Discourse 108 - Who or what still restrains the Antichrist?




Who is "he who now restrains" in 2The 2,7? / Anonymous 00, 2011-08-19

The Rapture.

The Great Tribulation.

He who now restrains

Will the Holy Spirit be taken out of the way before the coming of the Antichrist? / Book W.J. Ouweneel, page 102)

Has he who restrains already been taken out of the way? /    Discourse 1133



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Who is "he who now restrains" in 2The 2,7? / Anonymous 00, 2011-08-19)

Dear Mr. Horak, First of all I would like to thank you for your very thorough website Immanuel.at. I have been reading your texts with astonishment for some months, but I keep on forgetting my questions, because I have already found myself hooked on the next interesting issue.

So I have now just decided to start by asking you a question about the following biblical passage:

2 Thessalonians 2,7: 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.

You quote this passage, along with its context, in various articles. Only you do not discuss the identity of "him who now restrains". If I remember correctly, this passage was an indication, for Dave Hunt and others, that the Rapture has to take place before the Great Tribulation. This because according to Dave Hunt (I think it was Dave Hunt) "he who now restrains" is the Holy Spirit in the form of the congregation, which must first be taken out of the way (raptured, in other words) before the Antichrist can take up his station in the sanctuary of the Temple.

I read Dave Hunt’s book "The Occult Invasion" some years ago. If I were to try to find the passage in his book, I would probably never get around to even making a start with the questions I want to ask you. I am very greedy for biblical commentaries like yours, because it isn’t often that you get things so well explained and substantiated. Perhaps actually the argument was from Roger Liebi and not from Dave Hunt. At the time, you see, I was looking for indications as to whether the signs and wonders movement of today is one of the things leading us astray, or whether it emanates from Jesus Christ. To this end I consulted many authors. Whoever it came from, this argument calmed my fears, persuading me that I and my children would not have to worry about the Great Tribulation.

So who, in your view, is "he who now restrains"?

It is surely the Antichrist who is being restrained by this person, or am I again failing to understand this correctly?

I very much look forward to your answer, and hope that you will permit me to ask further questions as well. My problem is that I try to take in a whole lot at speed, and after that am no longer able to get my questions into any kind of order. And what is more, I can’t find the points any longer that I was wanting to refer to. But I’m not an academic or theologian either, and have never really done academic or analytical work. At the time when I read Dave Hunt I was convinced by his argument about the Rapture coming before the Tribulation. Another argument too has stuck in my mind right up to the present day ‒ that if they are doing things like marrying and grinding and sleeping, these can hardly be times of affliction, it must be a time of peace when the Rapture takes place, otherwise they wouldn’t be going on with these normal activities. If it were a time when Christians were being persecuted, then the Christians would undoubtedly be in some kind of concentration camp already, they wouldn’t be sleeping in a bed or grinding alongside non-Christians… Then too the fact that he comes like a thief ‒ Dave Hunt thought this couldn’t be possible at a time when the Christians are desperately longing for the Lord’s arrival, in view of their affliction. But perhaps he comes like a thief only from the point of view of unbelievers?

(…) I’ve always been told ever since my conversion that the Lord Jesus could come back and rapture us any day. There wouldn’t be any conditions still needing to be fulfilled. This is also the doctrine taught by my Free Evangelical congregation.


This visitor prefers to remain anonymous.



Thank you for your visit to Immanuel.at, your friendly remarks and your comments. You are quite right in noticing that this biblical passage has been quite frequently referred to at Immanuel.at, but without further explanation, in view of a lack of fresh insights on the subject. In the interpretation of the passage 2The 2,1-12, this specific verse, 2The 2,7, has been a matter of extreme controversy ever since the last century. In connection with your inquiry, however, and in the light of a more recent understanding arrived at after some years of thought, I have come up with a new point of view which not only succeeds in refuting the traditional and controversial interpretation but also offers an explanation of the passage that is more in accordance with Scripture. In the interest of a better overview, here is the biblical text:

The mystery of lawlessness will not be revealed until he who now restrains is taken out of the way.

2The 2,1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2,2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2,3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 2,4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2,5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 2,6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.

