Brother Beebe: - A number of the brethren desire that you would give us your views on II Thessalonians 2, especially on the third, seventh, and eighth verses. What is meant by the words, “Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed,” etc. If it will not crowd out more important matter, we would like to have your views as soon as you can give them.
Halcott Centre, N.Y. March 16, 1863
Reply to Brother James Miller, and others, on II Thessalomans 2. - Such views as we have on any part of the divine revelation, we regard as the property of our brethren: or, rather that while sustained by their liberality and fellowship in publishing the “Signs of the Times,” we regard it as our duty, no less than our privilege, to lay before them such views as we have upon the scriptures: not, however, in the vain presumption that we have more light on the scriptures than our brethren have, or that our views are any more reliable than their own, only so far as, on prayerful examination, they shall be established in their judgment by higher authority than our, or any other person’s, views. The truth is, if your views are from the Lord, communicated to us by his unerring Spirit, they will be sustained by the scriptures, and also by the spiritual experience of all who are born of God; for the word and the spirit of God always teach and establish the same truth. And nothing is reliable, however plausible or reasonable it may seem, if it be not established by the word and the spirit of our God. Being so frequently called on by the brethren and friends to express our understanding of portions of the scriptures, it is our desire that all who read our views should be careful to endorse them only so far as they themselves become satisfied that they are according to the standard of our faith, and the inspired rule for our practice.
The chapter proposed for our consideration, and indeed the two epistles in which the subject is embraced, contains a record of things most awfully grand and sublime; and, like all other inspired testimony, vitally important to all who hope for immortality through our Saviour Jesus Christ. The first verse proposed for consideration begins with an admonition against deception and imposition, which implies our liability to be misled: “Let no man deceive you by any means.” We are faithfully forewarned that deceivers should come, and that they should wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. And that these deceivers should be means users, whose prolific minds should conceive of a great variety of means and instrumentalities; but all of a deceptive character. Hence, the saints are exhorted to be vigilant, to watch and pray, lest they fall into temptation. The solemn instructions and warnings which Christ gave to his disciples in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of Matthew are prefaced by the same admonition: “Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matt. 24:4) A heedless course is attended with danger, for Christ says, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many;” and if possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:5 and 24) These deceivers are to come in Christ’s name, professing to be commissioned by him, and authorized by his high authority to teach their deceptive doctrines; and some should even claim that they are Christ, or that they have power to save sinners, by the use of their means, or otherwise; and Paul tells us that these deceivers exalt themselves above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. It is a prominent mark of modern anti-Christ, that many claim that they are Christ, which name signifies Anointed, and that they are anointed to save sinners by the use of means. Christ our Lord declares that he is the Way, and that no man cometh to the Father but by him. These deceivers, in direct contradiction of his words, proclaim that they can conduct sinners to God the Father, who would, but for their labors and means, be forever lost, notwithstanding all that Christ has done in the salvation of sinners. How often are they heard to say, “Sinners, I offer you salvation. Come to the altar, or the mourner’s bench, kneel down, and do as I tell you, and my soul for yours, if you do not get religion; and getting religion, you have a safe passport to heaven - to the Father.” Thus they say that they are themselves saviours; the means of saving thousands who otherwise would not be saved. Is not this, in effect, saying, “I am Christ”? Jesus says, “This is life eternal that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” But, do not modern deceivers profess to teach men and children to know the true God, and Jesus Christ? And in this they say they are Christ - they can save. But they go even farther in their blasphemies: They exalt themselves above all that is called God - for they not only profess to be able to procure the salvation of ordinary sinners, but they pretend that they have succeeded in scaring many to repentance, and secured their salvation, after Christ had tried and failed. They say that God has done all he can to secure the salvation of all men, but has failed in many cases. His spirit has been grieved away, and given them up to be lost; but, by the vigorous application of their system of means, many such reprobates have been reclaimed and finally delivered from wrath?? Is not this exalting himself above all that is called God? Deceivers of this kind, we are told, should