May 11, 2009
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
This week I want to re-visit 2 Thessalonians 2. You will recall that we have been examining this portion of scripture for the past two editions of THE WEEKLY WORD. I want to focus specifically on verses 6, 7. Here the Word says,
6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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 Thess. 2:6, 7 NKJV] In this what I believe to be a great rapture text, we find a source of debate and contention among sincere, qualified brethren. This debate is centered on the identity of the restrainer. Several positions have been put forth. Among those is that the “son of perdition” is simply restraining himself. The language of the text and common sense will not permit this interpretation.
The preterist claim that the Roman Government was the restrainer. However, if this was the case the evil one would have been revealed when Rome fell. Again, this interpretation will not work. I taught for many years that the Church was the restrainer. As we pointed out last time, it would seem that Greek grammar however makes this interpretation impossible as well. I now believe that the Holy Spirit and His work in and through the Church is the actual restrainer of evil. This is the most commonly held position among Bible scholars and commentators. I submit this view to you based on many years now of in-depth Bible study. I do not claim to be the final word on this issue. I realize some would disagree with my conclusions.
There is a position as to the identity of the restrainer that I have not examined. This interpretation is based on the understanding of those who hold to what is known as the pre-wrath rapture. Basically this view of the timing of the rapture sees the Church going through at least the first three and a half years of the tribulation known as the beginning of sorrows. Those who hold this view see the first half of the seven-year tribulation period as the time not of God’s wrath on man, but man’s wrath on man. I am stating this rather simply I realize.
In the pre-wrath rapture teaching the “seal” judgments of the book of Revelation are basically the wrath of unregenerate man, whereas the “trumpet” and “bowl” judgments involve the wrath of God. I am getting ahead of myself however. The main thing I would like to point out at this point is the identity of the restrainer in the pre-wrath rapture teaching. First, let me say that perhaps the best known pre-wrath rapture proponent is a man by the name of Marvin Rosenthal. He is the author of the book, The Pre-wrath Rapture Of The Church. I highly respect Mr. Rosenthal and his in-depth study of the Word and his work in introducing the Hebraic roots of Christianity to the Body of Christ.
In all fairness I have not read Mr. Rosenthal’s book on the pre-wrath rapture although I have read some of his other materials and have studied the basic precepts he puts forth in the book. (I have recently ordered, The Pre-wrath Rapture Of The Church to add to my library.) I respect Mr. Rosenthal, even though I disagree with his conclusions on the timing of the rapture and the identity of the restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2. What does Mr. Rosenthal teach with respect to the identity of the restrainer? He teaches that the “restrainer” is none other than the Archangel Michael. Why does he believe this? I will not take the time to expound on his reasoning in depth; I will refer the reader to the following link: http://www.geocities.com/doxa.geo/restrainer3.html where you can read Mr. Rosenthal’s teaching on this in his own words.
I will say that much of Mr. Rosenthal’s teaching is based on his understanding of Daniel 12:1. The Bible states, 1 “At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book. [Dan. 12:1 NKJV] Mr. Rosenthal says that “stand up” literally means “step aside”. He concludes that at the time of the wrath of God being poured out Michael will step aside, remove his protection, cease hindering, and allow the son of perdition to take over and be revealed. What about this view?
First, let me say that there is no Biblical justification for interpreting Michael’s action in Daniel 12:1 as removing his protection. The Hebrew word translated “arise, or stand up” is used 521 times in the Old Testament but is never given that meaning. And Strong’s concordance does not even offer that meaning as an alternate. In fact it means just the opposite. Rather than removing his protection from something, He’s coming to the defense of Daniel’s people, Israel, to provide protection for them during the Great Tribulation. In all due respect, the view put forth by Mr. Rosenthal and other pre-wrath adherents completely reverses the meaning of the verse.
The event described in Daniel 12:1 happens sometime before the beginning of the Great Tribulation, around the middle of Daniel’s 70th week because the Jews are not promised escape from the end times judgments but protection through them. Daniel 12 has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit’s role in the Church but rather Michael’s role as Israel’s defender. This is the point where the end-time doctrine of many gets off track. By not realizing that God actually sees three people groups in the earth (Jews, the Church, Gentiles see 1 Cor. 10:32), many attempt to apply scripture addressed specifically to the Jews to the Church, and vice versa. This is what, in my opinion, pre-wrath rapture teachers do to Daniel 12:1.
An as an aside, Michael didn’t even dare to accuse Satan during their dispute over the body of Moses (Jude 9). But he’s going to single handedly restrain Satan’s influence in the world through the Antichrist? It doesn’t make sense.
Mr. Rosenthal also takes exception to the Holy Spirit being the restrainer because Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 that the restrainer will be “taken out.” He believes that this refers to a forcible removing against the Spirit’s will, and could not be referring to the Holy Spirit, third person of the Godhead. While I appreciate Mr. Rosenthal’s reverence for the Spirit, there is no justification for interpreting the word “taken” in 2 Thess 2:7 as if it’s an act of force, or against the Holy Spirit’s will. In fact the primary use of the Greek word is “to begin to be” showing in effect that the Holy Spirit removes Himself. In 678 uses, this is the only place the Greek word is translated taken.
Again, while I respect Mr. Rosenthal and his views, I believe that in his zeal to set forth what he sincerely believes to be the truth scriptures end up getting twisted to support his conclusions. It is true that the Holy Spirit is never directly named in 2 Thess. 2, but the only force restraining evil in the world today is clearly the will of God, expressed by the Holy Spirit resident in the church. All attempts to make the scriptures say anything else in my opinion, fail miserably.
The Weekly Word is found in Matthew 16:18. Here the Bible says,
18And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros–a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, Petra–a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it]. [Matt. 16:18 AMP.]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson