Katechon & Antichrist. Definitions & Theories

02.03.2021

Paul (Tarsus c. 5-Rome 67)

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming (parousia) 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 Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (apostasia) first, and that man of sin (anomia) be revealed, the son of perdition (apoleia); who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he (ho antikeimenos) as God sitteth in the temple of God (eis ton naon), shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth (to katechon) that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (ho katechon) will let, until he be taken out of the way (ek mesou geneta). And then shall that Wicked (Anomos) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming (parousia): even him (Anomos), whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (adikia).

Second Letter to the Thessalonians, 2:1-12

Irenaeus of Lyons
(Smyrna 130-Lyons 200-02)

The Bishop of Lyons, regarded by many as the founder of Christian theology, his most important work, Against Heresies: ‘On the Detection and Refutation of Knowledge So Called', mounted a systematic attack on Gnosticism (Books 1 and 2) and an institutional defence of the institutions of the sacramental Church (Books 3,4 and 5). Caccianspassages are taken from Book 5 where Irenaeus criticizes the gnostic view of government as intrinsically diabolical and pursues an extended mediation on ecclesiastical eschatology (tr.).

XXV. The Antichrist shows himself as the one who wants to be worshipped as God, being as he is an apostate and a great thief, and he wants to be proclaimed king, even though he is a slave. In fact, after having received the power of the devil, he will show himself not as a just king, and even less as Gods subordinate and servant to His law, but as a wicked and iniquitous one, an apostate, lawless, unjust and murderous, as a thief who takes in his bosom all the apostasies of the devil; he would destroy all the idols in order to feign he is God, and he will establish himself as the only idol, collecting in himself all the deceptions of all other idols, so that all those who worship the devil through all kinds of abominations become his servants. In fact, the Apostle speaks of him in the Second Epistle to Thessalonians: ‘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; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God' (2 Ts 2:3-4) - therefore, the apostle has clearly spoken of his apostasy, has clearly stated that the one who will raise himself above any being considered as God or an object of worship, that is above every idol (those who human beings call gods', even though they are not), will thus strive to present himself as God in a tyrannical manner.

XXVIII. While in this time some turn towards the light and by faith unite with God and others turn away from the light and from God, the Word of God assigns a fitting habitation to all: those who are in the light may enjoy the goods that are contained in it, but those who are in darkness partake of its suffering. For this reason [the Word of God] decrees that those who sit on the right hand will be received unto the kingdom of the Father, and those who sit on the left will be cast into the everlasting fire (Mt 25:34-41), for the latter will be deprived of all goods. Thus, says the apostle: inasmuch as they have shunned the love of truth for their salvation,‘For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth,but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Ts 2:10-12). In fact, when he (the Antichrist) will come, resolved to consummate all apostasy and finish his work, he will sit in the temple of God and be worshipped as Christ by those he has deceived (2 Ts 2:4). Rightly then shall he be cast into the lake of fire (.Ap 19:20), and at the proper time God, in his own prescience, seeing all things when the right time come will send such a man, ‘that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Ts 2:11-12).

Contra Heresies (Adversus Haereses), V, xxv; L, xxviii, 1-2

Tertullian, Quintus Septimus Florens
(Carthage 155-230)

Tertullian practised law in Rome before conversion and returning to Carthage. He is credited with the invention of theological Latin and importing the terminology of Roman law into theological dispute. The first of Cacciaris passages is drawn from his treatise on the ‘Resurrection of the Flesh', which complemented the polemical ‘On the Flesh of Christ' in arguing against gnostic positions regarding the incarnation and the resurrection. The second is from the Apology addressed to Roman provincial governors arguing that Christians are good citizens in spite of their reluctance to sacrifice to the Emperor; the first of a line of political-theological reflections that would culminate in Augustines City of God (tr.).

XXIV-XXV. What these times are, you may come to learn along with the Thessalonians. As we read: ‘how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, Jesus, whom he raised from the dead' (1 Ts 1:9-10). And elsewhere: ‘For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?' (1 Ts 2:19). Similarly,‘before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints' (1 Ts 3:13). He instructs them that they should not have sorrow for the dead, he also explains to them the time of the resurrection: ‘For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so they also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them who are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord' (1 Ts 4:14-17). What archangels voice, what trumpet of God is heard save in the halls of the heretics? Even if it were possible to receive the word of the Gospel that is like the trump of God calling out to men, they either are already dead in body, in a way that they can arise from the dead (but in this case how could they be alive?), or they are caught up in the clouds (but then how could they have ever been here?). As the apostle averred (1 Cor 15:19), those who only have hope in this life will be excluded from what is promised beyond it, even as they strive to grasp it with their hands, and will be deemed the most miserable of men; and, like Phigellus and Hermogenes, they deceive themselves regarding the truth (2 Tm 1:15). It is thus suggested in the Second epistle to Thessalonians that the divine authority of the Holy Ghost thoroughly grasps those thoughts: ‘But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape' (1 Ts 5:1-3). Furthermore, in the second epistle addressing the same people with even greater zeal, he says: ‘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 Christ is at hand. 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; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved' (2 Ts 2:1-10).

In Johns Revelation where the succession of time unravels, the souls of the martyrs learn to endure beneath the altar and cry out to be avenged and judged (Ap 6:9-11), in order to let the world drain the last drop of all its plagues out of the cups of the angels (Ap 15:7); to let that Harlot City suffer its dues at the hands of the ten kings (Ap 17:12); to let the beast Antichrist and his false prophet wage war on the Church (Ap 19:19-20). So that after Satan has been cast into the bottomless pit for a while, and the dispensation of the first resurrection is given to those who are seated under the thrones (Ap 20:2-4), and after the time Satan is consigned to the flames (Ap 20:10), the judgement of universal resurrection shall be pronounced (Ap 20:12) in accordance with the scriptures.

On the Resurrection of the Flesh (De Resurrectione carnis), XXIV, 1-20; XXV, 1-2

XXX. For the safety of the emperors we offer our prayers to the eternal God, the true God, the living God, whose favour even emperors court above all other gods. They know well who gave them their power; and, being human, also know who gave them life; knowing that this is the only God on whose might they depend, they are second to Him and first after Him, before and above all other gods. How could it be otherwise, since they stand above all living men, who, being living, take precedence over the dead? To the extent they think on the value of their power in this world they come to understand God; they acknowledge that they owe their power to Him over Whom they have no power. Then can the emperor lay waste the heavens and drag them in triumph at his chariot? Can he post sentries in heaven? Impose taxes on heaven? He cannot. For he is great only because he is less than heaven, and he belongs unto Him to whom the heavens and all creatures belong. He owes his empire to Whom, being first human, he owes his life; his power and his breath have the same source. We Christians raise our eyes and lift our hands to heaven in all innocence, and keep our heads uncovered for we have no cause to be ashamed, nor do we need special instruction for we pray with our hearts, we pray for all emperors to have a long life, a peaceful reign, a safe house, powerful armies, a loyal senate, a virtuous people, a world without strife, and whatever a man or Caesar could desire.