come with all the machinery of means and applications, and shall deceive many, and if possible, shall deceive the very elect. But let no man deceive you. No man, if an apostle, or an angel from heaven - a man of good repute, or of evil repute - a learned, or an unlearned man - let the man be who he may, let him profess what he may, there is no distinction to be made. Let no man deceive you by any means. But the saints to whom this admonition is given are already saints, and therefore saved in Christ Jesus, with an everlasting salvation, and it is not possible they should be deceived on that ground; yet there are other things, not involving their final inheritance in glory, in which they are liable to be grossly and shamefully deceived. These liabilities are clearly pointed out by our Lord in Matthew 24, and in the chapter under consideration. Things which involve their peace and tranquility while here in the flesh, and things which have, and do, and will, involve the saints in trouble by shaking their minds, or confidence, in the truth. Hence, the impressive and pathetic appeal at the commencement of this chapter: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 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 the Lord is at hand.” Such deception would, if allowed to, shake the mind of the saints, and that shaking of the mind would produce trouble. And some of the means which deceivers would use to produce such shaking and trouble are pointed out by the faithful apostle, as by spirit. The very spirit by which the apostles were inspired would be counterfeited. But, as John admonishes, “Try the spirits, whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1) How shall we try them? Here is the true and infallible standard by which to try the spirits: “We are of God.” That is, the apostles are of God: “He that knoweth God, (or has eternal life, which is the same thing) heareth us: (the apostles who speak as inspired by the Holy Ghost). He that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (I John 4:6) These deceivers usually pretend to have a wonderful pious spirit: so loving, so insinuating, and so benevolently inclined for your welfare. This hypocritical pretension of love, piety, and benevolence is exemplified by the wily serpent when displaying his brilliant colors to the unwary bird, bewildered by his artful and deceptive charms, until completely overpowered, he flutters and falls into the devouring Jaws of the cunning adversary. How often have the children of God been enamored by the assumed spirit of deceivers! “O! the lovely man! how musical his voice! how charmingly he preaches! how eloquently he prays! how pathetically he appeals! how lovingly he grasps my hand! how affectionately he takes me by the beard to kiss me! O! How his dear soul overflows with benevolence! and how fondly he loves all who will repose confidence in him! He is so charitable! and....” etc. - But, how does his doctrine accord with that of Paul, of Peter, of James and John? These apostles we know are of God: does he hear them? “Why, no, not exactly: for he received his graceful qualifications in the College, and at the Theological Schools. He speaks in complimentary terms of the old apostles, but he does not think it necessary in our refined age to be quite as hard-mouthed as Paul, who was forever getting into trouble with the people wherever he went; and he thinks the doctrine which the apostles insisted most upon is many centuries behind the present enlightened age.” Well, we detect the errant hypocrite who counterfeits the spirit of the apostles, while he repudiates their doctrine, and discards their instructions, as adapted only to a barbarous age.
“Or word.” These deceivers often garble even the words of the apostles, and, like the seven sons of one Sceva (Acts 19:13,16) will talk about that Jesus whom Paul preached, while they know nothing experimentally either of Paul or of Jesus. They will pretend to bring us word from the apostles that they have discovered by their research of the meaning of the apostle’s words, and define them as meaning very different from what the apostles ever taught. They are handling the word of God deceitfully, and turning the truth of God into a lie. We all know how common it is at this day for false teachers to quote the words of Christ and his apostles to prove the very opposite of what they taught, and that which they have forbidden us to believe.
“Or by ktter.” Among the means used by anti-Christ to deceive the saints and to involve them in trouble, are letters from the apostles (or purporting to be from them) have been brought forward. Joseph Smith a few years ago pretended to have dug up out of the earth a batch of this kind of letters, and we have read of several discoveries of the kind said to have been made in distant nations; manuscript letters purported to be from the apostles, and modern spiritualists pretend to have opened a regular mail route through their mediums by which they get just such intelligence as they desire as often as they please. But what does all this amount to? Paul says, “If I, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than what I have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Even if such word or letter came direct from Paul it would not be valid. Away then with all such means of deception! And, “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; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.”
