Until Revealed


Paul has explained why the “day of the Lord” has not commenced. Neither the “apostasy” nor the “revelation of the man of lawlessness” has occurred. Next, he describes the “mystery of lawlessness” that is setting the stage for the “arrival” of the “Lawless One.” He will be unveiled when this mystery of lawlessness” completes its preparatory task.

Paul told the Thessalonians about “THESE things” when he was with them. The demonstrative pronoun rendered “these” refers to the two things listed in verses 3-4, the unveiling of the “man of lawlessness” and the commencement of the “apostasy”:

  • (2 Thessalonians 2:5-8) - “Do you not remember that being yet with you, these things I said to you? And now you know what is possessing, to the end, he may be revealed in his season. For the mystery of lawlessness already is working, only there is one who is possessing now until he comes out of the way; then will be revealed the Lawless One, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and destroy with the manifestation of his arrival [parousia].”

WHAT IS POSSESSING


In the paragraph, the term rendered “possessing” translates the Greek participle katechon, which is in the present tense signifying an ongoing action - “what is possessing.” The verb occurs approximately twenty times in the New Testament, most often with the sense “hold fast, keep, possess.” Note the following examples - (Matthew 21:38, Romans 1:18, 7:6, 1 Corinthians 7:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

And the participle is in the neuter gender - it refers to “WHAT is possessing.” In the Greek sentence, it is paired with the “mystery of lawlessness,” and like the participle, “mystery” is also neuter. This explains why “possessing” is neuter and not masculine. In other words, the “mystery of lawlessness” is the thing, the WHAT that is “possessing” at the present time.

Paul continues to use imagery from the “little horn” in the seventh chapter of Daniel. As he often does, he uses the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament. And this is also his source for the verb katechō or “possessing” and several other terms used in the present passage:

  • (Daniel 7:8, 18-26) – “There came up in their midst [anebé en mesō] another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots… But the saints of the Most-High will take the kingdom and POSSESS [katechō] the kingdom forever…. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them until [heōs] the Ancient of days came and judgment was given to the saints of the Most-High. And the SEASON [kairos] came that the saints possessed [katechō] the kingdom.”

And the Septuagint version uses katechō to translate the Aramaic verb chacan, which also means to “possess, take possession.”

HIS SEASON


To the end, to reveal him in his SEASON [kairos].” The phrase rendered “to the end” represents a purpose clause in the Greek sentence, and that purpose is to prepare for the unveiling of this lawless figure. This is confirmed by the next clause - “for the mystery of lawlessness already is working.”

Note the use of another present tense verb, “is working.” Thus, at present, the “mystery of lawlessness” is active in the world preparing for the way for this figure’s appearance in the “sanctuary of God.”

In his season” means there is a set time when this event will occur. Just as the “little horn” was authorized to inflict the saints for a “season, seasons, and part of a season,” so the “man of lawlessness” is allotted a limited “season” in which to implement his plans.

Only at present, until he who possesses comes out of the midst [heōs ek mesou].” The verb ginomai or “comes out” means to “come, become, to come to be.” Here again, Paul echoes the passage in Daniel, in this case, where the “little horn rose up in the midst” to remove the three “horns” - (Daniel 7:8).

HE WHO POSSESSES


The subject of the clause is the man “who possesses,” not the “mystery of lawlessness” or his unveiling. Precisely what Paul means by “out of the midst” is not clear, but it likely refers to the moment when this man  will seat himself in the “sanctuary of God.” That is when his identity will be “revealed.”

This understanding is confirmed in the next clause, “then shall be revealed the lawless One.” Thus, the “mystery of lawlessness” is preparing the way for the revelation of this figure, and Paul has been describing the things that must occur BEFORE the “day of the Lord” - The “apostasy” and the “revelation of the man of lawlessness.”

In Daniel, the “little horn” is an illegitimate king who appears from the legitimate line of succession of ten kings. He “possesses” the kingdom UNTIL the time for God to vindicate His “saints,” and that day will result in his overthrow and the “possession” of the kingdom by the “saints.”

Similarly, after the “arrival” of the “man of lawlessness,” he will be destroyed at the “arrival” or ‘parousia’ of Jesus.

While his language is cryptic, the scenario Paul presents is straightforward. The “day of the Lord” will not occur until the “apostasy” begins and the “man of lawlessness” is “revealed.” And the latter will transpire when this figure seats himself in the “sanctuary of God.”

At present, the “mystery of lawlessness” is preparing for this unveiling when he comes “out of the midst.” And his “revelation” is the same as his “arrival” or ‘parousia.’ Afterward, Jesus will appear and destroy the “Lawless One” at his ‘parousia.’ Put another way, the “arrival” of the “Lawless One” is the counterpart to the “arrival” of Jesus in glory.

The association of this figure with the “apostasy,” the “sanctuary of God,” and the use of “signs and wonders” for deceptive purposes, along with the contrast between his “arrival” and that of Jesus, warn us that this figure is coming to hoodwink believers by mimicking Christ and causing as many saints as possible to apostatize from the faith.


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