When was or will the Holy Spirit be taken out of the way?
by Dr. Ken Matto
One of the questions which many Christians have today is concerning the Holy Spirit and when will he be taken out of the way, or has He already been taken out of the way? The Scripture which we will look at is 2 Thessalonians 2:7 along with surrounding verses which we will look at.
(2 Th 2:7 KJV) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
The primary focus is on the highlighted words, “the way.” There is no doubt that there will be an end to the work of the Holy Spirit in this present world. The question, is when will that end? Before we can determine that, we must first look at the two-fold mission of the Holy Spirit. Below are four verses which give us the insight into the first reason God will be giving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The first group is
John 16:8-11
John 16:8 KJV
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
The first task the Holy Spirit will perform will be to “reprove the world of sin. The word “reprove” is "elencho" which means to convict or convince. The Holy Spirit will be convicting the world while He is convincing the believer of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Only the people that the Holy Spirit applies the word to will be convinced, the unbelievers in the world will be convicted on the last day by the word.
John 16:9 KJV
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
The first conviction is the unbeliever will not believe on Christ because they were not chosen unto salvation. They will be convicted of their sins, and will spend an eternity in Hell.
John 16:10 KJV
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
The Holy Spirit is going to convince the believer of the righteousness of Christ and this will be proven because God the Father will accept the finished work of His Son on Calvary and afterwards receive Him back into Heaven to once again sit on His throne and reign over the church. This convincing will come through indwelling because all will be by faith since the Lord Jesus Christ will go back to heaven and the next time He will be seen is when He will appear on the last day. On Judgment day the unbeliever, will be convicted on this charge of denying the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
John 16:11 KJV
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
The unbeliever will be convicted of denying the judgment of Satan and also denying there would be a judgment at the end of time where all those not in Christ will be judged for their sins. If you follow Satan, you will be judged as Satan is judged. Just like the verse which states that if you give a cup of cold water in the name of a prophet, you will receive a prophets reward. In other words, you are sharing in the ministry of that prophet. If you do works in the name of Satan, you will receive Satan’s reward.
We saw that conviction and convincing are going to be the initial ministry of the Holy Spirit. Now let us look at the second reason that God will be giving the gift of the Holy Spirit. We see that in the following verse.
(John 16:13 KJV) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
Once the person has become saved and has received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, His next mission is to guide the believer into all truth. This means that the Christian will not be easily deceived or deceived at all. He will open up the Scriptures to the searching Christian and He may close them to those who are abusing the Scriptures, thus allowing them to go deeper into apostasy. It is also possible for the Lord to remove the candlestick of truth from a believer. He did it with Solomon, and He can do it to any Christian who strays from the truth and refuses to objectively study the Scriptures. After all, where does apostasy start?
Does it start with everyone in the congregation of a church hermeneutically abusing a Scripture? No! Apostasy comes into the church or a ministry by means of one person and then it spreads. How does it spread? (2 Pet 3:16 KJV) As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
If you think that the above warning does not apply to Christians, then hold on to your spiritual hat. Look at the following verse:
(John 15:1-2 KJV) I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. {2} Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Did you see it? He didn’t say, “any branch!” He didn’t say, “every branch!” He said, “Every branch IN ME.” If you are a Christian, you are in Christ. “In Christ” is used 77 times in the New Testament, 74 times by the Apostle Paul. God reserves the right to remove (take home) any Christian who is abusing the true interpretation of Scripture and causing others to do the same. (Mat 18:6 KJV) But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. This verse is not teaching about children, unless they are Christians. Christ was showing that the children of God are likened to the children in the world. Christ is saying that if anyone offends just one of His children, they may be in danger of judgment and may have never been truly saved.
Just to summarize this first section, we see that the Holy Spirit will be serving two basic functions. He will convict the world and convince the believer. He will then guide the Christian into all truth. Now let us go to 2 Thessalonians and apply what we have learned so far.
2 Thessalonians
In my section “Does God judge the Local Church?,” I have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that God indeed judges congregations but He does this judgment by individual congregation and not as a blanket judgment. Each of the churches in Revelation had a different problem except Philadelphia. Did God say He was going to judge Thyatira for the sin of Sardis? No, He planned on dealing with each individual congregation according to their faithfulness or faithlessness. Did God judge the Northern Kingdom and Judah together? No He didn’t! He judged them individually as shown openly by the 135 year period between the captivity of Judah and Israel. The blanket theory does not even exist in the Old Testament, let alone the new. All verses from the King James Version.
