Who or What is the Restrainer that Paul Speaks of? Part 2
In our first part of this short series, we went over a few verses in 2 Thessalonians 2 that indicate a “restrainer” of sorts is holding not only evil in check, but holding back the culmination of evil that will appear at the end of this age; the Antichrist. Of course, we also know that the Antichrist will be Satan personified in human form.
We discussed the fact that we believe it is clear that the “restrainer” Paul speaks of is not merely some inanimate or impersonal “blockade” against evil, but is actually an entity, a being. We further pointed out that we believe this restrainer is the Holy Spirit working through the Living Church, Christ’s Bride. This becomes obvious when we understand that when Satan was limited in what he could do to or against Job, it was God Himself who literally put the restraints on Satan via His Word. God limited what Satan could do to Job by first saying Satan could not touch Job on his person and then later modifying it to say that Satan could do anything he wanted to Job except take his physical life. It is very clear – though one individual attempted to deny the personal nature of the “restrainer” by referring to this “restraint” placed on Job – that God restrains evil to whatever degree. He always has and always will. Even after the Church is removed from this earth in the Rapture and evil will rush into fill the void, there will still be some measure of restraint on evil. If not, no one would survive the Tribulation period to enter into the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
In our first part, we referenced 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 and even provided eight different English translations of those two verses. It seems clear just from reading those verses that the translators understood that a person or personal entity was involved in holding back evil. I want to take more time in this article to learn what we can learn from the original languages and what a few well-studied commentators have taught us about these verses. If time permits, I also want to ask the question regarding how much power is required to hold back evil?
Can I hold back evil? Can you? What kind of evil can you hold back? Can you withstand Satan himself under your own power? Can Michael? The level of evil power that is inherent within Satan is clearly unprecedented. In fact, I would be willing to argue that we – as human beings – cannot touch the level of evil that Satan possesses. Understanding that Satan was created by God and is therefore finite, we must still respect the level of power that is contained in the person we call Satan. To think – even for a moment – that we, in and of ourselves, can take him on is suicide. If not for God’s restraint exercised on Satan, no Christian would live long enough to even become a Christian in the first place! The fact that we remain alive following our conversion to salvation also speaks of God’s power to save and secure His own.
But first, let’s take a look at the verses themselves to see what we can determine beyond the apparent obvious truth that is being presented. Here are the two verses in question:
“6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 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.” (NASB)
Paul implies that the Thessalonian readers already knew who the restrainer was because Paul had already told them (“you know what restrains him”). With reference to evil – the lawless one, defined also as the “mystery of lawlessness” – that is defined with a personal pronoun as well. Evil resides in Satan. He is thoroughly evil and one day, he will have a “spiritual” son who will do his bidding. That son will be the Antichrist and he will be completely indwelt by Satan. In fact, this “indwelling” will mimic the way the Holy Spirit indwells each believer.
For something out there to be able to keep evil in restraint, that something would have to be far more powerful than the evil that it keeps at bay. Just as a dam must be strong enough to hold back billions of feet acreage of water, the thing or entity that keeps evil at bay must also be more powerful than the evil itself.
I think it goes without saying (but maybe not) that if Satan had not fallen away from God, evil would not exist in this world right now. That is not to say that Adam and Eve are guiltless. They sinned, Eve through deception (which is why Paul never allowed women to teach men, cf. 1 Timothy 2:14), and Adam through rebellion. Yet, we can all agree that Satan got the ball rolling. Had he not left his “first estate,” there would have been no need for salvation. In that sense then, Satan and only Satan is the originator of all evil in all its unmitigated form.
Because of this, when Paul speaks of the mystery of lawlessness that is currently being held in check, he is speaking of an entity or being that is far greater than the worst evil that Satan can release into this world or universe. In order to be able to hold that type of evil in check, the “thing” holding that evil back would of necessity need to be greater than the evil itself.
Michael understood this perfectly, yet it seems that many human beings do not. I’ve heard of people “taking on the devil,” etc., and even though they claim they do so in God’s power, the reality seems to be that they tend to give themselves credit for it. They’re “pure,” or “clean” or “prayed up” or whatever, therefore God can work through them. Why would anyone want to take on the devil when we are actually told to simply resist him and he will flee as James tells us in 4:7?
In Jude we read an interesting narrative of what happened behind the curtain into the spiritual realm. It was shortly after Moses’ death and apparently, Satan wanted Moses’ body. We have no idea why he wanted it. He just wanted it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Satan wanted to use it to tempt the Israelites into venerating (worshiping) the body of Moses. God, however, wanted it buried and He sent Michael to take care of it. Notice in Jude 1:9 we are told the following:
“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
Please notice that Michael did not take on Satan in his own strength and his strength far surpasses ours. Michael rebuked Satan by invoking the Name of the Lord! To me, this proves that the “restrainer” Paul speaks of cannot be Michael and it cannot be another angel at all because the Bible tells that Lucifer was the highest created being prior to his fall when he became Satan (Isaiah 14). Clearly, not even Michael is a match for Satan and only the Lord’s power can overcome or keep at bay, Satan himself.
Whether the Rapture occurs before, during, or after the Tribulation, Paul refers to a being who has no trouble keeping Satan (from where all evil emanates) in check. That being can be none other than the Holy Spirit.
We want to try to wrap this up next time by finding out what some Bible scholars think about Paul’s text and what it could mean. Join me then.
Entry filed under: christianity, Posttribulational Rapture, Pretribulational Rapture, rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.