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Our theme in this session and in the next one will be “True and False Christ.” I think it’s appropriate to begin by saying a word of explanation about the word Christ, which for all churchgoing Christians is a familiar word but I think there are many Christians who don’t realize the full implications of it. Just as there are many Jewish people who don’t realize what Christians mean when they say Jesus Christ. You see, the term Christ, or the concept, did not begin in the New Testament. It was something that is a central theme of the Old Testament and the Old Covenant and it only came to its completion and fulfillment in the New. In the Old Testament, in the Hebrew, there is a word which corresponds to the Greek word in the New Testament. I think it would be helpful if I just put them up in front of your eyes. So, O.T.—how many of you know what the word is? Messiah, that’s right. If you’re very Hebraic you say Mashiach but that’s the word. And that is the same word, or the same concept, as the New Testament Christ. So, when I say Jesus Christ, what I’m saying is Jesus the Messiah. Lots of Christians don’t realize that and I think most Jewish people don’t realize that when we Christians say Jesus Christ, what we are saying is Jesus is the Messiah.
Not only is there the true Messiah, the true Christ, but there are false messiahs, false christs. I think it’s becoming increasingly important for us to be able to distinguish the true from the false. In 1 John 2:18, John speaks about this issue. Writing to believers in Jesus, 1 John 2:18:
“Little children, it is the last hour [the last period of this age]: and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come; by which we know that it is the last hour.”
Now there we have the word antichrist. And that again, I think, needs some explanation. Antichrist is a combined word which is made up of two parts, anti and Christ. In order to understand the meaning of it you need to know the meaning of anti. The preposition anti in Greek has two meanings. First of all, against; and second, in place of. So, the antichrist, or an antichrist, has two thrusts. First of all, he’s against the true Christ; secondly, he seeks to take the place of the true Christ. That’s absolutely basic. I’m going to say it again. Antichrist means one who is against Christ, against the Messiah, in opposition to Him; and secondly, in place of Him, one who seeks to take His place.
To illustrate this very, very simply, some friends of mine who belong to an evangelical church in the United States—and I won’t specify the denomination—said to me once, “In our church you can talk about Socrates, you can talk about Plato, you can talk about Buddha, you can talk about Martin Luther King—and no one gets upset. But if you talk about Jesus people get upset.” What’s that? That’s something that is, first of all, against but preparatory to putting another in place of. You see? So you get the idea of what we’re dealing with. Otherwise, the thing will not be clear to you all the way through.
Now, going back to 1 John 2:18, John says:
“...as you have heard the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come; by which we know that it is the last hour.”
In other words, one of the distinctive features of the close of this age will be the appearance of many antichrists. Many men who are in opposition to the true Christ and whose aim is to take His place. This has been true ever since the days of the apostles. But the nearer we come to the end of this age the more relevant it is. In Matthew 24, a passage we may look at later, speaking about the period immediately before the close of the age, Jesus warned us there would be many false prophets and many false christs or false messiahs.
I want, therefore, to take a few moments to point out some of the main features of the period before the close of the age which particularly open the way for the manifestation of antichrists. First of all, I’d like to turn to Matthew 13:29–30. This is the chapter of the parables of the kingdom of God. This chapter contains the seven parables of the kingdom of God. And one of the main parables is the parable of the wheat and the tares. I’m sure it’s familiar to most people. It speaks about a farmer who sowed his field with good wheat but at night when nobody was watching an enemy came and deliberately sowed tares. I’m not an agricultural expert but I understand that tares are weeds that are very closely similar to wheat, at least in their early stages of growth. And so, according to the parable, when the servants woke up in the morning they found the tares growing with the wheat. I think the whole is a picture of what we would call Christendom or the kingdom of God. So, we find wheat that brings forth the appropriate fruit and tares that look like wheat but don’t bring forth any fruit. In the parable the servants of the landowner said, “Shall we go out and pull up the tares?” And I’ll give you the answer that’s recorded here in verse 29:
“The landowner said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.’”
