“May the Force be with you.”
Have you heard this famous line? Have you ever said it to someone? Do you know from where it originated? Most likely you do. If not, then you’re probably a Millennial, less than thirty years old. But I’m sure even Millennials have seen the 2015 film, Star Wars: Episode Seven – The Force Awakens; the fourth sequel after the first trilogy of movies released forty years ago, and the first of a new trilogy of Stars Wars episodes produced by Walt Disney Studios, instead of George Lucas.
Of course, I’m referring to the blockbuster movies Star Wars (1977), followed by The Empire Strikes Back (1980) concluding with, Return of the Jedi (1983).
In 2005, The American Film Institute ranked “May the Force be with you” number 8 of the 100 most iconic movie quotes of all time. According to George Lucas, the creator/director of the original Star Wars films, this legendary line recited by several of its characters was representative of an underlying purpose for the Star Wars genre: “to awaken a certain kind of spirituality” especially in the younger generation. The online source Wikipedia reports that George Lucas was suggesting “a belief in God without endorsing a specific religion.”
This “Force” (capitalized to distinguish between “the” Force and just “a” force), was explained by Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi as, “an energy field created by all living things.” Which, by definition, poses a problem because extremely evil men and other vile creatures of the Star Wars movies are part of all living things. Thus, The Force had its Dark side (think Darth Vader) and its Light side, such as Princess Leia, Han Solo, and the Jedi Knights, including Yoda. (Cool he was!)
May the Force be with you was spoken (normally when saying goodbye to someone) in the context of the good side of the Force, not the evil side. Which makes the entire idea (according to Wikipedia, “a metaphysical and ubiquitous power in the Star Wars fictional universe opposing the dark side”) of such a Force quite difficult to grasp, if not contradictory. In other words, was the Force still the Force even though it had split into dark and light sides? You certainly don’t want the dark side of the Force “to be with you.”
For example, what Luke Skywalker and others opposing the evil Empire should have said when departing a scene: “May the light side of the Force be with you as we continue our heroic fight against the dark side of the force!”
Oh well, that’s Hollywood fiction (and all humanistic philosophies) that seeks to educate us about “spirituality”; but doesn’t have a clue, because they don’t or don’t want to understand who God really is as He so magnificently tells us through His Word, the Bible.
Which leads us to the trilogy (three-part emphasis) of today’s Eye of Prophecy article.
(1) Who is the Holy Spirit and what does he really do? Is the Holy Spirit just a collective, ethereal, impersonal force; or is the Holy Spirit a Person?
(2) Which will then be tied into the question: Is the restrainer of II Thessalonians Chapter 2 the Holy Spirit or something or someone else?
(3) This, in turn, will provide even more confirmation that the man of lawlessness (Antichrist) will not be a modern-day born man. Instead, he is none other than the Roman Emperor Nero who will return to earth from the Abyss at the outset of the Great Tribulation.
The Holy Spirit
Messiah Jesus, himself, was the first to teach us about the Holy Spirit. Before we examine the most definitive passages on the Holy Spirit—who he is and what he does—let’s listen to some of the final words of Jesus before he returned to heaven after his remarkable resurrection from the dead.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commandments I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Note: the baptism referred to by Jesus is not (just) water baptism which is a sign of our salvation; rather it is immersion into and identification with the body of Christ (family of God) for all believers in Christ Jesus.
Repeating what Jesus promised to all to have believed and received him as Lord and Savior: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
That is fact and realty … light years beyond and far better than a fictional ambiguous, “May the Force be with you.”
Granted, there is a “force” in this world. Yet even this “energy” of evil began and continues with a personal being—Satan and his demons.
Not long before he left the earth, Jesus also promised his disciples (all believers) that he would be with them through the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
Early in his ministry, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth … For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
Messiah Jesus is God Incarnate, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15). The Father and the Holy Spirit are the First and Third Person of the Trinity who are invisible to the human eye. They are Spirit.
