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And His Translation of 2 Thessalonians 2
By R. M. Davis
A Brief History
Tyndale’s View of the Scriptures
Considering 2 Thessalonians 2 about Antichrist
Antichrist: A Very Present Danger
What Does Antichrist Withhold? How?
The Mystery of Iniquity
Parting Thoughts for the Scattered Sheep
Hope for Faithful Worship
Appendix: Original-spelling Versions
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the 1549 Matthew Bible.1
Though the terrible deeds of the Roman Church during the 16th century are of necessity described
here, the author wishes to state that she is not ‘anti Roman Catholic.’ The Reformers struggled
against the Roman Church because of its abuses, not because it was Roman Catholic. After all, it was
then the only Church. Abuses are wrong wherever they occur, and hatred is wrong wherever it occurs.2
Chapter 2 of the Apostle Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians is one of the
most detailed and ostensibly explicit descriptions of Antichrist contained in
Scripture, but is evidently quite mysterious, or at least ambiguous, in the original
Greek. Its evolution in the hands of Bible translators reveals a growing trend to
render it in accordance with the popular understanding of a certain individual who
will rise up in the future: a wonder-working man, and a charming but deceptive
politician, whose identity is presently unknown, but who will gain ascendancy on
the world stage and eventually be revealed for who he is.
In 1534 Tyndale translated verse 7, “For the mystery of that iniquity doth he
already work, which only locketh until it be taken out of the way”; that is, the
mystery of iniquity that is worked by Antichrist “locks” until it is taken out of the
way. Tyndale taught that Antichrist is knowable now by those who understand
Paul’s teaching aright. He taught that Antichrist is not a particular individual, but
is a spiritual thing opposed to the faith of God’s word. He taught that the
revelation of Antichrist means not that someone’s face and name will be known,
but that the dark forces of Antichrist are revealed in deeds and doctrine that
oppose all that God’s word teaches, and all that may be known about Christ, our
pure, spotless, and gentle Lamb, who is the Living Word. In the end the deeds
and doctrine of Antichrist, through growing apostasy, become so obviously
unbiblical and unchristian, that he is thereby revealed for all to see who he is.
A Brief History
When William Tyndale lived (c.1494 – 1536), clerics and leaders of the Roman
Catholic Church were imprisoning men and women, confiscating their property,
and burning them alive. Why? For such things as departing from certain Roman
doctrines, or denying the Church’s authority to dictate in
certain matters of faith, or for the heretical sin of reading
the Scriptures in English.3 To translate the Scriptures
into vernacular languages was punishable by death,
though Tyndale undertook such work and, in fact, gave
us the English translation that has formed the basis of
our best Bibles ever since.4 After years in exile, a hunted
man, he ultimately paid for his labours with his life.
The men who were suppressing the Bible and killing readers of the Bible called
themselves Christian. They also claimed exclusive right, as ‘the Church,’ to
possess and interpret Scripture. But Tyndale warned that these were the actions
of Antichrist, who was then working powerfully, fiercely, in and through the
Roman Church, intent on suppressing God’s word. Though it professed
allegiance to the Scriptures, the religious leaders were actually intent on keeping
them from the people by persecutions and by keeping them in Latin. Tyndale
wrote that these things were anti-Christian and revealed Antichrist:
And when [Roman Catholic Sir Thomas More] saith many mysteries are
yet to be revealed, such as the coming of antichrist: nay, verily, the
babe is known well enough, and all the tokens spied in him, which the
Scripture describeth him by.5
We see from this brief statement that Tyndale understood the Scriptures to
describe “tokens”, or signs, of Antichrist. And these signs could be “spied”, or
seen, in the deeds of the contemporary Church – such as casting men and
women into the Tower for private study of the Scriptures. So then, Antichrist was
not a mystery yet to be revealed: he was
already revealed in the Roman Church, where Tyndale did not restrict the
he had built up an Antichristian kingdom. By influence of Antichrist to the
wresting the Scriptures, the popes had come Roman Church or to the
to be exalted as heads of this kingdom and office of pope. For the entire
lords of the faith, in supposed succession to Church is necessarily at risk.
the apostle Peter. Tyndale explained:
Then came [the Pope] to this text, (Matt, xvi.): “Thou art Peter, and
upon this rock I will build my congregation" or church. Lo, saith
antichrist, the carnal beast, Peter is the rock whereon the church of
Christ is built; and I am his successor, and therefore the head of
Here the Pope of that age was described as “antichrist, the carnal beast”. Martin
Luther and other Reformers used similar words.7 He was ‘the
Antichrist’ in the sense that he was supreme head of what had
become an international, often brutal, antichristian Church, and in
wanting to be the vicar of Christ and have people believe in him
and in his bulls and indulgences. But Tyndale did not restrict the
work or influence of Antichrist to the Roman Church or to the office
of pope. For the entire Church is necessarily at risk.
In this article I capitalize the word ‘Church’ to refer collectively or individually to
organizations of people, large or small, which profess to be Christian. Tyndale's
work and writing show that he would have valued a Church that taught, led, and
fed the people with true preaching, due ministration of the sacraments, leading in
congregational praise and worship, and public reading of Scripture. But he was
concerned to have people understand the work of a faithful Church, including to
promulgate God’s word and promote a right understanding of it, to do charitable
works, to avoid worldly intrigue, to serve and minister, not persecute in tyranny,
and, of course, to be separate from sin.
But Tyndale saw what the Roman Church had become after centuries of
progressive corruption: an idol in men’s minds,8 leading them astray in doctrine
and practice and sitting in their consciences where the word of God should have
its place instead, seeking to have men obey its ordinances as if they were the
ordinances of God, and forbidding the Scriptures. He described how the false
prophets exalted themselves: “Love they not themselves, their own decrees and
ordinances, their own lies and dreams, and despise all laws of God and man,
regarding no man but them only that be disguised as they be?”9 He often referred
to how the Church “took captive” or “crept into” the consciences of men.
In Tyndale’s time the Roman Church was exceedingly corrupt,
wielding wide power unto the destruction of people’s souls and
bodies. The Pope headed a great political and religious empire
in which people who read the Scripture in their own language
could be burned alive, but priests could purchase licenses
permitting them to keep mistresses contrary to the Scripture.10
Tyndale wrote that “The [clerics] repent not; but from very lust
and consent to sin persecute both the Scriptures wherewith
they are rebuked and also people who warn them to amend,
and make heretics of them, and burn them.”11
Burning a heretic
Tyndale’s View of the Scriptures
All Tyndale’s ambitions were for the glory of God’s word and for the common
people to have it. To this end he wished to free the Scriptures from the fast grip
of the dominant Church, which, among other things, “locked up” its true meaning
with false teaching (“glosses”) and traditions:
I thought it my duty (most dear reader) to warn thee beforehand, and to
shew thee the right way in, and to give thee the true key to open it
withal, and to arm thee against false prophets and malicious hypocrites,
whose perpetual study is to leaven the Scripture with glosses, and
there to lock it up where it should save thy soul, and to make us shoot
at a wrong mark, to put our trust in those things that profit their bellies
only and slay our souls.12
Tyndale wished to unlock and set forth God’s word truly so the people, even by
forbidden private study, could feed their souls upon it. He wrote to his readers, in
Pathway to the Scripture, that his desire was that each should:
have all the Scripture unlocked and opened before thee, so that if thou
wilt go in and read, thou canst not but understand. And in these things to
be ignorant is to have all the Scripture locked up, so that the more thou
readest it, the blinder thou art and the more contradiction thou findest in it,
and the more tangled art thou therein and canst nowhere see the way
through: for if thou had a gloss in one place, in another it will not serve.
