We already know that one of the signs of the approaching ‘End of Days’ is the increase of all kinds of lawlessness. Have you wondered how that might come about, what is the cause? Also, why does it happen – what is God’s longterm plan in allowing sin to increase so drastically.
Paul was very graphic about what would be the condition of mankind in those last days. He said:
“… in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
[2 Timothy 3:2-5]
The startling thing about these verses, if you read that chapter as a whole, is that they were applied to the elders, leaders and supposed believers in the Body of Christ.
The Church Perverted
Far from evolving into an ever-more Christlike Body, the reverse is true as we pass through the centuries, and so we end up with influential parts of the Church becoming as described above – conceited, ungodly, hypocritical, abusive and all the rest. “Such people AVOID” Paul says to Timothy.
That is a word of wisdom and a biblical command. If you are drawn into some kind of false fellowship involving abusive leadership, ungodly practices, arrogance and the love of money then RUN. Avoid such churches!
However, that is not the main point I wanted to make.
The Days of Noah
One clue to the endtimes is – as Paul pointed out – the perversion of the Church on earth. That is happening before our eyes right now! Yet there is more.
Mankind as a whole is heading down an ungodly path in increasing amounts of rebellion and blasphemy. I hardly need to point out examples, as we read of it every day and hour in the media, we see it in our towns and villages, we experience it in our everyday lives.
From the very first years of mankind’s existence on this planet, there’s been a decline.
It led swiftly to the universal evil of the days of Noah when the “every thought of [man’s] heart was only evil continually”.
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagining of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord repented that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart. And the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air, for I repent that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6: 5-8
Jesus warned that that evil condition of humanity would recur just before his coming, that life on earth would be “as in the days of Noah”. How far away are we from that today?
And HOW does it come about?
Is Restraint Being Removed?
I now perceive in this world a definite PROCESS taking place.
It differs from nation to nation and person to person, yet it’s the same basic process – that of giving opportunity to evil, removing the protective barriers, in order to allow wicked behaviour to escalate.
It’s a prophesied escalation of sin and rebellion, and also permitted in the overall will of God.
Why would God stand back and allow the fallen nature to rise up in a full measure?
Why would God allow unrestrained corruption of the churches, with false doctrines and sinful behaviour? It is because sin MUST come to a full and obvious expression in each person and nation in order for God to judge righteously in due time.
They rightly say, give a man enough rope and he’ll hang himself.
This is why restraint and eventually the Restrainer must be removed; with the result that the earth returns to the days of Noah, choosing the Devil as their Saviour instead of Jesus Christ and God!
If you read where Paul prophesied of these days you will see the result plainly:
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. … For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. … [the deceived] perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie…
2 Thess 2: 3-12
Two things: (1) sin and lawlessness and the work of the Devil are ALREADY at work (even in Paul’s day) but must be brought to fullness, and (2) it is GOD who SENDS the “powerful delusion”.
Thus the process of bringing sin to light, and presenting a challenge to the entire human race as well as the Church is a process (happening before our eyes increasingly) of undoing the restraints and allowing sin to emerge fullblown in order to test the metal of man’s avowed beliefs and behaviour.
It is to provide opportunities for the TRUTH of the inward heart to emerge into the daylight of reality.
Wickedness and rebellion, as we see, have always been present, have long been at work, yet for centuries evil has not had the opportunities of today’s culture in which to express itself.
Surely no other world until today has been so universally dark, hedonistic, violent, depraved and permissive? Surely no other global society has rejoiced in sin and the abandonment of all moral values as universally as this one?
The Church Under Pressure
As far as Christians are concerned, simple declarations of belief are not enough. Any hypocrite can put on a good appearance, learn to say the correct things. But what is in his innermost heart?
How can we know, how can we see, until the opportunity arises for him to demonstrate his true condition?
There have been social experiments to test what people are really like. For instance, a TV crew would place a wallet with a fairly small amount of cash in a phone box, to see if the next caller would either steal the money or report the loss.
