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2 Thessalonians 2:7 (AMP):

For the mystery of lawlessness (that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority) is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until [a]he who restrains is taken out of the way.

Footnotes:

[a] Many believe this One Who restrains the antichrist to be the Holy Spirit, Who lives in all believers and will be removed with them at Christ’s coming; yet a majority thinks it refers to the Roman Empire.

I first read this in the NIV and then read the Amplified version (quoted above) to answer my question: Who is holding back the "secret power of lawlessness"? The footnote here implies (as I have heard before) that this is The Holy Spirit. So my questions are:

  1. Is this indeed referring to The Holy Spirit? If not, who?
  2. If this is The Holy Spirit, is this interpreted (by pre-premillenialists) as a reference to The Rapture (since The Holy Spirit dwells in believers)?
  3. Can anyone shed light on the strange ending to the footnote: "yet a majority thinks it refers to the Roman Empire"?
  • 1096 gínomai – properly, to emerge, become, transitioning from one point (realm, condition) to another. That is the last word of the verse in question, in Greek., So for me it is, in the middle of the tribulation when Satan is cast out of heaven, and he comes to the earth – Marinus Jul 13 '16 at 13:19
  • That means that it could be Michael (the restrainer) as per Rev 12:7-9. – Marinus Jul 13 '16 at 13:29
  • We first need to establish the meaning of the word "lawlessness". And when doing that we can not go past 1 Tim 4:1-3. Especially the part that mention the spirits who want to do away with the marriage contract. – Constantthin Dec 12 '18 at 12:48

11 Answers 11

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I'm going to provide an unorthodox perspective for your consideration. Hopefully it is helpful in some way. It was too long for the comments so I'm putting it in an answer.

I think to interpret this verse accurately we must first ask "what / who is being held back in verse 7"? Most people assume it's the "mystery of lawlessness" that is being referenced, but I'm not so sure... I think this (common) interpretation may come from a consideration of the verse, but perhaps not a careful consideration of the authorial intent (as evidenced by the flow of thought in the broader context).

In context, Paul is reassuring his readers that the Day of the Lord has not yet come, and actually can not have yet come, because the lawless one has not yet been revealed. In other words, Jesus can not return until the lawless one is first revealed. This is the big point Paul is trying to make in verses 1-5.

In verse 6 I'm wondering if Paul is actually saying "...now you know what is restraining Him"; that is, what is delaying the coming of the Lord. "Now you know" because he just explained it!

Then in verse 7 he says the one doing the restraining will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way, and verse 8 talks about the Lord appearing and taking the man of lawlessness out of the way!

So in summary, perhaps it is the mystery of lawlessness that is doing the restraining, and the Day of the Lord that is being restrained. That makes much more sense to me in context.

Of course, this is not the popular interpretation. Most people seem to interpret this to mean that there is some force restraining the Antichrist from being revealed, and that this force must be taken out of the way so he can be revealed. I've heard that the Holy Spirit is that force. But this seems rather arbitrary; verse 6 then becomes more of a statement about how Paul's readers had the "inside scoop", but we're left to assume that Paul never bothered to record this "inside scoop" in Scripture. In other words, this argument seems to be based on a claim to personal revelation more than on exegesis, since it clearly doesn't say in the text that the Holy Spirit is restraining the Antichrist. (Someone came up with that and went back to argue that this is "what they must have known", as referenced in verse 6.)

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  • (+1) because it may well be the answer, but honestly, until you expound the whole passage you can't tell if it really works or not and I haven't done that yet. Is there a fuller exposition out there? – user10231 Nov 12 '16 at 16:06
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I'll answer your questions in reverse order.

First, the argument that it is the Roman Empire holding back traces back to the 3rd century. Tertullian and Hippolytus both argued for this position. But I'm not sure where the comment about a majority following this position comes from. The current consensus seems to be that the "man of lawlessness" himself is modeled after a Roman ruler, so it's hard to see how the Roman empire would be the one holding back the Roman empire (even if that Roman empire is figurative of something else).

