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This is the third in a series of talks on the theme of The Enemies We Face. In our first two talks we dealt, first of all, with the nature and the structure of Satan’s kingdom. I pointed out that there are two opposing spiritual kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Both of them spiritual and both of them at this time invisible to the natural eye but extremely real. And we attempted to trace the origin of Satan’s kingdom to an archangel originally named Lucifer who led a group of angels in rebellion against God and set up a rival kingdom in a region which is called in the New Testament “the heavenlies.” That phrase “the heavenlies” actually occurs five times in the epistle to the Ephesians, which is the main section of Scripture that unfolds God’s revelation of the church. I think it is no accident that the emphasis there is on the heavenlies. The church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be operating in the heavenlies against another kingdom also established in the heavenlies and, for the benefit of those who are confused, I would like to point out that in the Bible from the first verse onwards the word “heaven” is plural. There is more than one heaven and somewhere between our planet and God’s throne in the heaven of God’s Presence there is a rival satanic kingdom in opposition to God.
And then we dealt in the second talk with one of the main activities of the satanic kingdom, one of the main ways its power is manifested, which is witchcraft. For many people witchcraft has a kind of old-fashioned sound, like something from the Middle Ages, which has long ceased to be relevant, but that is totally untrue. Witchcraft is very real and I think has never been more active in human history than it is today. And many nations which a generation ago would have been described as Christian, are today pervaded with intense activity by witchcraft.
I’ve tried to give a brief definition of witchcraft in three areas. First of all, as a work of the flesh, one of the ways that man’s fallen nature expresses itself, and I gave the three key words: to manipulate, to intimidate and to dominate. The aim of witchcraft simply is to control other people and get them to do what you want them to do. And it does not use legitimate means. Witchcraft is closely allied with rebellion. It is the outworking of man’s rebellion against God.
In the second area witchcraft is a sort of supernatural satanic religion with many different aspects and phases. The priest of witchcraft in most countries is called the witch doctor. And you cannot find a single area of the earth’s surface where people have not been engaged in witchcraft, mostly from time immemorial. And in many, many areas of the world it is still the prevailing spiritual activity.
And then, thirdly, we dealt with witchcraft in the church, which is one of Satan’s master strokes. Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians and said, “Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” And we saw that the evidence that they were bewitched consisted in the fact that the work of Jesus on the cross had been obscured. And through that they had been deprived of all the benefits that Jesus had obtained for them. And this work of witchcraft expressed itself in the church in two main things: carnality, relying on the flesh rather than on the spirit; and an outworking of carnality, legalism. And I suggest to you, and I don’t believe I’m exaggerating, that very possibly most of the professing Christian church answers to that description. It has turned away from the supernatural grace and power of the Holy Spirit, resorts now on human methods, human efforts and is in a sense tied up in all sorts of legalistic systems. I’ve told people in some places that Christianity is not a set of rules and sometimes people have looked at me in amazement. I think they could almost more easily have accepted the statement if I had said, “There is no God.”
Well, this evening we’re going on to the next main outworking of Satan’s kingdom, of Satan’s opposition to God and to the church of Jesus Christ, and we are going to deal with something that I have headed The Spirit Of Antichrist. We need to turn, first of all, to the passage in 1 John where this is primarily described. First John, chapter 2, beginning in verse 18.
“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. [Notice that the advent and the working of the spirit of antichrist is going to intensify the closer we get to the end of the age.] They [that is, these antichrists] went out from us [‘us’ being the church of Jesus] 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. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. [Or an alternative reading: ‘You all know,’ which is probably the right one.] I have not written to you because you do not know the truth but because you know it and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either. He who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”
Let me, first of all, try and just briefly explain the real meaning of that strange phrase “antichrist.” You need to bear in mind, first of all, that the word “Christ” is from a Greek word christos which exactly corresponds to the Hebrew word Mashiach from which we get Messiah. It is amazing how many Jews and Christians do not realize that Messiah and Christ are two different words for the same thing. So when we say “antichrist,” that means anti-Messiah. And it is probably easier for us to get the picture if we use the phrase Messiah.
