“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” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
We can enhance our understanding of this verse by examining three significant words. The first is the word mystery. This refers to a secret that would ordinarily remain unknown unless it was revealed in some manner. (1) The second word is lawlessness. We can define this word as “contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness.” (2) Finally, there is the term “work.” In the original language of this passage, this phrase is represented by the word energeo and serves as a root of our modern day word “energy.” This word means, “to put forth power (or) be operative.” (3)
We can tie these definitions together to form an instructive paraphrase: “Here is a revelatory truth that would ordinarily remain unknown: the contempt for law that will characterize the man of sin is already in operation.” One scholar elaborates on this idea with the following insight…
“Though the man of lawlessness has not yet appeared, Paul will not allow his readers to let down their guard. The same satanic power that will ultimately spawn this unholy deceiver was already at work in Paul’s day (1 John 2:18) and is at work in ours. Because it is now restrained, the church has a strong encouragement to carry out its mission.” (4)
While virtually every human being has been exposed to some degree of lawlessness, we have yet to experience the type of lawless behavior that will characterize human conduct when the restraints upon the man of sin are removed. Another commentary closes our look at this passage with a serious and penetrating analysis…
“Lawlessness is the hidden, subtle, underlying force from which all sin springs. Civilization still has a veneer of decency through law enforcement, education, science, and reason. Although we are horrified by criminal acts, we have yet to see the real horror of complete lawlessness. This will happen when ‘the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.’
Why will God allow this to happen? To show people and nations their own sinfulness, and to show them by bitter experience the true alternative to the lordship of Christ. People totally without God can act no better than vicious animals. Lawlessness, to a certain extent, is already going on, but the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed.” (5)
(1) G3466 mysterion https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/mysterion
(4) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2147). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(5) Life Application Study Bible Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved. [2 Thessalonians 2:7]