Second, pre-millenialists interpret this event in one of two ways depending on their view of the rapture. Those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture would likely see the restraint being taken away at the start of the seven year tribulation. The rapture occurs pretty much simultaneous to the restraint of the antichrist being removed, so it could be the Holy Spirit's presence being removed from the earth at the rapture that precipitates this event. Post-tribulation pre-millenialists, however, cannot interpret this event as the Holy Spirit being removed from earth since believers remain on the earth until the parousia.

Finally, let me draw together a number of texts in order to answer your first question. I've bolded a number of key phrases to show why I think they should be linked in terms of describing the same event, in which Satan deceives the nations into making war with God so that they might be destroyed at Christ's coming.

1 Thessalonians 2:8-10

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.

Revelation 16:14

Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

Revelation 19:19-20

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.

Revelation 20:1-4

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.

Revelation 20:7-8

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle.

If the passages below do describe the same event, then from Revelation 20:1-4 it seems like it is an angel who seals Satan from performing these false miracles and deceiving yet the nations. Of course, in the theology of Revelation, it is ultimately God himself who is sovereign over these things.

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  • (+1) because this adds significantly to the discussion and may well be the answer. – user10231 Nov 12 '16 at 16:29
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Maarten J.J. Menken (2 Thessalonians, page 108ff) looks at the possibilities here, in some detail, recognising that while verses 2:6-7 may constitute the most important point of the letter, the two verses are very difficult to translate and interpret. Breaking down the Greek grammar, he says that the verb has no object, neither in 2:6 nor in 2:7, but the man of lawlessness is the implied object of 'restrain'. He says a peculiar feature found in the Greek text is that the restraining entity is indicated by a neuter participle in 2:6 and by a masculine participle in 2:7. He says this feature demands an explanation.

Menken says we must start with the presupposition that the author of this epistle expected to be understood by the addressees. His reminding of earlier teaching in 2:5 means that what he writes in 2:6-7 is not totally new to them, even if it is much more difficult for modern readers of 2 Thessalonians to find out what 'Paul' wants to say here.

Over the course of history, many answers have been brought forward as to who or what is behind the restraining power or person. From the time of the Church Fathers, it has often been thought that the [neuter] restraining power was the Roman Empire and the [masculine] restraining person was the Roman Emperor. Menken finds no support for this in the text itself.

Menken then cites Strobel, who gives what Menken sees as a much more probable interpretation. For Strobel, the restraining power is the plan of salvation, established by God, and the restraining person is God himself. Later (page 113) Menken suggests that the 'one who restrains now' can not be God himself but has to be someone through whom God is active in restraining the lawless one: most probably 'Paul' had in mind an angel who has a function comparable to the angel of Revelation 20:1-3:

Revelation 20:1-3: And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Although the Holy Spirit is not part of this interpretation, it closely enough parallels Revelation 20:1-3 that it can be interpreted as a reference to The Rapture.

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Josephus' historical accounts reveals the 'man of sin' and the 'one who restrains him.' John Levi killed the HIgh Priest, Ananus, because he was a constant source of restraint of John's evil inclinations. The High Priest was the highest authority in the old covenant form of government.

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  • 2
    Hi Anna! Welcome to Hermeneutics.SE. You might take the tour if you have not already to get an idea of what constitutes a thorough answer. You should show how Josephus account connects the 'man of sin' to the 'one who restrains him'. – Jack Oct 20 '18 at 3:24
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It would seem the the “lawlessness” had started according to a few x-refs:-

Texts NWT.

Acts 20:29, 30 “ I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, 30 and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”

1 Corinthians 11:18, 19 “For first of all, I hear that when you come together in a congregation, divisions exist among you; and to an extent I believe it. 19 For there will certainly also be sects among you, so that those of you who are approved may also become evident.”

1 John 2:18 “Young children, it is the last hour, and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared, from which fact we know that it is the last hour.”

It would seem that the “lawlessness” was Apostacy either from inside or from outside the congregations coming in.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it will not come unless THE APOSTASY comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.”

