Now to turn to the passage in question, which I shall examine by arguments drawn from Scripture, without being solicitous to agree, or to say why I am at issue, with modern commentators: "That Day shall not come, except there come a falling away first." Here the sign of the second Advent is said to be a certain frightful apostasy, and the manifestation of the man of sin, the son of perdition—that is, as he is commonly called, Antichrist. Our Saviour seems to add, that that sign will immediately precede Him, or that His coming will follow close upon it; for after speaking of "false prophets" and "false Christs," "showing signs and wonders," "iniquity abounding," and "love waxing cold," and the like, He adds, "When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." Again, He says, "When ye shall see the Abomination of Desolation ... stand in the holy place ... then let them that be in Judea flee into the mountains." [Matt. xxiv. 16, 33.] Indeed, St. Paul also implies this, when he says that Antichrist shall be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coining.

First, then, I say, if Antichrist is to come immediately before Christ, and to be the sign of His coming, it is manifest that Antichrist is not come yet, but is still to be expected; for, else Christ would have come before now.

Further, it appears that the time of Antichrist's tyranny will be three years and a half, or, as Scripture expresses it, "a time, and times, and a dividing of time," or "forty-two months,"—which is an additional reason for believing he is not come; for, if so, he must have come quite lately, his time being altogether so short; that is, within the last three years, and this we cannot say he has.

Besides, there are two other circumstances of his appearance, which have not been fulfilled. First, a time of unexampled trouble. "Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be; and except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." [Matt. xxiv. 21, 22.] This has not yet been. Next, the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world—"And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come." [Matt. xxiv. 14.]

Now it may be objected to this conclusion, that St. Paul says, in the passage before us, that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work," that is, even in his day, as if Antichrist had in fact come even then. But he would seem to mean merely this, that in his day there were shadows and forebodings, earnests, and operative elements, of that which was one day to come in its fulness. Just as the types of Christ went before Christ, so the shadows of Antichrist precede him. In truth, every event of this world is a type of those that follow, history proceeding forward as a circle ever enlarging. The days of the Apostles typified the last days: there were false Christs, and risings, and troubles, and persecutions, and the judicial destruction of the Jewish Church. In like manner, every age presents its own picture of those still future events, which, and which alone, are the real fulfilment of the prophecy which stands at the head of all of them. Hence St. John says, "Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that the Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." [1 John ii. 18.] Antichrist was come, and was not come; it was, and it was not the last time. In the sense in which the Apostles' day might be called the "last time," and the end of the world, it was also the time of Antichrist.

A second objection may be made as follows: St. Paul says, "Now ye know what withholdeth, that he (Antichrist) might be revealed in his time." Here a something is mentioned as keeping back the manifestation of the enemy of truth. He proceeds: "He that now withholdeth, will withhold, until he be taken out of the way." Now this restraining power was in early times considered to be the Roman Empire, but the Roman Empire (it is argued) has long been taken out of the way; it follows that Antichrist has long since come. In answer to this objection, I would grant that he "that withholdeth," or "hindereth," means the power of Rome, for all the ancient {50} writers so speak of it. And I grant that as Rome, according to the prophet Daniel's vision, succeeded Greece, so Antichrist succeeds Rome, and the Second Coming succeeds Antichrist. But it does not hence follow that Antichrist is come: for it is not clear that the Roman Empire is gone. Far from it: the Roman Empire in the view of prophecy, remains even to this day. Rome had a very different fate from the other three monsters mentioned by the Prophet, as will be seen by his description of it. "Behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns." [Dan. vii. 7.] These ten horns, an Angel informed him, "are ten kings that shall rise out of this kingdom" of Rome. As, then, the ten horns belonged to the fourth beast, and were not separate from it, so the kingdoms, into which the Roman Empire was to be divided, are but the continuation and termination of that Empire itself,—which lasts on, and in some sense lives in the view of prophecy, however we decide the historical question. Consequently, we have not yet seen the end of the Roman Empire. "That which withholdeth" still exists, up to the manifestation of its ten horns; and till it is removed, Antichrist will not come. And from the midst of those horns he will arise, as the same Prophet informs us: "I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn; … and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things."

Up to the time, then, when Antichrist shall actually appear, there has been and will be a continual effort to manifest him to the world on the part of the powers of evil. The history of the Church is the history of that long birth. "The mystery of iniquity doth already work," says St. Paul. "Even now there are many Antichrists," [1 John ii. 18.] says St. John,—"every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is that spirit of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world." [1 John iv. 3.] It has been at work ever since, from the time of the Apostles, though kept under by him that "withholdeth." At this very time there is a fierce struggle, the spirit of Antichrist attempting to rise, and the political power in those countries which are prophetically Roman, firm and vigorous in repressing it. And in fact, we actually have before our eyes, as our fathers also in the generation before us, a fierce and lawless principle everywhere at work—a spirit of rebellion against God and man, which the powers of government in each country can barely keep under with their greatest efforts. Whether this which we witness be that spirit of Antichrist, which is one day at length to be let loose, this ambitious spirit, the parent of all heresy, schism, sedition, revolution, and war—whether this be so or not, at least we know from prophecy that the present framework of society and government, as far as it is the representative of Roman powers, is that which withholdeth, and Antichrist is that which will rise when this restraint fails.

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