Something started in the first century church that was hardly recognizable, but slowly over the centuries it manifested itself, although something was holding back a full revelation of this mystery at the time of Paul’s writing.
Paul wrote of it to the Thessalonian Church,
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
If you observe history, you will see that when the Roman Empire collapsed, something else grew up in its stead, and that thing still exists, and according to our text will continue until the return of Jesus Christ.