Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Restrainer Holding Back the Power of Lawlessness

In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12 the Apostle Paul writes about the Antichrist.  Unlike the Rapture, Paul explains the coming of the Antichrist will not be without warning:

And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

There we can glean that there are three different ages:

1. The Present Age - a time period prior to the Rapture (during which the "restrainer" holds the Antichrist back.)  Titus 2:11-14 also refers to this age as the "present age".  Many people also call the time in which we presently live the Church Age, as it is the time when the Church is on earth and fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

2. The Tribulation Age - a time period that will be preceded by a "rebellion" (2 Thessalonians 2:3).  Some say the "rebellion" has something to do with the apostate church, while others say that term actually means "rapture".  Dr. Thomas Ice presents further insight as to why apostasia may actually mean "rapture".  (I reference his article in the "Related Links" section at the bottom of this article.)  We also know that the tribulation will be full of hardship as a result of the Antichrist having unrestrained rule over the earth, and because God will be unleashing His wrath upon a defiant mankind (Revelation 6:16).

3. The Messianic Age - a time period that will happen after the Second Coming.  The first part will consist of the millennium, during which Satan will be thrown into an abyss for 1,000 years so that he can not decieve the nations any longer (Revelation 20:2).  After which Satan will be let loose for a little while (Revelation 20:7,8), and then he will be thrown into hell for eternity (Revelation 20:10).

Many people often ask about what or who the restraining force is.  We are not given any specifics in the aforementioned text or elsewhere in the Bible.  Some say it's the government.  Others point to the Jewish State or the Roman Empire.  Still others say it is the Pope or the Holy Catholic Church.  None of those are legitimate at all.  Still others point to the archangel Michael, or to Paul, or Peter, or Moses, or Elijah.  The list goes on.  However, as we must recognize that Satan was once a very powerful angel in heaven before he became a "fallen angel".  He is called the "god of this age" (2 Cor 4:4) and one third of the angles fell with him (Rev 12:4);  thus, he has an evil, powerful army at his command.  Understanding that concept, we must consider that the only entity that would be a match for Satan and his minions is the Holy Spirit.

Now that brings us to an interesting concept.  When did the Holy Spirit come to this world?  It was after Jesus ascended to heaven and sent the comforter.  Jesus told the disciples in John 14:15-19:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

So in those verses we are able to understand that Jesus said He was going to send the Holy Spirit and that, consequently, He would be with them.  So, when the Holy Spirit is with them, Jesus is too.  What is interesting, in light of that, is Jesus' last word to His disciples.  We read in Matthew 28:18-20:

     Then Jesus came to them and said:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (emphasis added)

Following our understanding that Jesus will be with us until the end of the age (the "Church Age") via the Holy Spirit, it would seem that Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit would be here until the Rapture of the Church.  That can also be supported when we understand that the Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost when the Church began (Acts 2:1-4).

Consequently, one can conclude that once the present age ends (at the precise time of the Rapture), so too the Holy Spirit will be removed from earth; thus, that is the restrainer that is currently holding the Antichrist and evil at bay.  Once the Christians are taken via the Rapture, the Antichrist will rule and reign.  It will be marked by the absolute worst time in history, for he will make life "hell on earth", and God's wrath via the tribulation will also be at work.

I'd like to leave you with the words of Jesus in Luke 21:36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”  Maranatha!

Are You Ready?

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