primary concern here is of course unbelievers who will be living when the man of sin will be revealed. But these principles of God’s judgment apply in all ages and can be seen in the 20th century.

Is this passage saying that those who do not believe the gospel before the man of sin is revealed—and who are therefore not caught up to meet the Lord at the Rapture but still live on the earth—cannot be saved after the man of lawlessness has been revealed? Or can people who recognize but knowingly reject the truth of the gospel before the Rapture be saved after the Rapture takes place? The “powerful delusion” (v. 11) that God will bring on these individuals in particular suggests that few if any then living on the earth will be saved after the Rapture. This seems to be a special judgment from God that will occur at this one time in history. The many saints which the Book of Revelation indicates will be living on the earth during the Tribulation may thus be people who did not hear and reject the gospel before the Rapture (cf. Rev. 7:4).

In summing up this section, Paul reminded his readers that the trials and persecutions they were experiencing (1:4) did not indicate that they were suffering the judgments of the day of the Lord. They had not missed the Rapture. Before the judgments of the day of the Lord would come, certain identifiable events must occur. These are the apostasy (extensive turning away from the truth of God), the removal of the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit restraining evil in the world as He works through the church He indwells) at the Rapture, and the unveiling of the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness. Since these events had not (and still have not) occurred, the Thessalonians were not experiencing the judgments accompanying the day of the Lord.

Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:719). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (4 occurrences in 4 articles)

24. How to Be Ready for the End Times—Part 2: Be Strong and Courageous : (2 Thessalonians 2:6–17) [2 Thessalonians 2:6-17] 1

Do Not Be Ignorant [2 Thessalonians 2:6-10] 2
His Revelation [2 Thessalonians 2:6-8] 3
His Revelation [2 Thessalonians 2:6-8]
How to Be Ready for the End Times—Part 2: Be Strong and Courageous (2 Thessalonians 2:6–17)

24. And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (2:6–17)

A hallmark of false doctrine is its attack on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout history, mystics, rationalists, legalists, cultists, and other heretics have assaulted Christ’s deity, humanity, and the singular efficacy and sufficiency of His saving work. The Reformation definition of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone was affirmed against the backdrop of attacks on biblical soteriology. Satan apparently devotes his personal efforts not to tempting individual Christians but to devising false systems of religion, which teach lies about Christ (1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). He is disguised as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). His demon doctrines deceive countless millions, keeping them from the life-giving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is coming a satanic false religion that will dominate the world like no other in history (cf. Rev. 17). Its object of worship will be the most powerful, evil, deceitful person to ever live: the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist. He will be the culmination of Satan’s long war against God, the last and most malevolent manifestation of the antichrist spirit (1 John 4:3). Like his evil master, Antichrist will disguise himself as an “angel of light” and deceive the whole lost world (Rev. 12:9; 13:14).

As noted in the previous chapter of this volume, Paul wrote about Antichrist, called the man of lawlessness and son of destruction, because the Thessalonians had been deceived by the lie that their fears were true, that they had missed the Rapture and were in the judgment of the Day of the Lord. Seeking to correct their error, Paul called on them to remember what he had previously taught them, reassuring them that the Day of the Lord had not come. His argument was simple and irrefutable: Antichrist has not appeared, and his appearance is a necessary precursor to the Day of the Lord. He must appear and commit the ultimate act of apostasy, the abomination of desolation, before the Day of the Lord arrives.

Paul gave six specific exhortations to avoid fear about the end times. Believers must not be deceived, forgetful, ignorant, unbelieving, insecure, or weak. The previous chapter of this volume covered the first two exhortations; this chapter will discuss the last four.

Do Not Be Ignorant

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, (2:6–10b)

Having discussed the act of apostasy by which the Antichrist will reveal himself for who he really is, Paul takes a deeper look at the man himself. He lists four aspects of Antichrist’s career: his revelation, destruction, power, and influence.

his revelation

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed (2:6–8a)

As the phrase and you know indicates, the Thessalonians understood what force currently restrains Antichrist because Paul had told them when he was with them. Therefore, he did not repeat it here—a fact that has led to endless speculation as to what it is. The Greek verb translated restrains (katechō; “to hold back,” “to hold down,” “to suppress”) appears in this text as a neuter participle, prompting commentators to suggest numerous options as to the identity of that restraining force.