XXXII. There is another even greater necessity to pray for the good of the Caesars, and indeed for the stability of the Roman dominion and the whole empire, for we are aware the Roman Empire has deferred the immeasurable calamity looming over the whole world and threatens with terrible woes. We certainly don t wish for this eventuality and we pray that such an end is deferred longer still and hope for the empires long duration. At the same time our oaths are not taken upon the guardian spirits (genii) of the Caesars, but only upon the latters’ safety, which is of much greater value than any spirit could be. Could you be so ignorant of the fact that these spirits are called daemones, a diminutive of Daemon7. With regard to Caesars then we respect what God ordained, for He made them head over the rest; we see Gods will in the Caesars and we can only desire the safety of that which God has willed. To us this is the greatest of pledges. On the other hand, it is our practice to ward off demons, that is spirits (genii), by expelling them from humanity. We do not take oaths by their name, nor do we show them the reverence due only to God.

The Apology (Apologeticus Adversus Gentes pro Christianis), XXX, 1-4; XXXII, 1-3

Hippolytus of Rome
(Asia 170-Sardinia 235)

Hippolytus of Rome was Presbyter in the Roman Church and author of a Refutation of all Heresies. Caccians texts are taken from his Commentary on the Book of Daniel and his Proof of Christ and the Antichrist (tr.). 

XXI-XXII. Since the word of God is right but all men are liars (Ps 116:11) as the scriptures say, let us examine if Pauls words accord with the Lords. Writing to Thessalonians he urges them to be always alert and to continue praying without waiting for the Day of Judgement, because the fullness of time was not yet come, he puts it this way, ‘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 Christ is at hand. 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; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders' (2 Ts 2:1- 9). Who is then that, up to the present, restrains (withholds) if not the fourth beast? The Deceiver shall come when this beast is removed and taken out of the way. But being excessively inquisitive on how many years are left before the beast is removed, means you don t realize you are starting the mischief of wishing to see the Day of Judgement come before its time. For it is said, ‘Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord!' and ‘Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness and not light?' (Am 5:18-20). Why then waste your time looking for that day when the Saviour himself has not revealed it? Tell me, do you know the day of your own death? Yet you want to deliberate over the end of the world! If God in his plentiful mercy was not patient with us, time would have come to an end long ago [...]. If God decrees the martyrs, who shed their blood for Christ, be patient then why cant you also wait, so that others can be saved and the number of the saints and the elect be complete?

XLIX-L. This was prophesied by Daniel on the subject of the Antichrist (Daniel 11): he shall be insolent, lusting for war, repressive and, after audaciously magnifying himself above every king and every god, boasting an army and sacking the walls of enemy cities, having power over treasures of gold and silver and precious stones, after speaking marvellous things against God, he shall want to be worshipped as God. All the Scriptures speak of him, and the prophets foretold of his coming and the ruin of the multitudes, the Lord bears them witness, and the apostles taught of the same things, and John in his Revelation spoke of him in mystic numbers. The Lord calls him abomination of desolation, while Paul says that he will show himself as the son of the Devil, after the working of Satan (2 Ts 2:9). [...] He has raised himself above all kings and all gods, will rebuild the city of Jerusalem and erect anew the destroyed temple, will restore to the Jews all their lands and territories, and draw them from their slavery to the gentiles. He will proclaim himself their king. The infidels shall prostrate themselves before him as before God, thinking him to be the Christ, having not understood the words of the prophet, namely that he is a deceiver and a liar [...]. He shall kill the two witnesses and forerunners of Christ who preach his glorious parousia in Heaven. As the prophet says, 1 will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth' (Ap 11:3); similarly, the Angel said to Daniel: And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease (Da 9:27), we can understand this division of the week thus: the two witnesses and their announcement of the three and a half years time period represent the first half, the Antichrist, and his laying the world waste and waging war against the saints the second half, so that the prophecy be fulfilled: and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days' (Da 12:11 ff.).

LIII-LIV. And then, Daniel prophesies, two abominations, destruction and desolation. What could the former be if not the one wrought by Antiochus in his time[1] (Da 11:21 ff.)7. And what could the latter be if not the universal abomination wrought by the coming of the Antichrist? As Daniel says, ‘he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many, and shall divide the land for gain, and he shall enter into the land, and shall overflow and pass over, and the land of Egypt shall not escape but these shall escape out of his hand, Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon (Da 11:36-45); what is more, those with whom he shares the same blood will be the first to recognize him as king. These are, the Edomites, who descend from Essau and live on Mount Seir; then the Moabites and the Ammonites, descendants of Lot by his two daughters, as Isaiah says, ‘But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them' (Is 11:14). The Antichrist, their proclaimed and glorified king, having overpowered the world with the abomination of desolation, will prevail for one thousand two hundred and ninety days as Daniel says: ‘blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days' (Da 12:12); then, with the coming of dissolution and the persecution of the saints, whoever outlasts that day and near the forty-fifth day, while another Pentecost is looming, will inherit the kingdom of Heaven, as the Antichrist comes in the middle of fifty days; whereas the saints will rightly inherit the kingdom along with Christ.

LVI. Then, who could the two men on the opposite riverbanks be (Da 12:5) other than the Law and the prophets, and who was above the waters if not the very one about whom they once prophesied? Who was he, the man clothed in colourful linen with a writer s inkhorn at his side, if not the same one of whom, at the river Jordan at a later time, the Father will bear witness, and John will present to the people (Ez 9:2)? They [the Jews], therefore, who questioned him, knowing that all empires and all powers are his, came to see clearly that the world will be judged at the time all those wonders of which he spoke will be fulfilled. He, wanting to be believed, held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, swearing by Him who lives forever (Da 12:7). Who is the one by whom Christ swore? It is evident that the Son is swearing by the Father; the Father lives for ever and not in time. And thus he swears: cit shall he for a time, times, and half a time; and - all these things will be known, when the world shall be finished' (ibid.). Then he outstretched his arms as a sign of patience. In saying, Tor a time, times, and half a time\ he meant the three and a half years of the Antichrist: a time is a year, times are two years, and the half a time is half a year. Those are the one thousand two hundred and ninety days prophesied by Daniel.

Commentary on Daniel (Commentarius in Danielem), XXI-XXII, XLIX-L, LIII-IV, LVI

V-VI. But the moment has come to broach the matter we have been anticipating, having said enough on the subject of the glory of God in the introduction, and it is proper that we look to the Holy Scriptures to find out what the coming of the Antichrist shall be; when, that is, in what age, in what time shall his iniquity be revealed, and whence and from what people shall he come, or what his name shall be - the Holy Scripture gives only a number; in what manner he shall lead people into error, gathering them from the ends of the earth; how he shall wear out and and persecute the saints; in what way he will be exalted as God; what his downfall will be that will reveal the Lord of Heaven; finally, what the conflagration of the entire world will be and what the glorious celestial kingdom of the saints, reigning with Christ, and what the eternal punishment by fire forced on the wicked shall be.

Like our Lord and God Jesus Christ, on account of his royalty and glory, was compared to a lion, so too and in a similar manner the Scriptures compare the Antichrist to a lion, on account of his tyranny and violence. For the deceiver wants to be like the Son of God in all things. So that if Christ is a lion, the Antichrist is also a lion, if Christ a king, then the Antichrist also a king. The Saviour is represented as a lamb, the Antichrist assumes the appearance of a lamb, even if a wolf inside. The Saviour came into the world in circumcision, the Antichrist will do the same. The Lord sent the apostles among the nations and the Antichrist will send his false apostles everywhere. As the Saviour gathered the scattered sheep so will the Antichrist gather the scattered people of the Jews. The Lord gave the seal[2] to his faithful, the Antichrist likewise. The Saviour assumed human form and the Antichrist will too. The Saviour made a temple of his flesh; in a similar manner the Antichrist will erect a temple of stone in Jerusalem.

