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THE HAND OF RESTRAINT

By Tim A. Blankenship


There is debate as to who "the restrainer" is referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. It usually comes down to three ideas as to who or what it is. The Church, the Holy Spirit or the Angel, Michael. There are good arguments for all three that I have read. I simply don't know exactly who it is at this time. I'll find out in due course ... Keygar!


2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 

The Day of the LORD is coming. That is a promise and warning of Scripture. It is a day of darkness not of light. It is a time of judgment. For the Christian there is also promise of deliverance from it. Chapter two will give assurance of deliverance from this day of destruction; and tells us not to be troubled by the trials which will come our way, and that we will go through.

Just how are we to know when the “Great Tribulation” or “The time of Jacob’s trouble” begins? There are some distinguishing signs which show us. There are some who teach that the Church will go through the Tribulation. If so, why did Paul write verses one and two of this chapter? There were teachers [false teachers] teaching that the Church would go through this time of trouble, even then, and were even saying they were already in it. Not only was their teaching bad enough, but they were signing (forging) Paul’s name to the letters, and accusing Paul of writing them.

In this chapter Paul tells how we can know, and if the lost would pay attention, even how they can recognize the ‘Day of the LORD’. There must be something that sets the time of the beginning of the ‘time of sorrow’. Paul says there will first of all be a great apostasy [falling away or departure]. This will happen among many who profess Christ as Saviour, but have only joined a club ['church membership']. There has never been any relationship with Christ, no joy of salvation, no hope for life, and no exciting expectation of the return of Jesus Christ. Most who do not know Christ are not longing for His return, but rather fear it.

There is not much need for the Church to know; when the Day of the LORD comes; because the day Jesus calls out from the clouds, “Come up here” is the day the Church goes to be with the Lord, and the time of desolation begins. When you truly know the Lord Jesus you need not fear the ‘Day of the LORD’.

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 2 Thess 2:1-2 (KJV).
There will be a gathering of the Church. It is stated quite clearly in verse one, “…By our gathering together unto Him…”

The church was clearly troubled. They had been troubled by false teachers and false letters from those teachers, by forging Paul’s name. In doing so they were confusing the Thessalonican church and hoping to gain some thing for themselves. These teachers and letters were telling people that the ‘day of the LORD’ had already come, and they were living in it. As mentioned in the introduction that same teaching is going on today (2006), and leading many sincere Christians astray from the truth. Yes! You read me right, “Astray from the truth”. The day of the Lord has not come. The Revelation of Jesus Christ has not been fulfilled. There is much of the prophecies of the Old Testament and of the Revelation yet unfulfilled. The rapture has not occurred, Jesus has not returned as He promised, we are not living in the Millennial reign of Christ (Isn’t that a relief to know), nor has the wicked been judged; nor the righteous received their crowns.

The false message contradicted what Paul was teaching. Paul’s clear teaching, and the Bible’s teaching is that the ‘Day of the LORD’ is a time of great trouble, sorrow on earth. The day is marked by sudden disappearance of a certain group of people - namely the Church. those fundamental, Bible believing, Jesus worshipping, “Blessed Hope” watching, born again people will be taken out of the way in order for lawlessness to have its way.

The words, “…day of Christ is at hand…” in verse two is literally the “Day of the LORD”.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2 Thess 2:3-4 (KJV).
This letter was written in part to warn the church, that there are deceivers. Deceivers have a way of robbing people of their hope, joy and peace. Do not let anyone deceive you.

The ‘Day of the LORD’ is not the rapture of the Church. “The day of the LORD” will not begin until after the ‘rapture’, or ‘catching away of the Church’; the falling away [apostasy]; and the revealing of the ‘man of sin’ (though many will not recognize him as the man of sin because of his deceiving power).

The apostasy is a rebellion against all that is godly. It will even involve professing christians who do not know Jesus. They see Him as any other religious leader. This christianity to them is only a religion of choice just like the others. It is, in fact, a personal relationship which one is called into - chosen by God; the living God, and it is the only way to eternal life in heaven.

There are some prophecy teachers who see this word “apostasia” a little differently in this text. It can also mean - a departure - thus it could possibly mean the rapture of the Church where many depart from the earth. I have to admit it would fit in the text. And if this is true, then, it is definitely clear that there will come a rapture in the order that is listed here. I myself, do not need this verse to prove the point. I will stick with my afore mentioned assessment until I am shown to be wrong. It just seems that the word ‘apostasia’ would imply a departure from the good and holy, and righteous and just.

The apostasy is in effect a militant uprising against all that is pure and against God, Jesus and the Church. There is, even today, an attempt to silence the Church, and the Word of God.

There is also, ‘the man of sin’, also called the ’son of perdition’ who will be revealed, probably very near either side of the Rapture. Jesus mentions the ’son of perdition’ in John 17:12. He was in the person of Judas Iscariot the betrayer. This man who will come on the scene will exalt himself, call himself God, and will sit in the temple of God - this will be in Jerusalem. This man will be revealed just before ‘the day of the LORD’. His introduction will be as a man of peace and seeming ability to end world economic, religious, and environmental problems (See Revelation 6:1-2). he will be a world ruler.

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 2 Thess 2:5 (KJV).
These were things Paul had spoken to them about when he was with them. This is only a gentle nudge to call to remembrance what they had heard.

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 2 Thess 2:6-7 (KJV).
These two verses seem to be much clearer on ‘a taking away’ or ‘a departure’. It is not yet time for the ’son of perdition’ to be revealed. Really, only God knows when that time is. When God removes the restraints, then, and only then, can this deceiver who is also called ‘Antichrist’ have a free hand.

That raises a question. Who or what is the restraint? Whoever or whatever it is must be the greatest power of all the universe. He is like the wind - unseen, but you can hear Him at work; you can feel Him touch the cheeks of your soul; you hear His still, small, sweet voice; and you can see His effects upon the lives of people. It is a person who is restraining. Yes, it is the person of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. He lives, abides in the Church.

There is already, has been since the garden of Eden; the working of iniquity. When the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is gone iniquity will have a free hand for awhile. The Holy Spirit is present and powerful in the Church. If Jesus said, “I will not leave you Comfortless” (John 14:1 He will not leave the Church on earth. The restraining of the Holy Spirit will continue until the Church is stolen away, “as a thief in the night”.

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: 2 Thess 2:8 (KJV).
After the removal of the Spirit the ’son of perdition’ the ‘antichrist’ who is the devil incarnate (counterfeiting what Jesus did) will be revealed.

Notice, though Paul’s encouraging words, “Whom the Lord will consume…” (See Revelation 1:16; 19:11-21). This, of course, will take place after he deceives the world.

Out of the Lord’s mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword. The two-edged sword is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). The “Breath of His mouth” referring to the work of the Spirit of the Word - which is the Holy Spirit. The glory of the lord is His brightness at His coming.

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 2 Thess 2:9-10 (KJV).
The ’son of perdition’ will come in the power of satan. He will use signs, and miracles to deceive the nations (Revelation 13:13-14). These miracles will deceive only those who are perishing. These are people sho will have heard the gospel, but had/have no use for God. They are people who are independent of God and depend solely on self.

The time of deception seems ripe as fruit ready to pick. There are even professing christians who cry out for a sign, or may not be will not make a cognitive decision unless they have some “sign” or something happen to convince them it is right to do. We have the Scriptures. We who live by faith in Christ need nothing else. Jesus Himself said signs are the seeking of a wicked generation (Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:12; Luke 11:29). Notice that Jesus mentions this twice in the gospel of Matthew. That is how the antichrist will deceive the world. If our heart/emotions, head, and feet are not established upon the truths of the Word of God, we too can be deceived.

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess 2:11-12 (KJV).
This seems - in its context - to apply to those who have rejected ‘the truth’ after receiving the required mark (See Revelation 13 and vv. 16-18 in particular). Only those receiving the mark, ie. rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour will receive the ’strong delusion’ sent by God; believing ‘the Lie’.

Because they refuse to love the truth; God will cause them to believe the Lie. When someone hears the message of the gospel, and rejects it one time his heart grows a little harder toward it. Each time he hears and rejects the chances of her/his being saved grows weaker.