Some believe that the preaching of the gospel keeps Antichrist in check. Eventually, they argue, the gospel will be fully proclaimed (cf. Matt. 24:14) and the restraint will be removed. Other suggestions for the restrainer include the nation of Israel, the alleged binding of Satan by believers, the church’s influence as salt and light in the world (cf. Matt. 5:13–14), human government (cf. Rom. 13:1–4), the general principle of law and morality in the world, the Roman Empire, and even Michael the archangel (cf. Dan. 10:21).

But none of those opinions is satisfactory. The most significant problem with all of them (except the last) is that they are human forces. Humans preach the gospel; humans make up the nation of Israel; humans attempt to bind Satan; humans comprise the church; humans run the world’s governments; humans agree on principles of law and morality; and humans made up the Roman Empire. But human power, ingenuity, and institutions cannot restrain the supernatural power of Satan that seeks to release Antichrist. And the one supernatural person in the list, Michael, does not have the power to restrain Satan (Jude 9). The most logical of those choices, the church, has never been able to restrain even human evil. It may do so to some extent in the lives of its members, but the outside world continues to grow worse and worse—a situation that will especially characterize the end times (2 Tim. 3:13). If no human or angelic power restrains, that leaves only the power of God to hold back the purpose of Satan for his Antichrist.

And God does the restraining so that in his time he will be revealed. Satan, of course, does not want to operate on God’s timetable. If he could, he would have revealed Antichrist long before now. He longs for the false messiah, through whom he will rule the earth, to appear. But nothing—not even the purposes of hell—operates independently of God’s sovereign timetable. Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). In Isaiah 46:10 God declares, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” Therefore, the man of lawlessness will not appear until the time predetermined by God.

God will not allow Antichrist to be revealed until all the redeemed, whom He chose for salvation in eternity past (2:13; cf. Matt. 25:34; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 13:8; 17:8), are gathered into the kingdom (cf. Rom. 11:25). Evil will not overstep its divinely ordained bounds. The true Messiah was revealed “when the fullness of the time came, [and] God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4); the ultimate false messiah will likewise be revealed in God’s perfect time.

Though Antichrist may be restrained, evil will not be; in fact, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Mustērion (mystery) describes something “which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Rom. 16:25) and is incapable of being known unless revealed by God. The true character of lawlessness is already at work (cf. 1 John 3:4); and “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3). Evil, lies, hypocrisy, immorality, and false religion permeate the world and grow increasingly worse, so that every generation is more wicked than those before (2 Tim. 3:13), but sin’s ultimate manifestation is yet to come. When the restraint is removed and Antichrist appears, the true character of evil will be manifested. It should be noted that not only will the man of lawlessness be revealed, but God will also release demons from being bound in hell to inundate the earth (Rev. 9:1–19).

The change in gender from the neuter participle translated “what restrains” in verse 6 to the masculine participle rendered he who … restrains is significant. The sovereign, divine force that currently restrains Antichrist is exerted by a person—the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13 where Jesus used a masculine pronoun with the neuter noun translated “Spirit”). Only He has the supernatural power to hold Satan in check. The Holy Spirit has always battled wickedness in the world. Addressing the wicked pre-Flood generation, God declared, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Gen. 6:3). Stephen issued this stinging rebuke to the leaders of Israel: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did” (Acts 7:51). The Holy Spirit also opposes evil by “convict[ing] the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He will continue His restraining work until the midpoint of the Tribulation. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraint therefore cannot be identified with the Rapture of the church, since that event takes place three and a half years earlier, before the Tribulation.

The phrase taken out of the way must not be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. That is impossible, since He is omnipresent. Nor could anyone be saved during the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14) apart from His regenerating work (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). The phrase refers not to the removal of the Holy Spirit from the world, but rather to the cessation of His restraining work.