2,7 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. 2,8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2,9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 2,10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 2,11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 2,12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 2The 2, 1-12;


In order to answer our visitor’s question as it relates to the verse 2The 2,7, we must first of all have regard to the context of this scriptural passage. Paul is apparently writing to the Thessalonians in response to a report that has reached him. He has learned of the spread of rumors in Thessaloniki which assert that the Day of the Second Coming of the Lord, along with the Rapture of the faithful, has already dawned. In view of the fact that these lying assertions had even been backed up by reference to a supposed letter from Paul to the same effect, the Christian faithful in Thessaloniki were understandably confused and anxious, seeing that the Rapture ‒ as they supposed ‒ had already happened and they had clearly not been raptured along with the rest.



The Rapture

If we now look closely at the text, we can see that Paul is putting the brethren’s minds at rest in confirming that this Day of the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture of the faithful has not yet occurred. And to prove it, he now gives them an exact account of the sequence of these events of the Last Days.

The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.

2The 2,1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2,2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2The 2, 1- 2;


After warning the Thessalonians not to allow themselves to be led astray by any "messages" of any kind, Paul demonstrates to them that this day cannot already be here, because it has to be preceded by an unmistakable event that cannot possibly be overlooked: the apostasy (falling away from God), otherwise known as the Great Tribulation, must come first, and at the same time the man of lawlessness ‒ the Antichrist ‒ must be revealed.

For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction;

2The 2,3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 2,4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2The 2, 3- 4;

The day of  the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Cor 1,4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 1,5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 1,6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 1,7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1,8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1,9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.1Cor 1, 4- 9;

So will the Son of Man be in His day.

Lk 17,24 "For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. Lk 17,24;


So first of all the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation must come, before the Lord returns for the Rapture of the faithful. This is an unambiguous demonstration, then, that there is no such thing as a Rapture before the Great Tribulation (as taught by the Pretribulationists) ‒ on the contrary, the Great Tribulation must be undergone by the congregation of Christ. Our Lord, too, reveals to us the very same sequence of events, in his discourse on the Last Days in Mt 24 and 25:

After the tribulation of those days they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky.

Mt 24,29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 24,30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 24,31 "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Mt 24,29-31;


As the above text ‒ “They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky” ‒ tells us, this again is a prophecy of the Second Coming of the Lord. And the promise that follows ‒ “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect” ‒ confirms that we here have to do with the Second Coming of the Lord for the Rapture of the faithful.

And the Lord now tells us in Mt 24,29 that he will come “immediately after the tribulation of those days” ‒ in other words, after the Great Tribulation or Affliction, which he has foretold in Mt 24:21. For attentive readers of the Bible, then, there could not be a better demonstration of the fact that the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture happen after the Great Tribulation and not before.

(See also Discourse 106: “The false teachings in the Christian congregations.”)


So it is irresponsible of some preachers in Christian congregations that they lead the brethren astray, because they are too complacent to study the Bible themselves (I wouldn’t like to impute the deliberate intent to deceive), by simply parroting the hot air they have been served up with by other preachers for the better part of the past century.

The great danger here is of course that the Antichrist (the Greek prefix anti can mean both “against” and “instead of”) will come as the “instead-of Christ”. He will claim to be the real Christ and the real Messiah, and will abuse our Lord Jesus Christ as an impostor and blasphemer, just as the Jews have already been doing for almost two millennia, ever since Caiaphas, their High Priest, first pronounced this same judgment when condemning the Lord to death (Mt 26:63-66). And the Antitrinitarians of today are already doing all they can to deny the divinity of our Lord and demote him to the status of the human being “Yeshua”, which of course the Antichrist will later be happy to corroborate.

(See also Discourse 107: “The denial of the Trinity, the false Catholic teaching and the true Biblical Trinity”)


Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Phil 2,5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 2,6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 2,7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 2,8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 2,9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 2,10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Phil 2, 5-10;

This is the Antichrist, who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ (in the form of God) as coming in the flesh..

2Jn 1,7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 1,8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 1,9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 1,10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 1,11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 2Jn 1, 7-11;

This is the antichrist, the one who denies that Jesus is the Son.

1Jn 2,22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 1Jn 2,22;

And then all those Christian brethren in the Free Evangelical and other Christian congregations who have been taught by their preachers, as our visitor reveals in her above comments, that “the Lord Jesus could come back and rapture us any day and that there wouldn’t be any conditions still needing to be fulfilled”, will hail this false Christ with joyful acclaim and worship him as the Son of God. And so will the Jews, incidentally, who will welcome him as their Messiah.

That is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders.

