Who or What is the Restrainer?
The question refers to the text found in (2Thess. 2:1-4).
The context of this passage is the Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Coming (Greek – Parousia) (Presence) and the resurrection of the dead in Christ, (Greek – Anastasia) (resurrection) and the Rapture (Greek – Harpazo) (snatch away) of those who are alive and remain, for gathering together with Him. (Greek – Episunagarge) (Around the gathering)
This passage of scripture cross references to 1Thess Ch 4 where the Apostle Paul talks about the return of Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven, commonly called the “Rapture” or “the Blessed Hope”.
The Thessalonian believers had received word that the Rapture had already taken place and Paul was addressing this false word or letter.
He points out in v2 that these letters are forgeries and not from us.
2Th 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
Paul points out that there are two things that must happen before the Lord can come.
1. There must be a falling away from the Faith, ( Apostasy )
2. The Man of Sin ( son of perdition – antichrist) must be revealed.
2Th 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2Th 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
There is also a third thing revealed in V4, and that is the rebuilding of a temple and that this man of sin will set himself up as though he is God and demand worship. (but this is another study)
In v6 we read that Paul explains why the rapture has not taken place.
2Th 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
So the question arises, What or Who is this thing or person that withholdeth or He who letteth?
There is something or someone that is restraining or holding back the Man of Sin.
Now Paul had already addressed this question to the Thessalonians at an earlier time and reminds them that they already know.
2Th 2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
So the Thessalonians knew Who or What this was but Paul does not tell us in this passage.
Is it possible for us to work out the answer to this question?
The Restrainer or Withholder is referred to both in the neuter (what) and masculine (he) gender.
The Restrainer is referred to as both neuter (τὸ κατέχον [to katechon] , “what is restraining”) and masculine (ὁ κατέχων [ho katechōn] , “He who now restrains”).
There are many explanations that have been given for this question, some say that it is the governments of the day through the imposing of the laws that restrains the man of sin..
Some believed it was the Roman Empire or the Roman Catholic Church.
Another is that the Restrainer is the Archangel Michael.
The majority of commentators believe that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit.
Some of these can be discarded because they don’t fit the description of [to katechon] and [ho katechōn].
Both Neuter and Masculine at the same time.
Only one of these fits that description, that one is the Holy Spirit as the Bible refers to Him in both forms.
The first (τὸ κατέχο [to katecho] ) πνεῦμα [pneuma] which is neuter and also ὁ κατέχων [ho katechōn] confirms the personality of the Holy Spirit.
So it would seem that this is the best explanation of What and Who the restrainer is.
However there is one other thought, by way of explanation that I have never come across and from my searching cannot find anyone or find any commentary that makes this suggestion. I merely put this out for food for thought.
Whilst I do agree that the explanation of the restrainer is the Holy Spirit.
The reasons are pretty obvious.
The Holy Spirit existed in Paul’s day.
The Holy Spirit has been continually and effectively restraining for nearly 2,000 years so far.
The Holy Spirit is powerful enough to suppress the spiritual powers of darkness seeking to promote the man of sin.
The withholding or restraint effects the world globally and the Holy Spirit is omnipresent.
However there is another thing that has stemmed the tide of sin in the world and fits the neuter and masculine description of (to katechon) and (ho katechōn).
The word of God (The Bible). The written Word and the person of Christ (The Logos) (The Word of God )
We see that where the word of God is suppressed or removed, godlessness prevails and morality fails and degenerates.
We have seen throughout history that where society has put the teachings of the Bible in its rightful place, blessing has prevailed and morality flourished. The Holy Spirit has used the holy scriptures to convict the world of sin. There was a standard by which sin could be judged, the commandments and the teachings of Jesus.
The morality taught in Biblical scripture is being eroded and the things that are so obviously wrong and condemned in the Bible are being taught as acceptable behaviour.
The rise of divorce, the views on marriage, the family unit, the rise of open fornication, homosexuality, the views on theft, lying, disrespect authority, parents and of law etc is changing for the worse.
To express ones views on these things is becoming increasingly more difficult, without appearing to be bigoted and judgemental.
It is somehow becoming wrong to even think this let alone express an opinion on it. It is like becoming like thought crime.
Throughout the history of mankind, both the Old Testament (the Law) and the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles (New Testament) have had a good effect on humanity and society. In every church was a Bible, in every court was a Bible. From the Bible, we got our moral guidance, our laws were based on it. It was taught in our schools and Sunday schools. It was upheld in many institutions like Boys Brigade, Girl Guides and was to a degree respected. It was held to be a great book of morality, even if it was not seen as the inerrant Word of God.
So it can be said that the Word of God has had and still has a restraining influence on sin in the world.
However, this does not negate the work of the Holy Spirit who we were told by Jesus, that when He ( the Holy Spirit) comes, He would lead into all truth and convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.
