As we get closer to the end, there are various prophetic ramifications of 2 Thessalonians 2 and the mystery of lawlessness. This paper will focus on verse 7 and try to answer what is being restrained and who is doing the restraining in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Additionally, it will include some comments from various COGs on some of their current and/or historical positions.
Based upon what is being restrained, this paper tries to provide information on what is likely to be at least one of the "signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9) will be.
Part of the understanding of what is happening in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is more affected by the translation than many other scriptures.
Here is how the NKJV translates 2 Thessalonians 2:7:
7 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. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, NKJV)
Without going into excessive detail, this verse has many possible translations, and part of the most relevant (as the capitalized "He" is a completely forced translation) has to do with the Greek expressions translated as "He is taken" above. The Greek term is γένηται, transliterated as géneetai.
Based upon my review of the possible translations of related terms, the NKJV suggesting forcibly being "taken" does not seem to be the best translation. Here are several translations of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 that may be more applicable:
7 for the secret of the lawlessness doth already work, only he who is keeping down now [will hinder] — till he may be out of the way,
(2 Thessalonians 2:7, Young's Literal Translation)
7 For the mystery of lawlessness already is working, only he (is) holding back now, until it comes out of (the) midst (2 Thessalonians 2:7, Jay Green's Literal Translation)
7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7, New Living Translation)
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, English Standard Version)
7 For the mystery of lawlessness already works; only [there is] he who restrains now until he be gone (2 Thessalonians 2:7, Darby)
The point I am trying to emphasize here is that the "he" leaves and is not necessarily taken out by anyone like the above translations indicate.
Now some of the rapturists like to emphasize the "being taken" translation. To cite one example, I have heard Hal Lindsey state that the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way when all the Christians who possess it are raptured. That is how he and some others view the above. It may be of interest to note that the marginal reference in the Vine's, Ryrie, and Nelson Study editions of the NKJV indicate that "he" is not needed to be capitalized (it seemingly has been placed in the actual NKJV to support the trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit being part of this text).
Furthermore, some others who claim a pre-tribulation rapture believe the "he is taken" is a reference to the Christian church being raptured away. However, it should be pointed out that references to churches in the New Testament with respect to some gender being associated with it are feminine (e.g. Ephesians 5:25-31; 2 John 1-2; 4-6; Revelation 12:14-17; 19:7-9). Thus, this is not a reference to the church being taken away. See also Is There A Secret Rapture for the Church? When and Where is the Church Protected?
The primary issues that I would like to address in this article is what is being restrained in general, what in particular, and what are the ramifications of the coming lack of restraint.
Here is what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
To the Thessalonians, about A.D. 54, Paul wrote, "For the Mystery of iniquity doth already work . . ." (II Thes. 2:7). It was the Babylonian mystery religion, started by Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8), a religion of iniquity - lawlessness - a religion rejecting the law of God...
During the time of Paul's ministry, these same Simon Magus ministers were troubling the Corinthians. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ [the true Church, in the resurrection, is to be married to Christ, spiritually]. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he [a minister of Simon Magus] that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit [of rebellion and disobedience] which ye have not received, or another gospel . . .” (11 Cor. 11:2-4).(More, later, about the connection with the deception of the first woman, Eve.) But notice, they were proclaiming another Jesus - as well as another gospel - and they followed another spirit - of rebellion and not obedience. That deception has continued through the centuries and is the state today. They took the NAME of Christ. They called their Babylonian religion "Christianity." But they not only presented a counterfeit gospel but a counterfeit spirit of self centeredness and a counterfeit Jesus, completely different to the Jesus of the Bible.
Of these false ministers, Paul wrote further to the Corinthians: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers. Transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness . . ." (II Cor. II: 13-15). (Armstrong HW. The Incredible Human Potential, Chapter 1)
Thus, Herbert Armstrong tied 2 Thessalonians 2:7, as did the Apostle Paul, to something that began in Paul's day. He also tied the verse in with "Simon the Sorcerer" and a Babylonian religion calling itself "Christian."
The mystery of lawlessness tricks people into believing that a pagan-compromised syncretistic religion is an acceptable form of Christianity. It professes various rules, knowledge, and/or laws, claims that they are directly or indirectly from God, but really are traditions of men (Matthew 15:7-9). These are traditions that men seem to get from their own imaginations as well as by being influenced by the devil (Revelation 12:9).
Now, one commentary states:
2 Thessalonians 2:7
6 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: 7 only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way.
(6) Even in the apostles time the first foundations of the apostolic seat were laid, but yet so that they deceived men.
(7) He foretells that when the empire of Rome is taken away, the seat that falls away from God will succeed and hold its place, as the old writers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain and interpret it.
(h) He who is now in authority and rules all, that is, the Roman Empire.
(from Geneva Notes, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2005, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
And while in a sense this restraining somewhat includes the Roman Empire of the past and the present, it seems to be more than that. It seems that 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is referring to the power of Satan being restrained, hence I do not agree with how the Geneva Notes commentary explained it as it seems to have ignored Satan as the Roman Empire per se does not do signs and lying wonders (though some of its past leaders may have and at least two of its future leaders will).
Notice some comments on the Roman Empire:
The Bible clearly warns against an end time "Mystery Babylon the Great" (Revelation 17:5), thus indicating that this end time Babylon had major similarities to the original Babylon discussed throughout the Old Testament and secular history.This Babylonian system of idolatrous worship spread all over the world as the inhabitants of the city itself were scattered (Genesis 11:9). As they went from Babylon, these men took their worship of mother and child, and the various "mystery" symbols, with them...Later, the Roman Empire assimilated into its system the gods and religions of the countries over which it ruled. Since Babylon was the source of this paganism, we can easily see how Rome's early religion was a form of Babylonish worship that had developed under different forms and different names in the countries to which it had gone. In his well-documented book, Pagan and Christian Creeds, Edward Carpenter wrote: "The similarity of ancient pagan legends and beliefs with Christian traditions was so great that they excited the attention and undisguised wrath of the early Christian… not knowing how to explain it, they fell back to the theory the devil, centuries before, caused the pagans to adopt certain beliefs and practices" (p. 25). (Satan's Counterfeit Christianity. Booklet, 2008)
At the time the Apostle Paul wrote that the mystery of lawlessness was already at work, there were two specifically involved with sorcery and "Christianity" mentioned in the Book of Acts.
The first was Simon Magus:
9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God." 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized...
18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."
20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." (Acts 8:9-13, 18-23, NKJV)
History suggests that Simon Magus did not truly repent, but instead implemented his own Babylonish form of Christianity. According to writers such as Irenaeus, Simon and his followers practiced forms of sorcery, had a mystical priesthood, and taught various heresies (for more biblical and historical details, please see the article Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?). Here is one statement from Irenaeus about Simon and his followers:
For all those who are of a perverse mind, having been set against the Mosaic legislation, judging it to be dissimilar and contrary to the doctrine of the Gospel, have not applied themselves to investigate the causes of the difference of each covenant. Since, therefore, they have been deserted by the paternal love, and puffed up by Satan, being brought over to the doctrine of Simon Magus, they have apostatized in their opinions from Him who is God, and imagined that they have themselves discovered more than the apostles (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book III, Chapter 12, Verse 12. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight)
Being against "Mosaic legislation" basically means that Simon Magus was involved with lawlessness.
Another sorcerer that apparently professed, but did not truly accept, Christ in the Book of Acts was a young woman:
16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." 18 And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour. (Acts 16:16-19, NKJV)
Hence it appears that sorcery was a problem amongst some who professed Christ during the time of the Apostle Paul.
