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, etc.
Theories for who the Restrainer is 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
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 the Restrainer.
II Thessalonians 2:1-12
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
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
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
It is not the coming of Antichrist but
the revealing of the
Antichrist that is being restrained!
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 is.
So who is the mysterious
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 7.
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
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
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
Contrary to what the most popular
prophecy teachers say about the Restrainer:
He is not the restrainer of
He is not the restrainer of the
He is not the restrainer of
He is not even the restrainer of the
He is the restrainer of the
revealing of the
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 to see.
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. 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
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,
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
Summary of II Thessalonians
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.