XV. It is from the tree of Dan that a tyrant and king will be born and bred, wicked judge and son of the devil, as the prophet testifies, ‘Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel’ (Gn 49:16). One could say, however, that the above referred to Sampson, who came from the line of Dan, and was judge for twenty years. But the prophecy is partially fulfilled in Sampson, whereas it will find its complete fulfilment in the Antichrist. Jeremiah too speaks of this: ‘The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones’ (Jer 8:16). And another prophet testifies: ‘He shall gather together all his forces from sunrise to sunset. And all shall follow him, those he has summoned and those he has not. He shall turn the sea white with the sails of his ships and the land dark with his spears and shields. And every one meeting him in battle shall fall to his sword’. All this is said of none other but the insolent tyrant who is at war with God.

LXIII-LXIV. The blessed apostle Paul, writing to Thessalonians, says, ‘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 Christ is at hand. 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; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie' (2 Ts 2:1-11). And also Isaiah, ‘Let the wicked be cut off that he behold not the glory of the Lord'. Then, my beloved, once those things come to pass and the one week shall be rendered in two, the abomination of desolation shall rise, and the two prophets and the forerunner of the Lord having run their course and the whole world reaching its end, what shall remain but the coming from heaven of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Son of God, to whom we turn in hope? He shall bring universal conflagration and right judgement on all those who did not have faith in Him. He says,‘And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh' (Lk 21:28); ‘But there shall not an hair of your head perish' (Lk 21:18); Tor 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. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together (Mt 24:27-28). For there was a carcase in paradise too, there, cozened, Adam fell. Furthermore he says, ‘the Son of Man shall send his angels and gather together his elect from the four winds of heaven (Mt 24:31). But also David foretold the parousia (manifestation) of the Lord and his Judgement: ‘His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof' (Ps 19:6). By the heat he means the conflagration. Not accidentally Isaiah says,‘Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast' (Is 26:20). And in like manner Paul, ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness' (Rm 1:18).

Demonstratio de Christo et Antichristo, V-VI, XV, LXIII-LXIV

Origen (Alexandria 185-Tyre 254)

Origen was a prolific interpreter and theologian active in Alexandria and Caesaria. Caccians passage is drawn from his polemic with the neo-platonic philosopher Celsus claiming the superiority of Christianity to philosophy as a form of life and source of salvation (tr.).

Moreover, Paul in the second letter to Thessalonians shows in what manner there will be revealed‘the man of sin (anomia), the son of perdition (apoleia); 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' (2 Ts 2:3-4). And once again he says to the Thessalonians: ‘And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way 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: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved' (2 Ts 2:6- 10). And, expounding on the reason why the Wicked are allowed to live on, he explicitly said: ‘because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Ts 2:10-12). Then let anyone say if any passage in the Gospel or in the epistles of the Apostle leaves room for suspecting these statements as predictions of ‘sorcery'. Those who wish may further glean the prophecy regarding the Antichrist from Daniel. But Celsus falsifies the word of Jesus, since Jesus never said that there will be others who, like him, will work miracles, others who are wicked and sorcerers, yet Celsus claims that He said those words. The magic spells of Egypt were not like the divine grace of Moses, and in the end it was obvious that the spells of the Egyptians were the result of sorcery whereas those of Moses came truly from a divine power, similarly the works of the Antichrist, and of those who feign to work miracles pretending to be the disciples of Christ, are identified as wonders and false signs, for deceiving iniquity is irresistible to those who march to their ruin, while the work of Christ and his disciples had for their fruit not deception but the salvation of the soul. Who then could rationally argue that the greatest form of life, one that daily strives to mitigate the work of iniquity, could be born of deception?

Contra Celsus, II, 50

Melito of Sardis (died Sardis c. 180-190)

Melito was Bishop of Sardis, and few of his works have survived. The passage in the Anthology chosen by Cacciari is a fragment surviving from his Apology for Christianity addressed to Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome (tr.).

It has never come to pass before that the whole race of pious men will suffer such persecution perpetrated by the new decrees on all Asia. Shameless informers and those covetous of the riches of others, emboldened by those decrees, openly plunder and trample on innocent men, day and night.

If all that is what you (Marcus Aurelius) decreed then well and good. For it is not possible that a just prince could order something that is unjust; and we will gladly suffer the honour of such death. We only have this request: that you examine first those who have been ruined because of their tenaciousness by your decree, and then decide, on the grounds of your native fairness, whether any among them deserve to be put to torture and death, or live safe and secure. But if such a decision and such a decree, unprecedented even against enemy barbarians and not considered fit for them, if it not be proclaimed by you, then we beseech you even more, don’t allow a similar public despoiling to continue to oppress us.

For our philosophy first took hold among the barbarians, but after flourishing among the nations, at the time of the great reign of Augustus, your ancestor, it became a blessing to the destiny of Rome.

Furthermore, from that time the majesty of the Roman Empire due to great conquests has grown; to this empire you are the designated successor, and so shall continue with your son, if now you provide protection for that philosophy that grew together with the empire, beginning with Augustus, that doctrine honoured by your ancestors along with other religions.

That our religion has flourished for the good of an empire with an auspicious beginning, can be proved by the fact that no calamity befell the dominions of Augustus, and, on the contrary everything has progressed favourably and prosperously in accordance with the wisdom and loyalty of all. Nero and Domitian alone, persuaded by some vile counsel, sought to accuse our religion. From then on slander against us has persisted and it is common practice to give credence to mindless chatter. Your pious fathers corrected their wrongs, frequently reprimanding in writing those who attempted to bring new measures against our religion. Among the most pious of your family your grandfather Hadrian, who sent letters to Minutius Fontanus, Proconsul of Asia, and many others. And your father too, at the time Hadrian ruled, wrote to the cities to prevent rioting against us, more specifically he wrote to the Larissaeans, the Thessalonians, the Athenians and to all the Greeks. Hence, we trust that you too may be disposed towards us in the same way as your ancestors; indeed, given that you are much more benevolent and learned, we trust that you will grant our request.

Fragments from Melitos Apology.; in Eusebius of Cesarea, Ecclesiastical History (Fragmenta ex Apologia Melitonis, in Eusebius'Historia Ecclesiastica) IV, 26:5-11

Victorinus of Pettau (250-304)

Bishop of Poetovio in what was the Roman province of Panonia (located over the territory of parts of present day Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) and author of biblical commentaries. Caccians selection is taken from his only surviving commentary on the Book of Revelation (tr.).

That the Antichrist should be numbered among the Caesars and those who lived in the great empire is expressly stated by Paul, for he says in his epistle to Thessalonians. And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way 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: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders' (2 Ts 2:6-9). So that they knew he, who was then reigning supreme, would come, Paul added, ‘the mystery of iniquity doth already work' (2 Ts 2:7), namely he speaks of the iniquity that he will effect in secret, but his power does not come from him or his father but is commanded by God. It is for this that Paul says: ‘because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved ... for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie' (2 Ts 2:10-11). And Isaiah also says, ‘they wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, hut they walk in darkness' (Is 59:9). And the Book of Revelation states that the prophets will be killed by him (i.e., the Antichrist) and on the fourth day will rise again, so that there be no one equal to God. Moreover, Jerusalem is called‘Sodom and Egypt' (Ap 11:8) and‘Sodom and Gomorra in Isaiah (Is 1:10), on account of the evil-doing of the persecuting people. Therefore you need to follow the prophetic revelation with great care and attention to understand it, for the Holy Ghost speaks in perplexing ways, anticipating the order of events running to the end of time, and back again to the first time: revealing an event that will happen only once as if it happened more than once.