That indicates that there’s very little to distinguish between the wheat and the tares. Even people working in the field could easily have pulled up wheat imagining it was to be a tare. In other words, there’s very little outward difference between the true fruit producing believers and the ones who claim to be believers but don’t produce fruit. The whole is a picture not of the unbelieving world but of what Jesus calls the kingdom of God or, what we would call Christendom.
Then Jesus gives God’s program for dealing with the tares. He says:
“Let both grow together [that’s wheat and the tares] until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers first gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Now, in the interpretation of the parable Jesus says the reapers in this context are the angels. So it’s too difficult a job for human beings to sort out the tares from the wheat. So Jesus said that’s not your problem. Leave that to me and the angels. When the time comes I will deal with it. I think that’s important because so often in our zeal, if we have any function in the body of Christ, we might say, well, let’s get rid of the tares. I mean, sometimes it’s very provoking to be dealing with people who claim to be Christians and don’t appear to bring forth any fruit. You might think the answer is get them out of the church. But that’s not the answer. We have to be patient. We have to tolerate the fact that amongst the wheat there are some tares. Our main responsibility is to make sure that I personally am wheat and not a tare.
I used to teach students in Africa and Kenya years ago. My real aim was to bring them to the Lord. They had certain standard objections which they used as excuses for rejecting the gospel. One of them was there are too many hypocrites in the church. Well, my answer was the New Testament indicates very plainly there are going to be hypocrites in the church so if there were no hypocrites in the church the New Testament wouldn’t be true. The fact that there are hypocrites in the church indicates the New Testament is true and therefore, you ought to believe it. Only just make sure that you’re not a hypocrite yourself.
So here we have a situation—and I personally have to say frankly I believe it applies to contemporary Christendom all over the world—where we have wheat and tares growing side by side. And it’s not our business to eliminate the tares. Our responsibility is to make sure that we are wheat.
But, the interesting thing if you look at it from a natural point of view is the same climate that is needed to ripen the wheat ripens the tares also. So, if you want the wheat to ripen you’ve got to be prepared to accept that the tares are ripening along with them. You can’t have one without the other. I believe that’s true of the age in which we live. If I were to choose one single word to describe the climate which ripens both the wheat and the tares, it would be permissiveness. Which, I have lived long enough to know, is an amazing feature of the period following World War II. Those of you that weren’t alive and kicking before World War II have no way of knowing how different Britain is from what it used to be. If people had told me when I was a boy of about 12 what it would be like in Britain after World War II, I could not have believed them. The whole climate has totally changed and, as I said, the word I would use is permissiveness.
Basically, you can get away with anything today somewhere. That’s true in the world, it’s also true in the church. You see, people can do things in church now they never could have done 50 years ago. Clapping your hands—unheard of. I remember going into a Pentecostal meeting in l941 and the people were clapping their hands. I was horrified. And then they sang from red hymn books. And then they repeated the choruses. I never heard of choruses before that. That was just a little part of it. The man who was the preacher had been a taxi driver before he became a preacher and he was telling the story of David the shepherd boy and King Saul. He was one of those preachers who believed in making it really vivid so he was conducting an imaginary dialogue between David and King Saul. So when he was speaking in the character of David he would stand on the platform and look up over a bench. When he was speaking in the character of King Saul he would stand on the bench and look at where he’d been when he was David. I was just following this thing, I mean, I just came out of seven years at Cambridge University, I wasn’t used to this kind of thing. While he was making an impassioned speech as King Saul, the bench collapsed and he fell to the ground with a loud thud! Well, you know, I thought this is just part of it all. Who knows where to draw the line in a place like this?
Since then, believe me, that was just very little compared to what we’ve seen. Dancing—I mean, really, there’s practically no limit to what people do somewhere. I’m not against any of these things, I’m just pointing out that it used not to be that way. The climate has changed. It’s changed in the world but it’s also changed in the church. And really, it’s a test of our motives because if you want to do evil things there’s very little to restrain you. And if you want to do good things and obey the scripture you can do it. There’s freedom for both the wheat and the tares. That’s the climate in which we’re coming to the close of this age.