All believers have been given the Holy Spirit to indwell us, to enable us to worship (respect, love, obey, be in awe of, live for) God in spirit and in truth. With the Truth none other than Messiah Jesus who said he is, “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). And with that truth comes the very source of redemption and everlasting life because of Messiah’s death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
That is true spirituality.
Apart from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the world cannot understand these things. They think the Gospel (Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected for their sins) is foolishness. Concerning what is truly wise and utterly foolish, Scripture says:
“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).
Followed by: “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish (in the eyes of the world) preaching to save those who believe … So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (I Corinthians 1:20-23, parenthesis mine).
Then, “But it was to us that God revealed things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets … And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us” (I Corinthians 2:10-12, parenthesis in the text).
Sorry, George Lucas. Whatever “force” and “spirituality” you think may be out there pales in comparison to God’s absolute spiritual truth and eternal wisdom made known by the Holy Spirit to those who have placed their trust in Messiah Jesus, the Son of the True and Living God.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
Volumes of books have been written, numerous articles published, and countless sermons preached about the Holy Spirit. By and large most Christians have ascertained, appreciated, and agreed who the Holy Spirit is and what he does on behalf of both unbelievers and believers.
Yet I see one thing that many Christians including scholars and teachers—especially students of Bible prophecy—have misunderstood, misapplied, and (putting it a little more bluntly, but still with a spirit of love for my brothers and sisters in Christ) simply got wrong. At one time, I, too, was in the camp of those who contend that the Holy Spirit is the “restrainer” who would hold back the lawlessness and the lawless one (Antichrist) from being revealed until the appointed time. More specifically—when all believers in Jesus are taken to heaven at the Rapture—the misconception that the Holy Spirit also will be removed from the earth; in turn, allowing the Antichrist to appear on the scene.
Thus, before going any further in this article, please consider this premise that is not in keeping with the mainstream, contemporary view.
The Premise: The Restrainer (II Thessalonians 2) is NOT the Holy Spirit.
Why not? Because the Holy Spirit is a Person. Moreover, the Apostle Paul in describing the restraint that holds back the appearing of the man of lawlessness (Antichrist) refers to “what” would hold him back. As you know, what is a very impersonal pronoun.
Returning to the verses quoted earlier in John 14:16-17, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “he” or “him” no less than six times. Not once did Jesus, or John, or Paul, or Peter, or any writer of the New Testament ever refer to the Holy Spirit as, what, it, or that. When the Holy Spirit is represented by a pronoun, it is ALWAYS a masculine personal pronoun.
Referring to the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John states: “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (I John 4:4, NASB).
The Holy Spirit’s Work/Function in the World for Unbelievers & Believers
Once again quoting Jesus and his description of what the Holy Spirit would do once the Lord sent Him to save unbelievers and reside in believers:
“And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged” (John 16:8-11).
Then for the disciples (all born-again believers), Jesus says this about the Holy Spirit:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me” (John 16:13-15).
In these verses just quoted, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit by name (Spirit of truth or The Spirit) twice, and by the personal pronouns he or his a total of eight times, two more than in John Chapter 14, cited earlier!
Other works of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer are: sealing the believer’s salvation for all eternity (once saved always saved); indwelling the believer to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; filling us to be more like our Savior. The Holy Spirit is also our Comforter, Counselor (Advocate), and Corrector (when we’re wrong or do wrong things). And, as already indicated, teacher of Christ’s (God’s) truth and foreteller of the future throughout Scripture, culminating with the final revelation of Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation.
If anyone thinks that the Holy Spirit is some impersonal force that exists somewhere “out there” or is not an actual Person of the Godhead, then I would challenge them to show me anywhere in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is not specifically referred to and understood as a Person. Although they won’t find such a reference, it would still be good if they read the Bible, perhaps beginning with the Gospel of John!
Which is why it’s perplexing that so many students of Scripture think that the restrainer of II Thessalonians Chapter 2 is the Holy Spirit; when, in fact, Paul refers to that which is holding back the Antichrist as “what.”
