Help me be clear on this one point:
2 Thes. 2:6 And you know what is restraining…
My view is a bit unique on 2 Thes 2:6, and not critical to our position. It follows Paul’s main point of correction, that the Day of the Lord cannot come before the prior revelation of the Man of Sin. In my reading, the “what” that is holding back in verse 6 is this necessarily preceding event.
After reviewing the order of events, Paul says, “and now you know what withholds.” What withholds what? I believe Paul is saying that the necessary prior revelation of the Man of Sin is withholding (holding back) the Day of the Lord. Paul has just reviewed with the Thessalonians the very order of events of which he informed them at his earlier visit. “Do you not remember that when I was with you, I told you these things.” Commentators plead modest ignorance of what it might have been that Paul told the Thessalonians at his first visit. But this seems no mystery at all. He told them then what he is telling them now again, i.e., that the Antichrist must comes first.
Having gone over this now a second time, he says, “And now you know what withholds or holds back (the Day of the Lord). Contrary to the hasty conclusion of those who had forgotten or misconstrued Paul’s earlier teaching, Christ cannot come until the Man of Sin has first been revealed, and now, with Paul’s clarification, they know what withholds Christ’s return. That’s how I read it, but as I said, it’s not crucial to the meaning.
With mention of the event (revelation of the Antichrist) that hinders Christ’s return, it seems to me that this moves Paul’s thought naturally on to the person who is hindering the revelation of the Antichrist. This time it is not a ‘what’ (neuter in the Greek), as in verse 6, but a ‘who’ (personal masculine pronoun) that is withholding or hindering the revelation of the the mystery of the iniquity.
Paul conceives of the future revelation of the Man of Sin as the end of a mystery that is already presently at work. This moves his thought to mention of a person that hinders the revelation of the mystery of iniquity. In other words, consideration of the ‘what’ (a thing or event) that is restraining the Day of the Lord moves Paul’s thought to the “who” that is hindering the revelation of the mystery that was presently working at the time of Paul’s writing. [Of course, it is the mystery that has been at work since the fall.] This is what must be revealed before Christ can return. The mystery is revealed in the Man of Sin; but there is one who is now hindering this revelation who will continue to hinder until he is taken out of the way.
Now the question comes; what is the mystery of iniquity? We know that it has its end in the revelation of the Man of Sin, whom Paul distinguishes as the one who sits in the temple of God in Jerusalem (2Thes 2:4 with Dan 11:31, 36; 12:11; Mt 24:15-16; Rev 11:2). We know what the mystery of godliness is (1Tim 3:16). It is the incarnation of the seed of the woman, “the anointed Prince,” in Jesus, as the incarnate Word. What else would the mystery of iniquity be but the incarnation of the seed of the Serpent? (the “coming prince” of Dan 9:26).
From here, we work backward to the probable background of Paul’s thought in Michael’s role in the revelation that came to Daniel with the removal of the demonic prince of Persia, and forward to the key to interpretation provided in John’s Apocalypse, particularly chapter 12.
In Dan chap 10, the revelation that has been hindered (withstood) for 21 days is able to break through to Daniel when Michael arrives to remove the opposing, demonic Prince of Persia that was blocking the revelation of what shall befall the Jewish people in the latter days.This also points to the role of the believer in the heavenly war, which has great implications for the tribulation church in Michael’s heavenly victory over Satan.
Now, in Rev 12, we see that the power of the kingdom comes precisely when Satan is cast down by Michael (Rev 12:10). This is not the first advent, since it begins Satan’s “short time” of the last 3 1/2 years (Rev 12:6, 12, 14). That’s what Paul has been writing about. The coming of the day of the Lord, which is also the time the kingdom comes with the sounding of the seventh angel (compare Rev 10:7; 11:15). But notice; before the kingdom can come (just as it is in 2Thes 2:3, 7-8 before Jesus can come), there is someone in the way who has to be removed. In Rev 12, it is clearly Satan, who is “forcibly” removed by the agency of Michael. This stands in marked analogy to Michael’s role in the removal of the demonic principality that was opposing (hindering) the vital revelation from getting through to Daniel.