And therefore because we are never taught the profession of our
baptism we remain always unlearned – as much the spiritualty [Church
clerics], for all their great clergy and high learning (as we say), as the lay
people. [But] now, because the lay and unlearned people are taught
these first principles of our profession, they are reading the Scripture, and
are understanding and delighting therein.13
Of the way of the anti-Christian Church with the Scriptures, he wrote:
And our great pillars of holy church, who have nailed a veil of false
glosses on Moses's face to corrupt the true understanding of his law,
cannot come in. And therefore they bark and say
the Scripture maketh heretics. And it is not
possible for them to understand it in the English,
because they themselves do not [understand it]
in Latin. And of pure malice that they cannot
have their will, they slay their brethren for the
faith they have in our Saviour and therewith
reveal their bloody wolfish tyranny, and what
they be within, and whose disciples they are [ie,
Antichrist’s, the Devil’s].14
If the Church had assisted Tyndale to give God’s
word to the people he would, of course, have been
well pleased. But Tyndale worked virtually alone and
the Church was murderously opposed. Roman
Catholic saint Sir Thomas More, one of Tyndale's
most determined enemies and pursuers, who clearly
expressed his desire to see Tyndale die, wrote that
Slaying the brethren: Tyndale
Tyndale was “a hell-hound in the kennel of the devil…discharging a filthy foam of
blasphemies out of his brutish beastly mouth” and that his work was as “full of
errors as the sea is of water,” and that he “willfully mistranslated…to deceive
blind unlearned people.”15 Though More did not live to see it, the Church, in
concert with secular authorities, set upon Tyndale and ultimately slew him in
Vilvoorde, now part of Belgium, in 1536. He was about 42 years old.
Considering 2 Thessalonians 2 about Antichrist
Tyndale’s understanding of Antichrist can, I believe, be quite clearly discerned in
his unique 1534 translation of 2 Thessalonians 2. Here the apostle Paul is writing
about the ‘man of sin’ or ‘son of perdition’, who is almost universally understood
to represent Antichrist.16 Paul then speaks of something that is holding down or
withholding; the Greek is the verb katĕcho. Tyndale translated it ‘withholds’ and
‘locks’. The KJV uses ‘withholds’ and ‘lets’ (restrains). The NKJV refers to that
which ‘restrains,’ and the NIV to that which ‘holds back’.
Joseph Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon notes a second meaning of katĕcho: to
possess or have in possession. If Tyndale had this meaning in mind also, the
translation by ‘lock’, which may at first seem unusual, will, I believe, be proven
logical. In fact it makes good sense in the context, for only someone who has
possession of a thing can withhold it or lock it up.
Commentators generally agree that in 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul is teaching about
(1) Antichrist, a worker of iniquity, and (2) something, a force or power, which
withholds, restrains, or ‘locks up’. But a key difference in understanding then
emerges, and it is pivotal. Tyndale understood the Greek to indicate that this
withholding or restraining is the work of Antichrist; that is, Antichrist is an evil
power that “locks up”, withholds, or restrains. But most others understand the text
in a contrary sense: that the restraining power is a force against Antichrist.
Thus a widely held view in Christendom is that the restraining power referred to
in 2 Thessalonians 2 is a power for good which works against Antichrist. In other
words the “restrainer,” whoever or whatever it is, holds back the evil that Antichrist does. Antichrist is popularly believed to be an individual, a man who will
arise in the future to take political power when the restrainer ceases to restrain
him; but his identity is a mystery for now. There is also uncertainty about the
identity of the “restrainer”, whether it is the Church, the Holy Spirit, or a political
power; people who believe in the Rapture generally believe the Church to be the
restrainer, which will cease to restrain when removed from the earth.
But Tyndale would have deplored all this. Indeed, he would warn us that it is
Antichrist’s own deceptive doctrine, and it turns truth on its head. He did not
understand the Scriptures to teach about a mystery man who will arise in the
future. But such a view has been imposed upon the KJV rendering, which is
admittedly ambiguous. Therefore let us compare Tyndale's translation with that of
the KJV. (I refer to the KJV because of its historical importance, not because I
am attempting to find fault with it.)
Comparing Tyndale’s Translation with the KJV
The following translations of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 are taken from the English
Hexapla, minimally modernized for clarity’s sake (see Appendix for the original
versions). Tyndale's 1534 translation:17
Let no man deceive you by any means, for the Lord comes not, unless
there come a departing first, and that sinful man be revealed, the son of
perdition 4which is an adversary, and is exalted above all that is called
God, or that is worshipped: so that he shall sit as God in the temple of
God, and show himself as God. 5Remember ye not, that when I was yet
with you, I told you these things? 6And now you know what withholds,
that he might be revealed at his time. 7For the mystery of that iniquity
does he already work, which only locks until it be taken out of the
way. 8And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall
consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the
appearance of his coming…
The 1611 King James’ version (keeping in mind that ‘let’ means ‘restrain’):
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come,
unless there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed,
the son of perdition; 4 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. 5 Remember ye not, that when I
was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now you know what
withholds, that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of
iniquity does already work: only he who now lets will let, until he
be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that wicked be revealed,
whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall
destroy with the brightness of his coming…
It must be acknowledged that these passages are difficult in both versions, and
the Greek is apparently quite challenging. Note the differences in verse 7. One is
use and placement of the pronoun ‘he’. In referring to the withholding of the prior
verse Tyndale translates, For the mystery of that iniquity does he already work,
which only locks until it be taken out of the way. In Tyndale’s version ‘he’ is
clearly the one working the mystery of iniquity, which involves locking up. This
locking up is the mystery of iniquity, a force for evil that is already at work.
But the KJV translators used ‘he’ differently: For the mystery of iniquity does
already work: only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way. Note,
here ‘he’ is not clearly the one working the mystery of iniquity. ‘He’ is still
portrayed as a restrainer, but could be construed as a force for good against the
mystery of iniquity. Also he, not it, will be taken out of the way.
We can see how the modern understanding of Antichrist can be derived from the
KJV rendering. But this turns Tyndale’s doctrine of Antichrist upside down. No
longer is Antichrist working the mystery of iniquity by holding something back
from us here and now. Instead, though admittedly working now to some degree,
he is being held back, and will arise later.
Which understanding is correct? For believers and for Churches the
answer could not be more important. For if Tyndale is correct, Antichrist has succeeded in turning almost every eye away from himself,
to look for him some time in the future when all along he may be right
here in our midst: we miss him because we look for him in the wrong
place and time. Tyndale observed that the Jews missed the Messiah
when he came, and they are still looking for him to come later. In like
manner, Christians fail to spot Antichrist because they are looking for
him to come later, and also because they fail to seek in and learn
from the Scriptures what the signs of his presence are:
The Jews look for Christ, and he came fifteen hundred years ago and
they are not aware of it. And we also have looked for Antichrist, and he
hath reigned as long, and we are not aware – and that because we
both look carnally for him, and not in the places where we ought … The
Jews would have found Christ verily if they had sought him in the law
and the prophets, whither Christ sendeth them to seek. (John v.) We
also would have spied out Antichrist long ago if we had looked in the
doctrine of Christ and his apostles.18
I might add that just as the Jews in Jesus’ time were looking for a political
Messiah, so many Christians now are looking for a political Antichrist. But this
error locks up the truth about Antichrist, assists him to conceal himself, and
sets us up for deception.
Antichrist: A Very Present Danger
So then, in popular modern teaching the restrainer – be it the Church, the Holy
Spirit or a political power – is now holding Antichrist back somehow. This doctrine
has been aggressively articulated without ambiguity in modern Bible versions. A
RSV (1946): For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he
who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
New English Bible (1970): For already the secret power of wickedness
is at work, secret only for the present until the Restrainer disappears
from the scene.
New Jerusalem Bible (1985): The mystery of wickedness is already at
work, but let him who is restraining it once be removed, and the wicked
One will appear openly.
Any reader of these modern versions must think the Bible teaches that only when
the restrainer is removed, or “disappears from the scene (NEB)”, can Antichrist
rise to power and be identified. And what fear this causes in some circles, with
people searching out who this evil man is going to be! But in fact, though it
appears more and more aggressively in modern Bibles, this doctrine of a future
Antichrist is not a modern teaching. It is many centuries old, and long predated
Tyndale. It is a doctrine that arose early in the Church, and by the 16th century it
was apparently as pervasive among Roman Catholics as it is now among
Protestants and Mormons.
