2 Thessalonians 2:5-8
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.
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 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
you know (v.6) — Paul wasn’t going into detail here. He had already told the Thessalonians everything they needed to know, and not long before. Here he was just reminding them.
restraining (v.6) = holding fast, actively and purposively — Here it is lawlessness which is restrained in its development
he (v.6) — the Antichrist. He is currently restrained, but will one day be unrestrained
in his own time (v.6) — and not before. The time will come for him to play his part in God’s plan, and at that time the man will appear.
When Paul says Antichrist will be “revealed in his time” (v.6), Isaiah predicted the Lords “little ones” (cf. Matthew 10:41-42) would one day be a majority and the “nation” (Matthew 21:43) of the “little flock” (Luke 12:32) would become “a strong nation” in the kingdom.” Redeemed Israel has always been a minority on earth, but that will change “in his time,” and Antichrist will be revealed “in his time.” And the time of a prophetic figure can’t come during the age of the mystery. — Kurth
for (v.7) — explaining why restraint of lawlessness is necessary at this time.
mystery (v.7) — something that can only be known by revelation from God (see Romans 16:24-25). A mystery, in Scripture, is never something that cannot be known, incomprehensible, or “mysterious” in the usual sense of that word.
lawlessness (v.7) — overthrow of the Divine order, not necessarily confusion and disorder
How did we believers come to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ? This was accomplished, not in some dramatic, outward way, but by the quiet working of the Holy Spirit, as we received the Word as the truth of God.
Satan works in the same way, only from sinister motives. He is called in Ephesians 2:2, “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” And as “the mystery of godliness” quietly does its work in the saints, so “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” in the children of disobedience, behind the scenes, but very effectively, for the Prince of Lawlessness is the driving force that carries it forward. …
What is it that restrains the Antichrist from being revealed and hinders this wicked world from “going the limit” in sin?
Some say it is Satan, who is holding on to his place in the heavenlies “until he be taken out of the way (Revelation 12:9), but it is hard to imagine Satan, even in and by his personal absence from this earth, restraining evil.
Others believe that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit. [But] the Holy Spirit will continue working on earth during the Tribulation, helping the believing remnant to remain faithful to the end.
The author holds that it is the Spirit in the Church, the Body of Christ, that is referred to, or we might say, the influence of the Spirit through the Church for, remember it is not the police forces of this world, or its armies, that restrain the evil. It is the true Church, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. When the Church is “taken out of the way,” the Spirit’s ministry through its members will no longer function on earth to restrain lawlessness or the manifestation of Antichrist. This we believe is the only consistent solution to the identity of the Restrainer and is another strong proof that the rapture of the members of Christ’s Body will precede the manifestation of Antichrist. — Stam, pages 129-130.
When I first read the passage, I assumed the Restrainer was simply Christ who is preventing lawlessness as long as the Age of Grace lasts. I’m still not entirely sure why this can’t be the case, although the commentaries I’m using have other ideas (such as Stam, above) or Ryrie (who believes it is either the Holy Spirit indwelling the Church, or human government, which the Antichrist will overthrow). The Holy Spirit restraining lawlessness through the Church makes sense too.
already (v.7) — Even in Paul’s day, the forces of evil were at work to undermine the truth (see 1 John 2:18).
only (v.7) — Paul is about to explain why the lawlessness is limited at this time.
out of the way (v.7) = lit. “out of the midst”
with the breath of His mouth (v.8) — quoted from Isaiah 11:4, LXX, “with the breath of His lips shall He slay the impious one”; a vivid metaphorical statement of the effect of His voice, cp. Job 4:9; Psalm 29:3-6; Psalm 33:6. — Vine, page 122.
destroy (v.8) = to render inactive, or useless
brightness (v.8) = a showing forth
of His coming (v.8) — Christ’s second coming, when He will set up the Millennial Kingdom
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