The Restrainer Removed
The day that the Antichrist is revealed will be the most fearful and confusing day imaginable. Even to Christians who know what is happening and look forward to the coming of Christ, it will still be a shock to experience the Antichrist’s rise. All stability will be suddenly taken out of our lives and apparent chaos left in its place. By contrast, for the vast majority of people his sudden rise will seem like a dream come true. Finally reaching the vision of a one-world government and the hope of peace on earth will effectively mask the true character of the Empire-Beast and its leader.
To the believer, however, the coming of the Antichrist will make the prophecies of the last days a stark reality and jolt us out of our comfort zone as nothing else could. Right now we can somewhat sit back and watch the events of the end unfold without actually being affected by them. We can be fascinated by reading books on end-times prophecy and listening to news stories which correlate to Biblical predictions. But when the Antichrist comes, nothing in our lives will remain the same. The end times will arrive with suddenness whether we are expecting them or not.
This event does not imply that God will somehow lose control. The Lord knows exactly what he is doing. In fact, it is only by the will of the Lord that the Antichrist will have any power over the world at all. Even the very day of his revealing will not occur by chance, but through a carefully laid out plan of God. Paul told the Thessalonians this about the Antichrist’s rise:
“And now ye know what restraineth that he might be revealed in his time.
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hindereth will continue to hinder until he be taken out of the way.
“And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming…”
2 Thess. 2:6-8
Commentators have debated for years over who might be the one who now hinders the appearance of the Antichrist. The most common explanation (and also the correct one) is that the restrainer is none other than the Holy Spirit. Only God has control over the course of history. Satan and other evil forces may try to affect how individual events transpire, but it is ultimately the Lord himself who has the final say and the ultimate control. Just as God has planned and prophesied of the events of the end thousands of years before they were destined to occur, he will also maintain control over their fulfillment down to the smallest detail and moment of time. Therefore, as amazing as this may sound, even the very instant that the Antichrist will be revealed is both known and controlled by God.
This brings up an interesting conundrum. How can the Lord possibly be the force behind the rise of the most evil man in history? Isn’t God supposed to be the major influence for good in the world? Let’s look at this more closely.
In reality, it isn’t the Lord who wants to bring the Antichrist on the scene, but Satan. The Lord may control when Satan will be allowed to do this, but God will not create nor condone that man’s wickedness. To substantiate this view, Paul goes on to say that at the very moment God’s restraining influence is removed this will occur:
“…then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming,
“Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders…”
2 Thess. 2:8-9
The Antichrist will be Satan’s main accomplice at the end. He will rise to power solely as the result of the Devil’s evil planning. We discovered previously that the final world empire will be Satan’s last attempt at world dominion in this age. Now we can see that all of the Devil’s wicked plans will culminate in the rise of not only the empire itself, but in the leader of that beast as well.
Satan will also attempt to show signs and wonders to the world to confirm the “rightness” of the Antichrist’s reign. In one fateful moment, all the people of the world will rally behind this great leader, and the new world order he represents will be born with horrifying consequences. The Lord tells us that the coming of the Antichrist will be the ultimate turning point for all humanity. That singular event will create an absolute dividing line between good and evil in the last days.
Delusion from God
After describing how Satan will orchestrate the Antichrist’s rise, Paul goes on to say this:
“And with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,
“That they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
2 Thess. 2:10-12
What an amazing prophecy. Not only will the power of Satan and his demons be hard at work trying to promote and establish the Antichrist at the end, but the Lord also says that he too will send “strong delusion” in that day! Why would God actually seem to help in the Antichrist’s rise? It’s not that the Lord desires to have evil reign over the nations. Rather, God is going to use the Antichrist’s coming as a judgment upon a Christ-rejecting world. God himself will send strong delusion so that those who have rejected the love of Jesus will once and for all have to decide for or against Him. People who have casually turned their backs upon the Gospel and have refused the crucified Son of God will in that day have an opportunity to choose an alternative—Satan’s “savior”.
Don’t take this aspect lightly. Much of what will happen to Christians and non-Christians at the end will be a direct result of the decision they will have to make when the Antichrist arises. The Bible says that those who have heard the Gospel and have blatantly rejected Christ will be the most likely to follow the false Christ. In the book of Revelation, John puts this fact in some fairly strong terms:
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
We must remember that in this particular portion of Revelation chapter thirteen, the prophecy is primarily directed toward the empire and secondarily toward the Antichrist. What is really meant by this prediction is that all people who have refused Jesus and are therefore not found in his book of life, will easily fall prey to the deception of the new world order. So enamored will they become with the Antichrist and his meteoric rise that they will happily swear allegiance to his empire. To the Lord, this will be regarded as the ultimate in idolatry. Thus, the term “worship” is used to describe the behavior of the Antichrist’s followers. This will involve both an allegiance to the Empire-Beast and eventually the literal idol worship of the Antichrist as the savior of the World and God.
In the coming sections we are going to see what this system of empire worship will mean for Christians who refuse to go along with it. Not only will Christians be persecuted, but their entire economic world will suddenly come crashing down around them if they don’t follow the Antichrist’s system.
Next: The Second Beast of Revelation