The sixth mystery mentioned in the New Testament is The Mystery of Iniquity. This mystery is the counterwork to The Mystery of the Gospel (Eph 6:19), which was the first mystery in this series on The Seven Great Mysteries of the World. Paul also called the first mystery The Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:16).
Believers understand that the Father designed and created His universe with a purpose and a plan; He is holy and righteous and His intention is to make His creation holy and righteous, so that He can be All in all (1 Cor 15:28).
However, for a season, He has allowed opposition to the consummation of His plan; He has allowed The Mystery of Iniquity to run its course and godlessness to grow and reveal its true nature.
When we looked at The Mystery of the Gospel – the Good News of the incarnation of Christ (Eph 6:19; 1 Tim.3:16), we also examined the spiritual powers working behind the scenes, which the Apostle Paul called the principalities and powers (Eph 6:12; Col 2:15).
These malign powers are mentioned throughout the Bible and it was noted that whilst promoting iniquity, which in biblical terms is lawlessness, they are also to be found working within the human community; coaxing, driving and influencing people to resist God their Creator.
The concept of lawlessness in the Bible is not an absence of the law, but rather, the violation of God’s divinely instituted law. This is not a subjective law that we ourselves created for our own convenience, we are speaking here of the law of God. Our holy and righteous Creator has made certain decrees, or laws, for us to live by, but the spiritual agents of lawlessness have been working from the beginning of time promoting lawlessness, godlessness and unrighteousness. As Paul explained to the Ephesians:
You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. (Eph 2:2) NLT
The Man of Sin
The New Testament teaches us that the constant, insidious work of these iniquitous powers will come to a climax on The Day of the Lord (2 Thes 2:2). At that time God will personally and dramatically intervene in human history to vanquish the satanic powers (Rev 20:9, 10) and bring His ultimate plan to fruition (Rev 21:1-4). But before that Day arrives two specific events must occur. Paul instructed the church of Thessalonica:
Let no one deceive you by any means, for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed – the son of destruction. (2 Thes 2:3)
After alerting his readers to the Great Falling Away of believers, Paul announced the coming manifestation of the man of sin – the son of destruction. He then went on to introduce our sixth mystery, The Mystery of Iniquity, which he linked to the revealing of this son of destruction. Paul writes:
And the Mystery of Iniquity (Lawlessness) is already at work, only He who is now holding it back will do so until He is taken out of the midst (of humanity). And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His presence. The coming of this lawless one is connected to the working of satan by power and signs and lying wonders, and with every delusion of iniquity against those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, so that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, in order that all might be distinguished who do not believe the truth, but approve of unrighteousness. (2 Thes 2:7-12)
Just as the incarnation of Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:11) was first a mystery and then revealed (1 Tim 3:16; 1 Cor 2:7, 8) at the right time (Romans 5:6); so also the lawless one – the son of destruction – is first a mystery, but at the right time he will also be revealed. Righteousness found its embodiment in Christ the righteous One (1 John 2:1) and sin will find its embodiment in the man of sin.
Until now the Holy Spirit has been actively restraining the manifestation of iniquity as He holds back the powers of the evil one, but at the right time He will be removed and the manifestation of the antichrist (the term used in 1 John 2:18 and 1 John 4:3), will take place.
As we have shown in The Mystery of the Rapture, which was our fourth mystery in this series, following the Rapture of the Church, the Holy Spirit’s restraining presence will be withdrawn and the Great Tribulation will begin. We can now add from Paul’s teaching that the coming of the antichrist will follow soon after these events.
At that time satan will indwell the man of sin as he attempts to counterfeit the imminent appearing (2 Tim 4:8) and presence (Mark 13:21) of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Thus, this lawless one will anticipate the Second Coming with a last ditch effort to maintain dominion of this present world.
Meanwhile, the Great Tribulation will be the Father’s last ditch attempt at capturing the attention of a great multitude of people (Rev 7:9). This will be God’s final effort at bringing stubborn people to a place where they will listen, understand and accept the true consequences of rejecting His Way (John 14:6). Many people will be saved from the second death during the Great Tribulation (Rev 2:11).
The Great Falling Away
At present, iniquity is working in a mystery, in a hidden manner, while evil is subtly taking root in the increasingly pagan modern world culture. Many commentators call this godless culture “progressive”. But while godlessness grows and gains ground, satan has been working to convince those people who see themselves as “progressives” that he does not exist. The father of lies (John 8:44) has been extremely successful in this endeavour; large numbers of people now believe satan is a myth, not a mystery.
Meanwhile worldly knowledge is increasing exponentially (Dan 12:4) and high-sounding academics are seducing thinking people away from Christianity with arguments so plausible they may well deceive even the elect (Mat 24:24).
In today’s world, respect for the church is rapidly declining while persecution of Christians is rampant. We also see false religions and seriously corrupted forms of Christianity growing in number and popularity, as humanist/naturalist philosophies take the place of Christian teaching. This is exactly what we would expect to see during the Great Falling Away. These are the forerunners of the antichrist; this is the outworking of the first of Paul’s precursors to The Day of the Lord (2 Thes 2:3).
Paul taught that the falling away would be a strong indicator that The Day of the Lord was at hand, and then the man of sin – the son of destruction – would be revealed. I have written about the falling away in an earlier post (The Still Point) and will simply mention here that anyone who was born in a nominally Christian country before 1960 would most definitely have seen the falling away Paul is talking about with their own eyes.
Church and Sunday School attendance were common practices in many people’s lives up until the 50s, but by the end of the 60s the decline had begun in earnest.
Today one would be hard pressed to find a school with scripture classes every week and many churches have been forced to close their doors. It is not uncommon to find many of these churches converted into family homes.
These surplus church buildings, which have been transformed into stylish modern homes, should stand as a constant reminder to the church. It was almost inevitable that when certain so-called Christian groups embarked upon the path of watering down the authority of the Bible, the Great Falling Away would begin.
If It’s Not Bible Based, It’s Not Christian
By accepting the popular notions of long ages and evolution, the very foundations upon which Christianity stands have been weakened and many parents no longer have logical explanations for the questions their scientifically literate children ask them about the Bible. Once certainty concerning the opening chapters of the Bible is removed, faith in the rest of God’s Word flounders.
There is, in fact, absolutely no need for a new approach to the teachings in Genesis. Anyone who has taken the time to investigate the science behind the modern creation movement will quickly discover that there is no need to make unnecessary claims concerning genre (trying to convince us that this historical narrative is poetry), or to impose evolutionary pseudo-science onto the traditional understanding of Genesis.
One does not have to look far to realise that creation science is robust and sound and there is a plethora of biological, geological, astronomical, and other scientific evidence to support biblical creation. Those who are prepared to look soon discover that there is no need to compromise or spiritualise the early chapters of God’s Word. Good evidence based science supports the biblical account of creation.
However, what we tend to find in the pro-evolution camp is an abundance of ad hominem arguments against creationists, coupled with philosophically biased interpretations of the data used to support the evolution theory, but no real understanding of the depth of the creation alternative.
A Powerful Delusion
Our Father created each one of us with free will and He has given us the opportunity to choose either to follow His Way or be amongst the people who elect to believe satan’s lies and come under one of the strongest delusion of our age; that is, that the creation made itself, there is no Creator.
Some people who call themselves Christians have chosen to compromise their faith by insisting God used evolution to create. These theistic evolutionists have a prior commitment to philosophical naturalism and long ages and must therefore contort the scriptures to fit their preconceived ideas.
According to the theistic evolution model, death, pain and suffering were a planned part of God’s creative process. This is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is the God of miraculous events. Not only did He create the universe in six actual days and cause a worldwide flood to deal with toxic iniquity; He sent His Son who was born of a virgin, literally died, rose from death and physically ascended to heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father.
No matter how often the people at the Biologos Forum, and others of like mind, insist they can marry humanist/materialist inspired pseudo-science with biblical Christianity, God has never called death “very good” (Gen 1:31) – it is part of the curse that came upon His once perfect creation after Adam sinned (Gen 3:17-19; Romans 5:12; Gal 3:13). Anything else makes nonsense of the gospel message (Romans 6:23).