Before we examine up-close and personal the intriguing passage of II Thessalonians 2, let’s do a quick review of the other component parts (Bible passages) concerning the phenomenal disclosure the Lord graciously gave to me in November, 2008. From which my second book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved? 666 was written. Then several of the 189 Eye of Prophecy articles written to date (published every Saturday since late July, 2013) pertaining to the subject of Antichrist; most of which provide additional or expanded evidence that he was and will be again (upon his return/revival from the Abyss) the Roman Emperor Nero.
A Brief Review
Each item in this review is just a thumbnail sketch, as they (and other passages) have been dealt with extensively in Out of the Abyss and some Eye of Prophecy articles (in the category of Antichrist).
The Beast/King of Revelation
The disclosure of the Antichrist given to John in Revelation is of staggering significance. Bible scholars (including me until 2008) have missed the monumental meaning of the mystery revealed to John. Which is: “The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t (alive any longer) now…” (Revelation 17:8, parenthesis mine).
In no uncertain terms, the angel is telling John that the man he just saw (in the image of a beast) had already lived and died BEFORE John saw the beast rising from the sea (Revelation 13:1) and out of the abyss (Revelation 17:8). This stunning illumination is what led to my intensive study of ALL passages on the Antichrist as correlated to first century history—primarily of the Roman Emperors. The convincing conclusion is that the Antichrist (called the little horn/ruler of Daniel and man of lawlessness by Paul, and labeled the beast-king of Revelation by John) was the fifth Roman Caesar, Nero … who died in 68 A.D. not long before Revelation was written.
The Little Horn and Ruler of Daniel
“…and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple…” (Daniel 9:26).
In 66 A.D. Nero ordered his generals Vespasian and Titus to march on Israel with several Roman legions to crush the Jewish uprising against Rome. Nero died two years before Jerusalem was finally sacked and the Temple destroyed in 70 A.D. This gives added meaning and prophetic fulfillment to Daniel’s prophecy that it would actually be the armies of the ruler who destroyed the Temple. In great detail I have explained that this ruler could not possibly be a modern (now a 21st century) man completely detached from the Roman legions of the first century.
The Number of the Beast
Another key component (they must all be understood together) of identifying the Antichrist is the number six hundred, sixty-six. Although there is much evidence in Out of the Abyss and some Eye of Prophecy articles, suffice to say that Nero’s name in Greek (language of the New Testament) matches Hebrew gematria—counting by letters which is what was done in the Hebrew language. And that Nero Caesar equals the number six hundred and sixty-six!
(Not everyone will chose 666. Some will choose the name of the beast in their hand or forehead)
Kings versus Kingdoms in Revelation
“This calls for a mind with understanding. The seven heads of the beast represent the seven hills where the woman rules. They also represent seven kings. Five kings have already fallen, the sixth now reigns, and the seventh is yet to come, but his reign will be brief. The scarlet beast that was, but is no longer, is the eighth king. He is like (the Greek word is ek which means one of, out of, from) the other seven…” (Revelation 17:9-11, parenthesis mine).
For two main reasons (explained in Out of the Abyss) Bible scholars substituted the Greek word for kings with kingdoms in these verses; when, in fact, a separate Greek word for kingdoms is later used in this chapter—describing the ten kings who will yield their “kingdoms” to the Antichrist upon his reappearance from the Abyss. Grammatically, contextually, and historically we simply cannot make this substitution. The Greek words are as distinct one from the other as much as the English word king is different from kingdom. Thus, the seven kings were Roman Emperors of the first century when Revelation was written, and the eighth king (Antichrist Nero) is the one (of/from the seven) who will return during the Tribulation.
The Lawlessness, Man of Lawlessness and the Restraint of Both
This leads us to one of the three focal points of today’s article: the Antichrist is not a modern-day born man. Instead he is the historical man of lawlessness who was being restrained from an unlawful ascension to the Roman throne during the very time that Paul wrote both letters to the Thessalonica Church.
Let’s examine the text to confirm this premise.