Scholiums on the Book of Revelation (Scolia in Apocalypsin), XI, 4-5

Ambrosiaster

Ambrosiaster is the author of a group of commentaries on Paul previously attributed to St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. The little that is known of Ambrosiaster establishes him in Rome in 366-388 ad as a member of the Roman clergy. Caccians selection is taken from the commentary on 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 (tr.).

‘Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time' (2 Ts 2:5-6) - Paul said, ‘what withholdeth' will last as long as he who shall come before the Lord is not revealed, and as a consequence, until the hope for the coming of the Lord is fulfilled. This sequence of events is earlier stated, in confidence, thus, ‘for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first' (2 Ts 2:3) - I mentioned before that this ‘falling away' (apostasia/defectio) must be understood as the fall of the Roman Empire: in fact, when there will be rebellion the Antichrist will come, and only then can we hope that the coming of the Lord is nigh.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will lety until he be taken out of the way' (2 Ts 2:7). The mystery of iniquity began with Nero, who had the apostles put to death for worshipping idols - since his father, the Devil, egged him on to do it - then continued with Diocletian and more recently with Julian, who could not bring persecution to its successful conclusion, for despite the fact that he started it with craft and skill, Heaven did not allow it. Well, Satan uses these agents, on the one hand, to mock the manifestation of the one true God, and, on the other, to entice men to worship many gods, as long as the Roman Empire lasts - or as Paul says, until he be taken out of the way.

Commentary on Pauls Second Epistle to Thessalonians (In epistulam Beati Pauli ad Thessalonicenses secundam)

John Chrysostom (Antioch 344/54- Pontic Comana 407)

John Chrysostom was Bishop of Constantinople and a prominent early Church Father; renowned for his eloquence and his commitment to ecclesiastical reform. His preaching consisted largely of biblical exegesis and commentary. The present passage has been taken from his commentary on Thessalonians (tr.).

[And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (2 Ts 2:6-9).] One may rightly first ask, what is that which withholds, and then may want to understand the reason Paul speaks so equivocally of it. What then is this that withholdeth that he might be revealed'? That stops him [the Messiah] from being revealed? Some claim that it is the grace of the Holy Spirit'; others maintain, instead, that it is the Roman Empire. I'm in full agreement with the latter. For what reason? Because if Paul meant to understand it as the Holy Spirit he would not have spoken obscurely, he would have plainly said that even now the grace of the Holy Spirit, i.e., all charisma and gifts, withholds him. Otherwise, if he were about to come, for if he were to come when all grace and gifts lost most their power, he ought to have already come, since by now all those have lost all their power. But if instead Paul understands what withholds as the Roman Empire he has cause to be cryptic and enigmatic: for he did not want to attract unnecessary hostilities and futile dangers. Had he said that the Roman Empire was about to be overthrown, he knew he would have been accused of being evil and destructive, and with him all the faithful who live and strive under his guiding figure. For this reason he did not say, neither in this way nor in any direct way, what would come to pass, although he means to say the same thing. What thing? That the mystery of iniquity may be revealed in its own time, even if it is already at work. He says that Nero is some form of Antichrist - he wanted to be regarded as a god. Understandably then Paul speaks of a mystery', for he will not speak openly and shamelessly as Nerodid. If before that time there was one - Paul says - who was not all that different from the Antichrist in wickedness, then what is strange about his imminent coming? And the reason the Apostle did not speak plainly was not that he was unclear about the matter, was not because of cowardice but rather to warn us not to attract unnecessary hostility, for nothing calls for impatience. But he also said, only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way' [i.e., the one who up to now withholdeth’], and this should be understood that as soon as the Roman Empire is finally ‘taken out of the way' the Antichrist shall come. And naturally. For as long as the fear of such power lasts, no one will easily submit, but as soon as this empire disintegrates and falls into anarchy, the power of men and God will be attacked. In this way all the kingdoms that preceded this one were destroyed, for example, the kingdom of the Medes by the Babylonians, the kingdom of the Babylonians by the Persians, their kingdom by the Macedonians, the Macedonians by the Romans, so too this kingdom [of which the Apostle speaks] will be destroyed by the Antichrist and he will be destroyed by Christ, and the Antichrist will no longer last. Daniel too speaks of all these things with great clarity. Paul says,‘And then shall that Wicked be revealed'. What then? It is quite a consolation that he adds, ‘the Lord shall consume [the Wicked] with the spirit of his mouth, and [he] shall destroy with the brightness of his coming (parousia)... the working of Satan with all power. As a rapidly spreading fire attacking the young of little animals that first stuns and then consumes them, so the Will and Coming (parousia) of Christ will take the Antichrist out of the way. Before the presence of Christ these things will disintegrate and even his mere appearance will suffice to halt all the work of deceit. Furthermore, [the apostle wished to point out] who is the one whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders'. That is, that Antichrist will show all his power for signs and wonders but nothing will be true and all will be at the service of deceit. [Paul said] those things so that [the Christians] of the time would not be misled. And, he emphasizes, ‘lying wonders', that is deceit and all that tempts us to unrighteousness. ‘And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish' (2 Ts 2:9-10). Why then, you may ask, God allowed him to be, and what kind of divine dispensation is this? What is to be gained by the coming of that Antichrist, since it bodes nothing but evil abuse for us? Fear not, beloved, and only harken him who says: he [the Antichrist] has power over those who will perish, all those who, were not the Antichrist come, would still have no faith. You ask again, what is to be gained in his coming? That those who perish will have their mouths sewn fast. How so? Because they will not believe in Christ, whether he is come or not. Therefore, he [the Antichrist] comes to control (manipulate) them, so that they are not able to say: ‘we did not believe in Christ, not because Christ said he is God - even though He nowhere openly said that - but because they who came after Him preached it. Because we heard that there is only one God, the Creator of all things, and that is the reason we did not believe in Christ'. The Antichrist, therefore, is come to remove this pretext of theirs. For when the Antichrist is come and they believe in him, although he brings not righteousness but iniquity, then their mouths will be truly shut. For if you don t believe in Christ you have even greater cause not to believe in the Antichrist. For Christ said he was sent in the name of the Father, whereas the Antichrist said the opposite. And so Christ says: ‘I am come in my Fathers name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive' (John 5:43). Still they will insist,‘but we have seen signs and wonders', but Christ also showed them great marvels. Thus they had greater reason to have faith in Christ than the Antichrist. Besides, many a thing has been prophesied about the Antichrist, that he is Wicked (anomos), that he is the Son of Perdition, and his coming is the work of Satan, whereas about Christ the opposite has been said, that he is the Saviour, and he brings boundless blessings, ‘And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness' (2 Ts 2:11-12).

Commentary on the Second Epistle to Thessalonians, Homily IV

Augustine of Hippo (Thagaste, Roman Africa 354-Hippo 430)

Augustine was a major Latin theologian and Bishop of Hippo. Author of the justly famed Confessions and the most influential apology for Christianity and statement of its political theology City of God. He participated in many theological polemics and was the author of biblical commentary and an influential meditation on the Trinity. The following passage is taken from Book XX of the City of God dedicated to the Last Judgement and the question of Law (tr.).

I see that I must omit many of the statements of the gospels and epistles about this last judgement, that this volume may not become unduly long; but I can on no account omit what the Apostle Paul says, in writing to the Thessalonians, ‘We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Ts 2:1-12).