Summarizing Paul’s teaching on this issue, William Hendriksen wrote:

Accordingly, the sense of the entire passage (verses 6 and 7) seems to be this: Satan, while perfectly aware of the fact that he cannot himself become incarnate, nevertheless would like to imitate the second person of the Trinity also in this respect as far as possible. He yearns for a man over whom he will have complete control, and who will perform his will as thoroughly as Jesus performed the will of the Father. It will have to be a man of outstanding talents. But as yet the devil is being frustrated in his attempt to put this plan into operation. Someone and something is always “holding back” the deceiver’s man of lawlessness. This, of course, happens under God’s direction. Hence, for the time being, the worst Satan can do is to promote the spirit of lawlessness. But this does not satisfy him. It is as if he and his man of sin bide their time. At the divinely decreed moment (“the appropriate season”) when, as a punishment for man’s willingness to cooperate with this spirit, the “some one” and “something” that now holds back is removed, Satan will begin to carry out his plans. (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], 182–83. Emphasis in the original.)

Romans 1:18–25 gives a clear and oft-repeated historical example of the removal of restraint so that sin is unleashed:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The three statements that “God gave them up” or “over” (vv. 24, 26, 28) describe the removal of divine restraint and the flood of immorality, homosexuality, and perverted thinking and behaving that drowns those so judged (cf. Ps. 81:11–12; Prov. 1:23–31; Hos. 4:17).

For the third time in this passage (cf. (vv. 3, 6), Paul notes that the lawless one will be revealed when the Holy Spirit’s restraint ceases. Antichrist will expose the depths of his evil nature by desecrating the temple and proclaiming himself to be God. God’s judgments, which will begin during the first half of the Tribulation, will intensify dramatically as the Day of the Lord arrives in all its judgmental fury (cf. Rev. 4–19). But Antichrist’s reign of terror will be short-lived.

his destruction

whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; (2:8b)

Just as Antichrist will be revealed at God’s appointed time, so also is the moment of his destruction divinely ordained. At the height of his power, when he seems invincible, he will meet his end. Daniel 7:26 says, “His dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever”; Daniel 11:45 notes that “he will come to his end, and no one will help him.” Revelation 17:11 declares that Antichrist “goes to destruction,” and that destruction is graphically described in Revelation 19:20: “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”

The most hellish and powerful ruler in human history will be effortlessly crushed; the Lord will slay him with the mere breath of His mouth. The term slay does not mean that the Lord will kill Antichrist (the niv translates it “overthrow”), since Revelation 19:20 says that he will still be alive when he is cast into the lake of fire. Robert L. Thomas notes:

Some have supposed a discrepancy between the fate of these two [the beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet] and that of the man of lawlessness in 2 Thess. 2:8 …, but harmonization of the two accounts of Christ’s return is quite easy. The verb … anelei,“destroy” used by Paul [in 2 Thess. 2:8] does not necessarily mean physical death. It can also refer to relegation to the lake of fire because the literal force of … anaireō [the root form of anelei] is “I make an end of.” (Revelation 8–22: An Exegetical Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1995], 397)

The concept that the Lord will destroy His enemies with the breath of His mouth stems from the Old Testament. Isaiah 11:4 says that the Lord “will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.” Isaiah 30:33 adds, “For Topheth has long been ready, indeed, it has been prepared for the king. He has made it deep and large, a pyre of fire with plenty of wood; the breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, sets it afire” (cf. Hos. 6:5). Revelation uses the similar picture of a sword coming out of the Lord’s mouth to destroy His enemies (1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21).

The parallel statement and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming adds a slightly different dimension to Antichrist’s destruction. Katargeō (bring to an end) literally means, “to render inoperative,” “to abolish,” or “to render ineffective.” Not only will the Lord slay (destroy) Antichrist’s person, He will also bring to an end his empire. Christ will annihilate both the man and his enterprise by the appearance of His coming, a reference to the visible manifestation of Christ at His second coming (Rev. 19:11–21).

