WHO IS "HE WHO NOW RESTRAINS"? (EXCERPT OF IT IS TIME FOR A REFORMATION OF CHRISTIAN THINKING)
From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking
Copyright © 1991 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Many of the Christian churches, in accordance with the doctrine of the “pre-tribulation rapture” of the believers, understand “he who now restrains” (II Thessalonians 2:7) to be the Holy Spirit. The “Gentile Bride” is to be lifted up to Heaven accompanied by the Holy Spirit. The removal of the Holy Spirit from the earth will permit the full revelation of the “man of sin.” This is what is taught currently.
While we agree that the Holy Spirit in the saints is the Power who is restraining the open revelation of the man of sin, we do not believe that the Holy Spirit Himself will be removed from the earth during the great apostasy. We believe rather that it is the witnessing power of the saints that will be overcome, thus paving the way for the full expression of Satan in the earth.
We have at least six reasons for not accepting the current position that II Thessalonians 2:7 means the Holy Spirit of God will be withdrawn into Heaven with the believers before the days of trouble come.
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. (II Thessalonians 2:7)
Many of the Christian churches, in accordance with the doctrine of the “pre-tribulation rapture” of the believers, understand “he who now restrains” to be the Holy Spirit. The “Gentile Bride” is to be lifted up to Heaven accompanied by the Holy Spirit. The removal of the Holy Spirit from the earth will permit the full revelation of the “man of sin.” This is what is taught currently.
While we agree that the Holy Spirit in the saints is the Power who is restraining the open revelation of the man of sin, we do not believe that the Holy Spirit Himself will be removed from the earth during the great apostasy.
We have at least six reasons for not accepting the current position that II Thessalonians 2:7 means the Holy Spirit of God will be withdrawn into Heaven with the believers before the days of trouble come.
First of all, the doctrine of a special, secret translation of the saints to prevent their suffering cannot, as we see it, be defended by any straightforward interpretation of the Scriptures. The secret translation selects passages here and there and colors them with preconceptions. It is based on assumptions and reasoning. It is not derived from the careful exegesis of any passage of Scripture that we know of; neither does it come by revelation from the Lord.
We have been in churches where there have been many prophetic pronouncements. We have never heard one prophecy given by a believer that spoke of an any-moment “rapture” of the believers.
We exhort godly ministers to look once again to the Book to see if there will be a secret coming of the Lord Jesus before His glorious appearing in the clouds of the heaven.
Second, the serious student will note that II Thessalonians 2:7 does not speak of the restrainer being lifted up to Heaven nor does I Thessalonians 4:17 speaks of the saints being lifted up to Heaven. The idea of the Holy Spirit and the saints being lifted up to Heaven is the result of the “coloring” that occurs because of the teaching of the “rapture.
Third, Paul has just stated (II Thessalonians 2:3) that the Day of Christ, which beyond all question is the second coming of the Lord, will not occur until after the man of sin is revealed.
Our fourth reason for disagreeing with the current Christian understanding is, there is no statement in either the Old Testament or the New Testament to the effect that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth prior to the great tribulation or at any other time.
Although there is no scriptural support for the teaching of the removal of the Holy Spirit from the earth, there is a scriptural explanation of II Thessalonians 2:7. It is that the anointing for witnessing that will characterize the last days, the “latter rain” outpouring of the Spirit, will be diminished greatly as soon as the worldwide witness has been given to God’s satisfaction.
The decrease of God’s Presence and power will result in the Christian witness being overcome by the lust of the flesh (Sodom), the lust of the eyes (Egypt), and the pride of life (Jerusalem) as well as by violent persecution.
And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. (Revelation 11:8)
Because lawlessness will abound in the earth, the love of the majority of the believers, including some of the saints who were used by God during the last great revival, will grow cold (Revelation 11:7,8; Daniel 11:35; Matthew 24:12).
God will remove the power of the Holy Spirit that is restraining the Antichrist. God will give authority and power to Antichrist. The believers will be overcome by the power of darkness. Only those saints who have the Presence of God and Christ dwelling in them will be able to stand and serve the Lord during the last days.