And then in the world. We have a picture in 2 Timothy 3, the first 5 verses. 2 Timothy 3, beginning at verse 1:
“But know this...”
In other words, be very certain of this fact.
“...that in the last days [the period before the close of this age] perilous times will come.”
And in the margin of this particular Bible it says times of stress. That’s remarkable because, you know, stress is one of the new words that everybody uses but 40 years ago people didn’t talk about stress. They wondered where there was such a thing as stress. They just went about their way.
Why are there going to be perilous times? The root problem is the degeneration of human character and conduct. That’s what causes the danger. And Paul then gives a list of 18 aspects of human behavior that will be very conspicuous as we near the close of the age. I’ll just read the list quickly.
“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God...”
There are actually 18 moral or ethical defects. I would suggest to you that almost all of them are conspicuous in our contemporary culture. And really, the root problem is what people love. It begins with love of self and love of money and ends with love of pleasure. I would say if you take the culture of Europe today, including Britain, those are three of the main elements that direct people. Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure. And in between are all these other characteristics.
Then it says in verse 5:
“...having a form of godliness, but denying its power...”
So, this is rather startling. You might think all these people are people of the world. But Paul says no, they are professing godliness. It is incredible to me that Paul would use the word godliness about any religion other than the true religion. So here are people professing to be Christians but their characters are deteriorating. They haven’t been changed by the truth of the gospel. So, they profess faith but they deny the power that can change people. And if I were to choose just one word to sum it up it would be selfish. I tell people many places, listen, you can be one of those people who never smoke, never drink, never indulge in drugs, but if you’re selfish, if you’re living for yourself, your life is a denial of the power of the gospel. You’re no better, you’re just maybe a little more careful, you avoid certain things that harm you. But the real distinguishing mark of true Christians in this age is unselfishness. Those who lack that mark make the claim but deny the power.
And then Paul says:
“...from such turn away.”
In other words, don’t waste your time on them. I think that’s an important message to ministers of the gospel. Don’t spend too much time on selfish, self-centered people because the more time you give to counseling them and praying with them, the more self-centered they become. Self is a prison and every time you indulge it you’re strengthening the bars of that prison.
Then in the same chapter Paul goes on to speak about an upsurge of the occult which again is one of the most dramatic changes in society in the western world since World War II. And in verses 8–9 he says:
“Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses...”
Those are the magicians of Egypt that resisted Moses. And remember, they were practitioners of the occult. If you read the story, Moses threw his rod down and it became a snake. But Pharaoh wasn’t too impressed. He said, “I’ll see what my magicians can do.” They came along, threw their rods down and they became snakes. Can you believe that! Satan can give people power to perform certain miracles. But the difference, which I always appreciate, was that Moses’ snake ate up the snakes of the Egyptians. So, at the end of that session Moses’ rod was thicker and stronger and the magicians had no rods left! But, let’s be clear. The battle was not on the level of theology, it was on the level of power. And that’s where it’s going to be as this age closes. You’re not going to win the battle with theological statements, you’re going to have to demonstrate a power that is greater than the power of the enemy.
And then a little further on in verse 13 of that chapter Paul says:
“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Now, I’ve had the privilege of studying Greek since I was 10 years old. And I’m qualified to teach it at university level. That doesn’t mean I’m always right but it entitles me to my opinion. I will give you my opinion about this word impostors. It’s really enchanters. I’ve looked in three different Greek lexicons and all of them say the same. Why do people enchant? What does that speak about? Magic, witchcraft, sorcery. That’s what it means. Evil men and practitioners of the occult will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. In other words, one of the major features of this period is an explosion of the occult. So we have the deterioration of human character, a lot of nominal Christianity that doesn’t exhibit its power, and an explosion of the occult. All of those are very distinctive features of the days in which we live. And they’re all in one way or another opening the way and preparing the way for the antichrist.
