People have always been bewildered and confused by things that are beyond their understanding. Primitive man, like modern man, probed the universe for its secrets and looked up at the night sky in awe and wonder at the mystery of the black space with its myriad inexplicable lights.
It was the mystery of gravitation that challenged Sir Isaac Newton in 1685 to explore the reasons why objects heavier than air were attracted to the center of the earth.
It was the mystery of the shape of the world that inspired Columbus to set sail over an uncharted sea in an attempt to see what was beyond the far horizons.
It was the mystery of lightning that prompted Benjamin Franklin to attach a key to the tail of a kite during a thunderstorm, to prove the identity of lightning and electricity.
It was the mystery of the latent power of the atom that challenged Einstein, Fermi and others to probe into the dormant energy in matter.
Some mysteries have been fathomed by science. Others still bewilder mankind. This fact remains: All of the garnered wisdom of the ages is only a scratch on the surface of humanity’s search for the knowledge of the universe. For the most part, God retains His secrets, and man standing on his intellectual tiptoes can comprehend only a small fraction of the Lord’s doings. As the Bible says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).
This inability to fully comprehend the mysteries of God does not in any way curtail the Christian faith. On the contrary, it enhances our belief. We do not understand the intricate pattern of the stars in their courses, but we know that He who created them does, and that just as surely as He guides them, He is charting a safe course for us.
We do not understand what processes combine to create life, but we know that He who ordained physical life can amply fulfill His promise to give us eternal life.
Logical people do not reject that which they cannot comprehend. One need not be an electronics wizard to enjoy radio and television. One need not be an astronomer to enjoy the beauty of the night sky. One need not be a dietitian to enjoy a sumptuous meal.
But the most fascinating and intriguing of all mysteries are those in the spiritual realm.
The word mystery is used many times in Scripture. A mystery in Scripture is a previously hidden truth now divinely revealed, but in which there is still a supernatural element that remains unknown despite the revelation.
The Bible talks about the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven; the mystery of the New Testament church as one body composed of Jew and Gentile alike; the mystery of the church as the bride of Christ; the mystery of the indwelling Christ; the mystery of the incarnation; the mystery of the processes by which God-likeness is restored to man.
But there is another mystery that is more sinister than all the rest. The Apostle Paul calls it “the mystery of lawlessness.” He writes, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
In this passage Paul is dealing with scenes surrounding the second coming of Jesus Christ. The personal return of Christ to this earth has always been the inspiring and purifying hope of the Christian church.
In this same passage, Paul describes the man of sin (or “the man of lawlessness,” as he is called in many ancient manuscripts) as “the son of perdition,” meaning one who is lost and ruined and destined to destruction.
This character, who has been known in theology as the antichrist, is the one “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The Bible actually predicts that he will supersede all forms of religion and demand worship for himself alone.
Paul indicated that this antichrist would not appear on the scene until someone “who now restrains” lawlessness and iniquity is removed. This person who is restraining iniquity in the world today is the Holy Spirit. Isaiah said long ago, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).
The Holy Spirit is in the world, working in and through the church. He indwells every believer individually and the church collectively. The Bible teaches that the principle of lawlessness that is already at work in the world has a “mystery,” or a secret, and is being restrained or held back. When the restraint is removed, the man of sin will appear.
Have you ever wondered about the tumultuous tide of evil in the world? How it overwhelms society, how it engulfs nations, how it infiltrates all races, how it devastates the individual, how it ruins the family and destroys the home?
To read of the crime, injustice, intolerance, greed, deception and lust that plagues humanity is bewildering and perplexing. Our hearts are made heavy when we hear of broken homes, wasted lives and shattered hopes and dreams that are the product of evil in the world.
We see a principle of lawlessness, iniquity and sin in the world today. Dishonesty, licentiousness, murders, immorality and crime of every sort seem to plague all nations. Thoughtful persons are disturbed, wondering how people can be so wild, perverted and lawless.
The mystery of lawlessness is the power unseen, unknown except by its effects, that is ever working in the world for evil. It is working against the law and will of God, corrupting what has been well done and well begun, causing misery in the natural world and in all that people do. We try to trace evil back to its origin, and we soon see that there is indeed a mysterious element to it.
The Bible teaches that God did not create evil and sin, that somewhere in the past it began with “Lucifer, son of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12), rebelling against God.
People are born to evil as surely as sparks fly upward. The seeds of evil are propagated from parent to child, each little one bringing into the world as his spiritual inheritance a propensity to evil that mingles with all his propensities to good. Each new life seems to bring a fresh contribution to the already abundant growth of evil. It is a mere germ at first. But unfolding speedily, it grows with the growth of the child.
What are its consequences? The Bible tells us that all who are guilty of sin will be judged and eventually banished from the Kingdom of God. How mysterious are the chastisements and judgments that fall upon us in this life and in the life to come.
The Bible teaches that our sins will find us out, “for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). In this life, our sins will find us out in ruined character, broken homes, confused minds, disillusioned hearts and empty souls.
There are many mysteries about it all, but God has revealed to us that sin is a transgression of the law and a “missing of the mark.” We are told what sin is. We are warned about its terrible and tragic consequences. We are told to flee the wrath of God. We are told to repent of sin before it is too late.
Great is the mystery of lawlessness. However, there is another mystery that is even greater. It is called in the Bible “the mystery of godliness”–the secret, unseen, unmeasured power that lies in the inspiration, guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit, who is within all those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior.
If you have never known the power of this greater mystery, open your heart to Christ and receive Him now, trusting Him as your Savior and Lord. ©1956 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.