concerning your people and your holy city
to put an end to rebellion,
to bring sin to completion,
to atone for iniquity,
to bring in perpetual righteousness,
to seal up the prophetic vision,
and to anoint a most holy place.
From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild
Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives,
there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.
It will again be built, with plaza and moat,
but in distressful times.
an anointed one will be cut off and have nothing.
As for the city and the sanctuary,
the people of the coming prince will destroy them.
But his end will come speedily like a flood.
Until the end of the war that has been decreed
there will be destruction.
But in the middle of that week
he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt.
On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys,
until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
They carry out a plan, but not Mine;
they make an alliance,
but against My will,
piling sin on top of sin.
They set out to go down to Egypt
without asking My advice,
in order to seek shelter under Pharaoh’s protection
and take refuge in Egypt’s shadow.
But Pharaoh’s protection will become your shame,
and refuge in Egypt’s shadow your disgrace.
For though his princes are at Zoan
and his messengers reach as far as Hanes,
everyone will be ashamed
because of a people who can’t help.
They are of no benefit, they are no help;
they are good for nothing but shame and reproach.
“But in the middle of that week he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt.
On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys…”
“…until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys.”
Among those who subscribe to the view I’ve been defending concerning the timing of the snatching away, the most popular view concerning the identity of “the present detainer” of the above passage seems to be that it’s the holy spirit of God. One reason many find this view appealing is that the present detainer must be such that it (or “he”) has been “detaining” the unveiling of the man of lawlessness for nearly 2,000 years. However, I believe this view to be untenable in light of the fact that God’s spirit is going to be just as present and active on the earth after the man of lawlessness has been unveiled as it is before this event occurs. We know, for example, that the holy spirit is going to be active in and among believing Jews during the first 3 ½ years of the 70th week (see, for example, Mark 13:11; cf. Matt. 24:9). And the very fact that there will be people being saved at all during the first 3 ½ years presupposes the presence and activity of God’s spirit on the earth during this time.
Some have tried to argue that the “present detainer” is actually a reference to Satan (who’s referred to by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:9). According to this position – which, as far as I know, was first defended by eminent biblical scholar, E.W. Bullinger – that which is being “detained” (or “held fast”) is Satan’s position in heaven (with Satan being referred to as the “present detainer” because he is “detaining,” or “holding fast to,” his heavenly position). This view further maintains that Satan’s future ejection from heaven by the archangel Michael (as prophesied in Rev. 12:7-9) will be the fulfillment of the detainer’s “coming to be out of the midst.” It is therefore the casting out of Satan from heaven which is thought to be the event that will result in the man of lawlessness being “unveiled.”
Some seem to think that, by failing to explicitly identify the “present detainer” in verses 6-8, Paul was being enigmatic when he made reference to it. But a more plausible view is that Paul believed the identity of the present detainer was obvious from what he’d already said in verses 1-6, and that he expected the recipients of his letter to know what he was referring to based on the context and flow of his argument up to that point. So is there something mentioned in the immediate context that can be referred to as “coming to be out of the midst” at some future time? Absolutely. Paul’s introductory words in v. 1, above, are part of the immediate context of verses 6-7, and should inform our understanding of everything that follows. With these words Paul was, of course, referring to the snatching away of the body of Christ. And as I’ve tried to make clear by the use of multiple colors above, I believe that the company of saints to which Paul was referring by his use of the word “our” in v. 1 (i.e., the body of Christ) is, in fact, the “present detainer,” and that the words “coming to be out of the midst” refer to the snatching away of the body of Christ to meet Christ in the air (our “assembling to Him”). This becomes even more evident when we understand “the midst” to be the general location where the man of lawlessness is going to be unveiled (i.e., the earth), for it is from this very place that the body of Christ is going to be removed when we are snatched away to meet Christ.
Thus we see that Paul’s use of the neuter and masculine gender in 2 Thess. 2:6-7 is perfectly consistent with the identity of the detainer being the company of saints that Paul referred to as the body of Christ. And if the body of Christ is the “present detainer,” then the implication of Paul’s words in 2 Thess. 2:6-7 is that our very presence on the earth is proof that the day of the Lord cannot be present. When the body of Christ is taken “out of the midst” via the snatching away, God can resume Israel’s prophetic program by unveiling the man of lawlessness and initiating the 70th week.