The Mystery of Lawlessness

Will The AntiChrist Be Revealed on August 30th?

I recently saw and heard a message by a prominent TV Evangelist, who preached that the AntiChrist would be revealed on August 30, 2016 (today!).  Here is my response to his message:

In his Second Letter to the Church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote about the conditions of lawlessness that would exist in the world prior to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (II Thessalonians 2:1-2)

Evidently, the Thessalonians believed  that Jesus had already returned to claim his Church and that they had been left behind.

Paul explained in explicit terms, however, that they should not be so deceived in any way, for several events needed to take place before Christ’s actual return:

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (II Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Personally, I believe that many of the prophecies (see Matthew 24 and Mark 13) about the AntiChrist, Jerusalem’s being surrounded by armies, about earthquakes, the great tribulation, and the ensuing destruction of the Temple relate to the events in Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A.D., when Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian, and the same Titus who eventually became the Emperor of Rome himself, invaded the city with his legions of Roman soldiers, killing many Jews and destroying the Second Temple built by King Herod.  It is believed that Titus did not want to destroy the Temple, but instead wanted to convert it into a Roman temple for the worship of Roman gods (see below). He wanted no rewards for his conquest of Jerusalem, claiming only to be an “instrument of god’s wrath” (Source).  

And while Titus himself tried to divert beliefs in his own deity, in spite of the political advantages, he was clearly complicit in the supposed “deification” of his father, Vespasian:

Vespasian’s curiosity in the rumours that the gods were on his side during his lifetime led to the action of his son and heir Titus to pursue immediate posthumous deification of Vespasian. Titus established a cult institution in the name of his father through the construction of the Temple of Vespasian near the Tabularium at Pompeii purely out of homage to his father and his efforts during his reign, a move devoid of political intentions but likely not devoid of political interpretation.

Despite a personal aversion to deification, appeals to godly ancestry and the apparent slew of omens following him throughout his lifetime, Vespasian utilised provincial interests in his divine right to rule to maintain loyalty to the imperial centre in his living years, and spent less than a year in mortal death before his successor placed his name among the deified Julio-Claudian emperors. (Source)

The Mystery of Lawlessness

Paul, however, wrote the following description of the events to come before the return of Christ, (I again am referring to Paul’s Second letter to the Thessalonians):

Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (II Thessalonians 2:5-12)

While Titus himself sought to separate himself from claims of deity, he took direct action to ensure that his father, Emperor Vespasian, received divine recognition:

Vespasian’s curiosity in the rumours that the gods were on his side during his lifetime led to the action of his son and heir Titus to pursue immediate posthumous deification of Vespasian. Titus established a cult institution in the name of his father through the construction of the Temple of Vespasian near the Tabularium at Pompeii purely out of homage to his father and his efforts during his reign, a move devoid of political intentions but likely not devoid of political interpretation. (Source)

. . . .Vespasian was said to have possessed numen, which can be received by animals and inanimate objects, through Suetonius’ account of an ox which broke free of its yoke to burst into Vespasian’s dining room and bow its head at his feet, implying the process of freeing Rome from tyranny and submitting to a new welcome ruler. This sign of change heralded by supernatural events emerged frequently (during Vespasian’s rule. . . . Furthermore, Suetonius, however unreliably, also spoke of a stray dog which burst into Vespasian’s dining quarters and placed a severed hand at his feet, a sign to Roman society of divinity and inherent power. . . .In an attempt to maintain his auctoritas within the empire’s provinces, which Tacitus claimed he was lacking, Vespasian’s visit to Alexandria in AD 69 witnessed his public performance of miracles in apparent collaboration with the god Serapis to maintain provincial loyalty, healing two Alexandrians, one blind and one lame, despite his own doubt in his divine power. (Source)

Please note the references in this quotation to the “signs and wonders” attributed to Vespasian.  This description mirrors the one Paul writes about:  “One whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish”  (II Thessalonians 2:10-11). And Vespasian’s visit to Alexandria occurred in A.D. 69, just one year before his son’s military triumph in Jerusalem.

The Apostasy

Paul’s teaching is also clear for us today that the “Day of the Lord” has still not arrived, for a number of events have yet to happened.  Unless we are deluding ourselves, for example, the “apostasy” has not yet occurred, and even though many Christians seem to be losing their trust in God and falling away from the Faith, the Lord’s Church is still growing and increasing proportionally overall, even in countries like Cuba and China, or in Muslim countries, where Christianity is vehemently opposed.

The Apostle John had something specific to say about this question:

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were notreally of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.  (I John 2:18-19)

Nevertheless, Paul also wrote that “the mystery of lawlessness” is “already at work,” a condition that today seems just as prominent, and one that appears to be growing and increasing.  We need to discern what this “mystery of lawlessness” is, therefore, in order not to fall prey to deception ourselves.