So Antichrist will rule from the midpoint of the Tribulation until Christ’s return—1,260 days (Rev. 12:6), or forty-two months (Rev. 13:5), both of which equal three and a half years (cf. Dan. 9:27). During that brief reign, so suddenly ended, he will exercise power unparalleled in human history.

His power

that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness (2:9–10a)

Antichrist’s great power will not be his own but will be in accord with the activity of Satan. Energeia (activity), the root of the English word “energy,” describes power in action. It usually refers to God’s power (e. g., Eph. 1:19; 3:7; Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:29; 2:12), but here it describes Satan’s power. Antichrist’s power and signs and false wonders will not only be deceptive tricks, like falsifying his own death and resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11), but also actual manifestations of Satan’s supernatural power. Power (miracles; cf. Matt. 7:22; 11:20, 21, 23, etc.) refers to supernatural acts; signs point to the one who performs them; wonders describes the astonishing results. Antichrist’s miracles will reveal his supernatural power and create wonder, shock, and astonishment. Pseudos (false) modifies all three terms; Antichrist’s miracles, signs, and wonders are false not in the sense that they are fakery but that they lead to false conclusions about who he is. They will cause people to believe the lie that he is a divine being and worship him. John saw that Antichrist’s deluded followers “worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ ” (Rev. 13:4; cf. (vv. 12–15). Antichrist will mislead the world with all the deception … wickedness has at its disposal; he will muster all of evil’s undiluted, unrestrained, seductive power to tempt the world to give him unprecedented influence over it.

His influence

for those who perish, (2:10b)

Antichrist’s malevolent, deceptive, deadly influence will extend to all those who perish. Only God’s elect will not be taken in (Matt. 24:24). The unregenerate, being children of the arch-liar Satan (John 8:44), will inevitably fall for the lies of his emissary (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–4). Through him, Satan will deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9); all those who “[receive] the mark of the beast and those who [worship] his image” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).

Do Not Be Unbelieving

because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (2:10c–12)

Specifically, unbelievers will be deceived by Antichrist and perish because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. The phrase the love of the truth appears only here in the New Testament, and adds a compelling thought to Paul’s argument. The unregenerate are eternally lost, not because they did not hear or understand the truth, but because they did not love it. The truth includes both “the word of truth, the gospel” (Col. 1:5), and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; Eph. 4:21). Unbelievers do not welcome either Jesus or the gospel He proclaimed. Their antipathy to the truth is not intellectual, but moral, and their self-imposed blindness leaves the unredeemed under a damning level of satanic deception. It is not surprising, then, that Antichrist will deceive the entire lost world.

The Bible clearly teaches that those who go to hell do so because they reject the truth. Speaking of Jerusalem’s rejection of the truth, Jesus lamented, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). John 3:19–20 says, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” To the unbelieving Jews Jesus declared, “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:38–40). He reiterated that truth later in John’s gospel:

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins …. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God. (John 8:24, 45–47)

Because the unredeemed did not receive the love of the truth they “do not know God and … do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (1:8). They willfully choose to love their sin, believe Satan’s lies, and hate the gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ. They are like those Jewish leaders described in John 12:42–43 who “believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” In Matthew 10:37 Jesus taught that salvation involves loving Him above all else: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

The terrifying reality is that God will seal the fate of those who hate the gospel by sending upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. Though, as noted above, Antichrist will deceive people with satanically empowered false miracles, signs, and wonders, his deception only will succeed because it fits into God’s sovereign purpose. He will sentence unbelievers to accept evil as if it were good and lies as if they were the truth. Those who continually choose falsehood will be inextricably caught by it. In the words of Proverbs 5:22, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” They will be abandoned by God to the consequences of their choice to reject the gospel.

The story of Pharaoh is a grim reminder that God will judicially harden the hearts of those who persist in hardening their hearts against the truth. Because Pharaoh hardened his heart (Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34; 1 Sam. 6:6), God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, fixing him in a path from which he could never return (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8).

