Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7).
I posted the full passage so that you can read the main verse under discussion today in context. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
The Second Letter to the Thessalonians was a very early letter. Paul wrote it in about AD 51, just a few months after he had written his first letter to the church at Thessalonika. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had obviously spent some time teaching the new Christians in their new church about the end times. Now, there’s proof positive that eschatology is not only for the mature, nor is it a marginal doctrine to be learned after all the other, more important doctrines have been taught. Paul launched right in to teaching about the rapture and the Day of the LORD (The Tribulation) to the newest Christians. He reminded them in the 2nd letter about the important points, probably to refute false teachers who had come in to tell the Thessalonians that the Day of the LORD had come.
By the way, this is another proof the rapture will happen before the Tribulation. If the sequence of events was that the rapture happens at the end of the Day of the LORD, why were the Thessalonians so concerned and sought Paul’s advice? They should have been happy. And encouraged.
Why did Paul have to calm them down and remind them of what he had already taught? And further, the pre-tribulation rapture was supposed to be an encouragement. (1 Thessalonians 4:18) if the sequence was post-tribulation rapture then they should have been encouraged, not concerned, becuase it was almost here.
Today’s verse involves the One who restrains. In the passage above, Paul is describing someone who is powerful enough to restrain the man of Sin (antichrist) and to restrain sin itself. Who is powerful enough to do that? No human, certainly. The Holy Spirit.
Paul is saying here that when the Holy Spirit ceases His ministry of restraining sin, the Man of Perdition will be revealed. The Tribulation will come into full swing.
Barnes’ Notes describes the restraining ministry’s effect:
It was some power which operated as a check on the growing corruptions then existing, and which prevented their full development, but which was to be removed at no distant period, and whose removal would give an opportunity for these corruptions to develop themselves, and for the full revelation of the man of sin.
Did you ever stop to think about the restraining power the Spirit does while He is inside of us,the Church, while we are on earth? We hear people say that America is or was “A Christian Nation.” No, we never were. But it seemed like we were because so many people were Christians. Many of those were not, of course, but they modeled the precepts and behaved morally because so many other Christians were around. They might have had poor motivations to behave as a Christian, for business purposes, or for a social network, of for help with provision, but nevertheless, they adopted an external morality because that was the way to get along in society. Cultural pressure was brought to bear. The real Christians acted as salt.
We see this in 2 Corinthians 10:15. “We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged,” When the crisis at Corinth as resolved, Paul expanded the ministry to new areas.
Salt is preservative holding back decay. We are that salt. Each Christian with the Holy Spirit in him or her, acts as salt in the world. Salt prevents flesh from putrefying. When the Holy Spirit ceases His major ministry of restraining sin, and then He takes us out of the world in the rapture, each of us as a little salt crystal-Christian will disappear. There will be nothing left to stop the remaining flesh from corrupting. When we are removed the sin of the flesh will blossom, and quickly.
To be sure, the Holy Spirit is the power. We’re not. But us as little salt sprinkles around the world…when we AND the Spirit are removed out of the way, pow! Sin will be unrestrained in the world. Just think on it.