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I. (:6-7) MYSTERY MODE OF OPERATION – Presently Active during this Church Age … but Restrained

A.  Presently restrained by the Archangel Michael

“And you know what restrains him now”

B.  Awaiting Future Revelation and Intense Activity

“so that in his time he may be revealed”

C.  Active Behind the Scenes Right Now

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work”

Stedman: “Paul goes on to say there is a mystery of evil at work in our world. He calls it ‘the mystery of lawlessness’ which is already at work. It is the strange secret of universal evil. Even secular prophets are puzzled by it. What is it about our race that makes it so difficult to correct the conditions that destroy it? Why is drug trafficking so impossible to stop when it is clearly evident what terrible things it does to people? Why is it that alcoholics will return again and again to their habit when they see that it is destroying their homes and families, and even their own lives? It is a mystery; the mystery of lawlessness; the strange secret of human evil. Why is it that as the centuries go by we have made zero progress in curing human wickedness? We are still wrestling with the problem just as people wrestled with it five thousand years before Christ. We do not make any progress in this area.”

D.  Restraining Influence of the Archangel Michael Will Be Removed

“only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way”

Marvin Rosenthal: Argues persuasively for the Archangel Michael

1)  The archangel Michael has long been recognized by both Jewish and Christian scholars as having a special guardian relationship to Israel (Dan. 10:12-13).  In relation to Israel, he is called “Michael, your prince” (Dan. 10:21).  His name means Who is like God?  Almost as if in contrast to Satan who desires to be “like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14).  Daniel is told that Michael is “the great prince who standeth [present continuous tense; that is, he continues to stand] for the children of thy people” (Dan. 12:1).

2)  Revelation 12 describes a war that occurs in heaven.  The time for that conflict can be pinpointed at precisely the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel (Rev. 12:6-14).  The woman represents Israel, who gave Christ (the male child) to the world (Rev. 12:5) and who will be severely persecuted during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:13-17).

3)  Speaking of this one who will hinder the Antichrist, Paul said, “only he who now hindereth will continue to hinder until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:7).  The word hindereth means to hold down, and the phrase taken out of the way means to step aside.  Therefore, the one who had the job of hindering the Antichrist will step aside; that is, he will no longer be a restraint between the Antichrist and those the Antichrist is persecuting.

4)  The Bible is explicit that the archangel Michael is the personage who will step aside.  Daniel records that event this way: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who 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” (Dan. 12:1).

It is important to note when this event occurs.  The preceding verse says, “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain” (Dan. 11:45).  This can only refer to the Antichrist, who will establish his headquarters between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea on the glorious mountain – Jerusalem.  This occurs in the middle of the seventieth week in connection with his desecration of the temple and erection of a statue of himself. . .

5)  That special guardian relationship which Michael has with Israel is again underscored in a sometimes obscure comment made by Jude, the half brother of the Lord.  He wrote, “Yet Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses” (Jude 9). . .

The archangel Michael will step aside, he will desist from helping Israel.  That is why this period is called “the time of Jacob’s [Israel’s] trouble.”  That is what Daniel recorded what Michael would do (Dan. 12:1), and that is precisely what Paul affirmed (2 Thess. 2:7).  When that occurs, “then shall that wicked one [the Antichrist] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming [Parousia]” (2 Thess. 2:8).  That destruction will occur during the Day of the Lord.  The Antichrist’s coming, working, and power are detailed by Paul . . . The explanation for Michael’s inactivity on behalf of Israel – his desisting, his stepping aside – is then explained.  Since Israel rejected her true Christ and refused God’s truth, God will send on them strong delusion so that they will believe the lie (the man is God – humanism) and accept the false Christ. . .

It is clear that the restrainer is neither human government nor the blessed Holy Spirit of God.  The Word of God teaches that the restrainer is the archangel Michael, a faithful messenger and servant of God.  Therefore, the pretribulational contention that the restrainer is removed when the church is raptured cannot stand.  The restrainer is not the Spirit.  The restrainer is not taken out of the world; he simply ceases restraining.  The restrainer does not cease his activity at the beginning of the seventieth week but at the midpoint.  All of this activity fits, unstrained and perfectly, into a prewrath rapture of the church.

Alternate views:

Life Application Bible Commentary:

Commentators have considered three possibilities for the identity of this “restrainer”:

(1) government and law, which help to curb evil:

(2) the ministry and activity of the church and the effects of the gospel;

(3) the Holy Spirit

Stott argues for Rome and the power of the state (God’s agent for the punishment of evil).  4 arguments in favor of this view:

1)  It makes good sense.  As Plummer wrote, “the natural restrainer of lawlessness is the law, and in the first century the great organizer and executor of the law was the Roman Empire.”

2)  It tallies with Paul’s known view and experience of the state.

3)  The combination of the neuter and the masculine is easily explained.  “Think”, wrote Hendriksen, “of the empire and the emperor, of justice and the judge, of law and the one who enforces it.”

4)  The enigmatic reference would be explicable, since there were obvious prudential reasons for not openly and explicitly predicting that the state would be “taken out of the way” or “removed from the scene” (REB). .

Were it not for some remaining restraints (which preserve a measure of justice, freedom, order and decency) these things would break out much more virulently.  And one day they will.  For when the restraint is removed, then secret subversion will become open rebellion under the unscrupulous leadership of the lawless one who will be revealed (8a).  Then we can expect a period (mercifully short) of political, social and moral chaos, in which both God and Law are impudently flouted, until suddenly the Lord Jesus will come and overthrow him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendour of his come (8).

II.  (:8) REVEALED MODE OF OPERATION – Revealed for a Brief Rampage during Daniel’s 70th Week … Then Terminated (marked for extinction)

A.  Revealed for a Brief Rampage

“And then that lawless one will be revealed”

B.  Terminated at the Second Coming

  1. “whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth”

MacArthur: Isaiah 11:4 says that the Lord “will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”  Isaiah 30:33 adds, “For Topheth has long been ready, indeed, it has been prepared for the king.  He has made it deep and large, a pyre of fire with plenty of wood; the breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, sets it afire” (cf. Hos. 6:5).  Revelation uses the similar picture of a sword coming out of the Lord’s mouth to destroy His enemies (1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21).

  1. “and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming”

III.  (:9-10a)  SATANIC MODE OF OPERATION – What is Satan trying to Accomplish?

“that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan”

A.  Outwardly Impressive – Supernatural WOW Impact

  1. “with all power”
  2. “and signs”
  3. “and false wonders”

Piper: “The man of lawlessness is not Satan, but comes in the energy and power of Satan with supernatural signs and wonders. This is a warning not to make signs and wonders the ground of your faith or the criterion of truth. All these signs and wonders are counterfeit not because they aren’t miraculous — they have Satanic power — but because they don’t point to truth. They lie. They are no more to be trusted than the spirit of prophecy in verse 2 that said the day of the Lord had come.”

b.  Inwardly Deceptive and Destructive

  1. Inwardly Deceptive

“and with all the deception of wickedness”

  1. Destructive

“for those who perish”

iv.  (:11-12) DIVINE MODE OF OPERATION – What is the Bigger Picture?

What is God Actually Accomplishing?

A.  (:11) Deception Reinforcing Unbelief and False Worship

“And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that

they might believe what is false”

B.  (:12) Guilt Validating Final Judgment for Unbelief and Wickedness

“in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but

took pleasure in wickedness”