God can, at any point in the Christ rejecter’s life, harden the heart. When God hardens the heart it is late, very late for saving grace, and very near to judgment. Do not harden your heart. Believe and receive Jesus before it is too late.

These are also those who, ‘had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (See Romans 1:18-32). They worshipped and served the creature [self], rather than the Creator.

But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess 2:13-14 (KJV).

It is done by the gospel, and for the purpose of ascribing to the Lord the glory due unto Him.

These messages to the Thessalonicans are as much a part of the gospel, as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Receive, and believe the whole gospel or perish.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. 2 Thess 2:15-17 (KJV).
“Stand fast”, or do not be shaken from - do not be moved from your stand of faith.
“Hold the traditions” is not speaking of religious man made ideas, but the truths of God’s Word. Paul is here saying, pass on what I have written to you, as being from God - it is Scripture. Pass it on from your generation to the next.

Man made tradition, most often, goes against Scripture, and we are to shun those that do. Many times though, we want to hold to these and forsake the Scriptural tradition. God forbid.

There is comfort in heeding the word of God. We find comfort in His grace, knowing in Him we have everlasting life.

Our lives are to be established in good words and works; established in God and His grace.

Are your works done to glorify Jesus, and to reflect His image to a lost world? Does the lost world look at you and see comfort and peace, or fear and torment?

The ‘day of the Lord’ is not for the believer, but the unbelieving. In this is comfort.


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The Restrainer (... take 2)

By Don Koenig

 

One of the great controversial mysteries of Bible prophecy is the identity of the restrainer of 2Th 2:7. This issue came up in a recent post and I took the standard view given by most dispensational Bible prophecy teachers that the restrainer mentioned in 2Th 2:7 is the Holy Spirit within the Church. Since then I decided to do a more in-depth study on this passage and to try to think things through logically.

First let me give the passage in question in it’s context. I am using the American Standard version because I think verse 7 there is a bit more true to the Greek than the King James and it certainly is clearer. The key points for this post I have in bold.

2 Th 2:3 let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be,except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4 he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6 And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season.7 For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9 even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 0 and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

One thing that was confirmed from doing this study is how people throughout church history love to interpret Bible prophecy through their own contemporary times.

All the very early Church writers that I read thought that that the restrainer was the Roman Government. They thought that when the restraining Roman government was under the complete control of Nero that Nero would fulfill the role as the Son of Perdition. Even after Nero was dead and gone some expected him to rise from the dead and fulfill the Antichrist role. Some still do.

Later on many in the Church believed that the Roman Papacy system was the Antichrist and the restrainer was civil government. When the Catholic Church gained increasing control and headed the Holy Roman Empire they saw this as some progressive fulfillment of this passage. For them there was no longer any restrainer. The Antichrist (papacy) was ruling. Some in the Church still see it that way.

The idea that the restrainer was the Church or the Holy Spirit within the Church is relevantly recent in Church history. Darby, the father of dispensationalism takes this position. Darby’s view on this passage was that when the Holy Spirit indwelt Church left in the Rapture that the restraining influence would have been removed from the earth and the Lawless One would come. That is still the prevalent position among most dispensationalists and that was my view until I did this study.

Obviously in hindsight, the one that hindered was not government. That really makes little sense now. It did not even make sense back then because Satan has control over world kingdoms so why would Satan hinder what he controlled? That view failed to be realized anyway, in both the days of the early Church, or in the era of the Holy Roman Empire and Protestant reformation.

In the days when the Roman Catholic Church led most of the world, any literal interpretation of chapter two could not be fulfilled literally, so most thought the Roman church was progressively fulling this passage. Some still feel that way but allegorical interpretations are pretty dishonest to the detail in the text. There is reason to believe that the Roman Church becomes the Harlot of Revelation chapter 17 and not an Antichrist system. If the text is taken honestly in any literal sense, the Man of Sin is not some long drawn out system of religion. So we will put that idea to bed.

The position of some others in the Church was that the Holy Spirit was the restrainer. That does not make sense either. The Holy Spirit cannot be removed from the earth; for if the Holy Spirit was removed no one could be saved and scripture clearly says that huge numbers of people will be saved in the Great Tribulation.