The next point to be considered is what we are to understand by “That day.” In the immediate context it is called the day of Christ. The gospel dispensation is, undoubtedly, referred to in many parts of the scriptures as the day of Christ, in distinction from the legal dispensation; and we have no doubt the Psalmist referred to it as such when he sang, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will be glad, and rejoice in it.” And John also, when he said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” But as the gospel day, the dispensation had already been fully ushered in by the rising of the Son of Righteousness. The apostle could not have referred to it in this subject as a day far distant in the future that could not come until certain other important events should have transpired. Throughout these two epistles to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of a day in which the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. This day, he says, “Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” The awful grandeur of that coming is expressed in the words written above. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God.” And in that day the dead in Christ shall rise. This seems clearly to identify the day intended, as the day in which Christ shall personally descend from heaven to raise the dead, and judge the world in righteousness. It will be a day of perfect and complete triumph: the shout shall announce his triumph over the last enemy. The subjugation of all things shall be put under his feet. Death itself shall be vanquished, and all his boasted trophies of all ages redeemed and recovered - the mediatorial triumph of the Son of God shall be most magnificently celebrated, the trump of God that shakes the heavens and penetrates the deepest tomb shall announce the perfect image of the Son of God forever fixed upon the resurrected bodies of all the redeemed of the Lord. That day is further described in the second epistle, 1:7-10, “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with all his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ;” who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
This day of the Lord is the principle theme of both these two epistles, and most certainly is the day which is spoken of in our text. But solemn, grand, and glorious as this day of the Lord shall be, according to the divine testimony of the word, it is, nevertheless, a matter of vain speculation with all anti-christian deceivers. They profanely attempt to make capital of it to serve their wicked purposes. By their frantic appeals to the carnal passions of unregenerated men, by painting to their imagination the terrors herein described with a view thereby to alarm and frighten them into a submission to their humanly devised schemes and plans for preparing themselves for a participation with the saints in the glory that shall be revealed in them. Thereby setting aside God’s method of salvation by grace alone, they are leading men to believe that their acceptance with God can result from their own works. Hence the resurrection of the dead and final judgment are favorite themes with all will-worshipers. But instead of presenting the subject as the apostle has here presented it, for the comfort of the saints, they talk of “uncapping hell”, (to use their own words) in order thereby to scare people into religion, or religion into the people; and, so instead of relying on the redemption which is in Christ Jesus for justification before God, they pervert even the solemnities of the last great day to delude, deceive, and mislead those who relish their delusions.
But this is not all - they even attempt to terrify the saints by their startling announcements from time to time, as that they day of the Lord is at hand. At an early day these exciting predictions began to be made and from time to time they have continued to be made ever since; and even Christians have been troubled to some extent, for they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercies. In our early childhood, about the year 1810, we attended a Methodist Watch Meeting to see the old year out, as it was then called. On this occasion the principle deceivers labored to impress the audience that it was very doubtful whether the new year would come in at all. The assembly was in a panic, and some became almost frantic. The preachers represented Christ as pleading with the Father to spare the world one year longer, and he would make some further effort to induce sinners to get religion, and if he failed, he would consent to have the end deferred no longer. And when the midnight hour approached, the minister held his watch and called off the minutes which remained of man’s probation, as it was called. Those who were disposed to meet the Judge in peace had but ten minutes, - nine, - eight, - seven, etc. It seemed to be impressed on many minds that in so many minutes all who failed to get religion would surely be in hell. Many of our readers remember the excitement of the Millerite prophecy which made a great alarm throughout the whole country. But the apostle assures the saints that they are not in darkness that that day should come on them as a thief. And in our subject he gives them to understand that that day shall not come until certain other things shall be accomplished. God is a God of order; his arrangements can not be confused. He has declared the end from the beginning, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” Two very important events were determined - to be accomplished in the fulness of the dispensation of time. The one is the revelation of the man of God, and the other the man of sin. The world must continue until both are fully developed. Of the man of God, there is one body, and one spirit, and Christ is the Head of the body, the church, and the church is his body, and the fulness of him that filleth all in all. And when all the members of this body shall come in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, this body shall then become a perfect man, having all its members gathered in and it shall then in revelation attain its full proportions, and reach the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. This man of God must be fully developed before the end can come; and when this is accomplished, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” (I Cor. 15:24)
“Thus shall this moving engine last,
Till all the saints are gather'd in;
Then for the trumpet’s dreadful blast,
To shake it all to dust again.”
