On Terrorism


One can find fantastic insights into all sorts of real life topics in the Bible--if you know where to look. In the case of "terrorism" (1, 2) the concordance in the back of the Old Family Bible would appear to not be of much help. Terrorism is, however, to be found under the subject of "lawlessness" in Scripture--and lawlessness is a vast subject indeed.


The Greek anomos, means "without law" (adjective), and anomia, means "lawlessless" (noun). In the KJV these Greek words are very often translated "iniquity." The translation of anomia as "iniquity" is very common in the Septuagint, (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible)--for example anomia is rendered "iniquity" 70 times in the Psalms.


For the purposes of this discussion, let's see stick with the term "lawlessness" instead of "iniquity" for anomos and anomia and see what we can discover. First John 3:4 gives us a good working definition of lawlessness,


"Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he [Jesus] appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin." (1 John 3:4-5 RSV)


What God does in creation and in His government of the universe, in the affairs of men and angels is always orderly and harmonious. The original state of affairs before the fall of the angels, and before the fall of our race, was a totally orderly kosmos. (The opposite state of affairs from cosmos is chaos). The basically orderly nature of the cosmos implies that divine laws are operating everywhere behind the scenes, both in nature and in human affairs. "Lawlessness" in the broadest sense is rebellion against the created order, the rule of law in society, and direct personal opposition to the will of God. Lawlessness can be open defiance, or silent rebellion hiding behind apparent respectability


Writing in 1966, Ray Stedman said,


"What are these activities of lawlessness? Essentially they are threefold: hatred, darkness, and death. Hatred, the violation of love; darkness, the extinguishing of light; and death, the destruction of life. Now look at this mid-twentieth century world, with its love of scientific technological advancement, its fascination with the exploration of space, and its manifestation of confusion, uncertainty, and darkness on every side. Look at this world. Look first at the respectable world. Is there not hatred there? Is it not evident in prejudice and haughtiness, in cattiness, in exclusive clubs, in selfish cliques, in indifference to the clamant needs of other human beings? It is manifest also in quarreling parents and resentful children, in bitter feuds within the home, in scheming acts of revenge against other individuals and groups, in broken homes, in the skyrocketing divorce rates, in neglected children, in cruelty that breaks out in a most frightening manner from time to time. At the root of it all is this principle of lawlessness; this acting as though there were no restraints, no rules, no laws in life; this rejection of reality. Take darkness, the extinguishing of light. Is that not evident everywhere in the world, even in your own life? It is manifest in confusion, in uncertainty, in double-mindedness, in vacillation, in the freedom with which we change direction according to the expedient thing. It is evident in anxiety, in fears, tensions, in neuroses, in obsessions, and in this fantastic wave of mental illness that is sweeping the world today. The root of it again is lawlessness, the refusal to recognize reality.


"Take violent death. This is so disturbing to the world in which we live, the respectable world. It is supremely evident in war…there is not a thoughtful Christian individual who can look at war and see it as anything but the utter madness of men. You can see this tendency to lawlessness in the destruction of life--in crime, in the violence that fills our streets, in murders, persecutions, and suicides. It is evident in the blank hopelessness that spreads like a pall of gloom across great segments of our society, in the despair and emptiness that fills human hearts. That is death." (http://raystedman.org/1john/0152.html).


When lawlessness is extreme, unexpected, and recklessly violent we call it "terrorism." Wars between nations are ordinarily fought with some restraints -- by International Law, the Geneva Convention, from concern for innocent civilians, and perhaps by restraints from third party nations. The very existence of nations in the first place (3) represents a degree of divinely imposed order among the peoples of the earth which dates back to the Table of Nations, Genesis 10-11, (just after human civilization was recovering from the Flood of Noah). The confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel (4) further slowed the rate at which fallen men could unite the world under one world leader. The appointment by God of kings over the original 70 nations also delays the coming together of "one world government" under the tyrannical rule of evil. In order words, man left to himself tends toward more and more evil, and the devil takes every advantage of this to further man's rebellion against God and to gain more control over us.


The overall control of the present world system is currently in the hands of a fallen angel, Satan or Lucifer. This state of affairs came about through the disobedience of Adam in the Garden--Adam lost his right for dominion over God's creation as appointed steward (Hebrews 2:6-8). Satan is described in Scripture as "the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience," (2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2). Jesus called him, "the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).


Failing in his attempt to take over the throne of God in heaven, (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:1-10), Satan still has access to the heavenly places, and with God's permission is allowed to wreak havoc on our world and its peoples from time to time. He is a master of deception, successfully keeping most of earth's inhabitants unaware of his existence and "ignorant of his devices." He has vast influence over the kingdoms of this world. One gets glimpses of this evil angel's great power and jurisdiction in the Temptation of Jesus described in Matthew 4. "…Again, the devil took Jesus up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.'" (Matthew 4:8-9)


Ray Stedman notes that our day to day ability to live reasonably peaceful, orderly lives is due to God's constant restraint of evil on earth. God restrains Satan, and also holds the evil latent in every human heart in constant check.


