2 Thessalonians 2:5-8
5. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
5. Annon memoria tenetis, quod, quum adhuc essem apud vos, haec vobis dicebam?
6. And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time.
6. Et nunc quid detineat, scitis, donec ille reveletur suo tempore.
7. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way:
7. Mysterium enim iam operatur iniquitatis, solum tenens modo donec e medio tollatur.
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.
8. Et tunc revelabitur iniquus ille, quem Dominus destruet spiritu oris sui, et abolebit illustratione adventus sui.
5. Do ye not remember? This added no small weight to the doctrine, that they had previously heard it from the mouth of Paul, that they might not think that it had been contrived by him at the instant. And as he had given them early warning as to the reign of Antichrist, and the devastation that was coming upon the Church, when no question had as yet been raised as to such things, he saw beyond all doubt that the doctrine was specially useful to be known. And, unquestionably, it is really so. Those whom he addressed were destined to see many things that would trouble them; and when posterity would see a large proportion of those who had made profession of the faith of Christ revolt from piety, maddened, as it were, by a gad-fly, or rather by a fury, 1 what could they do but waver? This, however, was as a brazen 2 wall 3--that matters were so appointed by God, because the ingratitude of men 4 was worthy of such vengeance. Here we may see how forgetful men are in matters affecting their everlasting salvation. We must also observe Paul's mildness; for while he might have been vehemently incensed, 5 he does but mildly reprove them; for it is a fatherly way of reproving them to say to them, that they had allowed forgetfulness of a matter so important and so useful to steal in upon their minds.
6. And now what withholdeth. To< kate>con means here properly an impediment or occasion of delay. Chrysostom, who thinks that this can only be understood as referring to the Spirit, or to the Roman Empire, prefers to lean to the latter opinion. He assigns a plausible reason--because Paul would not have spoken of the Spirit in enigmatical terms, 6 but in speaking of the Roman Empire wished to avoid exciting unpleasant feeling. He states also the reason why the state of the Roman Empire retards the revelation of Antichrist--that, as the monarchy of Babylon was overthrown by the Persians and Medes, and the Macedonians, having conquered the Persians, again took possession of the monarchy, and the Macedonians were at last subdued by the Romans, so Antichrist seized hold for himself of the vacant supremacy of the Roman Empire. There is not one of these things that was not afterwards confirmed by actual occurrence. Chrysostom, therefore, speaks truly in so far as concerns history. I am of opinion, however, that Paul's intention was different from this--that the doctrine of the gospel would require to be spread hither and thither, until nearly the whole world were convicted of obstinacy and deliberate malice. For there can be no doubt that the Thessalonians had heard from Paul's mouth as to this impediment, of whatever sort it was, for he recalls to their remembrance what he had previously taught in their presence.
Let my readers now consider which of the two is the more probable--either that Paul declared that the light of the gospel must be diffused through all parts of the earth before God would thus give loose reins to Satan, or that the power of the Roman Empire stood in the way of the rise of Antichrist, inasmuch as he could only break through into a vacant possession. I seem at least to hear Paul discoursing as to the universal call of the Gentiles--that the grace of God must be offered to all--that Christ must enlighten the whole world by his gospel, in order that the impiety of men might be the more fully attested and demonstrated. This, therefore, was the delay, until the career of the gospel should be completed, because a gracious invitation to salvation was first in order. 7 Hence he adds, in his time, because vengeance was ripe after grace had been rejected. 8
7. The mystery of iniquity. This is opposed to revelation ; for as Satan had not yet gathered so much strength, as that Antichrist could openly oppress the Church, he says that he is carrying on secretly and clandestinely 9 what he would do openly in his own time. He was therefore at that time secretly laying the foundations on which he would afterwards rear the edifice, as actually took place. And this tends to confirm more fully what I have already stated, that it is not one individual that is represented under the term Antichrist, but one kingdom, which extends itself through many ages. In the same sense, John says that Antichrist will come, but that there were already many in his time. (1 John 2:18.) For he admonishes those who were then living to be on their guard against that deadly pestilence, which was at that time shooting up in various forms. For sects were rising up which were the seeds, as it were, of that unhappy weed which has well--nigh choked and destroyed God's entire tillage. 10 But although Paul conveys the idea of a secret manner of working, yet he has made use of the term mystery rather than any other, alluding to the mystery of salvation, of which he speaks elsewhere, (Colossians 1:26,) for he carefully insists on the struggle of repugnancy between the Son of God and this son of perdition.