And then again the preposition... (If you don’t know what a preposition is, don’t worry. Heaven is also open to those who don’t know what prepositions are.) But anyhow, the preposition “anti” is a Greek preposition. It has two meanings and both of them apply. First of all, it means “against.” So the first operation is against Messiah. The second meaning is “in place of.” And so the ultimate purpose is to put a false Messiah in place of the true Messiah.
So this force operates, first of all, by excluding Messiah; and secondly, by replacing Him by a false Messiah. So the total operation is in two phases and when you begin to recognize that, I think you will see that the spirit of antichrist is extremely active almost throughout the whole professing church.
Ruth and I have friends in America who belong to a church which would be called in the old-line evangelical stream. I don’t want to name the denomination. And they said to me one day, they said: “In our church you can talk about Buddha, you can talk about Socrates, you can talk about Plato, you can talk about Martin Luther King, and no one gets upset. But if you talk about Jesus everybody gets upset.” And what is that? It is the spirit of antichrist. It’s in its first phase of getting rid of the true Messiah. But we all need to bear in mind that that is not the end of Satan’s purpose. His purpose is to replace the true Messiah by a false Messiah. So that is what we are dealing with.
It becomes obvious when you see that, that this particular operation of Satan is only applicable where Jesus has been preached. You cannot reject Jesus if you have never heard about Jesus. So witchcraft is different. Witchcraft belongs to the whole fallen human race. It is, in fact, as I said, the universal religion of the fallen race with many different manifestations and forms and ceremonies. But antichrist can only be manifested where Christ has first been preached.
In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry, it is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel that He said to Satan, “Get behind Me,” which is the normal way to translate it. But it is perfectly possible to translate that, “Follow behind Me.” And I believe that is spiritual reality that wherever Jesus and the Gospel are proclaimed, God will permit the opposite claim to follow. In fact, humanity is going to be forced to choose between the true Messiah and the false. It is part of God’s way of dealing with us that He does not exclude the false options and it is our responsibility to make the right choice. I think this is extremely relevant to our generation. I believe this generation in one form or another is going to have to make a decision: true Messiah or false Messiah. And the spirit of antichrist is extremely active, much more than most of you have any idea, pressuring us into the wrong decision.
Now in this passage that we have read in 1 John, chapter 2—maybe we should read two verses of 1 John 4, verses 2 and 3:
“By this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus the Messiah has come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus the Messiah has come in the flesh is not of God. [Now some of you who have alternative translations will have a shorter version: ‘Every spirit that does not confess Jesus the Messiah.’ The meaning is the same.] And this is the spirit of the antichrist which you have heard was coming and now is already in the world.”
If we look at the two passages together, we see there three forms of antichrist. First of all, there are many antichrists and in the course of human history many, many antichrists have appeared and been manifested. I’ll speak briefly about just a few of them in a little while.
Secondly, there is the antichrist, not many, but just one specific. That, I believe, is the final manifestation, the final product of the spirit of antichrist which has not yet been, as far as I know, revealed in human history. I often say to people, “I think his shadow has already fallen across the stage but we have not seen the actual person.” But at the end of this age, Scripture makes it clear, there will be one final, supremely evil, supremely powerful ruler, who will dominate the whole human race for a brief period, who will be the antichrist.
The third form is the spirit of antichrist. The spirit of antichrist is the spirit that operates through every antichrist. And John has given us certain marks of the spirit of antichrist which are very important. First of all, it starts in association with God’s people, for John says in the first epistle of John chapter 2 verse 19 that:
“They [the antichrists] 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 antichrist always begins in some way in association with the people of God. But, it does not really belong there and in due course that will be made manifest. That is one mark of the spirit of antichrist.
The second one is that it denies that Jesus is the Messiah. First John 2:22:
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the [Messiah]? He is antichrist...”
