John Calvin's commentary references the great theologians from the early church father's through his contemporaries. The apostle Paul condemns those desiring to be snatched from the trials of this world. ["On the other hand, those false prophets whom Paul expense, while they ought to have kept men's minds in suspense, bid them feel assured of his speedy advent, that they might not be wearied out with the irksomeness of delay. "Let no man deceive you." That they may not groundlessly promise themselves the arrival in so short a time of the joyful day of redemption, he presents to them a melancholy prediction as to the future scattering of the Church. This discourse entirely corresponds with that which Christ held in the presence of his disciples, when they had asked him respecting the end of the world. For he exhorts them to prepare themselves for enduring hard conflicts, (Matt. 24:6) and after he has discoursed of the most grievous and previously unheard of calamities, by which the earth was to be reduced almost to a desert, he adds, that the "end is not yet", but that "these things are the beginnings of sorrows". In the same way, Paul declares that believers must exercise warfare for a long period, before gaining a triumph.] - "Commentary of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians", by John Calvin.
The Church was not the one restraining or taken out of the way. ["And now what withholdeth". . . Let my readers now consider which of the two is the probable - either that Paul declared that the light of the gospel must be diffused through all parts of the earth before God would thus give loose reins to Satan, or that the power of the Roman Empire stood in the way of the rise of Antichrist, inasmuch as he could only break through into a vacant possession. I seem at least to hear Paul discoursing as to the universal call of the Gentiles - that the grace of God must be offered to all - that Christ must enlighten the whole world by his gospel, in order that the impiety of men might be the more fully attested and demonstrated. This, therefore, was the delay, until the career of the gospel should be completed, because a gracious invitation to salvation was first in order.]- "Commentary of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians", by John Calvin. In conclusion: the Church was unaware in the 16th century that it would later be equated with the Restrainer.
John Calvin, 1509 – 1564
Geneva Study Bible - 1599
The Geneva Bible was the official bible of the Protestant Church - Expounding the beliefs of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and other Reformation leaders. - 2nd Thessalonians: ["2:6 And now ye know g what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. (g) What hinders and stops. 2:76 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: 7 only he who now h letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. (6) Even in the apostles time the first foundations of the apostolic seat were laid, but yet so that they deceived men. (7) He foretells that when the empire of Rome is taken away, the seat that falls away from God will succeed and hold its place, as the old writers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain and interpret it. (h) He who is now in authority and rules all, that is, the Roman Empire."] Once again - the novelty that the Church is the one restraining has not yet been suggested.
Geneva Bible reference from Revelation 13 identifies the pope as the false prophet ["Contrary to that which God of old commanded should be written in the head piece of the high Priest, that is, "Sanctitas Jehova", Holiness unto the Lord. The name of blasphemy imposed by the dragon, is that which Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 "He sits as God and boasts himself to be God" For this name of blasphemy both the Roman Emperors did then challenge to themselves, as Suetonius and Dion do report of Caigula and Domitian: and after them the popes of Rome professed the same of themselves, when they challenged to themselves sovereignty in holy things of which kind of sayings the sixth book of the Decretals, the Clementines, and the Extravagants, are very full. For these men were not content with that which Anglicus wrote in his Poetria, (the beginning of which is "Papa stupor mundi" The pope is the wonder of the world) "Nec Deus es, nec homo, sed neuter es inter utrungue." Thou art not God, nor art thou man, but neuter mixed of both: as the gloss witnesses on the sixth book: But they were bold to take to themselves the very name of God, and to accept it given of other: according as almost a hundred and twenty years since there was made for Sixtus the fourth, when he should first enter into Rome in his papal dignity, a Pageant of triumph, and cunningly fixed upon the gate of the city he should enter at, having written upon it this blasphemous verse: "Oraclo vocis mundi moderaris habenas, Et merito in terrs crederis esse Deus." That is, By oracle of thine own voice, the world thou governest all, And worthily a God on earth men think and do thee call. These and six hundred the like who can impute to that modesty by which good men of old would have themselves called the servants of the servants of God? Verily either this is a name of blasphemy, or there is none at all."]
Matthew Henry continues the original Protestant doctrine. ["Cautions against the error that the time of Christ's coming was just at hand. There would first be a general apostacy from the faith, and a revealing of the antichristian man of sin. (1-4) His destruction, and that of those who obey him. (5-12) The security of the Thessalonians from apostacy; an exhortation to stedfastness, and prayer for them. (13-17) Verses 1-4 If errors arise among Christians, we should set them right; and good men will be careful to suppress errors which rise from mistaking their words and actions. We have a cunning adversary, who watches to do mischief, and will promote errors, even by the words of Scripture. Whatever uncertainty we are in, or whatever mistakes may arise about the time of Christ's coming, that coming itself is certain. This has been the faith and hope of all Christians, in all ages of the church; it was the faith and hope of the Old Testament saints. All believers shall be gathered together to Christ, to be with him, and to be happy in his presence for ever. We should firmly believe the second coming of Christ; but there was danger lest the Thessalonians, being mistaken as to the time, should question the truth or certainty of the thing itself. False doctrines are like the winds that toss the water to and fro; and they unsettle the minds of men, which are as unstable as water. It is enough for us to know that our Lord will come, and will gather all his saints unto him. A reason why they should not expect the coming of Christ, as at hand, is given. There would be a general falling away first, such as would occasion the rise of antichrist, that man of sin. There have been great disputes who or what is intended by this man of sin and son of perdition. The man of sin not only practises wickedness, but also promotes and commands sin and wickedness in others; and is the son of perdition, because he is devoted to certain destruction, and is the instrument to destroy many others, both in soul and body. As God was in the temple of old, and worshipped there, and is in and with his church now; so the antichrist here mentioned, is a usurper of God's authority in the Christian church, who claims Divine honours. Verses 5-12 Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time. Corruption of doctrine and worship came in by degrees, and the usurping of power was gradual; thus the mystery of iniquity prevailed. Superstition and idolatry were advanced by pretended devotion, and bigotry and persecution were promoted by pretended zeal for God and his glory. This mystery of iniquity was even then begun; while the apostles were yet living, persons pretended zeal for Christ, but really opposed him. The fall or ruin of the antichristian state is declared. The pure word of God, with the Spirit of God, will discover this mystery of iniquity, and in due time it shall be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming. Signs and wonders, visions and miracles, are pretended; but they are false signs to support false doctrines; and lying wonders, or only pretended miracles, to cheat the people; and the diabolical deceits with which the antichristian state has been supported, are notorious. The persons are described, who are his willing subjects. Their sin is this; They did not love the truth, and therefore did not believe it; and they were pleased with false notions. God leaves them to themselves, then sin will follow of course, and spiritual judgments here, and eternal punishments hereafter. These prophecies have, in a great measure, come to pass, and confirm the truth of the Scriptures. This passage exactly agrees with the system of popery, as it prevails in the Romish church, and under the Romish popes. But though the son of perdition has been revealed, though he has opposed and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; and has spoken and acted as if he were a god upon earth, and has proclaimed his insolent pride, and supported his delusions, by lying miracles and all kinds of frauds; still the Lord has not yet fully destroyed him with the brightness of his coming; that and other prophecies remain to be fulfilled before the end shall come."] - The Matthew Henry Commentary
Matthew Henry - 1662-1714
John Wesley 1703 - 1791
This eighteenth century commentary by John Wesley on 2nd Thessalonians reveals the following: -This 'gathering' was the same occurrence as in 1st Thessalonians Ch 4. -The Roman Empire was the restraining force which had previously held back the Roman Catholic Church from gaining power.
["Our gathering together to him - In the clouds
Be not shaken in mind - In judgment. Or terrified - As those easily are who are immoderately fond of knowing future things. Neither by any pretended revelation from the Spirit, nor by pretence of any word spoken by me.
