The Restrainer Will Not Be Removed


RestraintI have recently been thinking about Paul’s reference to The Restrainer in his letter to the Thessalonians. It’s been a matter of much speculation over the years as to who or what is restraining the evil that will bring forth the Man of Sin.

I am not much closer to an answer, although most people believe it is either the Holy Spirit, the Church, or the Government that restrains evil, so preventing the appearance of the one we call Antichrist.

In researching the passage, however, I came across some books and website studies that helped me translate more accurately the verse that suggests the Restrainer must be “taken out of the way” in the endtimes.

Oddly enough, the translators of the bible text decided to give a meaning to the word GINOMAI that is used nowhere else, either in the bible or in classical Greek, and to apply it to the Restrainer, rather than the Man of Sin. This has caused much dispute and argument over the years. As a result of this wording, many have construed it to mean the Pre-Trib Rapture of the Church must take place before the Antichrist comes.

The Word means Coming, not Going!

  See Greek Lexicon: https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ginomai.html

 

In the interlinear passage above you will see that the word GENETAI is translated “he might be[gone]” in which the word ‘gone‘ has been added. But the meaning is to BE, not to be GONE! In fact, we ourselves recognise the word in English as Genesis (to come into being) and generate, gene, genetic. The phrase that the KJV has as “taken out of the midst” is actually properly translated as “appears [out of/in] the midst” : EK MISOU GENETAI.

◄ 1078. genesis ► Strong’s Concordance: genesis: – from ginomai: origin, birth

Usual bible translation: “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***.”   In Greek: “to gar musthrion hdh energeitai (5731) thv anomiav; monon o katexwn (5723) arti ewv ek mesou genhtai. (5638) [2 Thess 2:7]

But, the correct translation should be: “He who restrains will do so until HE (the Man of Sin) appears out of the midst“. (And the “midst” could mean the world, society, government or even the FALLEN CHURCH – a very sobering thought in this day of false teachers and false prophets!)

The Greek Translation

Clicking on the Greek word in the interlinear translation online, we discover that everywhere else in the bible GENETAI is translated as “be accomplished, come to pass, become, be born, appear, take place, occur” and so on.

Please see these two pages that give the occurrence and meaning:

I was surprised (as no doubt you are) to discover that the root Greek word, which has been translated as “taken out” or removed, is NEVER translated that way anywhere else. It actually means “appears, is revealed, arrives…”. This can be demonstrated by reading the clip below, which has been made into an image in order to preserve the Greek text.

Greek Translation

Nothing is taken out of the way in 2 Thessalonians 2:7
What does this scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:7) mean? Look at the context … all these pronouns refer to the “man of sin” (v3), also called “that Wicked” (v8). This is none other than the Antichrist. … the context really indicates that “he” refers to the Antichrist [not the Holy Spirit]. Some have argued that this refers to Jesus being revealed, not the Antichrist, but look at these three verses.

  • 2 Thessalonians 2:
  • 6-8 And now you know what restrains for him to be revealed in his time.
  • 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already working: only there is he who now restrains, until he comes into being out of the midst.
  • 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

Jesus will consume the one who is about to be revealed, so it can only be the Antichrist who is about to be revealed in those verses.

Therefore sin and lawlessness are being restrained at present, and will continue to be restrained until “transgressors have come to the full” (Daniel 8:23), then the Antichrist will be revealed. … This bible study proves that neither the church nor the Holy Spirit are taken out of the way in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 before the Antichrist appears. The idea that this verse refers to a pre-tribulation rapture of the church has been thoroughly refuted. [Source]

Conclusion

For anyone looking for the Rapture before the revealing of the Antichrist, this is bad news, because the idea cannot be sustained from the Greek text of Thessalonians (nor indeed anywhere else in the bible, but that is a different discussion.)

For some reason, false hope has been raised by the suggestion that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit, and that he, along with the Church, will be entirely REMOVED before the Antichrist appears. That is a false doctrine.

Not only are we not sure that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit, but even if he is, the Holy Spirit will not and cannot be entirely taken from the earth, with or without the Church. His work is still seen through the Book of Revelation, and it is impossible to fathom how people [including many Jews] could be saved without the work of the Holy Spirit.

However, as you see from the clips above, the passage no longer presents a stumbling block, since the bible does NOT say that the Restrainer will be “removed.” It merely says, a number of times, that at the right time the Man of Sin “will be revealed”.

10 thoughts on “The Restrainer Will Not Be Removed

  1. Tricia,

    Though I’m still looking for a way to legitimately justify grammatically, I may have found a solution to the conundrum in verses 6 and 7. It seems to me the common element is time. I’d already written my working proposal for verse 6 (the restraining element is the combination of events of 3-4). What if time is the restraining element of verse 7, as well? For me, the key is the presence of the verb “reveal” (from the word apocalypse) in 3, 6, and 8.

    In 6 the restraining element “you now know” is the previous events laid out in 3-4, which must come in order to reveal him at his proper time (kairos). The word kairos is masculine. Could this be the masculine restrainer in 7? If I’m correct, in more idiomatic English the last clause would be something like “until the current hindering (understood as time/Kairos) is removed” > “until ‘his proper time’ [from the last clause of 6) emerges”. Assuming this is feasible—and I’m far from sure it is—next in the series of events found at the beginning of 8 follows nicely: “And then the lawless one will be revealed…” This forms a linguistic framing device, linking back to “reveal” in 6, which, in turn, goes back to 3.

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    • Well Tricia, how much time do you have? I found this exhaustive annotated bibliography with well over 1000 articles related to 1 and 2 Thessalonians!

      https://books.google.com/books?id=jy2hDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA255&lpg=PA255#v=onepage&q&f=false

      But the book is prohibitively expensive.

      I was trying to find a specific article which is long out of print (1108 here), hoping it was available in some form online (to no avail), when I found this.

      Diametrically opposed views abound! (It can’t be this versus it definitely means this, etc.)

      I note that 1101 (Paul Dixon’s article–an author I’d used fairly extensively in a completely unrelated blog article) agrees essentially with the Soothkeep website. But I find it less than persuasive.

      In skimming a few, I think my view has some merit. I’ll keep digging, though it may take a while to fully flesh something out. With respect to “time” and the connection of 3-4(5) with 6-7, 1093 agrees with my working view.

      The essence of 1114 is something I’d entertained (I’d specifically mentioned the connection to Rev 12:7-9 in one of my older articles [Misplaced Trust, part I])–the archangel Michael as restrainer.

      No matter the case, I’m of the firm opinion this Scripture does not support a pretrib rapture view. I just don’t see unless one imposes that view onto the text. But others–even well-regarded scholars such as Robert L. Thomas–firmly disagree!

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  2. Tricia,

    Let me see if I can help narrow down the identity of “the restrainer” here, while simultaneously clarifying what I wrote earlier. One of the problems in exegeting the larger passage is that the restrainer is a neuter subject in v. 6 (to katechon), while it is masculine in v. 7 (ho katechōn). Many commentators get tripped up over this (seeming) grammatical gender disparity, but I think the answer is right in the passage. What if they are not referencing the same thing?

    A strict grammar rule (with rare exceptions) is that the grammatical gender of the pronoun and/or the [non-finite] verb must match the grammatical gender of the word it refers to. As regards the neuter in v. 6, it could well refer to the neuter tauta, “these-things” in v. 5. In turn, “these-things” then would refer back to v. 3—the Day of the Lord was not to occur until the rebellion (falling away) comes and then the man of lawlessness is revealed.

    In other words, in my understanding “these-things” (v. 5) refers back to Paul’s earlier statement, and this identifies “the restrainer” of v. 6. The restraining mechanism is the series of events laid out in v.3 that must occur first. The “revealing” (v. 4) of the lawless man is his act of placing himself in God’s temple (whatever that means exactly). Thus, in my opinion, if we see vv. 6-8 as a further explanation of vv. 3-4, the passage is less ambiguous and confusing.

