Things aren't as bad as they could be. Or will be.

2 Thessalonians 2 (3)

Pray Psalm 79.8, 9.
Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us!
Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us,
For we have been brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
For the glory of Your name;
And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins,
For Your name’s sake!

Read 2 Thessalonians 2.5-8.

1. What is the “mystery of lawlessness”? In what sense or senses is it “already at work” among us? 

2. What is restraining the man of lawlessness from visiting destruction and waste (perdition) on all the world?

The “mystery of lawlessness” was already at work in Paul’s day, but it would get worse before the coming of the Lord. Paul had explained this to the Thessalonians while he was still with them. But the pressure from false teachers had caused them to begin losing sight of that sound instruction.

What is the “mystery of lawlessness”? We experience it every time we see something horrible or hear about something truly dastardly, and we say, “How can people do this to others?” Or when some white collar criminal is exposed, and we say, “How could he have so little regard for others?” Or when we hear the annual tally of abortions in this country, and we ask, “What’s wrong with people, that they cannot see the evil in this?” It’s indeed a mystery how people can be so cruel, deceitful, conniving, misleading, and lacking in compassion. The mystery of  lawlessness can be understood only in the light of the Law of God, which is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12). People who scorn that Law, preferring to be a law unto themselves, will do whatever they think they can get away with to satisfy their own selfish interests. No mystery there. The only mystery is just how deep and dark the sea of lawlessness can be.

But even now the man of lawlessness is restrained from visiting the worst of his destructive and wasteful ways on the world. God restrains him. The Holy Spirit restrains him. The presence of people who believe in God and who live by His Word and Law restrains him. The lingering echo of a Christian consensus in law and social order restrains the man of lawlessness. Even the fact that lawless people have the works of God’s Law written on their hearts restrains at least some of them from doing the worst they could imagine.

But a day is coming when those restraints will be lifted, probably gradually, and lawlessness will be the new law, the norm for human life. But before the man of lawlessness can destroy the world and himself, the Lord will return to do the job for him (v. 8). Paul intended to encourage the Thessalonians with these words, by giving them a context for understanding the lawlessness they were already experiencing and that which is yet to come.

1. How does God use individual believers to restrain the spread of lawlessness in their Personal Mission Field? 

2. When believers identify lawlessness within their spheres of influence, what should they do? What about when they find lawlessness in their own souls?

3. Lawlessness will continue and increase until Christ comes again. Does this mean we shouldn’t work hard to realize more of the presence, promise, and power of His Kingdom, coming on earth as it is in heaven? Explain.

That which restrains and prevents the coming of the lawless one is the Holy Spirit. Severian of Gabala (fl. ca. 400 AD), Pauline Commentary from the Greek Church

Lord, teach me to love Your Law, then use me to…

Pray Psalm 79.

Pray for the persecuted Church throughout the world. Pray that your own church will resist the lawlessness of the world and hold fast to the Word and work of God. And pray that God would restrain and reproach lawless people who mock His Name; and cause many of them to come to repentance.

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 79 (Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
O God the nations all Your inheritance have spoiled!
Your City have they ruined, Your temple they have soiled!
Your servants’ bodies all to the birds of heav’n are thrown;
The flesh of all Your faithful the jaws of beasts now own.

The blood of faithful servants like water flows around;
And none are there Your saints to commit into the ground.
Our neighbors mock and scorn us: How long, O Lord, how long?
How long will You be angry and scorn our mournful song?

Pour out, O Lord, Your wrath on all who deny Your Name;
Who trust You not nor seek You, bring down to deepest shame!
For they have with great rancor Your precious saints devoured;
Lay waste their habitation at this late dreadful hour.

Why should the nations mock and say, “Where now is their God?”
Let there be known among them harsh vengeance for our blood!
Hear, Lord, our groans and sighing; preserve us by Your pow’r.
For we are fairly dying each day and hour by hour.

Reproach those who reproach us with judgment sevenfold!
Let thanks and praise to You by Your precious flock be told.
We are Your sheep, O Savior, we thank You all our days.
Look on us with Your favor as we declare Your praise.

T. M. Moore

Where do 1 and 2 Thessalonians fit in the unfolding of God’s covenant? Order our workbook, God’s Covenant, and find out how all Scripture fits within this redemptive framework (click here).

Our course, 
Introduction to Biblical Theology, can help you gain a better overall understanding of the narrative and primary themes of Scripture, and of the best ways of approaching the study of God’s Word. For more information, or to enroll in this free course, watch this brief video (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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