“…For that day will not come until there is great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction … Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you. And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed…” (II Thessalonians 2:3-8).
Most of the following commentary will be quoted from my book Out of the Abyss, as I believe it was said as well then as I could say it again now.
Paul says that the revealing (disclosure clues to believers regarding his identity) is directly connected to the rebellion that this degenerate dictator would lead against God. For the last 3 ½ years of Nero’s reign (parallel to his 3 ½ year reign when he returns from the Abyss) he persecuted Christians like no emperor before him or after. He erected a god-like statue of himself in his palace gardens, and burned thousands of Christians on crosses after smearing them with pitch and igniting it. Mocking the Christians suffering such a horrible death, he then uttered the depraved and despicable words, “Now you are truly the light of the world.”
(Depiction of Nero’s Palace Garden and Christians Used As Torches)
Now let’s read part of the above quoted passage from the New American Standard Version: “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed” (II Thessalonians 2:6). Then in verse seven, “…only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.”
Paul uses the impersonal pronoun “what” (restrains him) but then switches to a personal pronoun “he” (who now restrains). You’ll see who the “he” is later on, but the fact remains that the restrainer(s)—there are actually two sources of restriction —is first referred to as “what.” Which could not possibly be the Holy Spirit for reasons already provided: the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS referred to by the personal pronoun … He, Him, or His.
Regarding the above quoted passage, here is the first excerpt from Out of the Abyss (all excerpts will be in italics):
A torrent of crucial words floods these verses. Let’s begin with the present tense words that clearly convey and confirm the premise that all this was taking place before and when Paul wrote his letter.
According to Paul, the restrainer “is” (at that time) holding the lawless one back. This present tense application is augmented by the fact that what restrains is holding “him now.” Not later, not in some distant future, but right then and there while Paul informed the believers. Paul obviously is not referring to a man who hadn’t even been born yet…
Think about it. How could or why would the man be restrained if he wasn’t already alive? If Paul was referring to this man in the future tense (not what the man would do … that was still future), he would have said, “and you know what will hold him back.” The present tense grammar of the text yields a convincing conclusion: this man of lawlessness was already being held in check.
Newsflash: Nero became emperor in 54 AD, but Claudius Caesar and his wife, Agrippina, were already touting Nero as successor when Paul wrote I & II Thessalonians. Furthermore, all of Rome knew that Nero would not be a lawful successor to the crown… (Page 191).
*Note: Agrippina was Nero’s mother. Emperor Claudius was Nero’s step-father and also the biological father of a son, Britannicus, who should have been the lawful heir to the throne.
(Sculptures of Nero and Agrippina)
Paul also reminded the Thessalonians that this lawlessness was already at work secretly.
What Precisely Was the Lawlessness Taking Place in Paul’s Time?
Another excerpt from my book:
Most Bible teachers and scholars generally classify this lawlessness as the whole gamut of underlying forces originated by Satan from which all sin, evil, and therefore, disorder springs … This view is coupled with and placed in the context of the restrainer stepping out of the way, thereby, allowing an uninhibited explosion of evil (during the Tribulation). But is that the lawlessness Paul addresses in the immediate present tense context of this passage? (Page 192).
I then go on to explain the difference between the specific lawlessness referred to by Paul in contrast to evil in general by explaining the Greek word used for lawlessness juxtaposed to the Greek word in the New Testament for evil (in general). The Greek word for lawlessness is anomia (used only 15 times in the New Testament): which means contempt or violation of law—Biblical, moral and civil laws. And it conveys a much more specific concept than universal evil or wickedness.
Whereas, the Greek words for evil (panero and kakos) are used a combined total of 126 times, with meanings of: bad, wicked, base, pernicious, depraved, and sin in general. Both sin and evil relate to and express something that is inherent in or the nature of. However, anomia (lawlessness) is a more explicit expression of the sin nature, via lawless acts. Such as (in our case) Agrippina plotting to murder Claudius in order to accelerate Nero’s unlawful ascension as Roman Emperor over the rightful successor, Britannicus.
