2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 – Apocalyptic Paul

2 Thessalonians 2 is as apocalyptic as Paul gets in his letters. While there are other hints of an apocalyptic worldview in Paul, 2 Thess 2 develops a view of the future which is in step with Second Temple Judaism’s view that God would allows a general persecution at the end of the age.

For example in 1 Enoch 48-50, the “Son of man” will become a “staff for the righteous ones,” people may lean on him and not fall; he will be the hope of the sick and all who dwell on the earth will worship him (48:4-5, cf. 62:6, 9, 63, 90:37; Ps. 72:9, 11; Phil. 2:10.)   He will be the light of the Gentiles (Isa. 42:6, 49:6, cf. Luke 2:32).  The righteous will be saved by his name (48:7).  All of the powerful will be humiliated “in those days” as we are told they will be delivered into the hand of the Chosen One like grass to the fire or lead to the water.  The image of grass being taken to a fire at the time of the harvest is used by Jesus in several parables (for example, the wheat and the tares, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).

In 1 Enoch 50 the prophet describes a renewal of the righteous from their time of weariness.   This includes a judgment in which the sinners receive evil and the righteous receive good. The righteous are to be saved through the “name of the Lord of Spirits” who will lead people to repentance.  This chapter stresses the justice of the judgment of the Lord of Spirits – “oppression cannot escape him.” Those who are under his judgment no longer receive mercy (verse 5).

PaulPaul’s apocalyptic description of the activities of the Anti-Christ and his coming judgment resonate with 1 Enoch.  In 2 Thess 2 as a parody of the “real Christ.”  The man of sin has a “coming” is παρουσία, the word that is most regularly associated with the return of Christ. Just as Christ has a παρουσία, so to does his doppleganger, the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ will do “counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.” The “miracles, signs and wonders” are also a part of this the Satanic parody since these are the very words associated with the ministry of Jesus and his presentation as the Messiah in Acts 2:22 and his representatives (Cf., Heb 2:3-4).

These “miracles, signs and wonders” are modified by ψευδος, a lie. The word is used here and in verse 11, underscoring the false-ness of the activities of the Anti-Christ. The signs will likely be much like the miracles of Christ, although powered by Satan. This is parallel to Revelation 13:1-4, 13-15, the most detailed discussion of the activities of these end-time players. While the true Messiah did great signs and miracles, he was rejected by his people. The Anti-Christ will demonstrate the same sorts of power, but he will be accepted by the people and worshiped as a god.

The goal of these signs is to deceive people. While the miracles may appear to be good and positive things, things that help people. Those that are deceived are described as perishing since they have rejected the love of truth. The word for “perishing” here is the same as the description of the Anti-Christ in verse 3, “son of perdition.” Those that are perishing will be lead to believe the ultimate “one who is perishing.”

When Jesus return in 2 Thess 2:8, he destroys the power of the man of sin with the power of his word, not unlike the description of the beginning of the messianic age in Isaiah 11:4. The timing of the judgment of the Anti-Christ is at the “splendor of his coming.” This combines παρουσία and the word ἐπιφάνεια, a word that also means something like “appearance,” and is applied to the return of Christ a number of times in the New Testament. The combination of the words was used to describe the arrival of the Emperor from the time of Caligula on, implying the presence of a divine being as well as all of the pomp and ceremony associated with the Emperor.

Paul therefore resonates with the Jewish apocalyptic traditions common in the Second Temple period, at least in this earliest of his letters.

What (Who?) is the “Restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2?

[Audio for this study is available at Sermons.net, as is a PDF copy of the notes. You may right-click and “save as….”

The identity of the “Restrainer” is a difficult problem in reading the apocalyptic section of 2 Thess 2.  Paul says there that the Man of Lawlessnness cannot be revealed until the “restrainer” is removed.  The problem is that he does not explicitly state who / what the restrainer is.  Both the restraining power and the mystery of lawlessness are active at the time Paul writes.  The restrainer must therefore be something that was active at the time of Paul and will continue to be active until the Day of the Lord.  As a result, there are a number of suggestions as to the identity of this restrainer / restraining power.