And then John continues with the third mark:
“He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”
This is very important. Antichrist does not deny the existence of God. In fact, he claims to be God’s representative. What he does deny is the relationship of the Father and the Son within the Godhead. And wherever you encounter the denial of that, you are probably facing the spirit of antichrist.
And the fourth mark of antichrist which is given in 1 John chapter 4 is that it denies Messiah has come—probably believes in Messiah who will come, but denies that Messiah has already come.
Let me recapitulate those four marks, because they are extremely important.
First of all, antichrist starts in association with God’s people.
Second, it denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Obviously, that cannot be paganism because paganism hasn’t even heard of Jesus, you understand. It can only take place where Jesus has been proclaimed.
Third, it denies the Father/Son relationship within the Godhead. It does not necessarily deny God, but denies a God who is revealed as Father and Son.
And fourth, it denies that Messiah has come, but very likely teaches that Messiah will come.
Now let’s take some historical examples and I have to confess that what I’m going to say is somewhat controversial.
The problem with the truth is, it is liable to be controversial. I have certainly no desire to offend anybody and I have no particular desire to attack other religions. What I want to do is present the truth. But the first and most persistent and long-standing manifestation of the spirit of antichrist is in Judaism.
We always used to think that Christianity kind of branched off from Judaism and that is what the Jewish people basically will tell you. Let me say, I’m not Jewish, although my wife is, and we are very, very close to the Jewish people. I have come to see that that is not true. What has happened is, Christianity (that is, the teaching of Jesus and His disciples, not the whole lot of “Church”ianity that has followed ever since, but the teaching of Jesus and His disciples) is the true continuation of the religion of the Old Testament. And Judaism has branched off from it. That is a very important thing to see, especially in contact with Jewish people, as we often are.
So that is the first mark. It started in association with the people of God. I’m no expert on Judaism but if you analyze its teaching, much of it is an unacknowledged refusal to believe in Jesus. A great deal of what is taught is a way of denying the claims of Jesus.
The second manifestation of antichrist in Judaism of course is very simple. It denies that Jesus is the Messiah but it believes in the Messiah who is to come.
Third, it denies the Father/Son relationship within the Godhead. It rejects the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God and does not accept that God has a Son.
And fourthly, as I have said, it denies that Messiah has come.
Interestingly, just to make this subject up-to-date, this past summer (1988) in Jerusalem very elegant posters appeared in the city on all the main streets of the city, in Hebrew, saying this: “Messiah has come and if you want to meet Him, go to the Mount of Olives on a certain Sunday and He will be there.” Beautifully printed. I have no idea who printed them. I do know one journalist went there to see what happened but he did not find Messiah. But that is just to show you how real this issue is. If you talk to Jewish people in a sympathetic attitude and you use the name Messiah, something changes in their eyes, because it is a word that has a special significance for Jewish people.
