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In our previous studies, we have been dealing with several aspects of the church, as portrayed in the New Testament. We dealt with the universal church, the local church, the main ministries that build up the church, and we sought to give also a picture of the daily life of a local church, as portrayed in the New Testament.
In this study, I want to deal with something that is partly prophetic. In other words, it looks forward to the future, but I personally am convinced that the future, as envisaged in this study, is not far away. In fact, many evidences of what this study foreshows are already clearly visible within professing Christendom. The title of the study is “Bride or Harlot?” And the next study in this series will be entitled “False Church and False Christ.” In a sense, this is a kind of postscript to the main series of studies.
Let’s turn to Revelation and read two or three passages there that relate to our theme. First of all, we’ll read about what the King James version calls “the great whore” that I prefer to call in more modern English “harlot” or even “prostitute” or “adulteress.” And then we’ll read about the true bride of Christ. Revelation 17:1–5:
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Side by side with that, let us contrast the picture of the Bride in Revelation 19:7–8:
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
We could look also in Revelation 21:9, where the same type of language is used, although this is a little further on in the fulfilling of God’s purposes. Revelation 21:9:
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, [and it is somewhat probable, I think, it was the same angel] and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
So we have two completely contrasted things. The harlot and the bride. Now we know from many passages of the New Testament that the bride is one of the main titles of the true church of Jesus Christ. It does not represent a single individual but a whole group of believers united by faith in Jesus Christ. I think it’s clear from the language of Scripture that the harlot or the whore, likewise, must represent a group and not an individual and that this group must, in some sense, be a religious group, whether we want to use the word “church” or not, we may perhaps please ourselves. And as I view Scripture and the unfolding of God’s purposes and the fulfillment of God’s prophecies, it has become increasingly plain to me that within Christendom, that is, the professing Christian church under any title, or we might go further perhaps and say within the whole religious world, as this age closes, there will only be two significant groups—the bride and the harlot. Now this is not a matter of abstract theory, it’s a matter of extreme personal significance because I believe time is moving so swiftly to the close that each one of us that is here tonight is probably going to be faced with a personal decision as to whether each of us will take our place within the harlot or within the bride and I do not believe there will be any other alternative open to any of us.
Now, turning from Revelation, I want to go back to the opening book of the Bible, Genesis, and I am sure many of you are aware that almost everything that is opened in Genesis is concluded in Revelation. There is a remarkable correspondence between the two books. And I want to read the well-known passage about the two sacrificial offerings brought by the two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. This is the first picture of what I would call “religion” in the Bible and, as with almost everything, when it’s presented for the first time in Scripture, the great basic truths are there and all subsequent references simply unfold the truths contained in the first reference.
In many cases, the first time that any important concept is referred to in the Scripture, it is the seed out of which all subsequent revelation and teaching will unfold. And this I believe is true in this picture of the two types of religion—Abel’s religion and Cain’s religion. As I view human history, from then until now, I believe there have never been any other types of religion known to the human race but these two types and every person who has religion has either the religion of Cain or the religion of Abel. There’s nothing else.
I believe this is where we have to see things clearly and where we should be grateful Scripture so clearly reveals these two distinct and opposed types of religion. They are opposed as this story indicates because they ended with a murder of one brother by the other brother and there’s not an accident, there’s nothing irrelevant in any single part of this passage.