The result of the decrease of the Presence of the Spirit of God will be the “falling away of” the believers (II Thessalonians 2:3).
You may recall that Jesus warned us concerning the doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14). Balaam was unable to curse the Israelites because of the blessing that rested on them. Therefore Balaam in his wisdom counseled Balak, the king of Moab, to seduce the Israelite warriors to commit sin. Balaam knew that if the Israelites could be tempted to sin their Divine defense would depart from them and they could be overcome. Can you see this pattern in II Thessalonians 2:3? Can you see that it is the falling away that makes possible the rise of Antichrist?
Satan has learned through the centuries that the Christian Church cannot be conquered by any amount of threats, imprisonments, tortures, or slayings. Therefore Satan’s master plan for the last days is to conquer the Christian saints by means of ease, prosperity, peace, and an abundance of available sin.
His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power [Satan’s]; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive [following his own wishes]; he shall destroy [corrupt] the mighty, and also the holy people [the saints].
“Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity [ease]. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes [Christ, at His coming]; but he shall be broken without human means. (Daniel 8:24,25)
This is why Jesus promised us that if we would be careful to guard the Word of His patience, He would be careful to guard us during the hour of temptation (not tribulation) of the last days (Revelation 3:10).
The Christian churches of the wealthy nations of our day already have been conquered by Antichrist as they accept the teaching that God desires His people not suffer but rather that they be satisfied with an abundance of material goods and pleasures, with material “security.” These churches no longer possess the spiritual power to restrain the secular governments. Life on earth has become too sweet for them to take a chance on losing their possessions by antagonizing the government.
The spirit of “the rights of the people” (another name for lawlessness) is filling the democratic nations. The emphasis is on pleasing the people. In some instances this spirit is causing the systems of criminal justice to falter. Those in charge are unwilling to rule with sternness, fearing the criticism of lawyers, judges, pastors, psychologists, educators, the media, and others who are pleading “the rights of the people.”
Perhaps the major Christian error, which is the interpreting of Paul’s doctrine of grace to mean that no matter what we do, how we behave ourselves, God will receive us into Paradise, has resulted from the spirit of humanism. Men love themselves. Therefore God must set Himself the task of pleasing and taking care of people.
This is the spirit of Antichrist. Antichrist is the imitation of Christ. Antichrist resembles Christ in many ways but he will not set aside his life, take up his cross, and follow Jesus.
Today we have a false Christianity. It has the voice of Jacob but the hands of Esau. The speech is godly but the actions are those of the world.
It sounds as though we are being godly when we stress the rights of people, the welfare of people. However, this spirit is not of God. It is of Antichrist. The true Christian Gospel points people toward death with Jesus on the cross. It does not encourage their love of themselves.
The False Prophet already has entered the Christian churches, especially, it seems, the “Charismatic” churches. Perhaps this is because the Charismatic churches may represent the greatest potential threat to Satan’s kingdom in that they have a little of the Life of the Holy Spirit. But in the Charismatic churches, Satan is speaking of the believer’s right to be happy and increased with goods, claiming that no Christian need have any fear of being punished at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Kingdom of God cannot come into being until the ruling Son (Christ in us—Revelation, Chapter 12) is born. The ruling Son cannot be born until the Church is willing to bow in the travail of death to the flesh and soul. Therefore the tactic of Antichrist is to persuade Christians to “live.” Christ wants to make you happy. Christ wants to make you a success. You can do all things through Christ. This is the cry of the False Prophet.
The point of all this flattery is to persuade Christians to save their lives. Satan has no fear of Christians. His fear is of Christ. If he can persuade Christians to save their lives “through Christ” he then can prevent the bringing forth of Christ.
It is the cross that brings about the end of Satan’s kingdom. By persuading the believers to ignore their personal cross and to concentrate on the “good things” they can get out of God through Christ, Satan hopes to set aside the maturing of the power of the Kingdom of God.