In Isaiah 6:9–10, a passage quoted repeatedly in the New Testament (Matt. 13:14–15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26–27; Rom. 11:8), God said to Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” God told Isaiah that He would sovereignly prevent hard-hearted rejecters of the truth from responding to his preaching. Similarly, Jesus spoke in parables not only to reveal spiritual truth to believers but also to conceal it in judgment on unbelievers (Matt. 13:11–13; Luke 8:10). There comes a day that those who persistently reject the truth will be unable to believe it; God will harden their hearts and fix them in the path they have chosen.

God’s use of Satan and Antichrist as instruments of His judgment finds a parallel in the Old Testament. Through the prophet Micaiah, God pronounced judgment on the wicked king Ahab:

Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.” (1 Kings 22:19–23)

Because of Ahab’s rebellion and unfaithfulness, God allowed Satan to deceive him through false prophets. In the future, God will again use Satan as an instrument of His judgment, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. Satan will, through Antichrist and the false prophet, delude the world into believing the lie that Antichrist is God. Unbelievers will be confirmed in that belief because they will choose not to love the truth, but rather to take pleasure in wickedness.

As indicated earlier, Romans 1 also illustrates God’s judicial abandonment of unrepentant sinners: “Even though they knew God [(vv. 19–20], they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (v. 21). Because of that, the passage declares three times that “God gave them over” (vv. 24, 26, 28) to the consequences of their own sinful choices (vv. 24–28; cf. Gen. 6:3; Judg. 10:13; 2 Chron. 15:2; 24:20; Matt. 15:14; Acts 7:38–42; 14:16).

MacArthur, J. (2002). 1 & 2 Thessalonians (275). Chicago: Moody Press.


New Bible Dictionary (1 occurrences in 1 articles)

II. Origin [Page 1106]

Sin was present in the universe before the Fall of Adam and Eve (Gn. 3:1f.; cf. Jn. 8:44; 2 Pet. 2:4; 1 Jn. 3:8; Jude 6). The Bible however does not deal directly with the origin of evil in the universe, being concerned rather with sin and its origin in human life (1 Tim. 2:14; Jas. 1:13f.). The real thrust of the demonic temptation in the account of the Fall in Gn. 3 lies in its subtle suggestion of man’s aspiring to equality with his maker (‘you will be like God … ‘, 3:5). Satan’s attack was directed against the integrity, veracity and loving provision of God, and consisted in an enticement to wicked and blasphemous rebellion against man’s proper Lord. In this act man snatched at equality with God (cf. Phil. 2:6), attempted to assert his independence of God, and hence to call in question the very nature and ordering of existence whereby he lived as creature in utter dependence upon the grace and provision of his creator. ‘Man’s sin lies in his pretension to be God’ (Niebuhr). In this act, further, man blasphemously withheld the worship and adoring love which is ever his proper response to God’s majesty and grace, and instead paid homage to the enemy of God and to his own foul ambitions.

Thus the origin of sin according to Gn. 3 ought not to be sought so much in an overt action (2:17 with 3:6) but in an inward, God-denying aspiration of which the act of disobedience was the immediate expression. As to the problem of how Adam and Eve could have been subject to temptation had they not previously known sin, Scripture does not enter into extended discussion. However, in the person of Jesus Christ it witnesses to a Man who, though without sin, was subject to temptation ‘in every respect as we are’ (Heb. 4:15; cf. Mt. 4:3f.; Heb. 2:17f.; 5:7f.; 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22f.). The ultimate origin of *evil is part of the ‘mystery of lawlessness’ (2 Thes. 2:7), but an arguable reason for Scripture’s relative silence is that a ‘rational explanation’ of the origin of sin would have the inevitable result of directing attention away from the Scripture’s primary concern, the confession of my personal guilt (cf. G. C. Berkouwer, Sin, 1971, ch. 1). In the end, sin, by the nature of the case, cannot be ‘known’ objectively; ‘sin posits itself’ (S. Kierkegaard).