2 Thessalonians 2:1
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,”
The chapter opens with Paul setting the theme for the following set of verses. We read that Paul is speaking of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the rapture of the believers which is our gathering unto Him. Paul sets the theme as the events which will happen just prior to the return of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 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.”
Paul was assuring the Thessalonian church that the day of the Lord has not happened and they did not miss the gathering of the saints. There must have been false teachers bellowing forth false teachings at Thessalonica and scaring all the Christians that the Lord returned and they were left behind or that the final days of earth’s existence were upon them. There may have been someone faking Paul’s signature and this is why these Christians were upset and confused. 2 Thessalonians was written about 10-15 years before the first major persecution of Christians began under Nero. There would have been no outside evidence to conclude that the day of the Lord had come. It was just convincing letters and arguments which confused these Christians.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
“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, showing himself that he is God.”
Before the Lord Jesus Christ will return and gather all His Saints to be with him, some things must take place first which give a sign that the coming of the Lord is near. In these two verses, we are made aware of them.
Falling Away
What does this mean? The word in the Greek for “falling away” is one that is extremely applicable to our day. It is the word “apostasy.” Now the word “apostasy” means “departure or rebellion.” It basically means that one has departed from the long-established proper teachings of Scripture. Paul says that in the days prior to Christ’s return there will be a departure from the teachings of Scripture. Walk into any Christian book store and you will find departure written on almost every book. False Bible versions have departure written on them. Many churches have departure written on them. Many radio, TV, and Internet ministries have departure written on them. Every cult has departure written on them. In the day we live, it is hard to find a faithful church but they are out there because the Lord said: (Mat 24:35 KJV) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. His words are found in a true church and the true Bible, the King James Version. So we see that prior to the Lord’s return, there will be a great departure from biblical truth.
Man of Sin, Son of Perdition
In the Scriptures, “Son of Perdition” is mentioned twice. Once here to describe Satan and the other to describe Judas. (John 17:12 KJV) While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. Now we see in Verse 3 that the son of perdition will be revealed or disclosed. Who will he be disclosed to and how will we know it is Satan? The key is the progression of this verse. First, there must come apostasy in the Christian community and the only ones who are going to know when there is a departure are those who are truly saved. Even Jesus said the Elect cannot be deceived. Didn’t the Holy Spirit come into the world to guide the true believers into truth? Satan as the false teacher will be revealed to Christians through the false teachings he brings. We cannot physically see him but through his evil works, we know he is there. A church that teaches truth in 1992 and then in 2002, does not teach truth, has slowly succumbed to the teachings of Antichrist. The term “perdition” may also be understood as “destruction, ruin, or waste.” Is not this a proper description of the works of Satan?
(2 Th 2:4 KJV) 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, showing himself that he is God.
(Isa 14:13-14 KJV) For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: {14} I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
In these verses in Isaiah we have almost an exact parallel to 2nd Thessalonians 2:4, of Satan’s desire to be like the Most High or God Himself. Satan said he is going to exalt his throne above all the stars of God. I doubt that he is speaking of stars in space, he is obviously speaking of the believers since the next phrase is that he going to sit upon the mount or above the congregation. Satan has a lust to be worshipped. What better place to assault for that worship than the local church? So then how does Satan get to control the church? He does it through the false teachings which are prevalent in many churches. Go to some main line churches and you will hear more sympathy for a whale than a soul. Why should the question even come up as to whether homosexuals should be ordained? What about signs and wonders churches? The abomination which makes desolate are the works of Satan in the churches. When Satan’s minions have been successful to destroy truth in a congregation, they go on to the next one.
Satan receives worship by means of the acceptance of his false gospels both in and out of the church. In the last days, Satan and his ministers come as an angel of light to deceive. That is the method Satan uses to gain worship or adoration. There will never be a time, even in a dead church, when Satan will get direct worship. It will always come through deceit. This is how he shows himself to be God. He takes over congregations and diverts them from the truth, then the Lord Jesus removes the candlesticks of truth, and there you have a desolate congregation.