The tactic of destroying the power of the saints by gold rather than by guns is effective. It is the tactic of the last days and already has destroyed the Christian witness in the democratic nations.
Jesus did not come to make us comfortable and happy. Jesus came to bring into being the Kingdom of God. Bringing into being the Kingdom of God requires that we be crucified with Christ. The way to glory is through our personal cross. The way to rulership is through suffering. The way to the crown is through the cross. The church fathers knew this. The contemporary Christians are in deception.
The decrease of holy spiritual power in the last days will enable Antichrist to expand his influence in the world, forcing the remnant of true saints to flee from the centers of civilization. The Christian testimony will be “killed” for a season, permitting the setting in of the worldwide revolt against authority.
Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered [crushed], all these things shall be finished. (Daniel 12:7)
The verses in Daniel concerning Antichrist provide the foundation for Paul’s teaching in II Thessalonians 2:3-8. Paul understood that God would diminish the power of the Spirit-inspired testimony, resulting in the weakening of the influence of the saints—the “mighty and the holy people”—and the revealing of the man of sin.
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. (Revelation 11:7)
The Antichrist will overcome the saints with “Sodom” (the lust of the flesh), “Egypt” (the lust of the eyes), and “Jerusalem” (the pride of life)—Revelation 11:8. Many believers who had been able to restrain themselves to a certain extent will find their resistance to sin is being overcome. They no longer have the strength to stand. Also, Antichrist will frighten the believers with economic penalties and in some cases with physical terror.
When the Christian churches of the earth have been overcome by the deceiving ability of Antichrist, are worshiping him, yielding to the evil that is in the world economic system, receiving the mark of his name, not having prepared themselves to stand in the evil day, the wicked of the earth will “rejoice over them, and make merry.” Those who are evil will always rejoice over a fallen saint.
The Spirit-filled churches of the first half of the prophetic “week” had been a strong rebuke to the practices of the world. They had possessed the power of the Spirit of God to bring judgment on the wicked. Now it is obvious that they no longer are able to wield the power the wicked had come to fear.
All that is left is the “dead bodies” of the Christian institutions. The deceived Christians have joined the ranks of those who are seeking the welfare of people. These seduced believers will join with Antichrist in expelling the true saints, who are continuing to warn the churches and the world of what is taking place. The saints will seem as the most disgusting and unenlightened of people, not being willing to participate in the “wonderful” new age that has come to the earth.
How many Charismatic churches of today would tolerate someone who proclaimed to them that only those among them who had forsaken the world, had taken up their cross and were following Jesus, were the true Christians? How would they receive an individual who kept on warning them that the so-called “prosperity message” is coming from the False Prophet?
How would they treat a prophet if the President and the governors all were “Christians” and “deplored” the shortsightedness of this weird individual who kept on insisting that it is not of God that His saints be “successful” and at home in the present world; that the world is the enemy of the saint?
As is true today, the churches will have lost their separation from the world, like Samson of the Old Testament, and as a result their strength. Here is Laodicea—the church without the Spirit of God, the church of “the rights of people.” Laodicea is “rich and increased with goods” because it is subsidized by Antichrist so that it may work with his government in the establishing of world peace.
The fiery testimony of the Holy Spirit no longer is present in these “Christian” institutions. They are dead!
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. (Revelation 3:1)
“And are dead”!
It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. (Revelation 13:7)
Before the witnessing power was decreased the saints could not be harmed (Revelation 11:5). When God removes the Power that is hindering Antichrist, Antichrist then will be able to seduce many of the witnesses, and also their converts, and to bring the fullness of lawlessness into the lives of the inhabitants of the earth. There no longer will be any power that can restrain him.
Our fifth reason for not believing the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth (along with today’s bumper crop of immature believers) is that the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached through at least part of the tribulation period, and it is not possible to preach the Gospel of Christ apart from the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God.