III. Consequences

The sin of Adam and Eve was not an isolated event. The consequences for them, for posterity and for the world are immediately apparent.

a. Man’s attitude to God

The changed attitude to God on the part of Adam indicates the revolution that took place in their minds. They ‘hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God’ (Gn. 3:8; cf. v. 7). Made for the presence and fellowship of God, they now dreaded encounter with him (cf. Jn. 3:20). *Shame and fear were now the dominant emotions (cf. Gn. 2:25; 3:7, 10), indicating the disruption that had taken place.

b. God’s attitude to man

Not only was there a change in man’s attitude to God, but also in God’s attitude to man. Reproof, condemnation, curse, expulsion from the garden are all indicative of this. Sin is one-sided, but its consequences are not. Sin elicits God’s wrath and displeasure, and necessarily so, because it is the contradiction of what he is. For God to be complacent towards sin is an impossibility, since it would be for God to cease to take himself seriously. He cannot deny himself.

c. Consequences for the human race

The unfolding history of man furnishes a catalogue of vices (Gn. 4:8, 19, 23f.; 6:2–3, 5). The sequel of abounding iniquity results in the virtual destruction of mankind (Gn. 6:7, 13; 7:21–24). The Fall had abiding effect not only upon Adam and Eve but upon all who descended from them; there is racial solidarity in sin and evil.

d. Consequences for creation

The effects of the Fall extend to the physical cosmos.

‘Cursed is the ground because of you’ (Gn. 3:17; cf. Rom. 8:20). Man is the crown of creation, made in God’s image and, therefore, God’s vicegerent (Gn. 1:26). The catastrophe of man’s Fall brought the catastrophe of curse upon that over which he was given dominion. Sin was an event in the realm of the human spirit, but it has its repercussions in the whole of creation.

e. The appearance of death

*Death is the epitome of sin’s penalty. This was the warning attached to the prohibition of Eden (Gn. 2:17), and it is the direct expression of God’s curse upon man the sinner (Gn. 3:19). Death in the phenomenal realm consists in the separation of the integral elements of man’s being. This dissolution exemplifies the principle of death, namely, separation, and it comes to its most extreme expression in separation from God (Gn. 3:23f.). Because of sin death is invested with a fear and terror for man (Lk. 12:5; Heb. 2:15.

IV. Imputation

The first sin of Adam had unique significance for the whole human race (Rom. 5:12, 14–19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Here there is sustained emphasis upon the one trespass of the one man as that by which sin, condemnation and death came upon all mankind. The sin is identified as ‘the transgression of Adam’, ‘the trespass of the one’, ‘one trespass’, ‘the disobedience of the one’, and there can be no doubt that the first trespass of Adam is intended. Hence the clause ‘because all men sinned’ in Rom. 5:12 refers to the sin of all in the sin of Adam. It cannot refer to the actual sins of all men, far less to the hereditary depravity with which all are afflicted, for in v. 12 the clause in question clearly says why ‘death spread to all men’, and in the succeeding verses the ‘one man’s trespass’ (v. 17) is stated to be the reason for the universal reign of death. If the same sin were not intended, Paul would be affirming two different things with reference to the same subject in the same context. The only explanations the two forms of statement is that all sinned in the sin of Adam. The same inference is to be drawn from 1 Cor. 15:22, ‘in Adam all die’. If all die in Adam, it is because all sinned in Adam.

According to Scripture the kind of solidarity with Adam which explains the participation of all in Adam’s sin is the kind of solidarity which Christ sustains to those united to him. The parallel in Rom. 5:12–19; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45–49 between Adam and Christ indicates the same type of relationship in both cases, and we have no need to posit anything more ultimate in the case of Adam and the race than we find in the case of Christ and his people. In the latter it is representative headship, and this is all that is necessary to ground the solidarity of all in the sin of Adam. To say that the sin of Adam is imputed to all is but to say that all were involved in his sin by reason of his representative headship.

While the imputation of Adam’s sin was immediate according to the evidence of the relevant passages, the judgment of condemnation passed upon Adam, and hence upon all men in him, is in Scripture seen as confirmed in its justice and propriety by every man’s subsequent moral experience. Thus Rom. 3:23 ‘all have sinned’ is amply proved by reference to the specific, overt sins of Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 1:18–3:8) before Paul makes any reference whatever to imputation in Adam. In similar vein Scripture universally relates man’s ultimate judgment before God to his ‘ ‘works’ which fall short of God’s standards (cf. Mt. 7:21–27; 13:41; 25:31–46; Lk. 3:9;Rom. 2:5–10; Rev. 20:11–14).

