The Olivet Discourse – Lawlessness

18Jun11

Of the final “birth pang” warning before “the end,” it is the concept of “Lawlessness” that will take the most time to completely understand. This is because there are potentially three different possible understandings of the term “lawlessness” in the scriptures.

One of the most popular uses of the term “lawlessness” is in relation to a character many refer to as the “Man of Lawlessness,” and who many try to claim is also the same character The Beast and the Antichrist. Oddly, the Bible itself does not make the connection between these three characters and, in fact, no where does the bible declare there actually is a character called The Antichrist. But that is for a later discussion. For our purposes here, though, the term lawlessness has nothing to do with an individual but rather with a state of being or a form of actions.

There are three basic understandings of the term “lawlessness” and we will work our way through all three in this posts. I believe a strong case can be made for all three and it is quite possible the Lord Jesus Christ may have referenced all three possibilities. They are…

  • The lawlessness within the church
  • The lawlessness of the Roman Government
  • The lawlessness of the Jews in both civil and religious actions

LAWLESSNESS IN THE CHURCH

Lawlessness does not only include lawless actions of individuals, but also the Church’s actions regarding the lawless acts. if the church does not respond biblically to lawless and immoral actions of it’s members, it too is being lawless.

  • 1 Cor. 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.
  • Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
  • 2 Thes. 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.
  • 1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness
  • 1 Peter 4:3 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.
  • 2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

The early Church obviously struggled with lawless actions within it’s sphere of influence and was also lawless in it’s actions regarding this lawlessness.

THE LAWLESSNESS OF THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT

Very quickly there are three basic ares in which the Roman Government could be seen as being lawless.

  1. The intense persecution of the early Church as found in the books of Acts and the Revelation. There we are given examples of persecution the Roman government displayed against the early Church
  2. The proliferation of Emperor Worship by the Roman magistrates and governors. later we will deal with the emperor Cult in our discussion of the Abomination and in the life of Nero
  3. The Roman government’s involvement in the death of Jesus Christ. The Romans had the ultimate power to release Jesus and had no compulsion to have Him executed. Also note that it was the Roman form of punishment (crucifixion) that was used on not the Jewish form (stoning). This was necessary to fulfill the prophecy of the Christ being hung from a tree.

The third may not truly qualify, though it is because of their involvement that we will see their destruction foretold in the book of Revelation as well. But the first two were easily major lawless actions performed by the Roman Government well before the end of “this generation.”

THE LAWLESSNESS OF THE JEWS

This would also find it’s fulfillment possibly in three separate areas for consideration.

  1. The persecution of the early Church. Long before the Roman government began it’s onslaught of persecution against the early Church (Nero), the Jews were set against this new sect. In fact, Rome was an early protector of the Church. We read in Acts that when Herod had Christians killed he noticed that this pleased the Jews and continued his persecution. And as we saw earlier, the Jews, primarily the Jewish leaders, were the ones who had the Apostles arrested and charged and had them brought before the councils, governors and kings.
  2. The actions of the zealots. As we discussed earlier the zealots who had taken control of the Temple has murdered the High Priest and hundreds of other priest and installed their own puppet High Priest and had them perform rituals and sacrifices. they defamed the Temple with dead bodies and were the utter description of “lawless” in all of the their actions.
  3. The continuation of sacrifices. This rarely mentioned but important possibility argues that the continuation of sacrifices in the Temple after Jesus died once and for all was the ultimate act lawless actions by the Jews. It is the greatest single symbol of the full rejection of Jesus as Messiah. The destruction of the Temple would ultimately show Jesus’ vindication and His placement on the right hand of the Father.

No matter which of the above was actually in the mind of Christ, what remains true is that the first century leading up to the destruction the Temple saw vast and unparalleled levels of lawlessness. It’s possible the concept of lawlessness was all encompassing and included all of the above, what the poignant point was that the Disciples and the readers of the Gospel would see an increase in lawless actions, and that they most definitely did. And all well within the confines of our operating timeline of “this generation.”

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3 Responses to “The Olivet Discourse – Lawlessness”

  1. 1 Yehoshuamyking

    I have three a few questions concerning the words “this generation”

    1… In the following passages below was the Lord saying that the Pharisees of “this generation” would SEE the Saints of Nineveh rise from the dead?

    2… Or was the Lord simply saying that because the men {people} of Nineveh repented of sin, that they would serve as witnesses against “this generation” in the DAY of Judgment?

    3…Since no one seems to know for certain who the Saints were that rose,after Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 27…Is it possible that these Saints that rose and appeared unto many were indeed the people of Nineveh,that repented at the preaching of Jonah?

    The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with THIS GENERATION, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Matthew 12:41 KJV. emphasis added.

    And the graves were opened; and MANY bodies of the saints which slept arose,And came out of the graves AFTER his resurrection,and went into the holy city, and APPEARED unto many. Matthew 27:52,53 KJV emphasis added

    I know that our Lord spent three consecutive Sabbath days in the heart of the Earth. And that the Pharisees would have understand that this is what he meant.When he said that “the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day” and that he would spend “three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth” Since Matthew’s Gospel seems to be written specifically to or for the Jews,would they not know and see the Messianic signs here that prove that the Lord Jesus is their Long awaited Messiah?

    • 2 low5point

      I would lean most toward the second possibility, though I think there is a bit of hyperbole involved having to do with just how wicked that generation was. If you recall, Jesus also stated that the Queen of Sheba would judge this wicked generation. I believe he was trying to show just how wicked and blind that generation was. For centuries the Jews awaited the coming of the Messiah and they end up killing Him – of course by the preordained will of God (Acts 2). But to show just how wicked that generation was even the greatest enemy of the Jews in the Old Testament He uses the Ninevites. Also note elsewhere that this is common as both He and John (in Revelation) use the greatest enemies of the Jews as descriptions for the Jews and the city of Jerusalem (Egypt, Sodom and babylon) … and of course, we’ll cover that eventually

  2. 3 Yehoshuamyking

    Thank you for your answer:

    I just thought that it may have been significant that Matthew used the Greek word number 450 when he wrote that the men of Nineveh will RISE, in 12:41.But he uses a different word {i think} when he spoke of the queen of Sheba in 12:42.He used Greek number 1453 RISE UP.Although in Lukes Gospel he writes RISE UP,when speaking of the Ninevites.However,he also uses the Greek word number 450 when speaking of them and uses 1453 when speaking of the queen of Sheba…

    Nevertheless i agree with your answer…


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