From Out of the Abyss:
As we’ve seen, Paul states that, “this lawlessness is already at work…” The modifier “already” strongly suggests that this lawlessness had begun sometime in the recent past before Paul wrote his letter. He also says that it is already at work “secretly.” There’s been nothing secret about sin and evil or the horrible consequences of this spiritual disease of man from the time Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and Cain killed his brother, Abel.
…Not only was the man of lawlessness on the scene, the (secret) lawlessness had already begun that would coalesce in all its ugliness with the lawless one after certain restraints were removed (pages 193-194).
Concerning the role of the Holy Spirit (with the prevailing presumption that he is taken from the earth with all believers at the Rapture), I go on to say:
For sure the body of Christ will be snatched away or caught up (Rapture), but Scripture neither states nor implies anywhere that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth after the Rapture. Thus, not only is the matching of the Holy Spirit to the restrainer a giant deductive leap, so is the ensuing assumption that the Holy Spirit will no longer indwell the Tribulation saints or otherwise be present on the earth…
Another factor to consider is that neither the Church nor, by association and implication, the Holy Spirit was holding back lawlessness of any kind, general or specific. Please don’t get offended; because I make this claim with the utmost respect and love for the Holy Spirit and fellow believers in Christ…
Let me ask a question: Was there any evidence before or after Paul wrote II Thessalonians that the evil of the Roman Empire or any other part of the world had been kept … in check? Of course, the true Church and the Holy Spirit has given the world a wonderful everlasting alternative solution to the problem of sin and death. This remedy comes from salvation offered through God’s gift of his Son to the unrestrained sin nature and expression of that nature. But salvation is a supernatural change of the natural man, not a restraint.
Wouldn’t it be entirely logical to expect a reduction of lawlessness, corruption, injustice, cruelty, and evil in general after the Holy Spirit began to indwell believers at Pentecost? If the Holy Spirit is the restrainer, then wickedness should have gradually subsided pretty much in direct proportion to the number of believers and increasing influence of Christianity. Does history demonstrate that anything like this has occurred since the first century?
I believe that any impartial evaluation of historical events since the first century would lead to the inescapable conclusion that, if anything, there has been less restraint of the forces of evil. At the very minimum, generic lawlessness is as prevalent as it was before the personal earthly presence of the Holy Spirit in all believers…
For that matter, can restraint be defined by degrees or levels? If so, then please tell me on what level of depravity the Holocaust in Germany belongs, or the unimaginable horror of what Nero did to the Christians in Rome, or the unthinkable brutality of the Spanish Inquisition against the Jews” (Pages 197-198).
So, Then, “What” Is (Was in Paul’s Time) Holding Back (the man of) Lawlessness?
“And you know what is holding him back… (II Thessalonians 2:6).
Continuing with Out of the Abyss:
If, in fact, the Holy Spirit held back these things, then why didn’t Paul come right out and say so? Why did Paul need to be so secretive about the Holy Spirit? Why would Paul surreptitiously disguise the holder or restrainer… Paul frequently referred to the Holy Spirit by name … He even mentions the Holy Spirit in verse 13 of II Thessalonians Chapter 2, which is the very next verse after the man of lawlessness passage ends.
Neither the Roman Emperor at that time (Claudius) or the one to come (Nero) or the secular populace itself would have any notion what Paul was referring to. Or if they did have a clue, they couldn’t have cared less about “a holy spirit” that Christians claimed as part of their triune God.
Some have postured that the Holy Spirit could be referred to as what, a neuter pronoun, because the Holy Spirit includes the Greek word pneuma (spirit or breath), also a neutral expression. With all due respect, I would have to say: “Please give me a break on this one.” As already alluded, there’s no reason for the Holy Spirit, via inspiration to Paul, not to have stated his own name. And I seriously don’t think the Holy Spirit would refer to himself as “what.” Is the Holy Spirit any less than God the Father or God the Son as part of the magnificent Trinity? Has God or Jesus (Messiah) ever been referred to as “it” or “what” in Scripture? I think not” (page 199).