    Taken all together then, v. 7 is a mix of clarification and new information. The hidden/secret/mystery of lawlessness is already at work (back when Paul was penning his epistle), and will continue to be hidden until “the restrainer” agrees to “become out of the middle”, i.e., remove himself or be removed from the middle—between comparatively constrained lawlessness (7a) and unbridled lawlessness (7b—8a). The constrained lawlessness (v.7a) will continue until “the restrainer” removes himself [middle voice] (or is removed [passive]) from the middle (v. 7b), thereby allowing the lawless one to be revealed (8a).

    So, who is “the restrainer” [masculine] in 7b? The passage suggests the person is some sort of mediator. The mediator is holding back the hiddenness of the lawless one, only to later remove himself (“become out of the middle”) from between the hidden powers of this evil and its unbridled manifestation. Could this mediator be the Lord Himself? If we assume the middle voice of genētai, then this could be construed as implying the Father instructing the Son to remove Himself as the Restrainer with the Son agreeing (of course!).

    Neither ‘the government’ nor the Holy Spirit nor the Church is mentioned at all in this passage, and for commentators to assume this could be part of what Paul instructed the Thessalonians at some earlier point not revealed in the epistle (v. 5) is unnecessary if we take “these-things” in 5 as referring back to 3-4. With these not-specifically-mentioned-entities out of consideration (government, Spirit, Church), what remains from the passage? I submit it is the Lord Jesus Himself.

    In sum, in this view, Paul merely used his rhetorical skills (and alliteration) in juxtaposing to katechon (“these-things”) with ho katechōn (the Lord[?], as in the Day of the Lord[?]).

    Unfortunately, as a result of the confusion of many (even well respected scholars), many commentators unnecessarily complicate this passage, resulting in importing extraneous things into it (eisegesis instead of exegesis)!

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      • Tricia,

        I need to apologize, as regards my very first comment. I just couldn’t figure out how you arrived at the conclusion that “the restrainer” was ”the man of sin’–though I didn’t specifically state this. Until yesterday, I completely overlooked the Southkeep weblink you provided (I didn’t see it). The blogger is obviously well-versed in Greek, and he offers a grammatically plausible (and novel) solution to the problem inherent in these verses (though I’d definitely quibble at parts). That said, I still take exception to his analysis, but that is something I’m still trying to distill in words. I want to give it fair treatment.

        Would you mind if I post my (succinct and non-technical as possible) thoughts regarding his exegesis, once I’m through?

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      • Hi Craig. By all means leave a (short) response. Thanks for asking. I wasn’t identifying the Restrainer as the Man of Sin, just saying that he (Man of Sin) will be “coming out of the midst”. As I read the passage again in my bible (New King James) I saw they had give ‘He’ and ‘His’ in verse 7 a capital letter (thus suggesting it’s the Holy Spirit) but in a footnote said it could equally be he/his. That’s of no consequence, just made me smile. Also, I am now inclined to think that Paul said “and now you know” [2:6] because of his comment in verse 3, that the Lord cannot come until the falling-away and the rising of the Man of Sin – so those two things at least do restrain the Coming of the Lord. After all, that was the concern of his letter in Chapter 2, that some believed the Day of Christ has already come. No, at least two things stand in the way! They must happen first.