We are seeing the rise of Islam, based on a book (the Koran) and a false prophet. In countries that promote this religion, the Bible is banned and it is against the law to be a Christian. We see the evil atrocities being carried out by the Islamic terrorist groups.
However, when people, even in these countries are given the opportunity to have a Bible, we see conversions happening. Lives are being changed by the power of the written word.
Yet in our western cultures we are seeing today an apostasy going on, where even professing Christians are neglecting the Bible in favour of a mystical experiential Christianity. Also we see bad translations of the biblical text, omitting verses, or putting omitted verses as footnotes. We are seeing more paraphrased versions based on eisegesis rather than exegesis. We are seeing a different Gospel being preached by the prosperity preachers or the word faith movement, all professing to be evangelical ministers. We have seen the rise of cults that have misused the scripture, denying the fundamental truths of scripture.
We see the Bible being treated as equal, with either church traditions or extra Biblical revelation such as ex cathedra proclamations by the Papacy or supposed charismatic gifts by tongues and interpretation or prophecy, dreams, visions and words of knowledge. We hear of prophecies that are made and are not fulfilled, which according to the teaching of scripture, is the sign of a false prophet.
Eventually we could see the abandonment of the Bible altogether. The Bible has almost become obsolete and irrelevant in society except for a remnant of true believers that accept the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God.
We are told in scripture that in the last days, that, men will turn away from the truth giving heed to seducing spirits.
2 Timothy 4:4: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (KJV)
Paul uses the word fables (μύθους), (greek - muthos) or myths, to describe the remedy that people seek in order to scratch their itching ears.
Ephesians 4:14 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
In a world where there is no scripture, men will become a law unto themselves.
2 Timothy 3:2 (KJV) For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Judges: 17.6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Romans 1:18-27."For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
"Because that which may be known about God is evident to them, for God has shown it to them.
"For the invisible things about Him are clearly seen by looking at the creation of the world; are understood by looking at the things He has made, including His eternal power and Godhead; so they are without any excuse:
"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And changed the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man...wherefore God gave them up [turned them over; allowed, or permitted them to have] to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves...for this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
"And likewise the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was fitting"
We can envisage the days are coming when preaching the Bible will be seen as hate crime, discriminative, sexist, and judgemental and then will very likely become outlawed.
In the growing culture of Inter faith, it will be no longer acceptable to claim that there is only one way to God. This will be looked on as bigotry, separatist, exclusive and not good for the promotion of peace.
The future may bring a day when to preach from our church pulpits the truths of the Bible, to refuse to fall in line with the way in which society is heading, to refuse to marry same sex couples, or to act in what seems to be a discriminatory way towards the community, will result in our churches either losing the charity tax status or at worst be closed down.
The church, because of its adherence to the Bible is said by Jesus to be salt and light to the world.
The church because of this has had an effect on the world. The more this is suppressed the less effect it has on society.
In a world like this, there will be no longer a restraint on sin and a way for the rise of a man of sin will be opened up.
One day the Restrainer will be removed and the man of sin, the son of perdition, the antichrist will arise.
2 Thess 2:8 Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy with the breath of his mouth, rendering him powerless by the manifestation of his coming.
The Apostle John wrote more about the Second Coming of Jesus than anyone else. John was the writer of Revelation.
In his Gospel we read the words of Jesus in John 16.
Joh 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
Joh 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Joh 16:9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Joh 16:10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Joh 16:11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
Now this is an important truth. If I don’t go, He can’t come. Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit.
In 2 Thess it say unless He is taken out of the way, Jesus can’t come.
It is a complete reversal.
When Jesus appeared in the upper room, the scripture says, “He breathed on them and said receive the Spirit. This is when the disciples were regenerate.
However, Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come in power.
Although they were born again they could do nothing without the Holy Spirit’s power.
It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Gospel, (the Word of God) was to go out and the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.
Jesus also said in John 9:4.
John 9:4 ESV We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.
There is coming a time when we will not be able to preach the Gospel.
There was a time when the disciples had the Holy Spirit within them but could not preach the Gospel until Jesus went away and the Holy Spirit came in power.
To them, He was the Parakletos, (one who draws alongside and comforts) and to the world He was the Eklectos. (the Convictor).
A comforter to the believer and a convictor to the unbeliever.
2 Thess 2:7 When he is taken out of the way.
The Holy Spirit will never be taken away from the church because Jesus promised He would be with us forever.
However, He will be removed from the world and without the Convictor, the antichrist will come.
Just like Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man,
So it will be again.
God one day will say, enough and He will remove Him who retrains, (the Holy Spirit).
The one who convicts will be removed from the world.
The church in that day will very likely be forced underground to wait for the coming of Jesus Christ.
Just in the same way, that the disciples were hidden away, waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
So the true believing church will be hidden away, waiting for the promised Second Coming of Jesus Christ.