But William Tyndale, prophet that he was, departed from the common view. His
warnings, which have been forgotten or suppressed, are that Antichrist is a
spiritual thing, and always a very present danger. Furthermore, we must watch
out for his coming as a Christian imposter. In Christian Churches he will seek
authority, professing faith and assuming appearances of faith, but in fact teaching
so as to undermine the faith. “Mark this,” Tyndale wrote, “above all things”:
Mark this also above all things – that Antichrist is not an outward thing,
that is to say, a man that should suddenly appear with wonders, as our
fathers talked of him. No, verily; for Antichrist is a spiritual thing. And is
as much to say as against Christ; that is, one that preacheth false
doctrine, contrary to Christ.
Antichrist was in the Old Testament, and fought with the prophets; he
was also in the time of Christ and the apostles, as thou readest in the
Epistles of John, and of Paul to the Corinthians and Galatians, and
other Epistles. Antichrist is now, and will, (I doubt not) endure till the
world’s end. But his nature is (when he is revealed and overcome with
the word of God) to go out of play for a season, and to disguise himself,
and then to come in again with new raiment. As thou seest how Christ
rebuketh the Scribes and the Pharisees in the gospel, (which were very
Antichrists,) saying, Woe be to you, Pharisees, for ye rob widow’s
houses; ye pray long prayers under a colour; ye shut up the kingdom of
heaven, and suffer them not that would enter in; ye have taken away
the key of knowledge; ye make men break God’s commandments with
your traditions; ye beguile the people with hypocrisy and such like;
Which things all our prelates do, but have yet gotten them new names,
and other garments, and are otherwise disguised.
There is a difference in the names between a pope, a cardinal, a
bishop, and so forth, and to say a scribe, a Pharisee, a senior [elder]
and so forth; but the thing is all one. Even so now, when we have
exposed him, he will change himself once more, and turn himself into
an angel of light (2 Cor. xi.).19
We can now see how Tyndale’s understanding would have led him to translate 2
Thessalonians 2 as he did, showing the restrainer as presently working the
mystery of iniquity. He had looked in all the Scriptures and seen that in the past
the work of Antichrist had been accomplished through the religious leaders and
false prophets of the Old Testament who locked up God’s word, and then later
through the scribes and Pharisees (“very antichrists”) of Jesus’ time. And in his
own time it was being accomplished through popes, cardinals, bishops, priests,
Therefore as to Antichrist’s “new raiment”, should we not take care in our own
Churches and professing Christian congregations concerning our own religious
leaders and prophets, our pastors, priests, prophets, or elders, no matter by what
names they call themselves or how they are clothed? For as Tyndale said, “the
thing is all one” – or, in modern parlance, it is all one and the same thing.
Of course I am not suggesting that all pastors, priests, or elders are of Antichrist.
They are not, thanks be to God. But we must be alert for signs of Antichrist now.
He sends his emissaries to lodge in the branches of Christendom wherever and
as high up as they can climb. The apostle Paul said that that which ‘holds back’
was at already work when he wrote. The Scriptures confirm that antichrist was at
work in the 1st century and warn of false apostles:
For there are certain craftily crept in (Jude 1:4).
Little children, it is the last time, and as ye have heard that antichrist
shall come, even now are there many antichrists come already.
Whereby we know that it is the last time (1John 2:18).
These false apostles are deceitful workers, and fashion themselves like
the apostles of Christ. And no marvel, for Satan himself is changed into
the fashion of an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his
ministers fashion themselves as though they were the ministers of
righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
What Does Antichrist Withhold? How?
The questions that arise in response to Tyndale’s translation are now evidently
answered. His translation again:
Let no man deceive you by any means, for the Lord comes not, unless
there come a departing first, and that sinful man be revealed…6And
now you know what withholds, that he might be revealed at his time.
For the mystery of that iniquity does he already work, which only locks
until it be taken out of the way.
(1) What is withheld or locked up? There can only be one answer, for there could
only be one thing worthy of Antichrist’s virulent attention: the word of God. For it
is only by the true word that men are saved, rescued from captivity to Satan, and
There could only be
one thing worthy of
attention: God’s word.
Also vulnerable are
those things which
serve the word, such
as the sacraments and
Christian holy days.
given eternal life. Only by the true word may we know
God through Christ and worship in spirit and in truth.
Nothing is as important as this, for God’s word is Spirit
and it is life (Deut 32:47). Tyndale’s great lament, as we
have seen, was that God’s word was so badly locked up
by the dominant Church that the people were denied
salvation: the Church was apostate and sinful, was
murderously opposed to reformation, and was teaching
salvation by false means such as fasting, penance, and
the purchase of indulgences. Tyndale wrote:
The kingdom of heaven, which is the scripture and word of God, may
be so locked up, that he which readeth or heareth it cannot understand
it: as Christ testifieth how the scribes and Pharisees had so shut it up
(Matthew 23) and taken away the key of knowledge (Luke 11) that the
Jews, who thought themselves within, were yet locked out, and are to
this day, so that they cannot understand a sentence of the scripture
unto their salvation.
Antichrist is ever seeking reason and occasion to suppress the word: it must be
kept in Latin; it must be interpreted only according to his decrees; it must be
locked away behind the Book of Mormon or the Watchtower. It is darkened by
occult doctrine, as among the Charismatics. It is darkened by purpose-driven
doctrine. It is denied by a ‘wiser’ morality that would affirm homosexuality, etc.
Antichrist will also suppress or destroy those things which serve the word and the
faith of the word, such as the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion.
These are diminished or distorted by false teaching, they are ignored or
carelessly performed, or they are made the objects of false precepts and
practice: in times past some persons delayed baptism until near death in order to
avoid condemnation for later sin, and some insisted on nude immersion.
In the 16th century the Roman Church had so fallen that its tradition was to
minister the Lord’s Supper only once per year, and then only the bread, keeping
the cup for the priests. The service was glossed with superstitious notions, and
whatever truth remained in the liturgy was lost because it was given in Latin.
Thus Holy Communion, God’s ordained means of grace
whereby we receive of and commune with the Living Word
himself, was locked up and shut away. Nowadays the
Jehovah Witnesses, like their avowed enemies the Roman
Catholics before them, will only celebrate the Lord’s Supper
once a year. To such persons the Reformation martyr
Thomas Cranmer wrote:
“In the beginning, when men were most godly and most
fervent in the Holy Spirit, then they received the
Communion daily. But when the Spirit of God began to be
more cold in men’s hearts and they waxed more worldly than godly,
then their desire was not so hot to receive the Communion as it was
before… But to them that live godly, it is the greatest comfort that in this
world can be imagined; and the more godly a man is, the more
sweetness and spiritual pleasure and desire he shall have often to
Antichrist further suppresses Christian feast days – holidays, or “holy days” as
Tyndale called them – cunningly characterizing them as false traditions, or, a
thing very common today, as pagan. Thus ‘Easter’ becomes an evil word, and
some Christians fear that they are being unfaithful to the Lord if they celebrate
Christmas. The Puritans, Jehovah Witnesses, and even some Evangelicals, do
greatly err when they anathematize and suppress Christmas as a pagan festival,
thereby abetting the suppression of the knowledge of the incarnation of Christ. O
what a subtle beast is the serpent! Indeed the subtlest of the beasts in the field.
Behold: that is false which suppresses the Gospel,
Behold: that is false which
not which celebrates it. Examples of false traditions
suppresses the Gospel, not
are the preaching and sale of indulgences for
which celebrates it.
salvation, or ministering Holy Communion once per
year – not celebrating the birth of Christ. Further, even if Christmas were a
problem, which it isn’t, the Apostle Paul said that no matter how Christ was
preached, he rejoiced (Phil 1:18). But Antichrist will not suffer us to show forth or
remember holy things, and leads us astray with objections which have the
appearance of piety, but serve only to suppress the faith. Beware objections that
do not in reality serve the faith!