There are two issues that need to be resolved with respect to the identity of the restrainer.  First, there are lexical issues:  What does the verb κατέχω mean?  It can mean to hold back or restrain, but also “to hold fast, keep secure.”

Secondly, and perhaps more problematic, there are grammatical issues.  In verse 6, Paul uses a neuter singular participle, but in verse 7 he uses a masculine singular participle.  These two words should not refer to the same thing according to the rules of the Greek language.  The first must have neuter referent, the second a masculine. The many suggested alternatives for understanding this passage can be categorized as taking the restrainer as a good force or an evil force.

Augustus CaesarFrom the time of Tertullian on, the neuter participle was taken as a reference to the Roman empire, and the masculine to the emperor himself.  The verb means “to restrain,” therefore it is the rule of the Roman empire (or the rule of law, God ordained political order, etc) that restrains the chaos of the man of lawlessness from being revealed.  The primary problem with this view is that Paul does not have a political rebellion in mind, but rather a religious apostasy, a rebellion against God.  It is also difficult to see Paul claiming that the fall of Rome will be the beginning of the tribulation period and the power of the Anti-Christ.

Oscar Cullman, followed by T. Munck argue that the neuter participle is the preaching of the Gospel, and that the masculine participle is Paul himself as the key leader of the evangelical outreach in the first century. There is a serious problem with this view in the fact that Paul appears to believe that he will participate in the return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff), this interpretation would need to have Paul taken out of the way before the beginning of the Day of the Lord.

I . H. Marshall defends this position by accepting the first participle as the preaching of the gospel, but changing the identification of the second to something other than Paul.  Essentially he sees the God as restraining the forces of evil in the present age so that the preaching of the gospel can be fully accomplished.  The force that is holding back evil is an angel or some spiritual being working on God’s behalf.  This presupposes the idea that the gospel must be preached to the whole world before the Day of the Lord, which is simply not a Pauline requirement for the Day of the Lord.  This position is appealing since it makes God the restraining power, but one must deal with the “taking away” of the restrainer.  God could not be removed, although his role as a restrainer may be.

Roger D. Aus (JBL 96 [1977]: 537-553) attempts to make 2 Thessalonians reliant on Isaiah 66 in a number of places, therefore the source of the restrainer also found in Isaiah.  While the word does not appear in the LXX, 66:9 does talk about the shutting up of the womb as an image for the delay in restoring the fortunes of Israel.  Aus argues that Paul is freely translating the MT at this point, using katexw to mean delay of the Day of the Lord.  While it is possible that the verb could be used to translate the Hebrew of Isaiah 66:9, it is far from the most obvious choice, and Paul simply uses the verb without any modification.

Charles Gilbin devotes an entire monograph to 2 Thessalonians 2 and develops a unique theory concerning the problem in the church as well as the identity of the restraining power.  Gilbin sees a specific charismatic prophet within the church that has delivered the prophetic message that the Day of the Lord has begun. He therefore argues that katexw in the neuter has the sense of a prophetic seizure, and that the masculine pronoun refers to a false prophet.  There are several problems here.  katexw only has the sense of a prophetic seizure in the passive, both verbs are active here.  Additionally, it is hard to understand why Paul would argue that the entire Day of the Lord is held in check until a single false prophet in a small local is taken out of the way.

As early as Darby (Notes, 452), the restrainer has been identified as the Holy Spirit in the Church.  Walvoord, for example, argues in his prophetic writings that the restraining power is the Holy Spirit.  This is not essentially different than I. H. Marshall described above, although Darby and other following Dispensationalist have made far more of this than Marshall would allow.  If the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, then this passage becomes a clear argument in favor of a pre-tribulational rapture.  The Holy Spirit is restraining the satanic influences in the world through the activity of the Church the Body of Christ.  When the Body of Christ is removed from the world, the Satan is free to attack the world through the Anti-Christ.

Obviously this is a powerful argument for the pre-trib position.  But is the Restrainer the Holy Spirit?  Is that what this passage is really saying?  It can be objected that the grammar of the passage makes the identification of the Holy Spirit as the restrainer impossible since the restrainer is masculine and the word for Spirit is neuter.  If the genders are properly interpreted, they need to refer to two different things, albeit coordinated things.   An additional problem is that the Holy Spirit is not explicitly mentioned in the passage.  The gospel is (in chapter 1), and the forces of evil are clearly in the context, but the Holy Spirit is not.

In the most recent revival of this argument, Charles Powell (BibSac 154 [1997]: 321-333) sees the preaching of the Gospel as a part of the restraining force, but settles on the first referring to the Spirit and the second to God, with not contradiction based on the Trinity.   He notes that in John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is called ho paravkletos, a masculine noun referring the neuter pneuma.  This avoids any grammatical difficulties, and sounds quite a bit like I. H. Marshall.

It may be objected that the Old Testament very clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit will be active in the tribulation (Joel 2, for example.)  If he is removed at the beginning of the Tribulation, how can he be “poured out” as Joel predicts?  It is possible to argue that the restraining function of the Spirit through the Body of Christ will end at the rapture, although the functions of empowerment for ministry or prophecy will remain.  Obviously God, who is omnipresent, cannot be “removed,” therefore there is some sort of shift in activities, such as at the time of the Flood.

Therefore it is best to conclude that the Restrainer power is God, through the Holy Spirit and the positive effects of the preached Gospel.  The Spirit is active in the world as a preserving agent, a ministry that will end at the time of the Rapture, allowing the events of the tribulation to unfold.

2 Thessalonians 2:1 – “Our Being Gathered”

[Audio for this study is available at Sermons.net, as is a PDF copy of the notes. You may right-click and “save as….” ]

The reason that the church has become unsettled is a misunderstanding over the return of the Lord and “our gathering” to him. The word for the coming of the Lord is παρουσία, the most common word for the return of Christ.

The noun παρουσία simply means “presence” or “arrival,” and is used in a variety of ways. The noun can refer to the arrival of a human (Paul in 2 Cor 7:6), but it is also used for the visit of a person of high ranking, such as a king (3 Macc 3:17). This use usually included flattery, tributes, delicacies, transportation, and gifts of golden wreaths or money. If a god was active in history helping a human that presence of the god is called a παρουσία. Josephus uses the word to describe God’s presence in helping Israel (Antiq. 3.80). The word is used often in connection with sacred events where the presence of a god is assumed.

Paul uses this word not only to refer to the presence of Jesus, but also of the Man of Lawlessness (the Anti-Christ and has his own anti-parousia). The word can be stretched to cover all of the events associated with the eschatological age, similar to the “day of the Lord” in the Hebrew Bible.

The second word, “gathering” is ἐπισυναγωγή, is quite rare in the New Testament, used only here and in Hebrews 10:25 where it refers to the gathering together of believers for worship. The obvious meaning of the term here is that Paul is referring to the Rapture, using similar terminology to 1 Thess 4:13-18.

There are a number of Old Testament passages that teach that Israel will be re-gathered prior to the Messianic kingdom. For example, in Isa 43:4-7 God gathers the children of Zion from the east, west, north, and south, a clear reference to Jews living in the Diaspora. When the eschatological age begins, God will gather his elect (the chosen) from the four winds and bring them back to Zion. (Compare this to LXX Isa 52:12, God is the “gatherer of Israel.” See also Isa 56:8; Jer 31:8. Ezek 20:34; 34:16, Ps 106:47.)

This noun is used in the Second Temple Period for the gathering of Israel at the beginning of the eschatological age. In 2 Macc 2:7 the secret place where the Ark is hidden will not be revealed until “God gathers his people again” (using the verb συνάγω and the noun ἐπισυναγωγή). The word also appears in T.Naph 8:3 where it describes the gathering of the righteous out of the nations at the beginning of the eschatological age. Similarly, T.Ash 7:7 the Lord will gather Israel on account of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The idea of Israel being re-gathered is the point of Jesus’ words in Matt 23:37 / Luke 13:34. Jesus contrasts God’s desire to gather Israel together under his wings with their rejection of him as the Messiah. A bit later in the Gospels Jesus uses the noun to describe the gather of the elect from the four winds when Messiah judges the world (Matt 24:31). In fact, in Matthew there is a loud trumpet call that draws the elect from the four corners of the world. The parallel is not precise, however, since Jesus is referring to the gathering of Jews in dispersion together just prior to the establishment of the kingdom. Paul is addressing a Gentile congregation

It is better, therefore, to see Paul’s use of the word as an extension of the Jewish idea of a gathering together prior to the coming of Messiah. Prior to the Day of the Lord there will be a “gathering” which is described more fulling in 1 Thess 4:13ff. Paul takes other elements of Jewish theology and tradition and expands them in the new Christian ways in this present age of Grace, this appears to be another of these adaptations.

Top Five 1-2 Thessalonians Commentaries

Introduction.  There are less special problems when approaching the letters to the Thessalonians than with other Pauline letters. Authorship of 1 Thess is rarely doubted, although 2 Thess is sometimes thought to be written by later writer with a decidedly apocalyptic world view. Another issue which is usually covered in the introductions to these letters is the possibility that the order ought to be reversed. It is well known that the Pauline letters collection is not chronological, but according to size (longest to shortest). Since 2 Thess is shorter and far more apocalyptic, it has been suggested that the order has been reversed when the letters were collected into a “Pauline canon.”

Unfortunately many evangelicals who study 1-2 Thessalonians move too quickly 4:13-5:11. This section concerns eschatology and is the primary text for the Rapture the relationship of this event to the Second coming. There is far more in this letters than “end times” and there is nothing in them that will help predict the end of the world or anything like that. Twice Paul says his purpose is to comfort the church and to encourage them to comfort one another. I believe that these books teach a “Rapture” of some kind, but I would like to find another word for it to separate my belief from the weirdness popular today.

There are two other books which will be very helpful for students of 1-2 Thessalonians.  Karl Donfried and Johannes Beutler edited a collection of essays on methodological issues produced by the SNTS Thessalonian Correspondence Seminar, The Thessalonians Debate (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000).  The main thrust of these essays is the current popularity of rhetorical analysis of Paul’s letters, a method which has been particularly fruitful for reading Thessalonians.  There are two articles in the collection by Frank Hughes, the scholar who should  be considered an early pioneer of this method.  Donfried’s Paul, Thessalonians, and Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2002) is collection of essays from a variety of sources (journals and festschrifts) written as early as 1974. This is a very useful book since it covers many of the historical and “background” issues commentaries often treat only briefly.

Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians (New Jersey: Doubleday, 2000). Malherbe’s commentary is a detailed exegetical commentary that takes seriously forms of ancient letter writing. He presents Paul as a model letter-writer who follows the standard forms of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world. He illustrates this throughout the commentary by citing other letters that have similar rhetorical style or vocabulary to 1 Thess. His knowledge of this literature is encyclopedic, yet it is not too distracting to the reader interested in Paul’s meaning these letters. This is true even in discussion the “rapture” in 1 Thess 4:17, where he illustrates the use of the word harpazo in non-biblical Greek by Cicero and Seneca. I find his comments on this apocalyptic section excellent, since he works very hard to show how the Rapture (whatever it is) was intended as a consolation for the church, not a scare-tactic to keep the behaving properly. This is a very readable expert-level commentary, with Greek appearing in transliteration.

Charles A. Wanamaker, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996). This was a textbook for a class on Exegesis of Pauline Epistles when I was in seminary. Like Malherbe, Wanamaker makes full use of rhetoric studies to unpack Paul’s argument in the letters. He is guided by Malherbe’s earlier work on rhetoric, Malherbe’s commentary then interacts with Wanamaker’s. His seven page essay on the rhetorical analysis of the letters is a good introduction for those who are new to this approach to Paul’s letters. The body of the commentary is based on the Greek text with no transliteration and all citations are in-text. This is true for the NIGTC in general and makes for a challenging read. Like Malherbe there are numerous comparisons to other Greco-Roman letters, although Wanamaker does not quote them at length.

F. F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (WBC; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982). It seems strange to say that this commentary is now thirty years old! Bruce is always worth reading, and this early entry in the Word series is an exceptional commentary on the Greek text of the Thessalonian letters. Bruce is an efficient exegete. He comments on the Greek text of these letters briefly yet there is always a depth of understanding. Since Bruce wrote before the explosion of rhetorical studies on Thessalonians, the commentary itself is not concerned with “forms” or style of argument. A particular highlight of this commentary is Bruce’s nine-page excursus on the Antichrist in the context of his commentary on 2 Thess 2:1-12.

Leon Morris, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Revised Edition (NICNT; Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1991); 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Revised Edition (Tyndale; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1984); 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Word Biblical Themes; Dallas: Word, 1989). I suppose this should count as cheating on my own rule of “only Five Commentaries,” but all three of these books are from Morris are worth reading. The Tyndale commentary is a revision of Morris’s 1956 commentary in the Tyndale series. Morris covers both books in a mere 152 pages, but does a good job highlighting what is important for reading and understanding the text of these letters. The commentary is based on the English text with Greek appearing in transliteration. The NICNT is also a revision of an earlier volume from the early 1960s. This is definitely the “first off the shelf” commentary. The newer commentary updates the bibliography and interacts with Ernest Best’s work on Thessalonians. The main body of the commentary is based on the English text, Greek and other details are in the notes. It is also worth seeking out Morris’s contribution to the Word Biblical Themes series written in 1989. This is little book is a biblical theology, drawing out several key themes of importance in the letters. I find his comments on the eschatology of 1-2 Thessalonians refreshing, and judging from the underlining in my copy of the book, I have stolen learned a great deal from Morris.

Greg Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2003). This commentary is in the IVP New Testament Commentary series and is intended for pastors and teachers. The body of the commentary is based on the English, with occasional key Greek words appearing in transliteration. All citations are in-text; he interacts with a range of scholarship although it is weighted towards evangelical commentators. Beale treats more technical details in a footnote-like section at the bottom of the page. With respect to eschatology, Beale has a chart summarizing his belief that Paul is commenting on the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24) in his eschatological section (p. 137).

Conclusion. I cheated a bit on this one by including three by Morris and adding the Donfried books in the introduction.  But I did leave off a few very handy commentaries to at appear to obey my own rules – what did I miss?  Let me know what you have found useful in your preaching and teaching.

Index for the Top Five Commentary Series

 

Introduction to Series on Commentaries

On Using Commentaries 

Matthew        Mark        Luke        John        Acts
Romans        1 Corinthians         2 Corinthians
Galatians         Ephesians        Philippians        Colossians
1-2 Thessalonians        Pastoral Epistles         Philemon
Hebrews        James         1 Peter         2 Peter & Jude 
Letters of John         Revelation

Conclusion:  Last Thoughts on New Testament Commentaries

What is the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2?

This is a difficult problem in reading the apocalyptic section of 2 Thess 2.  Paul says there that the Man of Perdition cannot be revealed until the “restrainer” is removed.  The problem is that he does not explicitly state who / what the restrainer is.  Both the restraining power and the mystery of lawlessness are active at the time Paul writes.  The restrainer must therefore be something that was active at the time of Paul and will continue to be active until the Day of the Lord.  As a result, there are a number of suggestions as to the identity of this restrainer / restraining power.

There are two issues that need to be resolved with respect to the identity of the restrainer.  First, there are lexical issues:  What does the term katexw mean?  It can mean to hold back or restrain, but also “to hold fast, keep secure.”

Secondly, and perhaps more problematic, are grammatical issues.  In verse 6, Paul uses a neuter singular participle, but in verse 7 he uses a masculine singular participle.  These two words should not refer to the same thing according to the rules of the Greek language.  The first must have neuter referent, the second a masculine. The many suggested alternatives for understanding this passage can be categorized as taking the restrainer as a good force or an evil force.

From the time of Tertullian on, the neuter participle was taken as a reference to the Roman empire, and the masculine to the emperor himself.  The verb means “to restrain,” therefore it is the rule of the Roman empire (or the rule of law, God ordained political order, etc) that restrains the chaos of the man of lawlessness from being revealed.  The primary problem with this view is that Paul does not have a political rebellion in mind, but rather a religious apostasy, a rebellion against God.  It is also difficult to see Paul claiming that the fall of Rome will be the beginning of the tribulation period and the power of the Anti-Christ.

Oscar Cullman, followed by T. Munck argue that the neuter participle is the preaching of the Gospel, and that the masculine participle is Paul himself as the key leader of the evangelical outreach in the first century. There is a serious problem with this view in the fact that Paul appears to believe that he will participate in the return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff), this interpretation would need to have Paul taken out of the way before the beginning of the Day of the Lord.

