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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who is the Restrainer? - a Biblical approach

Who restrains the lawless one? Rome?, the Church?
2nd Thessalonians 2:7-8 "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains [literally holds - kataxon, from the Greek word echo] 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."

The personal pronouns are not capitalized in the original texts; so no guidance is given by them as to who the one restraining, or the one taken out of the way, might be.  Some Bibles capitalize the pronouns to agree with John Nelson Darby's presumptions about the Church.  But until the twentieth century most Protestants believed that Rome was the restrainer. (see original Protestant eschatology)  

Two prophecies, one from Daniel and the other from Revelation, give the most straightforward identity of the restrainer. Daniel is told by Gabriel that the heavenly force which tipped the balance toward victory over Satan was Michael the Archangel.

Daniel 10:13 "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia."

Daniel 10:21b "No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince."
(The Septuagint of Paul's day read "There is no one holding with me. . ." The root of the Greek word used here is echo - to hold.)

Now, in Chapter 12 below, Michael is linked with a time of trouble - and a time of the resurrection of the dead.

Daniel 12:1-2a "At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt."

Revelation 12:7-12 shows how Michael "standing up" results in the "time of trouble":

"And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.""

It would appear that the son of perdition could not fully be revealed (although the mystery of lawlessness had already commenced) until Satan, his spiritual counterpart, was thrown down from heaven (taken out of the way) - stay with me here for a moment -.   This evil one will not be fully manifested on earth until he is fully ejected from heaven. Michael's victory also fulfills the condition of Jesus' delay - "Until Your enemies are made Your footstool".

Paul stated earlier in this chapter that something needed to happen before Jesus would return. "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition."   If it were necessary, in Paul's theology, for Jesus' victory over His enemies to be accomplished prior to His return; and if Paul, like St. John, understood that Satan's fall would result in the earthly manifestation of the son of perdition; then it would be logical to expect the appearance of this man of sin before Jesus' return.   And this is exactly what Paul has stated.

Perhaps the things that Paul had told the Thessalonians when he was with them were similar to the things which he wrote to the Corinthians concerning Christ's coming and the resurrection of the dead:
"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.   For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.   For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.   But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.   Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.   For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.   The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.   For "He has put all things under His feet."" (1 Corinthians 15:20-27)

In Paul's chronology, the last of Jesus' enemies (death) would be overcome as the dead were raised at His coming.   Since death is the last enemy to be overcome before Christ returns, the next-to-the-last enemy (that is Satan) would need to be overcome prior to this last enemy.  This places Satan's ejection from heaven (and the simultaneous revelation of the lawless one) just before the dead are raised.  And so Paul states, "for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed".

If the two uses of "he" in verse 7 identify two different beings then Michael the Archangel would be the obvious restrainer, and Satan would be the one finally taken out of heaven.  When Paul writes that he will be revealed "in his own time" it probably denotes that both of these enemies of Christ will not be dealt with at the same moment, but that there will be a space of time distinguishing the two events - that is between the revelation of the man of sin and the resurrection of the dead.  Learn more about Paul's end-time chronology - read a free online copy of "THE LAST ENEMY OF CHRIST"  by CW Steinle at: