Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY”

Second Thessalonians 2.7-10

 

Throughout this calendar year, we have considered a number of different mysteries that are referred to by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, and in the book of the Revelation. Keep in mind that mysteries are not necessarily complex or difficult to understand truths, but they are truths that are beyond man’s ability to discover on his own. Therefore, they are truths that must be revealed in scripture for us to know.

One mystery that was taught to the new Christians in Thessalonica, and more fully explained to New Testament readers in First Corinthians chapter 15, is the mystery that there are two ways for the child of God to enter eternity. Everyone knows that everyone dies, so every Christian assumes that the only way to enter eternity will be to experience physical death, just as everyone else does. Paul unveiled the mystery related to the resurrection in First Corinthians 15.51-53, when he wrote,

 

51     Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52     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.

53     For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

 

The mystery Paul revealed to the Thessalonians and Corinthians could never have been figured out had God not chosen to reveal to us that for the child of God there are two ways to enter eternity. Though most Christians will pass from this life to the next by means of death, at some point in the future a number of Christians will pass from this life to the next by means of the resurrection, much like Enoch did in Genesis 5.24, and like Elijah did in Second Kings chapter two. Neither man entered eternity through the portal of death.

We have every reason to believe the new Christians in Thessalonica were thrilled with this wonderful revelation from Paul, but as is true when you are a babe in Christ and not well grounded winds of false doctrine can toss you to and fro. The Thessalonians first became concerned about the Christians they knew who had already died, wondering if their dead brothers and sisters would somehow miss out on something by dying for Christ before He came to take us up in the Rapture. Paul addressed that concern and put their minds at ease in First Thessalonians, finishing his comments about that issue in 4.18 by writing, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

However, false teachers troubled those new Christians in Thessalonica about the Lord’s coming once more. Turn to Second Thessalonians chapter 1, where we find one short passage in particular that was a comfort to them. I read verses 7-10:

 

7      And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

8      In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

9      Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

10     When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

 

We see from this passage that Paul writes in anticipation of the Lord’s second coming, and not from the perspective of the Lord having already come. From verse 7, we see that at the second coming of Christ the Lord will be revealed. From verse 8, we discover that He will then pour fiery vengeance upon those who have not obeyed the gospel. Then we are reminded that the Lord will then punish unbelievers with everlasting destruction and they will no longer be around, verse nine, and will be both glorified and admired by believers in that day, verse 10. In other words, the events they were so concerned about missing are not events that will sneak up on anyone. These events will take place openly and for all to see. With the explanation that what they feared had not yet happened, Paul next turns their attention to an explanation of what was happening.

Turn to Second Thessalonians 2.1-10:

 

1      Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

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.

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;

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.

5      Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

6      And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

7      For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

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:

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.

 

In other words, Paul informs his readers that though a series of things must occur before Christ’s second coming takes place, it is important that they be reminded what is presently taking place. Look back to verse 5, where he writes, “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” What they had been taught before he left Thessalonica he now reminds them of, verses 6-7:

 

6      And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

7      For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

 

Do you remember me defining a mystery in the New Testament as something which had been concealed but which is now revealed? Let me modify my working definition by pointing out that mysteries in the New Testament are things which have been concealed, but which are now mostly revealed. I say that because verse seven refers to the only New Testament mystery that does not seem to be fully revealed to the extent that there is a general consensus of what it is.

What we do know, and what Paul was careful to remind the new Christians he was writing to, is that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” In other words, what will finally culminate in the complete exposure to all the world of the man of sin, the antichrist, that Wicked one, is a secret process of lawlessness in the world of men that was already working in Paul’s day, and is certainly continuing in our day.

Do you ever wonder what in God’s name is happening in this world we live in? If you are young, you may not notice the accelerated decline of our culture, the increasingly rapid degeneration of the society we live in, and the approaching disintegration of our way of life. However, those who are my age see what is happening, and were these things not explained in God’s Word they would overwhelm us with fear.

Allow me to get specific. Astonished as we would have been had anyone predicted it, so far in this calendar year we have seen the California supreme court rule that same sex marriages are legal, we discover a branch of the Mormon church openly practicing polygamy in the state of Texas, and more and more public school teachers are engaging in sex with their high school students, with parents still allowing their kids to attend such schools. As well, there is now a new law on the books in Colorado that criminalizes expressing biblical beliefs regarding homosexuality.[1] You heard me correctly. While the Supreme Court narrowly rules in favor of a citizen’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, a state in our union has passed a law in the mean time that takes away the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. However, that is not all. Another law was recently signed by the governor of Colorado that gives men who say they feel like they are women the legal right to use women’s rest rooms and shower facilities.[2] Imagine a big guy suddenly walking into the public rest room occupied by your wife or daughter. No one can stop him so long as he says that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body. Incredible. The inmates are running the asylum. On top of all of this, we have efforts being advanced all across the country to transform public schools at all levels into venues for spreading Islam.[3] Perhaps you recently saw news reports yourself that a public school principal in Texas brought a Muslim mullah in to the school to indoctrinate the students there about Islam. Of course, it would be a blatant violation of the law for a Baptist preacher to do the same thing in that same school. That is not much different than some broad-minded public school teachers here in California who assigned passages from the Koran to their students to memorize. As well, was there not a school that arranged for all the students to dress up like Muslims “just to see what it is like”?

