The entire second chapter of Paul’s Second Thessalonians seems painfully relevant these days – these days of deep confusion around the whole world.
2Th 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren,
2Th 2:2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
2Th 2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition,
2Th 2:4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
2Th 2:5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this?
2Th 2:6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
2Th 2:7 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.
2Th 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.
2Th 2:9 The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders,
2Th 2:10 and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
2Th 2:11 Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false,
2Th 2:12 so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
2Th 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
2Th 2:14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2Th 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
2Th 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,
2Th 2:17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Paul speaks here of rebellion, of lawlessness, of men exalting themselves against God, of men refusing to believe the truth and to love the truth. Instead of truth, therefore, they received strong delusion to believe and even to love that which is false. He speaks of the need among the faithful to stand firm, to be strong, to work good, to rest in His comfort and hope. He is coming! I continue to remember the often-repeated exhortation of Bl. John Paul II, “Be not afraid!”
Courage that comes from faith in God is necessary in such times because lawless men are dangerous creatures. Law calls men to limit their desires and their behavior to what is prescribed – and the lawless man resents this. He wants to serve neither man nor God, but only himself and his own desires. Rebellion in man is not new, of course. St. Paul observed, in his letter to the Roman church, the steps that it takes for man to fall deeper and deeper away from God and into his own darkness. It begins with what is self-evident – yet men will not see it:
1) The fact that there is a God is evident in the creation itself, through the use of human reason:
Rom 1:20 Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;
2) But man rejected the rational evidence before him, and as a consequence the reasoning ability of his mind became darkened. Rejecting reason, he became unreasonable – even foolish:
Rom 1:21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.
Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
3) Rejecting God and His real glory, men projected “glory” onto things they made themselves:
Rom 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
4) And the holy love that is due to the one true and glorious God, they directed into sexual lust among themselves – not only lustful desires between men and women, but even men for men, and women for women. Unnatural homosexuality became as “natural” to them:
Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
Rom 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
Rom 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural,
Rom 1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
5) The evil desires in their hearts only grew, to dominate all their conduct:
Rom 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.
Rom 1:29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips,
Rom 1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Rom 1:32 Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.
Such are the men of lawlessness. They reject God and His law, and they embrace lies and foolishness. What is evil seems good to them, and what is good seems evil. How ugly it is – how shameful – when men of lawlessness take over a country, a society, a culture – and make their darkness into law!
Look, and see, and weep at the works of such men! They hate reality, and they embrace fantasy – calling it “virtual reality,” calling it entertainment. They reject God’s created human nature, and define “natural” to suit their own desires. They reject the goodness of life for those inconvenient to them, therefore willing to abort the innocent and euthanize the weak and dependent. They separate the holy union of conjugal love and new human life, and through contraception degrade potent conjugal love to sterile sexual gratification. And for those who have created a false god to sanction their false lives, they will eventually become murders of other men in worship of their god. Jesus warned us:
John 16:2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
John 16:3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me.
Lawless man has regard for laws neither of God nor of man.
“Whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” This the Moslems are doing to faithful Christians even now. But men of lawlessness are rising all over the world. Abortion, lawless ones have declared, is a “right” calling for legal protection! Lawlessness! Homosexual unions are equivalent to any other “sexual preference” for the “right” to marry, to form a family, to adopt children. Lawlessness! The U.S. Supreme Court has the “right” to rewrite laws they are to judge as constitutional – to rewrite them so as to make them constitutional? Lawlessness! Only Congress is to write the laws. The U.S. Department of Justice has the “right” to enforce laws it likes and overlook laws they do not like? Lawlessness! The President has the “right” to rewrite laws that he is to enforce – so as to make them acceptable to his view of what should be the law? Lawlessness! Congress has the “right” to rewrite congressional procedures so as to make them now able to pass laws and to approve appointments that they want to pass or approve. Lawlessness!
Men of lawlessness make “laws” as they choose, because lawlessness becomes the law of the jungle: the strong do as they please, as if might makes “right.”
Perhaps God will be merciful to this country that has so turned its back on Him. Perhaps it is too late for America. But only God knows whether the time for mercy has past – we do not. We must pray, and work, and exercise the rights of citizenship that we still possess, to be voices and votes for true righteousness! We – the Church here in America, and in the West generally – must repent. We the Church have not been voices and votes for true righteousness in the recent past, and now we are now tasting the bitter fruit of our duplicity, our hypocrisy, our moral weakness, our love too much of this world and the things of this world. “Elections have consequences.” And so also does our silence in the face of growing evil and immorality. We must turn to God in shame and repentance, and cry for His mercy. And if there remains time for us, we must begin in earnest to grow in Him who is true. We, the Church, must renew the Church. Come Lord Jesus, and help us.