Tuesday: The Restrainer
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According to Paul, what two things characterized the world situation at the time he wrote?

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

How do we see the great controversy revealed in these verses? 2 Thess. 2:6-7.


Combining these verses with the previous ones, we can see that Paul is outlining three stages of history from his time until the end. The final stage begins at the Second Coming. Before this stage is the revelation of the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:3),also known as the lawless one (2 Thess. 2:8). And before that stage is a time of mystery and restraint (2 Thess 2:6-7).

While we would like very much to fully understand Paul’s meaning here, there are a number of uncertainties in these verses. The restraining power is neuter (a thing) in verse 6 and masculine (a person) in verse 7. The lawless one (masculine,vs. 8) is neuter in verse 7 (“mystery of lawlessness”), neither is it clear (vs. 7) whether the restraining power is taken out of the way or has the authority to remove himself (the ESV translates correctly- “until he is out of the way”).

Who is the restrainer, or power of restraint, in these verses? It is present in Paul’s day; it is upholding the law (a power that restrains lawlessness, vs. 7); it is on a divine time mission; and it is powerful enough to restrain the working of Satan(vs. 9).

According to other New Testament passages, what is holding back the Second Coming? Matt. 24:14Mark 13:10; Rev. 14:6-7.


In much of the New Testament the events leading up to the Second Coming follow from the final proclamation of the gospel (Matt. 24:14Mark 13:10Rev. 14:6-7). In this case, then, it’s possible that God Himself is the Restrainer Paul is talking about, holding the final events back until everyone has had a chance to hear the gospel.

How much restraining do you need in your life? That is, when tempted, how can you learn to claim the power of God to restrain you from doing what you know is wrong?

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Tuesday: The Restrainer — 11 Comments

  1. Why do we keep saying that God is waiting until--EVERYONE hears the gospel? so many births are taking place every day--God will never come. Isn't is --as a witness to every nation--and NOT to EVERYONE? We need to be CLEAR on that---so that no one mis-understands, and is puzzled.

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  2. I think that we add the idea that God wants to be fair and so He gives everyone a chance to hear the Gospel before He returns. But this is an idea that we ADD to the text. The Bible simply says "as a witness" but we add so that everyone could get a chance to hear.

    But even if the Gospel reaches the entire world today, there are people already dead who will never hear, so this cannot be the reason. We must just stick to what the Bible says, "for a witness" without trying to attach another reason to this as logical as it may appear.

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  3. I believe that Jesus points to a time when the witness to the truth of God will be world-wide in scope. Events will happen that will focus the world's attention on a group of people who are faithful to God amid the most difficult circumstances.

    Peter tells us that our behavior has something to do with the Second Coming, since he refers to "hastening" the coming. As God's people reflect the character of Christ more fully, it will bring on persecution, and that persecution will focus the eyes of the world on the truth that God wants proclaimed. Disasters in the world--environmental, political and economical--will also serve to focus attention on God's faithful people who refuse to be part of Babylon.

    God is, indeed, fair. As I understand it, there will be those saved who have never heard the name of Christ, but they lived by His Spirit--whether they were Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, or whatever. Paul tells us in Romans 1 that open hearts can recognize God in nature. If they listen to the Spirit in their hearts, they will be saved. In heaven they will recognize Christ's voice as the same voice that spoke to their hearts, and they will ask Him, "What caused the wounds in your hands and in your side?" And for the first time, they will hear the story of His incarnation life and death on the cross. Then they will fall at His feet in worshipful amazement.

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    • I think the operative phrase is "people reflect the character of Christ." There are some groups out there that think that being an irritation and forcing persecution is what is going to "hasten" the Second Advent. I believe they will be in for a very rude awakening when they find out that their chosen way of doing things barred them from being in Heaven.

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  4. While the mystery of iniquity can definitly be a personal thing, and the self exaltation and seeking for power over others is something to be shunned as we walk humble with God.

    Yet there is another interpretation for these texts:
    Here is how the Adventist pioneers understood these texts, who believed this wasn't just the battle with sin (which has been since that forbidden fruit was eaten) but rather that it is a prophecy of a specific power. [see note at the bottom of comment]

    Soon after the apostles died (and even beginning while they were still living) false doctrine and teachings began to spring up in the church.

    The "mystery of iniquity" was already starting to work, starting to form itself. Heathen philosophy and science where polluting Biblical truths, worldly things were coming in, and God's Sabbath was slowly being pushed back while Sunday was gaining popularity.

    Out of that first falling away came the manifiestation of the mystery of iniquity. And, like most Protestants living in the 19th century (including God's Messenger Ellen White) they believed that the mystery of iniquity and "man of sin" was and is the papacy.

    THE RESTRAINER
    As long as the Roman Emperors were persecuting or just tolerating the church, there was no way for the "mystery of iniquity" to be manifested.

    RESTRAINER REMOVED
    But Constantine removed the restraint and the "mystery of iniquity" started to blossom; this falling away from truth church, doing its utmost to secure control of the civil power and compel men to conform to the dogmas and the discipline of this apostate form of religion, which called itself Christianity.

    Just notice how quickly it manifested itself once they had an "in" with the emperor.

    March, A.D. 313 The Edict of Milan was issued.

    In that edict Constantine--

    Reversing the persecuting edicts of Diocletian, and granting "liberty and full freedom to the Christians to observe their own mode of worship;" granting "likewise to the Christians and to all, the free choice to follow that mode of worship which they may wish;"and commanding that the churches and the church property which had been confiscated by Diocletian, should be restored to "the whole body of Christians,"

    Wonderful! It started innocence enough.

    BUT
    behind it there lay the ecclesiastical organization, ambitious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for itself. No sooner had the Edict of Milan ordered the restoration of property to the Christians, than it was seized upon and made an issue by which to secure the imperial recognition and the legal establishment of the Catholic Church.

    HOW?

    The Catholic Church disputed the right of any others than Catholics obedient to the bishop of Rome to receive property or money under the Edict of Milan, by disputing their right to the title of Christians. And by this issue the Catholic Church forced an imperial decision as to who were Christians.

    Before that month expired, the decision was rendered that the imperial favors were for the Catholic Church. Thus they received the confiscated churches and property and those rendered "heretics" did not.

    But there was more -- there was division in the main Catholic Church with two parties claiming to represent the Catholic Church. Domitists were in opposition to the supporters of Cecilianus. And to make matters more interesting the Emperor had promised a nice monetary gift for the clergy under Cecilianus. Of course the Domitists protested.

    So once again the emperor needed to make legal judgment as to who were the "real" Chrisitains. He chose Cecilianus, who was in contact with the bishop of Rome.

    Then, no sooner was it decided what was "the legitimate and most holy Catholic Church," than the civil power was placed in the hands of the church with instructions to use this power in compelling conformity to the new imperial religion.

    Persecution was begun at once. The Donatist bishops were driven out, and Constantine commanded that their churches should be delivered to the Catholic party. Nor was this done at all peacefully. "Each party recriminated on the other: but neither denies the barbarous scenes of massacre and license which devastated the African cities. The Donatists boasted of their martyrs; and the cruelties of the Catholic party rest on their own admission; they deny not, they proudly vindicate, their barbarities: 'Is the vengeance of God to be defrauded of its victims?' they cried."—Milman, "History of Christianity," book 3, chap. 1, par. 5 from the end.

    It all occurred in less than four years. The Edict of Milan was issued in the month of March, A.D. 313. By 316 the church had the power to kill those who refused to comply to the "holy Cahtolic Church".

    Just as certainly as Constantine gave state power in favor of Christianity and there, produced the papacy with all that it is; just so certainly when the United States moves to support the Christian religion here, as the religion of this nation, we will see the final manifestation of 2 Thess. 2. It will produce the "image of the beast" in all that the prophecy has in it, or ever tells about. All this will come out of this decision, just as certainly as all that came out of that edict.

