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Understanding the Antichrist
“Now the Spirit expressly says (underlines the fact) that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1
“The Elder; To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever.” 2 John 1-2
The Testing of The People of God
The concept of Antichrist in the Bible is not just the rise of an evil individual who has to be identified and avoided. While this is partly true, it is a fact that an Antichrist is someone that God allows to emerge on the stage of history, at different points in time, in order to purify His people, prepare them for His purpose and put them to the test. That is, to lay bare the real nature of their commitment to Him. We all declare our loyalty to Christ but can He depend upon us in an urgent time or will we deny Him like Peter did? To put in another way, will our promise of allegiance hold true when we are threatened with false teaching, suffering, deprivation, imprisonment and even death?
At the root of the Antichrist phenomenon is the reality of deception. This is true because the word Antichrist has two meanings. The first is the presentation of that which is against Christ but the second is the presentation of that which is another teaching about Jesus that is close to the truth but actually inherently false. This latter presentation is the most dangerous and it is the one that through the centuries has derailed the people of God. The challenge that Antichrist brings then to the people of God is great, for often it is couched in miraculous signs and wonders and only our love for the truth of God’s word will enable us to withstand it. It is in this context that Antichrist is first mentioned in the Bible:
“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and sign or wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods’-which you have not known – ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 13:1-3
It is to be noted that Antichrist poses a unique challenge to the people of God in that, unlike other false prophets, who are declared as such when their predictions do not come to pass (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), the false signs and wonders of an Antichrist actually do come to pass! The problem is, these contradict the truth of God’s word and herein lies the challenge and test for the people of God; will they love truth more than the sensational couched in signs and wonders? Paul acknowledged this challenge in his second epistle to the Church at Thessaloniki:
“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, that they all may be condemned who did believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
Also, it is important to note that God allows Antichrist to rise so that He might sift the people of God for He is indeed testing them to make evident whether they do in fact love Him with all their hearts and souls. Jesus clearly echoed the words of Moses when He stated that those who commit their lives to God through Him must love God with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength ( Matthew 22:37). Paul, in his second letter to the believers at Thessaloniki reminded them that he had previously warned them of these things and that by the rise of Antichrist God Himself would be sending a “strong delusion” amongst them because He “tests our hearts” (2 Thessalonians 2:5;1 Thessalonians 2:4). Jesus warned that the coming of Antichrist would possibly even deceive the elect:
“For false christs and false prophets will and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.” Mark 13:22-23
It is to be noted then that the idea that believers in God, by Jesus Christ, will not be subjected to the testings of God by the instrument of Antichrist is not biblical. It has always been a biblical and spiritual phenomenon and certainly one that has been established by Moses himself and re-asserted by Jesus. This text means that demonic power, under the sovereignty of God, will set out by intrigue and deception to see whether the elect can be overthrown. If this were not possible why then would Jesus warn them? The answer is clear, it is possible and therefore He gives His followers prior warning. Church history affirms that this is true!
The Arrival of Many Antichrists
For reasons given above history affirms that at all times and throughout the generations, Antichrists have arisen to test the people of God in an attempt to deceive them. John, the beloved Apostle, wrote of this in his first epistle:
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us; they would have continued with us…..” 1 John 2:18-19
John admits that one final and great Antichrist will arrive dominating the world and persecuting the Church. About this he writes extensively in the book of Revelation but he also affirms that from within the Church of the living God these antichrist people and leaders have also arisen. No doubt he was thinking of Diotrephes about whom he writes in 3 John 9-10! These antichrists are observable because they contradict biblical truth and the divine pattern for local churches and love to be wholly in charge or as he puts it, to have “the preeminence.” They are sadly still around. Paul warned the Ephesian Church Elders that after his departure “wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).
The history of the Church is strewn with the wreckage that such people have visited upon it. In the early Church, as the Antichrists Nero, Diocletian and others rose to power in Rome, many in the Church, when under the pressure of persecution, committed apostasy by denying Christ and worshipping Caesar as lord of all. They later attempted to rejoin the Church causing great schism and controversy. Also, prominent Bishops, having great influence, began to question the deity of Christ and thereby brought deception into the believing community. Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria was called upon by God to challenge Arius, a priest from Libya, about these things. Antichrist was ravaging the Church everywhere as Arius’ false teachings about Jesus’ identity took hold throughout the empire. One historian of the day wrote:
“In every city bishop was contending with bishop, and the people were contending against one another, like swarms of gnats fighting the air.”