So we are pretty much left with the position that the Spirit indwelt Church will be removed before the Antichrist can be revealed and another position that I will get into later.

The restrainer being the Spirit indwelt Church sounds good but it seems to fail the logic test among other things to me. If Paul was talking about the Church, why would Paul call the Church a “he” when the Church is always feminine, being the bride of Christ?

The people Paul was talking to were worried that they were already in the Day of the Lord. This teaching from Paul was clearly telling them that they were not, and that they should know better, because he had already taught them the sequence. Paul wondered how they could be so gullible to think that they were already in the Day of the Lord when the Rapture had not even happened and the man of sin had not entered the Temple claiming to be God.

Paul told them that the apostasy had to happen first and then the restrainer had to be taken out of the way before the Day of the Lord could come. Only then could the Son of Perdition be revealed with all lying signs and wonders from Satan. And that is why Paul was admonishing them saying, “I told you these things and you know what restraineth“.

Obviously then, it was not the Church that restrained the Antichrist because the Church was still around. If they believed the Church was the restrainer they had nothing to worry about because they could just continue with their restraining. So the restrainer was not them. It was someone that Paul had already told them about.

There simply is no reason why Paul would not have told them that they were the restrainers if that was actually true. After all, these people were thinking that they were already in the Day of the Lord. Therefore, they could not have thought or been taught by Paul that the Spirit indwelt Church was the restrainer.

Paul also makes it clear that the spirit of Antichrist was already on the earth. The early Church certainly did not have the power on earth to hinder Satan much, it was the other way around. Throughout history we see the spirit of Antichrist has been persecuting those in Christ. Therefore, The Church certainly is not the force preventing the lawless One or Son of Perdition from coming to power in Israel.

As a side point, if the Church were the only thing preventing the Son of Perdition, and the Rapture is seven years prior to the second coming, like many dispensationalists like to believe, then why does it take 42 months or more after the Rapture for the Son of Perdition to even enter the Temple? Contrary to what some people teach, the Son of Perdition will only be ruling on earth for the last 42 months. Sure, he also is the Prince mentioned in Daniel, that confirms but breaks the seven-year covenant with the many in the midst of those seven years. However, he does not become the Antichrist or have all the powers of Satan until after Satan is cast out of Heaven. That is when Satan incarnates this man and it is only for those last 42 months.

So if the Holy Spirit in the Church is not the restrainer than who is? There really is only one other possibility. The passage says the restrainer is a “he” and the restrainer has to be a powerful enough being on earth to hinder Satan and prevent the Lawless One from rising to power in the region. Who do we see in other Bible passages as restrainers? The answer is simple, only angels are mentioned, and angels are always mentioned as masculine – “He”.

The only restrainer of Satan mentioned in the scriptures is Michael the Archangel and he does not do it in his own power he restrains in the name of the Lord. It was Michael that opposed Satan over the body of Moses and it was Michael that was sent by God to aid the angel being hindered that God sent to answer Daniel’s prayer. That angel was being restrained by the angel over Persia for three weeks. So from these passage and others it becomes clear that there are angelic powers over world empires and leaders and nobody is going to come to power in the land of Israel if the angel of Israel (Michael) prevents them.

Then the logical question is, why is Michael removed so the Lawless One can be revealed? Michael just does what God tells him, but in this case we can ascertain the answer from the Bible. Revelation tells us that there was (will be) war in heaven and Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon and his angels and Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven unto the earth (Rev 12:7). Michael is not omnipresence he must have been told by God to go into the heavens to cast Satan out of the heavens unto the earth.

After Satan is cast unto the earth he immediately seeks to destroy God’s people on earth through this Son of Perdition (Antichrist). It is God’s will that Satan will be allowed to have free reign on the earth for 42 months to deceive all those that did not love the truth. The Lord Himself will destroy the Antichrist with the brightness of His coming and Satan will be bound for a thousand years.

I know many of you that hold the traditional dispensational view will read this view that Michael is the restrainer and you might disagree. Fine, but don’t just tell me you think the restrainer is the Holy Spirit indwelt church. I already know what many of you think. I am trying to teach what I think is most logical from the scriptures.

 

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