“And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time” (2 Thessalonians 2:6 ESV).
While this passage may seem cryptic and obscure to modern-day audiences, it appears the original readers of this letter understood this reference to the restraining force mentioned here. Unfortunately, 21st century readers of this passage do not possess that same advantage. Therefore, we must prayerfully consider the nature of the restraint upon the man of lawlessness in light of 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and the verse that follows: “…the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way” (HCSB).
It seems that there is only one entity who is capable of exerting such control over the man of sin. That entity would be God in the Person of the Holy Spirit. It’s likely that God in His omnipotence is the only Being capable of exerting the force necessary to restrain such malevolence.
The next question is, “What form does that restraint take?” One possibility is human government. The New Testament book of Romans provides us with one of the clearest Biblical declarations concerning God’s use of human government to restrain evil…
“Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgment on himself. For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil.
Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good, and they will praise you, because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil” (Romans 13:1-4 GNT).
One commentator endorses this view with the following observation…
“The principle of law and order, as enforced by human authority, is ‘that which restraineth’ until he be taken out of the way. This means that Satan will continually use every device, pursue every opportunity, and employ every diabolical instrument in his efforts to break down law and order in society. Hence, for the time being, the worst Satan can do is to promote the spirit of lawlessness… At the divinely decreed moment (the appropriate time) when, as a punishment for man’s willingness to cooperate with this spirit, the ‘someone’ and ‘something’ that now holds back is removed, Satan will begin to carry out his plans.” (1)
(1) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:6”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-thessalonians-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.