Then we turn right to the end of the New Testament to Revelation 22 and we read verses 10–12. The angel said to John the revelator:
“Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book [the book of Revelation]: for the time is at hand. He who is unjust [or unrighteous], let him be still unrighteous: he who is filthy, let him be still filthy: he who is righteous, let him be still righteous [or let him go on doing righteousness]: he who is holy, let him be still holy.”
Or you could say still more holy, still more righteous, still more unrighteous, still more wicked. In other words, it’s the parting of the ways. The righteous are getting more righteous, the wicked are getting more wicked. Again, it’s that climate of permissiveness that restrains nothing. People are not restrained by outward pressures of social opinion and standards. So, everybody is free to do his own thing. And the wicked are going to go on doing their own thing. It’s as if the Lord says if you want to be wicked, live it up, you don’t have long. But He says to the righteous, go on doing righteousness and don’t be satisfied with the level of righteousness you’ve attained. Become still more righteous. Become still more holy. So, at the close of this age there’s the parting of the ways.
And then we’ll look back into the book of Daniel for just one further feature. All of it related to the coming out of the false christs, or a false christ, but particularly the false christ. Daniel 8:23, speaking about certain kingdoms in the Middle East which we don’t go into:
“In the latter time of their kingdom when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes.”
And generally, Bible commentators agree this is the antichrist. But notice what has to happen for him to arise. When the transgressors have come to their fullness. Or the rebels. In other words, human rebellion has to reach its peak and at that peak it will open the way for the antichrist.
Let’s briefly consider some of the features of the time which all relate to the appearance of the antichrist. First of all, in the kingdom of God wheat and tares ripening side by side in the same climate of permissiveness. And then in the world a progressive deterioration of human character and conduct. And in that connection, God pointed something out to me once. He said corruption is irreversible. The key word that describes fallen human nature is the word corrupt. And in every area of being, corruption is irreversible. Once a thing has become corrupt you cannot uncorrupt it. It will progressively become more corrupt. And that’s true of human nature and human society. The corruption that’s been at work in society ever since Adam fell is increasing. And there’s no way to reverse it. You can slow it down but you cannot reverse it. That’s why God doesn’t mess around with it. God’s remedy is a new creation. He doesn’t try to patch up the old or improve it or reform it, He says away with it. I’ll bring forth something new that’s uncorrupted, that’s pure, that has its origin in God.
And then we saw in the same chapter of 2 Timothy 3 a tremendous upsurge of the occult. Next we saw at the end of Revelation the parting of the ways: the righteous to become more righteous, the wicked to become more wicked. And then all this is kind of summed up in Daniel 8:23 when it says:
“When the transgressors have come to their fullness...”
When human rebellion against God and His laws and His standards and His righteousness has reached its peak, that will release the antichrist.
Now I’d like to turn to 1 John again and look at three different forms that the New Testament reveals antichrist. We’ll look, first of all, in 1 John 2, beginning at verse 18. We’ve already looked at that verse but we’ll look at it again.
“Little children, it is the last hour: and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come; by which we know that it is the last hour.”
So there is antichrist, or the antichrist, one specific individual who is going to emerge at the climax of human history, but there are also many antichrists.
And then if you turn to 1 John 4, I’ll read just the first 3 verses.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits...”
How important that is for us today, test the spirits. Don’t believe every prophecy, don’t believe every revelation, don’t believe every book you read.
“...test the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
A false prophet is one who has a false spirit. He’s not just speaking out of his own mind, but there’s a spirit of error in him which directs what he says.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.”
That’s one supreme test of what kind of spirit you’re dealing with. You may be dealing actually with a demon in a person or you may be dealing with a doctrine. And if the doctrine does not clearly acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah has come in the flesh, it’s not from God. And then it goes on:
“And every spirit that does not confess Jesus [or a longer version says does not confess that Jesus the Messiah] has come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world.”
