2 Thessalonians 2:6,7 “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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.”
Things are pretty bad today but why aren’t they worse? What’s holding the chaos back? What held the chaos back in Paul’s day? Some of the older commentaries say that Paul was referring to the Roman empire. As the only global power at the time Rome exerted a ‘law and order’ influence on the world that kept things from spinning completely out of control. Matthew Henry writes; “Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time.” And John Wesley’s Notes say the restraint is due to; ” . . . The power of the Roman emperors. When this is taken away, the wicked one will be revealed.”
Other commentaries argue that God is (and was) the restraining power at work; “Though Paul wrote these words nearly two thousand years ago, we should do not let anybody deceive us. Prophecy can be fulfilled very quickly, and God is busy laying the groundwork for the fulfillment of these end-time prophecies. When everything is in place, it will happen swiftly.” ( Forerunner Commentary)
One position doesn’t preclude the other. God ordains all human authority for His purposes. These human institutions and authority structures provide a framework and organization that at its best shelters us from the full ravages of a world gone completely feral. In that sense the ‘He’ mentioned in the Scripture would be the Person who appoints any ‘state’ or ‘office’ with its authority.
The Bible tells us to be law abiding citizens; “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1,2) Why does God care about orderly law abiding living? It is in His character to want what’s best for us. That’s why he sent a reluctant Jonah to Nineveh – Jonah didn’t care about the people there but God did; “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock” (Jonah 4:11)
People often wonder – ‘Where’s God when there is so much trouble?’ or ‘Why doesn’t God stop this terrible stuff from happening?’ They fail to see that God is at work in His timing not ours; “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Revelation 21:4,5)
All creation is waiting for God to bring fulfilment and peace according to His promise; “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body . . . ” (Romans 8:22,23) God is making good on His promise, daily for you and for me and for all creation!
For those without faith in Jesus, Yeats’ poem The Second Coming describes the terrible advance of the ‘lawless one’;
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; /Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, /The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere /The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction,/while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” With a terrible foreboding the poem ends; “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Without faith, all hope and peace will be lost. Those that do not love the truth of His Word will be devoured by the vortex of the beast’s widening gyre; “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
The Bible tells us to stay the course; “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14-17) As the’ rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem’ many will be drawn away from the Word. Law and order will decline and lawlessness will ascend. Standing fast is the only way to prepare. Standing fast is the only way to weather the storm to come. Hold on to your faith!
When we stand fast in His Word we will be prepared for His return; “. . . will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18, 7,8)
Praise the Lord!