Nor is it less important that the man of sin should be revealed. The wheels of time must linger until the cup of iniquity on the part of anti-Christ, is full. For that day shall not come except there come a falling away first. As this declaration is made by the word of the Lord, it is to be regarded as the decree of the immutable God; therefore, it is impossible that the coming of that day should anticipate those events which God has ordained shall precede it. As the man of God is the church in its full stature and measurement of head, body, members, etc., according to the election of grace; so the man of sin is the opposite body in its full proportions, and developments, as the son of perdition. The revelation of the latter involves still another important prediction - to reveal this man of sin there must come a falling away. That is, an apostasy must come from the faith and order of the church of God of many who have been identified with the church in the profession of that faith and order. Hence, we are told in I Tim. 4:1,2, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter days some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron,” etc. And in II Tim. 3:1-7, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away,” etc. All this apostasy and falling away from the true standard of truth and righteousness is required to reveal, or expose fully to view, that monster of iniquity, which is, in our text, and its connection, called the man of sin, that Wicked, the son of perdition, etc., which in the apocalypse is denominated “Mystery Babylon the Great: The Mother of Harlots, and Abominations of the Earth.” A further description of his characteristics and the manner of his coming is given by our apostle in this connection: He “Opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God.” That is, he opposeth God, and exalteth himself above God. The church, as the man of God, is in submission to the Divine Government, is reconciled to God, and rejoices that the Lord God Omnipotent doth right. But the man of sin, in his revelation, shall be seen in opposition to the government, to the truth, the righteousness, and to the people of God. He is exalting himself by daring to improve upon God’s plan, attempting to annul his laws, set aside his institutions, and changing his ordinances by assuming power and authority which belongs only to God himself. And although they know not God (for to know him is eternal life) yet they admit that there is a being who is called God; but for that being they have no reverence, and there is no fear of God before their eyes; their feet are swift to shed blood, and misery and destruction are in all their ways. They regard him whom they call God, as subordinate to themselves! They claim that he can do nothing only through their free-will agency, that he can save nobody only through their instrumentality; that they can move the power that moves the world, etc. Thus the man of sin plants or seats himself in the temple of God by assuming the right to hold spiritual, or ecclesiastical dominion over the consciences of men in all matters of religion, to enjoin what they call orthodoxy, and punish what they call heresy. Thus claiming the sovereign prerogatives of Jehovah, they show, or exhibit, themselves as God; and disallow the existence of any higher God.
