The Restraining Influence of the Holy Spirit
"Surely the wrath of man shall
praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain"
by Tom Stewart
When many Christians speak of the Restraining Influence of the Holy Spirit, they are making reference to the Pre-Tribulational Rapture interpretation of Second Thessalonians chapter two, verse seven. "For the Mystery of Iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth [Greek, katecho, restrains] will let [will continue to restrain], until He [the Holy Spirit] be taken out of the way" (2Thessalonians 2:7). This writer agrees that the Holy Spirit is the Restraining Influence taken out of the way when the Spirit Indwelt Saints are Raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation Week. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Romans 8:9). [See our article, "Must There Be a Pre-Tribulational Rapture?" ---New Window, for a more thorough discussion of 2Thessalonians 2.] The very identification of the Holy Spirit as the Restraining Influence brings up the significant Ministry of the Holy Spirit as the Restrainer of Evil. "7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [Greek, parakletos, advocate] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. 8 And when He is come, He will reprove [Greek, elegcho, convince or convict] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on Me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" (John 16:7-11). What did Jesus mean-- "of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (16:9)? The Holy Spirit was given to:
How the Holy Spirit Works
God the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, works through: (1) the material Creation, (2) the Truth, and (3) the Spirit Indwelt Believer. [See our article, "St. Patrick: The Trinity and the Shamrock" ---New Window, for a discussion of the Doctrine of the Trinity.]
How the Holy Spirit Restrains Evil Through Endtime Christians
How does the Restraining Influence of the Holy Spirit relate to your conduct as an Endtime Christian? Other than by His supernatural intervention in the Material Creation, e.g., a worldwide flood cleansing the Earth of wicked mankind such as in the days of Noah, the Holy Spirit restrains the Evil in the world through the Truth lived, prayed, and ministered by His Spirit Indwelt Saints. "Ye are the Salt of the Earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13). Can even a seemingly small number of True Saints ministering, praying, and living the Truth have such a large effect upon a vastly larger world of Ungodly Humanity? Evidently so, for consider the case of "just Lot" (2Peter 2:7) dwelling in Sodom. The Almighty would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah "for ten's sake" (Genesis 18:32), if "ten [Righteous Saints] shall be found there" (18:32), for Abraham had so interceded. "That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the Righteous with the Wicked: and that the Righteous should be as the Wicked, that be far from Thee: Shall not the Judge of All the Earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). Did not Jehovah instruct His Old Testament Saints, "Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace" (Jeremiah 29:7)? Only Eternity will tell how much the intercession of the Saints has benefitted even the world that never repented. "1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1Timothy 2:1-2). So, the Holy Spirit restrains Evil simply by the salty presence of the Godly, as well as by their prayers and actions. Consider that Enoch's great-grandson Noah was declared to be a "preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly" (2Peter 2:5), while Enoch had done the same kind of preaching some 900 years previously to his generation of Ungodly Rejecters, i.e., "14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the LORD cometh with ten thousands of His Saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 14-15). If the Godly Saint is able to affect the preservation of his burgh, village, town, city, province, territory, state, or nation, then think what greater good can be accomplished, if any of them should ever succeed in gaining a Sinner's repentance through ministering the "Truth of the Gospel" (1Peter 1:23)? Depending upon the circumstances and opportunities of different Saints in different times and places throughout history, aggressive evangelism or retreat to the catacombs would be directed by the Spirit to accomplish His Purpose through Providence and Prophecy. "I being in the way, the LORD led me" (Genesis 24:27). Whatever the case, the Godly have been commanded to labour "while it is day: [for] the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4), and to continue until the "LORD cometh" (Jude 14) for us. The All Wise God knows your circumstances; and better yet, He has providentially planned your life and circumstances that you will be able to fulfill His Will for your life, without you attempting to become a duplicate of some other Christian (living or departed). "We must all appear before the Judgment Seat [Greek, bema] of Christ" (2Corinthians 5:10). The godly Apostle Paul attempted to lead by example, as well should we. "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1Corinthians 11:1). However, in being led of the Spirit, i.e., "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14), we may be conducted down paths that only the Spirit of Christ travels with us. "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them" (Isaiah 42:16).
