Before reading this brief study, please read the previous article in this series, Misleading Sign – False Prophets
Matthew 24:12 — And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
History tells us that Caesar Nero, one of the most detested dictators and tyrants ever began the first structured persecution of Christianity. The Jewish and Roman persecutions caused the death of the apostles and many other prominent Christians, except the apostle John who was exiled to Patmos, from where he wrote the book of Revelation all before AD. 70.
LAWLESSNESS ALREADY AT WORK
2 Thessalonians 2:7 — 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.
Apostasy And lawlessness Caused By Fierce Persecution
Because of the fierce persecution, many Christians fell away from the faith and became lawless like the rest of the world. Many went back to Judaism under the influence of the cult-like Judaizers, who according to Paul preached another gospel. [Galatians 1:6-19] Many others were swayed and deceived by Gnosticism.
Paul speaks of Demas who fell away from the faith. He writes:
2 Timothy 4:10 — “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica…”
Paul also records that many others deserted him and turned away from the gospel:
2 Timothy 4:16 — “At my first trial no one acted in my defense [as my advocate] or took my part or [even] stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them!”
THE LAWLESS CORINTHIAN CHURCH
The increase of lawlessness was not only widespread outside the church but was also a growing problem within the believing community. Paul was shocked at the behaviour in the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 5:1 – 2 — 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. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
NO STABILITY IN FAITH
The Roman historian Tacitus records that most Christians who were arrested by Nero denied Christ and betrayed their fellow Christians by revealing locations of secret churches. As a result, multitudes of Christians were discovered and slaughtered. He writes:
“…neither human resources, nor imperial generosity, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated the sinister suspicion that the fire had been deliberately started. To stop the rumor, NERO, made scapegoats–and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved CHRISTIANS (as they were popularly called).
Their originator, CHRIST, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the Procurator of Judaea, PONTIUS PILATUS (governor from 26 to 36 AD.). But in spite of this temporary setback, the deadly superstition had broken out again, not just in Judaea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital.
First, NERO had the self-admitted Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned–not so much for starting fires as because of their hatred for the human race. Their deaths were made amusing. Dressed in wild animals’ skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be set on fire after dark as illumination,
Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’s brutality rather than to the national interest.” [Tacitus, Annuls 15.47]
The secular world became increasingly lawless under the control of emperors Caligula and Nero whose names were almost synonymous with “lawlessness.” Even the church was becoming more and more lawless as the end of the old covenant age drew closer.
The sin and sensuality of the Roman world invaded churches such as the Corinthian church who were plagued with sexual immorality. The opening chapters in the book of Revelation reveal that the churches in Asia Minor were being flooded with wickedness, sin, and immorality as new false teachers arose. It is essential that we be on our guard against lawlessness, even today.