It’s a brief story and every item in it is of tremendous significance. Now I’ll read it in the King James version. Genesis 4, beginning at verse 3 and reading through verse 8:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD has respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
I have sought to define these two religions as follows, as you will see in your outline. The religion of Abel is grace received by faith. The religion of Cain is works without grace. Let’s just take this little unfolding of the two types of religion which you will see there in your outline—Abel’s religion on the left side and Cain’s religion on the right side and you will see six points, in which they are opposite to each other. First of all, Abel received divine revelation. He knew what was required of him by way of a sacrifice because it was revealed to him by the Lord. Now this we can find by turning to the passage in Hebrews 11, where this incident is referred to. Hebrews 11:4. Keep your finger in Genesis 4, we’ll probably be turning back there and notice two things that are stated about Abel in Hebrews 11.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
Notice, first of all, that it says “by faith” Abel offered his sacrifice unto God. Now faith in the Scripture is always based on the revelation of the Word of God. If you turn for a moment to Romans 10:17, you will find the Bible’s account of how faith comes. “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Some of the newer versions take an alternative reading which is “hearing by the preaching of Christ.” It makes no difference actually, because the word of God is the preaching of Christ. But we notice that faith comes by hearing what God says in His word. Faith is based on the revelation of God in His word. Now, by faith Abel offered his sacrifice. This shows us that he had a revelation of God upon which he acted. He had faith which came by hearing what God had revealed. On the other hand, it is clear that Cain, who must have shared the revelation, rejected it. The revelation was that a propitiatory sacrifice was necessary before a sinner could approach God and be received with favor. Abel submitted to the revelation which demanded that he humble himself and acknowledge his position as a sinner, Cain rejected divine revelation.
Secondly, if you’ll look again in your outline, Abel acknowledged the need of substitutionary sacrifice. He acknowledged that a life had to be laid down before he could approach God. That he could openly approach God upon the basis of a life given on his behalf. And, of course, this is looking forward to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross in whom all the types of Old Testament prophecy are fulfilled. Cain, on the other hand, denied the need of substitutionary sacrifice.
Thirdly, Abel offered propitiation for the curse on the earth, whereas Cain offered to God the products of earth that God had cursed. Look back in Genesis 3:17 for a moment and you’ll see that as a result of Adam’s disobedience God pronounced a curse upon the earth. Genesis 3:17:
And unto Adam [God] said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
From then on the earth was under a curse, brought about by man’s disobedience. Now, Cain offered God that which had been produced by something under God’s curse. In other words, it was actually an affront to God. In this also he rejected divine revelation and offered God something that was produced by something God declared to be cursed.
Then, moving on to the fourth point, Abel received supernatural attestation from God. Now, again, it’s helpful to look both in Genesis and Hebrews. In Genesis 4:4, it says, “the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering....” In Hebrews 11:4, this is interpreted for us, as follows: “by which he [Abel] obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts....” In some way God supernaturally bore testimony to the fact that He accepted Abel’s sacrifice. Many people believe that fire supernaturally consumed the sacrifice on the altar. This is not stated. It’s a probable opinion, it has happened at other times in the history of God’s people, more than once in the history of Israel a supernatural fire consumed the sacrifice upon the altar when it was offered in complete and exact obedience to God’s requirements. So it’s reasonable, but it’s not necessary to believe that. But whatever happened, there was a visible, supernatural attestation by God to the sacrifice that Abel offered. On the other hand, God refused to bear attestation to Cain’s offering. If you look in Genesis 4:5: “But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.” And Cain wasn’t in any doubt as to the significance of this because when he saw that the supernatural attestation of God was withheld from his offering it says he was very, very angry and his countenance fell.
You see, both Abel and Cain knew exactly what they were doing. Neither of them acted in ignorance. The moment that the supernatural attestation came to Abel’s offering but was withheld from Cain’s offering, Cain knew Abel’s offering had been received and his had been refused and this made him extremely angry with his brother. And, as a matter of fact, human nature hasn’t changed in the least bit. It’s exactly the same in the two types of religion today. When you and I who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the supernatural signs that Jesus said would follow the true gospel—when we testify to those who don’t have the supernatural signs, that’s what makes them angry. It hasn’t changed the least bit. It’s precisely the same. Human nature hasn’t changed over thousands of years.
Let’s look again at the outline. The fifth point: Abel’s religion produced a martyr. It cost him his life. He was killed for his faith. Cain’s religion produced the exact opposite—a murderer. He had no grace in his heart because he refused it. He did not receive it by faith and the natural wickedness of the human heart stirred up by the rejection by God turned him in insane anger against his brother and he killed his brother for no other reason than that God had accepted his brother’s offering and refused his. This again is entirely characteristic. Every single detail of this is true. If you want to know the real enemy of true religion, it is not Communism, it is not atheism, it is false religion. It always has been and it always will be to the end of the age. And the end of the age will see this much more vividly portrayed than ever we have seen it up till now.
