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Michael The Restrainer? 

Question: Are you familiar with Rosenthal's Pre-Wrath Rapture view? I have a question concerning his view that the restrainer of 2 Thess 2:7 is the Archangel Michael and not the Holy Spirit (who is taken out of the way, not out of the world). Rosenthal backs up his view by saying that "there can be no doubt that he (Paul) has Daniel 12 in mind (when he wrote 2 Thess 2:7); that Paul meant the 'he' to be Michael who will "step aside" and "desist" from helping Israel, only then is the antichrist revealed. (Page 259, Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, Thomas Nelson) Rosenthal's point is that the Hebrew word "amad" in Dan 12:1 means "step aside" or to "desist" and this meaning is confirmed by Rashi, one of Israel's greatest scholars.

Yes, I am familiar with Mr. Rosenthal's "pre-wrath" theory and when studied in its entirety, it reveals many eschatological holes, exposing his theory to be very weak. His biggest problem being his lack of understanding of the Biblical distinction between the Church and national Israel. But as for the "amad" translation and referencing "Michael the great prince" in Daniel 12:1 with the "restrainer" in 2Thess. 2:6. I am under the impression that Mr. Rosenthal is desperately grasping for an interpretation which will efficiently fit his preconceived theory.

In an article in his periodical "Zion's Fire," dated Jan./Feb 1996, he writes, "Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible says that amad means "To stand still or fast." Of course this could be true, but it is the context that determines which meaning (there are several) for "amad" is employed. Young's Analytical Concordance does not include Dan. 12:1 when "amad" only means in context, "to stand still."

Referring to Dan. 12:1, Rosenthal goes on to say in his article:

"The archangel Michael, in context, was already said to be actively defending Israel. To amad meant he would 'stand still,' 'desist,' or 'cease' his defense on their behalf."

Yet, none of the English Bible translations I have read render "amad," in that passage, to mean "stand still." The NASB (New American Standard Bible), for instance, translates: "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands [guard] over the sons of your people, will arise... (not stand still)." Of course if Rothenthal's interpretation was correct, then the question that must be asked is how an archangel, who is divinely assigned to stand guard over national Israel, could step aside and stand still during that nation's greatest "time of distress?" I believe the NASB is contextually correct in translating "amad" as "arise" rather than "stand still" in the Dan. 12:1 passage. The word amad is translated "arise" also in Dan. 8:23, 24 and 11:31 in the NASB.

Contrary to Rosenthal, Dan. 12:1 does not say Michael is already actively defending Israel, but simply identifies Michael as the prince who stands guard over the sons of Daniel's people. But "at that time," that is, the time of Israel's greatest distress, he, Michael the prince, will "arise," i.e., to their defense. It is ludicrous to think that Israel's mighty defender would stand still at such a perilous time in the nation's history. The "restrainer" in the 2 Thess. 2:6 passage is not described as defending or guarding a nation but suppressing so that, in reference to the "man of lawlessness, "in his time he may be revealed."

Question: To me, 2 Thess. 2:7 is one of the strongest supports for a pre-trib rapture only if the 'he' is not Michael as Rosenthal asserts. (And he goes to some pains to do this!)

I agree and disagree with you. I agree 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, strongly supports the pre-tribulation rapture, but not as you say, only if the restrainer is not Michael. A thorough Scriptural study of the "Day of the Lord" reveals the Day to not simply to be the last 3 1/2 years of the 70th week of Daniel, but the entire seven years of tribulation period and including Christ's Millennial rule on earth.

The Thessalonians were very disturbed because some amongst them were saying (based on the persecution they were experiencing) that the Day of the Lord had come. But Paul had obviously taught them previously that we (the Church) would be gathered together to the Lord before that Day would appear. So Paul was writing to reassure them that they were not experiencing that Day and they were not to listen to anyone who tells them differently. He goes on to prove that they were not in that Day by reminding them of what events must transpire during that time. And none of those things had yet come about.

Nevertheless, even if the "he" in 2Thess. 2:7 did refer to Michael the archangel (of which I am hardly convinced), it would still not disprove a pre-tribulation rapture. There is nothing even in that scenario that would prohibit Michael from standing still at the beginning of the seven year tribulation period. However, Rosenthal's "pre-wrath" theory is based on another conjecture altogether:

Rothenthal says that the first six seals of Revelation six are "judgments" and not the actual "wrath" of God. They are "judgments" because (he says) they are brought about by the wicked doings of man on earth and therefore not directly from God. He claims that the actual "wrath" of God does not begin until the breaking of the seventh seal in 8:1; concluding that the Church must endure on earth through the "judgments" of the first six seals. Hence his "pre-wrath" theory. But he overlooks the fact that it is Christ Himself who opens each of the seals calling down the "judgments" from heaven (Rev. 6:1).

Pivotal to his argument is Rev. 6:17 where he again presents an interpretation to fit his conjectures. He says, based on the aorist tense of the verb "has come," which in context refers to the previous, six, broken seals, that it could be translated "is coming," referring instead to the future events connected to the seventh seal in Rev. 8:1. But such a rendering is manipulation and would make the unbelievers listed in verse 15 prophets. No, the phrase, "the great day of their wrath has come," directly refers back to the first six seals. They are all part of the "wrath" that "has come," and the Church is nowhere to be found after the third Chapter of Revelation (cf. 1 Thess. 5:9). If the wrath was yet to come, John could have used the future tense of the verb to make it perfectly clear.

Question: I've refreshed myself on the pre-trib view as taught in my youth and am even more convinced today that it is the one best supported by scripture

Absolutely!! Those who advocate a mid or post-trib view (or even a "pre-wrath" view) do not understand the mystery of Christ's Church which, in Scripture, is always held in distinction from God's prophetic program for national Israel. A proper understanding of the 70th week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-26) is essential, as well as maintaining a consistent literal interpretation of prophetic Scripture.

Often they fail to comprehend the grace in which we (the Church) stand through His shed blood (Rom. 5:1-2). They're under the absurd notion that the Church in the latter days is less cleansed by the blood of Christ than the early Church, and therefore must be purified by tribulation. So they interpret the Scriptures accordingly in order to "prove" their convoluted ideas. What an insult to the Person and work of Jesus Christ! For in Him we (the Church) have been "made the righteousness of God" (2Cor. 5:21). And in Him we have been "made complete" (Col. 2:10). A people whose "citizenship is heaven from which we eagerly wait our Savior who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory" (Phil. 3:20-21). Amen!

Written by: Gary Nystrom

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