In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes what must take place before Christ's return: the falling away, the removal of the restrainer, then the revealing of the lawless one (man of sin - son of perdition - antichrist - false prophet), "whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming".
Until a few days ago, I had never heard of this 'restrainer'. After reading this chapter and an excellent blog post by CadyandZoe, it seems clear to me this 'restrainer' is the Holy Spirit, who's work in the world today is actually preventing the antichrist from coming to power.
So my question to everyone is this: does the falling away occur first, after which the restrainer is taken out of the way because people are no longer interested in truth or sound doctrine, or does his removal actually trigger the falling away because they are no longer enlightened? I believe it is the former based on the following scripture:
2 Timothy 2:2-4
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
2 Peter 3:3-4,8-9
scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.