THE MISSING ECCLESIA:
As I have previously stated and wish to emphasize here, after revelation 3 closes with Jesus left outside the Church, suddenly the Church IS NO MORE! The people who receive Christ during the tribulation are not [I believe] the Church, [Ecclesia, called out ones]! They are tribulation believers who receive Christ during the tribulation period, or at least that is my take on it! From chapters 4-22 the word Ecclesia [Church] of Christ Jesus is no more. The only time we see it is in Chapter 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Which is referring to the chapter 1 timeline when John was still on Patmos! This is not future! But notice very very carefully the very next phrase of this awesome book: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. It doesn’t say the Spirit and the Church say come! Why? Because at this future point that the Church is the bride!
THE REMOVED RESTRAINER: Paul does not specifically identify what or who the restraining force is. Many scholars have speculated as to the identity of the restrainer, naming the restraining force as 1) the human governments; 2) gospel preaching; 3) the providence of God; 4) the Jewish state; 5) the church; 6) the Holy Spirit; and 7) Michael the archangel. I believe the restrainer is none other than the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit working through the New Testament church which is salt and light. Salt restrains corruption [decay] and light restrains or pushes back darkness,
Supporting the idea that the Holy Spirit within the church is the restrainer is the fact that the restrainer is referenced both as a thing (neuter gender, verse 6) and as a person (masculine gender, verse 7). Also, the power delaying Satan’s master plan to unveil his false messiah must be of God. It makes much more sense to say that the Holy Spirit is curbing the devil through the Church than a political entity or even an angel. The Holy Spirit of God is the only Person with sufficient (supernatural) power to do this restraining.
Of course, the Spirit works through believers to accomplish this. The church, indwelt by the Spirit of God, has always been part of what holds society back from the swelling tide of lawless living through our praise, preaching, worship, warfare, intercession and witness in the world. At some point, Paul says, the Spirit will “step aside” from His restraining work, allowing sin to have dominion over mankind. 2 Thess 2:7 can be literally rendered, “The secret of lawlessness is already working, only it cannot be revealed until he who now withholds disappears from the midst.” I believe this “disappearing from the midst” will happen at the time the Church leaves the earth at the harpazo/rapture. The Holy Spirit will still be present in the earth, of course, [people get saved during the tribulation period!] But He will be taken out of the way in the sense that His unique sin-restraining ministry—through God’s people—will be removed [see Genesis 6:3] Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive and remain with man forever, because he is indeed flesh [sinful, corrupt—given over to sensual appetites].
2 Thessalonians 2 is clear that the removal of the restrainer’s influence precedes the revealing of the Antichrist. Given free rein during the tribulation, the lawless one will “use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders” to deceive the people of the earth (verses 9–10). After the Antichrist’s time is up, the Lord Jesus will return and overthrow the man of sin by “the breath of his mouth and destroy [him] by the splendor of his coming” (verse 8). Evil is restrained right now; however, once the Church age ends, the hindrance to evil will be removed, and the rebellion will seem to be winning; however, the ultimate doom of evil is sure!