Tyndale's view on sacraments is worthy of consideration. He recognized baptism
and the Lord’s Supper as supreme and divinely instituted, by which we, through
faith, may receive grace for remission of sin through Jesus Christ our Lord. But
he also regarded any “visible sign,” practice, or ceremony that could stir up faith
as a lesser sacrament of sorts, because it “provokes us and helps our weak
faith”.21 This would include the observance of holy days, which are visible and
public signs, especially when meaningfully celebrated, and which he obviously
treasured in the Church’s calendar.22 He recognized also marriage,23 fasting,24
and more.25 Anything that puts us in mind of holy things and helps our faith may
therefore be called sacramental, provided of course it is not to be understood in
the same way as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, nor given superstitious
“signification” or meaning. Tyndale further wrote that those who suppress or
distort the sacraments are “destroyers”:
O a merciful God, and a most loving Father, how careth he for us! First,
above all and beside all his other benefits, to give us his own Son
Jesus, and with him to give us himself and all; and not content
therewith, but to give us so many sacraments or visible signs, to
provoke us and to help our weak faith, and to keep his mercy in mind:
as baptism, the sacrament of his body and blood, and as many other
sacraments as they will have, if they put significations to them (for we
destroy none, but they destroy who have put out the significations, or
feigned some [that have no meaning].26
Sacraments and holy days serve and support the faith and the word, therefore
they become the targets of Antichrist along with God’s word.
(2) Who or what withholds God’s word? Who “locks” it? In the earth, the only
ones who could do so are those who have control of it, those who possess it.
Historically this has meant professing Churches of Judaism and Christianity.
Thus Antichrist works the mystery of iniquity through a Church that wrongly
keeps the word from men through persecutions, by withholding the Gospel, or
through false teaching (as Tyndale would say, “false glosses”: distortion,
diminishment, false interpretations, false applications).
Here we see the significance of the second sense of katĕcho: Antichrist
possesses and locks up; he seizes control over the written word and then
withholds it by various means, or he assumes authority as holy teacher and then
locks its true sense away by false teaching. One of the most insidious forms of
withholding is to provide all kinds of “bible teaching”, even much talk about the
Gospel and the need for the Gospel, but to never actually give the Gospel. In
such congregations the people may hear much that they think to be biblical, but
they never hear the message of the great salvation bought for us by the blood of
the Lamb. And yet that great preacher, the apostle Paul, determined to know
nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified when he was among the Corinthians
(1 Corinthians 2:2).
When we realize that the religious leaders who have or claim authority over
God’s word often, in fact, work much ill against it, we marvel at God’s great
power, in that through them He has maintained it, though unremitting onslaughts
erode, distort, and suppress more and more. We also understand perhaps why
the Lord has blinded certain eyes, so men cannot see how they are condemned
by the very word they claim to know and teach: “In them is fulfilled the prophecy
of Isaiah, which prophecy saith: With the ear ye shall hear and shall not
understand, and with the eyes ye shall see, and shall not perceive” (M’t 13:14).
(3) Why is Antichrist referred to as ‘he’ or a ‘man’ if Antichrist never will be one
particular individual? Or, how can Antichrist also be many antichrists as related
by the apostle John (1 John 2:18)? Tyndale’s answer, as we saw above, is that
Antichrist is a spiritual thing. ‘He’ is a spiritual power, often personified in
Scriptures. He is opposed to Jesus Christ. He works through men. One of his
major works in the last days, since Jesus rose from the dead and returned to be
with the Father, is to profess faith in Christ while cunningly destroying Christ’s
witness and testimony.
Antichrist and the iniquity he works are, of course, of Satan, the father of lies and
implacable enemy of God, mankind, and truth. This writer is not a Greek scholar,
but it is perhaps noteworthy that the Greek word translated ‘man’ in the ‘sinful
man’ of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is anthropos, which generally refers to the human
face or countenance and is used to distinguish man from other species or
orders,27 or the things of man from other things, but not to identify an individual.
As Tyndale understood it, spiritual Antichrist ‘has’ a human face and assumes a
human face, for he has power and dominion over men, and he works in earth
through men against Christ to keep or lead all people (if it were possible) away
from God’s word. So then, Antichrist is not any single man, although he may be
epitomized in certain men (or women), who at times are referred to as ‘very
antichrists.’ Or an unfaithful and apostate person who is the head or highest ruler
might be referred to as ‘the Antichrist,’ because in him the forces of darkness
wield supreme authority.
When Martin Luther and William Tyndale lived and wrote, Christendom, though
fraught with sects and division, was under a supreme and fierce pontiff who, by
his laws, deeds, and doctrine, his indulgences, dispensations, inquisitions, and
burnings, was revealed as the Antichrist of that kingdom. The power of any pope
to hurt, burn, and maim has been diminished, but it will ever remain that
antichrists may be among us, wielding greater or lesser power as they advance
within their own kingdoms, secret traitors to the true faith, in a Christendom that
is now greatly divided along denominational lines and scattered around the
globe. The apostle John warned almost 20 centuries before our time, “Little
children it is the last time, and as ye have heard how that Antichrist shall
come, even now are there many antichrists come already. Whereby we know
that it is the last time (1Joh 2:18).” We live in the last time of which the
beloved apostle spoke, and if we believe him, we know to look out for “many
(4) How is the mystery of iniquity taken out of the way? It is ultimately by
restoring truth that the mystery of iniquity is taken out of the way and Antichrist’s
grip is broken, at least for the time being. This happened when the Lord came in
the flesh in the 1st century. By then the departing had come, the apostasy of
Let no man deceive you by any means, for the Lord comes not, unless
there come a departing first, and that sinful man be revealed, the son of
perdition which is an adversary, and is exalted above all that is called
God, or that is worshipped: so that he shall sit as God in the temple of
God, and show himself as God.
When the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees reigned in Jerusalem at Christ’s
first coming, the Scriptures had been locked up, or “shut up”, by the teaching of
those blind guides:
M’t 23:13: Woe be unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye
shut up the kingdom of heaven before men: ye yourselves go not in,
neither suffer ye them that come, to enter in.
M’t 23:16-19: Woe be unto you blind guides, which say whosoever
swear by the temple, it is nothing: but whosoever swear by the gold of
the temple, he offendeth. Ye fools and blind: which is greater, the gold
or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And whosoever sweareth by the
altar, it is nothing: but whosoever sweareth by the offering that lieth on
the altar, offendeth. Ye fools and blind: which is greater, the offering or
the altar which sanctifieth the offering?
Jesus taught his apostles great truths, and the Holy Spirit opened great
mysteries to them. Then they taught others by preaching and by pen – despite
the roaring of Antichrist against them. Through their faithful teaching the iniquity
worked by false prophets in Judaism was taken out of the way for a time. But the
time of the pure and true faith was to pass, and apostolic teaching was
progressively shut up by the Roman Church as the centuries progressed, until
the full departure, or apostasy, of Tyndale’s time manifestly revealed Antichrist.
Then Antichrist’s withholding was taken out of the way once more in the
Reformation of the 16th century, during more times of roaring and intense
struggle, when God through men like Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and
Thomas Cranmer (to mention only a few of many) restored truth and brought
much light to bear again upon the Scriptures. But then the process of locking up
began again. The light has been darkened, often gravely so, in a great many
places, including in so-called evangelical and Protestant Churches, let alone
among such groups as the Mormons, Christadelphians, Christian Scientists,
Jehovah Witnesses, and so on.
Therefore Tyndale taught that the restoration of truth is the “coming of the Lord”
referred to in verse 2:3. He comes in truth to and for those who love truth. He
comes notably when apostasy is at its worst. Apostasy displays or reveals the
man of sin, Antichrist, for those who have eyes to see. Then comes the Lord
through his prophets and faithful servants. This cycle has been repeated in world
history, and we might expect it to end only with the Lord’s final and most glorious
In my view, the withholding power of the man of sin may also be considered to be
partly taken out of the way when his power and authority to persecute and
oppress the saints is diminished.
A few final notes before leaving this section:
(1) A perhaps unintended difference between the KJV and Tyndale is at verse
2:4. Speaking of Antichrist, Tyndale put that he will sit as God in the temple of
God, and show himself as God. This is logical, saying that Antichrist would make
a display of himself as if he were God. Obviously he would be showing himself to
others. But the KJV says (due to archaic or ungrammatical syntax or punctuation
perhaps?) that Antichrist shows himself to himself: “showing himself that he is
God.” This rendering might put us off guard: if Antichrist’s posturing is inward
only, why would we be concerned about the outward?
(2) Consider verse 2:3, where both Tyndale and the KJV committee supplied
words that were missing in the Greek. Tyndale:
the Lord comes not, unless there come a departing first, and that
sinful man be revealed…
With “the Lord comes not”, Tyndale used what grammarians call a “timeless
present tense”. It points us neither to the future nor to the past, but simply makes
a statement about when it is that the Lord comes, and thereby allows for one or
more comings. This enables the understanding of the historical cycle of apostasy
that we see in the Scriptures – the coming of the Lord in truth whenever apostasy
is full blown. It also allows for the final coming.
However the King James Version is worded such that it points to the future, to a
day that is yet to come:
that day shall not come, unless there come a falling away first, and
that man of sin be revealed…
‘That’ is a demonstrative adjective pointing out a particular day for consideration,
and ‘shall’ is generally understood in the future tense, thus looking to a future day
of apostasy and setting up the expectation of a future Antichrist.
In conclusion, I submit that Tyndale’s 1534 rendition of the man of sin passages
in 2 Thessalonians 2 is logical, clear, internally consistent, and realistic. It admits
of no ambiguity. It makes preeminent sense given the primacy of place that the
Scriptures claim for themselves in true faith. It makes sense given what was
historically evident in the Church when Tyndale wrote. And it makes sense
considering what the Scriptures teach about the course of God’s word in the
hands of men, who will ever apostatize.
The Mystery of Iniquity
William Tyndale’s warnings about Antichrist need to go forth again. Antichrist
always has and will continue to seek places to work iniquity, especially against
the name and word of the Lord. An obvious place for this,
where significant damage might be done, is a Christian Antichrist arises
Church. So he arises secretly, cloaked in ‘new raiment’ cloaked in ‘new
from time to time: new names, new sects, new prophets, raiment’ from time
new slants on doctrine and polity. He will manifest with the to time: new names,
name of Christ upon his lips, but will in actuality work new sects, new
against Christ by false teaching, suppression of the word prophets, new slants
and the sacraments, and by persecution. He makes on doctrine and
essentials of things that are not and destroys those things polity.
that are. He turns us away, if he can, from that which is true, and away from
those places where Christ can be found, and lures us into error, even piousseeming error.
Indeed it is mysterious, and most worthy of the appellation ‘mystery of iniquity,’
that these things happen in Churches where we seek the things of God and wish
to trust. But if we simply look at the facts, must not Tyndale be correct? It was the
Church of old Jerusalem that killed God’s prophets, excommunicated the blind
man who spoke for Jesus, and, in concert with secular authorities, had Jesus
himself crucified. And it was a Christian (so-called) Church that would lock up the
word of God for centuries and, in the very name of Christ, excommunicate, revile,
imprison, maim, and kill those who loved it and who desired the life it gives –
including Tyndale, who wrote:
Who slew the prophets? Who slew Christ? Who slew his apostles?
Who the martyrs and all the righteous that ever were slain? The kings
and the temporal sword at the request of the false prophets. They
deserved to do such murder and to have their part with the hypocrites
because they would not be [taught] and see the truth themselves.
Wherefore suffered the prophets? Because they rebuked the hypocrites
who beguiled the world [and] princes and rulers, and who taught them to
put their trust in things of vanity and not in God's word…Wherefore slew
they Christ? Even for rebuking the hypocrites; because he said, Woe be
to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut up the kingdom of
heaven before men (Matthew 23); that is, as it is written (Luke 11), Ye
have taken away the key of knowledge. The law of God, which is the
key by which men bind, and the promises, which are the keys by which
men loose, our hypocrites have also taken away. 28
That Tyndale would so expose ‘false prophets’ and warn about Antichrist working
the mystery of iniquity through a Church may partly explain why his writing and
teaching have been largely lost to Christendom. For where Antichrist is in a
Church, he will not tolerate those who would expose him. And if there is an
unwillingness to acknowledge the possibility of antichristian infiltration, perhaps
nurtured by a mistaken expectation of a future Antichrist, Tyndale's faithful
warning may be dismissed, or even wrongly judged as unfaithful.
Parting Thoughts for the Scattered Sheep
If Antichrist is who the Scriptures say he is, then he must, above all else, be the
enemy of the word of God. And he must, before anything else, set himself
against the spread and teaching of the word and the true Gospel of our Lord and
Saviour, which is the true kingdom of God, so that he can spread and build his
own kingdom. To this end we may well expect him to attempt to confuse us about
his identity, and about where to look for him, and about how to stand guard
against him. He will send us down many trails seeking the scent of a false
Antichrist while he secretly consumes us.
To further his end, Antichrist needs the face of authority. This can in part be
accomplished by distorting our perception of the Church, or by giving its leaders
an improper hold over other men. Many Romish errors have crept into
Evangelical Churches, such as the teaching that believers must be ‘accountable’
to a pastor, which seems to be a twist on the confessional. Or they may exalt a
pastor as our ‘covering.’ Why, then, the Lord? If we believe such things, we will
feel bound to holy Church or to holy pastor in superstition. Submission is offered
not for the sake of guarding love, respect, and order, as scripturally appointed,
and to make the work of our faithful clerics a blessing to them and show our
gratitude, but because antichrists have insinuated themselves into our faith.
Antichrist and his emissaries will seek to get authority over God’s word and then
lock it up. Scholarly accreditation is one way to take authority. We saw this in a
far-reaching way with Westcott and Hort, who used their high position in
academia to great effect to discredit the Received Text.29 I believe this was a
cunning back-door way to discredit the KJV. Once a foothold was gained, once
the door was cracked open, once the KJV was unseated, the process of
distorting God’s word could begin in earnest with new Bibles. When Antichrist
has us in a trusting, undiscerning mindset, distortions and false glosses multiply,
and the word will be progressively shut up. We fail to search the Scriptures
ourselves, but let Antichrist teach. And yea, Antichrist will come happily to teach,
in a thousand disguises, as an angel of light, to enlarge his kingdom. Therefore,
warns Tyndale, be cautious to spy him out.
Tyndale also wrote that Christian leaders should
speak out against false prophets and should
warn the flock about Antichrist. Where Christ is
taught, he said, we must also be taught about
Antichrist. I have at times wondered why good
teachers did not warn the sheep about the false,
and sometimes even endorsed them. Perhaps
there is an understandable reluctance to cast
stones. Perhaps there is a humble unwillingness to be wrong. Still, the sheep
need to be alerted to awake and watch, not be lulled to sleep.
But another error occurs when the learned men of one Church cry “Antichrist!”
against another. They assume somehow that antichrists will only lodge in the
branches of another tree in the kingdom, never theirs. Many of these speak
loudly against the Roman Church. But Antichrist can use this to deflect attention
away from himself in other Churches where, upon objective examination, it may
be seen that there are serious problems. I fear that people who cry “Antichrist!”
against others while failing to judge themselves will be subject to greater
But a thing to remember, for our comfort and edification, is that God has his
purposes in all this, not only in the good times for a Church, but also in the bad.
And the tares and the wheat must grow alongside, and will remain until the end
of the age. For the kingdom of heaven is a net that catches fish both good and
bad. Though the time may come when Antichrist so reigns in a Church that we
are obliged to separate, yet it remains, mysteriously, one of the Lord’s
instruments; and it is a proving ground.
Hope for Faithful Worship
I do not want to end without offering hope. The following comments arise from
my experiences of the traditional Anglican Communion service, and are humbly
offered for consideration to those scattered sheep who are isolated and seeking.
I do not mean to suggest that other godly services are not blessed, nor that some
Anglican traditions are not without difficulties (often due, it appears, to misunderstanding them, especially sacramental and figurative language).
I have found that a most faithful and blessed form of congregational worship is
with the traditional Anglican Book of Common Prayer. This treasure is still used
by certain groups, such as, in my country, the Traditional Anglican Church of
Canada, a small organized Church that is separated from the main Anglican
body, which is now seriously apostate. (My congregation is midway between the
‘high’ and ‘low’ traditions.) The Reformation liturgy of the prayer book centers on
Christ. Meaningful ceremonies express, or as Tyndale would say, “preach”
Christ,30 so that humble worshippers may thereby and by the words of Holy
Scripture behold the Lamb of God, and may receive grace, commune with God,
and be renewed in the faith. The liturgy overflows with riches from the 16th
century restoration of truth, and it is a very real protection against the onslaughts
of Antichrist and the devices of men. It ought not to be discounted.