Only now withholding. While he makes both statements in reference to one person--that he will hold supremacy for a time, and that he will shortly be taken out of the way, I have no doubt that he refers to Antichrist; and the participle withholding must be explained in the future tense. 11 For he has, in my opinion, added this for the consolation of believers--that the reign of Antichrist will be temporary, the limits of it having been assigned to it by God; for believers might object--"Of what avail is it that the gospel is preached, if Satan is now hatching a tyranny that he is to exercise for ever?" He accordingly exhorts to patience, because God afflicts his Church only for a time, that he may one day afford it deliverance; and, on the other hand, the perpetuity of Christ's reign must be considered, in order that believers may repose in it.
8. And then will be revealed--that is, when that impediment (to< kate>con) shall be removed; for he does not point out the time of revelation as being when he, who now holds the supremacy, will be taken out of the way, but he has an eye to what he had said before. For he had said that there was some hindrance in the way of Antichrist's entering upon an open possession of the kingdom. He afterwards added, that he was already hatching a secret work of impiety. In the third place, he has interspersed consolation, on the ground that this tyranny would come to an end. 12 He now again repeats, that he 13 who was as yet hidden, would be revealed in his time ; and the repetition is with this view--that believers, being furnished with spiritual armor, may, nevertheless, fight vigorously under Christ, 14 and not allow themselves to be overwhelmed, although the deluge of impiety should thus overspread. 15
Whom the Lord. He had foretold the destruction of Antichrist's reign; he now points out the manner of his destruction--that he will be reduced to nothing by the word of the Lord. It is uncertain, however, whether he speaks of the last appearance of Christ, when he will be manifested from heaven as the Judge. The words, indeed, seem to have this meaning, but Paul does not mean that Christ would accomplish this 16 in one moment. Hence we must understand it in this sense--that Antichrist would be wholly and in every respect destroyed, 17 when that final day of the restoration of all things shall arrive. Paul, however, intimates that Christ will in the mean time, by the rays which he will emit previously to his advent, put to flight the darkness in which Antichrist will reign, just as the sun, before he is seen by us, chases away the darkness of the night by the pouring forth of his rays. 18
This victory of the word, therefore, will shew itself in this world, for the spirit of his mouth simply means the word, as it also does in Isaiah 11:4, to which passage Paul seems to allude. For the Prophet there takes in the same sense the scepter of his mouth, and the breath of his lips, and he also furnishes Christ with these very arms, that he may rout his enemies. This is a signal commendation of true and sound doctrine--that it is represented as sufficient for putting an end to all impiety, and as destined to be invariably victorious, in opposition to all the machinations of Satan; as also when, a little afterwards, the proclamation of it is spoken of as Christ's coming to us.
When Paul adds, the brightness of his coming, he intimates that the light of Christ's presence will be such as will swallow up the darkness of Antichrist. In the mean time, he indirectly intimates, that Antichrist will be permitted to reign for a time, when Christ has, in a manner, withdrawn, as usually happens, whenever on his presenting himself we turn our back upon him. And, undoubtedly, that is a sad departure 19 of Christ, when he has taken away his light from men, which has been improperly and unworthily received, 20 in accordance with what follows. In the mean time Paul teaches, that by his presence alone all the elect of God will be abundantly safe, in opposition to all the subtleties of Satan.