The last days of history – Part 34
(ii) Moral apostasy is the severing of one’s saving relationship with Christ and returning to sin and immorality. Some leaders may proclaim the right doctrine yet abandon God’s moral law and standards of righteousness and thereby corrupt the truth (Is 29:13; Mat23:25-28. See article on Personal Apostasy). Many churches will tolerate almost anything for the sake of numbers, money, success, and honour (1Tim4:1). The gospel of the cross with its call to suffer (Phil1:29), to radically renounce sin (Rom8:13), to sacrifice for God’s kingdom, and to deny oneself will be unpopular (Mat24:12; 2Tim3:1-5; 4:3).
(c) Both church history and the predicted falling away at the end time warn believers not to be naïve about widespread corruption of the gospel. At some point in church history, rebellion against God and His word will reach astounding proportions. The day of the Lord will bring God’s wrath on those who rejected His truth (1Thes5:2-9).
(d) The ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom and His righteousness in the world, therefore, depends not on the gradual increase of the professing church’s success, but on the final intervention of God when He breaks into the world with righteous judgment (Rev19-22; 2Thes 2:7-8,1Tim 4:1; 2Pet 3:10-13; and the book of Jude).
(3) A decisive event must occur before the “man of sin” can be revealed and the day of the Lord can begin (2Thes 2:2-3), namely, the taking “out of the way” of someone (2Thes2:7) or restraining influence is removed, “then shall that Wicked [one] be revealed” (2Thes2:8).
(a) “He who now letteth will let” may best be understood as God Himself, the sovereign Lord of history, who alone has the power to hold back evil, the man of sin, and Satan (2Thes2:9). The restrainer is referred to by both the masculine article (“he who now letteth will let,” 2:7) and by the neuter article (“what withholdeth,” 2:6).
(b) At the beginning of the final seven years of tribulation, the restraining influence of God will be lifted or “taken out of the way.” This does not refer to the Holy Spirit being taken out of the world; rather, it means that God’s restraining influence against lawlessness and antichrist’s rise to power will cease. All of God’s restraints against sin will be removed and the satanically inspired rebellion will begin. Clearly, God’s Spirit will remain on earth during the tribulation to convict people of their sins, convert them to Christ, and empower them (Rev7:9,14;11:1-11;14:6-7).
(c) As the restraining influence of God is removed or lifted, the man of sin then comes on the scene (2Thes2:3-4). God will send a deluding influence on all those who refused to love the truth (see 2Thes2:11), they will accept the claims of the man of sin, and human society will degenerate to a depth of depravity never before seen.
(d) God’s sin-restraining presence is largely confined to the church, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor3:16; 6:19). Therefore, some interpreters believe the removal of God’s restraining influence points to the rapture of the faithful as occurring at the same time (1Thes4:17); i.e., Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself and to deliver them from the coming wrath (1Thes1:10) will occur before or in connection with the revelation of the man of sin (see the article on The Rapture).
(e) Some scholars believe that the restrainer of 2Thes2:6 (neuter gender) refers to the Holy Spirit and His restraining ministry, while in 2Thes2:7 the “he who now letteth will let” (masculine gender) refers to the believers who are gathered to Christ and taken out of the way, i.e., caught up to meet Christ in the air to be with the Lord (1Thes4:17).
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