A little about the Book of Common Prayer, which is the cornerstone of the
Anglican Communion service: It was written by Thomas Cranmer not many years
after Tyndale’s death. I believe God raised him
up to restore the liturgy of the Church. Tyndale
called Cranmer a “holy man.”31 Cranmer and
Tyndale were among the number of young men
called by God to Cambridge in the early 16th
century, students of Scripture who met from time
to time at the now famous tavern, the White
Horse Inn, to discuss “the new learning” of Martin
Luther. Also part of this group and destined to be
part of the English Reformation were Miles
Coverdale and Hugh Latimer. Like so many of
these servants of the Lord, Cranmer was
martyred for his work and his faith, burned alive
by bloody Queen Mary in 1556. His work is thereThe martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer
fore sealed in blood, as was Tyndale's.
Cranmer’s work on the Prayer Book began as a conscious effort to restore the
liturgy of the primitive Church, believed to have been handed down from the
Apostles and refined over the next two centuries as the Church grew. He
removed many corrupt things that had later crept into the Roman liturgy, such as
prayers to saints and consecration of the elements to become the actual body
and blood of Christ. The Prayer Book also contains Psalms from the Scriptures of
Miles Coverdale. (Unfortunately, in the 17th century the Reformation scriptures
were replaced with the KJV translation, slightly more obscure). The BCP exalts
the Lord as head of the Church, and acknowledges the priesthood of believers.
My Church uses at this time the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer, which
incorporates the old hymns that are packed with theology. In the UK and USA the
traditional equivalent is a 1928 Prayer Book. The Communion service in these
versions of the Prayer Book is virtually unaltered from Cranmer’s, and is most
beautifully and humbly written.32 It guides both the ministering priest and the
people, who are actively involved together in bringing praises and petitions
before God. (Avoid the alternative services and prayer books, which distort truth.
It is better to become familiar with the old fashioned “thee’s” and “thou’s” than to
be fed subtle untruths through Antichrist’s latest corruption of liturgy.)
A person accustomed to other Church cultures may need
to humbly set aside certain prejudices, including against
robes, and perhaps bells, as I had to do. But external
things do not matter when the inner man, by means of true
words of faith, is led to fruitful and holy contemplations of
Christ’s Cross. Let us then beware of objections which do
not in reality serve the faith. Indeed, robes
make for anonymity, so that the officiating
priest is no personality of his own to be
reckoned with, but our minds may be taken up by the Lamb of God.
More might be written, but it is enough to say that, properly
administered, the participant should barely be aware of the priest
while he or she is looking to the Lord through Cross-centred liturgy.
This is a very different thing than making talks or sermons our
focus, which involves sitting under men, looking to men, and being fed the minds,
ideas, and concerns of men, which are often far removed from the Cross. Good
sermons are of course of great value. But as many can attest, they are not easy
to find. Furthermore, no sermon is improved simply by the preacher’s ordinary
“raiment.” To make conscience of indifferent things, or worse yet, of things that
actually assist the faith, distracts from what matters. The kingdom of God is a
spiritual one, a kingdom of humble repentance and faith and sweet righteousness
through our Lord Jesus, who was crucified for us and rose again so that we might
have life. Let us then be spiritual. Let us be of that life that was won for us.
As for the bells, their signification or meaning is to draw attention to important
things, especially those things which have to do with the mystery of salvation.
The altar is furnished with candles to represent the light of the New and Old
Testaments, or as some say, the light of Christ. It is placed centrally, signifying
that the offering of Christ our Lamb for our sins is the foremost and central thing.
God honours this, and all godly ceremony, for I have found true what Anglican
John Gregg, Bishop of Cork, wrote:
How beautiful is the theory of our public worship … with praise and
hymn or psalm or spiritual song poured forth in melodious accents [the
priest stands…] to point to Jesus, and to show the road to heaven. The
prayer of faith is heard, the healthful spirit of grace descends, the dew
of blessing falls; minds are solemnized, souls are kindled, and humble
hearts refreshed. The holy table spread, the heavenly feast, the
sacrifice of praise…
Communion is celebrated almost every week in the faithful Eucharistic Church,
for it is important. Greater Christendom has lost the knowledge that by it the
believer is nourished up to godliness through spiritual communion with the living
Christ; by it the faithful partake spiritually of his resurrection life. But Cranmer
knew and appreciated this well. In his Homily on the Sacraments he wrote, as
one who had experienced the grace of divine communion in the Lord’s Supper:
We must be sure we understand that in the Supper of the Lord there is
no vain ceremony. It is not just a bare sign. It is not an empty figure of
something that is absent. As Scripture says, it is the Table of the Lord,
the Bread and Cup of the Lord, the memory of Christ, the Annunciation
of his death, and the Communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in a
marvellous embodiment and realization which, by the operation of the
Holy Ghost, is wrought through faith in the souls of the faithful. By it not
only do their souls live to eternal life, but they trust confidently to gain for
their bodies a resurrection to immortality. (English updated)
But heart and soul must be fitted and prepared to approach the Table of the Lord,
the High King and Mediator of divine grace. In the Prayer Book service this is
well done, and the heart is lifted up through shared confession and supplication:
“O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us”; “We
are not worthy that thou shouldest come under our roof, but speak the word only,
and my soul shall be healed”; “Almighty and ever living God, we most heartily
thank thee that thou dost graciously feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the
spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our saviour Jesus
Christ.” This is worshipping in spirit and truth. This is the real language of the
faith and a blessed way to commune with God. Cranmer’s work endures – may I
say the Lord has preserved it? – because it is a treasure for the faithful.
There is also protection in the liturgy. The priest may be an
unbeliever, but he is bound in the service to follow the
Prayer Book. Therefore he is prevented from distorting or
withholding truth, and the congregation still receives God’s
holy word. The unworthiness of an officiating priest does not
protection in the
affect the grace that flows to faithful hearts in this sweetest of public worship. For
the gospel is still given: the congregation beholds the Lamb of God through the
liturgy and ceremonies, the believer may worship in truth, the unbeliever may be
saved, the kingdom of God is preached, and the Lord’s Supper is celebrated with
reverence. We know that God does not reside in temples made with hands. But
he has ordained public praise, and has put within us a desire to join in corporate
worship. Therefore we are grateful to be able to worship him in the temple of our
hearts in the midst of the congregation, and are grateful to the men and women
who make it possible for us to do so. (Yet we do not forget to beware of men: to
be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.)
Little extempore teaching should take place. That would defeat the purpose of
the liturgy. The brief sermon is admittedly a time of risk, ten minutes or so, which
calls for discernment and discretion. I have heard some good ones, but also
some not. If we hear another gospel, we must judge accordingly. Unfortunately in
my view, Cranmer’s pre-written sermons, called homilies, are not now usually
read to modern congregations, despite the requirement of the Prayer Book; these
offer protection at sermon time, and also valuable teaching, though they
admittedly need some updating. In any event, traditional services are a time of
common prayer, praise, and Communion looking to God through the Prayer
Book, which largely avoids the problem of sermon-based services that hang on
the person and faith of the preacher. And again, as the Prayer Book says:
XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect
of the Sacrament: Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled
with the good, and sometimes the evil [has] chief authority in the
Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not
do the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his
commission and authority, we may use their Ministry… Neither is the
effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the
grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do
receive the sacraments…which be effectual because of Christ’s
institution and promise…Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of
the Church that inquiry be made…etc.
Thus in traditional liturgical services, provided they are properly offered and the
truth is not otherwise suppressed or distorted, Antichrist cannot silence the
praise, the prayer, the creed, the gospel, the words of truth, or the observance of
the Lord’s Supper, which lift and join the human spirit with the Spirit of God by
the means of Jesus Christ, and by which we are nourished and fed spiritually,
and are conformed to the likeness of Christ.
Freedom of conscience in non-essentials should be permitted according to the
spirit of true Anglicanism. And accordingly we, as members of the congregation,
submit to the governance of a faithful Church for the sake of the greater good.
