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The Restrainer
In Defense of the Faith
Monday, April 14, 2014
Pete Garcia

Out of all the varying eschatological views, the Pre-Tribulation view is the strongest and most scripturally consistent advocate of God’s dealings with man in the entire Bible.  You can see it in typology, symbolism, and in both the OT and NT passages.  It is found in the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels, the Epistles, and in Revelation.  The Pre-Tribulation view remains the most scripturally consistent view within God’s purpose and plan for man’s redemption. 

The Pre-Tribulation view argues that there is a future fulfillment to the prophetic text, the full Preterist view states it all happened in the first century.  Every other view has to rely on extra-biblical sources, allegorizing, spiritualization, or other ways to get around the literal understanding of the passages.  In regards to the Tribulation, the Futurist’s bottom line is, although man will endure trials and tribulation in this life, God does not pour out His wrath upon His own.

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.  2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 (NKJV)

Restrainer Candidates

Below are the names I’ve seen used for identifying who people say the Restrainer is. I’ve also listed the main Eschatological views alongside to show which views hold to them.  I also recommend this article for an even more in-depth view on all these.

  1. The restrainer is the apostasy and revelation of the lawless one.
  2. The restrainer was the Roman government.
  3. The restrainer is the system of human government.
  4. The restrainer is Michael the Archangel.
  5. The Restrainer is the Holy Spirit working through the Church.
  6. The restrainer is Satan.

Issues

Rome: Amillennial/Preterist

The Apostle Paul was writing to a first century church who at that time, were under the persecution of Caesar Nero.  Preterist and Amillennialist devotees want very much for Nero to be the ‘man of lawlessness’ because it fits into their historical narrative that all (or most) prophecy was finished prior to AD70.

Their argument was/is that the Roman system and Nero’s suicide prevented Nero from fully wiping out the early church.  The major problem with this is that Nero wasn’t destroyed in keeping with the passage in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, but committed suicide.  Preterist and others have to rely on extra-biblical accounts to try and paint Nero as the Antichrist (Pliny the Elder, Suetonius) to get this.  But this view is still perpetuated by the Roman Catholic Church, which allows that blame to be laid at the feet of dead, pagan Caesars and not on them. 

Human Government: Amillennial/Post-Millennial

All governments are emplaced by God (Romans 13:1-7), and that it is only under God’s sovereignty do they still wield control (albeit limited) over the earth, therefore God only allows them to do so much, and then He restrains them, or uses them to restrain evil.

But since the days of Nimrod and Babel, human government has almost always been at odds against God and His plan of redemption for mankind.  We know that the Tribulation is a time unlike any other, as the entire world will fall under the sway of the ultimate, one-world government, which will be under the control of the Antichrist. (Rev. 13:7)  Seeing human government as the restrainer of evil, (Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Ottomans, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Communist China, etc.) when they are one of the primary instigators of evil, is laughable.  In fact, God does laugh at this. (Psalm 2)

Revealing of the Lawless One: Post-Tribulation Rapture

I had to scratch my head at this one, but I’ve seen it repeated in numerous places.  To come to this erroneous conclusion, one would have to do some serious reworking of most of the major terms and structure as found in 2 Thessalonians 2.  For those who hold this view, the phrase ‘taken out of the way’ does not mean taken out of the way, but means ‘to come into being’.  The Rapture is in conjunction with or right before the Second Coming.  Confused yet?  I was.  (Source)

Who He’s Not

The only problem with the above three views, is that none of them could be the ‘he’ used in 2 Thessalonians 2: 7.  The ‘He’ is used as a masculine personal pronoun, and is used in direct relation to the Restrainer.  Neither the Roman or human government, nor the revelation of the lawless one, could be referred to in that manner.  The ‘He’ denotes a person, or sentient being and not a thing or system. 

That leaves us with only three legitimate contenders:

  1. Michael the Archangel
  2. Satan
  3. The Holy Spirit

Both Michael and Satan are angels, and they are neither omnipresent nor omnipotent.  In other words, they are confined physically by both space and time.

