The Restrainer

St. Michael the Archangel — Michael D. O’Brien 


THIS writing was first posted in December of 2005. It is one of the core writings on this site which has unfolded into the others. I have updated it and resubmit it today. This is a very important word… it places into context so many things unfolding rapidly in the world today; and I hear this word again with fresh ears.

Now, I know that many of you are tired. Many of you are finding it difficult to read these writings for they deal with troubling subjects which are necessary to unmask evil. I understand (perhaps more than I’d like to.) But the image which came to me this morning was that of the Apostles falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were overcome with grief and just wanted to close their eyes and forget it all. I hear Jesus once again saying to you and I, His followers:

Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test. (Luke 22:46) 

Indeed, as it becomes more and more clear that the Church is facing her own Passion, the temptation to “flee the Garden” will grow. But Christ has already prepared beforehand the graces you and I need for these days.

In the television show which we are about to begin broadcasting on the internet shortly, Embracing Hope, I know many of these graces will be given to strengthen you, just as Jesus was strengthened by an angel in the Garden. But because I want to keep these writings as short as possible, it is difficult for me to convey the “now word” I am hearing, and provide perfect balance between warning and encouragement within each article. The balance lies within the whole body of work here. 

Peace be with you! Christ is near, and will never leave you!




A FEW years ago, I had a powerful experience which I shared at a conference in Canada. Afterward, a bishop came up to me and encouraged me to write that experience down in the form of a meditation. And so now I share it with you. It also forms part of the “word” that Fr. Kyle Dave and I received last fall when the Lord seemed to be speaking prophetically to us. I have already posted the first three “Petals” of that prophetic flower here. Thus, this forms the Fourth Petal of that flower.

For your discernment…



I was driving alone in British Columbia, Canada, making my way to my next concert, enjoying the scenery, drifting in thought, when suddenly I heard within my heart the words,

I have lifted the restrainer.

I felt something in my spirit that is hard to explain. It was as if a shock wave traversed the earth; as if something in the spiritual realm had been released.

That night in my motel room, I asked the Lord if what I heard was in Scripture. I grabbed my Bible, and it opened straight to 2 Thessalonians 2:3. I began to read:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed…

As I read these words, I recalled what Catholic author and evangelist Ralph Martin said to me in a documentary I had produced in Canada in 1997 (What In The World Is Going On) :

Never before have we seen such a falling away from the faith in the past 19 centuries as we have this last century. We are certainly a candidate for the “Great Apostasy.”

The word “apostasy” refers to a mass falling away of believers from the faith. While this is not the place to do an analysis on numbers, it is clear from the warnings of Pope’s Benedict XVI and John Paul II that Europe and North America have nearly abandoned the faith, as well as other traditionally Catholic countries. A cursory look at other mainstream Christian denominations shows that they are all but crumbling as fast as they are abandoning traditional Christian moral teaching.

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences (1 Tim 4:1-3)



What really caught my attention was what I read further on:

And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed…

The one being restrained, the lawless one, is the Antichrist. This passage is somewhat vague as to who or what exactly is restraining the lawless one. Some theologians speculate that it is St. Michael the Archangel or the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth or even the binding authority of the Holy Father. Cardinal John Henry Newman points us toward an understanding of many ‘ancient writers’:

Now this restraining power [is] generally admitted to be the Roman empire… I do not grant that the Roman empire is gone. Far from it: the Roman empire remains even to this day.  —Venerable John Henry Newman (1801-1890), Advent Sermons on Antichrist, Sermon I

It is when this Roman Empire breaks apart that the Antichrist emerges:

Out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. (Dan 7:24)

Satan may adopt the more alarming weapons of deceit—he may hide himself—he may attempt to seduce us in little things, and so to move the Church, not all at once, but by little and little from her true position. I do believe he has done much in this way in the course of the last few centuries… It is his policy to split us up and divide us, to dislodge us gradually from our rock of strength. And if there is to be a persecution, perhaps it will be then; then, perhaps, when we are all of us in all parts of Christendom so divided, and so reduced, so full of schism, so close upon heresy. When we have cast ourselves upon the world and depend for protection upon it, and have given up our independence and our strength, then he may burst upon us in fury as far as God allows him. Then suddenly the Roman Empire may break up, and Antichrist appear as a persecutor, and the barbarous nations around break in. —Venerable John Henry Newman, Sermon IV: The Persecution of Antichrist

I wondered… has the Lord now released the lawless one in the same sense that Judas was “released” to bargain for Christ’s betrayal? That is, have the times of the Church’s “final passion” drawn near?

This question alone as to whether the Antichrist could be present on earth will no doubt draw a number of eye-rolling-head-shaking reactions: “It’s over-reaction…. paranoia… fear-mongering….” However, I cannot understand this response. If Jesus said that he would return some day, preceded by a time of apostasy, tribulation, persecution and the Antichrist, why are we so quick to suggest that it could not happen in our day? If Jesus said we are to “watch and pray” and to “stay awake” regarding these times, then I find the ready dismissal of any apocalyptic discussion to be far more dangerous than a calm and intellectual debate.

The widespread reluctance on the part of many Catholic thinkers to enter into a profound examination of the apocalyptic elements of contemporary life is, I believe, part of the very problem which they seek to avoid. If apocalyptic thinking is left largely to those who have been subjectivized or who have fallen prey to the vertigo of cosmic terror, then the Christian community, indeed the whole human community, is radically impoverished. And that can be measured in terms of lost human souls. –Author, Michael O’Brien, Are We Living In Apocalyptic Times?

