The identity of the “one who restrains” mentioned in II Thessalonians 2 has always
been very controversial. There is a host of different theories about who this mysterious
person or thing will prove to be, from the Holy Spirit, to the Church, the archangel
Michael, the Papacy, America, government, the Roman Empire, or a special prophet,
Theories for the Restrainer are usually linked directly to a specific doctrine of
the Rapture, whether pre-Tribulation, post-Tribulation, or no Rapture at all. Many
teach a specific Restrainer theory as if it were an undisputed fact and all others
are clearly in error. The most popular teaching about the Restrainer is that he is
the Holy Spirit.
The problem seems to be that the Restrainer is not clearly identified in the text,
or is he?
Something is being overlooked
They all seem to make the same mistake in their interpretation of II Thessalonians
2. Finding out what is being overlooked will help us uncover the true identity of
II Thessalonians 2:1-12
2 1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our gathering together with Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure
or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the
effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for
it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed,
the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god
or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying
himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you I was
telling you these things? 6And you know what restrains him now, so that in his
time he will be revealed. 7 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. 8 Then the lawless
one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring
to an end by the appearance of His coming;9 that is, the one whose coming is in
accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10
and with the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive
the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them
a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they
may all be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.NASV
The most common mistake of those who attempt to identify the Restrainer
Paul uses some long and complex sentence structures so we have to be careful to make
sure we follow and understand exactly what he is saying, and not assume to read something
into it that is not really there. The incorrect assumption everyone seems to make
about II Thessalonians 2 is that the “man of lawlessness,” or the Antichrist, is
being restrained from coming. The text simply does not say this. Read it again and
note exactly what it is about the Beast that is being restrained.
6And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7
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. 8 Then the lawless one will be revealed …
It is not the coming of Antichrist but the revealing of the Antichrist that is being
This is the most important clue to who or what the Restrainer really is. The text
does not say the Restrainer keeps the Antichrist from coming, but restrains him from
being revealed in his time. Some may think that this is a slight distinction, but
it is actually a huge difference and the key to knowing who the Restrainer really
So who is the mysterious Restrainer?
Take another careful look at the text. The true identity of the Restrainer is right
before your eyes. It is clearly identified by name right there in chapter 2 verse
6And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7
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. 8 Then the lawless one will be revealed …
The Restrainer is the Mystery of Lawlessness or The Mystery of Iniquity (KJV)
The Mystery of Iniquity keeps the Antichrist from being revealed. In other words,
the Mystery of Iniquity keeps the true identity of the Beast from being exposed so
the world will not realize who he really is. As Paul says, the Mystery of Iniquity
is already at work and will be so until he is taken out of the way.
Paul describes the Mystery of Iniquity in II Corinthians 4:4: “…the god of this world
(Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving…” The Restrainer is actually taught
throughout the New Testament (vs 2:5) as the ability of Satan to deceive, but only
in II Thessalonians by this name and in this context.
Contrary to what the most popular prophecy teachers say about the Restrainer:
He is not the restrainer of lawlessness
He is not the restrainer of the Second Coming
He is not the restrainer of the Mystery of Iniquity
He is not even the restrainer of the Beast
He is the restrainer of the revealing of the Beast
He is the overpowering delusion on all who have rejected the truth of the Gospel
How and when will the Restrainer be taken out of the way?
At the Last Trumpet when Jesus returns on the clouds for every eye to see Him (I
Thessalonians 4:16 & Revelation 11:15). Satan at that time will have lost his ability
to deceive the world so that the true identity of the Beast will be exposed for all
So what is the point that Paul wants the Thessalonians to realize and why is it import
to us today?
Paul was warning the Thessalonians to not be fooled by false teachers who say that
the Second Coming and Rapture can take place before:
1. The apostasy of the Church occurs (2:3)
2. The Antichrist comes to seat himself in the Temple and declare himself god (2:3-4).
3.The restraining Mystery of Iniquity is taken out of the way and the Antichrist
is revealed, that
is, exposed to all the world for who he really is (2:7-8).
Then and only then will Jesus come on the clouds to gather His saints in the Rapture
of the Church (2:1,8)
It is important because the same thing is happening today! The Church is being fooled
by a false Rapture teaching.
When Christ appears on the clouds, this is not the end, but the beginning of the
Day of the Lord
Jesus will gather the Church and then return to heaven where the wedding of the Church
will take place (Revelation 19:7-8). In the meantime, Israel will be under attack
from the armies of the world led by the Beast. When all Israel comes to faith in
Christ, the Lord will then return again to rescue and redeem Israel while pouring
out judgment on the Beast and his kingdom (Joel3, Zechariah 12:2-3, 14:2-3).
The removal of the Restrainer is prophesied in Isaiah
And on this mountain He will swallow up this covering which is over all people, even
the veil which is stretched over all the nations. Isaiah 25:7
Chart of the Restrainer during the Tribulation
Summary of II Thessalonians 2
2:1-3 Christ will not come, the Rapture will not occur and the Day of the Lord will
not arrive until first the apostasy (of the Church) takes place and the man of lawlessness
is revealed (exposed).
2:4-5 The Antichrist will seat himself in the Temple and declare himself God (the
Abomination of Desolation ) before Christ appears on the clouds at the Rapture.
2:6-7 The Mystery of Lawlessness restrains the Antichrist from being revealed and
seen for who he truly is “in his day,” that is, in the day when he rules the world
during the Tribulation.
The Restrainer in the Greek is described as both an “it” (neuter) and a “he” (masculine).
The Mystery of Iniquity is the “it” and Satan is “he.”
2:7-8 The Restrainer will first be taken out of the way by the appearance of Christ
on the clouds, then the Antichrist will be destroyed by the Lord when He comes later
to rescue and redeem Israel.
2:9-12 The Beast, in accord with Satan, will deceive the world through signs and
false wonders. The deluding influence of the Restrainer is allowed by God so as to
bring about the full judgment of the wicked.
The Restrainer of II Thessalonians 2 is The Mystery of Iniquity as stated clearly
in the text. The Restrainer does not keep the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist)
from coming, but restrains him from being revealed, or exposed to the world for who
he really is. The Mystery of Iniquity, which is the deceptive power of Satan, is
already at work and will be so until it is taken out of the way by the appearance
of Christ on the Clouds and the rapture of the Church at the Seventh Trumpet.