What is happening here? Have we collectively lost our minds? Are we insane? On one hand, we allow our culture to be debased by sexual and spiritual deviancy, and yet on the other hand we sit by while our own children wallow in the hog troughs of sin. Parents who will object to their students being exposed to Islam and the Koran seem to have no problem when their children are exposed to sex sins with a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Hello? What is so difficult about moms and dads sitting down with their kids and discussing the importance of sexual purity, of being a virgin on your wedding day, and the astonishing folly of high school kids having boyfriends and girlfriends?

What do you think will happen with a kid who is too young marry, who is too ignorant to qualify for a decent paying job, but who inflames his appetites with a girlfriend? Do you question what will happen? The same goes for a girl who is still in school, who dates someone before she has an education, and before she can do anything with that boy except commit sin. This is not rocket science, people.

Why do parents pass by perfectly good opportunities to honestly tell their children how foolish it is to do what most kids do, thereby loading themselves down with sins and guilt at a young age? Should not parents demand of their children better behavior than their own parents required of them? If you have truly repented of drunkenness, you will be among the most vocal opponents of liquor. If you have truly repented of the sin of fornication, you will be among the most exacting parents when demanding moral purity from your own children. Yet, all around us, we see the whole country going to Hell in a hand basket. No longer do we see children rising above their parents, living cleaner lives, being more determined to serve God, being more vigilant to exalt Christ. Why is this so? What is happening? To be sure, people have lost their minds. However, we need to understand how it comes to be that people have lost their minds.

The answer is that the mystery of iniquity is working. I do not pretend to know exactly what this mystery is, but there are some details related to this evil mystery that are pretty obvious: First, the lust of each sinner’s flesh, the lust of each sinner’s eyes, and the pride of each sinner’s life are being preyed upon.[4] As well, the world, the flesh, and the devil are somehow involved in all this. If you look around and take stock of what is going on you might conclude that the great struggle between the people of God and those who favor wickedness and self-indulgence is finally going to end, with God’s side losing. If you thought that, you would be right about the great struggle finally ending. However, if you think God’s side will lose, you are tragically and damnably mistaken.

Quickly review, with me, the history of mankind, pausing at four watershed events in the history of God’s dealings with mankind when it seemed that sin had triumphed, that God’s people had lost the war, and that God Himself was somehow vanquished. I choose to call them the great mistakes, mistakes with catastrophic consequences that were brought on by judging things only by information that could be gathered with the five senses:

 

First, THERE WAS THE MISTAKE IN NOAH’S DAY

 

You may well remember reading in the Bible that God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a perfect setting for a perfect couple. Sadly, however, Adam and Eve were tempted to commit sin, tragically fell into the darkness and depravity of sinfulness, and were expelled from the Garden of Eden forever. Over the centuries the human race rapidly multiplied and became more and more sinful. As if men did not start out sinning wickedly enough, with Cain actually murdering his brother Abel, the slide deeper into the abyss of selfish indulgence continued to accelerate with each succeeding generation.

From time to time God raised up great men of God, such as Enoch, such as Methuselah, and such as Noah, but the downward spiral continued until it seemed the men and women of God diminished in number, while the wicked and unruly among men grew to fantastic numbers. At the end, it was one holdout named Noah, a preacher of righteousness who, along with his three sons, kept warning about God’s judgment coming. Year after year, they preached and built that monstrosity they call an ark. No one listened. Everyone mocked and ridiculed them. It was just the eight of them, the four men, and their wives, against everyone.

If you were a normal man or woman of Noah’s day, you would have observed one family against the entire human race. One family declaring to everyone that they were wrong. A solitary figure against the whole world, crying out that God’s judgment was about to fall. There was nothing irrational about the old man. He seemed a nice enough guy, but how could everyone be wrong? He even seemed to make sense. However, it simply could not be that everyone was mistaken.

