“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time” (2 Thessalonians 2:6).
Despite the abundance of modern-day Biblical study materials and thousands of years of research by untold numbers of people, it appears that we know less about some aspects of this passage than the ancient church at Thessalonica. To illustrate this, consider Paul the Apostle’s enigmatic statement here in 2 Thessalonians 2:6: “You already know what is holding this wicked one back until it is time for him to come” (CEV).
Paul’s statement implies that the Thessalonian congregation had insight into this restraining force that we do not possess today. Since Paul had already addressed this point with the Christian community at Thessalonica, it’s easy to understand why he didn’t elaborate on this subject within this letter. While this is not ideal for a 21st century audience, it does not prevent us from considering the possible identity of this restraining power.
Just as a detective might use a series of clues to narrow the list of suspects in a criminal investigation, we can use the information given to us in the verse that follows 2 Thessalonians 2:6 to aid our investigation of this passage…
“…only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
This passage contains a subtle but important shift that merits close attention. Notice that the “what” of 2 Thessalonians 2:6 has now become the “He” of 2 Thessalonians 2:7. In other words, this restraining force is impersonal in verse six but personal in verse seven. Therefore, it appears that someone is using something (or perhaps multiple “somethings”) to restrain the “son of perdition” mentioned earlier in verse three.
Since a tool is often less important than the person who uses it, we should begin by focusing our attention on the individual identified here in verse seven before we turn our attention to the form of that restraint. We can start by observing that the man of lawlessness described in 2 Thessalonians chapter two is powerful, but less so than the one who restrains him. Despite the terrifying nature of the son of perdition, he remains subject to the one who holds him back. Therefore, he can only do what he is permitted to do and not necessarily what he might like to do. In fact, the activities of the lawless one are managed by this restrainer down to the precise time of his revelation.
With these things in mind, we’ll discuss the likely identity of this restrainer next.