I . H. Marshall defends this position by accepting the first participle as the preaching of the gospel, but changing the identification of the second to something other than Paul.  Essentially he sees the God as restraining the forces of evil in the present age so that the preaching of the gospel can be fully accomplished.  The force that is holding back evil is an angel or some spiritual being working on God’s behalf.  This presupposes the idea that the gospel must be preached to the whole world before the Day of the Lord, which is simply not a Pauline requirement for the Day of the Lord.  This position is appealing since it makes God the restraining power, but one must deal with the “taking away” of the restrainer.  God could not be removed, although his role as a restrainer may be.

Roger D. Aus (JBL 96/4 [1977]: 537-553) attempts to make 2 Thessalonians reliant on Isaiah 66 in a number of places, therefore the source of the restrainer also found in Isaiah.  While the word does not appear in the LXX, 66:9 does talk about the shutting up of the womb as an image for the delay in restoring the fortunes of Israel.  Aus argues that Paul is freely translating the MT at this point, using katexw to mean delay of the Day of the Lord.  While it is possible that the verb could be used to translate the Hebrew of Isaiah 66:9, it is far from the most obvious choice, and Paul simply uses the verb without any modification.

Charles Gilbin devotes an entire monograph to 2 Thessalonians 2 and develops a unique theory concerning the problem in the church as well as the identity of the restraining power.  Gilbin sees a specific charismatic prophet within the church that has delivered the prophetic message that the Day of the Lord has begun. He therefore argues that katexw in the neuter has the sense of a prophetic seizure, and that the masculine pronoun refers to a false prophet.  There are several problems here.  katexw only has the sense of a prophetic seizure in the passive, both verbs are active here.  Additionally, it is hard to understand why Paul would argue that the entire Day of the Lord is held in check until a single false prophet in a small local is taken out of the way.

As early as Darby (Notes, 452), the restrainer has been identified as the Holy Spirit in the Church.  Walvoord, for example, argues in his prophetic writings that the restraining power is the Holy Spirit.  This is not essentially different than I. H. Marshall described above, although Darby and other following Dispensationalist have made far more of this than Marshall would allow.  If the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, then this passage becomes a clear argument in favor of a pre-tribulational rapture.  The Holy Spirit is restraining the satanic influences in the world through the activity of the Church the Body of Christ.  When the Body of Christ is removed from the world, the Satan is free to attack the world through the Anti-Christ.

Obviously this is a powerful argument for the pre-trib position.  But is the Restrainer the Holy Spirit?  Is that what this passage is really saying?  It can be objected that the grammar of the passage makes the identification of the Holy Spirit as the restrainer impossible since the restrainer is masculine and the word for Spirit is neuter.  If the genders are properly interpreted, they need to refer to two different things, albeit coordinated things.   An additional problem is that the Holy Spirit is not explicitly mentioned in the passage.  The gospel is (in chapter 1), and the forces of evil are clearly in the context, but the Holy Spirit is not.

In the most recent revival of this argument, Charles Powell (BibSac 154 [July 97]: 321-333) sees the preaching of the Gospel as a part of the restraining force, but settles on the first referring to the Spirit and the second to God, with not contradiction based on the Trinity.   He notes that in John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is called ho paravkletos, a masculine noun referring the neuter pneuma.  This avoids any grammatical difficulties, and sounds quite a bit like I. H. Marshall.

It may be objected that the Old Testament very clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit will be active in the tribulation (Joel 2, for example.)  If he is removed at the beginning of the Tribulation, how can he be “poured out” as Joel predicts?  It is possible to argue that the restraining function of the Spirit through the Body of Christ will end at the rapture, although the functions of empowerment for ministry or prophecy will remain.  Obviously God, who is omnipresent, cannot be “removed,” therefore there is some sort of shift in activities, such as at the time of the Flood.

Therefore it is best to conclude that the Restrainer power is God, through the Holy Spirit and the positive effects of the preached Gospel.  The Spirit is active in the world as a preserving agent, a ministry that will end at the time of the Rapture, allowing the events of the tribulation to unfold.