II Thessalonians 2:6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 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. ESV
In an obscure passage on what will unfold when the antichrist appears, there is mention of a restrainer which has caused speculation on the part of many Christians. Who is this restrainer that is restraining lawlessness? How will this unfold just before the antichrist appears here on earth? The key is the entire language that Paul uses in II Thess. 2, not just one word taken out of context. II Thess. 1 tells us that the church endures persecution/tribulation until the glorious coming of Christ. At that time there is vengeance against all who persecuted the church previous to this glorious coming
II Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him… 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.
Moving into chapter 2, Paul states concerning the glorious coming just mentioned, and the gathering of the church to be with the LORD (previously mentioned in I Thess. 4-5 in conjunction with the Day of the LORD), that these events will not occur until certain events occur before them. Paul names two events, the apostasy and the revealing of the man of sin. The revealing of the man of sin is further explained to be the specific revealing which occurs in conjunction with the abomination of desolation (he sits in the temple proclaiming himself to be God.) Yet even before this can happen there is another force (person) that is mentioned that is restraining the man of sin from being revealed. So far, though, we understand the events to occur in this order; first the apostasy and revealing of the man of sin, after that the coming of Christ and gathering of saints at the Day of the LORD.
The two key phrases that we should focus on are “the mystery of lawlessness” and the revealing of “the lawless one” mentioned in verses 7 and 8 respectively. I’m reading from ESV right now incidentally. This mystery of lawlessness is not clearly defined, but is clearly stated to already be at work. So the mystery of lawlessness is at work right now (as Paul writes and through our current time), but there is a restraining person (we must believe it is a person because it is a him) which is holding back this lawlessness from being more fully revealed. When that restraining person is out of the way, then the lawless one will be revealed and that revelation is clearly defined in verses 9-10. It is the demonic deception of the antichrist during the last half of Daniel’s 70th week after he has committed the abomination of desolation.
So let’s get this straight before moving further. The restrainer is at work now restraining the lawlessness from “getting more out of hand”. The lawlessness is currently working, but will reach an apex after the restrainer stops restraining. When the restrainer stops restraining, that leads directly into the abomination of desolation and the demonic deception which can be placed in the book of Revelation as describing the 42 months of the beast’s reign, see Revelation 13:5-18. Conclusion: the restraining person stops restraining at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week.
As a part of the Noahic Covenant, the LORD commanded that organized man enforce the law of retribution, see Genesis 9:6. Sinful man restrains evil by obeying the LORD’s edict in the Noahic Covenant. Governmental systems that jail, punish, or even kill people for murder are doing the will of God. This restrains evil.
Daniel 10:20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince. 11:1 And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him.
However, it’s not quite that simple. Angelic forces back these governmental systems, or they stand against them when God ordains it. Daniel 10:12-14, 20, 11:1 prove quite helpful to us. Before turning to Daniel 12:1 to see Michael’s role, the aforementioned references show his role in restraining evil through the governmental systems that God had ordained. It had been previously revealed in Daniel 2 and 7 which empires would succeed the others. In Daniel 8 the defeat of the Medo-Persian Empire at the hands of the Greek Empire is foretold, AND THIS IS WHILE THE BABYLONIAN EMPIRE WAS STILL RULING!!! The angels (Gabriel and Michael) are in a special category of being able to strive with these governmental principalities and powers, Daniel 10:21, in a way that other angels cannot.
Daniel 12:1 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.
In two different locations, Michael the archangel has a role which can be placed at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week, and it is specifically mentioned in conjunction with the governmental framework which shall arise after his role of restraining is fulfilled. Daniel 12:1 should be read against the backdrop of Daniel 10 since Daniel 10-12 is all one prophecy. Gabriel has revealed to us that he and Michael alone are allowed to contend with these governmental principalities and powers. At Daniel 12:1 it is stated that Michael has a charge over the people of Israel. After Michael “arises” or “stands up” (this Hebrew word contains the idea of to stand, to remain, to stand still, and to stop moving), it is here that the time of the great tribulation begins because Daniel 12:1 states that there will be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation (of Israel). This tells us that the abomination of desolation would have just occurred since Matthew places the great tribulation directly after this time, Matthew 24:15, 21. So Michael stands still, then the great tribulation begins. Michael stops restraining evil through the governmental systems, then the governmental system in place is allowed to be as lawless as it wants, not having to enforce the law of God, see Psalm 94:1-7 for the emotion of this time, then also Psalm 94:16-23 to read the resolution by the LORD.
