“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).
As with the Second Coming of Christ certain things must take place before the Antichrist is revealed (unveiled) for who he is. In this study we will take a look at what or who it is that “withholdeth” or restrains the Antichrist being revealed in our day.
This word is translated as “restraining” in some versions of the Bible and literally means “holding down” or “holding back.” Who or what is hindering the Antichrist’s revelation? Various interpretations have been put on this term, which is not found anywhere else in Scripture, to ascertain the identity of the restraining power. The main ones are: the Roman Empire, world governments, Israel, the Gospel, Satan, angels, God, a prophet, the church, and the Holy Spirit. Which one should we choose as the correct interpretation?
The “wicked” one will receive his power to deceive from Satan. “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan” (2 Thessalonians 2:9) … “The dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2). Who or what alone has the power to hinder his power coming into force until the predetermined time? It is certain that no human organisation or power could do it, therefore we are left with no choice but to accept it is God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit that holds back a premature revelation of the Antichrist, for notice the use of the personal pronoun. The Holy Spirit has never relinquished His power. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). How is He doing it? Probably through His presence and influence in the true church of Christ who are committed to preaching the pure word of God. The bottom line is this, God is still sovereign over all the earth. “The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men” (Psalm 11:4). Until then both the “Spirit and the bride say, Come” (Revelation 22:17).
Mystery of iniquity
The mysterious workings of sin have been at work ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7), and it is evident in everyday life, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4) … “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). Nevertheless, a full demonstration of the wickedness of sin has never been revealed upon the earth, since the Holy Spirit has checked its power, but there will be a day when He will no longer do this. “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). Then His restraining power will be removed. The term “taken out of the way” literally means “moved to one side.” It has been described as the breaking of the walls of a dam to allow the full force of the restrained water to flood the ground. “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
The Antichrist will be revealed, and for seven years he will control mankind and demand that everyone worships him, but he too will face the judgement of the true God and Saviour. “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20) … “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). This consuming is an expression of God’s wrath. “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed” (Job 4:9) … “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). The Lord Jesus Christ will perform this task. “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:15). Who can hide from “the wrath of the Lamb”? (Revelation 6:16).
The destruction of Antichrist will take place as soon as Christ comes to set up His Millennial reign on earth. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:1). Once and for all the works of Satan will be destroyed by the true and holy light of Christ’s appearing. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Things are going to get much worse before they get better. Sin, and the consequences of it, will continue to spread its darkness around the earth. The Antichrist will come exactly as God has ordained. The Holy Spirit will continue to hinder any premature revelation of the “wicked” one. The Lord Jesus Christ will deal with all of this when He comes again, for He alone is Lord and King. “Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-15).