Alas, so much more to say, but time/space in today’s article is running out. Once again, please consider reading Out of the Abyss for an abundance of evidence on the Antichrist, including his identity.
Now for the grand finale in today’s article. Once again from Out of the Abyss:
The “what” in this verse (II Thessalonians 2:6) is holding back “him” and his “revealing”, i.e. disclosure as the man of lawlessness. Given all the evidence presented thus far, I would propose that (the) what is the Roman government including the Senate that represented the people, and to a lesser extent the Roman legions. All of these entities were already philosophically and experientially attuned to law and order. The lawlessness Paul referred to was the political intrigue, secretive maneuvers, and precursor to what would be a basically lawless ascension of a Roman citizen to the most powerful position in the Roman Empire.
But then the clandestine, hush-hush, lawless machinations would lose out when “…he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way (II Thessalonians 2:7). Now Paul has switched from “what” (impersonal pronoun) to “he,” a very personal pronoun. “He” is not the Holy Spirit or Paul would have said so… When he is taken or removed, the lawlessness will no longer be secret; it will visibly rear its ugly head. So let’s get personal. Who do you think might be the man to whom Paul is secretly referring?
Who was it that Nero’s mother, Agrippina, poisoned because she did her fast-food impression of the first century? Good answer: Claudius. She couldn’t enjoy a well prepared, slow-cooked political meal and wait for her husband, Claudius, to succumb to a natural death. Perish the thought … that could take years…
Yes, the “he” of II Thessalonians was the Emperor Claudius. He was the one individual that could keep Nero seated on the horse of lawlessness in the starting gate!
Obviously Claudius wanted Nero to succeed him, but certainly not as a result of Claudius being toppled from power by anyone, let alone his wife, Agrippina. Thus, Claudius was part of the scheme that would bypass his natural son’s right to the throne in favor of his step-son Nero. Little did Claudius realize that this plot would thicken with Agrippina’s lawless sub-plot to prematurely take him out of the picture; to remove him from power by revealing her true intention—that of Nero’s immediate unlawful ascension to the throne. (Pages 200-201).
Things to Ponder
In all of Scripture there are only two statements, challenges as such, which call for (a pretty large dose of) understanding in order to grasp what the passage is telling us. Both are in the book of Revelation and both relate directly to identifying the beast-king (Antichrist). As said in Out of the Abyss and some Eye of Prophecy articles, neither the apostle Paul nor John of Revelation could or would actually name Nero (or Claudius or Agrippina or the Roman Senate); to do so would have created even more intense persecution against Christians.
Though bold in their witness for Messiah Jesus and with love for each other and compassion for the unsaved, 1st century believers were nonetheless walking on eggshells with regard to Roman hostility toward them. There was no reason to further antagonize the Roman Empire by publicly naming the man of lawlessness (Nero before he came to power); then later the beast of Revelation (after Nero died, but would reappear from the Abyss any day—because they fully expected Jesus to return any moment). And certainly not by broadcasting the names of the conspirators who would unseat Claudius in order for Nero to lawlessly assume the throne.
Thus, Paul refers to “what” was holding back the lawlessness and secrecy thereof, and who would have to be removed in order for this man of lawlessness to be revealed.
Likewise, in order for the reader of Revelation to fully understand (by also comparing all of Biblical passages on the Antichrist), the angel told John: “Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666” (Revelation 13:18).
And, “This calls for a mind with understanding: The seven heads of the beast … also represent seven kings. Five kings have already fallen…” (Revelation 17:9-10).
Believers in the first few centuries knew that Nero was the Antichrist. They eagerly anticipated the imminent glorious return of Christ Jesus, even though their going home to heaven would lead directly to the repulsive reappearance of the beast (Nero) from the Abyss, for those left behind.
This was such common-place knowledge that a term was coined for it: Nero Redivivus Legend.
Among other Eye of Prophecy articles on the Antichrist, see, The Legendary Return of Nero (Posted 4-4-15).