Unless the falling away - From the pure faith of the gospel, come first. This began even in the apostolic age.But the man of sin, the son of perdition - Eminently so called, is not come yet. However, in many respects, the Pope has an indisputable claim to those titles. He is, in an emphatical sense, the man of sin, as he increases all manner of sin above measure. And he is, too, properly styled, the son of perdition, as he has caused the death of numberless multitudes, both of his opposers and followers, destroyed innumerable souls, and will himself perish everlastingly. He it is that opposeth himself to the emperor, once his rightful sovereign; and that exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped - Commanding angels, and putting kings under his feet, both of whom are called gods in scripture; claiming the highest power, the highest honour; suffering himself, not once only, to be styled God or vice - god. Indeed no less is implied in his ordinary title, "Most Holy Lord," or, "Most Holy Father." So that he sitteth - Enthroned. In the temple of God - Mentioned Revelation 11:1. Declaring himself that he is God - Claiming the prerogatives which belong to God alone. And now ye know - By what I told you when I was with you. That which restraineth - The power of the Roman emperors. When this is taken away, the wicked one will be revealed. In his time - His appointed season, and not before.
He will surely be revealed; for the mystery - The deep, secret power of iniquity, just opposite to the power of godliness, already worketh. It began with the love of honour, and the desire of power; and is completed in the entire subversion of the gospel of Christ. This mystery of iniquity is not wholly confined to the Romish church, but extends itself to others also. It seems to consist of, Human inventions added to the written word. Mere outside performances put in the room of faith and love. Other mediators besides the man Christ Jesus.The two last branches, together with idolatry and bloodshed, are the direct consequences of the former; namely, the adding to the word of God. Already worketh - In the church. Only he that restraineth - That is, the potentate who successively has Rome in his power. The emperors, heathen or Christian; the kings, Goths or Lombards; the Carolingian or German emperors. "]
Excerpt from Wesley's Commentary of Revelation Chapter 12 Now, all the countries in which Christianity was settled between the beginning of the twelve hundred and sixty days, and the imprisonment of the dragon, may be understood by the wilderness, and by her place in particular. This place contained many countries; so that Christianity now reached, in an uninterrupted tract, from the eastern to the western empire; and both the emperors now lent their wings to the woman, and provided a safe abode for her. Where she is fed - By God rather than man; having little human help. For a time, and times, and half a time - The length of the several periods here mentioned seems to be nearly this: -
The non - chronos contains less than
The little time
The time, times, and half a time
The time of the beast
And comparing the prophecy and history together, they seem to begin and end nearly thus:
The non - chronos extends
from about 800 to 1836
The 1260 days of the woman
from 847 - 1524
The little time
947 - 1836
The time, time, and half
1058 - 1836
The time of the beast
between the beginning and end of the three times and a half
It is the bounden duty of every Christian to pray against Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the popery in the Church of Rome there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name. If there were to be issued a hue and cry for Antichrist, we should certainly take up this church on suspicion, and it would certainly not be let loose again, for it so exactly answers the description."
"Christ did not redeem His church with His blood so the pope could come in and steal away the glory. He never came from heaven to earth and poured out His very heart that He might purchase His people so that a poor sinner, a mere man, should be set upon high to be admired by all the nations and to call himself God’s representative on earth! Christ has always been the head of His church."
Suddenly in 1917 the restrainer can be none other than the Holy Spirit in the church. How did something so obvious elude the Early Church Fathers, theologians, pastors, and scholars for 1900 years?
2nd Thessalonians 2:3 ["the removal of that which restrains the mystery of lawlessness. The restrainer is a person--"he," and since a "mystery" always implies a supernatural element this Person can be none other than the Holy Spirit in the church, to be "taken out of the way""] - Scofield Reference Notes 1917
Scofield should have known that the Greek word musterion means something secret, hidden, or yet to be revealed; and does not imply that the thing to be made known is of any particular nature. It certainly does not "always" imply "a supernatural element".
Cyrus I. Scofield 1843 - 1921
Read these Protestant's commentary on Revelation 13 online at BibleStudyTools.com The Reformers believed they were living during the days of Revelation Ch. 12 & 13 because they were not familiar with Futurism or the pre-tribulation rapture theory.