No one can doubt that he wrote this of the Antichrist and of the Day of Judgement, which he here calls the day of the Lord, nor that he declared that this day should not come unless he first came who is called the apostate - apostate, to wit, from the Lord God. And if this may justly be said of all the ungodly, how much more of him? But it is uncertain in what temple he shall sit, whether in that ruin of the temple which was built by Solomon, or in the Church; for the apostle would not call the temple of any idol or demon the temple of God. And on this account some think that in this passage Antichrist means not the prince himself alone, but his whole body, that is, the mass of men who adhere to him, along with him their prince; and they also think that we should render the Greek more exactly were we to read, not in the temple of God, but for or as the temple of God, as if he himself were the temple of God, the Church. Then as for the words, And now ye know what withholds, i.e., you know what hindrance or cause of delay there is, that he might be revealed in his own time; they show that he was unwilling to make an explicit statement, because he said that they knew. And thus we who have not their knowledge wish and are not able even with pains to understand what the apostle referred to, especially as his meaning is made still more obscure by what he adds. For what does he mean by Tor the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now holds, let him hold until he be taken out of the way: and then shall the wicked be revealed'? I frankly confess I do not know what he means. I will nevertheless mention such conjectures as I have heard or read.

Some think that the Apostle Paul referred to the Roman Empire, and that he was unwilling to use language more explicit, lest he should incur the calumnious charge of wishing ill to the empire which it was hoped would be eternal; so that in saying, For the mystery of iniquity does already work, he alluded to Nero, whose deeds already seemed to be as the deeds of Antichrist. And hence some suppose that he shall rise again and be Antichrist. Others, again, suppose that he is not even dead, but that he was concealed that he might be supposed to have been killed, and that he now lives in concealment in the vigour of that same age which he had reached when he was believed to have perished, and will live until he is revealed in his own time and restored to his kingdom. But I wonder that men can be so audacious in their conjectures. However, it is not absurd to believe that these words of the apostle, Only he who now holds, let him hold until he be taken out of the way, refer to the Roman Empire, as if it were said, Only he who now reigns, let him reign until he be taken out of the way And then shall the wicked be revealed: no one doubts that this means Antichrist. But others think that the words, You know what withholds, and The mystery of iniquity works, refer only to the wicked and the hypocrites who are in the Church, until they reach a number so great as to furnish the Antichrist with a great people, and that this is the mystery of iniquity, because it seems hidden; also that the apostle is exhorting the faithful tenaciously to hold the faith they hold when he says, Only he who now holds, let him hold until he be taken out of the way, that is, until the mystery of iniquity which now is hidden departs from the Church. For they suppose that it is to this same mystery John alludes when in his epistle he says, Tittle children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us’ (1 John 2:18-19). As therefore there went out from the Church many heretics, whom John calls many antichrists, at that time prior to the end, and which John calls the last time (novissima), so in the end they shall go out who do not belong to Christ, but to that last (novissimum) Antichrist, and then he shall be revealed.

City of God XX, 19:1-3

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (Antioch 393- Cyrrhus 458)

Theodoret was Bishop of Cyrrhus, remembered for his controversial positions on the trinity and in particular on the humanity of Christ. He as also the author of biblical exegesis, an apology for Christianity and a Compendium of Heretical Fables. Cacciari draws his selections from the commentary on Thessalonians and the Compendium (tr.).

Some interpreters have taken what withholdetli (2 Ts 2:6) to be referring to the Roman Empire, while others to the Holy Spirit. But, as he would say, if it were the Holy Spirit that opposes and withholds, it [the katechon] would not have transpired. Further, it is not possible that the Holy Spirit is wholly consumed. In what way could those who are beyond spiritual succour ever overpower its plan? Similarly, the Roman Empire will not be followed by another. It is not by chance that the divine Daniel represents the Roman Empire as the fourth beast, a beast with a little horn on its head with which it makes war against the saints. The creature of this prophecy is also found in what the divine Apostle said. But I think he did not mean either of the above two things, and I myself believe what others have said on the matter to be more accurate. For the God of all things has decreed that he [the Antichrist] be revealed at the precise time of the End. Therefore, it is Gods will that withholds him and prevents his manifestation. For this reason, I think the above verses have another meaning. More clearly, God instructed the divine Apostle on the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel unto the nations and it is only then that the End will come to pass; observing the prevalence of idolatry, and following the Lords tenets, he stated that the forces of superstition must be first dispersed and only then, once the divine gospel burns bright, shall the Adversary of truth be revealed.

[2 Ts 2:7.] ‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work'. - Some have said that the ‘mystery of iniquity' refers to Nero, and have further added that he was the architect of ungodliness. I, on the other hand, believe that the Apostle in these verses refers to the heresies that were on the rise at the time. It is through heresy that the devil, having turned many away from the path of truth, prepares the way for destructive deceit. That is the reason [the Apostle] defined as the‘mystery of iniquity' those who have an occult link to iniquity. In fact, the devil flagrantly keeps humans away from God. It is for that reason the Apostle calls his coming a ‘revelation, for shamelessly and tirelessly will he preach his schemes and machinations. ‘He who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way'. That is, it is necessary the error of superstition come to an end and that the Gospel be proclaimed.

Commentary on the Second Epistle to Thessalonians (Interpretatio in epistulam secundam ad Thessalonicenses)

Let us remember what the Apostle often taught them, he says: ‘Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he [the Antichrist] might be revealed in his time' (2 Ts 2:5-6). He says, he would have already come if Gods grace would not have stopped him, by postponing his coming (parousia) until the proper time. ‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work' - by this verse he means to indicate the heresies on the rise at the time. ‘Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way' (2 Ts 2:7) - by this he means that Gods decree will withhold his coming. It is necessary that, and in accordance with divine providence, the Gospel is proclaimed unto the nations, and only then the Antichrist will come.

Compendium of Heretical Accounts (Haereticarum fabularum compendium), V,23

Theodore the Interpreter (aka Theodore of Mopsuestia, or Theodore of Antioch) (Antioch 393-Mopsuestia 460)

Theodore was Bishop of Mopsuestia and friend of John Chrysostom and author of innovative biblical exegesis, including commentaries on Paul from which this extract has been taken (tr.).

2 Ts 2:6-8. It does not seem convincing to me that [what withholds refers to the blessings of the Holy Spirit]; for these blessings have already died out. Should then one say that these blessings are still being received because some people, from time to time, continue to pray, some [blessings] would not die even in such time, for the saints could not completely disappear. But even then there will be people who reject his doctrine and they will recognize themselves in the striving for mercy Moreover, insofar as that which ‘withholds' is concerned he says, that the nature of evil is to withhold, but God prevents him from doing it. So that the world will come to its End and he will then be revealed. Indeed, the Apostle states that a divine decision restrains the Iniquitous, and adds so ‘that he might be revealed in his time'. As a matter of fact, the expression ‘the mystery of iniquity doth already work', means to say that the devil does not work his apostasy openly but in secret, as he does with many things. Always marshalling his forces to try and throw the faithful out from the path of piety.

In epistulam posteriorem Pauli ad Thessalonicenses Commentarii Fragmenta

Jerome (Stridon, Roman province of Dalmatia 342-Bethlehem 420)

Jerome was a pioneer of monastic asceticism, translator of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate) and author of biblical exegesis and a wide-ranging correspondence. The present extract is drawn from the 121st letter; addressed to Algasius (tr.).