Then Noah and his sons and their wives loaded up the ark with pairs of animals, while the onlookers laughed and ridiculed them to scorn. Noah urged people to join them in the ark, but no one could see any reason to believe one man who stood against the entire human race. Therefore, no one responded to Noah’s urgings. The result, of course, was that everyone died in the Flood. Why did they die? They died because they were mistaken. You see, Noah was right. Everyone else was wrong, and paid for their mistake with their lives, and with their souls.

 

Next, THE MISTAKE THEY MADE IN ELIJAH’S DAY

 

Saul was Israel’s first king. However, he greatly sinned and God gave the throne to His beloved David. David’s son, Solomon, became king after David, and Solomon’s foolish son, Rehoboam, reigned when Solomon died. Through foolishness, Rehoboam lost ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, with the single kingdom splitting into the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. Israel to the north slid into spiritual apostasy much more quickly than Judah, with its capital of Jerusalem, its Temple built by Solomon, and a number of godly kings descended from David and Solomon. Israel’s problem, early and often, centered around idolatry. In response to Israel’s spiritual decline, God raised up a number of prophets, one of the greatest being a man named Elijah.

Elijah fought against the spiritual decline valiantly, with his most famous confrontation taking place one day on Mount Carmel, just south of the beautiful present day city of Haifa. First Kings 18 records the day in great detail, with Elijah the lone prophet of God standing against 450 prophets of the false god Baal, who fronted for the wicked queen of Israel, the wife of Ahab named Jezebel. I will leave it to you to read First Kings chapter 18, and to enjoy Elijah’s ridicule of the prophets of Baal and their stupid tricks, along with his mocking of their false god, before crying out at the end of that long day, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”[5] God answered Elijah with fire that fell from heaven and consumed the burnt sacrifice Elijah had placed on the altar he made, and the very wet wood placed on the altar, and the stones the altar was made from, and the dust, and licked up the water that he had poured over the sacrifice that collected in the trench that surrounded the altar.[6]

Oh, did that miracle convince the onlookers. They were terrified and fell on their faces, saying, “The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.” Then, of course, the 450 prophets of Baal were summarily executed. In retrospect, we see that the people were mistaken in siding with Jezebel and the prophets of Baal while they were in the ascendancy, falsely concluding that political and military might has anything to do with right and wrong and which side God is on. However, the lesson we learn from this episode in Elijah’s service to God is that even the man of God can be terribly mistaken.

After seeing such a demonstration of power from God, and after experiencing such victory in the face of determined foes, consider what Elijah did when Ahab, the king, told his wife, wicked Queen Jezebel what had happened and she responded with a threatening message to the prophet of God. He stands up to the king and 450 false prophets, God gives a great and miraculous victory, and what does he do when a solitary woman threatens him? Keeping in mind that Elijah is on Mount Carmel, in the northernmost part of Israel, First Kings 19.3-4 informs us that he fled to Beersheba, the southernmost city of Judah, a distance of about a hundred miles, and then traveled another day beyond that into the wilderness. In other words, Elijah fled for his life a distance of roughly 120 miles to get away from Jezebel, the wife of the king he had no fear of!

Why did Elijah flee like this? Why did he run for his life? What was it that so greatly affected his judgment and disheartened him? Many commentators attribute it all to fatigue and the inevitable letdown that comes after a spiritual victory. That may be. However, what we know is that even Elijah, spiritual man of God that he was, was greatly mistaken about something that would surely have affected his behavior. In First Kings 18.22, he declared that he was the only prophet of God that remained. He may have been right in what he said. However, by the time he has run away from Jezebel and fled into the wilderness, where he is confronted by God and makes a statement to God that is simply mistaken: “. . . he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

How does God respond when Elijah cries out that he is the only one left? He may have been the only prophet left, but what about being the only faithful man left? In First Kings 19.18, God answers and corrects Elijah’s mistake: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” Do you think Elijah would have fled like he did, tucked tail and run like he did, had he not been thoroughly mistaken about being the only one left? He had to run. He had to save his life, he thought, since he was the only one left. However, he was mistaken. Even the man of God can be mistaken. That mistake resulted in Elijah’s ministry ending prematurely.

 

Third, THE MISTAKE IN JESUS’ DAY

 

I am running short of time. However, we are now in more familiar territory. You know that His miracles, the raising of the dead, giving sight to the blind, healing the lame, cleansing the lepers, feeding the five thousand, resulted in greatly increased popularity among the people. A Messiah who performs miracles and feeds people must be wonderful, indeed.

Never mind that He has also said that in order to gain your life you must lose it. Never mind that He taught that the seed must fall to the earth and die. Never mind that He said He must be crucified. The people were all for Him, until the rulers of the Jews turned everyone against Him. Days before He had the whole city of Jerusalem crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”[7] Then, in a sudden turn of events, they cried out, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.”