When Satan is cast down, his time is short. Now, with Michael’s expulsion of Satan, the revelation of the mystery of iniquity can be revealed in the full incarnation of Satan. This sets in motion the 3 1/2 years that ends in the finishing of the mystery of God (Rev 10:7), but in order for the mystery of God to be finished, the mystery of iniquity must first be revealed, and we may be sure, Satan dreads this event, because it will mean that his time is short.
This concept requires a major shift in our thinking. Our thought has always been that if the coming of the Antichrist is the greatest evil, then only something or someone good could possibly be interested to hinder the coming of Antichrist. Why would Satan be interested to resist the coming of the one in whom he will be fully incarnate? Isn’t this what Satan has always wanted?
It is just the opposite, On the contrary, Satan knows that when the mystery of iniquity is revealed in this final incarnation of the Serpent’s seed, his time is short. In just 3 1/2 years he will be completely bound, as the mystery of God is finished. Significantly, it is when Satan is cast down that the announcement is made, “Now is come salvation, and strength, the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Messiah.” Why now? It is “because the accuser of our brethren is cast down” (Rev 12:10).
At the same time that Satan’s hindrance ends, his “short time” of unequaled persecution of the woman and the saints has just begun. “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev 12:12). That short time is manifestly the last 3 1/2 years of this age, the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week. It is NOT a mere symbol of the entire inter-advent period, as held by many commentators.
Manifestly, there is a connection between the end of Satan’s tenure in heaven and the revelation of this mystery on earth. I say it is an “illicit” tenure, because though the cross and resurrection, the “prince of this world” has already been cast out, the principalities exposed, carried captive, destroyed, and dispossessed. This is another example of the already and the not yet of the kingdom that comes by degree and in stages, as the once and for all victory of Christ is enforced in heaven and earth by the the enforcement of the Spirit through the truth of the revelation of the gospel in the people of God. This is NOT some kind of dominion-ism. On the contrary, this kingdom power comes through weakness and the destruction of every carnal confidence, the self-emptying of the cross.
It appears that the perfect and complete victory of the cross is further enforced in heaven by Michael and the angels through the revelation, faith, and prayers of the saints on earth in conjunction with the predetermined time of Daniel’s last week. Satan is, in one sense, completely and finally defeated in the work of Christ; that’s true. But this victory must be enforced in the heavens and on earth by the saints who follow in the way of the cross.
Surely something of this nature must be inferred, since the context of Rev 12 leaves no question that Satan still retains access to the heavenly realm until he is forcibly cast down by Michael to begin the last 3 1/2 years. And we may well expect that Michael’s victory in heaven will not be unrelated to a new corporate fullness to which the church has come through the press and preparation of the signal events leading up to this great transition, particularly those of the first half of the week. I believe the godly remnant will be ‘straightened’ to a Daniel like urgency of travail and intercession that will be answered in Michael’s age ending victory in heaven. The implications of this great middle of the week transition is vast.
This is where we can infer the role of an intercessory travail of the church in analogy to Daniel. I like to say that when the church will ‘travail,’ Michael will ‘prevail.’ Not incidentally, this is when power is given to the two witnesses, and I believe also to the ‘maskilim’ (those having understanding, or persons of insight; see Dan 11:32-33; 12:3, 10).
This is the time of great anointing for the final witness of the ‘maskilim’ (those who understand) in the face of an unprecedented world wide persecution of the church and Israel. We can only imagine what this victory in heaven will mean for the power and witness of the suffering saints of the last 3 1/2 years. We know that it results in an evangelism that saves an innumerable host out of “the tribulation, the great one” (Rev 7:9, 13-14). This is not tribulation in general; it is specifically the unequaled tribulation of short duration that ends the age and finished the mystery of God (Rev 10:7). This will be the greatest evangelism of the lost that the world has ever seen.
Yours in the Beloved, Reggie