Looking into the future, the sixth point of comparison: Abel’s religion will bring forth the bride and Cain’s religion will bring forth the harlot. The streams that began in Genesis 4 finish in Revelation 17 and 19.
Let’s look at this picture now of the bride and the harlot a little closer and let’s see what it is that distinguishes the bride from the harlot. When you come to weigh it up in your mind, it is very, very simple. It’s very clear. There’s nothing profound or complicated about it. Turn to 2Corinthians 11:2 and notice what Paul says there. And he’s speaking to true Christian believers, and he’s warning them. He says:
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Now, espousal, as you probably understand, in the New Testament, is not marriage. The other word commonly used is betrothal. It’s what we would call today engagement, but it was much more solemn and binding than engagement is in modern Western society. The woman who was betrothed to her husband was completely set apart to that man. She wasn’t free to enter into any kind of a relationship whatever with any other man, and if, in the period following the betrothal but prior to the marriage, she was involved with any other man, that was called fornication and the man to whom she was espoused had the right to divorce her just as he would have divorced her if she had been his wife. Now this is very clearly brought out in the story of Joseph and Mary at the beginning of the New Testament in Matthew 1 because, as a result of God’s supernatural intervention to bring about the birth of Jesus Christ, Joseph formed the opinion that his wife (espoused wife, not married) had been unfaithful to him. We’ll read just those three verses there. It’s not to deal with this story, but to bring out the point.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together [notice this is the period subsequent to espousal but prior to actual marriage], she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away [to divorce her] privily. [That was Joseph’s mercy. He was a righteous man and he wanted to show mercy, because had he done it publicly, she would have been treated as an adulteress.] But while he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And if you read on in verse 24: “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife....” He actually married her. This brings out the very important fact that in the process of marriage there are these two successive phases: the espousal or betrothal, which is binding, sacred and must not be violated, but is not marriage; and the marriage is not consummated until the second phase, the marriage.
Now, Paul, writing to the Christians at Corinth and they’re typical of all true Christians, said, “You are espoused to one husband, Jesus Christ, and my prayer and aim is that you may remain undefiled and loyal and be presented to Him a chaste virgin.” This is what it means to come to Jesus Christ, confess Him as Savior and Lord, receive forgiveness of sins. It’s the initial contract. It’s the espousal, but it is not the marriage. And there is a period between the espousal and the marriage and this is a vital period because our destiny in time and eternity as believers will be settled by the way we behave in the period between espousal and marriage.
Now, in Revelation 19:7–8, we look forward to the actual marriage. Not the espousal, you understand, but the marriage at the end of the period of espousal.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
We do not need to read the next verse now, we’ll read it later.
So here’s the marriage. It’s still future. It will take place in connection with the Lord’s return without seeking to go into any details about the timing of the Lord’s return or different phases, we can say generally the marriage is reserved for the Lord’s return. When the Lord comes for His bride, the church, then the marriage will be celebrated. But at the present time, we are still espoused but not yet married. We are on probation just like the espoused wife was on probation during the period up to her marriage. And this was a very solemn, sacred, binding contract. And our relationship to Jesus Christ is even more solemn, sacred and binding.
Now let’s look at the dangers that threaten believers in the period between espousal and marriage. Turn back to 2Corinthians 11:3–4:
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity [or sincerity] that is in Christ. [Paul sees a danger that in the period following espousal, the devil will have access to these believers, will play upon their minds, will corrupt their sincerity and their commitment to Jesus Christ and cause them to be unfaithful to Christ as Eve was to Adam. It’s a very clear picture. And then he goes on to indicate more clearly the way in which it could happen:] For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
And we have there in three phrases the means that Satan is using and will use to corrupt the believers and each phrase is introduced by the word “another.” Another Jesus, a Jesus who is not the Jesus of the Scriptures. And of course, in many sections of the church today we have precisely that—the presentation of a Jesus who is human but not divine, not virgin born, on a level with Socrates and Buddha and Plato and other teachers, and often spoken of in terms of great disrespect. Well, that’s another Jesus; that’s not the Jesus that is presented in Scripture.
I preached once in a CFO camp in Michigan and one night I preached a message on deliverance from evil spirits and it was a pretty stern message and the reactions to it were somewhat mixed in that camp. In fact, it stirred up quite a lot, but I knew that God had given me that message. I knew it was the truth and multitudes of people were delivered. And I stuck to what I preached. Right at the end of the camp, a lady came to me and she said, “I just want to thank you. You’ve done something for me.” She said, “You’ve given me a totally new picture of Jesus Christ.” She said, “The picture I had of Jesus Christ was sentimental, human and one-sided and you’ve shown me a totally different picture of Jesus and that’s the picture in the Scriptures.” You see, that woman was in danger of accepting another Jesus—all love and no judgment; all heaven and no hell. That is a false picture of Jesus Christ.
And then it says, “if you receive another spirit.” The Spirit that comes with Jesus is the Holy Spirit but there is another spirit at work and we will examine it more closely in a few minutes.
And then, “or if you receive another gospel.” And in Galatians Paul says, “If any man, whether it be man or angel, preach any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” It’s a very, very solemn statement. And certainly, without any question, there is another gospel being preached in the professing church of Christ today—what is called a “social gospel” and it’s Cain’s religion. It’s works without grace. It denies the fact that man is sinful by nature and by act. It denies the need for a substitutionary sacrifice. It rejects the shedding of blood and it offers God something that comes from that which is already under a divine curse. And it’s an affront to God, for the Scripture says that the “old man is corrupt and incapable of good. He’s a corrupt tree which can bring forth nothing but corrupt fruit. And any fruit that is offered from the tree of the old, unredeemed, carnal nature is corrupt fruit and unacceptable to God. The picture is most exact.
Further on in 2Corinthians 11, Paul again speaks about the way in which this process of alienation from Christ will operate. 2Corinthians 11:13–15. Speaking about the people that are presenting a different Jesus, a different gospel and bringing another spirit, he says:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
You’ll see that the people who bring this other gospel and present this other Jesus and this other spirit, they are people who claim to be the ministers of Christ. They are not people who don’t profess Christianity, they don’t teach some other religion, they claim to be teaching Christianity and they claim to be the ministers of righteousness but in actual fact they are ministers of Satan. They are teaching lies. They are denying the great basic truths of the Word of God.
Now I’m sure that everybody in this room tonight is aware that this is precisely what is happening all over the United States and around the world today. We don’t have to look far away. In this city where I’m preaching tonight there are many, many churches and many professing ministers that are doing exactly the things that are described here. This is not a matter of theory, it’s a matter of simple observation. It’s happening exactly this way today in the professing Christian church in the United States and around the world. We are confronted with yet one more evidence of the absolute accuracy of the Scriptures.
In 1Timothy 4, the apostle Paul gives us another picture of how this process of alienation from Christ will be carried out by Satan and his agents. We could read more but it will be enough to read just the first verse of 1Timothy 4.
Now the Spirit [capital “s,” the Holy Spirit] speaketh expressly [says in words that means], that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils [or more correctly, demons]....
So the Holy Spirit says clearly that in the latter times, at the close of this age, some shall depart from the faith. Now, the faith, without a doubt, is Christianity. These people depart from it. Now you cannot depart from it you’ve never been in. That’s impossible. So these people have been in the Christian faith but are led away from it, alienated from it. How? By seducing spirits and doctrines [or teachings] of demons. In other words, these spirits through human agents professing to be ministers of Christ, introduce doctrines which are actually a product of demons. And I know this to be true. I dealt with a young woman, my wife will recall this, one of the most remarkable incidents of deliverance from evil spirits that we’ve ever witnesses. It lasted more than five hours. This young woman was a professing Christian, a member of a full gospel church, at one time had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, but she had gone astray. And I will not relate in detail how she went astray. Without seeking it, we were involved in the process of casting the evil spirits out of her and, as I say, it lasted five hours. And a lady present, I didn’t make any record, made a record and counted seventy-two different spirits that named themselves and came out of this woman. And this was done in the presence of witnesses whose names are well known and whom I could be prepared to give. It didn’t just happen in a corner. And, at a certain point in this, every one of the spirits spoke to me. And I didn’t tell them to, they just started talking to me. The scene was dramatic.
