The key which unlocks the door to the mystery of the “restrainer” is Paul’s unique linguistic application of three Greek adverbs all of which convey the basic sense of the meaning of time in the present or the “here and now.” Paul tells the Thessalonians that “the thing that restrains” (to katechon) the man of sin is doing so “now” (nun) at the present time (2 Thess. 2:6). Furthermore, the mystery of lawlessness “now” (ede) works at the present time. The strong implication is that “the thing restraining” at the present time (“now”) exhibits the character attributes associated with the mystery of lawlessness, which also works “now” at the present time. This identical character attribute now working in “the thing restraining” will also be exhibited in the man of sin who will be revealed in his time.
Moreover, Paul reinforces the linkage of the mystery of lawlessness with the restraining activity by immediately repeating in the next phrase (2:7) the “here and now” activity of “the one who restrains,” clearly linking it with the mystery of lawlessness. “For the mystery of lawlessness now (ede) works. Only he who restrains now (arti), until he comes into existence out from the midst.” The impersonal restrainer (to katechon) in verse 6 and the related personal restrainer (ho katechon) in verse 7 work as a unit to restrain the man of sin, concurrently in time, with and through the working of the mystery of lawlessness. The mystery of lawlessness describes the evil character attributes of both the current restraining activity and the man of sin who is to be revealed in the future.
The three Greek adverbs used in succession in 2 Thess. 2:6-7, nun, ede, and arti all convey the sense of current, present time in contrast to past or future activity.(151) Each adverb is synonymous with the other. More specifically, arti seems to mark a “precise time” (he restrains now in verse 7); nun marks a point or a period of time (“now restraining” in verse 6); and ede conveys current time in reference to the future (“mystery of lawlessness now/already works” in verse 7).(152) Concurrent time connected with the present is the key supplied by the sequential application of the three Greek adverbs, nun, ede and arti which links the mystery of lawlessness with “the restrainer.” The mystery of lawlessness which works in “the restrainer” is to be revealed in the man of sin when the restrainer comes into existence out from the midst.
The following chart summarizes the relationship of the restrainer and the mystery of lawlessness in the context of concurrent time.
The Relationship of
“The Restrainer” and “The Mystery of Lawlessness”
in Concurrent Time
|nun||Now||Thing Restraining||Evil||Pagan Rome|
|ede||Now / Already||Mystery of Lawlessness||Evil||Character of Paganism|
|arti||Now||Person Restraining||Evil||Emperor of Rome|
151) J. H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Baker, pp. 737, 2235 and 3568 (1977).
152) Ibid., p. 75.
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