The Bible shows that there will come a time when massive deception, signs, and lying wonders powered by Satan will happen:
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, NKJV)
24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:24-25, NKJV)
22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise and produce signs and portents to deceive the elect, if that were possible. 23 You, therefore, must be on your guard. I have given you full warning. (Mark 13:22-23, NJB)
13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. (Revelation 13:13-18, NKJV)
4 Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot,
The mistress of sorceries,
Who sells nations through her harlotries,
And families through her sorceries. (Nahum 3:4, NKJV)
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. (Revelation 16:13-14, NKJV)
20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20, NKJV)
2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 is clearly related to 2 Thessalonians 2:7 as it immediately follows the fact that the restrainer will no longer be restraining. Sorceries in the form of signs and lying wonders And it appears that many of the other verses cited above likely are related to 2 Thessalonians 2:7 as well. Deceptive sorceries will be part of what actually keeps Babylon together, it will go when Babylon collapses (Revelation 18:22)
Since those prophecies are still primarily for the future, it would seem that although there was some sorcery etc. in the Book of Acts, that the ability of Satan's power to be more fully shown to humanity has been restrained.
The Bible is also clear that Satan has had limits on his power. Notice the following account in the Book of Job:
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?"
9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"
12 And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." (Job 1:8-12, NKJV)
And Job 2:3-6 shows another restraint that God imposed upon Satan. And my point is that the Bible shows that Satan does have power, the power is currently subject to restraint, and that the power of Satan through signs, lying wonders, and sorceries will be removed to a great degree in the future.
The mysterious Babylonian religion will use use more signs and wonders to get people to disobey God and His laws (cf. Revelation 13:13-16).
Notice that those that follow certain of the teachings of the false beast power are contrasted with those that are true Christians that keep the commandments:
9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:9-12)
Part of the mystery of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is getting people to have an outward form of religion that is actually hostile to God's law as shown in the Bible (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 16). Part of the mystery of lawlessness is to get people to think that not keeping the Ten Commandments the way that Jesus and the early Church kept them (see What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments? and The Ten Commandments and the Early Church) is acceptable.
In a prophecy for our time, the prophet Isaiah describes a modern virgin "daughter" of the ancient Babylon, who would profane her own people (Isaiah 47:1–9). God clearly describes this modern Babylon as "the lady of kingdoms" (v. 5). Then God states: "And you said, 'I shall be a lady forever,' so that you did not take these things to heart, nor remember the latter end of them. 'Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, who dwell securely, who say in your heart, "I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children"; but these two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day: the loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness because of the multitude of your sorceries, for the great abundance of your enchantments'" (vv. 7–9).
Notice how some of these exact statements are used against the modern Babylon that will fight Christ at His Second Coming! "In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.' Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her" (Revelation 18:7–8)...
The religious sorcery and idolatry of the Babylonian system will be enticing to millions. The vast majority will follow that way..."For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth" (Revelation 18:23–24). (Satan's Counterfeit Christianity. Booklet, 2008)
According to biblical (2 Thessalonians 2:7-9; Isaih 47; Revelation 13; Revelation 18; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22-23) and Catholic prophecy it would seem that we should expect to have future apparitions of a "Lady" to become more public, and probably to endorse an ecumenical religion that many in the world will follow (Revelation 13:4,8).Apparitions claiming to be a Lady (cf. Isaiah 47:5,9,12; Revelation 18:7,23) may have an end-time role.
The Bible warns of a “virgin” that uses enchantments, one called the Lady of Kingdoms:
1 Come down, sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne for the daughter of the Chaldeans, for thou shalt no more be called delicate and tender…4 Our redeemer, the Lord of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel. 5 Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called the lady of kingdoms. 6 I was angry with my people, I have polluted my inheritance, and have given them into thy bend: thou hast shewn no mercy to them: upon the ancient thou hast laid thy yoke exceeding heavy. 7 And thou hast said: I shall be a lady for ever: thou hast not laid these things to thy heart, neither hast thou remembered thy latter end. 8 And now hear these things, thou that art delicate, and dwellest confidently, that sayest in thy heart: I am, and there is none else besides me: I shall not sit as a widow, and I shall not know barrenness. 9 These two things shall come upon thee suddenly in one day, barrenness and widowhood. All things are come upon thee, because of the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great hardness of thy enchanters. 10 And thou best trusted in thy wickedness, and hast said: There is none that seeth me. Thy wisdom, and thy knowledge, this hath deceived thee. And thou best said in thy heart: I am, and besides me there is no other. 11 Evil shall come upon thee, and then shalt not know the rising thereof: and calamity shall fall violently upon thee, which thou canst not keep off: misery shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know. 12 Stand now with thy enchanters, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, in which thou hast laboured from thy youth, if so be it may profit thee any thing, or if thou mayst become stronger. 13 Thou hast failed in the multitude or thy counsels: let now the astrologers stand and save thee, they that gazed at the stars, and counted the months, that from them they might tell the things that shall come to thee. (Isaiah 47:1, 4-7, 11-13, DRB)
The Bible also seems to connect her haughty comments in verses 7 & 8 with those of the harlot of Revelation 17:1,18; 18:7-8,11.
Some may be surprised to see this, but this immoral “Lady” also seems to have the title of “queen” and “harlot”:
7 You thought, 'I shall be a queen for ever.' 8…'I am the only one who matters. I shall never be widowed, never know bereavement.' 9 Yet both these things will befall you, suddenly, in one day. Bereavement and widowhood will suddenly befall you…(Isaiah 47:7, NJB)
4 Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, The mistress of sorceries, Who sells nations through her harlotries, And families through her sorceries. 5 "Behold, I am against you," says the Lord of hosts; "I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, And the kingdoms your shame. (Nahum 3:4-5, NKJV)
3 All the nations have drunk deep of the wine of her prostitution; every king on the earth has prostituted himself with her, and every merchant grown rich through her debauchery. (Revelation 18:3, NJB)
17:1…Come, I will shew thee the condemnation of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters…18:7 As much as she hath glorified herself, and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her; because she saith in her heart: I sit a queen, and am no widow; and sorrow I shall not see. 8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be burnt with the fire; because God is strong, who shall judge her. (Revelation 17:1b, 18:7-8, DRB)
(The DRB is the Douay-Rheims Bible and the NJB is the New Jerusalem Bible, both are Roman Catholic versions and translations.)
Notice also something that will happen to the Lady of the Kingdoms as well as to Babylon that is warned against in Revelation:
1 Step down! Sit in the dust, virgin daughter of Babylon…2 Remove your veil, tie up your skirt, bare your legs, cross the rivers. Let your nakedness be displayed and your shame exposed. I am going to take vengeance and no one will stand in my way. (Isaiah 47:1a,2-3 NJB)
5… thou shalt no more be called the lady of kingdoms…9 These two things shall come upon thee suddenly in one day, barrenness and widowhood. All things are come upon thee, because of the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great hardness of thy enchanters. (Isaiah 47:5b,9, DRB)
21 And a mighty angel took up a stone, as it were a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying: With such violence as this shall Babylon, that great city, be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all…for thy merchants were the great men of the earth, for all nations have been deceived by thy enchantments. (Revelation 18:21,23b, DRB)
This “Lady of Kingdoms” then is something Mary of the Bible would not want to be. Neither the Bible nor the apostles referred to Mary as the “Queen of Heaven.”
Furthermore, the Bible clearly warns against doing anything to honor “the queen of heaven” (Jeremiah 7:18-19; 44:17-25). The fact that the initial apparition that the three children saw was dressed in a skirt (cf. Isaiah 47:2; Nahum 3:5, NJB) even more immodestly than harlots in that area did in 1917 should show an even greater connection to the end time harlot woman of Revelation 17 & 18 and not Mary of the Bible.
I strongly suspect that 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is partially warning that so-called "Marian" apparitions (Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions) will become more public and that they will be part of the "signs and lying wonders" that will accompany the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. And I suspect that those signs and appearances have been restrained to a great degree in their ability to be seen by multitudes of people but that they will likely be much more public in the future.
Who leaves or otherwise stops the restraining in 2 Thessalonians 2:7?
The Bible is not entirely clear, but some have come up with their own ideas.
