Monday, 2 October 2017
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. 2 Thessalonians 2:7
The word “For” is given based on the words of the previous verse. Paul said something was restraining the Antichrist. This was “that he may be revealed in his own time.” From this, Paul continues with “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” A mystery is something not revealed. There is a lawlessness which is working (and it has been working for 2000 years or more) which is not yet fully revealed. It has been slowly working out a plan. In the Greek, there is an article in front of both “mystery” and “lawlessness.” It reads, “For the mystery of the lawlessness.”
The state of lawlessness which is still not fully revealed is “already at work.” The idea of the work is that of an inward action, as if yeast causing bread to swell. As Charles Ellicott notes, “This is not a personal thing.” It is a state of lawlessness which is working, and which will eventually be revealed. This mystery is then sharply contrasted to the word “revealed” which is found in verses 6 & 8. There is a time when the lawlessness will come forth to effect its purposes on earth. It will be when the Antichrist is revealed, because he will then embody this lawlessness. This working of lawlessness, however, is kept in check until the appropriate time.
At some point, the restraining force of verse 6 will no longer restrain. As it says, “only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.” The words “will do so” are supplied by the translators for clarity. The use of the masculine word “He” is based upon the masculine, singular article in the Greek. In verse 6, the restraining force was described with a neuter article, “that which restrains.” That is converted now to a masculine noun. The question is, “Who is He?”
The NKJV capitalizes the word. This is a presupposition that it is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Others continue to translate this as “the one,” “he” (not capitalized), “that which,” “the person,” etc. Each translation is based on a best guess of the nature of this “restrainer.” But Paul uses the masculine here for a reason, and so it is not appropriate to continue to translate it in the neuter. Further, this cannot be a “person” in the regular sense. The restraining has gone on for millennia. It is also not something belonging to the lawlessness. To be restrained is an external force, not an internal one.
Therefore, it appears that the NKJV is correct in their translation. This is God who is restraining. However, and more specifically, it is the restraining power of the third member of the Godhead – the Holy Spirit. One analysis is that the restrainer is the church itself, but as the word is masculine, it is more appropriately the One who is intimately identified with the true church. The Holy Spirit is given to all who believe in Christ (Ephesians 1:13, 14). As this is so, the church is involved in the restraining process, but it is the Holy Spirit who is the one who actively restrains the lawlessness. And He will do so “until He is taken out of the way.”
What this means is that there is a time when the Holy Spirit’s restraining influence will no longer be effected. A releasing of the restraint will come about, and then only will the lawless one be revealed. What is certain then is that if the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, the church too must be taken out of the way. If the effect of the Holy Spirit is to end, and the church were to remain, then the “guarantee” of the sealing of the Spirit which Paul notes in Ephesians 1:14 would not be a sound “guarantee” at all. We would be left abandoned. This is completely contrary to the nature of God and His word. Thus, this taking “out of the way” of the Holy Spirit is simultaneous with the taking away of the church at the rapture. Both occur, and only then will the mystery of lawlessness (and thus the Antichrist) be revealed. This will be explicitly stated in the next verse.
Life application: Are you a believer in Christ? If so, you are sealed with the Spirit. There is a time when the Spirit will be taken out of the way. But God will never leave nor forsake His people. Thus, the rapture is implied in today’s verse. And it is a moment prior to the revealing of the Antichrist and the seven years of tribulation on earth. Why would you look to determine who the Antichrist is? He is a part of a mystery not yet revealed. Rather, look for Christ – our hope of glory.
Lord God, the promises of Your word are so very wonderful. You have, even from the first pages of the Bible, shown that we will someday be restored to a land of perfection and delight. How wonderful it will be. All the things that tire us and wear us out will be forever forgotten as we search out Your infinite glory. Surely You have wonderful things in store for those who trust in You as You have revealed Yourself in Christ Jesus. May that day be soon. Amen.