Revelation 12:7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The second place that we see Michael at work at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week is in Revelation 12:7-8. The original fall of Satan in Revelation 12:3-4 was at the beginning of time after the garden of Eden was planted by the LORD, see Ezekiel 28:11-19, which means it was after the creation of man and woman. But in Revelation 12:7, we have a flash forward to after the Messiah has been caught up to the throne of God. The time markers of Revelation 12:6 and 14 places this just before the final three and one half years at the end of this age. The devil is cast out of heaven by Michael, but is allowed to give all of his authority to one system headed by one man which is completely unrestrained by Michael. So Michael, in his age old struggle with the devil, makes a move to shove him out of heaven, stepping aside from his role as protector over the nation of Israel. The devil is allowed to persecute Israel and the church in ways never before allowed during the great tribulation. This leads directly into the rise of the beast from the sea in Revelation 13. This is the end-times governmental framework which will be used by Satan and the antichrist to institute a system which is free from God’s law, or we could word it that the mystery of lawlessness will have now been revealed at this point in time.
Many post-tribbers and even some pre-wrathers believe that the mystery which is finished at the seventh trumpet is the mystery of the church. I find this to be without basis. The church will have been raptured at the sixth seal before the wrath of God even begins to fall on mankind or the beast. Instead, this mystery which is finished at this time is finished in conjunction with the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of Christ, see Revelation 10:7, 11:15. At the time that the seventh angel sounds the seventh trumpet, the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ thus ending the mystery of iniquity which has plagued us all these years. Now a truly righteous governmental framework can be established directly by the Messiah.
So to sum up, we must examine the additional phrases in II Thess. 2 beside just “the restrainer”. Studying the phrases “the mystery of lawlessness” and “the coming of the lawless one” will help to pinpoint the activity of the antichrist and the ceasing of the activity of the restrainer in conjunction with the coming antichrist. In two different places, Michael the archangel can be seen in his role at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week, which leads directly into the great tribulation and the coming of the antichrist. These references are Daniel 12:1 and Revelation 12:7-8. In Daniel 10, Michael’s role in striving with governmental forces is outlined and stated that only he and Gabriel are allowed to contend there. Turning back to II Thess. 2 to finish we see a clear progression.
The restrainer stops restraining, 2:7. This is Michael whose actions at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week lead directly into the apostasy and the revealing of the man of sin, 2:3. The revealing of the man of sin includes a system of lawlessness, 2:7-8, the abomination of desolation, 2:4, and all types of demonic deception, 2:9-10.
After this, Christ appears at His glorious coming to gather the saints, 2:1, avenge the church, 1:6-8, and destroy the antichrist, 2:8.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
P.S. Further, since Paul does not name the individual person who restrains, but simply states that the Thessalonians know who it is, this points to the fact that it could be easily referenced by another scripture. An oral tradition starting with Paul would have been unlikely in the face of a supposed false letter which had circulated which he was attempting to disprove, see II Thess. 2:2. Then as he closes the letter, he makes sure that he notes that every epistle he writes will be signed personally by Paul, see II Thess. 3:17.
Paul was clear that the doctrines that he taught were written down. The fact that he points them to knowledge that they already possess shows that it was written down somewhere else. The Thessalonians epistles are among the first New Testament writings to be written. This would point us to the law, the psalms, and the prophets for further information. Since Daniel contains specific revelation concerning the man of sin of whom Paul writes, this would be the logical place to start for the identity of the restrainer.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman