“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 who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.” 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.
This section is difficult because of the variety of explanations for the meaning of “what is restraining” and who “He who now restrains” is.
Some prophecies may not be understood until they are fulfilled, others should be carefully compared to various other Scriptures to come up with an answer.
“Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the end of these things?’ And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’” Daniel 12:8-9.
It is my belief that the simplest explanation will be the correct one.
Ockham’s razor states: “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”
It has been simplified by Ockham in this manner: “Simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones.”
The man William of Ockham (circa, 1287-1347 A.D.) to whom this maxim is attributed did not invent it, rather it is because he used it so often that his name became attached to it.
This method of logic goes back even as far as Aristotle (384-322 B.C.); and Ptolemy (circa 90-168 A.D.) is quoted in this way: “We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible.”
The word razor, by the way, in Ockham’s razor, is not some fancy Latin word, as I suspected. It refers to a real razor, which is used to shave away at different hypotheses to whittle away at unnecessary perceptions, or for cutting apart two views which are alike.
With this we return to the “what” and “He” question that so many folks cannot seem to agree on.
Many feel that the restrainer is human government, which will restrain Antichrist until he overthrows human government in the tribulation.
One expositor believes that Antichrist may be known by some after the rapture, but not fully revealed until he becomes world dictator after defeating three of the ten kings who rule the earth until about mid-tribulation.
“…The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he [Antichrist] shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings.” Daniel 7:23-24.
The reasoning is that human government was ordained by God to resist evil, Genesis 9:1-17, after Noah landed from the Ark. This is also known as the Noahic Covenant.
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” Genesis 9:6.
This thought is bolstered by the exhortation to Christians to be in subjection to the powers that be, because they are ordained by God, see all of Romans 13:1-7.
But you will notice that all of the actions mentioned in Romans 13 are on the Christian’s part, very little from the government. This is good advice for the Christian and also for the unbeliever.
None of this means that government restrains evil, in fact it often promotes it and it is on rare occasions that it slows it down.
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” Romans 13:1-3.
Some feel that the benefits of Roman rule which Paul so often took advantage of, is what he meant when he spoke of the “And now you know what is restraining…” and the Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) was the “He who now restrains…” spoken of since he was one of the saner rulers.
Historically it is true that the Pax Romana, two hundred years of Roman peace, certainly helped in the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
All of this had an end though and one would have to admit that there was a succession of Roman Emperors after Claudius, like, Nero, who was the next emperor, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Constantine I, and Julius Nepos who was among the last of the Caesars. These are in order of rule but there are many in between who are not listed. Many of these men opposed and martyred thousands of Christians.
When Popes ruled during the dark ages, men like, St. Gregory I “The Great” (590-604 A.D.), who formally took the title Pontifex Maximus; St. Leo III (795-816), crowned Charlemagne and initiated what would become The Holy Roman Empire.
Gregory IX (1227-1241), initiated the inquisition in France; Sixtus IV (1471-1484), authorized the Spanish Inquisition targeting converted Jewish Christians.
Innocent VIII (1484-1492), appointed Tomas de Torquemada Grand Inquisitor in Spain; Leo X (1513-1521), excommunicated Martin Luther, and extended the Spanish Inquisition into Portugal; Urban VIII (1623-1644), tried Galileo Galilei for heresy.
When considering the vagaries of all of the world’s governments and their constant spiral downward into sin until God terminates them and raises another, it can be seen that governments have done more to destroy Christianity and encourage evil than they have to give God His rightful place in history.
It is true that God ordained human government. But He did this to bring law and order to the inhabitants of the earth, even though He knew that they were incapable of being righteous for very long.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5.
“As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’” Romans 3:10-12.
If the Antichrist is restrained until he kills three of the ten final kings in history; he has done nothing more than become another form of government, described below as an eighth form of government.
“Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains [Rome] on which the woman sits. There [or They] are also seven kings [or kingdoms]. Five have fallen, one is [the Roman Empire], and the other has not yet come [the revived Roman Empire]. And when he [the new revived Roman Empire] comes, he must continue a short time. And the beast [Antichrist] that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth [the Antichrist’s kingdom], and is of the seven [Antichrist starts out as part of the revived Roman government the 7th then dissolves it and forms an 8th his own], and is going to perdition. And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings [Daniel 7:7-11 and 23-25] who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.” Revelation 17:9-12.
Some say it is the church that restrains the man of sin. This is true to some degree because the gospel of Jesus Christ changes the hearts of men, turning them against evil and to a love of what is good. However in nearly two thousand years, what has its influence brought about?
For about the first 300 years in spite of intense persecution for two hundred of those years the church flourished and took over the entire Roman world rooting out almost all of her paganism.
However about 312 A.D. Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the state religion, and while it was wonderful that Christians were no longer being martyred, the church itself began to take on a form which Christ did not ordain.
It began with separating the clergy from the so-called laity, and men began to dominate the church which was supposed to be led by Jesus Christ as the head.