What happened? They were mistaken. Oh, how quickly opinions turn, first this way, and then that way, when your mind is made up by the information that you gather with your five senses. I mean, it just makes sense to agree with the priests and the scribes. After all, they are the scholars. They are the officials. What they say has to be right. As well, all the people cannot be wrong. However, the people were mistaken, tragically mistaken, and terribly mistaken. So mistaken that they were complicit in our Lord’s crucifixion. So mistaken that, fifty days later, Simon Peter would stand before them on the steps leading up to the Temple and cry out, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”[8] Their mistake resulted in them being accessories to the crucifixion of the Son of God.

 

Finally, THE MISTAKE IN OUR DAY

 

People look around and see the rising tide of spiritual apostasy, the eagerness to abandon all moral restrictions in favor of wild and unrestrained promiscuity, and the rapid disintegration of Bible-based traditional values. For 35 years, unrestricted abortion on demand has been the law of the land. Homosexuality and sex outside of marriage is now aggressively pushed on radio, on television, in the movies, and throughout the Internet. Those prominent and well-known spokesmen for Christianity are a joke. They are mostly effeminate sissies who stand for nothing except being always positive and in every way inoffensive. They are just the kind of nice person the blue-haired old ladies at the Methodist Church approve of.

So, when you hear a real gospel message at this church, and when you are confronted with the message of the Bible from this preacher, and when you are told that you must turn from your sins or face the judgment of God, what are you supposed to think? If you are like most people, you ask yourself how can what this guy says be true when none of the non-Christians believe it, and when most of the professing Christians think such a message is too harsh?

The mistake that is made these days, and the mistake that even the Thessalonian Christians made, is in thinking that wickedness is out of control, in surmising that the forces of evil have swamped the cause of Christ, and in concluding we are on the losing end of this spiritual war. However, the Apostle Paul told those he wrote to that is not the case at all. To be sure, the mystery of iniquity is at work in the world. However, be sure that evil is being restrained by the Holy Spirit until He is taken out of the way, until He opens the flood gates of wickedness. If wickedness only progresses as it is allowed to advance by the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, Who is actually in charge? My friends, God is actually in charge.

Therefore, if you make your decisions based only on what you can see, only on what information you can gather, you will be mistaken.

 

I could have given you many more examples of these kinds of mistakes made by people. During the days of the Assyrian encirclement of Jerusalem, during the days leading up to the Babylonian captivity, and during the times of the Judges.

My friends, if you base your life on the information you gather with your eyes and ears you will be mistaken, just as they were mistaken in Noah’s day before the Flood, just as Elijah was mistaken in his day, just as the multitudes were mistaken in Jesus’ day, and just as so many from the days of Paul to now have been mistaken.

Here is how the mistakes are made: If you gather and consider information with your eyes and ears, you do not gather enough information, and you do not gather the right information. You see, the only information that really matters about what will happen in the future, about which side to be on, about how it will all turn out in the end, is the information provided by God in His Word.

It looked as though God’s people were on the losing side in Noah’s day, but God said He would judge all the earth and save Noah. It looked to Elijah as though only he remained of those faithful and loyal to God in all the land, yet God had yet 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

To those thousands who had seen Jesus work miracles in Jerusalem, it looked like Jesus of Nazareth was doomed; therefore, they abandoned Him in a heartbeat, and cried out for His crucifixion. In addition, He was crucified, and buried. Then He rose from the dead, showing those who were not on His side that they were on the wrong side.

Even in our day it looks as though all is lost as we struggle against a rising tide of unbelief, as we struggle against the reality that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, and the onlookers arrive at the false conclusion that the gospel cannot be real, Christianity cannot be legitimate, Jesus does not really save from sins, the wrath of God against sinners need not be feared. After all, how can so many people be mistaken about these things?

My friend, don’t you see? You cannot arrive at the correct appraisal of any situation so long as you discount the involvement of God in all of this. Paul’s comfort to those terrified Christians in Thessalonica was basically that God is in control of all this, and the rising tide of evil in the world is strictly controlled by Him, so that even as things seem to get worse and worse, God allows such things to happen to accomplish His purposes.

What does that tell you? What conclusions should you draw from a consideration of God’s Word? The victory is ours, beloved. The victory is ours. That person who owns Jesus and who is possessed by Jesus has victory that cannot be snatched from his grasp.

Think it through. When all is said and done, do you really think God will allow His enemies the victory? Do you really question the outcome of our Lord Jesus Christ’s second coming in power and great glory? If the answer is no, then you had better take notice of which side of this war you are on, and get on the right side as quickly as possible.



[4] 1 John 2.16

[5] 1 Kings 18.36-37

[6] 1 Kings 18.38

[7] Matthew 21.9

[8] Acts 2.23



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org