Who is the One, Who will be Taken Out of the Way before the Lawless One Appears?

In his instructions to the Thessalonians, Paul explains how the Man of Lawlessness will not be revealed until the one who now holds him back is taken out of the way.

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him… Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction… And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 2 Thess. 2:1, 3, 6-8

In the Revelation, the Man of Lawlessness is called the Beast, who is more popularly known as the antichrist. From these verses, the question arises, “Who is the one that is holding back the appearing of the future, world leader known as the antichrist?” In answer to this question, it is sometimes suggested that it is the Holy Spirit who is restraining the appearing of the Beast, and that once the Spirit of God is removed, then the Beast will appear. This, in-turn, leads to the belief that the church will be also be removed before the Beast appears because the Spirit of God dwells in believers.

All of the above is countered by the fact that we never read of the Holy Spirit being removed in order for demonically empowered rulers to rise up on earth. Instead, it is the removal of the angels of God that allows angelic principalities to empower earthly kings. This can be seen in the following example where Daniel is visited by an angel who was in the middle of a battle with the princes of Persia and Greece

Then he (the angel Gabriel) said, “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come.  However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince. Dan.10:20-21

In these verses, the princes of Persia and Greece are the heavenly rulers of Persia and Greece. Opposing these forces are the angels Gabriel and Michael who is described as Daniel’s prince; meaning, he is the angel of Israel. In this account, we see how it is the angels of God, and not the Holy Spirit, who defend Israel against other ruling angels who, in turn, empower leaders and their kingdoms that would attack God’s people.   

In another example, we read how an angel will be given the task of guarding the devil in the Abyss. When this angel releases the serpent, or dragon, from the Abys, he will be set free to deceive the nations.  

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. Rev. 20:1-3

In this account, it is an angel who will keep the devil bound in the Abyss, and it is the devil who will empower the the Man of Lawlessness. Accordingly, when the Scriptures speak of the one who is holding back the lawless one, they are speaking of an angel. Once this angel is taken out of the way, the Man of Lawlessness will be revealed who will lead the Rebellion against God.

NOTE: It is often taught that the coming of the Lord, which is mentioned in the above, original verse, is a reference to the Rapture, when those who are alive on earth will be caught up (raptured) to meet the Lord in the air. This is assumption is countered by the previous chapter which describes the Second Coming of Christ, when the Lord will come in fire to punish those who do not know God.

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. 2 Thess. 1:6-10

When the Lord is described as coming in blazing fire, it is a description of the Return of Christ, as can be seen in the following verses which also describe the Second Coming of Christ as a time when the Lord will come with fire at the end of the age.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 2 Pet. 3:10-13

From the above description, we know that when the Lord is described as coming in fire in 2 Thess. Chapter 1, it is a reference to the Return of Christ, and not just the Rapture. Likewise, when the description of the coming of the Lord is continued in 2 Thess. Chapter 2 we know that it is referring to the Return of Christ as well.