In verse 4, the word “so” means, “for this reason or in order that.” This is the conjunction which gives us the key to this verse. Satan opposes and exalts himself in order that he may sit in the temple or the local church. His reason for opposing God is to gain the adulation of his people. True believers will not accept false teachings and therefore will not give Satan worship. So the true believers leave the dead church and go to another one which has not been adulterated with false teachings. While Satan has his emissaries in every congregation, he will not be ruling in every congregation. For not every congregation is dead.
2 Thessalonians 2:5
“Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”
Obviously when Paul was with them there may have been much discussion concerning the return of the Lord. This is probably owing to the fact that he mentions the rapture of the Saints.
2 Thessalonians 2:6
“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.”
Paul resumes his teaching on the subject of Satan. Paul now introduces the reason that Satan will never have absolute power on earth or in the churches. This is because he is being restrained. Since there is no human being which can restrain or withhold Satan, this is definitely speaking of the Holy Spirit who is eternal God Himself. Now there is another aspect which must be considered although minor in comparison to the work of the Holy Spirit Himself. Whenever the truth is proclaimed, then Satan is being restrained. Whenever a true believer brings the gospel to someone and they become saved, Satan has been restrained. Now Pre-tribulationalism believes that the Holy Spirit will be removed when all true believers will be raptured before the great tribulation begins. This theory falls flat because they also claim there will be some who will be saved during the final tribulation period. How can a person become saved unless the Holy Spirit will be present to apply the word to one of God’s chosen?
I am not speaking of this type of situation. I am saying that if a false teaching is rampant in a church and then someone comes in and teaches the truth and displaces the false teaching, then Satan has been restrained, but not by human effort. It was done through the power of the Holy Spirit confirming the work of the word of truth in that place. We can safely conclude that only the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to restrain Satan.
2 Thessalonians 2:7
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
The word for “the way” is the Greek word “mesou." This word may easily be translated “midst” and this is how the proponents use it. In translating it this way, does it hurt the case for true interpretation? The answer is no! For the Bible is speaking here that there is going to be a time when the ministry of the Holy Spirit will be at an end. The word “work” in this verse is a present tense verb which means the mystery of iniquity was already working in the churches in Paul’s time. So that means that the mystery of iniquity is going to work simultaneously with the work of the Holy Spirit until an appointed end. (Wheat and Tares) The question then, is when is the end? Is it the present? Or is it something else? The answer to our question is found in the next verse.
2 Thessalonians 2:8
“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:”
Notice this verse starts with “and” just like chapters 4-22 in Revelation. This is a continuing thought not a separate one. The Holy Spirit will be active in all the world, including the churches, saving all the elect until the last one is saved. Then the Holy Spirit will be removed from the midst because His salvation work is done. Verses 7 & 8 are speaking of the last day when Satan will be destroyed upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us look at the following verses which puts a confirming edge to this.
(Isa 14:15-17 KJV) Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. {16} They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; {17} That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
Here Satan is spoken of as a man as in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. He will be revealed as the man of sin upon his destruction. The Bible speaks that he has already been judged so his sentence is now being carried out. In comparison to the might of the Lord Jesus, Satan will be looked on as a defeated, weak foe. When the last one of God’s elect is saved, this will usher in the last day. The Christians will be taken to Heaven, Satan will be taken to Hell, the unbelievers judged, and the Universe will be remade by God. This is when the Holy Spirit will be removed, simultaneously with the removal of every last Christian on earth. Remember how Paul started the chapter, with speaking of “our gathering to the Lord Jesus Christ?” Well that is the context of these verses. Let us go back to the John verses. What was the Holy Spirit’s two-fold mission? To convict the unbeliever and convince the believer by bringing them into all truth. Once the last one is saved, these two ministries will have ended.
We have openly seen that these eight verses in 2 Thessalonians are dealing with the end of the world, namely the last day. We have seen how the context flows uniformly concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and we did not even allegorize or over-spiritualize one verse. We have safely concluded that the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the midst of the world on the last day and not before. If God’s elect, which haven’t been summoned yet, are still in the world, in false religions, in cults, in dead churches and other places. Once they are all called out and saved, then the end shall come and the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way.
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