Or a credit card or high-value note would be left on the pavement, to see how people will react.
Or, as far as relationships go, a married person would be tempted secretly, offered a date or a hookup just to see if their claim to be faithful is true, when it comes under real life testing. (Too many fail this test!)
The Way and the Means
ONLY when the opportunity to sin presents itself will people act according to their own personal truth.
It’s easy to walk in righteousness – or appear to do so – when there is no motive or gain for the alternative; when there is a positive reason to be good, such as earning the respect of church and friends. All this breaks down under pressure!
When temptation comes and either hardship, or opportunity, or the general permissiveness of society offers a different reward, how many will be true to their beliefs, and how many will show their true nature and fall into sin?
THAT I believe is the role of restraint and the reason for its removal. God needs to see whether the words of the mouth match up to the deeds of the body and the thoughts of the heart!
Until these things become obvious, God’s rejection and judgement could appear to be arbitrary and cruel.
What are Restraints?
This world has gone through many changes, but society has usually had the benefit of restraints to hinder the full expression of sin and ungodliness. What are some of these important restraints, today being removed?
- Moral/religious codes
- The Family Unit
- Upbringing, Family Values
- Education and the Media
- Availability of information
1. Not only believers but all mankind has been provided with a conscience, that is supposed to react against doing wrong. However today the conscience is being “seared with a hot iron” [1 Timothy 4:2] by a continual dripfeed of permissiveness.
2. As we are all aware, discipline of children and in general has now been given a bad name, and is considered cruel and wrong. The result is the classroom tyranny and loutish behaviour of the modern world. Yet the bible does not forbid just and appropriate discipline!
3. Up to modern times, every society had a moral code, and some form of religious belief that restrained the most basic urges of mankind. Even in nations where the Law of God or the Bible was rejected, there were strict controls over moral behaviour, and certain activities were considered to be wrong. Not so today.
4. The bible makes plain that the answer to temptation is the family unit, where the sex drive is properly directed, where love and mutual support can be found for both man, woman and child, and where faithfulness and trust can be established. But now marriage is less and less valued, divorce is astonishingly easy, and also the gender boundaries are being so blurred that marriage has almost become meaningless. [Thus the temptation to cheat or to be sexually promiscuous is much greater today.]
5. Not so long ago, the process of childrearing taught youngsters how to act, how to be respectful, how to avoid selfishness, greed and criminality. Children’s stories pushed the value of unselfishness, honesty, obedience, hard work, generosity and every other needful thing. I hardly need point out what children pick up today apart from their mobile phones.
6. Education has become political correctness, and the bible has been thrown out of schools. The values of today are those of the media and the internet, which are relentless in promoting bad values. Movies and books used to have heroes who did good and upheld morals. Censorship was strict, good behaviour was promoted, Christian values were respected. Now it seems the reverse is true, and sin is encouraged instead. It has reeducated people worldwide into a way of thinking that is opposed to God and holiness.
7. Government, the bible says, was intended to bring order, to punish wrongdoing, to keep evil under restraint. Often the opposite is true today.
8. Every nation has had some kind of system of justice, some more evolved than others. But whereas punishment was a deterrent in former time, criminals too often escape justice today. In this country shoplifting and petty theft are almost never investigated, the prisons are increasingly run by the inmates for their own benefit, and true justice flies out the window.
9. In former times, it wasn’t easy to pursue a life of crime, nor to find out about unhealthy activities, nor to be a rebel against society’s norms. Neighbourhoods were small and everyone knew you. Perversions were not paraded everywhere but were hard to find and almost universally condemned. That has all changed and opportunities present themselves all day every day to those who have any inclination to pursue them – to the extent that you are not “cool” if you reject them.
Thus, in all these cases, when the restraints are removed and life becomes a free-for-all, what choices will each man and woman take?
Will the beliefs and standards of the bible hold true, or will the TRUTH come out, that our secret sins will be given full rein in the knowledge that sin is now acceptable, without challenge or condemnation, and there is no point in remaining a ‘prude’??
Truth Will Out
Thus, it’s become necessary to demonstrate the inward thinking and standards of each heart, in order to allow sin to come to the FULL on the earth, and be rightly judged by a holy God.
In America for instance, we see the sad spectacle of racial hatred re-emerging after lying dormant for years, along with other bigotry. Men and women call the police to arrest citizens who just happen to be black.
A different skin colour is all it takes now to provoke violence and threats! How can this be?
- A man shoots at a schoolchild who knocked on his door asking for directions
- A woman calls the cops because a black man is babysitting two children
I have no doubt that an undercurrent of racism has quietly existed in some Americans for decades but it has hitherto been restrained under the appearance of christianity, and by government, and social norms. Now it’s finding liberty to rise up again! What is hidden is becoming seen because restraints are being removed, and it’s now become more acceptable and even praiseworthy in some circles to attack other races.
The same could be said for Europe (previously an inclusive and tolerant place) where racial attacks and far-right political parties are erupting everywhere.
National standards are one thing, but personal standards are also eroding year by year.
I rarely have the opportunity to share in local social events these days, but I do enjoy interaction on the internet, where it’s so much easier to ‘meet’ people from round the world.
This gives a good opportunity to discern the thinking of different cultures. However, everywhere I see the rot of base human nature driving people’s decisions and actions – without much or any regard to God or man.
It’s disheartening and troubling to see how low people will sink when they think nobody notices! The very anonymity of the internet is removing the restraints, providing plenty of opportunity for secret (and not so secret) sin!
One Small Example
I had an eye-opening conversation during a chance meeting recently.
A man asked me about my activities on social media, did I look for sex? NO, I replied. He laughed. I said, “no really”, adding “I’m a married woman”. He refused to believe me and thought I was joking. I assured him what I said was true.
He laughed and said that every other married person he talked to was online looking for free sex.
I don’t know if his experience was unusual or not, but I thought about that statement for days afterwards. Do we really live in a society where cheating on your spouse is considered normal, and indeed it is those who are NOT doing so that are laughably prudish and odd? How tragic this is.
Once again, genuine standards and good choices cannot be overturned by temptation. True faith in God will stand the test! True desire for righteousness and purity will NOT be ruined by the freedom to sin.
It is the devil who teaches that “do what you will is the whole of the law” not God.
The truly committed Christian has the Holy Spirit as the Restrainer, the One who instills good values and provides the desire to please God. The genuine Christian (by the grace of God) has been changed from base human nature to godly nature and has the choice of acting accordingly – although it is still by choice.
The false Christian has only the appearance of godliness.
As Paul said “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”. The power of the indwelling Holy Spirit keeps us from the lures of the devil and guides us into holiness and sanctification. Those who know nothing of the Holy Spirit – being Christian in name only – have no alternative, really, but to fall back into sin when the opportunity arises.
Exposing Sin By Removing Restraints
Thus, a great and awesome process is taking place today, where God is allowing lawlessness to rise up in freedom and openness, without condemnation in many cases, so that the truth may be seen by all.
Will we take advantage of that situation, allowing the flesh to emerge as the winner, or will our actions confirm the words of our mouths?
This process MUST be endured, because only those who ENDURE will be ultimately saved.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13
We will all be put under pressure to try our faith and see if it is genuine. The bible says we will all have tribulation.
The word “tribulation” in Greek (thlipsis) comes from thlibo = to crush, squash. It is a pressing together as of grapes. It conveys the idea of being squeezed or placed under pressure or crushed beneath a weight. [Source]
As grapes we cannot avoid being pressed, in order to make fine wine; and as olives, to produce the oil of the Holy Spirit. But the secret of endurance is to put our trust entirely in God who has been through everything on our behalf, and who promises the way out: