The Lie

Q. 2 Thes 2:11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. What is the lie? Why would God send people a powerful delusion? Wouldn’t that make God responsible?

A. The phrase “the lie” appears only twice in the NIV NT, here and in 2 Thes 2:9. To answer your question, let’s start with the immediate context – 2 Thes 2:1-12, which talk about the Great Apostasy in the end times, and the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist. We analyze 2 Thes 2:9-12 by dividing the 4 verses into three parts – that which the lawless one does, the people’s response, and what God will do:

9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie,
10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Note the chronological sequence:
• First, the lawless one, empowered by Satan, will use power, signs and wonders to deceive.
• Next, the people who refuse to love and believe the truth to be saved, choose to believe the lawless one’s lie and delight in wickedness. That’s why they perish.
• Then God sends the people a powerful delusion to confirm their refusal to love the truth, so that they will be condemned.
So God’s sending the delusion did not cause their unbelief, but in response to it. They perish because of their own choice and love of wickedness.

What is “the lie”? In the NKJV NT, the phrase appears one more time:
Rom 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

“The lie” is contrasted with “the truth of God”. The background goes all the way back to Genesis 3, the temptation and fall of man:
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
• Gen 3:4-5 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The very first lie in the Bible is a direct contradiction of God’s word in:
Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
claiming that it cannot be trusted. It imputes an ulterior motive to God’s prohibition, not for our good to protect us, but to selfishly guard His superiority so that we won’t be like Him. Therefore obedience keeps us down while disobedience will promote us to be like God. This lie has been repeated throughout the ages in all religions, men trying to establish their own goodness apart from God. Men had fallen for it time and again, and will continue to do so until the end.

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Who is Restraining the Antichrist?

2 Thes 2 6-7 a

Q. In 2 Thessalonians 2: 6-7, who is holding the Antichrist back that when he steps out of the way, the Antichrist will be revealed?

A. Many possibilities have been proposed. Let’s first observe the passage:
2 Thes 2:6-7 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 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.

Notice v 6 says “what restrains him now”, neuter gender. The first “him” refers to “the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction” in v 3, the “lawless one” in v 8. Therefore some suggest the “what” to be:
• the Roman state with its emperor,
• the Jewish state,
• the principle of law and government,
• Paul’s missionary work,
• the restraining ministry of the Spirit through the church.

However, v 7 says “he who now restrains” and “he is taken out of the way”, masculine gender. The noun “Spirit” is neuter gender, but the Bible uniformly uses “He” to describe the Holy Spirit. Therefore others suggest the “he” to be the Spirit:
Jn 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

Which is correct? Let’s examine the options in turn.

• Government, whether Roman, Jewish, or the principle of law, can restrain human evil, but are powerless to restrain supernatural or spiritual evil. They can even be used as instruments to carry out the evil schemes of Satan and the Antichrist, so they can’t be the restrainer.
• Paul’s missionary work had certainly advanced God’s Kingdom and overthrown the kingdom of darkness wherever it went, but that was nearly two thousand years ago, and the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed. So it can’t be the restrainer either.
• Pretrib proponents use these verses to argue for the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. This is a faulty inference because they overlook the fact that the church is the bride of Christ, feminine, and not neuter nor masculine:
o 2 Co 11:2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.
o Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

The only option left is the Holy Spirit, who can certainly restrain the Antichrist as He is omnipotent. But the passage says both neuter (v 6) and masculine (v 7) gender. How can both be true? The Spirit’s restraining ministry would fit, though not through the church (feminine). The ultimate restrainer is the Spirit (He), while the mediate means is His restraining ministry (it).

One question remains. In what sense is the Holy Spirit taken out of the way, since He is omnipresent? In the sense that “taken out of the way” simply means He “lets go”, “releases the restraint”, or “steps aside”, not complete removal. Contrary to what pretrib supporters say, this actually argues against them. Even if the church were raptured, God is still on earth as He is everywhere:
Ps 139:7-8 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

The interpretation above does not presume pretrib which read suppositions into the text as if they were conclusions. Hope this helps.