Let me mention one, just as a way of illustrating just how real this was. One of them said, they didn’t always give their name, they said what they did. This one said, “We worship God in stones and trees.” And I said, “In what else?” I don’t know why I said that, but I did. They said, “Feathers, in birds’ feathers.” So I said, “What kind of a spirit are you?” And it said, “Fetishes.” So I said, “Where do you come from?” because they came from all over the world and they said where they came from. I said, “Where do you come from?” It said, “From Africa.” I said, “From what part of Africa?” It said, “East Africa.” Well, I’d been a missionary five years in East Africa. I said, “Do you know me?” It said, “Yes, I know you.” I said, “Where did you see me?” It said, “I followed you around wherever you went.” So I thought, “I’m not going to let this thing fool me. I’m going to put it to the test. And I will not go into details, but I asked about ten specific questions, detailed, about East Africa that no one could possibly begin to answer who wasn’t intimately acquainted with East Africa, including a knowledge of the Swahili language, and it answered every one instantly and immediately and correctly and I discovered later that girl was from England, had never been to East Africa in her life and in her natural understanding could not answer one of those questions correctly. So I know that what Paul is talking about here is real and I’m going to read it again.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons....
Now let me say that beneath everything else was a sinful act this girl committed that opened her up to all this and she was a Christian. Let us look also at what Jesus said in Matthew 24:11–13. This is the picture given by Jesus in His last great prophetic discourse about the main trends and events that will mark the close of the present age. And amongst them He says this:
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity [or lawlessness] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. [The Greek says, “the love of the majority” and the word “love” is the word that’s only used for Christian love. It’s not the love of the world, it’s not sexual love. The Greek word is agapewhich is never used except of God’s love or Christian love. The love of the majority of Christians] shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
There is a need for endurance between the period of espousal and the period of marriage, the true believers will hold out in loyalty to Jesus Christ and to the Scriptures.
Let’s look now to two contrasted pictures of the true believers and what they are waiting for and the spirit at work in them and those that are seduced for in this process of testing between espousal and marriage, the ones that remain true to Jesus will become the Bride and those that are seduced—and notice how appropriate the word “seduced” is, with its sexual connotation—will become the harlot. It’s as clear as anything. There’s no reason whatever to have any doubt this. Further details may be obscure but the great main outlines are as clear as they can be and the basic question is our personal relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Do we remain true, devoted and loyal to Him and to the Scriptures or do we turn away under the influence of false, seducing, demonic power.
Now, let’s look at the true believers and their attitude. John 14:3:
And if I go [Jesus says] and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
This is the clear promise of Jesus that He’s coming again for the true believers to receive them unto Himself. And in 1Thessalonians 4:16–17, we have this clear teaching about the time when the Lord will return to take the believers.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
That’s the picture of what the true believers in Christ are waiting for. They are waiting for the bridegroom expectantly and longingly as a bride should do. And the Spirit that is preparing them is described in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.” Notice who it is that teaches the bride to say, come. It’s the Holy Spirit. And only those that are taught by the Holy Spirit can say these words with a true heart, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.” So it’s the Holy Spirit preparing the bride to meet the bridegroom for whom she is waiting with longing and expectation.
Now in the other group we have a different spirit at work. It’s the spirit of anti-Christ and this is preparing the false unfaithful believers, not for the true Christ, but for the false Christ. Now I will deal with this further in my next study, but let us look just briefly at what is stated in the first epistle of John, chapter 2 and look at a few verses there. 1 John 2 and 1 John 4, and notice this also relates specifically to the end time. 1John 2:18–22:
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction of the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Remember that the word “Christ” is equivalent to the Hebrew word “Messiah” and we only get the full meaning when we read it that way.