    [NOTE: For reference to what the pioneers thought refer to the following:
    A.T.Jones
    The Two Republics
    CHAPTER XII. THE UNION OF CHURCH AND STATE
    or
    A.T Jones Advent Review and Sabbath Herald August 9, 1892

    Actually Jones used this information (in a much expanded version) in his appeals to the supreme court when lobbying against the Sunday laws that were being promoted in the 1880's]

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  5. Historical explanation in connection with the book of Daniel

    As to the restraining power I should like to agree on the historical line with the additional remark that Paul draws his information from the book of Daniel. Using the neutral form Paul is pointing to a restraining power at the then present time: “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.” (2 Thess. 2:6 New King James Version) This present power is no other than the Roman Empire at the time of Paul.

    He is familiar with the book of Daniel, he is quoting from (2 Thess 2:4a; Daniel 11:36). He knows that the “little horn power” arises out of the head of the fourth world power in succession: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome (Daniel 7:4-7.16-19). He further knows, ten kingdoms would succeed the present Roman Empire. Only after this development, as the angel interpreter explained to Daniel, would the antichristian power, the little horn, arise (Daniel 7:20-21;24-25). From the book of Daniel the historical succession of all these powers Paul knew that the restraining power for the development of the little horn power was the Roman Empire.

    In Vers 7 Paul is repeating the statement of Vers 6 changing the neutral form into the masculine form: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.” (New King James Version) The representative of the Roman Empire is in view — Caesar.

    After he is taken out of the way, the little horn power would arise and develop in church history as the Papacy has taken the seat of Caesar. In spite of being inflicted with a deadly wound (Revelation 13:3) that power exerts a worldwide influence today.

    However, we have to decide whom to believe: (a) The declarations of the 2. Vaticanum regarding human rights oder (b), the prediction of inspired prophecy. We have to separate from the historical critical interpretation that denies any predictive elements of Scripture.

    We agree with the apostle Paul, not only that the Old Testament is fully and prophetically inspired (2 Tim 3:16; 1.Peter 1:11; 2.Peter 1:19-21), but also that apostolic proclamation, part of which is the apocalyptic passage in 2. Thess. 2:1-12, “is not the word of men but what it really is, the word of God”. (1 Thess 2:13) The issue being, believing in God or in human declarations of church councils.

    Winfried Stolpmann

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  6. I was reading the comments and it seems we either negate the power of the "witness" of Matthew 24:14, or like to add to the texts.
    For eample, when the 4th messanger angel is going to light the earth with its glory (Revelation 18:1), it will be the WHOLE earth, not a partial implementation of divine power. This angel will have a globe spanning message. This shall be a witness for the WHOLE earth. I stress the word "whole" because we are seemingly caught up in how many people will hear.

    Yes, some will die, or will have died beforehand Yes, babies cannot truly comprehend, but the faith of the parents can preserve them (Jeremiah 31:15-16). It is to a witness to the WHOLE world, so wether you hear the Gospel directly, you will be affected by it because word of mouth will spread so that all that can be saved will be saved. That is how fair and great our God is.

    2nd, I was agreeing with everything that sister Inge Anderson until she made the statement that non-Christians can be saved as non-Christians. That sounds a lot like Billy Graham and Robert Schuller. By the terms, Muslims can never be Christians, same as Buddhists, or anyone else. Not to get stuck on Semantics, but it is the calling on the name of Jesus that saves us.

    And maybe she did not mean it in those terms, but this a dangerous theology creeping into the church. We now have pastors telling their flock that you can go ahead and call God by the name of Allah, and that is madness.

    You may start out as a Buddhists, a Muslim, a deists, an agnostic, or a spiritualst, but once you encounter Jesus, you are not under those old labels. You become brand new in Him.

    And I agree with the old established, backed by prophecy, interpretation of the pioneers. Pagan/ Political Rome, retrained the power that was coming, and now is .... Papal Rome.

