Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity, 2nd Thessalonians 2:19.
God does not usually force people to depart from iniquity. In his grace he lets them depart. We are comforted by his grace. Speaking of the work of God's grace, the Apostle Paul said; Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, Titus 2:12. One of the great benefits of bible salvation is having the God of Israel teach us to modify our behavior.
In my church is a lady who today is a real help to the House of God and who labors well to be a single mother to two young men. Her first years here were chaotic. As a victim of childhood sexual assaults and as a survivor of poor court decisions thrusting her from one foster home to another and then back into the care of a drug sotted mother, she grew to be filled with anger and suspicion. Suffering from obesity and poverty, she became prey for vile men who only added to her woe, (Her Testimony).
After years in which we often endured violent and abusive outbursts from her, she was marvelously saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. One of the things that she told me later was that often when she would say something that got everyone upset with her, she would go home having no idea of why everyone got angry over things that she said. She was trapped in iniquity. God let her depart from iniquity. It is part of the function of the Spirit of God when he seals the believer. He knows who is his and he lets them depart from iniquity.
God will not always let people depart from iniquity. For those who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and did not believe the truth there is a terrible truth encapsulated in the following passage.
2Th 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
2Th 2:12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Whereas God once would have let them depart from iniquity, they are now sealed in iniquity. God will make it his mission to see to it that such people are utterly and damnably deceived. As he said in Ezekiel 14:9, And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet. It is a terrible thing to reject truth. For those who will receive truth, there is the grace of God. For those who reject it, there is no hope.
Sometimes, by God letting us do one thing, he is hindering us from doing another. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles, Romans 1:13. It was the Apostle Paul's will to come to the Roman Christians, but whenever God let him go somewhere, it was to other places.
This is one of the reasons that the new versions so poorly translate 2nd Thessalonians 2:7. In the King James Version it states; For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. The mystery of iniquity is constantly hindered because whenever it would trap a Christian, God makes a way to escape. (If the Christian will take it, he doesn't force us to depart from iniquity, he lets us depart). There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it, 2nd Corinthians 10:13.
The ESV renders 2nd Thessalonians: For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. The NIV likewise botches the verse: For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. What the King James Bible does is to show you how the seal of God, the Spirit of God hinders the mystery of iniquity. He hinders the mystery of iniquity by letting us depart from iniquity. He who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
In Acts Chapter 2, the Holy Ghost baptized the entire group of assembled believers into a unified body. At the rapture, God will take the Holy Ghost back in the form in which he came. The vessels wherein he abides will go with him. The rapture is a reversal of Acts 2. We can see this process in the Old Testament when the cherubim take the Glory of God up out of the temple.
Eze 10:17 When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them.
Eze 10:18 Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.
Eze 10:19 And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD'S house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.
Of all the items in the temple when Nebuchadnezzar sacked it, there could have been nothing more valuable than the Ark of the Covenant. Yet, it is never listed in any of the lists of things that Nebuchadnezzar took. That is because the vessel wherein the Glory of God abode went with the Glory of God when it was raptured. It is next seen in heaven. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament, Revelation 11:19. When God takes up the seal that he has given the saints of God, the vessels wherein he dwells will go with it.
To understand Paul's writings, it is necessary to remember that he is the Apostle tasked with teaching the Gentiles. If my readers will take the time to look, they will see that Paul is more often than not making commentary on other scriptures, making them sensible to Gentiles. 2nd Thessalonians 1-6 is just such a passage. Paul is explaining Matthew 24: 23-27:
Mat 24:23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
Mat 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Mat 24:25 Behold, I have told you before.
Mat 24:26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
Mat 24:27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Many will come and try to say that it is the day of Christ, or in other words they will try to tell you that the day in which he bursts through the clouds to be seen by all is at hand or that he is secretly here. That day is not at hand. That day will not come until after the man of sin has been revealed.
2Th 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2Th 2:2 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.
Just as Jesus Christ explained to his followers that the antichrist would become the abomination of desolation, Paul explains that that day cannot come as long as the seal of God is letting men depart form iniquity. Paul had explained that to them before because Matthew had already been written. The new information contained in 2nd Thessalonians is that the saints of God are told what is withholding the man of sin from being revealed in his time.
2Th 2:3 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;
2Th 2:4 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.
2Th 2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
2Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
The seal of God which is the earnest of our redemption and which lets us depart from iniquity is what withholds the son of perdition from being revealed.
He is still letting us depart from iniquity. Take advantage of it.