Now in 1 John 4:1–6:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. [This is what Jesus said would happen at the close of the age. There would be many false prophets. A false prophet is one who is motivated and fired and controlled by a false spirit.] Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. And every spirit that confesseth that Jesus [the Messiah] is come in the flesh is of God: [You should read it that way: Jesus the Messiah has come in the flesh is of God.] and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you [that’s the Holy Spirit], than he that is in the world [that’s the spirit of antichrist]. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. [The unconverted carnal world will welcome the antichrist but they refuse the true Christ.] We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
Notice again the antithesis between the spirit of truth, which is the Holy Spirit, and the spirit of error and the culmination of error at the close of this age is the spirit of antichrist.
Now, in studying this, we need to observe a simple distinction, which I have pointed out there in the outline. Distinguish the spirit of antichrist. This is the spirit that motivates and controls every antichrist. Then it speaks about many antichrists—many people in the course of human history have been motivated by the spirit of antichrist. One of the clearest and most obvious is Mohammed, who is an antichrist. He denied that Jesus is the Son of God, he acknowledged Jesus as a prophet and he claimed that he himself was the promised comforter whom Jesus said would come. You see, the antichrist is never totally removed from Scripture, it’s not paganism. It’s something that arises in the light of the fact that Jesus has come. It’s always related by way of a denial to the true Christ. You can go to areas of this earth where the gospel has never been preached. The spirit of antichrist cannot operate there. The spirit of antichrist can only operate where the true Christ has first been presented. When Satan was bargaining with Jesus about the kingdoms of this world, Jesus said to Satan, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” That’s not really a correct translation. What he said was, “Follow behind Me. I’ll go first and you can come after.” And everywhere that the true Christ has been preached then the spirit of antichrist, in due course, will manifest itself. It cannot be manifested, it has no relevance where the true Christ has not been preached because it is essentially a denial that Jesus is the Christ. If no one has preached Jesus and no one has preached the Christ and no one has believed that, the spirit of antichrist has nothing to work upon. It’s Satan’s retaliation, counterattack against the gospel and Jesus Christ.
And then, finally, there is antichrist, in the singular. One person who is yet to be manifested in human history who will be the culmination of all evil and false religion. But I don’t believe, today, he is far away. In fact, I think we could say his shadow has already fallen across the stage of human history and we’re just waiting for the person whose shadow we can already see in its outline.
Now let’s notice certain marks of the spirit of antichrist. They are extremely important and extremely illuminating. You’ll find them there in your outline. First of all, antichrist begins in association with true believers. They are associated with the church. This is stated in 1John 2:19:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
And there is no question whatever that in some way or another antichrist himself will begin by being associated with the church. I don’t want to offend anybody but you see a pretty clear preview in Bishop Pike. Just about everything is there in embryo in Bishop Pike.
Secondly, antichrist denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Verse 22:
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ [the Messiah]? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
This is the third thing: he denies the Father and the Son. He denies the two persons of the Godhead, Father and Son. He does not deny God; in fact, he claims to be God but he denies the father/son relationship in the Godhead. And in 1 John 4, as I have pointed out, he denies that Jesus the Messiah has come in the flesh. He may well speak about a Messiah to come and claim to be it, but he denies that the Messiah has come and has come in the flesh.
And then I just add this at the end—notice, that to deny the virgin birth is to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. That is the spirit of antichrist because both Old and New Testaments affirm the fact that the Messiah is born of a virgin. If Jesus is not born of a virgin, then He is not the Messiah and the spirit that denies the virgin birth denies His Messiahship and is the spirit of antichrist.