In those days the spirit of the Thessalonians was restless and disturbed, whether the reason be an ill-understood letter, or a false revelation that deceived them in their sleep, or the conjectures of some who had interpreted the words of Isaiah, Daniel and of the gospels on the Antichrist as referring to their time, they hoped that the coming of Christ in all his glory was imminent. The Apostle remedied this error, relating the events that must be awaited prior to the coming of the Antichrist, such that, when they had seen them, they would be able to recognize the advent of the Antichrist, that is the man of sin, the son of perdition, the Adversary, the one ‘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'. He said that the parousia of the Lord would not happen without the discessio, in Greek the apostasy, such that all the peoples subject to the Roman Empire rebel, and it will be revealed, that is shown, just as all the prophets had proclaimed, the man of sin in whom is found the fount of all iniquity, the son of perdition, that is to say the son of the devil, for it is he who is the universal perdition - the adversary of Christ called for this reason the Antichrist, who will raise himself above every being called God, and will trample with his feet the gods of all the peoples just as with the revealed and true religion, and will sit in Gods temple, whether this be in Jerusalem (as some think) or whether it is the Church (as we consider more likely) revealing himself as if he were Christ, the son of God. Christ will not come unless the Roman Empire is devastated and he is preceded by the Antichrist, for He is coming to destroy the Antichrist. Remember - he [Paul] says - what I have already spoken to you and what I am now writing in the letter, I say to you that Christ will not come unless he is preceded by the Antichrist,‘for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first' - you know perfectly well what prevents the Antichrist from revealing himself immediately. He does not want to say directly the destruction of the Roman Empire, because its own leaders considered it eternal. For this reason, according to Johns Revelation, the whore dressed in purple has the blasphemous name eternal Rome'. If the Apostle had said openly and defiantly: ‘The Antichrist will not come before the destruction of the empire', it might have been sufficient cause for the persecution of the Church.

What follows, ‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked (anomos) be revealed' means this: the coming of the Antichrist is distributed across the numerous evils and sins with which Nero, the most impure of the Caesars, had oppressed the world. That which would be done later had already been partially accomplished by Nero - suffice only that the Roman Empire, that now holds within itself all the people, retreat (recedat - recessio) and remove itself. Then will come the Antichrist, source of iniquity, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, that is with his divine power and empire of his glory, ‘where what he wills and commands is done (cuius iussisse, fecisse est)',[3] not in virtue of the strength of his soldiers and not with the aid of the angels. Immediately, all at once, as soon as he appears the Antichrist will be destroyed.

Epistle CXXI

Cassiodorus, Flavius Marcus Aurelius, Senator (c. 485-c. 580)

Cassiodorus was a prominent figure in Roman political life who retired to a monastery in 540. He wrote on Roman lawy Christian doctriney a well-known text on the liberal arts as well as allegorical biblical exegesis. The following extract is drawn from his commentary on 2 Thessalonians (tr.).

2 Tsy 3 [Paul] appreciates the fact that the Thessalonians have seen correctly according to the rule of true faith; and he warns them that in future the perverse will deceive them with something entirely new and will say to them that the Lord will not come if the Antichrist has not shown himself first, and [Paul] describes his perverse times in a very detailed way What is more, he says that the ministry of iniquity is already at work and warns too that the presence of absolute evil will necessarily manifest itself at the moment that the Roman Empire, which currently withholds, is removed and replaced by another order of things. That is to say, finally, that after these signs there will be the truth of the coming of God.

In epistulum secundam ad Thessalonicenses

Glossa Ordinaria

The Glossa Ordinaria is a widely known medieval running commentary on the Bible compiled from many different sources. The present extract is taken from the commentary on the Second Thessalonians (tr.).

2 Ts 2:6,\And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time'. The Apostle says that the Thessalonians know that which withholds, but do not openly say it, and thus we do not know whether it is that which some suspect; that it referred to the Roman Empire, in as much as it had not been removed. It is said that the Apostle did not wish to write it openly, in order not to risk calumny by wishing ill to the Roman Empire, since they hoped it would be eternal.

‘In his time'. Once everyone had entered into the Roman Empire and obedience to the Church in Rome, the time of discessio would come between both empires; and once completed this discessio would become that of the iniquitous, that is when the time of mercy during which all the peoples adhered to the faith had been completed. Only then will the discessio manifest itself and thus will the day of the Lord be nigh.

2 Ts 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'. Iniquity was there even at the very beginning of the faith, but as a mystery of iniquity masquerading as piety, which is to say that even though there were false priests they nevertheless wanted to be considered priests of Christ. The devil killed martyrs by means of Nero and others, and did so openly, killing Elijah and Enoch and many others. Nero and others were shadows of the future Antichrist, in the same way that David and Abel were shadows of Christ.

‘Taken out of the way [One should understand this to mean]: until the power of the Roman Empire is removed from the centre of the world. Indeed, all and from every part flowed into Rome as to the head. Or, in another way: those who possess faith will keep it until it is cooled. Or still further: he who withholds the Iniquitous, leading one to faith, withholds him as far as that faith is not taken out of the way. Or indeed: until the mystery of iniquity is removed from the centre, that is from among ordinary things, when men no longer are ashamed to be adulterers or thieves, just as they are not ashamed to walk or to talk.

‘Out of the way - It is certain that here we speak of the discessio, its open manifestation. Then, once revealed the discessio from the truth God, when all charity is frozen, the Antichrist will reveal himself in the abundance of iniquity.

Adso of Montier-en-Der, France (910/15-992)

Adso of Montier was Abbot of Montier-en-Der and a prominent and prolific writer in the tenth century (tr.).

It is because of the coming of that time in which the Antichrist will reveal himself, that is, when the Day of Judgement begins to dawn, that the Apostle Paul said in the Letter to Thessalonians: ‘Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Ts 2:1). He further said in the same passage‘for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed (apocalypse), the son of perdition (2 Ts 2:3). Indeed, we know very well that after the reign of the Greeks and after the reign of the Persians, when each of them in their time enjoyed great fame and acted with maximum power, and so on until the last empire, after all the other empires rose the empire of the Romans, which was the most powerful of all the great empires that ever existed and which had under its power all the other reigns of the earth and all the peoples who had submitted to the Romans and were subject to the tribute'. It is on the basis of this that the Apostle Paul says that the Antichrist will not come on earth except there come a falling away first' (2 Ts 2:3), and this means that the Antichrist will not come before all the reigns that were originally subject to the empire had distanced themselves from the Roman Empire. However, this time is still to come because although the Roman Empire has been largely destroyed as long as there remains, however, the King of the Franks, who maintain the Roman Empire and continue to govern, the power of the empire is not completely spent and is preserved in these kings. Indeed, our learned doctors say that it will be one of the kings of the Franks who will reconstruct the Roman Empire, who will appear in the last days, will be powerful and will be the last of the kings ever to exist. After having governed his kingdom happily, he will come at the end to Jerusalem where on the ‘mount of olives' he will leave his sceptre and crown. This will be the end and the dissolution of the empire of the Romans and the Christians.