2The 2,7 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. 2,8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2,9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders. 2The 2, 7- 9;


And just as false preachers today tell the brethren in the congregations that the foundation of the State of Israel in the year 1948 was the “Gathering of Israel by God”, so transposing events which are only to happen at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ into the present, perhaps here too the Antichrist will play fast and loose with time and announce that the Rapture has been postponed, until he has got everything on earth “sorted”. And they will all believe him, because he will perform all kinds of signs and wonders and the whole world will be amazed.

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.

2The 2,9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 2,10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 2,11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 2,12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 2The 2, 9-12;


Finally when we look more closely at this text from Paul, we find yet another irrefutable indication that the Second Coming of the Lord, and so the Rapture as well, will only take place after the Great Tribulation. In verse 8 of the text under discussion, Paul prophesies that the lawless one ‒ the Antichrist, that is ‒ will be annihilated by Jesus Christ when he comes:

The lawless one whom the Lord will bring to an end, by the appearance of His coming;

2The 2,8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2The 2, 8;


So if the Antichrist is to be removed by the Son of God, on the Second Coming of the Lord for the Rapture, the Antichrist must surely have been ruling the world up to this point, which means that the Great Tribulation must already have happened. And this gives us a further proof that the Great Tribulation and the Antichrist are to be assigned to a time before the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture.

In view of all these biblical proofs, it would indeed be a kind of “deluding influence” ‒ to quote Paul’s words in the above passage ‒ to believe, and to preach, that “the Lord Jesus could come back and rapture us any day. There wouldn’t be any conditions still needing to be fulfilled”, so preventing the faithful from knowing of the time of the Great Tribulation and concealing from the brethren the coming of the Antichrist.

(See also Discourse 71: “Is the next major event of world history for the faithful the Rapture?”)


But on the assumption that the majority of preachers will not be deliberately propagating false doctrine here, we would like to try to understand how it is that this point of view has been able ‒ in spite of so many biblical counter-proofs ‒ to maintain itself with such persistence, so that it has practically attained to worldwide acceptance. An example of this, perhaps, is the argument our commentator quotes as coming from the American preacher and author of many books Dave Hunt (if she really did find this teaching in his works). She writes above:

(…) At the time when I read Dave Hunt I was convinced by his argument about the Rapture coming before the Tribulation. Another argument too has stuck in my mind right up to the present day ‒ that if they are doing things like marrying and grinding and sleeping, these can hardly be times of affliction, it must be a time of peace when the Rapture takes place, otherwise they wouldn’t be going on with these normal activities. If it were a time when Christians were being persecuted, then the Christians would undoubtedly be in some kind of concentration camp already, they wouldn’t be sleeping in a bed or grinding alongside non-Christians...


Dave Hunt’s basing his argument, however, on the supposition “that if they are doing things like marrying and grinding and sleeping, these can hardly be times of affliction, it must be a time of peace” does actually seem a trifle surprising. Does the author really think that people won’t be either eating or sleeping in the time of the Great Tribulation? And as he refers to concentration camps ‒ even in the Nazi concentration camps people ate and slept, how could it be otherwise? And they did even get married after all! (The marriage of Auschwitz / German)

But the basic error which Dave Hunt commits here is the error of all false interpretations: they take a verse out of context and use it as the basis for constructing a whole story. If Hunt had read - and above all quoted! - the statements made by our Lord in Lk 17,26-30, just before this text (Lk 17,34-35) which he refers to, then his readers would not have any problems about understanding the matter.

It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;

Lk 17,26 "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 17,27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 17,28 "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 17,29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 17,30 "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. Lk 17,26-30;


For here the Lord says that at this time of the Rapture it will be the same as it was in the time of Noah and in the time of Lot. And in both cases human beings had fallen away from God so far that God was compelled to annihilate them - in the time of Noah the whole of humanity but for eight persons, in the time of Lot all the inhabitants of Sodom und Gomorrah. And the very argument that Christians will be sharing a bed with unbelievers in fact proves that these are times where you are not in a position to choose your bedfellow ‒ as was the case, indeed, in the concentration camps of the past. Why do we suppose the Lord tells us, in Lk 21,12:

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.