I was invited once as something rather unusual, to teach the adult Sunday School in a Methodist Church of a certain city and so I thought I ought to be very careful and not speak about anything heretical like speaking in tongues or anything like that so I gave them, to the best of my ability a very plain, simple presentation of Jesus Christ. I went back to that city a month later and one of the ladies that had been in the Sunday School class and was associated with the church said, “You know, you really upset the people in that Sunday School class.” “Well,” I said, “I can’t see how I did that. I thought I was just about as orthodox as it is possible to be.” “Well,” she said, “you told them that if Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, then he was a bastard!” “Well,” I said, “isn’t that obvious? You shouldn’t be shocked at that. But,” I said, “let’s face facts. Let’s decide what He was. Either He was born of a virgin or He was a bastard, but make up your mind. Call Him the right name. Don’t play around with names. All this is done in the name of intellectual honesty. Well, if we’re going to have this intellectual honest, let’s have it all the way. If we’re going to say we don’t believe in the virgin birth, let’s say quite honestly what that makes Jesus. It makes Jesus Him an illegitimate baby. All right. You say that, believe it! You’re free to say what you believe. But don’t go half the way. Deny the truth without facing the implications that follow from your denial.” And, of course, as I said already, it’s very, very clear that this spirit is at work, you could say throughout Christendom today. And it’s at work exactly as it was prophesied. It’s come forth in association with the church. It’s propagated by men who seem to be ministers of the church. Every mark is there.
I have friends in another Methodist Church, and I am in no sense against Methodists, but they said to me one day, “You know, in our church Jesus is a dirty word. You can talk about Buddha, you can talk about Socrates, you can talk about Martin Luther King, that’s all right. But talk about Jesus and there’s something wrong.” Well, that’s the spirit of antichrist. The spirit of antichrist is against one person and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s look, in closing, at a brief sketch of the true church, and in my next study I’m going to try to present a picture of the false church and the false Christ, but let’s close this study by looking at the Scripture’s picture of the true church. Ephesians 5:23–24. Paul says:
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
That shows us clearly that the church, the true church, the Bride, is subject to Christ in everything. She is totally submitted to Him as her head. This is the real issue in Christendom. It is Who is the head of the church? That’s the final issue. It’s not whether we speak in tongues or not. A lot of people who speak in tongues are going to end up on the wrong side, believe me. Tongues-speaking doesn’t guarantee you a place in the bride, the final issue is: Who is Jesus Christ? Is He the Lord? Is He the head over all things to the church? Am I willing to be in total submission to Him? That’s the requirements for the bride.
And then a little further on, Ephesians 5:26–27, we’ll read 25 too, to get the context:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Notice that there’s a process of preparing the church as bride for the bridegroom and it’s called the sanctifying and cleansing, the washing of water by the word.
Between the period of conversion and the period of presentation to Jesus, there must be this process of sanctifying and cleansing and this is done only by the word, the word of God. And I have found this true in experience. I’ve preached in many types of congregations in many parts of the world. I’ve seen congregations where there’s great blessing and moving of the Holy Spirit and miraculous gifts and yet the general atmosphere was not pure. And, in fact, you could have manifestations of the Holy Spirit and manifestations of demons side by side and some of the people wouldn’t discern between one and the other. And, as far as I can recall looking back, you will never have a congregation or a group with real purity of spirit, purity of worship unless they have been sanctified and cleansed with the regular washing by the Word of God. This is the only thing that can make us pure. We are redeemed from sin by the blood of Jesus but thereafter, to be presented to Him, we must be sanctified by the washing of water by the Word.
Turn for a moment to the first epistle of John again and let’s look at one other statement there: 1 John 5:6. Speaking about Jesus, the Son of God, it says this:
This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
You see, there’s the double ministry of Jesus. He came by water as the great Preacher of the Word and by blood as the Redeeming Savior who shed His blood to redeem the church. But we cannot leave out the water of the Word and have a church that will be fit to meet the bridegroom. He redeemed it by His blood first that thereafter He might sanctify it and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word and so many that claim to be redeemed by the blood and baptized in the Holy Spirit do not submit themselves to the regular cleansing and washing of the Word. And, as I understand it, they cannot possibly be ready for the coming of the bridegroom.
Then in Revelation 19:8 we see another part of this picture of the true church. Verse 7 says:
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
We used to have a colored lady from Jamaica in our congregation in London and every time she prayed she said one particular thing. She said, “Help us to remember that it will be too late if we’re getting ready when you come.” And I used to say, “Amen.”
You remember the foolish virgins? They were getting ready when the Lord came but they were shut out. They were too late. It says here, “his wife hath made herself ready.”
