One of my key objections to much end-times teaching is the concept of “the Restrainer”.
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us – whether by a prophecy, word of mouth, or by letter – asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, because that day won’t come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He’ll oppose and elevate himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
5Don’t you remember that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? 6Now you know what the Restrainer is, so that he’ll be revealed at the proper time. 7The hidden power of lawlessness is already at work. The one who restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. 8Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the glory of his coming.
I believe the “Restrainer” (the King James word used instead of holding him back) is the church (from my pre-trib bias) others say the Holy Spirit e.g. https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/who-is-the-restrainer.html.
What’s important here is that evil is being restrained. At some time, this “restrainer” will stop, coinciding with the “lawless one” being revealed (the Antichrist). At this time the evils prophesied in Revelation will be unleashed on the Earth as God’s judgement. Until then, during this age of grace, the world is being protected by God as the gospel is preached – just as Noah preached for 120 years before the great flood with his dad Lamech and grandad Methuselah.
Consider what it would be like when all those Christians are removed from the world, who pull down spiritual powers through their spiritual warfare – praying and decreeing over powers and principalities over cities, regions, countries and the world.
During the Tribulation, there will be a false religion. Some allege that this religion is already here as the apostate union of churches with other religions. However, the false prophet will not be revealed until after the 7-year world peace treaty is signed. I expect that what we currently see is a precursor that will easily morph into the evil religion. Consider if there were a pre-trib rapture, the world left behind would be without the evil-restraining influence of godly believers. Many corrupt “Christians” will immediate understand what has happened and will turn to God, as with many Jews. But the left-behind church leadership will explain away what has happened – as did the Pharisees of Jesus’ time – in the same manner as they explain the cessation of the supernatural in the church. They will then fulfil the concerns alleged against the world church unions.
But the Antichrist will introduce a new religion:
Daniel 11:35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they’ll be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, because it’ll still come at the set time.
36The emperor will do whatever he wants. He’ll elevate himself, to be greater than every god, and he’ll speak arrogantly against the God of gods. He’ll prosper until God’s anger is complete. Because what’s decided will be done. 37He’ll have no interest in the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor any god. He’ll elevate himself above all others.
I speculate it will be a revived original paganism as practiced before the flood and Nimrod’s Babel.
Consider also, God spoke to Abraham:
Genesis 15:16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here. Because the sins of the Amorites haven’t yet reached their full measure.’
This sets precedent that God waits until sin has “reached its full measure” before stepping in. We see this also in
Genesis 6:9 … Noah was a godly man and perfect in his time, and Noah walked with God.
12God looked at the Earth and saw that it was corrupt; for all life on the Earth had become corrupt.
Matthew 24:37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
I find the accusations against our more liberal sister churches being of the Antichrist akin to labelling someone a Nazi or a communist in political discussions. Such statements kill respectful dialogue, and by demonizing those of other perspectives we alienate them from any positive influence we may be able to apply. I am deeply saddened with the division political discussions have brought about, particularly among my German church family. Some minister to their migrant neighbors and others outrightly reject them because they come as a wave of lawlessness. I think it’s wrong that Germany failed to protect its citizens by controlling its borders with regulated immigration. But it’s worse that Christians refuse to minister to the foreigner in their midst – regardless of how they got there. I believe God has brought these people to Christian lands that they might bring the gospel back to their own after experiencing God’s unconditional love through his church.
Brent’s parable of the birth
Often before babies are born, the mother experiences Braxton Hicks contractions and thinks the birth is happening. The expectant parents grab all their gear together and speed off to the hospital, only to be sent home because the time is not yet come. These contractions are just the womb exercising towards the big day.
In our pregnancies, the midwives always predicted that the baby would come a week before the due date, but they all came over a week later. When our oldest was born, my wife woke me up to tell me that her waters had broken. There was no doubt that the birth was happening. 14 hours later our son was born.
This is what the tribulation is like. Many “experts” rush around touting their presumptions or claiming that the tribulation is already happening. But it’ll be as obvious as when a mother’s water breaks. That which is currently restraining will be taken out of the way. Then the birth process will begin.
I pray that God would bless you as you meditate on his word.