As I have pointed out numerous times, several Popes have not shied away from suggesting we may be entering that specific period of tribulation. Pope Saint Pius X in his 1903 encyclical, E Supremi, said:

When all this is considered there is good reason to fear lest this great perversity may be as it were a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days; and that there may be already in the world the “Son of Perdition” of whom the Apostle speaks (2 Thess 2: 3). Such, in truth, is the audacity and the wrath employed everywhere in persecuting religion, in combating the dogmas of the faith, in brazen effort to uproot and destroy all relations between man and the Divinity! While, on the other hand, and this according to the same apostle is the distinguishing mark of Antichrist, man has with infinite temerity put himself in the place of God, raising himself above all that is called God; in such a way that although he cannot utterly extinguish in himself all knowledge of God, he has despised God’s majesty and, as it were, made of the universe a temple wherein he himself is to be adored. “He seats himself in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God” (2 Thess 2:4). —E Supremi: On the Restoration of All Things in Christ

It would seem in hindsight that Pius X was speaking prophetically as he perceived “a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days.”

And so I pose this question: if the “Son of Perdition” is in fact alive, would lawlessness be the harbinger of this lawless one?



The mystery of lawlessness is already at work (2 Thess 2:7)

Since I heard those words, “the restrainer has been lifted,” I believe there has been a rapidly increasing lawlessness in the world. In fact, Jesus said this would happen in the days prior to His return:

…because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)

What is the sign of love grown cold? The apostle John wrote, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Perhaps then perfect fear casts out all love, or rather, causes love to grow cold. This may be the saddest circumstance of our times: there is great fear of one another, the future, the unknown. The reason is because of a growing lawlessness which corrodes trust.

Briefly, there has been a marked increase in:

  • corporate and political greed accompanied by scandals in governments and the money markets
  • laws redefining marriage and approving and defending hedonism.
  • Terrorism has nearly become a daily occurrence.
  • Genocide is becoming more prevalent.
  • Violence has increased in various forms from suicide to school shootings to parent/child murders to the starvation of the helpless.
  • Abortion has taken on the more grievous forms of partial and live birth abortion of late term babies.
  • There has been an unprecedented and rapid decay of morality in television and movie productions in the past few years. It’s not so much in what we see visually, though that is a part of it, but in what we hear. The topics of discussion and frank content of sitcoms, dating shows, talk show hosts, and movie dialogue, are virtually unrestrained.
  • Pornography has exploded across the globe with high speed internet.
  • STD’s are reaching epidemic proportions not only in third world countries, but in nations such as Canada and America as well.
  • Cloning of animals and combining of animal and human cells together is bringing science to a new level of transgression against God’s laws.
  • Violence against the Church is increasing throughout the world quite rapidly; protests against Christians in North America are becoming more vile and aggressive.

Note that, as lawlessness increases, so too do the wild disturbances in nature, from extreme weather to the awakening of volcanoes to the fomentation of new diseases. Nature is responding to mankind’s sin.

Speaking of the times that would come directly before an “era of peace” in the world, Church Father Lactantius wrote:

All justice will be confounded, and the laws will be destroyed.  —Lactantius, Fathers of the Church: The Divine Institutes, Book VII, Chapter 15, Catholic Encyclopedia;

And do not think that lawlessness means chaos. Chaos is the fruit of lawlessness. As I’ve listed above, much of this lawlessness has been created by highly educated men and women who don judicial robes or bear the titles of office in government. As they take Christ out of society, chaos is taking his place.

There will be no faith among men, nor peace, nor kindness, nor shame, nor truth; and thus also there will be neither security, nor government, nor any rest from evils.  —Ibid.



2 Thessalonians 2:11 goes on to say:

Therefore, God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned.

At the time I received this word, I was also getting a clear image—particularly as I was speaking in parishes—of a strong wave of deception sweeping through the world (see Deluge of False Prophets). A growing number of people consider the Church to be more and more irrelevant, while their own personal feelings or the pop psychology of the day form their consciences.

A dictatorship of relativism is being built that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one’s ego and desires. Having a clear faith, according to the credo of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. Yet, relativism, that is, letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching’, appears the sole attitude acceptable to today’s standards. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI) pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005

In other words, lawlessness.   

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

With the growing lawlessness in our society, those who hold fast to the moral teachings of the Church are perceived more and more as fanatics and fundamentalists (see Persecution). 



I hear the words in my heart repeatedly, like a war drum in the distant hills:

Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matt 26:41).

There is a parallel story to this “lifting of the restrainer”. It is found in Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal did not want to live by his father’s rules, and so, the father let him go; he opened the front door—lifting the restrainer as it were. The boy took his inheritance (symbolic of the gift of free will and knowledge), and left. The boy went off to indulge his “freedom”.

The key point here is this: the father did not release the boy so as to see him destroyed. We know this because scripture says the father saw the boy coming from a long way off (that is, the father was constantly on the lookout, waiting for his son’s return….) He ran to the boy, embraced him, and took him back —poor, naked, and hungry.

God is still acting in His mercy toward us. I believe that we may experience, as did the prodigal son, terrible consequences for continuing to reject the Gospel, possibly including the purifying instrument of Antichrist’s reign. Already, we are reaping what we have sown. But I believe God will permit this so that, after having tasted how poor, naked, and hungry we are, we will return to Him. Catherine Doherty once said,

In our weakness, we are most ready to receive His mercy.

Whether or not we live in those times foretold by Christ, we can be sure that with every breath we take, He is extending His mercy and love toward us. And since none of us knows if we will wake up tomorrow, the most important question is, “Am I ready to meet Him today?


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