And I’ve been, again, in many countries of the world and seen many styles of marriage. I’ve never seen a marriage in which it wasn’t the responsibility of the woman to make herself ready. And it’s the responsibility of the church to make herself ready. Jesus will sanctify and cleanse but the final preparations are always made by the woman. And the nearer the moment comes of the marriage, the more intense the preparations become, the more totally her mind is centered upon that one thing that lies ahead: being ready for the marriage ceremony. This is true of the true church. Verse 8:
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
But the Greek says, “the righteousnesses of saints.” The righteous acts of saints. It isn’t just the general righteousness of Christ received by faith, it’s the righteousness of Christ received by faith and worked out in action.
This was made so vivid when I heard of a dream that was given some years back to a friend of ours, Sister Pearl Benjamin. She was very sick and serving as a missionary in Jerusalem she thought maybe her time had come to die. She was ready to die. But one night the Lord gave her a vivid dream and in this dream she was working on a beautiful marriage dress and as she looked in detail, she saw that there was a lot more work still to be done to make the dress ready and she understood that God was showing her that her work wasn’t finished. And every stitch and every thread made up the total dress and so every act of righteousness makes up the total dress of the bride. The small things are just as important as the great things. It’s answering letters, the little acts, faithfulness in details, all go together to make up this little righteousness which the bride will be clothed in.
And then in 1Corinthians 1:7, going rather quickly to conclude this outline, which is very brief. Paul says about the church at Corinth:
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ....
This is near evidence that the gifts are to be in operation in the true church until the coming of the Lord and that the true church will be adorned with the supernatural grace gifts as the bride is adorned with the gifts that her husband sends for her.
Notice that beautiful verse in Isaiah 61:10, just to give this a more complete application.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
Notice these things mark the bride: the garment of salvation and then the robe of righteousness. It’s not enough to profess salvation if you don’t wear the robe of righteousness and on top of the robe of righteousness there are the beautiful jewels which are the grace gifts that mark out the bride as being ready to meet her husband.
In Genesis 24, you will find the most beautiful type or picture of this preparation. There are four main characters in this chapter: Abraham, the father; the steward; Isaac, the son; and Rebekah, the bride, who was chosen for the son. And you remember Abraham sent his steward back into Padan Aram, Mesopotamia, to find a suitable bride for his son Isaac. And, of course, the type is Abraham represents God the Father; Isaac represents Jesus Christ the Son; the steward represents the Holy Spirit; Rebekah represents the bride, the church. And if you look at those references in your outline, you don’t need to look there, you’ll see one beautiful, glorious fact: that when the Holy Spirit started off, the steward started off on his journey, he took with him ten camels laden with gifts. And when he found the young lady who was suited to be the bride, the first thing he did was to bestow a very conspicuous gift that could be seen. And later on, he opened up these treasures and showered these gifts upon Rebekah and Rebekah went to meet her future husband wearing the gifts that he had sent by the steward. And I will tell you that no church will be fit to meet Jesus Christ that isn’t adorned with the grace gifts of the Holy Spirit. People tell me that they love the Lord, but they don’t want His gifts; to me that is incredible. I cannot see a young lady saying, “I love you, my dear fiancee, but this beautiful diamond ring you’ve bought me, I don’t want it.” I don’t believe that couple would ever get married. And the church that rejects the grace gifts sent by the bridegroom is not going to be ready to meet the bridegroom. Scripture says we are to come behind in no gift waiting for the coming of the Lord.
And finally, look at the picture of expectancy that’s presented here in Scripture: Hebrews 9:28:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Only unto them that look for him will He appear the second time. This is stated also in Titus, the last Scripture we will read in this study. It’s so beautiful I don’t want to leave it out. Titus 2:11–13:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ....
I don’t believe there’s any other motivation which is sufficient to cause us to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age except looking for the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. The Greek says literally, “looking for that blessed hope, and the appearing of the glorying of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” Notice the Scripture calls Jesus Christ the great God. He is totally divine and anybody that wants to call Him Savior must call Him also God. He is the great God and our Savior. Anyone who denies the title “God” has no right to use the title “Savior.” But the true church, acknowledging Him as God and Savior is living in this present evil age, a life that is totally different, set apart and looking for one thing only: the revelation of the bridegroom.