Where I disagree or think I perceive error (and this includes even error about the
identity of Antichrist), I will not strive or stand in my own opinions. Though I am
ready to give an answer regarding those few matters I believe I understand well, I
know that God will reveal, or as Tyndale would say “open”, to his servants that
which they need to know and understand in his own good time, and may or may
not choose to use me or my work. For “the servant of the Lord must not strive,
but must be peaceable unto all men” (2Timothy 2:24). Furthermore, I recognize
my own ignorance, and that I myself do err, and I have much to learn.
An example of where judgment ought to be suspended is the infant baptismal
service. Tyndale and Cranmer did not fully agree on this matter, and both
disagreed with the Baptists (believer-only baptism). I am not saying the issue is
not important. One can search it out in the Anglican writers: Thomas Becon, for
example, explains in his Catechism that the sacramental language is not
intended to deny salvation by faith, which was of course a major tenet of the
Reformation. But we must recognize that most of us do not and never will have
the learning and depth of understanding that Cranmer had. Further, it is
impossible for everyone to agree in everything; twenty centuries of unrest since
Christ walked this earth should convince us of this. Yet again, there are certain
deep mysteries involved: we need to approach in reverent caution. Therefore if a
person has concerns, I urge that it is no reason to separate – not if Christ still
maintains his candlestick. So we put aside our differences and work out our
salvation with fear and trembling, seizing what we can, and seeking Christ and all
the benefits of communion with him at his Table.
In any case, let the sheep judge truly, and look always to the chief and true
shepherd who has promised ever to be with us (Matthew 28:20), and by his Spirit
to guide us into truth (John 16:13), and has warned us against hirelings (John
10:13), and given us his Word as the arbiter of all things. When Antichrist reigns
supreme, when truth is suppressed, the sacraments ignored or obscured, and
lies taught, then the faithful must separate so as not to share in his guilt or his
deeds, nor in the plagues which the Lord may visit upon him and those who take
his mark.33 And if there is no place where one can publicly worship in truth, it is a
loss to be sure, but the Lord can keep his own. His arm is strong beyond our
understanding. Nothing can snatch us from his hand. Only seek him daily and
offer body and soul to him in obedience to his word. Or a small group could have
their own home services, using the prayer book. Also, a Church home might be
found among orthodox Lutherans who worship with more modern liturgy.
Tyndale understood where we must spy out Antichrist: he was slain by a Church
that called itself ‘holy’. But what a hard teaching it is, the mystery of iniquity
worked by Antichrist through a professing Christian Church. True, most of us in
the West no longer suffer the vicious inquisitions and tribulations that Tyndale
and so many others did. But seasons of relative peace ought not to blind us to
the warnings and proofs of history and of the Scriptures. The beast does not
always show himself a wolf, but may speak like a lamb. We must watch and
awake, as the Scriptures do exhort us, so that we may remain among the faithful.
Original-spelling Versions of 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-9
For the scholars and Bereans who wish to see the original versions, they are
copied below as reproduced in the Hexapla, except I use a comma instead of the
virgule suspensive (slash) of the older versions. The Hexapla did not employ the
“tall ‘s’” used in early Modern English, and neither do I. Inconsistencies in spelling
are original, as is inconsistency in capitalizing ‘God’.
The 1841 Hexapla is a 6-version parallel New Testament containing the
Scriptures of Wycliffe 1380, Tyndale 1534, Cranmer 1539, the Geneva 1557,
Rheims 1582 and KJV 1611. Facsimile copies are available, for example at
Tyndale - 1534
Let no man deceave you by eny meanes, for the lorde commeth not, excepte
ther come a departynge first, and that that synfull man be opened, the sonne of
perdicion which is an adversarie, and is exalted above all that is called god, or
that is worshipped: so that he shall sitt as God in temple of god, and shew him
silfe as god.
Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I tolde you these thynges? And
nowe ye knowe what with holdeth: even that he myght be vttered at his tyme. For
the mistery of that iniquitie doeth he all readie worke which onlie loketh, vntill it be
taken out of the waye. And then shall that wicked by vttered, whom the lord shall
consume with the sprete of hys mouth, and shall destroye with the apearaunce of
his commynge, even him whose comminge is by the workynge of Satan, with all
lyinge power, signes and wonders….
Authorized – 1611
Let no man deceiue you by any meanes, for that day shall not come, except
there come a falling away first, and that man of sinne bee reuealed, the sonne of
perdition, Who opposeth and exalteth himself aboue all that is called God, or that
is worshipped: so that hee as God, sitteth in the Temple of God, shewing
himselfe that he is God. Remember yee not, that when I was yet with you, I tolde
you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be reuealed
in his time. For the mysterie of iniquitie doth already worke: onely he who now
letteth, will let, vntill he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked bee
reuealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall
destroy with the brightnesse of his coming: Even him whose coming is after the
working of Satan, with all power and signes, and lying wonders…
Scripture quotations, and all quotations from 16th century writings, may be minimally updated for clarity’s
sake. Readers may purchase facsimile copies of the 1537 edition of the Matthew Bible from Hendrickson
publishers. Also, Professor David Daniell has produced modern spelling editions of Tyndale’s 1534 New
Testament, and also his Old Testament scriptures, published by Yale University Press.
Denominationalism, a post-Reformation phenomenon, has brought with it its own evils, and many socalled Protestant Churches have fallen into their own abuses and heresies. Furthermore, the Roman Church
has corrected some of its problems. For example, English scriptures are now read in Roman Catholic
Churches – indeed, more so than in many Protestant ones, and at services which can be more Christcentered. This is not to condone the serious problems that persist, and which are everywhere after all, but is
to speak realistically.
Not only the Roman Catholic, but Reformed, Puritan, and other groups were, then or later, guilty of
persecutions, including imprisonments, torturing and maiming (e.g. cutting out tongues), banishments,
inquisitions, drowning, lashing, and burning alive. Popular histories that touch on some of the atrocities: by
Brian Moynahan, God’s Bestseller (a biography of Tyndale and Sir Thomas More); by Roland Bainton,
Here I Stand (a biography of Martin Luther). More scholarly works include John Foxe’s Acts and
Monuments of the Christian Church: facsimile copies are available through greatsite.com; and (anonymous
book) A Short History of the Inquisition (Kessinger Legacy Reprints: also covers persecutions in the U.S.).
Look also for histories of the Waldenses, Albingenses, Hussites, and Lollards.
Major Bibles after 1537 were essentially revisions of the Matthew Bible, which included Tyndale’s New
Testament and Pentateuch. As to the extent of the KJV’s reliance upon Tyndale, Professor David Daniell
explains in The Bible in English (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2003), at page 448, “A
computer-based American study published in 1998 has shown just how much Tyndale is in the KJV New
Testament. New Testament scholars Jon Nielson and Royal Skousen observed that previous estimates of
Tyndale's contribution to the KJV ‘have run from a high of up to 90% (Westcott) to a low of 18%
(Butterworth)’. By a statistically accurate and appropriate method of sampling, based on eighteen portions
of the Bible, they concluded that for the New Testament Tyndale's contribution is about 83% of the text,
and in the Old Testament 76%”. Tyndale’s translations (as much as he could complete before being taken
and executed), were taken into the Great Bible, and from there into others.
Tyndale, William, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (Parker Society edition, ed. Henry Walter,
1850) (hereafter “Answer”), p. 96. Minimally modernized, eg. ‘revealed’ for ‘opened’. I will also
minimally update language and grammar in other quotations throughout this essay, for clarity’s sake.
Tyndale, William, The Practice of Prelates (Parker Society edition, ed. Henry Walter, 1849, from
Expositions and Notes on Sundry Portions of The Holy Scriptures Together With The Practice of Prelates,
Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004) (hereafter Practice or Practice & Sundry), p. 281.
As to Martin Luther, he would not have abolished the office of pope, but only reform it and fill it with
faithful men. It was what the man in the office did with it that mattered, and what became of the kingdom
he headed. During such time as it was an antichristian kingdom, it was the kingdom of Antichrist. Luther
wrote, “Unless [the pope and his papists] will abolish their laws and ordinances, and restore to Christ’s
churches their liberty and have it taught among them, they are guilty of all the souls that perish under this
miserable captivity, and the papacy is truly the kingdom of Babylon and of very Antichrist. For who is “the
man of sin” and “the son of perdition” [2 Thess 2:3] but he who with his doctrines and his laws increases
the sins and perdition of souls in the church, while sitting in the church as if he were God? [2 Thess 2:4].