Michael the Archangel: Mid-Trib or Pre-Wrath Rapture view

The case for Michael being the Restrainer stems primarily from three sections of Scripture: Daniel 10:3, 20-21, 12:1; Jude 1:9; & Revelation 12:7-9.  In each instance, Michael is seen as the one who contends against Satan and his demonic forces at specific times.  The problem is, is that these instances are too specific, meaning, that this is not Michael’s role in general, but as a special assignment solely to the nation of Israel or as directed by God.  There is no Scripture citing Michael the Archangel as the restrainer of lawlessness (keeping in context with 2 Thess. 2).  The best case that can be made is in Revelation 12:7-9, as Michael and the angels war with Satan and his, and cast them out of heaven.  Even then, that is not restraining, but active warfare.

Satan: Mid: Trib/Pre-Wrath view

One of the more bizarre candidates that are offered for “the” restrainer is Satan himself.  My first question would be why would he restrain himself? But still, the text would have to read something like this for Satan to be the ‘restrainer’: 

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he [Antichrist] may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He [Satan] who now restrains will do so until He [Satan] is taken out of the way [Insert Rev 12:7-8 here]. And then the lawless one [Antichrist] will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.  2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 [my notes in brackets]

Satan would have to restrain himself, until Satan is taken out of the way, only to come back and indwell a person known as the Antichrist.  So at the mid-point of the Tribulation, Satan is kicked out of heaven and he indwells the man who is Antichrist.  In theory that seems plausible, except that Jesus unleashes this rider on the white horse back in the 1st Seal and he was the Antichrist then, long before Satan ever indwells him.

The Holy Spirit: Pre-Tribulation view

And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”  Genesis 6:3

It appears at least according to the Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit had an active role here on planet earth prior to the Flood.  In the absence of written Scriptures or historical references, the Holy Spirit would have convicted men of sin and guided their conscience unto doing what was right.  This certainly makes the case for Enoch as a type of the Church who is ‘caught up’ prior to the Flood. 

The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:18-23 that ‘many antichrist’s have come’ and that the spirit of antichrist denies Christ is God in the flesh.  The spirit of antichrist is a spiritual battle that requires the Restrainer to also be spiritual.  And since many religions, philosophies, and peoples deny Christ all around the world, the only Person who is omnipresent and omnipotent, is God the Holy Spirit.

Born again believers are sealed until the day of Redemption (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Eph 1:11-14), which means when the Holy Spirit is withdrawn, those He indwells are as well.  Now, the Holy Spirit is God, and is omnipresent by His very nature, so it’s not like He is removed physically, because that is not possible.  His role of restraint is removed (see Genesis 6:3 again) which is done through removing the body of Christ that has remained on this earth for these last 2,000 years.

Conclusion

The age of the Church had a beginning, and it’s only logical to conclude that it will also have an ending.  The birth of the Church had a dramatic and powerful beginning as the Holy Spirit descended down as ‘cloven tongues like as of fire’ upon those believers in Acts 2.

Likewise will the removal of the Holy Spirit be a dramatic departure from this earth as believers (dead and alive) are resurrected and translated from mortal, to immortal, from perishable to imperishable.  Prior to the Holy Spirit descending down in Acts 2, no orthodox Christian denies that the Holy Spirit existed, because we can see the Holy Spirit’s role in Creation as early back as Genesis 1:2.  Yet, when it comes to the Rapture and the Holy Spirit's role as the Restrainer, many reject that out of hand as unbiblical. 

The Church in and of itself cannot restrain evil, because we are but flawed humans.  But through the working and power of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27, 16:5-15), we can do all things through Christ.

Christ called Him the Helper or Comforter, because for us, He is.  But to the world, He is the Restrainer who judges the world of sin and keeps Satan’s plans from manifesting and completely enveloping the world in evil.  It is not until the Church is removed, that the world will be thrown into a literal hell on earth.  [See Revelation 6-19] But until that Day, Christ promised...

...I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16:18-19

Even so, Amen.

Maranatha!

About Pete Garcia

Last week: The Locust King



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