What a tragedy it will be for those people who claim to be followers of Jesus, but have been preoccupied in playing the “my brain is bigger than your brain” game. When they stand before the Throne of Grace and realise they have actually been participants in The Mystery of Iniquity, they will find themselves surrounded by cinders (1 Cor 3:13).
The Mystery of Godliness was revealed in the incarnation of Christ and The Mystery of Iniquity will be fully developed in the revelation of the man of sin, the antichrist.
The spirit of the antichrist has been hard at work preparing this world for the coming of the son of destruction, and rejection of God’s Word is one of the main tools he is using. Satan not only opposes Christ, he also opposes Christ’s teachings and work, which are at the very core of God’s rescue plan for humanity. Casting doubt on the veracity of God’s Word is a very effective way of keeping people from the Truth and this is the driving force behind the antichrist.
Satan now understands God’s rescue programme, which the Father planned before the creation, but kept secret until all was accomplished (1 Peter 1:20). Satan now understands that individuals can only be saved from the second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6) if they put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death, and as Paul told the Romans:
Truly, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Rom 10:17)
To keep people from coming to faith in Jesus, satan has been working to keep people from hearing the Word of God. Building a fifth column within the Christian community is just one of the many tactics he has used to turn people away from listening to their Creator.
But refusing to listen to God is not a new phenomenon; the Mystery of Iniquity was already at work in Paul’s time and centuries before that our Creator was warning people about the consequences of refusing to listen to His message, He said:
“Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by His Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the LORD of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them. “Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to Me, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Zec 7:11-13)
Ignoring the clear message concerning God’s plans for the future of humanity and refusing to take heed of the dire consequences of disregarding God’s warnings, is like lying down on a busy railway track expecting the driver to stop the train.
God’s plan is on track and He will not be diverted; our Father means to abolish pain, suffering and death. He created this universe and He has the right, the ability and the authority to direct it in the way He knows will best achieve His ends.
Godliness or Godlessness – You Choose
Those who refuse to listen to God’s guidelines make a very foolish choice. God has given us the individual responsibility to choose between godliness and godlessness (Deut 30:19; Josh 24:15; Is 7:15,16 (even Jesus had to choose); Prov 1:29) and the Father has painstakingly explained that the eternal destiny for each and every person is either eternal life or the second death. As we draw nearer to the Day of the Lord, it will become increasingly obvious that there are two distinct paths but sadly many people will no longer be able to distinguish the difference.
The spirit of the antichrist would have us believe that good and evil are relative. At the very beginning of human history satan lied to Eve when she was discussing the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with him (Gen 3:1-6). He tried to convince her that the fruit of this tree would give her the ability to determine good and evil for herself, rather than trusting in God to guide her. This is exactly the same tactic he has used throughout time.
Solomon was a man generally recognised as having great wisdom, and he wrote:
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Pro 1:7)
We live in a world that is awash with knowledge, but true knowledge can only come from the God of the Bible, and His Word teaches us that we must learn to listen to Him. Our Father is a “God of pardons, gracious, and merciful, long-suffering, and abundant in kindness” (Neh 9:17), but He will eventually complete His original plan and those people who refuse to listen to Him and turn away from their godlessness will find they have no part in His Eternal Kingdom (Mat 7:23).
God is allowing this time of decision so that “all the people who do not believe the truth might be clearly distinguished” (2 Thes 2:12). There will be no place in His Eternal Kingdom for people who reject God’s Truth (John 14:6).
God has given us His Truth and He has declared it to be good. Even in Isaiah’s time God was speaking to His people concerning this issue. Isaiah wrote:
What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! They even mock God and say, “Hurry up and do something! We want to see what You can do. Let the Holy One of Israel carry out His plan, for we want to know what it is.” What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. (Isa 5:18-21)NLT
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Today we often hear people proclaiming that if there was a God He would be interfering more in human activity. They want the God they deny exists to do something to stop the suffering they see all around them. At the same time they choose to ignore the fact that this God they refuse to believe in has given us free will and that the majority of the suffering is actually the result of human activity.