All this the papal tyranny has fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, these many centuries. It has extinguished
faith, obscured the sacraments, and oppressed the gospel; but its own laws, which are not only impious and
sacrilegious, but even barbarous and foolish, it has decreed and multiplied without end.” (Martin Luther,
“The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” contained in Selected Writings of Martin Luther, Volume 1,
Editor Theodore G. Tappert [Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2007] p 424.)
For example, by the sale of indulgences the Church was claiming power to grant (rather, sell) forgiveness:
something only God can do. Having put itself in God’s place, it is an idol to those who grant it this power.
Answer, p 105.
See Answer, p 40. Tyndale further says in Practice, “When the holy father had forbode priests their
wives, the bishops permitted them whores of their own, for a yearly tribute; and do still yet in all lands save
in England, where they may not have any other save men’s wives only.” (Page 295)
Answer, p 41.
Daniell, David, Tyndale’s New Testament, Yale University Press (New Haven and London 1995), W.T.
Unto the Reader, p.4.
See the lightly modernized article of ‘Pathway to the Scripture’ posted at www.truetohisways.com,
linked from the “Articles” page. The original version is also posted there.
Moynahan, Brian, God’s Bestseller (St. Martin’s Press, New York 2002), p 104.
One recent exception is The Message, a ‘translation’ of Eugene Peterson, where the man of sin becomes
‘the Anarchist’. Now Paul’s warning is completely obscured.
I refer to Tyndale’s 1534 translation and not his 1535 revision. He was not consistent in his rendering of
2 Thess. 2:7. In 1526 he had, “For already the mystery of iniquity worketh. Only he that holdeth, let him
now hold, until it be taken out of the way”. We see considerable changes in 1534. Then in 1535, Tyndale
published two more New Testament revisions. In the final one (see Wiegle’s Octapla) he changed verse 7
to “For the mystery of the iniquity doeth already work: till he which now only letteth, be taken out of the
way.” This is the rendering that Rogers then used in the Matthew Bible. But it has the same ambiguity as
the KJV. For this reason, we will restore Tyndale's 1534 rendering in the New Matthew Bible, since it
cannot perpetuate the doctrine Tyndale himself warned against. Note, I was originally misled into thinking
that Tyndale’s 1534 translation was incorporated in the Matthew Bible (and so stated in an earlier version
of this essay) by 2 things: (1) in Tindale’s Triumph, John Rogers’ Monument: The New Testament of the
Matthew’s Bible 1537 A.D., editor John W. Sawyer, incorrectly gave the 1534 translation as the base of the
Matthew Bible, and (2) Daye’s pirated Matthew Bible, which I at first referred to, also used the 1534 text.
Tyndale, Parable of the Wicked Mammon (Benedicton Classics facsimile reprint, 2008) p 5.
Ibid, pp 4-5.
(Mason, Arthur James, Thomas Cranmer, facsimile of 1898 edition, original publication details not
provided) at pp 156-157.
Practice & Sundry, p 91.
Tyndale appended to his 1534 New Testament ambitious readings for no less than 189 days in the year,
including the seasons of Advent, Christmas (three masses on Christmas night), Lent, Easter, and Trinity,
and readings for many other days, including the Rogation or cross days, Ascension day, Whitsun, the
Ember days, and Corpus Christi day. He also honoured many departed saints with special readings on their
days, and had readings for The Conception of Our Lady and the Dedication of the Church. He specially
translated texts from the Old Testament for public reading on days such as Ash Wednesday, Saint John the
evangelist’s day, etc. His heart would break to see how these celebrations have been cast off by greater
Christendom. How wonderful it would be to live with holy things remembered, and thanks given to God,
so much of the year. But an unthankful populace has now been deprived of that privilege.
Practice & Sundry, p 91. Denied, however, in The Obedience at p. 110.
Ibid, p 90 and 91. Our own works and charitable deeds may be sacraments in a weak sense, though they
do not save us.
Ibid, p 91.
See both Strong and Thayer.
Tyndale, William, The Obedience of a Christian Man (Penguin Books, 2000, herein “The Obedience”),
Westcott and Hort used academic standing to discredit the Received Text, which was a compilation of
Greek manuscripts prepared by Erasmus in the early 16th century. Tyndale, Martin Luther, and others, used
it to translate the New Testament, as did the KJV. Westcott, in his History of the English Bible (2nd ed.,
MacMillan and Co., 1872), alleged that the Received Text was “corrupt” and “far from correct” (eg p 134
but he gave no examples). Since almost no one alive has funds, time, expertise, or opportunity to study and
compare ancient manuscripts in order to judge what Westcott and Hort say, their darts seem unassailable.
We cannot go to the source to see if what they say is true. So if we believe them, we do so on faith – and
this despite their evidently unfaithful doctrine, which can and ought to be judged from their writings. As for
me, my faith is in the text that God gave to His servants and martyrs in the 16th century. I accept the view
that the Received Text was not discredited for any real fault, but to create a demand for new Bibles.
One example of statements from Tyndale approving of the “preaching” of Christ that can come by good
ceremonies: “Ceremonies are not a service to God, but a service to man, to put him in mind of the
covenant, and to stir up faith and love, which are God’s spiritual sacrifices, in man’s heart.” See A Brief
Declaration of the Sacraments in Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy
Scriptures, (Parker Society, ed. Henry Walter, 1848), Kessinger edition, p. 352. Regarding Holy
Communion, for which the early Church developed reverent ceremony and liturgy, Tyndale wrote that if
these “preach” Christ, they are as valuable as preaching by word of mouth: “…our sacraments (if they be
truly ministered) preach Christ unto us and lead our faiths unto Christ, by which faith our sins are done
away, and not by the deed or work of the sacrament…Nevertheless the sacraments cleanse us and absolve
us of our sins, as the priests do in preaching of repentance and faith, for which cause either other of them
were ordained.” (Contained in Tyndale's Prologue to Leviticus.)
Practice, p 309.
Unfortunately, some of the best content of the rest of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer has been
exorcised over time, such as the Commination service. The trend is ever toward the suppression of truth.
But the Lord has saved this much….
The beast, especially his Antichristian Church, destroys souls through false teaching, and through false
traditions: things which suppress the true Gospel. He destroys bodies through persecutions. The beast takes
the saints captive in these ways, and also by obtaining their allegiance and obedience. To take the mark of
the beast in one’s forehead is to worship the beast or accept his false teaching. To take his mark in one’s
hand is to serve him. Augustine puts it this way: the mark in our forehead is our profession, and the mark in
our hands is our deeds. Thus to join or be ordained un-christianly into a Church, presumably for false or
evil reasons, is to take the mark of the beast. (Tyndale could not have meant joining sincerely: he himself
was at first ordained a priest.) Tyndale described how someone who wanted to avoid family or civic
responsibility need only take the mark of the beast. He meant that they could avoid their duty by joining the
then dominant Church in certain capacities: “If any man does not want to obey father or mother, or lord or
master, or king or prince, he needs but only to take the mark of the beast, that is, to shave himself a monk, a
friar or a priest, and is then immediately free and exempted from all service and obedience due to man.” (p
36. The Obedience. See also pages 89 and 99.)
Of course, Antichrist also acts through secular powers and through other false religions. Martin Luther
and St. Augustine both viewed the Turks, violent and rampaging Muslims, as a main and chief antichristian
threat, and even as God’s scourge. However, it has been said that Satan desires his chief seat to be in
Christendom, because there he can deceive and destroy from within, taking not only bodies, but also souls
with him. Augustine observes that within the fold Antichrist’s doctrine and deeds are most deceptive. No
one can mistake the persecutions of Islam as Christian, but they have often mistaken the deeds of a
persecuting so-called church. But perhaps even more deceptive are the deeds of an apparently benign,
“loving,” and welcoming Church that teaches unbiblical doctrine and gives false hope. This can be seen in
many places in Christendom today.
© Ruth Magnusson Davis, November 2009. Revised (again) August 2013, March 2014.
R M Davis is founder and editor of the New Matthew Bible Project. More information is
at www.newmatthewbible.org .
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