The Increase of Lawlessness—Why?
JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, gave a strikingly detailed prophecy by which we could identify the time when the wicked system of things that has long dominated this earth would be brought to its end. Known as “the sign” of Christ’s presence, this prophecy consists of many features, one of which is “the increasing of lawlessness.”—Matt. 24:12.
Does the current trend of lawlessness fit his description? Is there sound reason to believe that the time has come when God will intervene in men’s affairs and cause righteousness to prevail?
WHAT REALLY IS HAPPENING?
When mention is made of an increase in lawlessness, some persons may call to mind reports saying that this trend is slowing down and may even have been reversed. According to one recent report, during 1972 there was a decrease of almost 2 percent in serious crime reported in the United States, the first decrease in seventeen years. But actually this report gives little reason for comfort. Why? Because the reports show that the more violent crimes greatly increased in number. Thus during those same eight months, murder increased 9 percent, aggravated assault and rape each 8 percent. And this is the kind of lawlessness that people fear most, because of its viciousness. Further, the “decrease” in crimes not considered so serious was not necessarily because fewer crimes were committed. Rather, some authorities believe that it is simply because fewer crimes were reported.
That crime is still on the increase is evident in how it has affected daily life. A California University psychology professor recently said: “At first the gas station wouldn’t accept cash after ten [o’clock]. Then the bus drivers stopped making change any time. Taxi companies installed bulletproof glass [between the drivers and their passengers] . . . The market in home protection devices is booming. There are call buttons to the police station, windows wired to alarm bells and home radar systems; new housing developments boast twenty-four-hour security guards. . . . There are TV cameras everywhere,” to spot shoplifters, drug pushers, and bank robbers. Does that sound to you as though crime is decreasing?
And that is not all. What about the antitheft devices on your car? the locks on your house? the apprehension that prevents you from enjoying a park? the fear that stops you from going out for a walk alone in the evening?
Crime is rampant everywhere—in business, in government, on the streets, in the schools and, all too often, it invades the home. It is not limited to a few nations; they are all affected, and badly so. If the events of our day do not fulfill “the sign” that Jesus gave, what more is needed?
WHY? WHY? WHY?
“But why the increase of lawlessness?” That is the question that is being asked on every hand.
No doubt many factors contribute. Some blame the modern prison system, which all too often seems to harden rather than to reform lawbreakers. Others blame judges, saying that many of them are too lenient.
Among other things that contribute to the increase of lawlessness is corruption in government. Also, motion pictures and TV programs encourage lawlessness by making heroes out of criminals and other unprincipled characters.
However, could it be that all such factors are merely the running sores, as it were, of the problem, and that the causes of the increase of lawlessness are far more deep-seated? A crime investigator for the United States Senate singles out three basic causes: the home, the schools and the churches.
The Bible probes even deeper. It identifies Satan the Devil as the one chief culprit. Some may scoff. But the explanations that they offer for present conditions are not adequate to explain the staggering upsurge in lawlessness. The Bible, on the other hand, long ago pinpointed this generation as one that would experience these things.* It has proved right in that. It also identifies the one chiefly responsible for the increased woe as Satan the Devil, who is infuriated because he knows his time is short. There is every reason to believe what it says on this.—Rev. 12:9-12.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCHES
In the face of this, some persons might have expected the churches to be a force that would counteract the lawless trend. But exactly the opposite has been the case.
When interviewed on the crime situation, Senator John McClellan said: “In my judgment, some churches no longer demand a truly high standard of integrity and morality today. They don’t have the same ideals of Christian living that were observed and practiced in the past.” And when asked whether this was a factor in the increase in crime, he replied: “There’s no question about it.”—U.S. News & World Report.
However, the influence has not been merely passive, merely a matter of neglect. In widely publicized cases religious leaders have set a corrupting example for others. Thus, the wife of the late Paul Tillich, in an autobiography of her life with this eminent Protestant theologian, tells of the many adulterous affairs he had with other women. Yet in the religious world he was admired.
Publicly, from their pulpits and in printed articles, the clergy have undercut respect for the high moral principles set out in the Bible. How so? In that they have discredited as myth the Bible accounts of creation, of the Flood and of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, while endorsing evolution, which knows nothing of morality. And, obviously, when people come to view one part of the Bible as fiction, how seriously are they going to take the rest of it?
These things are significant, especially in view of the fact that, in his prophecy about our day, Jesus Christ linked the activity of “false prophets” with the “increasing of lawlessness.” (Matt. 24:11, 12) By allowing pride to cause them to put their own opinions ahead of the Word of God, they allow themselves to be used by the Devil, and thus contribute to the hard conditions upon mankind.
Clergymen have also contributed to the increase of lawlessness by their rejecting the teaching of the kingdom of God in favor of a “social gospel.” Interestingly, the famed English writer H. G. Wells noted this fact: “Remarkable is the enormous prominence given by Jesus to the teaching of what he called the Kingdom of Heaven, and its comparative insignificance in the procedure and teaching of most of the Christian churches.”—The Outline of History.
Because they do not put their trust in God’s kingdom to bring about a condition of justice and righteousness on earth, the clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, have mixed in politics and felt free to resort to violence and to aid and abet others in acts of violence on the premise that the end justifies the means. But do two wrongs make a right? Jesus warned his followers not to resort to violence and pronounced happy those who are peaceable.—Matt. 5:9; 26:52.
What is the bloodshed in Ireland but the result of religion mixing in politics? And one of the most recent examples involves some of the clergy in Chile, a number of whom were expelled from that country. As one of their group complained: “They [the new military government] hold us responsible for bringing Marxism and class struggle into the country.” Whether they acknowledge that the charge is true or not, can the clergy honestly deny that they have been involved in politics instead of preaching the kingdom of God? It is by such activities that they have laid themselves open to the charge that has been laid against them.
Whether prominent men with their pride advocate it or not, the kingdom of God is the Creator’s provision for cleaning lawlessness out of the earth. Reassuringly God’s Word says: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . Hope in Jehovah and keep his way, and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked ones are cut off, you will see it.”—Ps. 37:10, 34.
In that new order, now near at hand, “righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13) There will be no need for locks on your home. Whenever anyone approaches, you can be confident that you will be able to welcome him as a friend. Free from fear, you will be able to walk alone, if you choose, even at night, to enjoy the sound of the crickets and the beauty of the starry heavens above. There will be true security earth wide. The Creator of heaven and earth has promised it.
But will you be there? Now is the time to learn Jehovah’s requirements and to bring your life into harmony with them. Jehovah’s witnesses will be glad to help you.
For details, see the book God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached.
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Fear causes people to live behind locked doors
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How grand it will be when no locks are needed, when everyone can be welcomed as a friend!