Who or What is the Restrainer that Paul Speaks of? Part 3

June 15, 2015 at 3:36 PM 2 comments

hs1So far in this short series, we’ve discussed aspects of who the “restrainer” might be in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian believers. We’ve also discussed the type of power it would take to restrain evil and we also noted that from Satan all evil emanates. In essence then, anyone or anything who would restrain Satan (as in the case of the book of Job), would need to be far more powerful than Satan. That leaves only God. No other angel, Michael the Archangel included, is more powerful than Satan. While it could be that Michael equals or comes close to Satan’s power (the Bible seems not to indicate it), the truth is that even when dealing with Satan, Michael does not rely on anything inherent within him, but defers to the Lord Jesus as we pointed out in Jude 1:9. There, Michael clearly issued the command, “The Lord rebuke you!” knowing that it was by the Word of the Lord that Satan would be rebuked and held in check.

Of course, since the Holy Spirit is God Himself, then clearly, the Holy Spirit has the power to hold Satan at bay and to keep evil in check. I think this makes it abundantly clear that the 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 reference is to the Holy Spirit Himself, as the “restrainer.” We know that the Holy Spirit has chosen to indwell each believer and He also baptizes each true believer into Christ’s Body, which is the Living, invisible Church. Because of the Church’s presence in this world, the world itself is not as bad off as it will be during the coming seven-year Tribulation period.

The mere fact that Christians live on this earth goes much further in keeping God’s judgment at bay than the fact that righteous Lot lived in Sodom and Gomorrah. In spite of how evil this world is becoming (and will become), the fact of the Church’s presence acts as a wall of sorts that keeps evil in check. It is not the Church itself that has that power, but the Holy Spirit who resides within the Church. It is He who stands up to Satan and even though Christians are persecuted and even martyred for their faith almost daily throughout the world, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit is somehow weak or losing His grip. The Holy Spirit – through the Church – restrains evil, keeping the world from what it will one day become.

Dr. Thomas Constable notes the following about Paul’s words.

“[N]evertheless, the view of a posttribulational rapture is impossible for the simple reason that it makes meaningless the very argument that Paul was presenting in the Thessalonian letters. Paul was arguing for the imminence of Christ’s return. This is to be the major source of comfort for suffering believers. If Christ will not come until after the great tribulation (that is, a special period of unusual and intense suffering still in the future), then the return of the Lord is not imminent and tribulation rather than deliverance is what we must anticipate.”[1] (emphasis added)

If Paul is not talking about the PreTrib Rapture, then his arguments are actually pointless regarding any so-called “comfort” for the believer.

Charles E. Powell, in his work The Identity of the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 states the following:

The Holy Spirit accomplishes His ministry of restraining lawlessness, in the world, mainly through the influence of Christians whom He indwells, especially through their gospel preaching.”

This truth is unimpeachable because it is so clearly taught and viewed throughout the New Testament writings once the Church was birthed in Acts 2. Who can deny that the Holy Spirit’s work is, in part, to restrain the world’s lawlessness, keeping it from becoming absolute?

Paul is speaking about a mystery – the “mystery of lawlessness” – that was only a mystery to the Thessalonian believers because it was a truth not yet imparted to them. “The ‘mystery’ (truth previously not revealed but now made known) Paul referred to here is the revelation of a future climax of lawlessness that would follow the removal of the restrainer. This lawless movement was already underway in Paul’s day, but God was holding it back until His appointed time. Then He will remove the restraining influence. This removal is probably a reference to the Rapture, when God’s restraint of evil through His people will end as He removes them from the earth. God will remove the Holy Spirit from the earth (“he is taken out of the way”), in the sense that God will remove those whom He indwells, as well as the One (the Holy Spirit’s presence) who is with them. He will not entirely abandon the earth, of course, since God is omnipresent.” [2]

As Constable rightly notes, even though lawlessness is clearly in the world and at work today, once the Holy Spirit stops restraining, that evil will rush in, intensify, and fully overwhelm the earth. If we see the Church as the main restraining arm of the Holy Spirit, all of what Paul says makes sense. If we see this “restrainer” as something else, things immediately become cloudy and lose their sense of logic.

“Since the removal of the Restrainer takes place before the manifestation of the lawless one, this identification implies a pretribulational rapture.” [3]

The restrainer of whom Paul speaks appears to be no other than the Holy Spirit. He is the only One who has sufficient power to hold back the powers of darkness (aka, Satan), as He did throughout the Bible. It is the Holy Spirit who builds the Church and has chosen to indwell each believer individually and the Church as a whole. It is through this chosen vessel that the Holy Spirit restricts and restrains evil so that its presence in the world is not unchecked. If God were to remove His restraining hand against evil now, it would be impossible to realize just how terrible this world would become. However, the world will experience it to a great degree during the coming seven-year Tribulation.

