In Second Thessalonians 2:1-12 the Apostle Paul described the sequence of the revealing of the “man of sin” and the gathering of the Church on the Day of Christ. To me, this has always been a difficult Scripture. The following is my opinion of the sequence of certain events, and is based on the assumption that the Last Days will be a period of seven years. The first part (3½ years?) will be the revealing of the “man of sin,” and time for him to establish himself. The last part, known as the Great Tribulation, which Scripture tells us is for 1,260 days, 42 months, or 3½ years, will commence with the revealing of the “lawless one.”
In the portion of Scripture below, please note that Paul is speaking of three events, all possibly separate. First, the “falling away,” and there is little doubt that we are seeing that now. Next, the revealing of the “man of sin.” Then, the gathering of the Church to the Lord Jesus. Paul said the gathering would not occur until the “man of sin” is revealed (“that day shall not come”). The revealing and the gathering may be two separate events.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by (concerning) 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; (the man) who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”The “man of sin” is revealed first but his lawlessness, declaring himself to be God in the Temple of God, is yet to come.
“Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholds (the Church?) that he (the lawless one) might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He (the Holy Spirit) who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way.”Here, Paul refers to the “lawless one,” not the “man of sin,” as if this refers to two different characteristics of the same being. Please note the difference between what withholds this person from being revealed, and the One who allows the “mystery of iniquity” until He is taken out of the way. I believe the “what” is the Church, and most scholars agree that the “He” is the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot remain here on Earth without the Holy Spirit because He is the down payment, the “earnest money” (Ephesians 1:13b-14), toward the purchase of the Church, bought with the blood of the Lamb.
Because the act of the “lawless one” declaring himself to be God in the Temple is the Abomination of Desolation (Daniel 12:11, Matthew 24:15) we know that it will occur at, or just before, the beginning of the last 3½ years, or the Great Tribulation. Therefore, it is possible that the Church will be removed after the revealing of the “man of sin” at the beginning of the Last Days, but before “the lawless one” is revealed, years later. There is a possibility that we will see the “anti-Christ.” The world will not recognize him as such, but I believe the Church will know. Some time after the revealing of the “man of sin,” the Lord Jesus will call us Home on the Day of Christ.
Then later the “wicked one,” or the “lawless one,” will be revealed to the world. His act of abomination may be the basis for the world worshipping him, and the condemnation of those that do so. (Revelation 14:9-11, 16:2)
“And then shall that Wicked (lawless one) 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.”All of the above Scripture is from Second Thessalonians 2:1-12. Please know that all emphasis and commentary is my own. I hope this helps you with this difficult passage, and gives you something to think about and ponder.
All Glory to God!