“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time“
In verses 6-12, Paul continues correcting the Thessalonian thinking that the Day of the Lord (the Tribulation) had already come. He shows that the Tribulation could not have come because there is now a restrainer keeping the man of lawlessness from manifesting himself.
This verse continues the third of three arguments to show that the Thessalonians were not in the Tribulation: there had not been
1) a falling away of the church in apostasy,
2) the removal of the restrainer of the man of sin, or
3) the manifestation of the man of lawlessness.
The Day of the Lord cannot come until the man of lawlessness is revealed, but the man of lawlessness cannot be revealed until God removes the “restrainer.”
Paul continues the subject of the man of lawlessness by the word “and.” He shifts the emphasis to what is presently restraining the manifestation of the man of lawlessness.
The word “now” means that at the time of the writing of 2 Thessalonians, God was restraining something.
They “know” something, so this is no mere speculation. It is not religious guesswork that the man of lawless is restrained.
what is restraining,
God is currently “restraining” the man of lawlessness. The word “restraining” comes from two words: to hold and down. Acts uses this word for holding a ship on course. The idea here is to hold down or back, to check, restrain, control. In verse 7, Paul uses the term “the restrainer,” which may refer to an individual or a group of people. Someone or something is currently keeping the Day of the Lord from coming.
that he may be revealed in his own time
God will not reveal this restrainer until the proper time and not one minute sooner. He will not allow Satan’s activities in the Tribulation to occur until God is ready.
The word “time” does not look at the length of time but the quality of time. It looks at time from the characteristics of time. We cannot know the date of the Tribulation, but we can know the characteristics of the Tribulation period, the “mystery of lawlessness.” The Old Testament extensively describes the Day of the Lord, as does the book of Revelation.
Satan is not completely free to execute his will on Christians today.
By God’s providence, He restrains Satan from unleashing lawlessness on the world today. God has not chosen to tell us who or what “the restrainer” is. All we know is that God is presently keeping this from happening and that the restrainer is now working.
Paul does not exclusively aim his correction of prophecy at the Thessalonians; he aims it at believers in the twenty-first century as well. The Lord will come to snatch the church away before the Tribulation begins. He will restrain lawlessness from breaking out in full force until then. After the Lord Jesus takes His church in the Rapture, God will reveal the man of lawlessness. The Devil will be free to do as he pleases without restraint.
Today, the filling of the Spirit restrains the work of the flesh in the Christian (Galatians 5:16-17). The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit restrains the power of the flesh. Christians can be a mighty force if they would allow the Holy Spirit to control their lives.