Watch out for people who simply want to argue with you, who will even tell you that because you understand the Bible to teach a PreTrib Rapture, you are lost and on your way to hell or that you are deceived and deceiving others into hell. There are certain individuals who – for their own self-aggrandizement – believe they have to stop at every forum or blog that deals with the PreTrib Rapture. They believe it is their “calling” to engage people in order to “prove” their error.

The problem is that they themselves are unable to rightly divide God’s Word. They handle it carelessly. They come with their acrimonious and sanctimonious words to inflict harm, not out of love, but out of an argumentative spirit. They have nothing to offer, yet they go from one forum to the next posting their gibberish and straw man arguments that are easily spotted and taken apart. They speak not out of love, but of hate, a hatred they call “righteous indignation” as though they themselves are incapable of falling. Beware! Do not let them rob you of truth.

In the first part of this short series, I took the time to point out merely one inaccurate post made by a person who tried to show that the restrainer is merely some impersonal influence and then tried to connect her arguement to Job to prove it. Unfortunately, she was caught in her inability to rightly divide God’s Word because it became very clear that it was God Himself who restrained Satan where Job was concerned. It has always been God and will always be God. We know the Holy Spirit is simply the third Person of the Trinity.

Let me close the door on this subject with this quote from Paul Benware.

“The Holy Spirit of God is the only Person with sufficient (supernatural) power to do this restraining. How does He do it? Through Christians, He works in society to hold back the swelling tide of lawless living. At some point, though, He will be removed from the earth, allowing sin to have dominion over mankind. This can only happen when the Church—all true believers in Jesus Christ—is removed. This is because the Holy Spirit lives within each believer. When the church leaves the earth at the rapture, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way in the sense that His unique lawlessness-restraining ministry—through God’s people— will be removed (see Genesis 6:3).

When the Church is “caught up” to be with Jesus (that is the meaning of the word harpazo in the original Greek), the Holy Spirit moves out of the way, ceasing to exercise restraint against evil that clamors to gain entrance into the world’s society. While God is always everywhere at once, the Holy Spirit will most definitely move out of the way as the Church is taken out of the way.

Just as Noah’s influence was no longer felt once he was locked inside the Ark, only he, his family, and the animals with them in the Ark survived the catastrophe that engulfed the earth, so too (“as it was in the days of Noah,” Matthew 24:37), will the Church be caught up and carried away out of harm’s reach. Nothing affected Noah inside that Ark. He was perfectly safe. He was “above” the earth, floating on the water. We too – the Church of Christ – will float above the earth, while catastrophe spills out on it.

If you don’t live long enough to see the Rapture, you will live long enough to die. I not only hope you’re ready to meet the Lord, but I truly hope you are willing to serve the Lord every day He gives you breath. If you say you’re a Christian, you cannot start serving Him tomorrow. Serving Him is a daily, ongoing privilege that we must undertake anew with each day we wake.

The Lord has things for you to do today, in His Name and for His glory. What are you waiting for?

 

[1] http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1thessalonians.pdf

[2] Ibid

[3] D. Edmond Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles, p. 313

Entry filed under: Posttribulational Rapture, Pretribulational Rapture, rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

Who or What is the Restrainer that Paul Speaks of? Part 2 Technocracy to Tribulation

2 Comments

  • 1. rutnerh  |  June 15, 2015 at 7:58 PM

    God may deliberately have left the Rapture question and numerous other doctrinal topics opens to exercise our personal faith under divinely ordained Free Will, not to provide rational logical answers fitting human robots. But human logic can be used to assess outcomes and consequences of making a wrong decision in matters of faith.
    Pascal, in his famous Wager, indeed used logic to challenge his largely atheistic Renaissance buddies, all brilliant philosophers and mathematicians as he was. His simple question: Which is wiser, belief or disbelief in God, meaning conscious existence or annihilation after death? The obvious logical and safer answer is belief in God and after life since believers would be unable to regret their false faith, if there were total annihilation, whereas atheist would trade a short and enjoyable earthly life for eternal suffering in hell.
    Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his soliloquy also logically analyzed the folly of contemplated suicide and made a wise decision to suffer known earthly trials rather than face potentially dreadful dreams in an unknowable after life.
    Bottom line: if we as believers in a pre Trib Rapture are right, we will watch the unimaginable suffering of the stubborn left behinds from a pleasant birds eye perspective. And, in the highly improbable event that we were wrong, we would suffer and share their miseries. But I believe that our loving God would surely not invalidate Paul’s inspired testimony by bundling and treating the wheat like the tares as many mistaken christians believe.

    • 2. modres  |  June 15, 2015 at 8:20 PM

      I agree. The larger issue for me is how those who see a PreTrib Rapture being taught in Scripture are being vilified by people who call themselves students of the Bible, but whose exegetical skills leave a great deal to be desired. The amount of animosity from some toward PreTrib Rapturists is certainly something for which they will answer to God Himself.


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