According to what the Apostle Paul has said in the letter, the Antichrist will come. And, speaking here of him, ‘the man of iniquity' will reveal himself', and although he is a man, he will be the source of all evil and the ‘son of perdition, that is to say ‘the son of the devil', and that not so much by nature as more by imitation, he will be that from the moment when he will do nothing but accommodate himself to the will of the devil. ‘For the fullness' of diabolic authority and complete knowledge of evil ‘lives in him, in whom all the treasures' of malice and malignity ‘will be hidden. ‘Who opposeth' means that the Antichrist is opposed to Christ and to all his followers - and exalteth' which means that exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped', that is above all the Gods of the nations, Hercules, Apollo, Jove, Mercury who other pagans deem to be their Gods. The Antichrist raises himself above all these Gods from the moment he becomes greater and more powerful than they, but also above ‘all those that are the objects of worship' which is to say above the Holy Trinity that is the only [God] that must necessarily remain adored and celebrated by every creature, ‘so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God'. Indeed, as we said above, although born in the city of Babylon, he will be coming to Jerusalem, he will circumcise himself, and he will say to the Jews, ‘I am the Christ' promised to you and who has come for your salvation, for he can ‘bring together those who have been dispersed' and defend them. And so all the Jews will bow down before him, believing to accept God while accepting the Devil. Notably, it is also said that the ‘Antichrist' ‘resides in the Temple of God' which is to say the holy church, rendering all Christians martyrs and raising himself and glorifying himself since the Devil ‘is a king over all the children of pride' (Job 41:34) and will show himself to be the origin of all evil.

Two honourable prophets shall be sent to the world before the coming of the Antichrist in order to ensure that he does not come immediately and without warning to deceive and definitively ruin the entire human race. Enoch and Elizah will teach and preach for three and a half years, arming the faithful with divine arms against the force of the Antichrist, comforting them and preparing the elect for war. What is more, these two noble prophets and teachers will convert all the sons of Israel, who will then find themselves in the grace of the faith, and will protect the faith, along with the elect, from the violence of such unbridled force. And so it will come to pass, as is written in the scripture: although the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved' (Rm 9:27). Thus, when they have completed their three and a half years of preaching, the persecution of the Antichrist will be released immediately and he will unleash upon them his armies and will kill them, as it is said in the Revelation: ‘And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them' (Rev 11:7). Therefore, after these two are killed, the persecution of the remaining faithful will raise either martyrs or apostates. And all who believe in him will bear ‘his sign on their foreheads'.

Since we have spoken of the beginnings of the Antichrist we must now speak of his end. The Antichrist or ‘son of the devil’ and the fearsome father of all evil, is predicted to afflict all the world with persecution and to torment God’s people with many sufferings for three and a half years. Having killed Enoch and Elias and having crowned with martyrdom those who persevered in the faith,‘the judgement of God’will fall on the Antichrist, as Paul said ‘destroying the Antichrist with the breath from his mouth’ Whether he is killed by the power of Christ’s own strength or by the Archangel Michael, the Antichrist will fall by virtue of the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ and not that of an angel or archangel. Our teachers say that the Antichrist will be killed in his tent and on his throne on the Mount of Olives, at the same place where our Lord ascended to heaven. Furthermore, you must know that the Day of Judgement will not immediately follow the killing of the Antichrist but, as we know from the book of Daniel, God will concede forty days for those elect seduced by the Antichrist to ‘perform penitence’. After this penitence no one can know how much time remains until ‘the Lord comes in judgement’ - all is in the hands of God who will judge the world that must be judged at an hour that was chosen by him centuries before.

Treatise on the Antichrist 97-195

Bruno the Carthusian (Cologne 1030- Serra San Bruno 1101)

Bruno was the founder of the Carthusian order. The text below is taken from his commentary on Second Thessalonians (tr.).

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time' (2 Ts 2:6). The Antichrist will come when the apostasy has been fulfilled - and you know very well what it is that withholds it and prevents it from happening. That is to say that it withholds so that the works of the Antichrist will be revealed in their time, that is to say at the right time. If instead he were to come while the unity of the faith and the Christian empire still held, then this would not be the right time for him to reveal himself. Truly, he will reveal himself in his own time; now the mystery of iniquity is at work and it is not his time - his is a time of a hidden and spiritual iniquity present in the members that precede their nefarious head. Only this is left for his revelation: he who holds him back, withholds his coming, in other words the Christian empire and the unity of the faith are taken out of the way, that is removed from the community. Like a dead man is removed from the community of living men.

Expositio in epistulam Pauli secundam ad Thessalonicenses

Otto of Friesing (Klostenburg 1114-Morimond Abbey 1158)

Otto was Bishop of Friesing and a member of the Cistercian order who was active in the Second Crusade. He introduced the study of Aristotle to Germany and is remembered as a historian of The Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa. The present extracts are taken from his other major historical work The Two Cities, A Chronicle of Universal History to the Year 1146 AD (tr.).

So, when Nero sought to destroy the City of God by persecuting the Christians he crowned with blessed martyrdom two of the most blessed of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, commanding that Peter be hung on the cross feet uppermost and that Paul be executed by the sword. For this act the city of Rome would pay immense consequences in the following year, when it was devastated by a plague of such scale that there were over 30,000 funerals. Processo, Marziani and many others fell to the same persecution. Lino succeeded Peter in Rome, Euodio in Antioch. During the same days two settlements in Britain were conquered with a massacre of citizens and allies. And more, still at the same time, Roman soldiers lost several provinces in the East and were ignominiously submitted to the yoke of the Parthians. Three Asian cities: Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colosa were destroyed by an earthquake, and it should be noted that after the Apostles had been crowned with martyrdom the secular dignity of this city began to diminish.

No sooner had Nero learnt that Galba had been acclaimed Emperor in Spain by the army than, losing heart while interfering in public matters, he was declared a public enemy by the Roman Senate. And seeing that his corruption could not produce any effect, he fled four miles from the city and in the fourteenth year of his reign he killed himself. With him ended the family of the Caesars. There were those who said that what can be read in the Apostle (and now you will know that which withholds his apocalypse, that will have its moment’ and this is ‘Whoever withholds, precisely until the means are taken away’) was said with reference to Nero under whose reign Paul wrote. And further they thought Nero wasn’t dead but removed alive from human affairs until the end- time when he would appear at the same age he had then, and that he would be the Antichrist.

Chronicles of the History of the Two Cities, III, 16:2-28 (Chronica sive Hostira de duabus civitatibus)

The City of Christ, as is taught in the Holy Scripture, suffered initially a violent persecution by the City of the World under tyrannical and unbelieving kings, then the fraudulent persecution of the heretics and then, thirdly, the deceptions of the hypocrites. And then there will come the last, as violent as it is fraudulent and deceptive, the worst of all, the one under the Antichrist. He opposes himself to Christ in everything, in life and in doctrine, even claiming to be Christ. He is called Antichrist because he is the opposite of Christ. In Greek they say anti for contra. Furthermore, it is believed that the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan, that is, from a servile condition, from that of which the Prophet said ‘Dan is a snake on the road, is a worm on the path’ (Gen 49:17).