That the coming, and revelation, of this child of perdition is under the sovereign controlling power and providence of Jehovah, is certain from the fact that the Spirit has said expressly, ages beforehand, that it shall be: and that the day of the Lord is ordained to the coming of this man of sin. Still, his coming is not by the Spirit of holiness, it depends on no display of the Spirit’s work in regenerating the members of its body. No grace is required to qualify the members of anti-Christ for fellowship or communion in Babylon. All that is required they can do for themselves, aided only in their progress by the working of Satan. The development and full manifestation of anti-Christ is effected by the working of Satan, and the works of Satan are such as to call into requisition all his power, which, although very great and astounding, is nevertheless limited by the decree of God. And with his power all his signs, and all lying wonders are ostensibly displayed: for with them he deceives the children of men who have the mark of the beast, and the number of his name, which includes, as we are informed, all who dwell upon the earth, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
His coming is with all signs and lying wonders, and with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. There is nothing deceptive in righteousness, but all unrighteousness is deceitful and shall deceive them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth. None of all those who bear the mark of the beast have any love for the truth as it is in Jesus. But they love darkness more than light because their deeds are evil. Nothing exasperates them more than the truth; because it exposes their wickedness; hence, the persecution of the saints by all who perish in all ages from the days of Cain. If they loved the truth they might be saved; that is, “That they might be saved from the deception, the signs, and lying wonders of the man of sin;” but as they have not received the love of the truth, and no man ever possessed the love of the truth in a spiritual sense unless he received it from God, by regeneration; all those who have not received it are destined to perish, and to be the dupes of the deceiveableness of unrighteousness. “And for this cause God shall send strong delusion;” for God has reserved to himself the right to choose the delusions of them that perish. See Isaiah 67:4. The delusions shall be so strong that they have neither the power nor disposition to resist; for they love not the truth; they have pleasure in unrighteousness; they are delighted with the signs and lying wonders which rivet their chains, and which hold them in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. These delusions are fatal, these heresies are damnable, and those who drink them in are condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on them. “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This must be the inevitable destiny of all who love not the truth, and of all who take pleasure in unrighteousness.
All these things must precede the coming of the day of the Lord and the revelation of his supreme glory. “And now,” says the apostle, “ye know what withholdeth: that he may be revealed in his time.” This is the let, concerning which our brethren have enquired. A let is a barrier, a hindrance, or a withholding, an effectual restraint. And after receiving this instruction from the apostle the matter of the let was known to the saints. It is simply this, “That day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” And that man of sin can not be revealed until his time, and this let is what withholdeth that he (the man of sin) might be revealed in his time. That is, in the time which God has assigned for his revelation. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” Godliness is a mystery, and so is ungodliness. This Wicked is called Mystery, as well as Babylon, or Confusion. It existed and worked in the days of the apostles but its working was after the working of Satan, and held back by the restraint of Almighty power that it should be revealed in, but not before, his time. “Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” The revelation of that Wicked is a let to the coming of the day of the Lord, and shall continue to let until it be taken out of the way, by its revelation in his time; but when God shall fully expose anti-Christ, he will thereby take the let out of the way, that it shall no longer obstruct or prevent the subsequent appearing of the great day of the Lord, when he shall be revealed from heaven taking vengeance on them that know not God, who have not received the love of the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. Until the clusters of the vine of the earth are fully ripe there is a let, or restraint, which holds back the angel with the sharp sickle. The abominations of the son of perdition must be filled up, the limit set by the God of heaven, for the wickedness of the man of sin must be attained, and the end can not come before. But, the final exposer of that Wicked shall be the removal of the let: for, as soon as the full revelation is made, he shall be consumed by the Spirit of the mouth of the Lord, and be destroyed by the brightness of his coming.
As the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, shall be as well for vengeance on the man of sin as for being admired in all them that believe, the unripened state of anti-Christ, no less than the unfinished gathering together unto Christ all his redeemed, must be a let, or insuperable barrier to the end of the world. But these two important events will be simultaneously accomplished, and the let being removed, the thunderbolts of divine wrath and Almighty vengeance will be launched, which shall sweep the wicked into hell with all the nations that forget God; and Babylon shall sink like the mill-stone, and trouble the saints of God no more forever.
“But we are bound to give thanks always to God, for you, Brethren, beloved of the Lord; because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, Brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself; and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.”
We have made this article very lengthy. But still we have omitted much which might be said upon the subject involved; and we have given such views as we entertain on the subject, so far as we have dwelt on the subject. What we have written we now submit to the consideration of brother Miller, and the brethren who, with him, desired our views, and to all others who may read this article; and it is, if we know our heart, our desire that it may afford some light and comfort to the humble followers of the Lamb, and redound to the glory of God.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 349 – 362