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. 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;
2 Thessalonians 2:3-8
Paul has surely written some amazing things as Peter attested 2 Peter 3:16, and the above verse comes to mind in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings last Friday. The idea that jumps out from the verses above is the “mystery of lawlessness” and “he who now restrains” this lawlessness. Certainly we’re curious about who or what that restraining entity is, but presently I’m wondering just what the world would be like once that restraint is actually removed.
The words “unspeakable evil” are used to describe what happened to those first graders and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and this is certainly the case. This also fits plenty of other behaviors inflicted on way too many communities across our nation and around the world. It’s been said the mind can hardly grasp the horror of those shootings. But I’m wondering, if today there is such a restraint upon lawlessness and such acts of barbarism and terror are occurring anyway, on what scale is evil going to be rampant after the restraint is removed?
If you have a decent grasp of history you know there has been no lack of evil anywhere on this planet starting from the first murder in the Garden forward. Man has a seemingly insatiable appetite to wreak havoc. Rulers reign as despots gobbling up neighboring nations, and even neighbors terrorize each other while peaceful innocents suffer the aftermath. No, there have been far more cruel epochs to suffer through than the present times, and yet we look at the headlines daily and wonder at our current civilization and the barbarous acts of the deranged and wonder what can be done.
But when Paul mentions that the restraint of evil is going to be removed can you imagine how bad it is really going to get? And when the restraint is removed just how will all that unspeakable evil really be dealt with by individuals and governments? The odds will be stacked against them. (No wonder Christians think the restraining force is the Church (see 1 Thes. 4:17 and Revelation 4:1) through the Holy Spirit since they sure don’t want to be around when all this super-lawlessness is going on!) Note the verse following (v. 11, 12) “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.” Already there is enough of that to go around. Just today a news story appeared quoting someone, a boy in a Utah middle school, stating we should fear those with autism since the Sandy Hook school shooter is reported to have Asperger’s, a form of autism. Just one example of the disinformation and confusion the public can fall for and believe as the “truth.” Once there is no certainty of what is true and false, and that line that line seems to be diminishing rapidly, there is no telling the scope of anarchy will result.
Once “he who restrains” is taken out of the way – watch out. Quite literally, as the saying goes, all Hell will break loose. But fortunately that isn’t the end of the story. Because as Paul states in verse 8, the “Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” the evil one and all those martialled against Him. Spoiler alert! Read the last chapters of the Book of Revelation. God wins over evil, and evil and death and Satan are all thrown into the Lake of Fire for Eternity and God’s new creation is produced all who have become His children will enjoy Him forever. And life as it was meant to be will be ours to explore with Him at the helm!
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]