Mystery of Lawlessness

The “mystery of lawlessness” is active in the world preparing hearts for the “arrival” of the “Man of Lawlessness.” It will continue to do so until the appointed time when this figure “comes out of the midst” and appears in the “sanctuary of God.” And he will employ “lying signs and wonders” to cause many disciples to depart from the faith.

In the New Testament, the term “mystery of lawlessness” is unique to Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. The Greek term rendered “mystery” does not refer to something that is esoteric or mysterious, but to something that is hidden.

And hiddenness is the point of Paul’s statement. This “mystery of lawlessness” is at work in the world even now, but its activities remain largely misunderstood if not unnoticed.


In the Greek text, the participle rendered “what is possessing [katechon]” is in the neuter gender and paired with the “mystery of lawlessness.” And like the participle, “mystery” is neuter.

In Greek syntax, the participle takes the gender of its associated noun. In other words, the “mystery of lawlessness” is the thing that is now “possessing.” This is problematic to English versions that translate it as “restraining” since that would mean the “mystery of lawlessness” is “restraining” lawlessness in the world.

Paul’s description borrows language applied to the “little horn” in the seventh chapter of Daniel. And this includes the term katechon or “possessing.”

In Daniel, the “little horn” appears “in the midst” of the ten horns of the fourth beast. It subsequently wages war against the saints “until” the Ancient of Days renders judgment for them when the “season” for the saints to “possess [katchon] the kingdom” arrives.

In the interim, the “little horn” strives to “change seasons and the law.” However, in the end, he loses his “dominion” and is “broken in pieces without hand” - (Daniel 7:8, 7:18-26, 8:23-25).


So, also, the “mystery of lawlessness” is working at present to produce the “Lawless One,” only “until the proper season” when he will be revealed, “out of the midst.” Afterward, he will be “disarmed” and “paralyzed” at the “arrival of Jesus” - (2 Thessalonians 2:5-8).

The “man of lawlessness” will be unveiled when he “seats himself in the sanctuary of God.” For now, the “mystery of lawlessness” is laying the groundwork for his unveiling when he comes “out of the midst” to deceive men who “refuse the love of the truth.”

Whether this “mystery” is an impersonal force, one of the spiritual “principalities or world rulers,” or Satan himself is not addressed in the passage.

But its goal is to “possess” the “kingdom,” and to do so, it must deceive the “saints” and thereby derail the purposes of God. And that will necessitate their apostasy, assuming he succeeds in his efforts.


There are striking similarities to John’s description of the “spirit of antichrist.” Like the “mystery of lawlessness,” the “spirit of antichrist is in the world already.”

That reality is demonstrated by the rise of “many antichrists” in the church, namely, false teachers. Not only so, but their activities indicate that the “last hour” is underway, and these false teachers are forerunners of the final “Antichrist… who is coming” – (1 John 2:18-22, 4:1-3).

The association of the “lawless one” and the “antichrist” with the “apostasy,” the “sanctuary of God,” “signs and wonders” that deceive, and false teachers in the church warn us that this figure will be intent on deceiving the followers of Jesus and that his deceiving activities will occur in the church.


Destruction of Babylon

The Little Horn