There we have the spirit of antichrist. So we have altogether three manifestations: antichrists, plural, many of them; the antichrist, one specific individual who is going to emerge at the close of human history; and the spirit of antichrist. The spirit of antichrist is the spirit that operates through every antichrist. Let’s just put them up. Many antichrists and the spirit of antichrist. So, every antichrist is under the control of the spirit of antichrist. But the ultimate final version, as I understand it, has not yet appeared. My conviction is that he could easily appear before the end of this millennium. In fact, I think it’s probable that he will. That’s my personal opinion. The spirit of antichrist.
So, we have to determine what we’re dealing with. You see, that example that I gave you of the professing Christian church where they didn’t want to hear any talk about Jesus, that was the spirit of antichrist at work in that church. I would say if you take the western world, let’s leave out the Third World, probably that spirit is at work in at least 50% of professing Christian churches. So it’s not something theoretical that’s for the next millennium. That’s my personal estimate. I travel widely, many different countries, people from many different racial and denominational backgrounds. It’s not so much that I’m in that kind of a church very often but I meet people who tell me what’s going on in their churches.
The next thing we need to do is determine what are the distinctive marks of the spirit of antichrist. How will we identify it? I suggest to you that there are three that are stated there in 1 John. 1 John 2:19:
“They [that’s the antichrists] went out from us...”
You see, even in the days of the apostle John they were already operating. That’s before the end of the first century.
“They went out from us but they were not of us; for if they had been of us they would have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that none of them were of us.”
So the first important mark is that the spirit of antichrist starts in association with the people of God. You have to distinguish between two completely different things. Paganism which is the worship of false gods and idols but is not a denial that Jesus is the Messiah. In fact, in most parts of the pagan world they still haven’t heard that Jesus ever came. You cannot be antichrist if you’ve never even heard of Christ, you see? So, that’s paganism. It’s satanic but it’s not the spirit of antichrist. The spirit of antichrist can only operate where Christ has first been proclaimed. The spirit of antichrist, in a sense, is Satan’s last move. It’s his ultimate attempt to frustrate the purposes of God. And in my opinion it is the most powerful, evil force at work on earth.
I think that Ruth and I can speak from something other than theory, because living in the Middle East, we live in the absolute vortex of the power of the spirit of antichrist. It is much more powerful there than in any other part of the earth. You see, Satan is a strategist. He’s very well acquainted with Biblical prophecy and he knows that the age has got to close around Jerusalem. Furthermore, he knows the Jewish people have to turn back to God. So, he’s built his strongest walls of resistance in the area of Jerusalem, in the land of Israel, and the Middle East. Without, I hope, offending anybody, one of the most powerful examples of the spirit of antichrist is Islam. That is, the religion of the Moslems. Islam means perfection or completion, that’s the meaning of the word. It’s actually related to the word salaam which is related to the Hebrew word shalom. We won’t go into that. You see, Mohammed started from the scriptures. And in a certain sense his book, the Koran, is an outgrowth of the Old Testament. In fact, Moslems claim to believe the Old Testament. He’s also aware of the coming of Jesus and the Koran talks about the son of Mary. But, his claim is that the Christians corrupted the message of Jesus and that his religion is now the perfection and completion of the Old and the New Testaments. We’ll look at the other marks of the spirit of antichrist in a moment and you’ll see they’re all found in Islam. This is not a personal attack on Islam, this is an objective analysis of facts.
Let’s go on into 1 John 2:22 where we get the second mark.
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Messiah?”
It really makes much better sense here to say Messiah. So, the second mark of the spirit of antichrist is it’s aware of the coming of Jesus, denies His claim to be Messiah. That’s not altogether true of Islam. They wouldn’t contest that but they have so watered down the concept of Messiah that in actual fact it’s meaningless.
