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. I am not polling you. If you have reasonable arguments why you believe a different view is more scriptural or more logical than mine, then let’s have it. If you can add additional arguments for the restrainer being Michael I certainly would like to hear these arguments as well.
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Don Koenig founded www.thepropheticyears.com website in 1999 after almost thirty years of independent study on the Bible and learning from many astute teachers within Christendom. Don created his website to write about Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and his Christian worldviews. Don wrote a free Revelation commentary ebook in 2004 named "The Revelation of Jesus Christ Through The Ages". The World and Church and Bible Prophecy section of this website was started in 2007.