"…Do you ever stop to think that moments of leisure and relaxation are only possible by the restraints of God upon the evil of man? If human evil was allowed for one moment to be loosed among us; if people were allowed to do what they want to do in their hearts toward each other; we would be instantly plunged into terrible anarchy and murderous bloodshed. Nothing of the pleasantness of life would be possible to us. God has sent anticipations of his judgments to us so we know what such judgments are like. We have seen enough of them to know how bad they will be. But it is God's grace that invites us to receive the Lord Jesus, to come to the One who took our place, who gave himself for us, not only to change us, and make us over anew, but to teach us how to live in the midst of a world gone mad! That is what grace is for. How grateful we ought to be for the present restraints of evil that God has ordained in our day!" (Ray Stedman, http://raystedman.org/revelation/4207.html)


Now comes the hard part. First, only a very small percentage of the people on earth cooperate with God and therefore it can be said that the vast majority of mankind lives lives of lawlessness as described in the Bible. Secondly, Satan, the temporary "god of this world" is constantly seeking to warp, mar, twist and destroy all that God has made. Furthermore, he is actively seeking to unite the nations of the world into one global power with himself as world-ruler, world-king. God is allowing history to move towards this end because of our persistent refusal to respond to God's call to live together in harmony under His benevolent rule.


According to Second Thessalonians, much of the restraining force opposing evil in the world--keeping it somewhat under control--comes from the presence on earth of the true Christian church. The influence of the church continues to decrease as we approach the end of the age, thus restraint against evil from this source is reduced. (Another factor at work is that God has determined to allow evil to run its full course in this age--what is hidden will come out into the open for all to see). As Satan cranks up his program, deception will increase and also more lawlessness and terrorism.


In the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24ff) Jesus warned that the course of the age before His return would be filled with deception from both religious and secular sources--and the world would grow increasingly violent. Jesus said, “…And because lawlessness (anomia) is multiplied (from plethos, hence "plethora"), the love (agape) of many will grow cold" (24:12). What this means is that people nowadays fear their own neighbors, trust one another less, and avoid making deep and the lasting commitments upon which stable societies are built.


A number of notorious tyrants who have ruled in history have eventually become demonically possessed and brought horrific evil into the world. Terrorism goes a step further than most dictators go, because terrorists often have direct connections to Satan from the beginning of their "careers." Dictators ordinarily operate from within a given nation, but terrorism knows no national or territorial boundaries and shows no respect for the innocent. Dictators can be overcome by military force (with God's help), terrorism can only be fought by the weapons of spiritual warfare Jesus has given to His church (http://raystedman.org/warfare/warfare1.html).



There is more: The Bible says that one unique "man of sin" will soon come upon the stage of history. This individual will be the very incarnation of lawlessness, and he will temporarily succeed in uniting the earth under his full control.


The Apostle Paul wrote,


"Now, brethren, concerning the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition (apoleia, "utter destruction"), 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.


Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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.


And then the lawless one (anomos) will be revealed (apokalupto, "unveiled"), whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming (lit; "by the epiphaneia of his parousia"). (See Revelation 19:19-20)


The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.


And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, (5) that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.


But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-15)


Ray Stedman remarks on this passage,


Paul (says)…there is a mystery of evil at work in our world. He calls it "the mystery of lawlessness" (6) which is already at work. It is the strange secret of universal evil. Even secular prophets are puzzled by it. What is it about our race that makes it so difficult to correct the conditions that destroy it? Why is drug trafficking so impossible to stop when it is clearly evident what terrible things it does to people? Why is it that alcoholics will return again and again to their habit when they see that it is destroying their homes and families, and even their own lives? It is a mystery; the mystery of lawlessness; the strange secret of human evil. Why is it that as the centuries go by we have made zero progress in curing human wickedness? We are still wrestling with the problem just as people wrestled with it five thousand years before Christ. We do not make any progress in this area.


This can be put another way. Why is it that Jews today are unable to build a temple upon Mt. Moriah? Some of us here are closely associated with a number of Jews in Jerusalem who have committed themselves with all their lives and possessions to rebuilding the temple. We have been following their efforts for some years, and find that they are totally frustrated. They cannot seem to get anywhere. Why is this? It is because something is restraining them! A temple will one day be built on the spot where the Dome of the Rock now stands and that is the place where the Man of lawlessness will take his seat and proclaim himself to be God. Why has that temple not been built since there are Jews with powerful political connections (I can personally testify to this) who are completely dedicated to building it? It is because the time has not yet come. There is a force that is restraining it. Just as God would not destroy the earth until Noah and his family had entered the ark (a picture of being "with Christ"); and just as God would not rain judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, despite their terrible evil, until Lot and his family had first been removed; so God will not begin the last terrible judgment upon this earth until the church has been removed. The Spirit-indwelt church is the restraining force!