“And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. (Daniel 11:33)
Daniel, as was true of all the Hebrew Prophets, was writing concerning the Christian saints, whether they are Jews or Gentiles by natural birth. It is we Christians who are the “saints,” the “holy ones” of God. The term saint is used in the Christian Epistles to refer to God’s elect. Paul always wrote to the “saints,” to the “holy ones” of God, not to the “Christians.” The term Christian is employed only three times in the entire New Testament and never once by the Apostle Paul.
The present-day doctrine of God removing the Gentile part of His Church to Heaven, while the Jewish segment is left on the earth to face the wrath of Antichrist, is indeed contrary to the writings of the Apostle Paul. Hopefully the Jewish believers will recognize the anti-Semitism in the doctrine of the division of the one Church and reject it, for the teaching is not of God. Christ still loves His chosen people.
It is not possible to teach or to understand the things of God apart from the Presence of the Holy Spirit. How could the saints of the tribulation period without the Spirit of God “instruct many” concerning the Kingdom of God, when one neither can see nor enter the Kingdom of God apart from being born again of the Spirit of God (John 3:3-5)?
Also, does it make sense that God would withdraw His Spirit from the earth along with the saved Gentiles so the Gentiles will not have to face Antichrist and tribulation, and then ask His chosen people, the Jews, to preach the Gospel in the face of Antichrist without the power or guidance of the Holy Spirit? Does this make any sense at all or is it not rather a delusion, the purpose of which is to lull the believing Gentiles into spiritual sleep and spiritual death?
We are not aware that God ever at any time has charged a human being to bear witness of His Person and will without the help of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is impossible to bear witness of God’s Kingdom apart from the Presence of the Holy Spirit. How, then, can those who understand instruct many during the tribulation period when the Holy Spirit is not present to enlighten the heart and mind of the teacher and the student? Can the natural man teach and perceive the things of the Spirit of God (I Corinthians 2:14)?
Our sixth objection to the doctrine of the removal of the Spirit of God is, there are Old Testament passages that declare God will move in unprecedented power at the time of the greatest spiritual darkness.
Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1,2)
Here we see that God will glorify the purified remnant of saints who will be on the earth in the hour of intense, worldwide spiritual darkness. Some of these saints will be Jewish and some Gentile. They will be one Body in Christ.
In the period immediately preceding the return of Christ the Lord will enter His people in the fullness of the power of His Spirit.
The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness.
The LORD also will roar from Zion [body of Christ], and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:15,16)
We see, therefore, that the interpreting of II Thessalonians 2:7 to mean that the Holy Spirit will be received back into Heaven before the Lord returns is not stated in the Scriptures. The belief is derived from this one verse of Scripture (because of the preconceived notion of the pre-tribulation evacuation of the believers), even though the verse itself does not make any such statement or suggestion.
The doctrine of a special, secret translation of the saints to prevent their suffering cannot be defended by any competent, straightforward interpretation of the Scriptures.
Second Thessalonians 2:7 does not speak of the restrainer being lifted up to Heaven.
The Day of Christ, which beyond all question is the second coming of the Lord, will not occur until after the man of sin is revealed.
There is no statement in either the Old Testament or the New Testament to the effect that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth prior to the great tribulation.
The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached through at least part of the tribulation period.
There are Old Testament passages that declare God will move in unprecedented power at the time of the greatest spiritual darkness.
There is scriptural support for the idea that there will be in the last days a great latter-rain revival, as symbolized by the two witnesses of Revelation, Chapter Eleven. At the end of the revival God will permit Antichrist to overcome the Christian witness by deception and force and to drive the remnant of true saints into hiding, thus effectively silencing for a season in the cities of the earth the Divine testimony (Joel 2:23; Hosea 6:3; Zechariah 10:1; Isaiah 4:6; 26:20; Revelation 12:14).
The silencing of the Christian testimony in the centers of civilization will remove the power of the Spirit that is hindering the revealing of the man of sin. Antichrist then will be able to express fully in the earth the person, will, and ways of Satan.
(“Who Is “He Who Now Restrains”?”, 3958-1)