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TCH MINI-STUDY: 43
 
LAWLESSNESS WILL ABOUND
 
Probably just before the year A.D. 70, a tax collector known as Matthew wrote, Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And the many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 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. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matt 24:3-14, NKJV). After His disciples asked the Lord when His second coming and the end of the age would occur, the Lord answered with several signs that would occur prior to the end of the age. One of those signs is increasing lawlessness.
 
Around the world, lawlessness in many places is on the rise. In fact, lawlessness regarding the laws of God and/or man, appears to completely dominate some societies. In verse 12, the NKJV translates the Greek anomia into the English word lawlessness, which means illegality, violation of law, wickedness, iniquity, trangression of the law, or unrighteousness. In the KJV translation, the Greek anomia is translated into the English wordiniquity. In verse 12, the word abound is translated from the Greek word plethuno, which means to increase, multiply, full, bundle, or become a multitude. When Matthew writes that lawlessness or iniquity will abound, he means that the laws of man and God will be intentionally violated and increase more and more to the point of fulness. All we have to do is watch the local and national news to realize that lawlessness of all kinds and around the world is much greater than it has ever been, and seems to be increasing almost daily.
 
THAT WHICH COMETH OUT OF THE MAN, THAT DEFILETH
 
There are many reasons for lawlessness, but we will mention only a few. One cause of lawlessness is greediness and avarice, which is the very definition of covetousness. Christ said that covetousness defiles the man: That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:20-23). Christ warned believers, Take heed, and beware [ be on guard and isolate oneself from] of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth(Luke 12:15). Christs' command regarding covetousness was to eliminate it from our lives: Mortify [subdue, be dead to] therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry [image worship, worship of a false god] (Colossians 3:5). Regarding idolatry, Christ also warned, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Lawlessness, greediness, avarice, covetousness, and idolatry are not to be a part of the life of a beliver in Jesus Christ. The scriptures also tell us that lawlessness, which is transgression of the laws of man and God, is sin: Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin [to miss the mark and not share in the prize, offence] is the transgression [illegality, violation] of the law (1 John 3:4).
 
REBELLION IS AS THE SIN OF WITCHCRAFT
 
Another cause of lawlessness is rebellion, and rebellion is largely caused by stubborness. When the believer stubbornly refuses to acknowledge and obey the laws of God and/or man, he or she is committing rebellion.
 
Referring to the nation of Israel, God said, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked [severely stubborn] people (Exodus 32:9), then angrily responded, Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation (Exodus 32:9-10). God hates stubborness and His punishment for stubbornness is destruction.
 
Scriptures clearly warn again rebellion. God considers that rebellion [bitterness, grievous, to provoke] is as the sin of witchcraft [divination, to determine by lot or magic], and stubbornness [to peck at, press, stun, urge] is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king (1 Samuel 15:23). Scriptures also warn us that rebellion is associated with evil: An evil [adversity, distress, grief, hurt, trouble or wrong] man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him (Proverbs 17:11). The opposite of rebellion is submission, and God loves submission. He exhorts us to Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17). Our submission is Gods' will: Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. Forso is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2:13-15). Our best and highest submission, of course, is to God. Scriptures instruct us, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded (James 4:7-8). The apostle Peter adds, Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).
 
DRAWN AWAY OF HIS OWN LUST, AND ENTICED
 
Another cause of lawlessness is selfish lust. God not only despises lust , but judges it as well. Look how God responded to the lust He saw in His own nation of Israel: I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries (Psalms 81:10-14). Scriptures instruct us to ...not lust after evil things... (1 Corinthians 10:6). The apostle James teaches us about the connection between lust, sin, and death with these words: every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren (James 1:14-16). James also revealed the connection between lust, fighting, killing, and war. James wrote the twelve scattered tribes, From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even [specifically]of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not (James 4:1-2).
 
Speaking through Peter, God the Father exhorts us, Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11), and that we no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God (1 Peter 4:2).
 
Paul wrote the church in Galatia, they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24), and as Jesus told His disciples, ...If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24).
 
WE HUMANS HAVE EVIL HEARTS
 
Another reason for lawlessness is that man has an evil heart. Although many, [especially those committing unrighteousness and evils] will disagree and become angry with this statement, the scriptures abundantly testify to the evils within the heart of man. The scriptures teach us that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies [and anger, violence, rebellion, and civil unrest] (Matthew 15:19). Jeremiah prophesied that The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). Even God the Father recognized the total depravity in the hearts of men: And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart (Genesis 6: 5-:6).
 
Jesus Christ explained to us, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:20-23). Isaiah prophesied that All we [humans] like sheep have gone astray [from God]; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6), and that are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6).
 
Our evil hearts can become so calloused and deceived that God the Father may eventually let us have, to our own destruction, exactly what we are lusting after. Referring to the ungodly and unrighteous, Paul wrote to believers in Rome, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore [for this reason] God also gave them up [God removed His restraint and turned over, imprisoned them] to uncleanness through [because of] the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves (Romans 1:21-24). After his illicit relationship with Bathsheba, the guilty and broken David confessed to God, Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold,I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me (Psalms 51:4-5).
 
Christ explained the dynamic of evil when He said, Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit (Matthew 7:18). A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things (Matthew 12:35). The scriptures summarize: It is simply not possible for good to produce evil, neither what is evil to produce what is good. When the heart is full of evil, the fruit will also be evil, and lawlessness and iniquity is evil fruit.
 
THE LAW IS NOT MADE FOR A RIGHTEOUS MAN, BUT FOR THE LAWLESS
 
God has His laws, and man has his laws. Why do we have laws? Are laws of any kind really necessary. What is the purpose of the laws of man, and God? Paul responds to these questions. In explaining the purpose of the law, the apostle Paul wrote Timothy,Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust (1 Timothy 1:9-11). The laws [of man and God] are designed and intended to promote sound [healthy, wholsome] doctrine [teaching, instruction] designed to result in Godly behavior in the lawless and disobedient, not the lawful and righteous. The general purpose of the law is to provide tandards, limits, controls, guidance, and, if needed, punishment for men who are evil, disobedient, rebellious, and lawless. The righteous have not need for the law, since they do already do what is righteous and pleasing to God because of their nature. One fruit of obedience to the law is that it brings blessing and prosperity: he that keepeth the law, happy [blessing, prosperity, relief] is he (Proverbs 29:18).
 
LET EVERY SOUL BE SUBJECT UNTO THE HIGHER POWERS
 
What is Gods will regarding rebellion and lawlessness? Paul answers this question in his letter to the church in Rome: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for [because of man's and God's] wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour (Romans 13:1-7). Man is to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work (Titus 3:1). Peter exhorts everyone to Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2:13-15). Believers in Christ are to Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17). The believer in Christ should even be found Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21).
 
God the Father wants the believer in Christ to humbly submit to both human and Godly powers. The believer is to be subject to human authority not only because he or she fears the wrath of God and man, but because submission if the right thing to do. The scriptures teach us that in the days of ancient Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes [knowledge, thoughts] (Judges 21:25). Unfortunately, today, man is also doing what seems right in his own eyes. Man is seeking and doing his own will and, in contemporary jargon, his own thing. The result - whole nations are reaping what they have sowed.
 
OF THAT DAY AND HOUR KNOWETH NO MAN
 
According to the scriptures, increasing lawlessness is a sure sign of the end of the age and the return of Jesus Christ to earth. As the disciples of Christ asked the Lord, we can also wonder if the world is coming to the end of the age, and the coming of the Lord is near? The truthful answer is that only God the Father knows for sure, for Christ told His disciples, But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only (Matthew 24:36). However, with the rise in lawlessness prevalent through much of the world, we must at least consider the very real possiblity that we are close to the end of the age as we have known it, and that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. The clear sign of lawlessness is certainly there.