My original intention for this week’s post was to bring up another crazy thing Christians think, but another pressing matter is at hand. That critical matter has to do with the biblical truth about what must occur before Jesus returns: the appearance of what Paul called “the man of lawlessness” or “the son of destruction.”

What I write is my opinion, but I trust is biblically based. I do not claim to have revelation or knowledge from God about the specifics of the events that precede Jesus’ return. So, please feel free to reject what I say. Nothing I write here is a cause for believers to suffer division. However, one truth is not arguable. The lawless one must appear before Jesus returns. There is much to discuss here, but for this article, we’ll deal with only one topic: the nature of the lawlessness to come.

The passage we’ll be looking at is from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. He’s making sure the believers there understand that Jesus had not returned yet. So, he tells them about the events that will occur before an event called the Parousia. He writes,

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–12). 1

I once thought that the lawlessness that would accompany this son of destruction was something akin to anarchy. However, when the New Testament speaks of lawlessness, it most often refers to moral lawlessness. Here is but one example among many:

“I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:19).

Current evidence of deleterious impurity, certainly in my home country, the United States, offers verification of what may be the preparation for such a lawless man. Europe and even Israel reveal this, as well. I cannot speak with any accuracy concerning other nations. However, if I’m right, I would expect equal, if not exceeding, moral degradation to be occurring in other places, too.

I also considered the reality that governments of all kinds would restrain anarchy with physical force. It’s just the way the world works. In “noble” governments, that endeavor would—and is—in force to maintain safety for the civilian population. For those governments more given to dictatorial rule, those in power would want to remain in power, regardless of the cost to safety.

However, I have now come to view that both positions may be legitimate. This statement from Jesus, concerning the last days, led to my earlier belief that lawlessness had to do with the danger and treachery of criminal and barbarous behavior:

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:9–14).

This made and still makes sense to me, at least as I view what has happened in my country in the last few decades. When I was a young man, people hitchhiked. I rarely see this anymore. Why? Hitchhikers are afraid of being picked up by a murderous person. Conversely, drivers are afraid of picking up a murderous person. When I was twenty-two years old, a friend of a friend let me sleep on the couch in his living room for a few days because I had nowhere else to stay. I assume this is relatively rare these days. We lock our doors more than we used to. We don’t leave things out in the yard like we used to. We don’t leave garage doors open like we used to. When I was a child, neither my neighborhood friends nor their parents were concerned about kids playing outside without adult supervision. We’ve all now seen tragic news reports and documentaries about child abductions, molestations, and rape, even of babies. We’re not sure if we should trust old men or even males in general. Sometimes blacks don’t trust whites. Sometimes whites don’t trust blacks. Sometimes Hispanics don’t trust whites or blacks and vice versa. Sometimes we don’t trust people from the Middle East. We’re worried someone, out of nowhere, will shoot us, stab us, or bomb us. We’re not sure we should trust even our own relatives. Because lawlessness has increased, we don’t trust almost anyone anymore, and our love for others grows cold.

Jesus prophesied this would happen before the end of all things, before He returns.

That which restrains is being taken out of the way in preparation for the appearance of the man of lawlessness.

More on this next time.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.