Removal of the RestrainerThe End Times continue to be a topic of discussion among many people. We believe that the rapture of the church is coming soon due to the signs explained by Jesus himself. But when does the rapture happen? There are many answers about that event among many strong Christian theologians. Consider the following
2 Thessalonians 2:5–7 (ESV) Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him nowso that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrainsit will do so until he is out of the way.
Who is it, after all, that really restrains sin? The answer found in the Bible is that God is the one who restrains sin. In Genesis 6:3 it is declared that the Spirit of God was restraining sin in the days of Noah. It was predicted that instead of striving with sin God would judge it in the flood.
In the Book of Job it is recorded that Satan wanted to afflict Job, but God had built a hedge about him. Satan testified that he was restrained by God from trying Job. When Satan accused Job of serving God because God had been so good to him, God took down part of the hedge and permitted Satan to take away all of Job’s property and all of his children in one day. He left Job only his wife and his own life. When the Lord called Satan’s attention to Job’s faithfulness in affliction, Satan said it was because God had preserved Job’s health. Then God permitted Satan to afflict Job’s body, but not to take his life. Satan then brought severe physical affliction upon Job, and Job was in torment in his body. But in it all Satan could not go any further than God permitted him. Satan was restrained by God Himself.
It would not be possible for any believer to do any work for God if it were not for God’s protecting hand. It is God who restrains. God may use varying means. He may use the government which maintains a certain amount of law and order. In the end, it is God who does it. It is God who provides protection for the Christian.
More specifically, in this present age it is the Spirit of God who provides protection. As it is revealed in Genesis 6:3, the Spirit of God strives with men and opposes Satan and his program and his hatred of the children of God.
While the Holy Spirit has always worked in times past, on the Day of Pentecost the Spirit of God came in a special way. Christ, who had always existed and was always present in the world, came into the world, was born of the Virgin Mary, and in a special sense left the world when He ascended and went back to heaven, even though He said, “Lo, I am with you always.” So also the Spirit of God came on the Day of Pentecost and now indwells the church and is present in the world. The Spirit will return to heaven at the rapture.
The most natural explanation of the taking away of the restrainer is to identify this particular action with the time when Christ will come to take out His church. If the Spirit of God indwells the church and the church is taken out of the world, then the Spirit of God will also be taken out of the world. This does not mean that the Spirit will not continue working in the world in some way; but it will mean a reversal of Pentecost. Just as the Spirit came on Pentecost, so He will leave when Christ takes the church out of the world.
The very removal of both the church and the Spirit from the world will release the world to sin as it never has before. The presence of believers in the world exerts a great influence upon the wicked world. Christians who have stood for civic righteousness and law and order will no longer be in evidence. For the time being at least, there will be no one except unsaved people to run government. The net result will be that evil will be manifested beyond anything known in the history of man. The “mystery of iniquity” is, of course, already working as mentioned in verse 7, but the Holy Spirit is now restraining sin until He is taken away at the translation of the church. When this occurs, it is revealed in verse 8 that “then shall that Wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”
There are, then, three good reasons why the Day of the Lord and the tribulation time could not have begun in the time the Thessalonians lived: first, the apostasy had not come; second, the man of sin had not been revealed; and, third, the Spirit of God had not been taken away. In a large sense, those unfulfilled conditions are still true today. While there is apostasy in our midst, the man of sin has not been revealed, and the Holy Spirit has not been removed. All of this constitutes real evidence that the tribulation time has not come and that it cannot come until Christ comes and takes His church home to glory.
We know this commentary will give you some thoughts to consider. I am thankful for the life and teaching of Dr. Walvoord. Pray for Christ's coming as you serve Him today.
Cathy and Danny Sartin
Walvoord, J. F. (2007). The Thessalonian Epistles (pp. 77–78). Galaxie Software.
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Four decade veteran of youth ministry in churches, Youth For Christ and now is the Founder and Executive Director of Deeper Still Missions. Danny and his wife Cathy spend most of their time mentoring missionaries in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America. Future opportunities include South America and the Asia Pacific area.