In discussing the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, Paul has just taught about the 'man of lawlessness' (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) or 'antichrist' (1 John 2:18-23) who will be seen before the Lord returns. This was not new information; he had taught the church personally when he was with them. We do not know the identity of that evil personality except that he is not Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9) and yet demands to be worshipped as a supreme god. However although many people are unwittingly preparing for that reign of lawlessness, the evil character is currently being restrained.
The identity of the restrainer was well known to the Thessalonians: Paul had taught them. But for us, we need the clue of the way the Greek is written – in the same way in which the Holy Spirit is spoken about in the Upper Room discourses. God the Spirit, who was given and removed in the Old Testament, is currently restraining the worst of global evil so that the gospel may reach sinners and that they may be saved (2 Peter 3:9).
But before the Lord Jesus returns that divine restraining influence over evil will be lifted so that wickedness might be seen in its full ugliness providing the full contrast to the arrival of Christ in all His glory. Such a day will be unspeakably dark but the Lord Jesus will make it extraordinarily bright for the believers, and a cause of deep remorse for unbelievers whose opportunity for salvation will have vanished (Revelation 1:7).
The message is simple – look forward to the return of the Lord Jesus. His presence will vanquish all evil, comfort and bring justice to all believers. In the meantime, the Lord is very gracious; the Spirit is active in restraining the worst wickedness. He responds to the prayers of God's people as they pray for sufficient peace that the gospel may be announced (1 Timothy 2:1-8). So, as we look forward, we hope and pray – expecting the Lord to maximise the opportunity for gospel proclamation and response, if we are ready to invest our lives in His service.
© Dr Paul Adams