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Why the Holy Spirit is the Restrainer

Why the Holy Spirit is the Restrainer
By: Pete Garcia

Confusion and denial over the role and Deity of the Holy Spirit has been a pervasive heresy in Christendom since Modalism was first introduced in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, a new confusion has been recently reintroduced. Although this view is not over the Deity of God the Holy Spirit, but over the varying roles in which He has participated in since Genesis 1:2, and what He will do on into the future. In 1990, Marvin Rosenthal introduced a book entitled The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church which offered up an alternative view to the Pre, Mid, and Post Tribulation Rapture views that had been debated for millennia. Subsequently, Mr. Rosenthal’s work opened a flood gate of similar and divergent views as he was followed by Robert Van Kampen and many, many others who have carried this particular eschatological torch to our current day.

The Pre-Wrath view supports the idea that the remnant faithful are delivered in a Rapture event at the Seventh Seal Judgment. For Pre-Wrath, the Seal Judgments are ongoing once opened and allows for the Church to proceed three-quarter’s of the way into the seven year, 70th Week of Daniel. Three quarters of the way in takes them past the midpoint, but delivering them just prior to the Day of the Lord and the subsequent Wrath of God.

The Pre-Wrath view has brought certain issues to light and one in particular, that is a ‘make or break’ passage for whether their view (or ours) is legitimately biblical or not. There simply isn’t any other way around it. That passage, is over the identity of this mysterious “Restrainer” and what that entails as the Apostle Paul mentions; (NKJV, emphasis mine)

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.

8 And then, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, (1) with all power, signs, and lying wonders,

10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

11 (2) and for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,

12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:8-11)

The problem, is that this verse (vs. 7) forces the narrative of the following verses (vs. 8-11), to mean only one thing…essentially, that X can’t happen until Y does…which means, the Antichrist (man of lawlessness) CANNOT be revealed, UNTIL the one who restrains the Antichrist, is taken out of the way. That is simply the normal reading of the text and the way it was intended to be understood.

So the dilemma that both the Pre-Tribulation and Pre-Wrath Rapture views face then, is that if the Holy Spirit is the Restrainer, than Pre-Wrath (and Post Trib) cannot be true, because we see in the First Seal Judgment (Rev. 6:1-2) unleashing the Antichrist upon the earth…and that means the Holy Spirit must be removed/moved out of the way before this man can be revealed. And since Christian’s are ‘sealed by the Holy Spirit’ as a guarantee until the day of redemption, the Holy Spirit’s removal would also remove those individuals He indwells and seals.

If the Holy Spirit is not the Restrainer, than the Pre-Trib view cannot be true because the Holy Spirit in His current role would remain on the earth, along with all those He seals and indwells as mentioned in the previous scripture references.

Now, both views will argue incessantly about numerous other passages and words (think Matt. 24 and Parousia), but the one question everyone has is, why didn’t Paul just clarify who the Restrainer was and end any ambiguity about it back in the first century? So first let’s take stock and differentiate between what we know, what we don’t, and what we assume.

Just so we are all on the same sheet of music, according to Strong’s, the English word Restrains (or letteth in the KJV) in the Greek is katecho. It means:

1. to hold back, detain, retain
1. from going away
2. to restrain, hinder (the course or progress of)
1. that which hinders, Antichrist from making his appearance
2. to check a ship’s headway i.e. to hold or head the ship
3. to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of
2. to get possession of, take
1. to possess

There are four main candidates for the “He”, “he”, “He who lets”, “He who restrains” in 2 Thess. 2:7. These candidates are:

1. The Holy Spirit
2. Human Government
3. Michael the Archangel
4. Satan

If we remove those who couldn’t fit the singular, masculine, third person pronoun (‘He’ instead of ‘they’ or ‘them’) we get…

1. The Holy Spirit
2. Human Government
3. Michael the Archangel
4. Satan

Michael the Archangel is removed because he alone, couldn’t restrain lawlessness over the face of the earth. It would need to be him, and a whole lot of angelic hosts assisting him, thus, they would be ‘they’ or ‘them’.

According to Scripture, a ‘house divided against itself cannot stand’ (Luke 11:17), thus Satan would not work against himself to restrain lawlessness, since he is the father of it.

1. The Holy Spirit
2. Human Government
3. Michael the Archangel
4. Satan

So that really only leaves one viable candidate…God the Holy Spirit.

What we know

1. That the Holy Spirit is God, and is omnipotent and omnipresent. (Psalm 139:7; Acts 5:3-5)

2. That God the Holy Spirit has been present on this earth since He ‘hovered over the face of the deep’ as detailed in Genesis 1:2.

3. The Holy Spirit’s role in the Old Testament after Creation, has been to come upon particular individuals to accomplish certain things; Bezalel (Ex. 31), Seventy Elders (Num. 11:25), Balaam (Num. 24), Othniel (Judges 3:9-10), Samson (Judges 13:24-25), Saul (1 Sam. 11:6), David (1 Sam. 16:13-14), Daniel (Dan. 4:9), and Jesus (Isaiah 11:1-3) to name a few.