What signs will precede the coming of the Antichrist are only hinted at by the Apostle when writing to the Thessalonians. He said, ‘And now know who withholds his apocalypse will have his time. Already, in fact, the mystery of iniquity is abroad, but he who withholds, will withhold until, precisely, the means are removed'. And again, ‘First must come the apostasy and the apocalypse of the man of anomie. These things, as I have already mentioned, refer for some interpreters to Nero, under whose reign Paul was writing while for others, they refer to the devil, whose followers are all those who participate in the wicked city. These say that Paul meant Zebulun who worked the mystery of iniquity by persecuting the saints through his followers in the city. Zebulun worked in his time, that is to say at the end of time, because he manifested all the impiety and all the energy of impiety spread by means of the Antichrist. It can be read in the book of Revelation that after a thousand years, a number signifying the fullness of time, Satan who is now tied in the minds of the wicked, who hold within themselves wickedness as in an abyss, will be released, and will erupt in all his express iniquity, pouring forth in all his might. Note that Paul does not describe the wickedness of the present time as iniquity, but as the mystery of iniquity, thus all the sufferings undergone by the Church, from its beginning to the Antichrist, appear with respect to what will have to be undergone not as iniquity but as a mystery, that is to say as a figure of iniquity. Or it can be said: Paul calls mystery something hidden (we usually call secret things mystic) and this is the meaning: then the tribulations of the Church shall be manifest, dangerous and cruel when, in comparison with them, everything the Church has suffered or suffers could be put out of sight. And that which Paul says, continuing ‘That which withholds will withhold until the means are removed' agrees with the meaning of the previous words: those who keep their vices hidden under earnest modesty until in the course of time these vices get in the way'; that is to say, the vices should not be publically revealed in their shameless face. Paul seems precisely to point to this by stating in advance, ‘And now know that which withholds' until ‘they are revealed in their time'. Indeed, it's as if he said that the Antichrist will not reveal himself until the time has come for the complete revelation of the wickedness of the Amorites (Gen 15:16). Then he says that even the revelation of the one who withholds will precede the final apostasy. Then truly the leader of error will show himself, when almost the whole world abandons truth and separates themselves from the author of truth. Some think this separation refers to the expression ‘he who withholds will withhold, until he is removed' and attribute it to the kingdom (Roman Empire). They interpret it in this way: since all oppose themselves to justice, love sin and thus separate themselves from the justice of the kingdom, whoever reigns over the kingdom will fall into the misery of losing all respect and becoming a common man, like one who comes from the mass of the plebs. For they say the Apostle hid these things behind a mask and veil of words in order not to appear to insult the Roman Empire, considered eternal to those for whom he was writing. For when saying ‘and now you will know who withholds' they understood him as saying that he wants others to know with clear proofs that which you know. But others interpret the meaning of these words as referring primarily to the kingdom, as if they referred to the priests and the seat of Rome.

Chronicle of the History of the Two Cities VIII, 1-2 (Chronica sive Historia de duabus civitatibus)

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Calvin was a leading French Reformer active in establishing theocratic rule in Geneva between 1541 and his death in 1564 and the inspiration of the international political theology of Calvinism. His major works were the ‘Institutes of Christian Religion and the ‘Commentary on Romans. The extract below is drawn from his commentary on Second Thessalonians (tr.).

2 Ts 2:6, ‘That which withholds', means, in this case, precisely an impediment or a cause of delay Chrysostom, who thinks that this expression can be understood only with reference to either the Spirit, or to the Roman Empire, inclines more to the second interpretation. And indeed for the plausible reason that if Paul had understood ‘that which withholds as the Spirit he would not have spoken in such enigmatic terms, but rather, intending by it the Roman Empire chose to avoid provoking hostility against his person. He offers also another reason for why the survival of the Roman Empire would delay the revelation of the Antichrist - just as the Babylonian monarchy was overcome by the Persians and the Medes and they in turn by the Macedonians, who in the end fell before the Romans, so it is evident that the Antichrist would gather to himself the by now emptied hegemony of the Roman Empire. Nothing of what we have just said was not confirmed by subsequent events. Chrysostom indeed took account of historical reality. All the same, I am of the opinion that Paul intended something quite different, namely that the doctrine of the Gospel be spread throughout and to the point when nearly all of the world could be recognized as guilty of pride and obstinate wrong-doing. However, there can be no doubt that the Thessalonians had already heard from the mouth of Paul something about this ‘impediment’, whatever that was, from the moment the very same Paul recalled to their memory [the words they had earlier heard in his presence].

Let us, however, consider which of the two interpretations is the more probable: either Paul declared that the light of the gospels must necessarily be spread to all parts of the world before God would take the reigns from Satan, or that the power of the Roman Empire held back the rise of the Antichrist to the point that the latter could not erupt until the empires power had been spent. For sure, it seems to me that Paul preached universally to the Gentiles - in fact God’s grace must necessarily be offered to all - and that Christ passed through the whole of the world with his Gospel so that the impiety of men might be shown and condemned. Therefore, this delay would last until the journey of the Gospel had followed its course. And indeed, the exhortation of grace for salvation came first. At this point Paul uses the expression ‘in its time’ for when the moment of retribution arrived after grace had been refused.

2 Ts 2:7: The mystery of iniquity: this is opposed to revelation; since Satan has still not gathered sufficient force for the Antichrist openly to oppress the Church, Paul says that he is preparing in secret what he will be able to accomplish openly when his moment arrives. For the meantime he prepares in secret the foundations on which he will subsequently construct his edifice, as it happened. All this only goes to prove more convincingly my initial hypothesis that Antichrist' does not refer to an individual but to a kingdom that extends across several centuries. In the same way, John will say that the Antichrist is to come, but that there are also many antichrists already in his time (John 1:2,18). He warns his contemporaries to try and defend themselves against this mortal peril that at that time raged and manifested itself in many guises. The sects spreading then were none other than the seeds of those infernal weeds that had wrapped around and almost destroyed the entire camp of God. Although Paul supports the idea of a secret machination, he nevertheless uses the term ‘mystery and not any other expression, clearly meaning by this the ‘mystery of salvation of which he speaks often in other places (Col 1:26); indeed Paul consistently insists on the opposition between the Son of God and the ‘son of perdition.

Paul attributes the same subject to both expressions - indeed, the Antichrist will flourish for a fixed time and then will be summarily removed. I do not doubt that all this refers to the Antichrist and that the participle, katechon,[4] ‘that which withholds', must be interpreted according to the future. For this reason, in my view, Paul added to console the believers that the reign of the Antichrist will be temporary, given that the time assigned to the Antichrist was fixed directly by God. To the objection of the believers that what is the point of preaching the Gospel if the tyranny of Satan threatens to last forever Paul called for patience, for God will afflict his church for but a short period of time because it will, in the end, be liberated from the Antichrist. On the other hand, however, the eternity of the reign of Christ should not be forgotten so that believers can trust in this.

2 Ts 2:8: ‘The impious will only be revealed in this way which is to say not until ‘that which withholds' will be completely removed. Paul is not referring to a time of revelation, when that which now holds supreme power will be ‘removed' but to the time immediately preceding it. Indeed, Paul had just said that there was something that held back the Antichrist from being able to seize the kingdom openly. All the same, he also added that the Antichrist was preparing a secret plan of blasphemy. Finally Paul added the definitive consolation that in the end the tyranny of the Antichrist would come to its term. Now, he repeats once more, that whoever had until then remained hidden will be revealed ‘in his time', and this repetition is perfectly coherent with the idea that the believers, being sustained by the arms of the Spirit, can effectively fight under the protection of Christ, avoiding defeat in this way even if blasphemy is able to disseminate itself even more rapidly.

Commentaries on the Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians



[1] Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of the Seleucid empire, attacked Jerusalem and put to death many of its inhabitants (167 bc).

[2] The seal of God, with which Christ stamps the foreheads of the faithful. The idea is that the stamp lets what is in Christ’s mind be in the faithful (see Cor 2:12, and 2:16), for that reason it has also been equated with the Holy Ghost. Paul uses the terms spirit of God’ and ‘Christ’s mind’ interchangeably (tr. note).

[3] This line from Jerome is a reworking of verses 5-6 from Psalms 148 (tr. note).

[4] katechon is the participle of the verb katechein.