I am publishing a five-part series on a rarely discussed subject called the mystery of iniquity. I am writing this out of deep concern that the body of Christ has ignored the signs that the end is, not near, but here. I gave my life to Jesus Christ 31 years ago, and during that period of spiritual renewal for me and my family, there was a revelry that bordered on maniacal that Jesus could return any moment. Since my conversion, I have witnessed the self destruction of many prominent (and not so prominent) Church officials and lay-members alike, and I have seen the enthusiasm for Christ’s return sink to a low that I would have never imagined.
The first article will discuss Satan’s two thousand year’s plan to harness control of human government. The second article will examine the Church where Satan had established his corporate headquarters. Oh, did I say it was a prominent Christian Church? The third article will discuss Satan’s rebellion in heaven, which led to the expulsion of one-third of the heavenly host. And the fourth and fifth articles will tie it all together by examining the last decade and demonstrating how events have hurled human civilization closer to the poisoned embrace of the anti-Christ.
I once read a book where a CIA operative was assigned to prevent the assassination of the Chinese President. He started out in the blind, not knowing any of the details of the conspiracy that most likely would have caused World War III. However, as he pursued every lead to discover who would kill China’s President, he found out that it was a faction within the U.S. government that wanted to create instability in China for economic and strategic reasons. Since he was just a field agent, he knew that he could not convince his superiors that a number of their colleagues were conspiring to assassinate one of the great world leaders of his time. Consequently, he decided to continue in his effort to capture the gunman.
Once the operative uncovered the conspiracy at the upper echelons of the U.S. government, a “hit” was placed on him to remove him from the trail. The conspirators even tried to kill his girlfriend, whom he loved dearly, so he was forced to protect himself and her, while traveling around the globe to locate this unknown assassin.
The operative was able to forge a couple of passes for him and his girlfriend to attend the international forum where the president was to be assassinated. He roamed the convention floor as a delegate, while his girlfriend gained entry as a camerawoman with the international press corps. Much to his horror, while analyzing the ballroom floor as the President of China entered, he discovered that his girlfriend was the assassin. As close as this man was to his girlfriend, he had no idea that she was being paid to kill the president of another country. In fact, she was working against everything that he held sacred as an American patriot.
The above story is an excellent example of how Satan has forged his way through human history. He never shows up with a pitchfork in his hand; but rather as a harmless dove, or as the loving woman who sleeps in the bed with an unsuspecting mate. God has warned us of his clever nature – 14. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness (II Corinthians 2: 14-15a).
Satan’s ability to guile goes beyond most people’s ability to comprehend. He has been deceiving the masses since the B.C. period of the Pharaohs, and every civilization has fallen prey to his spell and cunning ability to transform a barren landscape into the appearance of an oasis. In II Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul reveals something about Satan that is essential in understanding the depth of his ability to deceive; that he shrouds his godless, wicked and deceptive nature through mystery.
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 (II Thessalonians 2:1-7, emphasis mine).
A theological mystery, as we see in verse 7 above, is something that baffles the understanding and cannot be explained without the aid of a divine revelation. The furtive nature of Satan’s involvement in human history should have come as no great surprise to the saints, and Paul’s letter to Thessalonica was not intended to inform them that the devil operates a secret agenda. It was written to calm the anxiety of saints who believed that Jesus was soon to return. Paul gave them some landmark signs that would signal the era of Christ’s return: First, there would be a great falling away from the church; and second, the man of sin would be revealed.
What is significant in Paul’s message to the Church is that forces have been aligning themselves since the Apostolic Age to prepare civilization for the poisoned embrace of the anti-christ. By identifying the mystery of iniquity, God has warned the Church of a wicked, end-time (anti-christic) government that will surreptitiously come upon the inhabitants of the earth. What is more stunning, however, than the secret and diabolic nature of this end-time government, is the fact that it has been evolving since the first century A.D. Paul warned the Christians at Thessalonica that the mystery of iniquity doth already work (see II Thessalonians 2:7a above).
Since the early Church-Age, Satan has been perfecting his plan to enslave the civilizations of the earth. He has done it furtively in an effort to deal the final blow to the role of human government. Some things are self-evident: if the inhabitants of the earth realized that a satanic attack on humanity loomed on the horizon, many of them would turn to Jesus. However, this is not going to be the case. Not only will they not resist his assault, but according to the Scripture, they will adore him after he rises – And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). How clever it will be for the Devil to deceive the world into worshiping him.
The Thessalonican Church did not witness the great falling away as prophesied by Paul. In fact, notwithstanding the persecution of the time, they experienced an era of great church growth. As men and women laid down their lives for the Gospel, it inspired many new converts to follow Jesus. However, we are experiencing the falling away; consequently, one of the two prongs that Paul predicted that would precede the return of Jesus is prevalent in our modern age.
Now the revealing of the man of sin is tricky. Some have used this part of Paul’s prophesy to teach that the rapture will not take place until the rise of the anti-christ, which suggests that the Church will go through at least a portion of the Great Tribulation Period, while others say that verse 7 proves that the anti-christ cannot rise until the church and the Holy Ghost are taken out of the earth – only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way (II Thessalonians 2:7b).
The teaching on the rapture is beyond the scope of this article, and I am not attempting to suggest my position on it at this time. The revelation of the man of sin may suggest that the Church will not be taken out of the earth until after the rise of the anti-christ. However, it could mean that God will reveal who this man of sin is to prophets in the body of Christ prior to his ascension to the throne of human government; which would theoretically permit a pre-tribulation rapture. For the time, I’ll leave this argument up to the theologians. If we look at the big picture and not the details for a moment, the logical question here is not when the rapture is, but whenever it is, will I be ready?
As we examine the body of Christ, and witness this great falling away, one must wonder if some in the Church leadership are playing their violins as the Titanic sinks. I’m certain that I am not the only one asking how such apathy eroded the apostolic age enthusiasm for serving Jesus, or the enthusiasm that was prevailing just 30 years ago. A simple pedestrian examination of the Church seems to suggest that there is no corporate urgency that we are living in the last days and that Jesus is soon to appear. In Part II of this article, I will address why this is so.
- David Tolson (1.29.2009)
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