The Restrainer & the Rapture
By Pastor Dean Odle
"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, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:" (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).
There has been great speculation and debate over the identity of the "he" who is holding back the rise of the Antichrist until the time appointed by God. This "he" is called the Restrainer by some. He is holding back the rise of the Antichrist and the beginning of the GREAT TRIBULATION.
There are two common but equally wrong teachings on this subject. One such teaching says the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit and He will leave the earth to allow the Great Tribulation. However, that assumption is the most ridiculous of the two ideas because the proponents of this say that people will still be born again during the Great Tribulation and a person cannot be saved without the Holy Spirit convicting them and revealing Jesus to them. And secondly, Jesus said that Holy Spirit would be with us forever:
"If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you FOR EVER; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:15-17).
The second ridiculous theory on this subject is that the church is the "Restrainer" that will be taken out to allow the rise of the Antichrist. However, the Bible does not teach that the church will be removed before the Antichrist comes. In fact, Jesus taught that the rapture of the church takes place "immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days" (Matthew 24:29-32).
In Matthew 24, the Lord Jesus gave us a chronological outline of the signs and events that would lead to His second coming. As you work through the sequence of events in Matthew 24, the "Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is the Antichrist standing in the end-time Jewish Temple long before the rapture takes place. In that teaching, the Lord revealed that the rapture of the church happens "immediately AFTER THE TRIBULATION OF THOSE DAYS" (Matthew 24:29-31). In John 6, Jesus taught that those who believe in Him (walking in faith) will be raised up AT THE LAST DAY." He didn't say 7 years before the last day. Paul taught 2 Thess. 2 that "the coming of The Lord and our gathering together unto Him" would NOT happen until after the MAN of SIN revealed himself by claiming to be God in the temple and we know that happens in the middle of the tribulation.
So, the church is not taken out BEFORE the Antichrist steps into the Jewish Temple at the midpoint. And the Apostle John said that he saw those who were beheaded for resisting the mark of the Beast who would be part of the FIRST RESURRECTION (Rev. 20). The second resurrection is the wicked dead at the end of the millennial (1,000 year) reign of Jesus Christ on earth. So there can't be pre-tribulation rapture (resurrection) before the FIRST RESURRECTION which will include those who died for refusing the mark of the Beast. Thus, it is not possible for the church to be the "Restrainer."
Let the Bible Interpret the Bible
The "Restrainer" in 2 Thess. 2 is revealed in Daniel 12 as Michael the archangel. It is when he "stands up" that the "time of great trouble" begins. The Hebrew term for "stand up" there is a broad term (amad) and according to the Strong's Hebrew Dictionary can mean stand, arise, or cease. So, it is evident that the archangel Michael arising or ceasing from something allows the time of great trouble to come. Thus, Michael is the restrainer that moves out of the way not the Holy Spirit or the church.
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1).