Perhaps they believe God should induce the miscarriage of someone who is destined to perform heinous acts or prevent the conception of any child He knows will be aborted. But where should we draw the line? Should God also prevent people from manufacturing or buying cigarettes?
If God constantly intervened in our lives we would be little more than robots. Instead, He has created us with the ability to choose between right and wrong and given us clear guidelines on how to live according to His Way. He wants us to practice self-discipline and take responsibility for our own actions. This is the mark of a mature person (1 Cor 3:2; Heb 5:12, 13; 1 Peter 2:2).
Hardly a day goes by without someone saying, “How could a God who claims to be a God of love allow all this suffering?” Sadly, these people are actually asking a rhetorical question – they do not really want to hear God’s answer. But this question has been answered many times by many people. Perhaps those who ask the question want a simple answer, a sound-bite answer, to one of the most complex questions anyone could ever ask.
Bible believing Christians have a very satisfactory answer to this question. Those who know God’s Word understand that when God told Adam he should not eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, He also warned him that if he did eat of it he would die (Gen 2:15-17). God created a universe with natural order and consequences, where certain actions compel specific reactions. The consequence of the first humans eating the forbidden fruit was that death and decay, and consequently pain and suffering, entered God’s perfect world.
Satan tried to convince Eve that she would not die by disobeying God, he told her that instead of dying she would become like God (Gen 3:4,5). This was his first recorded lie and in a sense the beginning of The Mystery of Iniquity. When Adam and Eve listened to satan and disobeyed God’s clear directive, they sinned by disobeying their Creator, even though God had already explained to them that this sin would lead to death (Gen 2:17; Rom 6:23; James 1:15).
The Father of Lies
Free will necessitates the option of rebellion and after listening to satan, Adam and Eve chose this option. From the moment they chose to rebel the first humans began to die; their once perfect bodies were now subject to corruption, as was the entire creation (Romans 8:22). If they had not died then God would have been proven a liar, just like satan. But God simply told them the truth. They sinned and death and suffering became part of the human condition. Jesus told some Jewish leaders who refused to listen to Him:
Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear Me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe Me! (John 8:43-45)NLT
Because Adam and Eve ignored God’s directive and believed satan’s lies they died. In effect satan murdered them, but Adam and Eve had a choice. Tragically the choice they made set our world on a particular path. But God’s rescue plan is powerful, and this season of death and suffering will come to an end when our Father ushers in the Day of the Lord.
This will be a Day of salvation as well as judgement. Those who choose God’s Way will be saved from God’s final intervention, which will end with the destruction everything that is not purified by His Son. However, God will not compel anyone to go into eternity to live with Him forever. But apart from Him there will be no life. Those who reject eternal life will perish when they are subjected to the second death (Rev 20:14,15).
The need for salvation is the most important message anyone could ever hear. This message will determine the eternal destiny of every person who was ever conceived. Jesus described God’s rescue plan in one sentence when He said:
For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
This ultimate truth no longer carries the urgency it once did. The father of lies has successfully blinded a large portion of the human population to the truth of his existence. He has also deluded people into believing that their Creator – the God of the Bible, and Adam and Eve – the first humans to walk the Earth, are all mythological characters. Over the past few centuries satan’s deception has grown in power and strength as He has convinced millions of people that they need not listen to The Lord of Life.
There Will Be No More Death
One of the greatest satanic delusions in today’s world is the belief that death was an indispensable component of the ascent of life. Many people have come to believe that death always was and always will be part of the human condition. Some false religions give people false hope; they tell us that we will be reincarnated after death, only to experience an endless cycle of deaths until we reach our ultimate state, the big blend or egolessness. But God’s Word is quite clear, as the writer to the Hebrews explains:
And just as each person is destined to die once and after that face the judgment, even so Christ was offered once as a sacrifice to bear the sins of many people. And to all those who are eagerly waiting for Him, He will come a second time, not to deal with sins, but to bring salvation. (Heb 9:27-28)
As he did when he made his very first appearance on the world stage (Gen 3:3,4), satan has continued to muddy the waters when it comes to an understanding of death and the afterlife. However, Christians know with absolute certainty that death will be abolished (1 Cor 15:26) and eternal life means just that, there will be no more death (Rev 21:4).
