© Original content written by James R. Carlson
The Bible tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 New King James Version (NKJV)
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
Who is He that restrains?
The traditional interpretation of this verse places the Holy Spirit in the role of the restrainer. The work of the Spirit in the life of the believer of Jesus is to enable one to live a life of sincere righteousness. A righteousness not born of one’s self (self-righteous) but of God. Believing in Jesus gives us God’s righteousness and we are to grow in the goodness and grace of God. This is sanctification by grace or by the Spirit. It is the work of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer that retrains us from continually practicing sin and enables us to do good.
But what restrains us from sin if we don’t believe in Jesus? Here, God gave all mankind a conscience to know right from wrong. This gift of God retrains us but it works through our free will to be responsible for what we do. This works for most people. Religion enhances the natural revelation of God’s law in our conscience with God’s revealed law. Once again, choice is required to do what is right and we are responsible for the good or bad things we do.
Romans 2:11-15 New King James Version (NKJV)
11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)
But what about the evil work of sin in society? Is there one that restraineth here? For this, God gave mankind the institution of government (Romans 13) to restrain bad works (not bad people).
Romans 13 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
The government doesn’t care what you believe in; they care about what you do. They are supposed to leave you to your conscience to serve God. You are responsible for your actions before God. And you are also supposed to be responsible for your actions before the government. You can serve God and your fellow man with a clean conscience. He who restrains is God through the institution of government.
Government is made up of people and like people, government can rebel against God. The government does not always base law upon the moral laws of God. Occasionally, the laws of man supercede God’s Laws. The Declaration of American Independence says that God gave us our rights and showed us the value of what is right in the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God (Romans 2). God gave all mankind a conscience to know right from wrong. And God gave us His divine revelation to see moral truth from a better perspective, His Word. Government based upon divine principles of morality should protect people who do what is right. Today, however, with a misinterpretation of the separation of church and state, sin is being legalize while righteousness is being criminalized.
Early in the 19th century, Daniel Webster told us that to preserve our republic we need to practice public morality. We should be outspoken about the sins we find in society; in private and in public places. Today, however, we are seeing the practice of public immorality. Gay parades, medicinal marijuana laws, and unbridled abortions characterize our society today. Speak out against it and you’re labeled a homo-phobe (same-fear?), a prude, or a nazi. We who practice right from wrong need to tell it like it is because there will be a day when we can no longer talk truth. As more and more people talk trash, stand up for the truth and the right way of doing things. Here then, we are they that restraineth as we stand up for God’s principles.
Who else could be called to restrain? The Church? Paul spoke of a list of sins people commit that included false religion.
2 Timothy 3 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
In this list of debased characteristics is a practice of false religion. This too is on the rise and is even seen in the Church. Where the Gospel is truly preached, sin is called sin. Often, the love of God is preached without mention of sin or the person of God – Jesus. The Love of God is the person of Jesus who loved us enough to pay for the penalty of our sin on the Cross. There is a false religion in the Church that wants the love of God without the person of Jesus or the forgiveness of sin; having a form of godliness but denying the power therein. The power of Christ’s Spirit to live a life apart from sin is what God’s love is for.
The mystery of iniquity will continue without restraint one day. During the great tribulation, He that restraineth with be removed – the Spirit, you/me, the Church. Societies all over the globe will suffer from unrestrained sin and we will witness what happens to mankind when God no longer hinders the unbridled passions of mankind. Sin will rule and man will fail. And it will take less than 7 years for all this to happen. Sin is that dangerous!
Throughout time and history, mankind has suffered from the wages of sin. God has always provided for a sacrifice for our sins to make a way through the darkness to His glorious light; this is the chief way our sin is restrained. The first sacrifice was in the Garden of Eden when God slayed animals to make coverings of skin for them. God also prophesied of a coming Seed of the Woman (Messiah) who would pay for the penalty of sin by His sacrifice on the Cross. Jesus is the promise in the Garden for our redemption. We can be forgiven of our sin and live a life apart from sin through him.
Pray this prayer and receive God’s forgiveness of sin.
God of heaven, I believe in Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for me. I believe that he paid for the penalty of my sin, which I admit I have done. I ask for your forgiveness of my sin and thank you for your love. Please bring me closer to you so that I may know you. By your Holy Spirit, please make in me a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a right mind that I may do those things that are pleasing to you. Thank you, God, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and now my Father in Heaven. Amen!
Please understand your role in these ‘last days’. We are to pray for the lost; we are to serve those who do not know God. We are to share the Gospel with them and not condemn them; their sin already condemns them. We are to stand for a moral government; we should work to preserve God’s good institution and not let it become perverted.
And as a Church, while we reach out with a social gospel of love, please know that the real Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true answer to mankind’s sin. Jesus understood sin as the chief problem of mankind. He died to give us the forgiveness of sin and a renewed relationship with God through Him. Blessings be upon you in His name – Jesus!