Who is holding back the "secret power of lawlessness"? This would be in the Apostels & faithful overseers; examples:-

Titus 1:7-9 “For as God’s steward, an overseer must be free from accusation, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy of dishonest gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of goodness, sound in mind, righteous, loyal, self-controlled, 9 holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching, so that he may be able both to encourage by the teaching that is wholesome and to reprove those who contradict.”

Acts 15:1, 2 “Now some men came down from Ju•deʹa and began to teach the brothers: “Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 But after quite a bit of dissension and disputing by Paul and Barʹna•bas with them, it was arranged for Paul, Barʹna•bas, and some of the others to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem regarding this issue.”

Acts 15:6 “So the apostles and the elders gathered together to look into this matter.

Acts 15:22, 23 “Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole congregation, decided to send chosen men from among them to Antioch, along with Paul and Barʹna•bas; they sent Judas who was called Barʹsab•bas and Silas, who were leading men among the brothers. 23 They wrote this and sent it through them:. . .”

So when the Apostles etc. died the “lawless” ones had greater freedom to bring in ideas alien to The Scriptures into The Christian Congregations. In short.

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Who is holding back the “secret power of lawlessness” (2 Th2:7)?

2 Thessalonians 2:7 (NASB)

7 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.

The mystery of lawlessness is already at work, in the first century and this is only about 25 years after the death of Jesus. Then Paul says "only he who now restrains, the restrainer was also active in the first century, this can only refer to apostles which during their lifetime acted as a restraining influence on false worship.

The apostles being first hand witnesses of the teachings and miracles of Jesus and having the authority of the powers of the holy spirit continued as a "restraint" until the death of John about 100 C.E.

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Peace.

The Lord comes to open up the Scriptures to our understanding and the “religious” institutions of men and their supporters shall all have a chance to hear what His voice says in this coming time. The religious “world” will hate what they hear as it does not align with its teachings and its commandments of men.

Some of their attendees will hear and receive His words and will depart from the unbelieving churches of men …losing their lives….while others will stand up against it and speak evil against what they hear and defend their church doctrines and commandments in the face of the hearing of the Word of Truth. They will stand up to condemnation. The wicked will not put up with what they hear and seek to “save their lives” in their churches.

The wicked are to be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming (presence).

2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 KJV (5) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (6) 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. (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:

But the Lord will not destroy the righteous with the wicked. They must be “taken out of the way” first. Case in point: Lot was taken out of Sodom before it was destroyed.

Genesis 18:23 KJV (23) And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

Lot was told that He couldn’t do anything (destroy the place) without him going out to a city called "Zoar"...little.

Genesis 19:22 KJV (22) Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

“Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way”.

Lot “lingered” around in Sodom and had to be physically taken out of the way as the men took hold of his hand and brought him out of the city with his wife and daughters also.

The Lord was merciful unto Lot who lingered (he “letteth”) until he was taken out of the way so that the wicked could be destroyed. Lot was instructed to “ARISE” and leave with his wife and two daughters lest he be consumed in the iniquity of the city. He would be tempted to return evil back for the evil they were giving him and be consumed if he had stayed any longer.

Genesis 19:15-16 KJV (15) And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. (16) And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.

The same day the Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone and destroyed all of the wicked. Only then could the wicked be destroyed as the Lord would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. Righteous Lot had to be removed out of the way.

Luke 17:28-30 KJV (28) Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; (29) But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. (30) Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished.

2 Peter 2:6-9 KJV (6) And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

Righteous Lot was being vexed with the filthy behavior of the wicked as they persecuted Lot for receiving the messengers of God. They actively vexed his soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds against Him. They persecuted him. But the Lord delivered him out of the temptations to return evil for their evil and mercifully brought him out of Sodom.

(7) And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (8) (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (9) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

The time is coming for these events to repeated in the churches set up by men.

Here in 2 Thessalonians 2:5 are the words of Jesus ("Remember you not...") that are found in John 16:4

2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 KJV (5) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (6) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

He told His disciples these things so that they may remember that He told them when the time of persecution comes.

We are also to remember His words for the time is coming to the churches of men who will not receive the Word of Truth when they will hear it. Like they did to Lot, they will persecute us for receiving the messengers of God.

John 16: (4) But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

We are not to be tripped up (“offended”) when these things shall happen as they will put us out of their church gatherings (“synagogues” = gatherings) as the Lord has told us ahead of time that they were going to happen….as it happened to His followers by the religious elite and their followers of the day 2000 years ago.

They will “kill” us with their hateful, malicious words and false accusations as they will label us as “devils” or “evil doers” and all the while believe that they are doing these “wonderful works” in His name…or in His authority. They will think they are doing God “service” for “killing” us with their evil words against us.

They will also put us out of their gatherings as the righteous shall not be destroyed with the wicked.

John 16:1-11 KJV (1) These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. (2) They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (3) And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. (4) But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. (5) But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? (6) But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

We must follow in the footsteps of Jesus and also “go away” from the churches of the unbelievers. They will persecute us but He will send the Comforter to us. It is expedient if we "go away" from the gatherings of the unbelievers...and not "linger" around as Lot did.

(7) Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

The religious “world” will then be judged once we...the believers of His words... “go away” and follow Him in His footsteps out of the churches of the unbelievers in this coming time.

(8) And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

We must not be then unequally yoked together with the unbelievers in their churches.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 KJV (14) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We MUST come out from among them and be separate. It is expedient that we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and "go away" and go to the Father so that we may by His sons and daughters.

(17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (18) And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

The "prince" of this world shall be judged as we leave their company. Those who love to have the preeminence among the churches (who love to be first) will have nothing to do with the Word of Truth that they will hear the Lord speaking in this coming time. Like Diotrephes, they will prate against those brothers ( who will speak His words) with malicious words and cast out of the churches any who will receive them.

John 14:29-31 KJV (29) And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. (30) Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

But we must “arise” from those who are “dead” in their sins and trespasses and go out from among the unbelieving churches as we are commanded to do so. By doing this, the world….the “religious” world…will know that we love the Father. The "prince" of this world...those men who love to have the preeminence... are to be judged as we leave their churches.

We have a commandment from the Father: to "ARISE, let us go hence".

(31) But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

We must follow Him “out” of the churches of men and bear His reproach as they will persecute us when we do. They will be tormented in the presence of the Lamb...by our keeping of His sacrifice in our lives in the face of their persecutions.

Hebrews 13:12-16 KJV (12) Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (13) Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. (14) For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (15) By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (16) But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

We are not to “linger” like Lot did in Sodom but “arise” and immediately depart. If we “linger”, then the persecution against us becomes more severe for us to get us to leave. The Lord chastises us for staying with their increasing persecution of us until we leave.

Pray that your “flight” shall not be in the “winter” when the love of your own church people that you keep company with is coldest as they will persecute you just as Lot by staying with them (after receiving His Word of Truth and believing in it). Lot was vexed "day to day" by the unlawful deeds of those he kept company with...and the same thing will happen again to those who will "linger" around still being unequally yoked together with the unbelievers in their churches.

Mark 13:18-19 KJV (18) And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. (19) For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.

We are to keep the “door” of our mouths shut as they …the unbelieving in the churches….will persecute us severely for receiving those who come speaking His Word of Truth. They will “weary” themselves …in their evil speaking of us…to get us to respond back with evil.

Genesis 19:9-14 KJV (9) And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. (10) But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.

In their spiritual blindness, will they weary themselves “to find the door”. They will want us to open the door of our mouths to speak evil in response to their evil.

(11) And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. (12) And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: (13) For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. (14) And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.

Let us not return evil for their evil speaking and thereby “cool” their tongue.

Luke 16:24 KJV (24) And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

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The one who restrains is the individual believer.

Until He is taken "out of the way".

When He is taken out of the way (of Christ - who is the way) He becomes a man of lawlessness. Thus becoming subject to the disciplinary/corrective aspects of the word of God.

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I'm not a theologian, preacher, or even devout Christian in any sense, however I'd like to take a shot at it based on my understanding and perception of God and the text.

In text, 'He' (capitalized) is generally referred to as "God". In reference to a 'he' which holds back something evil within you is a likely reference to God's presence within you, being the "Holy Spirit".