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    • Brother (or sister?) Johnson, your second point caused me to consider what you are saying. It seems to me that there are only two possible ways to be saved, by obedience or faith in Christ. If we are saved by faith in Christ, that alone implies that we must have knowledge of Him or why would we have faith in Him? Therefore, the only way to be saved without Christ would be through obedience. This seems to be what Romans, chapter 2 is alluding to. However, that does not seem to be possible for Romans tells us in the very next chapter that all have sinned (failed to be obedient), therefore all are lost. Paul then makes a pretty convincing case for faith alone in Jesus being the only remedy for mankind.

      In short, I think you are right and any emphasis on obedience as a requirement for salvation leads us down the "slippery slope" that makes it possible for us to even consider the possibility that one might be saved without faith in Christ. Thank you for bringing that to our attention.

      "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12, NIV

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    • Dear Truth, I did not say that "non-Christians can be saved as non-Christians."

      What I did write was this:

      God is, indeed, fair. As I understand it, there will be those saved who have never heard the name of Christ, but they lived by His Spirit–whether they were Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, or whatever. Paul tells us in Romans 1 that open hearts can recognize God in nature. If they listen to the Spirit in their hearts, they will be saved. In heaven they will recognize Christ’s voice as the same voice that spoke to their hearts, and they will ask Him, “What caused the wounds in your hands and in your side?” And for the first time, they will hear the story of His incarnation life and death on the cross. Then they will fall at His feel in worshipful amazement.

      I believe that everyone who will be saved will be saved through Christ alone. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they will know Him the exact same way we do. At least that's what I get from Romans 1 and several other Bible passages.

      Perhaps you could share with us how you understand Ro. 1:19-21. Does this imply that people may know God through His creation and honor Him, or does it not? If they do honor Him, without knowing the full story of salvation, will they be lost or saved?

      Is it possible that among the "sheep" at the Last Judgment there will be those who have never known the full story of salvation but have listened to the voice of the Spirit nevertheless?

      What do you understand from John's statement that Christ is the true light that "enlightens every" man? Do you suppose that individuals can be saved by responding to this light without ever hearing the full story of the gospel?

      What does "the name of Jesus" mean to you? Is it a combination of sounds? Are we saved by a word? Or is it more? If so, just what is the meaning of "the name of Jesus"?

      You state that calling God by the name of "Allah" is madness. I wouldn't go quite that far, but if you are an English speaker, it doesn't make sense to use a foreign word for God--whether that foreign word is Hebrew (YHWH) or Arabic (Allah).

      But if your native language were Arabic, you would quite rightly call the God of heaven "Allah," because that is the Arabic word for God--a much older word than the religion of Islam. In fact the word is a cognate form of the Hebrew (Elohim),Aramaic (Ĕlāhā) and Syriac (ʼAlâhâ) words for God. (For reference, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allah.

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  7. Dear sister Inge, I did not say that calling God by the name of "Allah" was madness, but that we now have even some of our own ministers teaching that we can now transfer/ use the name of Allah for the God of the Bible. I have muslim family members and many friends of the muslim faith and their view of God and His Son is the polar opposite of our view.
    The meaning of Allah is no different than the etymology of Baal. It does not mean "god" per se, but "The Master".
    The Master is not Christ to them. Jesus, or Isa, is a lesser being, on the same plain as Muhammed and any other "enlightened" human. We cannot begin to start accepting their traditions into our belief system. I guess I came off extra passionate, and I am sorry if I offended you in any way. However, I have seen this danger first hand and it lessens the impact of who Jesus Christ is.
    And I do not claim that all men must call Him "Jesus" according to the English language, but their is to be some difference than Zeus, Baal, Odin, Allah, or whomever else that pagans worship. Those under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will come to recognize that.
    That was point.

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  8. Need God's love in my heart daily.
    Need God's Word in my mind that when temptation comes I may resist temptation through scripture and relying on God to help overcome...

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