Now I want to offer you a suggestion, a thought that I have and you are perfectly free to disagree with me. I want to turn to Matthew, chapter 27 for a moment and just read one verse. I suggest to you that in this verse we have the first actual powerful manifestation of the spirit of antichrist. Matthew 27, verse 21. Jesus has been brought before the governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate can find nothing wrong with Jesus, but the Jewish religious leaders persist in accusing Him and stir up the whole Jewish multitude to turn against Him. And we need to bear in mind that any of those people in that multitude must have been in the same multitude that just one week earlier had welcomed Him to Jerusalem, had put palm branches in the way and said, “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!” which illustrates something that we ought not to ignore, but that humanity is extremely fickle. It did not take them more than one week to totally reverse their attitude, but I don’t believe it was just a natural human reaction. I believe there was a tremendous spiritual war going on in the unseen realm and unfortunately the spirit of antichrist prevailed. And this is what happened. The governor Pontius Pilate brought Jesus out and said, “It is your privilege that I release one prisoner to you this season every year. Shall I release Jesus or shall I release Barabbas?” Barabbas was a political agitator, a murderer, a man of violence. He had never done anybody any good, whereas on the other hand Jesus had never done anybody any harm. He had healed thousands, blessed thousands, fed thousands. There was no logical reason whatever to turn against Jesus. It was not logic, it was a spiritual force at work. And this, I believe, is the key verse, Matthew 27:21:
“The governor [that’s Pilate] answered and said to them [the Jewish crowd], which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
And so Israel is a kind of antitype of what will happen to humanity, in my opinion. Because I believe all humanity ultimately is going to be faced with this choice, “Which of the two?” Do you want Jesus, the Savior, the Healer, the Righteous One; or do you want Barabbas, a wicked, violent, political agitator? In a certain sense Barabbas is a type of the antichrist. And they chose... Barabbas. Let us not point a finger at them. Let us be very careful when the time comes we don’t make the same mistake. There was a spiritual force at work that swept through that crowd and changed them. And they became almost insane with anger, jealousy and rage without any cause whatever. And I personally believe that is when the spirit of antichrist first impacted humanity. And it has in a sense sought to dominate the Jewish people from then until now.
Now Jesus warned them—(if you turn to John chapter 5, and verse 43)—They were at this point disputing His claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God):
“And Jesus said, I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”
Now that has been proved abundantly true. In other words, “I am the true Messiah but you will not receive Me. If a false Messiah will come in his name, you will receive him.” And the Jewish encyclopedia records approximately 40 false Messiahs who have come since then and have been received by Jewish people. To name just one or two or three of them, the most famous probably is Bar Kochba who led a revolt against Rome in 138, I believe. Then there was Moses of Crete, I think about the fifth century, who persuaded people that they should wade out into the sea from Crete and they’d meet the Messiah and thousands went into the sea and were drowned. And then in the year 1666, which was supposed to be the miraculous year, [??Sabototsfe??] claimed to be the Messiah and was enthusiastically received by multitudes.
One of the false teachings of Judaism, I don’t say all Judaism, but there is a teaching in Judaism, is that the one who gives us back our temple is the Messiah. You know, I am sure that the temple area, the sacred site of all Jewish people, is still occupied by a Moslem mosque and the Jews are not even permitted to go there although they actually control politically the whole area. And I personally believe that if a political personality would arise who could somehow intervene in the Middle East and obtain for the Jewish people the right to build their temple there, they would enthusiastically hail him as Messiah. And he would appeal to the whole community of Jewish people worldwide. And I would suggest that that might not be very far away.
Now let us look at another main manifestation of the spirit of antichrist. This is one of extreme importance for us as Christians to be well-informed about at this time; that is, Islam, which is the name for the religion of Mohammed. Islam means perfection, completeness, fulfillment.
Mohammed arose in the 7th century of this era in the Arabian peninsula, claimed to be a prophet, claimed to receive in a cave from an archangel the revelation of the religion which then became Islam. And he claimed that his religion, Islam, was the true fulfillment of the Old and the New Testament. He claimed that the Christians and the Gospels had perverted the real truth, but he through Islam was restoring it. That is the basic claim of Mohammed. And he first believed that because he rejected idolatry and because he rejected the claims of Christianity, the Jewish people would follow him. But he was disappointed. And when they did not follow him he turned against them and became a persecutor of them.
Not let’s consider the teachings of Islam. Personally, this is my own opinion, at the present moment, I think Islam is the most sinister, powerful force opposing the truth of God at work in the world. It is a tragedy that so many Christians in the West have totally misunderstood and underestimated Islam. If it once gains power, it will first and foremost suppress the Jews and second suppress the Christians. In Moslem countries throughout the centuries Christians and Jews have been given the title dimmy which means second class people. It rather suits Islam to have some of them around but to keep them in such a low and debased condition that the superiority of Islam is manifest to everybody.