Lk 21,10 Then He continued by saying to them, "Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 21,11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 21,12 "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues(!) and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. Lk 21,10-12; (See also Mt 10:17-18)


Are these then “times of peace” for Christian believers? Or who are we suppose these persecuted people to be? Jews perhaps? Hardly! For Christ’s name’s sake only Christians will be hated and persecuted. And then the Lord also tells us: “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” These “elect” must be the congregation of the Last Days in the Great Tribulation (Mt 24:22-31).

And the Lord tells them that when they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, they should straighten up and lift up their heads, because their redemption is drawing near. This clearly must mean that up to this point they have been hanging their heads in fear and desperation as they wait for the coming of the Lord. So we can rest assured that these will not be “times of peace”.

But when these things begin to take place, straighten up, because your redemption is drawing near

Lk 21,27 "Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. 21,28 "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Lk 27,27-28;


(See also Table 19: “The persecution of the Christians in the Last Days”)


But these parables of the Lord in Lk 17:26-29,34-35 are above all designed to give the disciples ‒ and the congregation of the Last Days ‒ more detailed information about the sequence of events at the Rapture. The Second Coming of the Lord will happen suddenly, of course, but at the same time it will be visible worldwide like the lightning which “when it flashes out from one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky” (Lk 17:24). And this will surprise the unbelievers in the same way as the contemporaries of Noah were surprised by the Flood, and those of Lot by the annihilation of Sodom: they will just be carrying on with their unbelieving lives, and will not be expecting anything of the kind to happen. As we can see from this, there is no such thing as the “invisible Second Coming of the Lord”, as some preachers (especially American preachers) would have us believe!

And at the end of the Lord’s explanation, in Lk 17:37, the disciples then ask him, somewhat confusedly, “Where, Lord?” ‒ in other words, where should they go to make sure they are not left behind. The answer of the Lord now tells us two things. On the one hand it looks as if he hasn’t registered their question at all. In fact, it sounds as if he is talking of something quite different, when he says, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” And yet this was just the thing that the disciples ‒ and still more importantly, the faithful of the Last Days ‒ needed to be told.

It seems as if, in saying this, the Lord meant to tell them, “Don’t suppose that you need to go to any specific place. If God has numbered all your hairs and knows every sparrow on its rooftop, don’t you think He will be able to distinguish you and your body from all other people? When I come, I will send out my angels to gather those who are Mine. And just as the vultures know instinctively where the body is to be found, so too the angels will know where they are to locate the faithful.”

(See also Discourse 12: “Must the congregation of the Last Days seek out a place of refuge for the Rapture?”)



The Great Tribulation

The false doctrine of Pretribulationism (which postulates the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture of the congregation occurring before the Great Tribulation) doubtless originates with the complacency of some biblical commentators. This incorrect interpretation was first posited, and then, sadly, adopted by many commentators, more or less without serious examination. The principal reason for this, of course, is the shortage of time for biblical study.

But there is another, much more serious reason as well. Many biblical commentators are at the same time authors and preachers, and get an appropriate emolument for their sermons, books, lectures, courses and seminars. And of course it is a truism that you can sell more books and get more people in your audience, more people attending your courses etc., if you tell them “good news”. The message that they may have to go through the Great Tribulation, on the other hand, is of course very far from being “good news”. And so, without any regard to the testimony of Scripture, people have searched for arguments that would contradict this point of view.

This is actually the reason why Paul says we shouldn’t accept payment for our sermons, but should work with our own hands ‒ as he himself did.

But we urge you, to attend to your own business and work with your hands, and not be in any need.

1The 4,9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 4,10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 4,11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 4,12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.1The 4, 9-12;

With labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.

2The 3,7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 3,8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 2The 3, 7- 8;


Paul was a tent maker by trade (Acts 18:3-5). And here he insists that such people should follow his own example in earning a living by practicing their own worldly profession, so as to avoid being a burden to the brethren in the congregations. If they exercise leadership functions, or teach and give sermons in the congregation, they should do it free of charge. The view that “If it doesn’t cost you, it isn’t worth anything” is of purely worldly origin, and testifies to the stupidity of worldly people and to their inability to judge things in accordance with their content and recognize their true value.

Among Christians, however, leaders, teachers and preachers are subject to the following simple principle ‒ if they have received their knowledge from the Holy Spirit, they have received it free of charge, and they should pass it on free of charge; but if their knowledge does not come from the Holy Spirit, they should keep it to themselves, and not go on to inflict it on other brethren.

