I have heard you say that Satan is the “restrainer”. How can this be? Wouldn’t this put the timing of the end into Satan’s hands instead of God the Father, Who is sovereign over all?
You are not alone in mistaking my meaning. Let me be clear: I do not believe that Satan will reveal the Antichrist, nor that the Antichrist will be revealed by the will of Satan, and certainly NOT on any creature’s schedule. Quite the contrary, the revelation of the man of sin means that the mystery of iniquity is revealed when Satan is forcibly, and involuntarily cast down by Michael. It is an inference, but it appears that with his dejection from heaven to earth, Satan is forced to enter the body of the mortally wounded beast. By so much, the mystery of iniquity receives final embodiment in the revived body of the Antichrist. This event is ordained to precede the return of Jesus. It is the climax of the 70th week when the “prince that shall come” (Dan 9:26) will be the final embodiment and revelation of the mystery of iniquity. I see the mystery of iniquity as ultimately revealed when Satan becomes fully incarnate (so far as his moral image is concerned) in the man of sin. This is when he is endowed with “all” power, signs and lying wonders and enters the temple to claim divine honor.
Thus, the revelation of the man of sin, who is the ultimate revelation of the mystery of iniquity, is the last thing Satan wants, since from that time, his time is short. His ‘short time’ is shown in Rev 12 to be co-terminus with the last three and half years. Of course, this is the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week, the forty two months that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the invading nations of the gentiles (Rev 11:2).
For more reasons than I can show in short space, the resuscitation of the Antichrist that will astonish the world takes place in the middle of the week, since it is this that apparently moves him to arrogantly enter the temple at Jerusalem to commit the abominable sacrilege that brings the final desolation of Jerusalem. His resurrection is the result of Michael’s victory in heaven that casts him down to earth to fulfill the final woes of the great tribulation.
Satan is forcibly removed by Michael, but Michael is not the one who is restraining, or holding back the final revelation of the mystery of iniquity. It is Satan who stands in the way to resist his own expulsion, since his expulsion means that the kingdom of God can now come in power (Rev 12:10). His removal from heaven spells his end as the ruler of this age. According to Rev 12:10, as long as Satan holds his present place in heaven, the kingdom of God cannot come. Thus we see that in some sense, his presence in heaven stands in the way of the coming of the kingdom (the return of Christ), because until the final mystery of iniquity is revealed (in what I see at the complete incarnation of Satan in the resurrection of the Antichrist), Christ cannot return to finish the mystery of God at the seventh trumpet (2Thes 2:3, 7-8; Rev 10:7; 11:15 w/ Mt 24:31; 1Cor 15:52; Isa 27:13).
The revelation of the Antichrist must come first, and only in God’s appointed time, i.e., the middle of the week. The revelation of the man of sin reveals and brings to final climax the mystery of iniquity that is already at work. Manifestly, this cannot happen so long as Satan retains his place in heaven. He must be cast down to bring the final woes of tribulation, as the now revealed man of sin enters the temple to exalt himself and bring the final desolation / the great tribulation.
When Michael expels him, it seems clear that this is the time when the beast that was, and is not, and yet is lives again to the wonderment and delusion of all the unsaved world. Somehow, Satan’s dejection by Michael forces the final manifestation of Satan in the man of sin who reveals the mystery of iniquity as the full embodiment of the moral nature of Satan in the flesh.
It seems we must infer that Satan has no choice but to enter the fallen body of the Antichrist at the moment he is thrust down by Michael. It is his ultimate exposure, which spells his end and this is the last thing he wants. This is something that he wanted to do with the body of Moses but was resisted by Michael. It is NOT something he will want to do with the body of the Antichrist, but once he sees that he is cast down, his evil nature compels him to try to destroy the elect woman (Israel and the saints) and to usurp the place appointed to the Davidic king (Ps 48:2; Isa 14:13 w/ Dan 11:45).
We believe that Michael removes Satan in the same way he removed the prince of Persia in Dan 10 who was “withstanding” (same Hebrew concept of resistance that is translated ‘hinder’ or ‘withhold’ in 2Thes 2:7) the angelic messenger’s path to bring to Daniel the revelation of what would be “befall your people in the latter days.” It is that revelation given to Daniel that Jesus will send His disciples to search out [“let the reader (reader of Daniel) understand”]. This will not not only alert the believers when the time is upon them, but the revelation of the end is divinely calculated to work something in the saints on earth and in the heavenly order similar to what was stirred in Daniel, when he, through his self abasement and intercession of anguish for his people, received the help of Michael to remove the opposing demon prince of Persia.
I understand 2Thes 2 to be saying that Jesus cannot be expected to return until the one thing holding back His return has taken place first. That is the necessary prior revelation of the man of sin. He reveals in himself the mystery of iniquity that was already at work at the time of Paul’s writing. After Paul reviews what he had told them before, after they have been reminded, he says, “and now (upon Paul’s review and reminder) you know what withholds.”
We know Paul is NOT, at this point, speaking of “who” is restraining. Here the restraint is not personal, as evident from the Greek use of the impersonal neuter pronoun. We must be careful to distinguish the ‘what restrains’ of verse 6 from the ‘who restrains’ of verse 7. So ‘what’ is the ‘what’ of verse 6 that is holding back? And what is being held back?
Something (not a person) is holding back something. I believe the answer is very simple. The necessary prior revelation of the man of sin [an event] is holding back the return of Jesus. This explains why Jesus’ coming cannot be imminent as falsely assumed by those troubling the church by the false report. Paul has just proved (by reminding them again) that Jesus’ return and “our gathering together unto Him” (the subject in view), is being held back by the prior necessity that the man of sin must be revealed first. It is this event (the ‘what’ of verse 6) that must take place first. And ‘now’ (after Paul’s reminder has re-informed them), they know what holds back Jesus’ return, namely, the prior revelation of the mystery of iniquity in the man of sin.
Then, with that established, Paul is reminded of a ‘who’ that is holding back the revelation of the man of sin. Just who Paul has in view may be a mystery to us, but it was no mystery to him. Doubtless, when he taught the Thessalonians on his first visit that the man of sin must be revealed first (“do you not remember? I told you of these things before”), he may have told them also of the necessity of Satan’s necessary removal in notable analogy to Michael’s removal of the demon prince of Persia (Dan 10).
I believe this is the background for Paul’s understanding and revelation, very possibly current among some of the apostolic apostles and prophets, that just as Michael had made the way open for Daniel’s revelation, Satan would, in like manner, be “taken out of the way” in order for the man of sin to be revealed so that the kingdom of God might come on earth with the return of Jesus. This is that great “finishing of the mystery of God” that comes with the seventh trumpet (Rev 10:7). Whether others beside Paul has this revelation, it is plain that others would have it when John would write his revelation. According to Rev 12, with Michael’s removal of Satan, the kingdom is announced as having arrived in great power. Observe: Satan is cast down and only then can the kingdom of God come. That is not too different from Paul’s point that until the restrainer is removes, Christ cannot return.
I hope I have at least made clear that in no sense does Satan reveal the Antichrist. That is not his will at all! Quite the opposite, he is the one opposing the revelation, since this will mean his time is short and his grip on the earth and long resistance of the kingdom of God is about to be finally and utterly broken. It is Michael, at the command and set timing of God (in response, we suggest, to something accomplished corporately in the church in analogy to Daniel), who sends Michael to remove Satan from heaven and casts him down to earth to begin the woes of the last 42 months as the man of sin becomes the full power of Satan revealed in the flesh, as the fit antithesis to the mystery of Godliness.
I urge that you pray and ask the Lord for understanding. If this is true revelation for these last days, then it follows that it is more than the natural mind can receive or digest, as even with me, it seems to fade in and fade out. Truly, it’s hard to wrap our minds around such things. How can it be a good thing that the man of sin is revealed when it will mean great woe? Of course, it canNOT, unless the revelation of this very evil thing is indispensably necessary to the coming of the kingdom on earth.
I hope I have helped instead of confusing you further. If what I am saying here is essentially the truth, it remains to be seen what use God will make of it in the days ahead. I’ve always felt it will be very important to the saints in the first half of the week as they, in analogy to Daniel, knowing the time has come, will be constrained into a fullness of intercessory travail that will be used of God in relation to Michael’s decisive intervention.
There is something about the certainty of the time, as also true of Daniel (Dan 9:2), and the confluence of fulfilled prophecy, that will be used of God to straighten the church to apostolic fullness. This can be seen in Dan 11:32-35; 12:3, 10 in the case of the ‘maskilim’ (those having insight / understanding) and significantly, this anointing follows immediately upon the desolating sacrilege of Dan 11:31, which we know is the middle of the week (Dan 9:27; 12:11).
Again, it is equally significant that this is the same time that the two witnesses receive power. Could it be that they are not the only ones receiving power at this time? This is also the time that the overcoming martyr church receives strength, power, and the kingdom of His Messiah, as they love not their lives to the death (Rev 12:10). It all adds up to something very transitional in the midst of the week that is happening both in the realm of the Spirit and the realm of the demonic. Kingdoms are clashing ultimately. What is disastrous for the earth dwellers (those who have their sensual lives in this evil age) is a broken, bitter sweet revelation and release of unspeakable glory and kingdom power for those who have their citizenship in heaven. Something glorious is birthed as something ultimately evil is exposed.
Your friend in Christ, Reggie