Sunday, October 2, 2011

II Thess 2 - the mystery and man of lawlessness

 First Paul tells me about the bad stuff sliding down the pipe in my general direction. He tells me the same thing Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jesus and John the Revelator say: a ruler claiming to be God will demand obedience and worship in the holy places. Paul calls him the Man of Lawlessness. Jesus and the OT prophets call him the abomination that brings desolation. John calls him the Anti-Christ. The world, prepared for his coming by the spirit of lawlessness, will embrace him and his counterfeit signs, wonders and miracles.

Anti-Christ forerunners, those who foreshadowed and resembled this man, have already come and gone: the kings of Tyre and Babylon, the Greek Antiochus Epiphanes, the Roman Caesars, and Herod Antipas, regarded as divine by his subjects in the Book of Acts shortly before his guts burst open. In modern times, Alexander Solzynitzyn told of Greek Orthodox Church believers who chose the gulag over Communism, which they regarded as the mark of the Beast. To them, Stalin, the former priest candidate, was the anti-Christ. Bonhoeffer and other German saints repudiated the German church  when its pastors agreed to swear loyalty to Adolph Hitler. Each of these "types" of the anti-Christ were credited with seemingly supernatural powers of protection and success. Communism had its Rasputin, Hitler his SS worshippers of pagan Norse gods. Each encouraged and enjoyed a cult of quasi-worshippers. And sadly both were regarded as wordly saviors by the worldy so-called Christian church.

As to the mystery of lawlessness that goes before these men is a persistent, behind-the-scenes thing. For example......Whitaker Chambers, the American communist turned Quaker who exposed the infiltration of mid-20th century American government, called communism godless man's attempt to replace God and build the Kingdom without Him. Without the tireless efforts of generations of 19th century and early 20th century communists, Stalin could not have seized power. Without the generations of anti-semitism, selfish nationalism, and the growing popularity of "Aryan" triumphalism, Hitler's poisonous seed would have fallen on hard ground. Historians argue whether the Great Man makes Great Events, or whether Events make the Great Man. Paul would say that in a perverted way, the Spirit of Lawlessness brings about events that "prepare the way" for the Great, Evil Man.....just as the Spirit of God prepared the way for the Christ, "in the fullness of time".

And what does this mean for me, when the force holding back the Man of Lawlessness is finally removed? It means that the laws about assisted suicide and abortion I am trying to stop will be passed, because society's historic sense of compassion and decency will have disappeared. It means the church I worship in, the beautiful historic brick church with the beautiful bas-relief artwork and the joyful godly worship, will be either closed, empty, or compromised, and the salt and light traditions of communion and singing the old hymns and preaching the clear meaning of the Word of God will be forgotten by all but a few. Instead the hearts of many will revere the Great Man and revel in his signs, wonders and miracles. It means that people I love and respect will hate and reject me, because they hate the Kingdom. Our brother Marcel Berard had said often that the unbelieving agnostic world is drawn to Christianity because its story is so thin and ours is so rich.  But what if suddenly their story seems rich, and ours thin by comparison, as happened in Nazi Germany?

I choose now to live and love and worship today so that, if this abomination happens in my lifetime, I will be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and my belief in the truth, and will share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ - even if the glory to which I am called to share is His suffering. In short I choose to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings passed on to me. I am a link in a chain stretching back to when Jesus called his first disciple. The other end of this chain is at the Great Reunion. I am not the strongest or prettiest link, but by God's grace the fiery trials will only serve to temper my metal. I say this not in any false confidence in my strength but in trust that His grace will be sufficient. And if every church in the world is shuttered and burned down, I will still maintain one shrine to the love and glory of Jesus Christ the Son of God - my heart. He said, "the Kingdom of God is within you." No tyrant can rob me of the freedom to make my heart Christ's home. This morning in that wonderful church in Jericho we remembered Christ's sacrifice in communion and then sang a great old "pumper" hymn - "He Lives." If ever I am summoned to the executioner's block by the minions of the Man of Lawlessness, I will if able to sing one last song for his glory - the one that ends, "You ask me how I know he lives - he lives within my heart!"

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