And then the third mark is also in the same verse:
“He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”
So, the antichrist does not accept the Biblical revelation of the persons of the Godhead, the Father and the Son. And here Islam is an outstanding example because Moslems are fanatically opposed to the claim that Jesus is the Son of God. In the famous mosque, Alaskar Mosque, on the temple area in the Arabic inscriptions twice it states God does not need a son. You can get Moslems to acknowledge that Jesus was a prophet and they will use language which sounds as though they believe. But you try and get them to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God and you get a totally different reaction.
Ruth and I at one time about four years ago were in Pakistan, which is about 98% Moslem. God opened the door for us for just about one week to preach to quite large gatherings. The gatherings were large for one simple reason, that we declared that we would pray for the sick. Had we not said that very few people would have turned out. Because we said that people came by thousands. They saw the miracles of healing, they saw blind eyes open, they saw cripples walk and other things. And so, at the end of every session we had three other preachers with us, we would say how many of you want to receive Jesus? How many of you want to be saved? And literally thousands of Moslems in the course of that week stood up. I was the first one to encounter this situation. I said, “I want to lead you in a prayer. If you are to be saved you’ve got to say this prayer.” I would say it, the interpreter would say it after me and they’d say it. I always began the same way, “Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you are the Son of God, and the only way to God. That you died on the cross for my sins and rose again from the dead.” See, the other thing that Islam denies is that Jesus actually died. They claim that an angel spirited Him away from the cross just before His actual death.
I hope you understand this is not an attack on Islam, it’s simply an analysis of that religion in the light of the revelation of scripture. But you will find that it’s the strongest single force resisting the gospel on earth today. Recently a group of people concerned with world evangelization made a list of the 40 least evangelized nations on earth and out of them 24 were Moslem nations.
So you see, in a certain sense the spirit of antichrist is Satan’s ultimate masterpiece.
Now, there are other spiritual powers at work that likewise exhibit the marks of antichrist. I think it would be indiscreet for me to make a list but I think I’ve give you sufficient marks to recognize. Please bear in mind that it’s not enough to be religious. In fact, religion is probably the greatest single barrier to the acceptance of Jesus. But let me just say very clearly this I believe is the ultimate battle. It’s against the spirit of antichrist. It’s Satan’s ultimate bulwark to prevent the age coming to a close. He has built this bulwark centuries ago all around the Holy Land and all around the city of Jerusalem. You look at a map of the Middle East, every nation surrounding that country is a Moslem nation. And in those nations it is forbidden to preach the gospel, it’s forbidden to convert a Moslem and a Moslem who is converted is subject to the sentence of death.
I met just recently a few days ago here in Britain a converted Moslem from north India. First of all, I was glad to see he was saying how much he appreciated the material that we make available. And then he said most of the Moslems who put their faith in Jesus are murdered. And he wasn’t making a dramatic statement, he was just making a simple statement of fact. And usually they get killed by their own relatives because it is considered a disgrace for any Moslem family for any person to be converted to Jesus. And rather than endure that disgrace usually the father or the brothers will put the believer to death.
So, let’s just continue for a moment in the time that’s left in this session and look at three other titles that are given to the antichrist. You’ll find two of them in 2 Thessalonians 2. Paul is talking about the coming of Jesus, the return of Jesus in power and glory to establish His kingdom. And incidentally, this is one of the key chapters for this theme. And he begins:
“Now brethren, concerning the coming [the parousia] again of the 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 [or better, the day of the Lord] had come.”
Don’t believe it if people tell you the day of the Lord has come. They were already saying that, you see, in the day of Paul. And you see, the deceptiveness of the agents of Satan, they were even circulating letters that they claimed had been written by Paul. That’s why Paul is so careful to say this is the real signature in all my letters. Don’t believe any letter that doesn’t have that signature.
“Let no one deceive you by any means: for that day will not come unless the falling away come first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.”
