As we read through the Book of Revelation its sad and rather startling to observe so many people becoming openly hostile to God. Theres always been a percentage of the human population who were rebels who fearlessly defied God and His laws, and an even larger percentage who pretend to serve Him but dont. But we havent seen blatant hatred of God on a world-wide scale, yet John tells us the world is headed in that direction. In the last days God will remove all restraints allowing spiritual deception to expand on a scale history has never seen (Rev 13, 17). Nowhere do we find a simpler explanation of this terrible moment and its underlying cause than in Pauls second letter to the church in Thessalonica. So today well step away from Johns revelations to let Paul show us not only whats ahead for the world, but also how each of us can avoid being trapped by the mystery of lawlessness because this deluding influence is already at work in the world.
A. Signs that tell us the Day of the Lord is drawing near
v 1, 2 Day of the Lord: The coming of Jesus (Return); Our gathering together to Him (Rapture)
v 3 Apostasy: a massive turning away from God to worship the antichrist.
Definition: forsake, revolt against, desert, withdraw from; Literal: to stand apart from; Ac 21:21 (literal) they were informed about you that you teach apostasy from Moses . . .; Certificate of divorce: a document of apostasy (Mt 5:31; 19:7; Mk 10:4); Jesus warning (Mt 24:9-27 many will fall away); Pauls warning (1Ti 4:1 in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons)
vs 3, 4 man of lawlessness: the antichrist
Lawlessness: the attempt to overthrow Gods government, rejecting the will of God, substituting the will of self; Mystery of lawlessness: the ever present spiritual influence that tries to lure us toward lawlessness
What is its source? Satan hates God and longs to be worshipped (Eze 28:2, 11-19; King of Tyre; Is 14:12-14, King of Babylon); At the mid-point of the tribulation Satan will come to earth and possess the antichrist, demanding that the world worship him (Rev 13). Before that the antichrist will promote another religion hostile to Judaism and Christianity (Rev 17: 16, 17)
Mt 24:15 abomination of desolation
Da 7:8, 11 a mouth uttering great boasts; Da 9:27 he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering
vs 5, 6 what restrains him... in his time he will be revealed; vs 7 He who restrains; Rev 6:1-8 the four living creatures say come!
Mystery of Lawlessness
Though it may seem bad now we are living in a time when God is actively restraining evil. He limits the enemys power in order to prevent him from halting this season of the ingathering of souls. Satans desire is to setup a world-wide empire that violently opposes the worship of Christ and forces people to worship his representative. This spirit of antichrist has tried to take control many times over the centuries. It first expressed itself as a world-wide empire in Genesis 10:8-12; 11:1-9. At that time God divided the earth into languages so no one person could rule everything. His plan was to ensure that there would always be opposing groups to halt the expansion of the antichrist spirit. This lists of beasts in Da 7:4-7 were attempts for this spirit to arise. Nebuchadnezzars statue of himself which all were to worship was a classic expression of the antichrist spirit (Da 3). In the recent past Adolf Hitler tried to arise as an antichrist but the allied nations opposed and defeated him. But that spirit lives on looking for an opportunity to be exposed.
vs 8, 9 that lawless one will be revealed; Why will God release him for a season? He will drive him out of heaven and from there he will come to the earth. The world will give him power by believing his lies. God will let humanity have what it desires for a time.
v 10 The deception of wickedness: a great deception will come over the entire earth which will affect everyone who did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved; As the end draws near deception, blaspheme and persecution will grow stronger. The price that must be paid for loving the truth will grow higher. The earth will divide into extremes. The undecided middle will disappear. Fear and deception will force people to choose.
B. Who will be vulnerable to deception?
Paul says they are those who did not receive the love of the truth and did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness (v 12)
1) Character is the accumulation of a lifetime of choices; 2) Repentance begins the transformation of character because we make a foundational decision to obey God we start making new and different choices, which in time reforms our character; 3) There are foolish choices we make out of ignorance and there are deliberate acts of defiance toward what we know is right; 4) Deliberate acts of defiance accumulate until we pass a threshold where we become hopelessly enslaved (Jn 8:34 . . . I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin; Mt 13:12-16 ears that cant hear, eyes that cant see)
v 11 God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false: At some point God will ratify our choice to refuse Him. He knows when the conscience dies, when we can no longer feel shame, when we are unable to repent (Ro 1:24, 26, 28 God gave them over . . . ; Ex 10:1 I have hardened his heart (made stubborn); Jn 3:19-21 men loved the darkness)
Application: People who dont love the truth enough to die for their faith if necessary (Rev 12:11) become vulnerable to deception. Fear of persecution, an environment filled with blaspheme and demonic miracles will mislead, if possible, even the elect (Mt 24:24) (2Ti 3:13 they will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived; 2Ti 4:3, 4 they will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths)
C. Who does God protect?
God protects those who love the truth, who build their house on the rock (Mt 7:24); Ro 8:35-39 who will separate us from the love of Christ; 2Ti 2:12 He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day; Jdg 1:24 He is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy; Mt 28:20 He is with you always, even to the end of the age; He 13:5, 6 He will never desert you, nor will (He) ever forsake you
Questions: 1) What signs of the mystery of lawlessness do you see at work in the world today? 2) How do you see the love of truth at work in your life. When did this commitment to truth begin in you?