How the Gospel May Be Advanced Even in the Face of Opposition
An example from the New Testament shows us the circumstances of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Philippians. Paul was writing from his prison in Rome to the Philippian Christians (about 60 AD) during the administration of Nero, i.e., "my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace [Greek, praitorion, probably the Emperor's palace] and in all other places" (Philippians 1:13). Philippi was a Roman colony and city of Macedonia to which Paul had been instructed by the Holy Spirit to visit. "And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us" (Acts 16:9). Lydia, a "seller of purple" (Acts 16:14) and the Philippian jailer (16:29) were possibly readers of this letter-- about seven years after their first meeting with Paul. Specifically, Paul was in prison because the enemies of the Gospel were seeking to use Roman law to execute him, i.e., "Away with such a fellow from the Earth: for it is not fit that he should live" (Acts 22:22). Despite years of imprisonment, Paul's confidence in Christ had only grown, and his encouragement to the Philippians was, "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). Paul was imprisoned in Rome because he had appealed to Caesar, i.e., "17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. 19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of" (Acts 28:17-19). While Paul waited for his case to be decided in Rome, Paul explains that the Truth of the Gospel was being spoken about or preached both by sincerity and deceit. "12 But I would ye should understand, Brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the LORD, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the Gospel" (Philippians 1:12-17). He makes a Spirit-inspired observation about both the True and False Preaching of the Truth of the Gospel: "18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (1:18-19). Two things are necessary to make both forms of preaching work for the futherance of the Truth of the Gospel: (1) "your prayer" (1:19), and (2) the "supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (1:19). Even when antagonistic or false teachers of Spiritual Truth successfully spread their poisonous teachings, the Spirit of God is able to use the element of Truth in their false positions, if we petition Him (prayer) to do so (by His Spirit). "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of Hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). We need to claim promises from the Word of God in our intercession that even the element of Truth in the false teaching can be forced home by the Holy Spirit to do a True Work of Grace in the heart of the hearers. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain" (Psalm 76:10). By no means do we pray for the advancement of false teachings, but we do ask the LORD that, for ourselves, it would "work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28) and be used by the Spirit to both convert the Elect and ready the Unelect for judgment. "That they all might be damned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2Thessalonians 2:12). As an encouragement, Paul ended his epistle to the Philippians with a greeting from all the Christians residing in the official household of Nero. "All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household" (Philippians 4:22). How could the enemy ever defeat a Spirit-filled Christian, who lives by Paul's motto, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)? And, what kind of world would this be without the salty presence of such Spirit-filled Believers? "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1Peter 4:18).
How Endtime Christians Should Promote the Restraining Influence of the Holy Spirit
With the understanding that the Saints must have "prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:19) for success, the following are a few suggestions to promote the Restraining Influence of the Holy Spirit.
The exponential explosion of population in this 21st Century means that a population of Christians must grow at the same rate or comparatively be swallowed up by the godless majority of the world, and our Restraining Influence would become relatively unfelt. However, "at this present time also there is a remnant [still] according to the Election of Grace" (Romans 11:5). A citation quoted by A. J. Gordon in his classic book, The Ministry of the Spirit (1894), relates how the "inChristed" body of Believers are to manifest Christ to the world:
"Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular" (1Corinthians 12:27). Such powerful witnesses for Christ will be felt in the positive and missed in the scale of things in the negative, if the witness is missing. "Ye are the Salt of the Earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13). In the end, we must also remember that the Almighty will withdraw His Spirit when He deems it wisest. "And the LORD said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years" (Genesis 6:3). As in the days of Noah, He will ensure the safety of His people, but this time by Pre-Tribulational Rapture and not by a physical ark. "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (Hebrews 11:7). Likewise, though Abraham was concerned about the safety of his nephew Lot, certainly he did not feel that Jehovah had abandoned His promise, when He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, while delivering Lot. "And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt" (Genesis 19:29).
You may notice that the emphasis of this article is not upon the traditional positions of Biblical Christianity, i.e., Christian Education, Personal Evangelism, Revival, or Worldwide Missions, not because they are not useful tools, which should be supported wherever there is opportunity, i.e., "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1Corinthians 9:22), but because we are attempting to emphasize those actions, which we may have given but little thought. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17).
May God cause us to "walk worthy" (Luke 21:36) of Him by our cooperation with the Restraining Influence of the Holy Spirit being so felt that our Rapture Home to Heaven would be noticed by the world by a sudden lack of restraint erupting upon the world. "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely" (Revelation 22:17).
Amen, and Amen.
Section Index for Prophecy
Readers are permitted and encouraged to copy and freely share this article with others.
Homepage Holy Bible .Jehovah Jesus Timeline .Prophecy Philadelphia Fellowship Promises Stories Poetry Links
Purpose ||.What's New || Tribulation Topics || Download Page || Today's Entry
Topical Links: Salvation || Catholicism || Sound Doctrine || Prayer