Rejection of this doctrine betrays not only failure to accept the witness of the relevant passages but also failure to appreciate the close relation which exists between the principle which governs our relation to Adam and the governing principle of God’s operation in salvation. The parallel between Adam as the first man and Christ as the last Adam shows that the accomplishment of salvation in Christ is based on the same operating principle as that by which we have become sinners and the heirs of death. The history of mankind is finally subsumed under two complexes, sin-condemnation-death and righteousness-justification-life. The former arises from our union with Adam, the latter from union with Christ. These are the two orbits within which we live and move. God’s government of men is directed in terms of these relationships. If we do not reckon with Adam we are thereby excluded from a proper understanding of Christ. All who die die in Adam; all who are made alive are made alive in Christ.

V. Depravity

Sin never consists merely in a voluntary act of transgression. Every volition proceeds from something that is more deep-seated than the volition itself. A sinful act is the expression of a sinful heart (cf. Mk. 7:20–23; Pr. 4:23; 23:7). Sin must always include, therefore, the perversity of heart, mind, disposition and will. This was true, as we saw above, in the case of the first sin, and it applies to all sin. The imputation to posterity of the sin of Adam must, therefore, carry with it involvement in the perversity apart from which Adam’s sin would be meaningless and its imputation an impossible abstraction. Paul states that ‘by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners’ (Rom. 5:19). The depravity which sin entails and with which all men come into the world is for this reason a direct implicate of our solidarity with Adam in his sin. We come to be as individuals by natural generation, and as individuals we never exist apart from the sin of Adam reckoned as ours. Therefore the psalmist wrote, ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me’ (Ps. 51:5) and our Lord said, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh’ (Jn. 3:6).

The witness of Scripture to the pervasiveness of this depravity is explicit. Gn. 6:5; 8:21 provides a closed case. The latter reference makes it clear that this indictment was not restricted to the period before the judgment of the Flood. There is no evading the force of this testimony from the early pages of divine revelation, and later assessments are to the same effect (cf. Je. 17:9–10; Rom. 3:10–18). From whatever angle man is viewed, there is the absence of that which is well-pleasing to God. Considered more positively, all have turned aside from God’s way and become corrupted. In Rom. 8:5–7 Paul refers to the mind of the flesh, and flesh, when used ethically as here, means human nature directed and governed by sin (cf. Jn. 3:6). Further, according to Rom. 8:7, ‘The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God’. No stronger condemnatory judgment could be arrived at, for it means that the thinking of the natural man is conditioned and governed by enmity directed against God. Nothing less than a judgment of total depravity is the clear implication of these passages, i.e. there is no area or aspect of human life which is absolved from the sombre effects of man’s fallenness, and hence no area which might serve as a possible ground for man’s justification of himself in the face of God and his law.

Depravity however is not registered in actual transgression to an equal extent in all. There are multiple restraining factors. God does not give over all men to uncleanness, to a base mind, and to improper conduct (Rom. 1:24, 28). Total depravity (total, that is, in the sense that it touches everything) is not incompatible with the exercise of the natural virtues and the promotion of civil righteousness. Unregenerate men are still endowed with conscience, and the work of the law is written upon their hearts so that in measure and at points they fulfil its requirement (Rom. 2:14f.). The doctrine of depravity, however, means that these works, though formally in accord with what God commands, are not good and well-pleasing to God in terms of the full and ultimate criteria by which his judgment is determined, the criteria of love to God as the animating motive, the law of God as the directing principle, and the glory of God as the controlling purpose (Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Mt. 6:2, 5, 16; Mk. 7:6–7,; Rom. 13:4; 1 Cor. 10:31; 13:3; Tit. 1:15; 3:5; Heb. 11:4, 6).

Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (1106). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.