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 Scriptures, the Man of Lawlessness is another name for the antichrist, who is also called the Beast in the Revelation. From Paul we learn that the revealing of this future leader will not take place until the one who is holding him back is taken out of the way. So the question remains, “Who is the one that is holding back the appearing of the future, world leader known as the Man of Lawlessness?” In answer to this question, it is sometimes suggested that it is the church who is restraining the power of lawlessness, and that it is the church who will be taken out of the way before the antichrist is revealed. In this way, the church will not be present when the Great Tribulation begins.

In contradiction to the above suggestion, the Scriptures tell us that it is the angels who bring about the rise and fall of earthly rulers such as the Man of Lawlessness. 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 angels or principalities who ruled over and empowered the kingdoms of Persia and Greece. Opposing these forces were the angels Gabriel and Michael the archangel, 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 defends Israel against other ruling angels who, in turn, empower leaders and their kingdoms that would attack God’s people.  Accordingly, when the Michael the Archangel is removed, the Man of Lawlessness will be brought forth by the demonic angels that will empower him.

When Paul tells the Thessalonians that they know the one who is holding back the Man of Lawlessness, it corresponds with how God’s people have always known the angel who goes before Israel to fight against her enemies. This is first scene in the Exodus, where God’s people are told that God will send them an angel who will oppose all those who oppose them.

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.  Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.  If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.  My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. Exod. 23:20-23

As we read earlier, Daniel tells us that the name of this angel is Michael who is the prince of Israel. When Michael is removed, the heavenly forces arrayed against God’s people will then be able to unleash the Man of Lawlessness and the great rebellion will begin. In the same way, we read how it will be an angel who will be given the task of guarding the devil in the Abyss. When this angel releases the serpent, 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 all of the above accounts, it is an angel who prevents the demonic forces from exercising their will on earth. 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.