Paul says two things there. First of all, the coming of the Lord will not take place until something else has happened. And it says here the falling away. The NIV says the rebellion. But the Greek word is the one from which we get this word: apostasy. Now, that means a deliberate rejection of revealed truth. So there’s going to be a deliberate rejection of revealed truth. The apostasy. Not just some little apostasy but the complete apostasy. Where is that going to take place? It can only take place with those who have had the revealed truth, isn’t it? First the truth is revealed and then there’s a deliberate rejection of it. So where is that going to take place? In the what? In the church, that’s right. The only other place where that word is used in the New Testament is where Paul is accused of teaching apostasy from the law of Moses amongst the Jewish people. So it’s specifically a rejection of revealed religious truth. So Paul says the coming of the Lord will not take place. I know there are a lot of different concepts about this and I’m very open-minded. There are some things I don’t know. There are some things I don’t understand but what is clear I teach. Paul says the coming of the Lord will not take place until first there has been the apostasy. And then he says the man of sin, but the better word is the man of lawlessness, has been revealed, the son of perdition. So here are two extra titles. Apart from antichrist he’s also man of lawlessness. You remember that Jesus said in Matthew 24 because lawlessness will abound, the love of many Christians will grow cold? He’s also son of perdition. So those are two extra titles. Antichrist, man of lawlessness, son of perdition.
And there’s one more which is found in Revelation 13. We’ll read beginning at the 1st verse.
“I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard... and then I saw one of its heads as it been mortally wounded... [and it says at the end of verse 3] all the word marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon which gave authority unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’”
You see the word beast is a recurrent theme. So the other alternative title is beast but it’s better to put wild beast. It’s a cruel, savage, fierce, devouring creature.
So now we have a more complete picture. The antichrist who is the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition, the wild beast. Tell me who else in the New Testament is called the son of perdition? Judas Iscariot. And you see, Judas was an apostle. He started in association with Jesus. That’s one of the characteristic marks.
Now, there is in the book of Revelation a deliberate contrast between two beings. One is the wild beast, the Greek word pterion. Who can tell me what the other creature is that’s contrasted with the wild beast? The Lamb, that’s right. And in Greek there’s a very strong similarity, amnion. See, the ending is absolutely the same. This is one of the pointed contrasts of Revelation. The world is going to have to choose. God has ordained this. He’s going to confront the whole world with a choice. Do you want the Lamb or will you follow the wild beast?
You see, this goes right back to the trial of Jesus when Pilate said which of them shall I release to you? Jesus or Barabbas? Jesus the Lamb, Barabbas the violent criminal, the murderer. Isn’t it amazing that they chose Barabbas? Have you ever pondered on that? And history is going to repeat itself. Confronted with the choice between Jesus the Lamb and the antichrist, the wild beast, the great majority of the human race is going to choose the beast.
And you see, one of God’s ways of judging people, which has worked throughout history, is letting them have the kind of ruler they deserve. And so that’s how one of the ultimate judgments of God is to permit this terribly cruel, evil, despotic, villainous creature to gain dominion over the whole human race. There are exceptions which we’ll look at later.
You see, when Jesus appeared at the River Jordan and John the Baptist was to introduce Him, you remember what he said? Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And immediately after that what happened? The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended on Jesus and rested on Him. And here is a wonderful truth. The Dove looks for the Lamb. The Dove will not rest on a tiger or an elephant or any other savage creature. He looks for one nature, the Lamb nature.
What is the mark of the Lamb nature? I would suggest three things: purity, meekness and a life laid down. And you see, you and I are going to be part of this decisive process. Are we going to cultivate the nature of the beast or are we going to cultivate the nature of the Lamb? If need be, are we going to suffer? Are we prepared to lay down our lives? Will we cultivate the character of Jesus even in the midst of intense wickedness? It’s a very real decision. It’s not abstract, it’s not theoretical, it’s not theology. That’s the issue before the human race. The wild beast or the Lamb? I trust you’ll see this is not an abstract lecture about something remote. It’s very real concerning you and me at this time.