Googling around, it seems there are many instances of people referring to the "apostasy" as a pre-tribulation Rapture (before the 2nd coming of Jesus and not after) which makes sense from verse 8 as it states that the Antichrist will be revealed and THEN Jesus will appear to slay him:

2 Thessalonians 2:8 (AMP): Then the lawless one [the Antichrist] will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by the appearance of His coming.

As far as the Roman Empire being a thing... it's some iterations trying to put a physical presence/being in place of 'he' vs. a spiritual presence/being. There's quite a few other iterations, but if we look at the context, and understanding in God's purpose for his people and how He helps to combat evil within ourselves (through the Holy Spirit), the "Holy Spirit" as 'he' makes sense.

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Prelude

The verse 2 Thess. 2:7,

τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας· μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μέσου γένηται(Textus Receptus Stephanus 1550)

"The indeed mystery already is working of lawlessness, only(there is) the(one) restraining(it) at present until out of (the)midst he might be(gone)."(Interlinear)

is translated the same from the NA27 to the TR, therefore we may conclude that at least the sources are in singular agreement at to what the words say. But as to what they mean we must examine the entire context of this chapter, and indeed the entire bible.

Mystery of Iniquity(Lawlessness)

In order to identify the "restrainer" we must first identify the mystery. "Mysterion" as defined by Thayer's Lexicon is "a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding", or "a hidden purpose or counsel; secret will". Therefore, if it were plainly obvious it wouldn't be considered a 'mystery'. So, if it's a "mystery", how do we know with any certainty what the true meaning is?

The answer can be found throughout Scripture; but it is contained in one word-"revelation".

But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets,(Dan. 2:28)

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.(Matt. 13:11)

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.(1 Cor. 2:9-10)

Since Paul doesn't spell out exactly what the "Mystery of Iniquity" is, what other clues does he give us that might help us determine what he is talking about?

In vs 7, he states that "it is already working". And further on in the verse the "restrainer" is "already restraining". Is there another "mystery" Paul references that we might reference the "Mystery of Iniquity"?

In 2 Tim. 3:16, Paul talks about the "Mystery of Godliness",

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

What is important is that this "mysterion" is spelled out: Christ is the "Mystery of Godliness". And if we understand that Christ was a "Mystery" from the beginning, we can see how both mysteries are presented, then revealed, each in their proper order and time.

The Garden of Eden

Both Christ(The Mystery of Godliness) and the Antichrist(Mystery of Iniquity) were 1st revealed in the Garden of Eden. In Gen. 3:15, God says to the Serpent(Satan),

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Two "Seeds" were revealed by God: and what is important is that neither the devil or the woman can bear seed! Adam bore the "seed", and if we believe Jesus's words to the Saducees (Matt. 22:30) when they asked who's husband will the woman in the Resurrection be, who had 7 husbands, He said,

For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. If the angels can't "procreate", then Satan must rely on another source for his "seed"-Adam. The "woman's seed" singular is Christ, who came through Mary's womb apart from man. Satan's 'seed' however is plural(for a further explanation, see Jack Collins " A Syntactical Note(Gen. 3:15) Is the Woman's Seed Singular or Plural" ). However, these 2 "seeds" are also Trees; Christ is the Tree of Life(Gen. 2:9), and the "Antichrist" which was never "born"(there are no 'incarnation' passages for the Antichrist-he arises out of hell,(Rev. 11:7)

And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

It's important to understand that these 2 mysteries(Christ-the Mystery of Godliness, and the Antichrist-Mystery of Iniquity) become kingdoms. The Kingdom of God, of whom Jesus is the Righteous King, begins with the Covenant Promise to Abraham, fulfilled physically through Israel, and then spiritually through the church.

The Antichrist's Kingdom is found in the Statue of Nebuchnezzar(Dan. 2:31-49); his 'kingdom' started with Babylon, and is "spiritually fulfilled" today through those who embrace "man as God", the same way Satan got Eve(and Adam) to fall.

The 1st Restraint

As previously mentioned, both Christ and Antichrist were from the beginning, they both are kingdoms, and furthermore, they are at war with each other over the souls of men.