Ruth and I were in Pakistan in 1985 preaching the Gospel there. One of the first things that happened to us was that we were taken to visit the Christian community in Karachi. And I still remember the awful sense of physical sickness when I saw the squalor, the poverty, the debased condition.
They had open sewers running in the streets. They just went to the toilet out in the open. And this was the picture of Christianity presented to the people of Pakistan. It suited them, you understand. They did not want to eliminate them totally, they just wanted to demonstrate the total superiority of Moslems over Christians. For instance, Moslems will never clean latrines. So all cleaners of latrines in Pakistan are Christians. That is basically the Pakistani vision of Christianity. This is just one of countless examples of how the Jews and the Christians have been a totally suppressed, inferior minority in Islamic countries. The oath of a Christian is not accepted in Islamic courts. The evidence of a Christian against a Moslem is not accepted.
It is true that Islam has not been guilty of anything so terrible as the holocaust but it has a long record of thirteen centuries of suppression and contempt for Christianity. It is hard for you who are not familiar to realize with what total contempt they view Christians. You see, the things that we through Christian inheritance and tradition regard as excellent, like mercy and forgiveness, to Moslems they are just weakness. You see, at the present time the situation in the Middle East: Western politicians, even if they are not Christians, have got a Christian viewpoint. They have a background, they talk about mercy, peace, forgiveness. To the Moslems that is nonsense. In the Moslem thinking revenge is a sacred duty. I just want to bring out the totally different spirit that there is, because it is not always obvious.
Now, as I pointed out, Islam again has the marks, most of them. It started in association with the Old and New Testament. It claimed to be the outworking of that revelation of God. But it denies certain basic fundamentals of the Christian faith. It denies the atoning death of Jesus on the cross. Mohammed taught that Jesus did not die. An angel came and spirited Him away from the cross before He died. Because there is no death, there is no atonement and because there is no atonement, there is no forgiveness. And no Moslem has the assurance of sins forgiven at any time.
Second, and this they deny with fanatical intensity, that Jesus is the Son of God. You can talk to the Moslems about Jesus as a prophet and they will give you careful attention. In fact, the Koran acknowledges Jesus as a prophet, even as a Savior, even as a Messiah. But when you say He is the Son of God, you bring out the most intense, bitter opposition. In the famous mosque that is called the Dome on the Rock that is built on the site of what was the Temple of Solomon at one time, in the Arabic inscriptions around it, twice it says God has no need of a son. Until you’ve encountered this, you have no idea of the intensity of the opposition to this.
And then, as I have said, it denies the Father/Son relationship within the Godhead. So, interestingly enough, you see, both these two religions that we have looked at, Judaism and Islam, originate in the Middle East. If you go on a tour in Israel and you have a guide, they will probably tell you at some point that the Middle East is the origin of the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
It is my guess, and I just offer this as something for you to think about, that the spirit of antichrist will succeed in the professing Christian church in eliminating Jesus. We will ultimately have a Christianity without Jesus. It will be a moral system, a legal system, a system full of all sorts of pageants and religion, but without Jesus. And you see, once you have eliminated Jesus, you have opened the way for a synthesis of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I am inclined to think (this is just a personal opinion) that the antichrist will head up such a religion, uniting Judaism, Islam and apostate Christianity. I think we are a very long way toward it. When you consider that both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury have in recent years conducted in Christian churches ceremonies where Islamic priests and all sorts of Hindus, American Indians, were all welcomed as brothers together. See, you can just read that in the newspaper but that is the spirit of antichrist. Its purpose is to eliminate Jesus. He is the stumbling block. The cross is the stumbling block. Do away with Jesus on the cross and Christianity can merge with all sorts of religions and I personally think we are far on the way toward that. That’s my personal opinion. I think we have to be very cautious in our attitude and our approach to these things, because I think the spirit of deception is at work.
Then, as I said, there have been many lesser anti-Christian persons or systems. For instance, about thirty years ago I was in Kenya in educational work. And I personally have a great respect in a way for Jomo Kenyata, the first president of Kenya. But in the period leading up to the independence of Kenya, under what they called the Mau-Mau Uprising (you probably remember the word Mau-Mau), the followers of Mau-Mau took all the Christian hymns that the missionaries taught them and reworded them, putting Jomo in place of Jesus. So that is again just a simple example of the spirit of antichrist. I’m not saying Jomo was an antichrist, I think he was a good man in some ways, although he was never a Christian. But I think he did a good job; I don’t want to be lined up as a critic of him. But the spirit that was at work was the spirit of antichrist.
Now, let’s come to the final manifestation of the spirit of antichrist in the antichrist. Now we are dealing with something which is, as far as I know, still future. If it is not future, I have not discovered it yet. So there is always a possibility of error and I am not by any means laying down the law claiming that everything will be exactly the way I present it, but I want to direct your attention to these very important passages of Scripture so that at least you are not ignorant of them. That you are not unaware of what Satan is planning and you may be able to form some opinion about how far he has come in carrying out his plans.
We will turn first of all to 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, which really is mainly given over to dealing with the appearance, revelation, manifestation of the antichrist. It is also dealing with preparation for the Lord’s return. And of course they are very closely intertwined, because the final satanic act before the return of the Lord will be the antichrist. In fact Paul says,
“The Lord will destroy the antichrist with the brightness of His coming.”
Personally I have no real aim to be a hero. I’m prepared to let Jesus deal with the antichrist. I think He is the only one who can. I think the true Christ, the true Messiah, will deal with the false when He comes. I think that’s one of the main purposes of His coming. It is to defeat, cast down and overthrow the antichrist.
Anyhow, if we turn to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, beginning in verse 1, and just read to verse 3:
“Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [That is the theme of this passage. And the word coming there is the word parousia in Greek, which is normally used for the second coming of the Lord Jesus.] Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him [the church which is to be caught up to meet Him] we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled [don’t be disturbed, don’t be deceived] either by spirit [that is, a false prophecy or a false teacher] or by word.”
As some prophetic message that circulates, like the one that was circulating recently that Jesus was coming on the twelfth of September. I don’t know whether this circulated in Britain, but I was just amazed that multitudes of Christians who believed it in the United States. It shows me the appalling, abysmal ignorance of at least American Christians and I don’t know whether Christians in other nations are much better; I’m really not prepared to say. I mean, there were thousands of people who believed this teacher who said that Jesus was coming on Rosh Hoshana, which is the Jewish New Year. I don’t suppose they were really embarrassed that He didn’t come. That is the amazing thing. They can still go on believing people after they have been totally wrong.
Anyhow, I just understand why Paul wrote these words. “Don’t be shaken or troubled, neither by spirit, or by word or by letter as if from us.” See, the nerve of Satan, that he was capable of people getting the letters in Paul’s name, sign them with Paul’s name as if they were written by Paul.
I had a friend once, a minister, he’s still a friend of mine as a matter of fact, and he used to circulate (he is a good brother and if I gave you his name most of you would know him) his own teaching tapes when he was pastor of a certain church. There was a certain group who had a very erroneous doctrine, got his tapes and on the blank side recorded their own teachings without saying it to him, returned it to him and after that when the church lent out the pastor’s teaching they were also lending out on the same tape this completely erroneous teaching. Don’t imagine that Satan does not have nerve. He has endless nerve. There is no limit to his nerve.
“Don’t be deceived as though the day of Christ had come. [Some people were teaching that He had come, even then.] Let no one deceive you by any means. [And I want to say to every one of you, let no one deceive you by any means.] For that day will not come unless the falling away comes first.”
The word “falling away” in Greek is apostacia, it means an apostasy. It means a deliberate rejection of revealed truth and I think we are living in the days of apostasy. I’ll come to that a little later.
“Unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of sin [or the man of lawlessness] is revealed, the son of perdition.”
So there are two further titles of the antichrist. He is the man of lawlessness. He is the supreme embodiment of man’s rebellion against God and rejection of God’s laws. And he is the son of perdition, the one who is headed for a lost eternity. It is interesting there is only one other person in the New Testament who is called son of perdition, Judas Iscariot. He was a false apostle.
So we see here again the implication that this person will start in association in some way with the Christian church. Personally, I think he will be charismatic. Super-charismatic. I really mean that.
“He opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God.”
We will not go further than that for a moment, but there we have now three different names for the same being: the antichrist, the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition. And we have one other important name in Revelation 13. Let us turn to Revelation 13, beginning in the middle of verse 1. This is part of a vision that John had in this revelation.
“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, his feet were like the feet of a bear and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, his throne and great authority.”
Who’s the dragon? Satan, that’s right. That is absolutely clear.
So here is some person that is going to arise to whom Satan will give his power. Why will Satan give his power to this person? Because that will enable this person to gain the dominion over the entire human race and to either persuade or force the entire human race to do the one thing that Satan wants most: to worship him. This is his goal. He has been working on that patiently and perseveringly for many, many centuries and he is very near to the achievement of his goal at this time. Going on:
“I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded. And this deadly wound was healed, and all the world marveled and followed the beast.”
There is a sort of false resurrection here. I don’t know whether this person will be assassinated; he will apparently be dead and he will return to life. What would have happened in America if John Kennedy came back to life after his assassination? There would not have been many people that would not have sold themselves to John Kennedy. Going on, verse 4:
“So they [that’s the people of the earth] worshiped the dragon [Who’s that? Satan.] who gave authority to the beast and they worshiped the beast saying: Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
That’s the fourth title: the beast, the wild beast. It is a word in Greek that means a wild creature, an animal of prey, such as a leopard or a lion or one of those.
Now in Revelation there is a very deliberate contrast between two persons. The wild beast, who is Satan’s ruler; and the Lamb, who is God’s ruler. And I think it is very important for all of us to bear this in mind in our spirit that we do not cultivate the nature of the beast, but we have to cultivate the nature of the Lamb. You see, when the Holy Spirit descended in the beginning of the ministry of Jesus and looked for somebody to settle on, what nature did He look for? The Lamb, that’s right. John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and on Him the Holy Spirit descended. I think this is one of the great issues that concerns every one of us. Because in the world today it is so competitive, it is so intense, people are so extreme and violent that it is pretty easy to let the nature of the beast begin to infiltrate us. But what God wants in us is the nature of the Lamb.
Let’s look at a little picture of the Lamb in Revelation 5. We could read quite a lot but we won’t read too far. Beginning at verse 5. John had had this vision of a scroll in the hand of God and there was no one who was found worthy to open the scroll. So John was weeping.
“But one of the elders said to me: Do not weep but behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals. [This is dramatic, really, for John was looking for a lion and what did he see:] And I looked and behold, in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and in the midst of the elders stood a Lamb as though it had been slain.”
So the lion is a lamb. That is a deliberate contradiction. So God’s appointed ruler does not have the nature of the beast. He has the nature of the Lamb. And He is highly exalted above all others because He laid down His life. Because He humbled Himself. Because He went the way of meekness, humility, because He did not resist His arresters and His persecutors and I really believe that the church in these days is going to have to display the same nature. And I don’t believe it is easy.
I suggest to you this: It is not a popular suggestion. I think the church may go home the same way as her Lord, by the way of the cross. I think we’ll conquer. As the hymn says: “When we are weak God’s strength will be made perfect in our weakness.” I believe that is a lesson we are going to have to learn. And there is a lot of teaching in the church today that talks all about we can do; in all our power and all that faith can accomplish, but I believe it really is inflating the natural man, the fleshly nature, and that nature has to be crucified before we can enter into God’s purpose for us.
We could go on with the worship of the Lamb but I think you can read that for yourself. Let’s return now to Revelation 13 and just look, have a glimpse at a few parts of this description. We have seen that they all worshiped the beast. And they all were convinced it was hopeless to make war with the beast.
Now who knows what will be brought about, but suppose a world ruler came to power, who accumulated all the nuclear weapons and no one else was allowed to have any—well, nobody would make war with him. It would be suicide even to contemplate it. I’m not saying it will happen but what I’m trying to point out to you is the situation that is pictured here could be very close.
“Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme Him, His name, His tabernacle and those who dwell in heaven.”
He is the open challenger of God. He is not a secret enemy, he shakes his fist in the face of Almighty God. And again we have a kind of attitude like that that is very close to us today.
“And it was granted to him [By whom? I presume by God. A frightening thought]... it was granted to him to make war with the saints.”
I suppose that’s us, I hope it’s us. And yet when I say I hope it’s us, it’s kind of an ambiguous hope, isn’t it? I want to be a saint but do I want the beast to make war with me? Now, you may have to choose between two options.
“It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.”
See, I want to instill into your thinking that Christianity is not all easy victory. In fact, I think, in a sense, included in our faith is the willingness to be apparently overcome, defeated, but not really defeated.
You see, Jesus cares very little about the opinion of this world. Have you ever thought about that? What was His last public appearance? As a corpse on a cross. And He has never sought to correct that appearance, and He has never re-appeared, except to people who believed Him. How much do we care about the opinion of the world? Do we care more than that? Paul said:
“God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me and I to the world.”
Let’s go on a little further:
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the book of life and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
That is a dramatic statement. The whole human race will worship Him except those whom has God chosen for Himself, whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world.
Then we see this other very sinister person, whom we’ll just glance at briefly here. The second beast. We are going on now in verse 11.
“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.”
He appeared to be a lamb but he had really the voice of a dragon. I believe this is a religious person. Generally speaking, he is called the false prophet. And I believe that false religion is going to align itself with the false Messiah. And I suggest to you that this is already happening. For instance, in China, where the official Three Self Movement, under Bishop Ding at the present time, has aligned itself totally with the atheistic communist government and is the main persecutor of the real Christians. I think very much the same happened in Soviet Russia, where the head of the Russian Orthodox Church totally endorsed Stalin and is now having an embarrassing time deciding what to say about it.
See, I believe that the political ruler will appreciate the importance of religion and will co-opt religion in its false form to support his power.
“And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast whose deadly wound was healed.”
We have no time to go into that further, but notice the false trinity. The ancient church in the Middle Ages that used Latin, used to say Diabolos Sinios Dei, “the devil is the ape of God.” He really never comes up with anything totally new. All he can do is to make a bad copy of what God has done. So there is a false trinity, you see. Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. And they produce an image which in a sense is a false church.
Let’s go back to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 quickly in closing. And we go back to that key verse, verse 3.
“Let no one deceive you by any means. For that day the coming of the Lord will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed.”
Now, as I said, the word “fallen away” is a Greek word from which we get he English word “apostasy” and its primary meaning is a deliberate rejection of revealed truth. I suggest to you that we are surrounded by apostasy in the world today. All through the centuries there have been church men and church leaders who have been wicked, immoral, covetous, but they have not openly denied the great basic truths of the Christian faith. In fact those truths have been the means they used to support their power. But in this century, starting I think probably in Germany, we have today church leaders, official representatives of the churches who have denied all the great basic truths of the Christian faith: the deity of Jesus, His virgin birth, His atoning death, His physical resurrection and His coming again. And many of them have occupied and do occupy positions of honor and authority in the professing Christian church. In Britain, as you know, I think two-thirds of the bishops of the Anglican Church have basically aligned themselves with those statements, made originally by the Bishop of Durham. I’m not aiming at anybody, I’m simply pointing out, this is a feature of this century which I don’t believe existed in any previous century. I believe that we are already confronted with the apostasy. And you see the church is the bulwark against error. So Satan has to penetrate the church before he can break through with his error.
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