Gerald Flurry of PCG teaches:
Remember that Malachi is about an end-time messenger, like John the Baptist, who prepares the way for Christ’s Second Coming (Malachi 3:1-2). It all occurs just before “the great and dreadful Day of the Lord.” Common sense would tell us the events Malachi prophesied about couldn’t happen while Mr. Armstrong was alive. There was a type of it in the 1970s—but he stopped it, and as one pcg member said, that was the only time in recorded secular and biblical history that it ever happened! The only time! Mr. Armstrong restrained it (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). (Flurry G. Malachi's Message, Chapter 9. Copyright © 1990, 1995, 1999, 2004, 2008 Philadelphia Church of God)
If PCG is teaching that Herbert Armstrong is fulfilling 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, that is not so.
Don Billingsley seems to also teach that:
Mr. Armstrong...He had to be taken out of the way by his death to make the fulfillment of them possible (II Thessalonians 2:7). (Billingsley D. Philadelphia Remnant, written January 16, 2007. http://philadelphiaremnant.com/).
This, again is wrong.
Notice what the old Radio Church of God (which became the old Worldwide Church of God) published many decades ago:
One prominent writer attempts to prove that II Thessalonians 2:7-8...has not yet begun to be fulfilled...But notice the first part of verse 7:, "For the mystery of iniquity DOTH ALREADY WORK"--even in Paul's day. (Hoeh H. The Secret Rapture: Fact or Fiction. Plain Truth, July, 1959, p. 30)
And that agrees with the Apostle Paul, the late Herbert W. Armstrong, and me.
And I have some speculation about the who. Now I am not saying that in no way did God possibly use Herbert Armstrong in any restraining manner, but since this verse has been being fulfilled no later than the time of the Apostle Paul, then something that could span nearly two thousand years would seem to be the restrainer. It could be that God is doing the restraining personally, but it may be that instead God is using an angel to restrain.
The Bible is clear that God intends to use an angel to bind Satan:
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. (Revelation 20:1-3)
So, an angel most certainly can be used to restrain Satan.
Interestingly, it seems that an angel (apparently Gabriel, cf. Daniel 8:16, 9:21) was temporarily restrained by some type of evil spirit but was helped by the archangel (cf. Jude 9) Michael:
13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia (Daniel 10:13, NKJV).
21 But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince. (Daniel 10:21, NKJV)
This indicates that Michael has more power than many others in the spirit world. The following passages seem to teach this as well:
7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)
Yet, it was the following verse that got me to consider that perhaps Michael was the one doing the restraining in 2 Thessalonians 2:7:
1 "At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1)
Notice that shortly after Michael does something "At that time" the Great Tribulation will begin. And it is during this time that the Beast and False Prophet and others will perform signs and lying wonders. This seems also to tie in with Daniel 11:36 which uses the same Hebrew expression (transliterated as `eth) (for more details, please see the article Who is the King of the North?). So, either because he has helped kick Satan out of heaven and/or he needs to help the people of God (Daniel 11:35, 12:1), Michael changes doing something that he was doing.
I suspect that Michael may be the "he" that God used to do the restraining. But since the Bible does not specify, this is simply speculation. And it could be some other powerful, but unnamed, angel.
It seems that a review of scriptures supports the idea that Satan's power will be released much more obviously and publicly during the time of the Beast and the False Prophet. Let's repeat two passages here:
24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)
7 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. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12)
This deception will clearly be widespread.
That being the case, then it seems that it is logical to conclude that much of Satan's power is being restrained at this time (even though he still "deceives the whole world" per Revelation 12:9) as the scriptures refer to a more direct public deception.
This may explain why though there have literally been thousands of claimed appearances and/or locutions from apparitions people have concluded are Mary of the Bible, that almost none of them has had much in the way of widespread public viewing (yes, there is the so-called "miracle of the sun" at Fatima and other "weather" types of signs, but even those are not the same as masses of the public actually viewing an apparition).
But when such restraint is lifted, in addition to seeing signs and lying wonders from the Beast and False Prophet, we are also likely to see public apparitions of a type of "Lady" that God condemns (Isaiah 47) and warns about (Revelation 17).
There are other misunderstandings related to 2 Thessalonians. Here is a link to an article The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings and another Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2?
Thiel B. What is Restrained and Who is Restraining in 2 Thessalonians 2:7? www.cogwriter.com/2-thessalonians-2-7.htm COGwriter (c) 2011/2012/2013/2014 0803
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