The attempt by biblical interpreters to “save” the congregation from undergoing the Great Tribulation has then ‒ as is often the case with efforts of this kind ‒ floundered from one mistaken theory to another. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes of the “Wrath of God”:

For God has not destined us for wrath.

1The 5,9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1The 5, 9;


And from this they now infer, perfectly correctly, that the faithful of the Last Days will not be obliged to go through the “Day of the Lord and the Wrath of God”. But then ‒ again in direct contradiction of the statements of Scripture ‒ they equate the Day of the Lord and the Wrath of God with the Great Tribulation, and again we have an argument that is incorrect in biblical terms, but which is nonetheless highly attractive in its appeal to the public, to the effect that the Rapture should be relocated to a time before this “Wrath of God” and the suppositious Great Tribulation.

In actual fact the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Wrath of God are two entirely separate episodes in the sequence of the Last Days. The Great Tribulation comprises the appearance of the Antichrist in Rev 6:1-2 (1st seal), then the Great Tribulation itself with the associated catastrophes in Rev 6:3-8 (2nd to 4th seals) and the Second Coming of the Lord in Rev 6:12-14 (6th seal). The proof of this is the parallelism of the events of Mt 24 with those of Rev 6 and 7, and above all the statement in Rev 7,9-17, where the congregation of the Last Days coming out of the Great Tribulation is seen by John as already being in heaven:

(See also Discourse 61: “Is the Great Tribulation identical with the Day of the Lord and the Wrath of God?”)


These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Rev 7,9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;

7,10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."  7,11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 7,12 saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

7,13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?" 7,14 I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 7,15 "For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.

7,16 "They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 7,17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." Rev 7, 9-17;


These are people from all nations of the world, and following the Rapture they are standing in heaven, before the throne of God. And one of the elders says of them, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation”. So if these people of all nations come out of the Great Tribulation, it necessarily follows that prior to this they must have been in the Great Tribulation, and so cannot have been raptured before the Great Tribulation occurred. This is another biblical passage which the advocates of a Rapture before the Great Tribulation have either failed to read or else have reinterpreted. And then they go on to write books and give sermons on the subject!

(See also: Discourse 862: “18 Arguments for Placing Rapture before the Great Tribulation - and their Refutation”)


By contrast with the Day of the Wrath of God, with its trumpets and judgments of the bowls, the Great Tribulation ‒ the first four seals of Revelation ‒ does not appear to include any judgments by God. Here it is rather a matter of those worldwide catastrophes which human beings have brought on themselves through their greed for power and profit and their exploitation of the planet. The struggle for the last remaining resources then plainly results in those wars in which “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (Mt 24:7) and “men slay one another” (Rev 6:4).

(See also: Discourse 05: “The parallel course of events of Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7.”)


Following the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of the Lord, with the Rapture, we find the Day of the Lord / the Wrath of God starting in Rev 6:15-17 / Rev 8:1-6 (7th seal). This includes the judgments of the trumpets and the bowls in Rev 8:7 and Rev 16:1, and comes to an end with the 7th bowl of wrath (Rev 16:17). And Paul’s promise in 1The 5,8, quoted earlier, that “God has not destined us for wrath” refers specifically to this Day of the Wrath of God. This is not the appointed destiny of the faithful of the Last Days, because they should have been raptured long before this, after the Great Tribulation and on the Second Coming of the Lord.

(See also Table 14: “The Revelation - classified by events”)



He who now restrains

In the light of the understanding we have reached through the above analysis ‒ to the effect that the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Wrath of God are two separate events in the Last Days, and especially in view of the biblical fact that the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture of the congregation will only take place after the Great Tribulation ‒ we can now turn to the interpretation of the difficult passage in 2The 2,5-7. Here once again is the text of these verses:

The mystery of lawlessness will only be revealed if he who now restrains is taken out of the way.

2The 2,5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?
2,6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.
2,7 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. 2The 2, 5- 7;


Paul has not expressed himself very clearly at this point, nor has he made it entirely plain what he is getting at. The reason for this may be, first of all, that Paul had already explained all these connections to the Thessalonians when he was with them in person, as he mentions in verse 5. On the other hand it might be the case that Paul did not think a detailed description was actually needed, as these statements were in any case self-explanatory ‒ as we will see below.

