Let’s talk about God’s Sovereignty:
“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” - 2Th 2:7
Many interpreters believe that "lawlessness" refers to disregard of law in general. Some believe it refers to disregard of God's Law in particular: His Word. This lawless movement was already underway in Paul's day, but God was holding it back until His appointed time. Then He will remove the restraining influence. This "removal" may be a reference to the Rapture, when God's restraint of evil through His people will end as He removes the church from the earth.
Dr Constable thinks that, “God will remove the Holy Spirit's restraining influence from the earth ("[H]e is taken out of the way"), in the sense that God will remove those whom He indwells. He will not entirely abandon the earth, of course, since God the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. "He," rather than "it," describes the Holy Spirit acting as a human person—preventing evil from taking control—like a strong teacher, law enforcement official, or a good king. He is now working through Christians whom He indwells, presently restraining lawlessness, but in the future Tribulation He will cease to restrain it."(1)
Even though it may seem that lawlessness and disregard to God’s Word prevail in our world, this and other passages of Scripture actually shows that God’s sovereignty includes establishing limits on how far evil and its effects may go.
“The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’” - Job 1:12
“If the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us;” - Psa 124:2
See also 1Co 10:13, Rev 20: 2 & 3.
From these passages we can see that all the evil acts of creatures are under the complete control of God. They can occur only by His permission, and only insofar as He permits them. Though they are evil in themselves, He overrules them for good. Thus the wicked conduct of Joseph’s brothers, the obstinacy of Pharaoh, the lust for conquest of the heathen nations that invaded the Holy Land and finally carried the people into captivity, the rejection and crucifixion of Christ, the persecution of the Church, the wars and revolutions among the nations have all been overruled for God’s purpose and glory. In these instances we can see that God has turned evil into good. This fact ought to give us reason to trust Him to do the same with the evil of the present time.
So, again, all the evil that exists in this world exists not only as a result of God’s permission but also a part of God’s sovereign decree. Ultimately, this world only exists, with all its things and events (past, present and future), as a direct result of God choosing to actualize this world. When we look upon the atrocities and natural suffering it can be very difficult for some to believe that a perfectly good God exists. Some believe that God could have no morally sufficient reasons for actualizing a world containing this much evil. However, in order for someone to be justified in making that claim, they must both be omniscient and morally perfect. And there is no human on earth like that.
“God determines the bounds reached by the evil passions of his creatures, and the measure of their effects. Since moral evil is a germ capable of indefinite expansion, God's determining the measure of its growth does not alter its character or involve God's complicity with the perverse wills which cherish it.” - Dr Augustus Strong
What do you think about God’s sovereign control over evil? Do you think this much evil can coexist with a perfectly good, omniscient and omnipotent God? We’d love to hear your thoughts on God’s sovereignty. We also have other blog posts that deal with this topic and you can find the links for them below.
It should be noted that, regarding this "restraining", there is an impersonal phrase in verse 6 which gives us a puzzling contrast from verse 7 (verse 6, “the thing that restrains”). The restraint can be spoken of as a force or as a person. Or, as a person using a force.
Thiessen, Henry. Lectures in Systematic Theology (Pg. 182-183). Eerdmans Publishing Company 1951.
Constable, Thomas. Dr Constable’s Notes On 2 Thessalonians (2021 Edition) (Pg. 28-29). https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/2thessalonians.pdf
Strong, Augustus. Systematic Theology (Complete - Volume 1, 2 & 3 of 3) (p. 253). BZ editores. Kindle Edition.