Recently, there have been radio programs discussing the referent to the apostle Paul’s mention of a “restrainer.” What is baffling is that these programs have completely ignored Colin Nicholl’s research on the evidence of Michael being the Restrainer. Scholars in the last ten years who have been writing commentaries and other monographs have of course recognized this scholarship and find it compelling, but unfortunately it has not made its way to more popular literature.
It is noteworthy that Paul in 2 Thess 2 is citing from (1) the most explicit resurrection passage in the OT (Paul links the resurrection with the parousia in both of his Thessalonian epistles), and (2) the most explicit Antichrist passage in the OT: Dan 11:36–12:4. When you follow the interpretative yellow brick road, you find in this same OT passage (LXX) the archangel Michael ceasing his restraining protection over Israel in the context of the abomination of desolation and which causes the great tribulation (Dan 12:1). Why look for other OT passages when Paul’s source passage is right in front of our noses?
Identifying Michael as the Restrainer is significant because it shows us the larger picture of the sequence of events that Paul describes in 2 Thess 2 which correspond consistently in Dan 11:36–12:4.
Here is where you can find Nicholl’s publications: April 2000 volume of The Journal of Theological Studies, “Michael, The Restrainer Removed (2 Thess. 2:6-7).” After his journal article was published, Nicholl published it as an appendix in his important monograph (which was his dissertation) From Hope to Despair in Thessalonica: Situating 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
There is much more evidence than mentioned above that demonstrates Michael as the Restrainer, conditions which no other candidate can meet.