It was only at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 that these issues were settled and the Church was saved from Antichrist but many fell, embraced deception and committed apostasy. The confirmation of the Canon of the New Testament also contributed greatly to resolving this matter and again, it was Bishop Athanasius who first set forth the 27 books of the New Testament for canonization. Truth won out against antichrist deception but even today this battle continues to rage in that many deceiving doctrines have penetrated the Church.
Probably the most glaring example of Antichrist of our time is Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. Their belief system was dark, demonic and evil and yet the believing Church of all designations in Germany embraced it and made an agreement with it! People like Pastor Martin Niemoller and the Rev Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood up against this wickedness but most were deceived and happily, and might I say, enthusiastically, welcomed it. They abandoned the truth! The video footage of the time of Catholic and Protestant Church leaders giving the Nazi salute is unnerving to say the least. They were overcome by deception but don’t for a moment think that it cannot happen again. The early signs of Church capitulation to false doctrines and government over reach are everywhere evident today. Indeed the spirit of Antichrist is feverishly at work seeking to undermine believers in Jesus with false doctrines and deception. Also they are seeking to build a global political platform upon which the final Antichrist will ascend. Today this is proudly announced as the “Great Reset!” The root of this “reset” is pagan and anti-Christian in character and so another challenging test awaits the people of God.
The Nature of Antichrist
There are some who assert that the final great Antichrist of history will not be an individual but rather a political system. They are wrong and their position is not biblical. In the book of Deuteronomy the God of the Bible clearly tells us that these false teachers will be individuals. Certainly the Antichrist will build a global system, just like a spider builds a web by which to trap his prey, but from a scriptural point of view the Antichrist is always an individual. In fact, the very prototype of Antichrist in scripture is an individual called Antiochus Epiphanes (essentially meaning “God Manifest”) who, in BC 168 committed the Abomination of Desolation in the Temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing a pig on the altar. We are introduced to him in Daniel’s oracle and he serves as a template for the great Antichrists to come (Daniel 7:23-25: 9:27; 11:31-39).
Though he assaulted biblical truth and committed the “abomination of desolation” there were in fact many Jews who supported him as they agreed with his globalist plan to “hellenize the world”. This means that no faith claiming an exclusive revelation to that of others could be tolerated and allowed to exist and so in the days of Antiochus the Jewish faith had to be subdued and its unique teachings debunked. There are many ways to heaven in the Antichrist scheme of things. Of this saga Robert Van Kampen writes: “Many Jews were so eager to please Antiochus and to avoid persecution that they not only forsook the Mosaic Law but even their racial identity and heritage, considering themselves from then on to be Gentiles.” However, under the fire of persecution, many God fearing Jews stood up and opposed Antiochus. Most famous of these is Judas Hasmoneas (Maccabee), who together with his family and many other God fearing Jews, led a revolt against this tyranny.
Today, in every so called Christian country in the West, Christians are under assault for declaring that Jesus is the only way of salvation (John 14:6). Also, if one publicly expresses a biblical world view on an issue like the nature of family or sexuality one could be arrested and put on trial, as we have witnessed in Finland recently. The “hellenizing or antichrist spirit” is evident and growing everywhere. John warned us about this but will we stand or surrender to the coming new Antiochus Epiphanes?
“By this you know the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (meaning that He is the only way of salvation) is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of Antichrist, which you heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” 1 John 4:2-3
In His Olivet Discourse, dealing with the signs heralding the consummation of the age, Jesus referred back to Antiochus Epiphanes by quoting Daniel and said that what he had done 200 years before would occur again in just a short while and then again at the end of the age. In AD 70 Titus of Rome also desecrated the Temple, just as Jesus prophesied. Now we are looking at the rise of a New World Order that will pave the way for the final Antichrist of history to take control of the world. Jesus has warned us of this, as have Paul and John, but spirits of deception have risen up within the Church to declare that we need not bother ourselves with such warnings because we will be taken out of the world (raptured) beforehand! But Jesus, speaking to the Church said:
“Therefore when you see the Abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Matthew 24:15-16
The Apostle Paul used exactly the same language, again quoting from Daniel, when he wrote that at the end of the age the Beast or Antichrist, like Antiochus Epiphanes, would desecrate the Temple and declare Himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Paul then went on to write that he would be destroyed by Jesus at His second coming. This means that this final setting up of the “Abomination of Desolation” is still ahead of us:
“And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8
The biblical position is therefore clear about the fact that Antichrist will be an all powerful global ruler who, like the ancient Emperors of Rome, will oppose the Church and Israel and seek to destroy both. But, his evil demonic spirit is already working in the world and within the Church in order to deceive many and pave the way for his arrival. Nevertheless, God is looking for those who will stand up, be purified and, holding to truth, do exploits in His name.
