What withholdeth.--Rather, that which withholdeth: they did not merely know it as a dogma, but as a familiar object. "You are perfectly acquainted with the thing which acts as a check upon the Man of Sin." Unlike the Man of Sin himself, who was a dim figure in the mysterious future, the Obstacle was present and tangible. They may have forgotten what the thing is, but St. Paul stirs their memory by telling them that they well know the thing itself. It must needs be a marked and mighty power which can prevent the development of the great Antichrist. At the same time, St. Paul's doctrine is that this marked power is destined by-and-by to be removed (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Possibly, then, St. Paul may shrink from naming it in writing, not only because he wishes to exercise the Thessalonians' memories, but also for fear the power should discover and disapprove of his prophecies. For the question what the withholding power is, see the Excursus on the Interpretation of the Prophecy.
That he might . . . in his time.--Or, with a view to his being revealed at his proper moment. Not that the withholding power is conscious of such desire, but God's design is to use that power for the purpose.
that he might be revealed in his time. The Ethiopic version renders it, "until his time appointed came": wherefore till the time that God had fixed for the appearance of this monster of iniquity, this son of perdition, the Roman empire must continue, and Roman emperors must keep their place and dignity to prevent his appearance sooner: the reason why the apostle expresses this not in plain words, but in an obscure manner, and with so much caution, was, that he might not offend the Roman emperors, and provoke them to a severe persecution of them as seditious persons, that sought the destruction of the empire: the word here used, which is rendered "withholdeth", or "letteth", as in the next verse, signifies a ruler or governor, and answers to the Hebrew word "to keep back, or restrain"; and which is used of kings, who by their laws and government restrain and withhold people from doing what they would; see 1 Samuel 9:17 to which the apostle, who well understood the Hebrew language, doubtless had reference; so , is rendered, "a magistrate", in Judges 18:7.