And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.2 Thessalonians 2:6(NASB)
What reassurance Christians in Thessalonica received in Paul's first epistle, about Christ's soon return. They were expecting to hear the trump of God and the voice of the archangel. They were awaiting Christ's coming in the clouds - He would come like a thief in the night!
These believers were anticipating the resurrection of the 'Dead-in-Christ'. They were looking forward to being changed from mortal to immortal, in a moment - in the twinkling of an eye. They believed Paul's teachings on the resurrection of the dead, but their excitement quickly turned to concern, as they began to fear they had missed the rapture of the saints, and entered the great, and terrible Day of the Lord.
Christian persecution was increasing, and these dear saints feared that the Great Tribulation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, had already arrived. Paul, therefore, had to write a second letter, correcting their erroneous notion, explaining their fears were invalid.
He reminded them of his earlier teaching... that the Day of Lord could not arrive until after the wicked antichrist was revealed. He was being held back. "And you know what restrains him now," Paul wrote, "so that in his time this wicked one will be revealed. Paul had already taught about Christ's return, and they believed his teaching, but these Christians had misunderstood certain things.
The Thessalonians had mixed up teachings about the return of the Lord for His saints, at the rapture - when Jesus will meet us in the clouds... and the second coming of Christ - when He returns to earth, with His saints. At His second coming, Christ will stand on the Mount of Olives and set up His millennial reign in Jerusalem. The Thessalonians had confused the rapture of the Church, that takes place BEFORE the Day of the Lord, with the second advent of Christ, at the END of the tribulation period.
While the Day of the Lord would arrive unexpectedly for unbelievers - like a thief in the night, Paul had taught that we, who are looking for His any day return, will not be surprised when He comes. Christ's return for the Church is our blessed hope, and we have been instructed to watch with joyful anticipation, and wait expectantly for His return in the clouds. We are to be ready for the rapture and the gathering together of His saints. We are to be saved from the wrath to come.
Paul had taught that we are not appointed to wrath, but these saints feared that the 70th week of Daniel had started, and they had missed the rapture. In this second epistle, Paul was required to remind God's people that evil would be restrained UNTIL Jesus returned for the Church. However, he did not teach that the Church would not suffer, during our waiting period. All who live godly lives WILL suffer persecution, he told them. Jesus, Himself taught - In this world, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Paul had taught that although 'the mystery lawlessness' was already at work in the world, the full force of satanic evil would not be permitted to fall, UNTIL the Church was removed.. AND THEN unrestrained evil would be poured out upon the earth. But during the waiting period, God would use the evil persecution of His children to be used to refine our faith and cause us to mature spiritually.. as we trust in Him and hold fast to His word.
As in the days of Noah and during the times of the judges, evil will be permitted, by God, to increase. But as in the past, evil will continue to be restrained until wickedness reaches saturation point. God restrained evil in the days of Noah, UNTIL judgement fell - but Noah was removed from God's wrath. God restrained evil in the days of Lot, UNTIL judgement was sent - but Lot was saved from wrath that rained down on the cities.
Paul had already told the Thessalonian's WHO was holding back the 'man of lawlessness'. They had already been told WHO restrains evil.. and in the verse he reminds them.."you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed." Although Paul did not reiterate the identity of the Restrainer, Scripture teaches it is the Holy Spirit Who holds back evil. Just as God restrains evil to forward His perfect plans and purposes, so also He will remove that restraint of evil - for the same reason!
The Restrainer of ALL evil is the Holy Spirit. He restricted the evil Satan used against Job, just as he restrains evil in this present day. The Restrainer of evil MAY choose to use unsaved men to limit evil, like Cyrus and Artaxerxes, but most often, God uses the sacrificial prayers, presence, and praises of His saints, who cry out to Him day and night, and plead - THY will be done, THY kingdom come.
Throughout Scripture we see God using the prayers of saints, like Noah and Lot, Elijah and Daniel, to curtail evil. During this Church age, it is the prayers of godly Christians... who have the indwelling Holy Spirit and pray into the will of Father in spirit and in truth, that continues to restrain the floodgates of evil from being fully flung open. But as in the past, God will allow unrestrained evil, to bring about His will on earth. How amazing!
Today, evil continues to be restrained through the prayers of the saints, but at the end of the Church-Age, when the restraining hand of the Holy Spirit is removed... THEN the wicked one - the antichrist, who will be empowered by Satan, will be revealed. However, saved men and women, in this Church age, will have been raptured from the world.
There are some teachings that credit someone other than the Holy Spirit with restraining evil. But in this Church-age... God has chosen to carry out His work through the prayers and praises of Christians, in whom dwells the Holy Spirit. The removal of true Christians, at the rapture, will cause God's hand that restrains evil and that protects His people, to be withdrawn - and the Day of the Lord will be used by God to bring Israel to repentance and usher in the millennial kingdom of Christ.
His plans and purposes are beyond our understanding. Praise His holy name.
Heavenly Father, thank You that evil continues to be restrained. Thank You that Your plans and purposes for the Church will continue to be carried out, by the Holy Spirit... through the prayers and praises of Your saints in this dispensation of grace. We pray that many would come to faith before the Restrainer of evil removes His hand of protecting, and allows unrestrained evil to be unleashed on earth. Use me today, in the forwarding of Your plans, as I offer my life as a living sacrifice of prayer and praise to You - for You alone are worthy. In Jesus' name, I pray, AMEN.