“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Daniel 11:32
The Actions of Antichrist
It is the book of Revelation that enlightens us more specifically about the plans and actions of Antichrist. This book, written in about AD 92 and thus some twenty years after Titus committed the abomination of desolation in Jerusalem, is exclusively addressed to the believing Church in the world (Revelation 1:1-3;10-11). Sadly, it is routinely neglected by preachers but it is a very important oracle because it speaks at length about the rise of the final Antichrist. John then tells us that he:
1. Will arise out of the abyss and thus be a demonoid. That is, constitutionally half man and half devil (Revelation 11:7; 17:8).
2. Has been here before but died from a mortal head wound (Revelation 13:3) and will thus be recognized with amazement by the world at the time of his reappearing on the world political stage ( Revelation 17:8-9).
3. Will solve the world’s pressing and destructive problems, including the Arab/Israeli conflict, and will be welcomed and admired by everyone just as Hitler was (Revelation 13:4).
4. Will assault biblical truth, stand against Jesus of Nazareth and blaspheme the God of Heaven (Revelation 13:5-6).
5. Will make war against the saints of God (Revelation 13:7a).
6. Will cause all nations to serve and worship him. That is, every tribe, tongue and nation will give their allegiance to him but, if they do, they will be shut out of the Lambs Book of Life (Revelation 23:7b-8).
7. Will target the Christians across the earth and consequently they will have to endure with patience and even death his reign of terror (Revelation 13:10).
8. Will perform great signs and confirming wonders all inspired by raw Satanic power (Revelation 14:11-15).
9. Will inaugurate a water tight global economic and religious system that will make it impossible for believers in Jesus to operate and survive in (Revelation 13:16-18)……and,
10. He will be apprehended and destroyed by Jesus at His second coming (Revelation 19:19-20).
Some Final Thoughts
It is clear from scripture that the rise of Antichrist is a challenge to the Church. Scripture warns that because of this challenge many Christians will fall away and by so doing commit a great apostasy. Please note that one can only fall away from something that one formerly belonged to Jesus and Paul warned of this:
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:11-12
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming 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.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
Much of the Church is sleeping today, especially in the West, but in the Middle East, Africa and beyond literally millions of Christians are suffering and dying under the tyranny of many antichrists. However, we are rapidly moving toward a new world order and the rise of a final great Antichrist who will rule over every nation, tribe and tongue and we must not only warn each other but also strengthen our relationship with Jesus, personally and corporately. This is an urgent matter because it occupies vast passages of scripture. Sadly these have been ignored and even mocked by statements like, ” We are not looking for Antichrist but for Christ.” The early Church faced Antichrist, as did the great Reformers, the German Church under the Third Reich, the underground Church of the Soviet Union and China and many others under the heel of radical Islam. It is time to awaken to the truth of God’s word.
Also, it is clear from scripture that Israel and the Jewish people have always been the target of Antichrist. This is so because they are the vehicle of world redemption. That is, the means by which God has brought His word and Savior into the world (Romans 9:1-5). This is why Jesus said that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Antiochus Epiphanes set out to destroy them as did Haman in Babylon, Herod at the time of Jesus’ birth, the Caesars of Rome, those naming Jesus in Europe in the Middle Ages, Hitler and radical Islam. You must know that we are moving toward an all out assault against Israel by Antichrist. It is in a restored Temple in Jerusalem, according to scripture, that Antichrist will declare himself to be god and seek to finally overthrow the Jewish people. Antiochus will have arrived again!
Again, in terms of this soon coming deception that will assault the Church and Israel, Robert Van Kampen writes:
“In order to gain the world’s support and to consolidate all political and military power under his personal control, Antichrist will operate incognito prior to and throughout the first half of (Daniel’s) seventieth week. During this time many will throw their lot in with him, only to find it impossible to extricate themselves once his true identity is revealed.”
This is the trap that is coming and even now we see signs of it in terms of the “buying and selling” prohibitions and mandates forced upon communities by tyrannical leaders like Justin Trudeau. These my friends are dangerous days but God is in control of all things. He has given us ample and very detailed warnings about the times in which we live. The question is, are we taking heed? If history teaches us anything it is that we are not! I have written these few words to encourage you, tell you the truth and help you to press in to know and love Jesus as never before. May God be with you.