2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day (of the Lord’s return) will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? 6 And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming.
Paul refers to some prior teaching known to his readers but not to us – which makes this a hard passage to understand. Nevertheless I’m intrigued by the phrase “mystery of lawlessness”. What the heck is that? In other letters Paul refers to the “mystery of Christ” or “mystery of God” or “mystery of the will of God”. In all cases these are hidden things that are being revealed.
It could be that the “mystery of lawlessness” reveals the source of “lawlessness”, which are forces in opposition to the law and will of God; things like violence, hate, corruption, deception, neglect of the poor, injustice, and so on. These can seem like random things not connected to one another, but Paul suggests they are connected.
This past weekend we all witnessed the horror of persons injured and killed in acts of violence during protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville, VA. What is in the mind and heart of someone who decides to crash his speeding car into a crowd of defenseless pedestrians? What are people thinking when they extend their right arms and yell “Seig heil!” imitating the monstrous mass-murder Adolf Hitler? Where does the impetus for such outrageous and hateful behavior come from? It makes no sense. Perhaps such things are indicative of what the apostle Paul refers to as the “mystery of lawlessness”.
For Christian believers this should be no mystery at all. There is an ancient evil present in the world, perpetrated by the adversary of God known as Satan (FYI “Satan” is the Hebrew word for “adversary”). Paul explains further in Ephesians 6:12…
12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Gracious God we mourn for all those injured and killed in Charlottesville this past weekend. Such violence and hate has no place in your kingdom. We know that one day such evil will be a thing of the past. Until then, give us grace to be advocates of all things good and right and holy. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.