Paul’s supposedly “veiled” account, however, now gives rise to the first of the two “standard interpretations” of the passage ‒ that Paul deliberately avoided writing more openly because in speaking of the restraining element, the “what” of verse 6 (referring to an object in Greek), he meant to refer to the order of the Roman empire, the person who restrains (the “who” of verse 7) being the Roman emperor, and he wished to avoid getting into difficulties with the Roman authorities. This interpretation, it must be said, involves “resurrecting” the Roman empire if we are to explain its still being in existence in the Last Days.

But with a background of this sort Paul would obviously have had to assume that the Roman empire was the “thing” and the Roman emperor the “person” restraining the man of lawlessness. What the advocates of this interpretation seem to have overlooked, however, is the fact that both the Roman empire and the Roman emperor clearly themselves have a Satanic background, and so could have no interest in restraining the power structures of the Antichrist, or the Antichrist himself, in any way.

On the contrary, if we look at world history over the last two thousand years, it is clear that the rulers of this world ‒ from the Roman emperors down to Hitler in our own day ‒ have always tried to bring about a world government of this sort. Thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit, however, they haven’t been able to succeed so far.

(See also Discourse 1042: “Are all governments of the world ordained by God?”)


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Will the Holy Spirit be taken out of the way before the coming of the Antichrist? / Book W.J. Ouweneel, page 102)

Verses 6 and 7 (of 2The 2, FH) state that there is still a “restraining force” in the world today ‒ both a person (“he”) and also a thing (“what”), which restrain the full unfolding of evil (the apostasy of the faithful, the revelation of the Antichrist). Various different suggestions have been advanced in response to the question what is meant by this “restrainer”. There is no point in discussing all these suggestions here. In our view, there is only one explanation that can show the identity of the “what” of verse 6 and the “he” of verse 7. The first is the congregation and the second is the Holy Spirit, who since the day of Pentecost has dwelt in the congregation as in a temple. When the temple is removed from the earth, the Holy Spirit will no longer dwell in person on the earth either. The congregation and the Holy Spirit who dwells in the congregation together add up to the only conceivable force capable of restraining the full unfolding of evil, and which will then ‒ in the literal meaning of the text ‒ be “taken out of the way”, will disappear from the scene.

(W. J. Ouweneel, Das Buch der Offenbarung [The Book of Revelation], CLV)



The second common interpretation, advocated by W. J. Ouweneel in the above passage, assumes that the “restraining element” is the Christian congregation in the world, and “he who restrains” is the Holy Spirit in Christian believers. People of this stamp argue that the congregation, and with it the Holy Spirit, will be raptured before the Great Tribulation, so that the Antichrist will no longer have any obstacles in his way.

In our earlier analysis, however, we have demonstrated that in actual fact the congregation is only going to be raptured after the Great Tribulation. And as we will go on to show presently, based on scriptural evidence, the Holy Spirit will not only be on earth during the Great Tribulation ‒ he will still be on earth for a long time after the Rapture following the Great Tribulation. So W. J. Ouweneel’s interpretation quoted above, where he sees the congregation as “he who restrains” and the Holy Spirit as “the restrainer”, cannot possibly be correct.

Right away in the following verse, 2The 2,8, Paul does after all say that the Lord himself, on his Second Coming for the Rapture, will “bring {the Antichrist} to an end through the appearance of His coming”. So at the same time he will bring the Great Tribulation to an end. It follows that the congregation will only be raptured at the end of the Great Tribulation, being rescued in this way from the dominion of the Antichrist, and so that the congregation cannot exercise any kind of restraining function, either in the Great Tribulation or thereafter (because they are then already in heaven).

It is quite the reverse ‒ for when we look at the statements of the Lord about the Great Tribulation we see that it is above all Christian believers who, under the dominion of the Antichrist, are subjected to the worst afflictions.

But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues;

Mt 10,17 "But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 10,18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 10,19 "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 10,20 "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 10,21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 10,22 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. Mt 10,17-22;


For the sake of Christ they will be hated, persecuted, handed over to the courts and scourged in the synagogues; and some of them will even be killed. And it is these Christians in the Great Tribulation to whom the Lord says, in Mt 10,19-20, that they should not worry about what they are to say in this situation. It will be the Holy Spirit who will speak through them and answer their lying accusers. And that, now, is another proof that the Holy Spirit will still be present in the Great Tribulation, with Christian believers and in their hearts. What kind of a “helper”, after all, would leave the faithful alone in their hour of extreme trial?

