One of the signs that Jesus spoke about indicating that the end times were near is that there would be an increase in lawlessness (Matthew 24:12-13).
The Greek word ‘amonia’, translated lawlessness, refers to a complete disregard for the law. It is a time when there is nothing restraining illegal behaviour. It is similar to a period described in the book of Judges, when we are told that people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).
But the English word ‘increase’ really doesn’t do the Greek word ‘plethyno’ justice, because it means multiply. Derivatives of this word are used to describe floods. So, Jesus was stating that one of the signs of the end times would be a rapidly rising state of lawlessness.
In 2 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul provides a more detailed explanation informing us that the “mystery” source of this push towards lawlessness is satanic:
6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 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. 8 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. (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 ESV)
In the verse, Paul ultimately connects this lawlessness to the Antichrist, the ‘lawless one’, who will come to power as a world ruler. And some speculate that this lawlessness may pave the way for people to accept the antichrist rule because he will appear offering a solution (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
But in this passage, Paul also talks about a force restraining the spirit of lawlessness and many have wondered who or what that force is. Of course, as believers we immediately think the Holy Spirit is the one who is restraining the spirit of lawlessness on the earth.
But that may be only partially true.
I remember a class I took in my seminary days, when my professor, Dr. Dahms, had a different idea on whom or should I say what the restrainer might be. He stated in this passage, that Paul referred to the restrainer as both gender-neutral, essentially an ‘it’ when he said “what is restraining” the lawless one and then later in this passage Paul also referred to the restrainer as the masculine ‘he’ or a person.
So, it becomes a bit confusing when we have both ‘it’ and ‘he’ being used to describe the restrainer. Because, as a person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit can’t be described as it.
But I think Dr. Dahms nailed it when he said that in his opinion ‘it’ referred to government, and ‘He’ referred to the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is restraining lawlessness through governments.
And this idea of governments as part of the restraining process is confirmed in the verse from Judges that I mentioned earlier, which reads that everyone was doing right in their own eyes, because there was no ‘king’ or human authority to restrain this lawlessness.
So, if this interpretation is right, in order for a spirit of lawlessness to gain control, it must first compromise governments. Ultimately lawlessness is attributed to a failure of government.
Unfortunately, we are seeing hints of this happening in the US with protestors demanding that police be defunded. Several city councils have actually started cutting police funding and these cites are seeing a marked increase in violence. Though they argue police cuts would reverse crime, the exact opposite is happening.
In Seattle, city councillors are considering going another step and exempting people from criminal charges if they claim poverty, addiction or mental and emotional problems. What concerns many is that they don’t have to prove it, they only need to claim it, to avoid charges.
In his article discussing the proposed legislation, Seattle 770KTTH talk show host Jason Rantz explains:
The model bill tells prosecutors to consider dismissing charges against a suspect “experiencing symptoms of a behavioral health disorder” while they committed the crime. What is considered a behavioral health disorder? Well, a lot, as defined by RCW 71.05.020:
‘Mental disorder’ means any organic, mental, or emotional impairment which has substantial adverse effects on a person’s cognitive or volitional function.
In other words, you could claim you experienced symptoms of anxiety during the crime. But how could the prosecution prove otherwise? Scott Lindsay, former public safety adviser to Mayor Ed Murray, noted in a white paper that “there is no practical way for a prosecutor to disprove a defendant’s claim that they are experiencing symptoms of a mental disorder.” He concludes:
The standard to satisfy either of the two ‘symptoms of behavioral health disorder’ defenses is so low, it is euphemistic to call them defenses. For all practical purposes, this legislation would provide blanket immunity from misdemeanor prosecution for virtually all non-DUI/DV defendants. Any credible claim of anxiety, depression, trauma, or addiction would make the defendant un-prosecutable for the vast majority of crimes in the Seattle Municipal Code, no matter how many times the defendant had committed the crime or how egregious the circumstances.
Fortunately, at this point only a few American cities have engaged these lawless philosophies, but it demonstrates how easily it can happen.
As Paul explains in Thessalonians, the spirit of lawlessness is an active force continually pushing governments in a certain direction and has been since Paul’s day. At one point, this will be allowed to happen, but it does not mean it is supposed to happen now. And we need to follow the advice Paul gave when he encouraged believers to pray for those in authority “so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives” (2 Timothy 2:2).
So as we see lawlessness raising its ugly head, we need to start praying for those in authority. The following headlines and tweets from recent weeks, may give you a better idea where things are at.
READ: NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea blames budget cuts for shootings spike AND City Council passes $88.1 billion budget with $1 billion in cuts to NYPD AND As disorder rises, de Blasio is still finding new ways to handcuff cops
READ: New York City will take $1 billion from police budget, but many say it doesn’t go far enough AND Surveillance camera captures wild machete fight inside a Bronx bodega as terrified NYC store owners beg Bill de Blasio to REFUND the police, saying ‘gangs have taken over’