Men began to bring pagan practices into the church to accommodate the pagans until the church became a monstrous machine taking over the lives of men and women, instead of giving them freedom, they became slaves. For about one thousand years the church presided over the dark ages.
The churches stranglehold began to be thrown off when men like Martin Luther started to question things like the sale of indulgences and other non-Biblical dogma.
While the Reformation helped throw off the medieval church and brought the true gospel to many who were starved for the truth; Reformation churches soon became state churches, which in time, were dominated by unsaved men and they too began to persecute those who did not agree with their doctrine.
This is why many like the Pilgrims and the Puritans came to the New World.
Christ had this to say about the Reformation churches.
“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1b.
The Reformation started off well enough, but after a thousand years of Catholicism they knew of no other form for the church, even though they got the doctrine right for the most part. While there are Reformation churches today, their domination of history was only from about 1517 to 1750 A.D.
From about 1750 to 1925 A.D. the world, particularly America and England was gripped by a spiritual revival which created a great missionary effort to places like China, India, and Africa. Interest in Bible study and holy living became a part of life for many people.
Satan, however, once again was able to put his followers into key places in theological seminaries to indoctrinate young men with his tainted gospel.
Ceasing to warn about hell, denying Christ’s virgin birth, His miracles, the power of His shed blood on the cross, even saying He was not resurrected; too many believed this tripe and then went on to teach it from the pulpit.
While there are many who still teach the true word of God; this liberal church dominates society today.
Jesus has this to say about the current church age.
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew [vomit] you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16.
This is the beginnings of the apostate church we have been discussing.
After close to two thousand years of church history, only about five hundred years of it could be said to have met most of its potential.
Today, the church is losing the battle against lawlessness, and when it is removed out of the world, the man of sin will have no resistance.
Christians in this present age cannot stop the man of sin from appearing because we will not be here.
We cannot hasten or postpone the rapture of the church, because it is a fixed time in the heart of God. There is only one thing, and one thing only that we can do; use the time that each of us as individuals have to rescue those around us.
“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption…” Acts 13:36.
The life of King David has inspired and changed the lives of millions throughout the ages, in spite of that he had only his own generation to serve.
These words are true of us all. Once our life is over there will no longer be an opportunity to serve God by faith alone, ever.
There is a maxim that is particularly true of Christian procrastination: “If we do not use the time we have; we will lose the time we need.”
Brothers and sisters I encourage you to do whatever God has put at your hand. If all you have the courage or ability to do is pray, then do so, and do so with a whole heart; this nation needs prayer, your local church needs prayer, your friends and relatives are in need of prayer; pray for the sick, the depressed, confused, angry, whatever God puts on your heart, pray for it, no matter how impossible it sounds.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21.
Above all pray for revival in this country, a real revival in which Christians engage themselves in living a righteous life. Not a life in which they accept Christ as their savior then go back to the life they lived before.
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man [or woman, or child] avails much.” James 5:16b.
Pray without ceasing, pray for something and then the next time you pray, pray for it again, and again, and again. Read about the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8.
Christians often give up on their friends, relatives or coworkers because they have talked to them over and over and been rejected as many times; perhaps it is time for these Christians to start showing Christ in their life by living it, in speech, temperament, and love, and whatever else God may point out in their way of life.
Too often, we are the ones who are the stumbling block that keeps folks from seriously considering Christ.
“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…” 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.
Which of the preceding restraining theories is the simplest one? Is the restrainer government, the church, or something else?
The word “what” here is not a person, it is a thing or mechanism, while the word “He” is a person. Perhaps this illustration will help.
“What is blocking this door shut?”
“There is a board jammed against it.”
“Who jammed the board against the door?”
“He did, Joe jammed the board against the door to block it shut.”
Silly I know, but it illustrates that the, what is restraining, is caused by the actions of the He, not something or someone else.
There is one other theory which is accepted by many conservative Bible scholars; the “He” and the “what” concern the works of the Holy Spirit.
There is only one person who has been with mankind and worked with him throughout his existence, the Holy Spirit. The simplest and most consistent theory for the restraining of the man of sin is the actions of the omniscient Holy Spirit.
The Spirit alone knows who the man of sin is and when and how he will appear. The word “what” is the power of the Holy Spirit and the word “He” refers to the Holy Spirit.
It might be argued that this passage also says, “He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way”.
Government, no they will still exist, the church, true it leaves at the rapture, the Holy Spirit, yes He leaves and takes the church with Him; then who restrains?
It is still the omnipresent Holy Spirit who is the simplest reason, for this restraint.
One has argued that they have never seen where the Holy Spirit is shown as restraining.
“…when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19b.
In a way, all of these theories are true to some extent. The Holy Spirit has used governments, rulers, the church, and individuals, like John Wycliffe, John Huss (burned at the stake), and Martin Luther to restrain the coming of the man of sin.
After the rapture, the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain, He will allow man to sink to his lowest point of depravity.
Mystery of Lawlessness, 2 Thessalonians 2:6 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 10-25-13, updated on 2-22-21.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.