Sunday, November 13, 2022

He Who Now Restrains

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”

That day, Paul says, shall not come unless there be a falling away first. A “falling away” is a departure from what has always been held, from what has traditionally been known and believed. And this falling away, as we shall see, is on the part of those who profess to be obedient to the teaching of the gospel.

The Son of Destruction

“That day will not come, unless the falling away comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” This is obviously a human being who takes to himself the honors that belong to God alone. This is one of the signs of the day of the Lord being present. This is what will take place.

“Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he” — this person, this man — “may be revealed in his time.” Not before his time, because God is in control. There is a restraining influence upon him so that he cannot come to the fore and assume this arrogant place in the temple of God. He cannot do that. He is being restrained.

Verse 7, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains” — or hinders — “will do so until he is out of the way. Then” — not before — “the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one” — that is, the presence of this man — “is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.”

Apparently, this man of lawlessness who is to come on the scene in the day of the Lord will be able to deceive people because he will be able to do miraculous things that will be very convincing indeed. It will be “by the activity of Satan”. Satan will inspire this man to do things other men have never been able to do so that he will appear to be a very powerful and wonderful individual, “with all power and false signs and wonders and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing”.

Not the elect. Not the believers. Those who are perishing; they are deceived by that man “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved”.

Saved By the Truth

You know, the truth is the only thing that will save people. It’s the truth we need. People foolishly say today, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe.” We don’t believe that, do we? You go in the middle of the night to the medicine cabinet where you keep all your medicines, some of them very potent and some mild, and you grab hold of a bottle. You believe you are taking an aspirin, but you are actually taking a very dangerous drug. All your belief will not change the character of the pill in the bottle.

Don’t say it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe. You can kill yourself with that doctrine. That’s nonsense, and it’s dangerous nonsense in spiritual things. It matters a great deal what you believe. If it’s not true, you’re deceiving yourself. More sinister than that, Satan is deceiving you. These people have refused to love the truth and so be saved. They didn’t go in for the truth for its own sake. They weighted the truth in their own favor. They twisted the truth out of shape so that it suited them and they could live with it. That’s a very dangerous thing to do with the word of God. It’s the only thing that sanctifies people and makes them holy.

These people did not love the truth. They were persuaded by other influences. If I am motivated by a desire to be acceptable in the community, to be received by men and women generally, then Jesus says I cannot believe: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” Belief in the truth would violate my predisposition to be acceptable to everybody. And by your desire to be well thought of by everybody, you put yourself where you cannot believe. It’s not that God has made it impossible for you to believe, but you have made it impossible with your predisposition to make yourself acceptable.

You’ve got to love the truth. You’ve got to long for it, to look for it. God says, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” When God speaks, this person jumps. He says, “God has said that, I will do it.” That’s always the mark of the child of God. These people refused to love the truth and so be saved.

You see how important it is to have the truth? That you might be saved.

A Strong Delusion

Verse 11, “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.” Oh, you say, God wouldn’t do something like that. But God is not the one telling the lie. Satan is telling the lie. The man of lawlessness is the expression of that lie, but people are going to be gullible enough to receive it because they are under the judgment of God. They refused his truth, they did not want his way, and they will have the devil’s, “in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness”.

There’s a dreadful time coming in this world, and that’s what’s in this chapter. The Lord Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 24. He said there has never been a time like it before in the world’s history. Now think of that. There have been some awful, awful times in the history of the world, when it would be exceedingly terrible to live. But Jesus said nothing to match this had ever yet happened. You can think of the Holocaust. You can think of the terrors of war in various places in the world up to now. Moreover, he said there will never again, ever, be anything to match it. It’s the climax of all horrors. It’s called the great tribulation, and that time is coming. I don’t need to be a prophet to tell you that the world is getting ready for it. I can see things getting into place, and I’m not the least bit afraid. Not the least. I don’t believe I’ll be here.

Israel On Her Knees

You say, “Why not?”

Jesus is coming. We don’t know exactly when he will come, but I know that this great tribulation has one particular purpose to it, and it’s this: that God will bring the nation of Israel to its knees. Now, God is going to deal with the nations as well. They’re going to be part of it. But they are going to be part of it because God is going to use them like a vice on the nation of Israel. God is going to gather all nations to Jerusalem and Israel is going to be in the vice, caught between the nations as they meet together. The great tribulation is the precursor of all this, and that’s the climax of it all: bringing Israel to its knees.

At this present time, I do not believe that God is dealing with the nation of Israel in a distinct way. Let me explain. In Old Testament times, God was dealing with Israel in a special way. The other nations were subsidiary to his main interest in the nation of Israel. The nations are mentioned only as they affect his people Israel, because God was focusing his attention on using Israel so that he would through that nation produce the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus. He was to be born of that nation. So all the events that went on through the history of the Old Testament were simply working up to that time when Messiah would come. Everything was moving towards that. God has always one purpose in view, and it concerns his Son. That was God’s plan. God was dealing with the nation of Israel in a special way. They were in a peculiar sense “his people”. That’s the way the Bible describes them.

Refusing to Love the Truth

But you know what happened: “They refused to love the truth.” When Jesus came, they wanted a kingdom in which they would have the chief place among the nations. They were interested in the political gain that he might give them if he would be king. In fact, sometimes they were anxious to take him and make him king. But that wouldn’t do. Jesus said it had to go deeper than that. He said except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom requires the new birth.

Israel wanted a kingdom of God that would be political, material, economic deliverance, but no change in me: “Don’t touch me, God. I still want to be independent of you. Do my own thing. Don’t touch my pride. Let me go my own way. You set up your kingdom, O God, and when it pleases me I’ll have time for it.” No, no. The kingdom of God has to begin right in here; it has to produce a change in the heart. In order to be part of the kingdom of God, you have to come under the authority of the king. You have to know him as your Lord and Savior. The Jewish people at that time wanted the kingdom, but they didn’t want the King. He came unto his own, and his own said, “No way.” They received him not. They shut him out.

From the time Israel rejected her king, the Lord said, “You won’t see me again until you are ready to say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” And Israel’s not ready for that. Go and ask the average Jew, “Where’s your Messiah?” He certainly will have nothing to do with Christ. His hope is not in the Lord Jesus.

Restraints Off

When Jesus went back to heaven, the Holy Spirit moved his residence here. He indwells every true believer, and he has a tremendous restraining influence on the world. And “He who restrains will do so until he is out of the way.” I believe that will happen when the Lord Jesus comes. All those who have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into that one body, those who are believers in the Lord Jesus, will be caught up to meet the Lord not on earth but in the air, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord”.

Now, that’s going to happen before the tribulation comes, because after he’s gone, the restraint will be off. He will still work in human hearts, but not in that restraining way. The mystery of iniquity will be permitted to come to the fore, and men are getting ready for it. The Lord is going to take his people home, and then woe to the world. Woe to those who are left! A terrible time is coming.

Are you ready to go home, or have you got your roots here? Is your home here? A friend of mine, Ed Harlow, talking about this rapture of the church, once said, “We should really pray for some Christians. I’m afraid the rapture will bring about a terrible cultural shock for some of them.”

I believe it. Let’s be living for eternity, not for time. Let’s be living for the Lord, not for self.

— Colin Anderson, excerpted from “The Return of Christ, Part 2”,
circa September 1990

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