“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way“
only He who now restrains will do so
The question as to who does this restraining is difficult to answer. Some argue that it was the Roman Empire that restrained lawlessness from breaking out into full bloom during the day of the Thessalonians. This cannot be true because the Empire ceased to exist yet God restrains Satan’s activities to our day.
The best explanation for the identity of the restrainer is the Holy Spirit because He is the only one powerful enough to restrain the satanic system on earth. One day He will stop restraining lawlessness when He raptures the church. The removal of the presence of the Holy Spirit at the Rapture is a strong case for the church’s rapture before the Tribulation.
“Until” the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, the lawless one will not be revealed and the Tribulation will not begin (2:8). Note the word “then” in verse 8 indicating sequence.
“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” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
He is taken out of the way
Paul argues that the Thessalonians are not in the Tribulation because the Rapture has not occurred and the Holy Spirit still indwells the church. It is not until the Holy Spirit leaves this world that anarchy will become the norm in society.
This phrase literally reads, “until He becomes out of the midst.” This does not say “He is taken out of the midst.” When God translates the church to Heaven by the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will no longer permanently indwell believers on earth (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
In one sense, the Holy Spirit will leave with the church. The Holy Spirit cannot leave the world in the sense that He is everywhere present [omnipresent]. He will move out of the midst of the world in that His indwelling presence in the church will leave with the church.
This will free Satan to move unhindered throughout the world. Lawlessness will cause great chaos in the world. God will still maintain His sovereignty but in the Tribulation He sovereignly allows Satan to move in an unrestrained manner. Many Gentiles and Jews will come to Christ in the Tribulation by the sovereign ministry of the Holy Spirit.
One day, rebellion against God will reach an all time high. Rebellion against Him will be worldwide. It will be difficult to make a decision for Him or walk with Him because of enormous pressure from society as a whole.
Satan is behind all lawlessness.
Satan is at work in all lawlessness today. The Christian’s true battle is a spiritual battle.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Satan deludes people through both real and counterfeit miracles. He uses these means to break down divine institutions such as marriage and government. Drunkenness, drugs, sexual perversion and other collapses in society will become rampant in the last days. Freedom that initially looks great becomes the very thing that destroys people. This lawlessness is already at work in the world today. We see social breakdown everywhere.
The foundational reason for social breakdown in our society is the satanic system. We try to correct social problems with psychology and sociology. This will never resolve the problem because it does not deal with the true root of the problem.
Why do Christians fly in the face of God’s Word? Why do they do what they know is wrong? Satanic-inspired lawlessness. The spirit of lawlessness is still at work even in Christians. On an individual basis, the Christian’s answer lies in the filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The word “filling” means control. Unless the Holy Spirit controls us, we will revert to type–someone autonomous from God. We will use the satanic system as our source for life.