What Is Lawlessness?

Paul provides a clue for understanding what the “mystery of lawlessness” is in verse 10 of II Thessalonians, Chapter 2:10-11:  Paul wrote that the “lawless one will be revealed,” who will appear with “all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.”

We see from this description that resisting a “love of the truth” is what hinders people from being saved, a condition that leads to “lawlessness.”  In our world today, unfortunately, we are seeing an increasing trend towards lawlessness, which means also that people no longer have a love of the truth and are increasingly inclined to break the laws of the land.

My Experiences with Seeking The Truth

As a high school English teacher, and eventually a university English professor, I prepared with 12 years of college level education classes beyond high school.  My motive was not only to gain the knowledge and skills I needed to obtain a good teaching position, but also to learn about the world I lived in.  I survived any number of classes that I intuitively knew would not help me become an English teacher, such as Calculus and Chemistry, yet I still gained a level of wisdom, having experienced large portions of the world’s history and knowledge that was most likely beyond my reach intellectually. (I had to take an Introduction to Calculus class pass/fail, for example!)  

I can’t say that I loved some of the classes I took, but I loved learning, and I love learning to this day. In 1970, when I began my classes in higher education, I wanted to learn the truth about history, mathematics, philosophy, and music.  And in those days, it was believed that the truth could be discovered by uncovering facts and using sound logic.  

In the fall of 1972, when I began my classes in graduate education, I still wanted to learn the truth about history, mathematics, philosophy, and music.  And in those days, I still believed that the truth could be discovered by uncovering facts and using sound logic or using background information to judge an author’s intentions.  Imagine my surprise, however, when as a post-graduate student in my Master’s program I found that literature professors and experts no longer believed that the written word was definitive; they believed that it could never be deciphered and understood accurately with certainty.  

Imagine my surprise, however, when as a post-graduate student in my Master’s program I found that literature professors and other academic experts no longer believed that the written word was definitive; they believed that it could never be deciphered and understood accurately with certainty.  I was told that the words I was reading in a poem or story changed all the time, just because I was reading them!

I also discovered that even the facts of history were “open to interpretation,” and that the lessons of history were at that time subject to opinion and these opinions could even be revised for propaganda purposes.  I found that many arguments in favor of one political or strategic direction, for example, could be made on both sides of an argument, and people would feel satisfied that they had found the right answer or the correct direction to take.  It was commonly stated that “everyone has a right to his or her own opinion,” a belief that made everyone’s opinion equally valid since there was no way we could ultimately find the “truth” about any matter.  We all were supposed to believe like Pontius Pilate, who said, “What is truth?”  No longer was finding “absolute truth” possible. In academia, it all became a matter of “who makes the best case/argument.”

Today, conditions have devolved to the point where the truths of Scripture and the standards declared in the U.S. Constitution are no longer sufficient to reveal the truth about how we should live our lives. One reason Christians are so despised in today’s culture is that Christians believe that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and that the Scriptures reveal the truth about who we are and what our place is in this world.  Thus, we Christians are declared to be ignorant fools who believe in “fairy tales.”  And many of today’s political leaders no longer feel inclined to follow the strictures of the U.S. Constitution, in spite of their oaths to do so.  

If you want to see the lawlessness that commonly exists in our culture, a lawlessness that is based on the lack of a “love of the truth,” you have only to look at the many comments and replies to articles or posts on the internet.  Instead of sound logic or appeals to factual authority, arguments are most typically made using obscenities or name calling (ad hominem attacks, a logical fallacy indeed!).  

The Results of Lawlessness

I do not mean to imply that we need to become legalistic, seeking only to follow rules and regulations, for “We have been set free from the Law of sin and death”:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:1-3).  

Paul’s message to us today is the same as the one he wrote so many years ago.  We must not be deceived by the “mystery of lawlessness.”

On the other hand, here are some of the consequences in today’s world of lawlessness and the refusal to seek after, and love, the Truth:

  • An increase in “wickedness.”  Believing and practicing what is evil or bad.
  • The increasing rejection and turning away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the educational and political realms, a refusal even to consider biblical claims.
  • A lack of respect for those in authority, whose job it is to enforce the laws of the land.
  • We have been influenced by a “deluding influence so that people believe what is false,” as Paul describes it in II Thessalonians 2:11.

Based on these conditions, I do not doubt that the “man of lawlessness” may soon be revealed for who he is.

However, Jesus was explicitly clear about these questions He replied to His disciples when they asked Him “When will these things be?” (Mark 13:4):

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

“Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. (Matthew 13:24-33).

Conclusion

I am nearly 70 years old, and I have yet to hear any predictions about the End Times, particularly those that include dates and years, that have come true.  As it is, the sun has now set on August 30th, and I have yet to learn exactly who the Antichrist is.

 

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