But the Mystery of Iniquity gets restrained; the 1st time we see this is in Gen. 11:4,

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name(for ourselves), lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

God's command was to (Gen. 9:1) "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Instead, they wanted to make 'a name for themselves'. In vs 6 God says,

And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Therefore, He "restrained" man by dividing his language(vs 7), so that men could not understand each other and were forced to separate. Though the "Antichrist" has been existent from Adam, during the Time of John he "was not",(Rev. 17:11-KJV)

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

So, in light of this previous verse, who is the "Antichrist", and why is he "Is Not" during the Time of John, yet "Is" later?

Kingdom of God vs Kingdom of Antichrist

In order to understand the Restrainer, one must understand what is restrained. The Beast that "Is Not" during the Time of John, "Was" as was previously understood from the Garden of Eden. But since we included "kingdoms" in our understanding of both Christ and Antichrist, how were these kingdoms manifested?

During the Time of John, an important statement was made,(Mark 1:15)

"And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."

Up until that point of time, the concept of God's Kingdom was contained in the Kingdom of Israel, which at that time was a vassal suzerainty, ruled by King Herod but subjected to the will of Rome, of which tribute was regularly paid and a Roman Army was quartered. This was not a 'kingdom' which was expanding it's borders or increasing it's subjects, yet Jesus states, "The Kingdom of God is at hand". Ruler-ship therefore, must mean more than land or subjects; the "Kingdom of God/Heaven" implies obedience to a King who's authority extends over every creature on the planet-indeed all creation! And what's more, Jesus says,(Luke 19:21)

"Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."

He also says,(Matt. 18:20),

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

In "The Gospel of the Kingdom"(George Eldon Ladd-Paternoster Press:1959) he explains,

The Kingdom of God is His kingship, His rule, His authority. When this is once realized, we can go through the New Testament and find passage after passage where this meaning is evident, where the Kingdom is not a realm or a people but God's reign.

Furthermore, it is the acceptance of this reign, empowered by the Holy Spirit that makes this reign evident.

It was previously stated that the Beast "was, and is not", meaning he "is not" during the Time of John. What one must understand is that his "kingdom" is not reigning during the Time of John.

In our model, we compare the "false kingdom" by the True Kingdom, even as we compare a 'counterfeit' by the real. In Rev. 13:3(KJV) it says,

And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

Since it has been determined that these 'heads' existed prior to the the Time of John, in Rev. 12:3 it says,

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

which in vs 5 attempt to devour the "man-child"(Christ) who would rule the nations with a rod of iron(see Ps. 2) we can see again that the Antichrist Kingdom is "restrained", even it's chief head "severed unto death", so that the Kingdom of God, and the message of the Kingdom of God which is the Gospel can be preached to all nations. The Beast which was "like unto a leopard" meaning that it followed, imitated, bore resemblance to the "Leopard" kingdom, which we know from Dan. 7:6 was the "Greek Kingdom",

After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

This kingdom was 3rd in progression from Babylon(the lion's head-vs 4), and Mede-Persia(the bear with 2 sides-vs 5). This "Leopard-Like" kingdom was restrained during the Time of John-indeed, "severed unto death", so that Israel, the spiritual "woman" could give birth to the "man-child".

But just as the "Kingdom of God" is not a mere physical kingdom with territory and subjects, so also is the Kingdom of Antichrist not a mere kingdom of territory and subjects. In Rev. 13:7,

and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

meaning that although many other nations are known by their particular name, the "Beast" has power over them. This means that the "Beast" is a spiritual kingdom, just as the Kingdom of God is a "spiritual kingdom", who's 'king' is the Antichrist, present from the Garden of Eden, and finally coming to his "spiritual reign", after his 'severed head' gets restored.

The Restrainer

Throughout history, God has restrained the Mystery of Iniquity. He has intervened directly in Gen. 11, intervened through other nations, when the "Beast's head was severed unto death, so that is "was not" during the Time of John.

