"Mystery Of Lawlessness" Or "Man Of Sin"
Luther W. Martin
St. James, Missouri
The Christians at Thessalonica, were quite concerned as to the time or imminence of the coming of Christ . . . . the "Day of the Lord". The Apostle Paul assured them by writing:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the failing away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that, is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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. And the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan with all power, signs, and lying wonders. . . . (2 Thess. 2:3-9)
Let us list the salient points in the above quotation:
(1) Coming of the "Day of the Lord," the second coming of Christ.
(2) An apostasy, a "falling away" must precede Christ's coming.
(3) The "man of sin" will be revealed, termed the "son of perdition."
(a) He opposes all that is called "God" or that is worshiped.
(b) He exalts himself above all that is called "God" or that is worshiped.
(c) He sits as God, in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
(4) Paul had told the Thessalonian Christians this, while he was yet with them.
(5) Paul referred to that which restrained the manifestation of the "Man of Sin" until he would be "revealed in his own time."
(6) This "Mystery of lawlessness" or "Mystery of iniquity" was already at work in Paul's time.
(7) The "restrainer" is referred to as "He," and ultimately the "Man of Sin" will be "taken out of the way."
(8) The "lawless one" will be revealed.
(a) Whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth.
(b) The Lord will destroy with the brightness of His coming.
(9) The coming or appearing of the "lawless one" accords with the work of Satan, using power, signs and lying wonders.
Notes and Comments On The Above Salient Points
The time of Christ's return in the clouds of the air, is known only by God, the Father. In almost every generation, men have wrongly speculated as to the date or time of Christ's coming. (See Mark 13:32.)
The "falling away" has been many different things to many different people, depending upon who they were and where they were. In the early centuries after the establishment of the Lord's church in Jerusalem (A.D. 33), there were some who opined that the "falling away" would be spear-headed by Judaism, that the leader would be Jewish and in some way would influence Jewish-Christians back into the Jewish religion. Others thought of Mohammed (570-632 A.D.), the founder of the Mohammedan Religion. He was an Arabian military and religious leader, his followers today are usually called "Moslems".
In the 13th century, the Roman Catholic Church instituted the Inquisition, sometimes termed the "Holy Office," and is now called the "Congregation of the Holy Office." This "Inquisition" was a court or tribunal for the discovery, examination, and punishment of heretics. The Spanish Inquisition was probably the most severe of these tribunals, existing from 1237 A.D., until it was abolished in 1834. It became so vicious, that it was placed under state control in 1480. However, since the "State" was frequently dominated by the Catholic Church, it continued to be an instrument of terror and abuse. Many people were crippled and slain in the name of the "Holy Office." Therefore, it was not unexpected that the Reformers thought of the "Man of Sin" as being the Papal Office. From the time of Martin Luther onward, those who were called "Protestants" defined the "falling away" from the New Testament church as being Catholicism, with the Roman Pope heading the apostasy.
Other Statements By The Apostle Paul
Luke recorded this passage, but was quoting Paul, as the Apostle was speaking to the bishops (elders) of the church of Ephesus:
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:28-30).
In this instance, the Apostle Paul was foretelling what was going to befall the-church at Ephesus, and possibly other congregations. There would be those from outside the church who would invade it and be as wolves in a flock of sheep. Then, also, there would be men from among the bishops or overseers, who would attempt to introduce false teachings and practices, and thus cause some disciples to "fall away." This prophecy from an inspired apostle, came to pass, first in the Greek Church, and later in the Roman Catholic Church.
In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he also expresses a prophecy:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. . . . men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth (1 Tim. 4:1, 3).
In this instance, those who have "fallen away" will have responded to those false teachers who forbid marriage, and teach abstinence from certain foods. This peculiar identifying characteristic is most common to Roman Catholicism.
Statements By The Apostle John
The elderly Apostle John was exiled to the island of Patmos, before he died. In his last years, by inspiration he penned some warnings to the faithful among the congregations:
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that none of them were of us (1 John 2:18-19).
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and even now it is Already in the world (1 John 4:1-3).
For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (2 John 7).
Statement by Jude, The Lord's Brother
The brothers of Christ, are named by Matthew (13:55): James, Joses, Simon and Judas. It is thought that the Epistle of Jude was written by this brother of the Lord. In any event, it records:
Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).
Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire
Concerning the decision of the Synod, of Arles (314 A.D.), Constantine called a decree of Arles "a heavenly judgment." Then he added: "the judgment of the priests ought to be so received as though the Lord Himself sat and judged." Some twenty years later, Constantine stated: "What seemed good to the-three hundred holy bishops (that is,-the members of the Nicene Synod) is no otherwise to be thought of than as the judgment of the only Son of God" (Underscoring mine, LWM).
Bishop Gregory of Rome Venus John The Faster-of Constantinople
The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) had offered the title of "Universal Bishop" to the Bishop of Rome, as an honor to the memory of the Apostle Peter, who was supposedly martyred at Rome. But according to Bishop Gregory I, none of the Roman bishops had utilized that title. Therefore, when Emperor Maurice tendered the title of "Universal Patriarch" to John the Faster of Constantinople, Bishop Pelagius If and his successor, Bishop Gregory I, protested against the assumption of such a title. Gregory wrote several letters, but his most out-spoken one was directed to the Emperor:
I pray your Imperial Piety, to observe ttiat there are some frivolous things that are inoffensive, but also some others that are very hurtful. When Antichrist shall come and call himself God, it will be in itself a perfectly frivolous thing, but a very pernicious one. If we only choose to consider the number of syllables in this word, we find but two, (De-us;) but if we conceive the weight of iniquity of this title, we shall rind it enormous. I say it without the least hesiiation, whoever calls himself the universal bishop, or desires this title, is, by his pride, The Precursor Of Antichrist, because he thus attempts to raise himself above the others. The error into which he falls springs from pride equal to that of Antichrist; for as that Wicked One wished to be regarded as exalted above other men, like a God, so likewise whoever would be called sole bishop exalteth himself above others.
In 1883 A.D., A Catholic Priest, W.J. Wiseman, wrote in 77te Pastor, a publication for Catholic Priests: "The saints never questioned curiously as to the fallibility or infallibility of the Holy See, in regard to Papal documents. It was eiiou$h for them to know that the Pope, whether Clement or Gregory, Pius or Leo, was in the place of Peter; that his hand held the tiller, and that, according to the promise, Christ is with the successor of the Fisherman, directing and assisting. The Encyclical of September (1882) may be a document outside the reach of infallibility, but it is the voice of our great captain, directing which way to head the bark of Peter, - the voice of Peter, - of the Lord Himself through his vice-gerent on earth. . ."
Wherefore, according to this relatively modern Catholic priest, the voice of the Pope is the voice of the Lord, Himself.
It appears to me that the Pope seats himself in what is claimed to be the temple of God, and that he asserts himself to be the voice of God, thus supposedly expressing the very thoughts of God. Such blasphemy! But, one would expect that of the Anti-Christ!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII; 4, pp. 109-111