If the advocates of the theory focusing on the Roman empire and the Roman emperor base their interpretation on the word “now” in 2The 2,7, because in the lifetime of Paul the Roman empire ruled the known world, the same argument of course applies to the Holy Spirit. The Lord tells the disciples:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name.

Jn 14,26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Jn 14,26;

If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

Jn 16,7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. Jn 16, 7;


So after Jesus’ Ascension, the Holy Spirit came down to earth. Consequently, too, he was already on earth in Paul’s lifetime, at the time of this second letter of Paul’s to the Thessalonians. And if we consider the Holy Spirit, it seems a good deal more realistic that he should restrain the full revelation of the lawless one, of the Antichrist. But seeing that we are no longer held up by the false interpretation that would have the congregation raptured before the Great Tribulation, it really looks as if the second part of the old “standard interpretation” ‒ according to which “he who restrains” in 2The 2,7 is the Holy Spirit ‒ could be perfectly correct.

But who is the “what” in 2The 2,6, the thing that restrains? If we do not separate these statements of Paul’s in 2The 2,6-7 in a high-handed way, it seems pretty clear that Paul is not speaking of two different subjects at all. In both cases, plainly and simply, one and the same person is meant ‒ that person being the Holy Spirit.

Here the “what” (also neuter in the original Greek! cf. Phil 2,13) means the working of the Holy Spirit in human beings ‒ this is the thing that restrains: both in believers and in unbelievers, in the latter case holding back the maturing of the seed of evil and the appearance of the Antichrist, heralding the Great Tribulation, before the time appointed by God. And on the other hand “he who restrains” points to the person of the Holy Spirit himself, with his effect as the restraining element. If we now take another look at Paul’s statement here, this interpretation seems very much more accurate ‒ also in respect of the logical connections involved.

The mystery of lawlessness will only be revealed if he who now restrains is taken out of the way.

2The 2,5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 2,6 And you know what restrains him now (the work of the Holy Spirit in man), so that in his time he will be revealed. 2,7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains (the Holy Spirit) will do so until he is taken out of the way. 2,8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 2,9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders. 2The 2, 5- 9;

The Father will send you the Holy Spirit, who abides with you and will be in you.

Jn 14,15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 14,16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 14,17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. Jn 14,15-17;


And seeing that the Holy Spirit is still on earth to the present day and will continue to be so, as the Lord promises above, we are now in a position to answer the question why the Antichrist is being restrained right up to the present, and until the start of the Great Tribulation, without any problem. The Holy Spirit came down to earth at Pentecost, after the Ascension of the Lord Jesus, and acts in the spirit of every human being ‒ working in the spirit of the faithful for their sanctification, while in the spirit of the godless he restrains the maturing of the seed of evil. When the time of the man of lawlessness / the Antichrist that has been appointed by God arrives, the Holy Spirit, as the restraining element in the spirit of the godless, will be removed, and lawlessness will be able to take its course without restraint.

A good example in our own times of the working of the Holy Spirit in human hearts was the Cuban crisis of October 1962, when humanity stood on the brink of an atomic war. Because of the stationing of Russian mid-range rockets on Cuba, the USA under President Kennedy and the Soviet Union under Khrushchev found themselves in an exceptionally tense confrontation. Neither of them could be sure that the other would not be the first to give the order for an atomic attack.

If in the last resort it proved possible to find a way out of this situation without annihilation on a global scale, this was not to be ascribed to the “restraint and consideration” of the two parties involved, as some historians claim. Khrushchev was a hothead, who had once been known, in the course of negotiations, to take off his shoe and bang it on the table when his proposals were not accepted. And although Khrushchev reserved to himself the right of giving the order to attack, in those highly critical days a Russian general stationed on Cuba had just brought down an American reconnaissance aircraft with a rocket.

Of course this was a big headache for Kennedy as well, as his trigger-happy generals kept asking what more proof he needed that the Russians wanted to provoke a war. And as we know, Kennedy – unlike Khrushchev – was not a strong character, so there was a considerable risk that he might have given way to the pressures of his general staff. Some of the more realistic of political commentators have thus described the auspicious outcome of the confrontation as a “pure stroke of luck”.

In the light of the biblical passage we are analyzing here, however, we know that it was neither restraint nor luck – it was the Holy Spirit working in the principal players who was responsible for preventing the global annihilation of humanity. In the Last Days, perhaps half of the world’s population will be annihilated in the catastrophes triggered by human beings themselves (the Great Tribulation) and as a result of the judgments of God because of humanity’s refusal to repent (the Day of the Lord). But this will only be at the time appointed by God for these events, and not before.

As the Lord’s prophecies in Mt 10,17-22, quoted above, demonstrate, the congregation is not going to be raptured before the Great Tribulation ‒ and still less is it the case that the Holy Spirit is going to abandon the earth. On the contrary, both the congregation and the Holy Spirit will be on earth during this time of affliction. Accordingly, the congregation of the Last Days will only be raptured after the Great Tribulation. The Holy Spirit, however, will continue to be on earth after this, as we can see from the prophecies of Revelation.

We find in Rev 11,3-12 ‒ in other words, well after the Rapture in Rev 6:12-14 / Mt 24:29-31 ‒ the prophecies of the two witnesses of God, who will prophesy for 1260 days in Jerusalem and will have power to bring various plagues upon the earth and to kill anyone who tries to harm them. But we would hardly suppose this to be possible without the working of the Holy Spirit in these two witnesses.

These have the power to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

Rev 11,3 "And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." 11,4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 11,5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. 11,6 These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.
11,7 When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. 11,8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 11,9 Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. 11,10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. 11,11 But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. 11,12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. Rev 11, 3-12;


Since these two witnesses will be killed, at the end of their testimony, by the Antichrist ‒ now the demonic Antichrist raised by Satan (the beast from the sea) ‒ and will lie for three and a half days on the streets of Jerusalem (Rev 11:3-8), we can draw the conclusion that it is only with the raising of these two witnesses after three and a half days, and their ascension to heaven (Rev 11:11-12), that the Holy Spirit too leaves the earth. At all events, from the start of the immediately following judgments of the bowls (the bowls of the Wrath of God) there is no further evidence in the Bible of the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit on earth, whether indwelling in human beings or in any other way.

(See also Discourse 86: “The first and the second Antichrist.”)


The Biblical Trinity

There is just the one and only God in his three authorities: God the Father as the legislative authority, comparable with the legislature in human society; the Holy Spirit as the authority of execution, similar to the political executive arm; and the Son of God as the judicial authority, like the court of justice. God has given human beings the law and the commandments (Ex 24:12), the Holy Spirit registers the extent to which people observe them, but only intervenes when human actions might otherwise contravene God’s plan (2Thess 2:7), and the Son of God will judge every single human being (Jn 5:22) at the Last Judgment.

In this age of quantum entanglement – with its “spooky action at a distance”, as Einstein termed it – the independent spiritual personality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and their simultaneous presence (Jn 14:10-11) in the spirit of the one God (Jn 4:24), can only be a problem for people living today if they are completely uninformed. In addition, the Bible gives us numerous examples of manifestations of spirit in the spirit of human beings (Mk 1:23-25; 5:6-8; Lk 3:24; but also Jn 14:23; 17:26!).

The attempt to explain relations of this nature on the basis of the ancient wisdom of the Fathers of the Church (Council of Nicea etc.) was already erroneous in view of their assertion that the earth is the center of the universe (The Creation.) and might be regarded today as comparable to the attempt to explain quantum mechanics by the laws of classical physics.

The actual reason why the Unitarians reject the Trinity (There is no salvation apart from the Trinity / C H. Spurgeon), is, first of all, the fact that they refuse to accept the divinity of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ as God (Ps 45:7-8; Jn 20:28; Phil 2:5-6; 2Pet 1:1; 1Jn 5:20) and even his pre-existence (Gen 1:26; 11:7) not to mention his post-existence with God (Jn 14:23; 17:26!), would call in question their entire false structure of faith with its "human Jesus" as a "faith fighter", "pal" or "model of suffering" and reduce it to absurdity.

But on the other hand the doctrine of the three in one – the Trinity – was interpreted for centuries by the Catholic church according to the whim and "feelings" of the old Church Fathers (Council of Nicea etc.) and not in accordance with the Bible’s statements. As a result it was easy for the representatives of "faith in the one God" – the Unitarians – to question this in the light of the Bible.

But unfortunately the opportunity was missed of studying the Bible in depth and determining what it actually says about the essence of God, his Son and the Holy Spirit – instead, people just made use of superficial arguments to rebut this equally incorrect Trinitarian dogma of the Catholic church.



The denial of the Trinity, the false Catholic teaching and the true Biblical Trinity -   Discourse 107