What IS the 'lawlessness' of the Last Days?
How can we identify and avoid this condition?
hat is the "lawlessness" of the last days?
Anyone looking at the scriptures referring to conditions in the last days will have come across the term "lawlessness". In fact, the epitome and embodiment of the condition is the Man of Lawlessness himself, (2 Thess 2:8) who sums it all up and crowns lawlessness with his personal blessing.
Nevertheless, I found myself struggling to grasp exactly what lawlessness means, in real terms. So I set about praying and researching, to gain an understanding of what we might expect very soon.
Need to Know
It's very important to know not only what we are facing in these darkening last days, but also how to identify the problems. Could we be missing something significant that is a marker to a growing problem, one that will eventually become a global 'religion' and belief? How can we both identify and avoid lawlessness?
As I searched the bible for clues, I found that the word itself is straightforward, but the meaning is lost underneath centuries of misunderstanding. Simply put, the Greek word for lawlessness means having no law. Anomia. The Greek prefix 'A' means 'not' or 'without' as in A-theism, without gods. Nomos = law, and A-nomos = no law. Thus A-nomia just means, lawlessness.
We Must Dig Deeper
Knowing what the word means doesn't help, however. The bible references about lawlessness often relate to the Church or Christians, so where does the law fit in? We as evangelicals have become familiar with salvation by GRACE and - in that narrow sense - having no 'laws' that regulate our salvation and interaction with God. We see the LAW often as something separate to our experience of the Lord. It's almost as if law and grace are poles apart, although in fact they are all bound up in the one salvation.
But my study isn't about the role and relevance of the Old Testament legal system. We have to go much further back than that. We tend to think of the Law as having begun with Moses, and in one sense it did for Israel in particular, but lawlessness goes much deeper than the Mosaic Law as I shall show. It's very important to see what it actually means and where it began.
The second thing I found in searching for the word lawlessness in scripture is that the most common references are about the endtimes and biblical prophecy - surely a very important indication? Why should this be?
Matt 24:11-14 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
2 Thess 2:6-11 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Matt 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to Me,'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
Matt 13:41-43 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The Hypocrisy of Pharisees
Matt 23:27-28 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Lawlessness is sin
Rom 6:19 For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
2 Cor 6:14-15 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
1 John 3:4-8 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
The Twin Meanings
In the verses above we have lawlessness defined simply as SIN, but comparing and contrasting the two. We can expand on that by examining the endtimes scriptures that speak of a "mystery of lawlessness" as a religious rebellion, a falsehood, a pretence of belief with no real substance. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees was to display exaggerated faith and belief, following all the rules, but they were whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones. They held to a form of religion but "denying the power thereof".
But something startling appears, looking further into what Jesus said. Not only Jewish and other religious hypocrites but also fake Christians are included in the Mystery of Lawlessness in the last days. For the pious acts of the christian hypocrites include the supposed gifts of the Spirit like prophecy, signs and wonders, and exorcism. Nonetheless they are unknown to God, and practising lawlessness. Jesus says "who are you?".
There is a special sin in lawlessness that demonstrates a state of mind, a condition of the heart, that (no matter what the outward behaviour) indicates an inward REBELLION against the WILL OF GOD.
There is a special sin in lawlessness that demonstrates a state of mind, a condition of the heart, that (no matter what the outward behaviour) indicates an inward REBELLION against the WILL OF GOD. For in Matthew chapter 7 Jesus specifically lays out the problem of lawlessness: "Not everyone who says to Me,'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES THE WILL of My Father in heaven."
It is the WILL OF GOD that is the vital element in the sin of lawlessness.
The Original Rebellion
Having drilled down through the scriptures to reach this point, we begin to see the specific problem that leads to the deception of the Man of Lawlessness himself: a propensity to think we know better than God, and to do things OUR way instead of HIS way.
It matters not that people are performing "good" works like evangelism, preaching, teaching, pastoring, tithing, giving to the poor and so forth, when all that effort is a mere arrogant show of the human flesh and outside of God's will. Didn't Jesus commend the poor widow who honestly gave all she had, in contrast to the public parade of religious bigots who loved to make a show of their giving.
Let me take you back to the first instance (that we know of) where a little deviation from God's will turned into an eternal disaster of mega proportions, a disaster that continues to reverberate across the universe to this day. The fall of Lucifer.
As we know, God created all things pure, perfect, harmonious and in accordance with his word and his will. He created the heavenly beings, including Lucifer, who was a very wise and powerful being, a high angel, one of the Cherubim. We are told that he was, in fact, a "covering angel" with a guardship role in the heavenlies, and perhaps some kind of rulership role in the physical universe that gave him authority over the earth and its people. (Which is why he is still referred to as the "god" of this planet, even after his fall.)
The name Lucifer is translated from the Hebrew word "helel," which means "shining one" from 'halal' to shine.
Isaiah 14:12-14 suggests the high rank from which Lucifer fell: "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! ... You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High’"
(By the way, the Day Star, sometimes translated the "morning star" refers to the planet Venus rising above the horizon first thing in the morning. The path that Venus creates in its orbit around the physical heavens is a five-pointed star or pentagram! That is probably why it became the symbol for all things satanic.)
When Moses recreated what he had seen of heaven in the tabernacle, he created a "mercy seat/throne" and two cherubim who "covered" the mercy seat with their wings. God's presence then came and inhabited the mercy seat and sat between the covering angels. So we can understand the high position of Lucifer at the beginning, and realise from what he fell. Here we are told the sin of this formerly high angel, an "anointed covering angel".
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
By the abundance of your trading
You became filled with violence within,
And you sinned;
Therefore I cast you as a profane thing
Out of the mountain of God;
And I destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the fiery stones.
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor..."
Falling From High Renown
The LORD says of Lucifer, "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." He was perfectly wise! And yet he FELL, and created the sin of ANOMIA, lawlessness. This is where lawlessness has its origin.
Then Lucifer, still looking like a beautiful angelic creature, caused Adam and Eve to participate in the sin of lawlessness, and they also did not realise the significance of their "little" defection from the will of God.
Lawlessness in Eden
Adam and Eve were created after the defection of Lucifer and his legion of angels. Perhaps their creation was in part a strategy by God to eventually correct Luficer's grave error and its consequences. They - like everything else of God - were created perfect and able to communicate directly with God. The only thing they had to do was follow God's will and serve him ONLY.
As Jesus later said, the FIRST commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." [Matthew 22:37]. Everything follows on from that.
But Adam and Eve, who knew God personally, laid themselves open to exactly the same lawlessness that satan had already accepted. They wanted self-will and self-government.
Once again, it may not have seemed such a big deal! Satan seemed to be wise and clever, and he suggested that humans needn't be enslaved to God because surely they were able to think for themselves?
The tree that was forbidden (for some unreasonable legalistic nicety, says the deceiver) was actually GOOD - what was so wrong with that? It was "good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise" and therefore there seemed no harm in eating it EXCEPT that it was forbidden by God.
So the choice, you see, is not at heart choosing depravity and evil deeds over the commandments of God, but doing ANYTHING (good or bad) outside the will of God - humanism, self-rule, independence of God, the attitude of "I know best" and "what could it hurt?". All this eventually leads to the situation we have today in all the churches where every kind of worldly behaviour, ecumenism, interfaith, and even demonic activities feel acceptable.
It began with lawlessness, kicking over the traces and not caring whether it's God's will or not. It ends with the concept of "ye are gods" and "I don't need to heed the will of the Almighty Father at all".
Indeed, doctrine has changed in many churches from doing the will of GOD and obeying HIS commands, to God being obliged to enact every promise YOU proclaim. In those churches, to ask the question "Is it God's will" is almost seen as heresy!!
What then is Lawlessness?
In the Isaiah passage we read that Lucifer (later given the title satan, a Hebrew term meaning "Accuser", one who resists and accuses) aspired to be AS GOD.
That is, to have SELF-DETERMINATION and to decide his own plans, deeds and destiny. He says: "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God [the angels]; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High."
Remember that Lucifer had great wisdom, beauty, power and authority. Clearly, he knew and perfectly understood the will and ways of God. Yet it entered into his head to remove the restriction of having to heed the will of God in all things. Lucifer wanted to BE a god, to equal God in rulership and decision-making.
I want you to see this very important process that leads to lawlessness, because this is what is happening right now, and this is what will lead to the last days apostasy and eventual destruction of mankind. Lucifer reasoned that it would be no bad thing to relieve God the Father of the decision-making process and to take authority on his OWN to govern and act as HE saw fit.
Lucifer chafed against being a SERVANT and thought himself fit for a higher role, that of being equal to the Godhead. He didn't want to serve, but to make his own way and walk, outside the will of God.
Now notice, there was no such thing as 'sin' in all that God had created, and no choice to be made (as with mankind) between sin and righteousness. ALL was perfection. Yet the thought arose - a thought so attractive that eventually a third of God's holy angels agreed with it - that it was a GOOD thing to make your own decisions and not have to bow and scrape at the Throne to get everything done. No longer servants of God, but free-thinking individuals who knew how to choose for themselves.
YET as I said before (and here's the crucial thing), even though the choices people make are supposedly "good" or useful, helpful, righteous, or even biblically sound, IF they are outside the express and exact will of God, and in humble service to Him, they are "lawless acts". Because they overthrow the most fundamental law of the Universe, which is that GOD IS RULER OF ALL.
Those who do not do God's will
Let's remember what Jesus said to those who complain that they have done many good and biblical things "in his name". 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' Despite outward appearances, they are strangers to God, and unknown to him, for they are not his servants, but independent individuals doing their own will.
One passage in Romans draws from the analogy of service to a master, or "slavery" as is it translated. (The Greek word for 'servant' and 'slave' are identical by the way.)
Rom 6:19 "For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness".
See how Paul speaks of lawlessness in terms of presenting yourself as a slave, either to sin or to God. It's about service! If you faithfully carry out the commands of your master, you are a worthy servant; but if you disobey and do your own thing you are "lawless" a REBEL, because you refuse to do as you are told.
Lawlessness is rebellion.
A slave who defects from his bonds and his master and runs away, is called in Greek an "apostate"! Apostasy is departing from the place of obedience - either of a religious system, legal system or employment system.
Now we see the true nature of the Great Apostasy that befalls the Church and world. (2 Thess). It is a defection from the faithful service of God, and of obeying the commands by which he directs us by means of the Holy Spirit and the written word.
The APOSTATES of the last days - ultimately the Lawless One himself - will not necessarily look evil, anarchic, demonic and godless but will probably be the opposite. They will APPEAR to be religious, Christian even, but in fact will have made up their own rules!! They are in rebellion against the will of God, his rulership, but their alternative faith system appears to be good, enjoyable, exciting even.
Not Anarchy, but Self Rule
We tend to think of rebellion or anarchy as rioting, violent uprisings, flag-waving destruction running amok in the streets. However, if we see lawlessness - rebellion - in that way we miss the subtle truth of it.
Self-rule can present itself as the most affable and acceptable alternative to serving God.
It is still the ultimate aim of Lucifer - that Dragon of Revelation and his minions - to BE gods, even to overturn God and his rulership both in Israel and the Church, and to install self-rule. We know that he will eventually seat himself in the temple, proclaiming himself to be above all gods. Before that however, he will try to establish his personal viewpoint in the world and the Church.
He's already doing that!
He's managed to replace the commandments of God with the rule of MAN in most of the church; he's changed the gospel message to one of dominion over the nations, and he's well on the way to eliminating the bible as well. All based on the idea that listening to and obeying God, putting him first, is optional. Yet in fact it's the ONLY requirement.
The one who looks in another direction is unfaithful. Apostate. We then become the same kind of adulterous Bride, or Harlot, as was Israel of old. God says through Jeremiah (chapter 7) that:
"For I did not speak to your fathers, nor command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts... they did not obey Me nor incline their ear, but stiffened their neck."
And those who are chastised and rejected in the last days have fallen into the same snare. "Not everyone who says to Me,'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven". Matt 7:21-23
Servant and Slave
Isn't it curious that we are so unwilling to be bought by God as a fulltime slave that we even translate the Greek for it as "servant" to soften the blow. A servant is a paid hireling, but a slave is owned, and we ARE owned, bought by the blood of Christ, marked as his, and incorporated into his household for all eternity. If we don't like that concept, we shouldn't sign up for it in the first place.
It doesn't seem to have occurred to many christians that in the afterlife, for all eternity, we and everyone else in God's presence will be DOING THE WILL OF THE FATHER. If that seems like a heavy burden to bear on earth, how will we enter into his presence and happily bow the knee there?
In coming to God, we don't cast off the yoke entirely but receive a BETTER yoke, for "my yoke is easy and my burden is light"
Jesus never said there WAS no yoke!
The entire universe is run on the principle of obedience to God, and if we are disposed not to agree, or think we know better (or want self-rule) then are we any different to Lucifer or Adam and Eve in those early days? It did not take very much for them to defect from perfect obedience!
And that enticing temptation to pervert the course of obedience into a more comfortable and self-satisfying religion is at the heart of both the lawlessness of the last days AND the Man of Lawlessness himself.
That is how urgently we must consider our ways and determine right now to be nothing more or less than humble servants of God.
NOTE: I link sometimes to material that may add some further research or thoughts, but that does not mean I approve of everything that person writes or does, nor does it imply blanket approval of another website. Be cautious!
© 2015 Tricia Tillin. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.