Monday, January 17, 2011

The Restrainer: Part 1

Much of the pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine hinges on the Holy Spirit and the Church being removed from the earth prior to the Great Tribulation.

This false doctrine is based on a mis-understanding of II Thessalonians chapter 2 which we will be looking at in the next several posts.

II Thessalonians 2:3, 6-8

Here are the verses in question:

“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;”

“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed,…”

The word "let" or "letteth" is an Old English word meaning to prevent.

When we examine the second chapter of II Thessalonians, we see that something/someone is holding back the Antichrist. This something/someone will continue to do so until he is 'taken out of the way.'

The teaching of the pre-Tribulation Rapture claims that the Holy Spirit is this restrainer. His influence on the world keeps the demonic kingdom in check. It is believed that the Holy Spirit, along with the Church, must therefore be removed BEFORE the Antichrist can be revealed.

This occurs, it is taught, at the pre-Tribulation Rapture.

Assumptions, Assumptions

A few questions:

  1. Where does Paul state explicitly that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit?
  1. Where does Paul state that the Holy Spirit will be "taken out of the way"?
  1. Where does Paul state that when the Holy Spirit is “taken out of the way,” he is taken up to heaven?
  1. Where in this passage does Paul state that the Church will be removed before the Antichrist is revealed?

The assumption at work here is that since this restraining influence has been at work from the time of the apostles to the present day, the restrainer must be both eternal and supernatural.

Those who hold to the pre-Tribulation theory point out that the Holy Spirit is the ONLY one who could be the restrainer.

Five Observations

From the passage in II Thessalonians, we can draw five simple observations:

1. The restrainer is both an “it” and a “he.” In verse 6, the restrainer is spoken of in the neuter gender, “what withholdeth.” And in verse 7, the restrainer is referred to using the singular masculine personal pronoun, “he who now letteth.”

2. The restrainer must be a being that has been alive for at least 2,000 years. Paul spoke of the restraining in the present tense, and projected this into the future until the Antichrist will be revealed. Maybe not eternal, but definitely long-lived.

3. The restrainer is most likely a spiritual being since he is restraining something spiritual. The restrainer is hindering what Paul calls the “mystery of iniquity” and not the “man of sin” himself. Obviously, the man of sin was not alive in the first century. The mystery of iniquity is some kind of demonic force, a spiritual power that seeks to bring about the revelation of the man of sin. John says that “this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (I Jn. 4:3) This spirit was already working at the time of the apostles. The restrainer seems to be able to deal directly with spiritual powers on a spiritual plane.

4. The restrainer must be more powerful that the one he is restraining, or have greater authority. Otherwise how could he be successful at restraining for at least 2,000 years?

5. The restrainer deals directly in hand to hand combat with demonic forces. The Greek word for “letteth” and “withholdeth” (Strongs #2722) in this passage means to physically grab and hold down.

Who Meets The Criteria?

Rome? Some early Christians thought that the restrainer might be Rome, but Rome failed the endurance test. The Antichrist has still not arrived on the scene. Rome also failed the spiritual test, etc.

Human government? Human government may have continued for the required time, but, like Rome, it fails the masculine/neuter test, and is unable to deal directly with demonic powers. Also, human government will not be taken out of the way at the revelation of the Antichrist.

The Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit fits most of the criteria. He is able to deal with demonic forces on a spiritual plane, and has the necessary power. He is eternal. And though he is normally referred to in the masculine, at times he is referred to in the neuter. However, the Holy Spirit is not typically portrayed as directly restraining evil, as in a hands-on wrestling match with demonic powers. The Spirit’s presence within believers may indirectly hinder demonic powers, but Paul seems to be painting a more direct intervention in this passage.

But does anyone fit the requirements better?

We'll see in our next post!

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