It’s All About Love
Throughout the last few centuries satan has been busy elevating pluralism, self-righteousness (a form of political correctness) and false piety while working diligently to have Christianity portrayed as intolerant bigotry. Sadly, a small section of the church may have contributed to this deception by overemphasising moral issues and underemphasising social responsibility. Our Lord gave His people clear guidelines on these issues when he told His listeners:
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly the speck in your brother’s eye, to take it out.” (Luk 6:41-42)TLV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than anyone else? Even the pagans do that, don’t they? Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:43-48) TLV
God’s law and moral code were given to us because our Father knew the best way for our species to live. We are not animals, we were made in God’s image (Gen 1:26); we are unique beings, not just amongst our fellow creatures on this beautiful planet, but within the entire creation. We have unimaginable eternal potential (Luke 18:16; John 1:12; Romans 8:17, 21; Eph 5:1), but our Father asks us to live according to His guidelines (1 John 3:10).
However, He does not demand perfection from us without giving us the means of reaching for that goal (Phil 3:13,14). In our second mystery we looked at The Mystery of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Col.1:27, 1 Cor. 6:17 & 19). God’s indwelling Spirit enables us to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). It is He who enables us to live and love according to His guidelines (Eph 1:5; Phil 2:13-15).
Suffering Will End
God is going to definitively deal with pain and suffering, but He is going to do it His way. This is the big picture God wants people to hear and satan has been working hard to bring it into disrepute.
Our Father has allowed suffering and death to endure for about 6000 years. In a sense we have been part of the great demonstration of the extent of human depravity apart from God’s rule and reign. God has permitted us to see and experience first hand what life outside adherence to His law is like.
But despite the suffering, millions of people have heard God’s message and taken advantage of His rescue plan. These people have chosen to be part of God’s Eternal Kingdom by becoming members of God’s Family. But one might ask, why has God allowed suffering and death to go on for so long?
The stark truth is, once the Creator begins to wind up this present, broken creation, there will be a terrible time of godlessness and lawlessness on the Earth as God lifts His restraining hand. But God wants as many people as possible to choose His Way before the Great Tribulation begins. Just as the Apostle Peter predicted, in these last days, scoffers have come saying, “Where is this Second Coming He promised?” (2 Peter 3:3, 4), but as Peter went on to explain:
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some might consider slowness. Rather, He is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
It is the refusal of the millions of unsaved people to listen to and accept God’s Truth and His Way that is prolonging the suffering of this world. Thankfully, our Father has seen to it that many cultures have retained some semblance of godliness, and law and order prevail in most countries. We were created with the ability to love and care for others and many of us have benefited from living in countries founded on Christian principals, but we have also inherited a broken nature; loving and caring is not always our natural tendency and some people consciously choose to revel in evil. Also Jesus warned:
Because iniquity will increase, the love of the many will become cold. (Mat 24:12)
As we come to terms with The Mystery of Iniquity we understand that although our Father has restrained evil to a great extent, He has nevertheless allowed satan to work behind the scenes to sift the chaff from the wheat (Mat 3:12; 13:30). There have always been people who choose to reject God’s Truth and disparage God’s offer of eternal life, but when the antichrist is eventually revealed, these God-haters will join satan’s forces and attempt to overthrow God’s ordinances (Rev 9:20; 16:9, 11).
Even though there is no hope for them in this offensive, they will be so far from believing God’s Truth it will be virtually impossible for them to comprehend that in Christ, victory has already been assured and their defiance is futile (John 16:33; Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 15:24, 57; 2 Cor 2:14; Rev 3:21; 6:2; 17:14; 19:1,2). Their true natures will be laid bare and their eternal destinies sealed.
But for now, during this period of grace, the time is right to turn to God and hear His voice. He is reaching out to the lost, calling them into His Eternal Family. However, as the Great Falling Away we are now witnessing is the precursor to the revelation of the antichrist, and the Rapture will occur before his appearing, the time may be short. Now is the time to repent and turn to God.