But the Primary Restraint of the Spiritual Kingdom of the Beast is the Church. In Eph. 1:20-23, it says,

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Through Christ we have victory over the Spiritual Kingdom of the Antichrist. That means that the philosophy, values, laws, truths, code of conduct are all governed by the Kingdom of God, even though 'physically' we may be a citizen of a particular nation. Our spiritual identity is with the Kingdom of God, of who we profess obedience to it's righteous King, Jesus.

But something happened in history which 'revived' this head, severed unto death, and indeed forms the greatest opposition to Christianity and the Church today.

The Renaissance was in fact a "revival" of the Greek(leopard) kingdom; only it revived "spiritually". Renaissance introduced a pagan, foreign concept called "Humanism" which in it's essence glorifies man; in it's art, culture, philosophy, literature, as well as government. Rather than being fought against, these concepts pervaded the church at the time, so much so that Reformation became a Divorce(apostasion-root of apostasea) of which the church has never recovered. In a few centuries later, the 'Beast' which arises out of the 'sea' manifested itself as Secular Humanism-embraced in France as the "goddess of Reason", which openly persecuted the church, and has spread to other nations and countries unchecked. It has been responsible for more murders of Christians than any pagan religion in it's 'Communist' form, and continues to "wear out the saints"(Dan. 7:25) in this present day.

2 Thess. 2:3-4 says,

except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who 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.

The "Reformation" was the 'divorce'; the "Head severed unto death, yet lived" is the Greek Head, as a false gospel of man's accomplishments called "Secular Humanism", which is man, being called 'God', attempting to rule the minds and hearts of humanity even as Christ rules the minds and hearts of those who bear allegiance to Him. Because of the "Divorce", the church has been unable to defeat this force, which(Rev. 13:7)

And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Just as a "Divorce" between Israel and Judah led to the weakening and overcoming of the nation of Israel, so also does "Divorce" threaten and weaken the Body of Christ, unable to prevent the onslaught of Secular Humanism and it's corrosive effects on society.

Summary

The Restrainer in 2 Thess. 2:3 is God, working through His Church. Because of "apostasion", the Church is 'pushed aside' and overcome; allowing the Kingdom of Antichrist to rise to it's fullest extent. It is representative of the Greek(leopard) Kingdom, yet embraces all the kingdoms, including the Roman Empire as a spiritual kingdom which is contradictory and opposed to the Kingdom of God, attempting to rule the nations and impose it's will on them. The power of God is in the church to overcome it-yet divided and confused it has succumbed to the warfare and will continue to do so until it recognizes it's foe and exercises it's rightful authority.

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  • (-1) There is no mention of the "Church" being "the restrainer" anywhere, is there? – user10231 Nov 12 '16 at 16:21
  • @WoundedEgo There are numerous Scriptures that say Christ and His Body are one, would you care for a sample....? – Tau Nov 13 '16 at 20:49
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    @WoundedEgo There is no specific identification of what "beast" is either. If you are going to arrive successfully at an interpretation, you must understand what the context is: Literal or Figurative. If you are looking for a Literal Interpretation, then you are going to have to extrapolate meaning from what apparently meaningless passages(Think of Nicodemus's confusion at "You must be born again"). If your context is figurative, then you must apply the right meaning to the words used to describe another reality. If Born Again=Regeneration, then it means regeneration throughout Scripture. – Tau Nov 16 '16 at 2:05
-3

In verse 6, Paul says "...now you know what is restraining him".

"Now you know" - referring to something Paul has just said - in verse 3.

"him" - not Jesus - the man of lawlessness.

i.e. now you know what is restraining the man of lawlessness from appearing - because I just told you. The "falling away" must come first. The thing restraining the man of lawlessness is a "what" not a "who" - an event, not a person.

Paul in his writings, often says the same thing twice in close succession, I think verse 7 is basically a restating of verse 3.

So ... something like this;

3 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 opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the place of God, presenting himself as God. 5 Remember that when I was still with you, I told you these things?

** And now ye know what holds him back that he might be revealed in his time **

For the mystery of iniquity is already working: but he is holding back, until it comes to fruition [the falling away].

8 And then he shall be revealed,

Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming

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