For years I have been trying to get across to Christians what tremendous power they could exercise in the world today, if only they knew who they were. And likewise what tremendous evil they permit in the world when they refuse to live as God wants them to live. That is why society falls apart. What happened in the '60's and '70's when we went through a terrible incursion of evil into society, with a breakdown of morals on every side, and the rise of previously unacceptable public practices, was that the church had failed to live as God had called it to live. Christians had instead begun to live for themselves instead of for the Lord. (http://raystedman.org/thessalonians/4098.html).

There is much more that can be said about terrorism and lawlessness--and the end of the age, by drawing upon the rich revelation God has given us on these matters in the Bible. Suffice it to say that the agents of terrorism we see in the world today are enemies of all of mankind, and clearly they are enemies of God bent on taking over the world in the service of the coming man of sin--the one who is striving to be king over all of us--taking the place of God.


As the world draws near to the end of the age, lawlessness is increasing, and a unique and terrible figure on the stage of history the man of man, the man of lawlessness will appear. There is, however, no reason for despair because things will get worse before they get better. A great golden age of true peace on earth is on its way--for Israel and all of God's people everywhere. Old and New Testaments testify over and over about the coming again of the Prince of Peace, our true and rightful King and Lord.


"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel. “So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.” And it will come to pass in that day That the mountains shall drip with new wine, The hills shall flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; A fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD And water the Valley of Acacias. “Egypt shall be a desolation, And Edom a desolate wilderness, Because of violence against the people of Judah, For they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation. “For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; For the LORD dwells in Zion.” (Joel 3:14-21)




1. Our English word "terror" is Latin from the verb which means to frighten. The KJV translates the Greek phobos, fear, as "terror" in Romans 13:3, 2 Corinthians 5:1 and 1 Peter 3:14. The KJV Old Testament uses "terror" 35 times for several Hebrew words that are associated with fear, dread.


 2. From Wikipedia:


"Terrorism is the systematic use, or threatened use, of violence to intimidate a population or government and thereby effect political, religious or ideological change. Acts of terrorism are not intended to merely victimize or eliminate those who are killed, injured or taken hostage but rather to intimidate and influence the societies to which they belong.


Modern terrorism has come to be defined in part by the influential power of the mass media that terrorists co-opt in their efforts to amplify and broadcast feelings of intense fear and anger. As a type of unconventional warfare, terrorism is designed to weaken or supplant existing political landscapes through capitulation or acquiescence as opposed to subversion or direct military action.


"Terrorist attacks" are usually characterized as "indiscriminate", "targeting of civilians" or executed "with disregard for human life". The term "terrorism" is often used to assert that the political violence of an enemy is immoral, wanton and unjustified. According to the definition of terrorism—typically used by states, academics, counter-terrorism experts and non-governmental organizations—"terrorists" are actors who don't belong to any recognized armed forces or who don't adhere to the laws of war and who are, therefore, regarded as "rogue actors".


Those accused of being "terrorists" rarely identify themselves as such and, instead, typically use terms that refer to their ideological or ethnic struggle, such as: separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, jihadi or mujaheddin, or fedayeen or any one of similar-meaning words in a number of languages.

Terrorism has been used by a broad array of organizations to further their objectives. They including both right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic and religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism)

3. Note what the Apostle tells us about national boundaries and temporal limits on governments and rulers.


"…God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31)


4. The Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages:


"Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth." (Genesis 11:1-9)

5. "The lie" is the lie that man can be his own god and run his own life in independence of His Creator. This is the original lie of the Satan to Eve in the Garden, Genesis 3.

6. A "mystery" in the New Testament is a previously hidden body of truth, which is now divinely revealed by the Apostles and therefore understandable to us. The "mysteries" of the New Testament all have profound depth to them and in the end, a supernatural element still remains despite the revelation. To cite one example, Paul says that the relationship between Christ and His Bride the church resembles the relationship between man and wife in marriage. The subject matter of this one "mystery" easily fills volumes of discussion and analysis.

The greater mysteries made known to us in the New Testament are: (1) The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:3-50); (2) the mystery of Israel's blindness during this age (Romans 11:25, with context); (3) the mystery of the translation (rapture) of living saints at the end of this age (1 Corinthians 15: 51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17): (4) the mystery of the New Testament church as one body composed of Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 3:1-11; Romans 16.25; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3): (5) the mystery of the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:28-32); (6) the mystery of the indwelling Christ (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:26, 27); (7) the "mystery of God even Christ," i.e. Christ as the incarnate fullness of the Godhead embodied, in whom all the divine wisdom for man subsists (Colossians 2:2, 9; 1 Corinthians 2:7); (8) the mystery of the processes by which godlikeness is restored to man (1 Timothy 3:16); (9) the mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) (2 Thessalonians 2:7; Matthew 13:33); (10) the mystery of the seven stars (Revelation 1:20); and (11) the mystery of Babylon (Revelation 17:5, 7). (CIS)


September 18, 2006