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      • Tricia,

        I could be on a bit shaky grammatical ground, though, regarding the neuter restrainer. I think my analysis works, but it’s a bit syllogistic. First, it is definitely reasonable to assume “these-things” refers to verses 3-4, for this very thing is exemplified in Luke 4:28, in which tauta refers to Jesus’ previous words. In similar fashion, the Greek tauta in 2 Thess 2:5 is plural. So that part is fine. But ‘the restrainer’ in 2:6 is singular. My reasoning—which I’m looking to fully justify in some specific example in the NT—is that when we see “it is written”, the subject is singular, though referring to a group of words. Using this logic, the singular neuter ‘restrainer’ could then ‘jump over’, so to speak, the plural “these things”, referring to verses 3-4, with timing understood as the restraining factor: And now you know the restraining factor [the events that must occur first {vv 3-4} (which I just reminded you I had previously mentioned “when I was with you” {v 5})]…. This is supported by Paul’s use of the verb oida, “recognize” (or “know”) in v. 6, which can mean the process of “come-to-know” [forget and remember].

        At the SouthKeep link, the writer explicitly distinguishes the “mystery of iniquity” [first restrainer, neuter] from “the antichrist” [second restrainer, masculine]. His idea is that the middle of the verse is to be understood “except for the antichrist [restrainer]” which is to be the exception to that which the first restrainer is holding back. Then “the mystery of iniquity” [truth] is no longer hidden/concealed, thus revealing the antichrist, as the blogger paraphrases his translation:

        Even now you discern the power that is restraining [truth] with the goal of revealing the antichrist when the time is ripe. Because the mystery of iniquity [restraining (truth)] — except for the antichrist — is already working now in the world until the antichrist is manifested in the midst of mankind.

        This is where I thought you got your conclusion “He who restrains will do so until HE (the Man of Sin) appears out of the midst”.

        In any case, SouthKeep places the emergence of the antichrist as, essentially, the antichrist’s (or Satan’s) own prerogative. I think this is hard to accept, given Job (Satan asking for permission to test) and 1 Timothy 6:15.

        In F. F. Bruce’s commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, the author finds three examples in which ginomai is used with ek mesou in which the phrase “implies removal”: in Plutarch, Achilles Tatius, and Pseudo-Aeschines. It’s not that the word ginomai means “removal”, but in conjunction ek mesou the phrase can.

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  3. Tricia,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion, but, with respect, I disagree with your exegesis of 2 Thess 2:7. Let me explain by first providing a very rough word-for-word translation, followed by an explanation of key terms. At the top I’ll use the Greek transliteration from your source, directly below will be the more usual transliteration:

    to gar musthrion hdh energeitai thv anomiav
    to gar mustērion ēdē energeitai tēs anomias
    The for mystery/secret already is-at-work the lawlessness
    For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work

    The first part of the verse is fairly straightforward. The next part provides the difficulty:

    monon o katexwn arti ewv ek mesou genhtai
    monon ho katechōn arti eōs ek mesou genētai
    only the restraining now until from middle/midst becomes/arises/takes place

    ho katechōn is the subject of this clause. The first part (ho) is the Greek article, similar to our “the”. This governs the participle katechōn, which makes the subject the one who restrains or the restrainer. mesou means “middle” or “midst”. The difficult piece to exegete is the last word, of course. As you note, it comes from the root ginomai. As an example, this word is used in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh…”. Think of this word as the English relationship between “be” and “become”. It denotes some sort of change from this to that (The Word was [John 1.1]…the Word became [1:14]). The verb is not in the active voice, but middle/passive, which means it could be either passive or middle. If the passive voice, the restrainer goes from ‘in the middle’ of holding back the lawless one (verse 6) to the restrainer “becomes out of the middle” of its/his restraining position (verse 7). If the middle voice, the restrainer goes from “in the middle” to something like “arising out of the middle” of its/his restraining position.

    In either case, this means the restrainer is no longer holding back the lawless one. The restrainer has been removed (passive), or (middle) the restrainer follows some sort of implied command to remove himself. Following this, as verse 8 begins: “And then the lawless one will be revealed…”

    The ISV does a good job phrasing the last part of verse 7 idiomatically (dynamic equivalence): “but only until the person now holding it back gets out of the way.”

    Thus, the verse should be understood something like:

    For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, [but] only until the restrainer emerges from the middle (thus, no longer holding the lawless one back). And then the lawless one will be revealed…

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