4. That the Holy Spirit has the ability to physically move people around and up; Ezekiel (Ez. 3:14), Philip (Acts 8:39), John (Rev. 4:1-2).

5. The Holy Spirit existed on the earth, BEFORE He was given on the day of Pentecost. (See previous OT verses)

6. That the Holy Spirit has been referred to by different names; Helper, Comforter, Spirit, Holy Ghost, Spirit of truth, etc.

7. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2) marked a fulfillment to a promise (John 14:26, 15:26) given by Jesus that they (believers) would NOT be left alone as orphans, but would have the Holy Spirit forever and that Christ would return (John 16:16-18) thus marking a new era/dispensation in which the Holy Spirit now sealed believers permanently as detailed by the Apostle Paul. (2 Cor. 1:21-22, Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30)

8. We know that currently, Satan has some form of temporary dominion over the earth. (Luke 4:5-6, Eph. 2:2, 1 John 5:19)

9. We know that The Antichrist is a man, (Dan. 8:23, 9:26-27, Rev. 6:1-2) who has the full backing of Satan, and is able to perform lying signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:8-11, Rev. 13).

10. We know that the Restrainer (or the One who restrains lawlessness), has to be taken out of the way, before the ‘man of lawlessness’ can be revealed.

11. Angels, even an Archangel, is a created individual who is not omnipresent.

12. A house divided against itself, cannot stand.

What we don’t know

1. We don’t know specifically why Paul didn’t explain what he meant in 2 Thess. 2:7

2. We don’t know exactly what the role of the Holy Spirit will be in the 70th Week of Daniel.

3. We don’t know how long it is between the Seal Judgments opening, or how much they overlap each other in regards to the other judgments.

What we assume

1. We assume that Paul was attempting to authenticate his second letter to them in 2 Thess. 2:7, by using that particular phrase (restrains-katecho) as a personal descriptor of the Holy Spirit, which is something he hadn’t previously used in writing, but only in person to them, which is why he uses ‘He who restrains’ to validate this second letter and refute the forgery he previously mentions at the beginning of the chapter. (2 Thess. 2:1-2)

2. We assume that this Antichrist will have the supernatural abilities that surpass the average human. He (and the False Prophet) are able to perform supernatural feats that as of today, we don’t have the ability to do, or rather, humans are restrained from doing. God allows that particular barrier to be removed which allows Satan to fully manifest his powers through this man. 2 Thess. 2:9 states the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders…


I have previously wrote about this, and include it here as well to offer up for your consideration. Revelation 13 chronicles the rise of this man along with the False Prophet, and they are essentially able to take over the entire world. If the Restrainer were simply an angel, say Michael the Archangel, he would not be able to stop Satan and his legions of demonic hosts. So if Michael singularly couldn’t do it, and would need help (say from other angels), then it would not be singularly the Restrainer, but Restrainer’s. And the references wouldn’t be to Him, but to them.

The only Person who could singularly, thwart or restrain all evil, is God the Holy Spirit. We already know that Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as a “He” in the Upper Room Discourse. (John 14-16) We know that in this age, He was given to fill and seal the believers until the day of redemption. We know that He will guide and direct us into all truth. We know that He moves people and leaders to act in certain ways, to accomplish His will. We also know He can physically transport people over long distances or into other dimensions.

So why is it a stretch to say He also is the one who restrains all evil? Granted, we have evil in the earth today, but through the Church, God has used us as the agents of restraint (salt and light), and depending on how faithful we are to the task of ‘making disciples of all nations’, to one degree determines how much evil is allowed. Compare what the United States used to represent, as compared to Nazi Germany, Iran, North Korea, the Soviet Union, or communist China. Granted, we have fallen far from where we were, but there is still enough salt and light in this nation to keep the flame flickering…until God snuffs it out through the Rapture of the Church. Probably one of the most underrated points of contention FOR the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and our necessary removal prior to the start of the 70th Week is, the fruits of the Spirit;

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

No one in their right mind would argue that these things will be present through the seven year Tribulation. Juxtaposed to this, is the Olivet Discourse which states;

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” – (Matt. 24:11-14)

The Holy Spirit, through the vessels He inhabits, i.e….the Church, to varying degrees, has held the flood of evil from completely enveloping the world in total darkness. Remember the Dark Ages…when Christianity was suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds of years? Marry the fruits of the Spirit up with the barrier God put in place to prevent man from taking on supernatural qualities, and the world is largely like it has been for the past two thousand years. Miracles happen yes, but we aren’t seeing the same supernatural events and feats like we did in the Old Testament in today’s world.

Taking the Holy Spirit out of the way at the Rapture, isn’t removing His omnipotence and presence from the earth, any more than before coming down as cloven tongues of fire at Pentecost. What changes, is the Holy Spirit’s role in these final seven years. Again, I don’t pretend to know exactly what that is, but people will still come to saving faith much as they did before the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost some 2,000 years ago. The testament in Revelation 7 & 13, that many will still come to faith after the Rapture, isn’t proof the Church is still here, its proof that God’s mercy is boundless, and He is longsuffering that none should perish.

Even So, Maranatha!

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