lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who nowrestrains it is removed. [Second Thessalonians, 2:3-2:8]
Paul makes two cryptic references here, to the “one who restrains,” the
in Luther’s translation), and to the “lawless one” who willappear only after the restrainer has been removed. The restrainer and thelawless one share a relationship of constant antagonism. The lawless onecannot be defeated by the restrainer; instead the restrainer keeps him at bay,repeatedly warding him off, until “his time comes,” at which point the restrainer“is removed” so that the lawless one may be allowed to assume power fullyand thus usher in the Last Judgment. While the
vigilantly protectsearthly orders against chaos, his position is in essence temporary, withtermination and failure built into the job description.The hedonistic behavior of the Thessalonians prior to Paul’s arrival
signals the danger of allowing “lawlessness” to operate without the invocationof a restraining force. After all, why should Christians continue to obey theruling order if the end of the world is imminent, and with it, the invalidation ofall earthly authority? This question strikes at a core concern for the Christian
All biblical citations from
The New Oxford Annotated Bible,
Bernhard W. Anderson, Bruce ManningMetzger and Roland Edmund Murphy, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press: 1991).
See James D.G. Dunn,
The Theology of Paul the Apostle
(Grand Rapids: William B. EerdmansPublishing Company, 1998), 298-304.