Sermon: Antichrist Deceptions
Those Who Try to Deceive You
Martin G. Collins
Given 02-Jul-11; 65 minutes
There is a tremendous amount of talk and writing today within the broad sphere of Christianity regarding the question of the antichrist. When will he appear on the world scene? Is he on the world scene already? Who is he? Does he even exist? Tim Cohen and his very convincing book “The Antichrist and a Cup of Tea” suggests that the antichrist is Charles, Prince of Wales. Now Prince Charles is immortalized in bronze as a muscular winged god, dressed in nothing more than a loin cloth. The inscription of the statue in Palmas, Brazil will honor him as "savior of the world." So is Prince Charles the antichrist?
The apostle John tells us that many antichrists have and will come. For hundreds of years professing Christians have claimed that this tyrant or that dictator is the antichrist; many have been given the negative title, including the Roman Catholic popes, Hitler, and even Obama.
I John 2:18-23 Little children, it is the last hour and as you have heard that [depending on what translation you are reading you may read: the antichrist, or just "antichrist"]. Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, 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. 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.
These verses must be taken in context of the whole section that runs from verse 18 to verse 28. In addition even before we come to analyze the section, it is also important for us to realize the connection between it and what has gone on before in I John.
The apostle John's theme is that we must always bear in mind that, placed as we are in this difficult, trying world, the great thing that is offered us by the New Testament scriptures is fellowship and spiritual union with God—God, the Father and God, the Son through the Holy Spirit. So having laid down the basis of fellowship, John has then gone on to tell us of certain things that may rob us of this fellowship, like sin, including lack of love for God, and loving the world.
Having said all that, he goes on to this further statement in verses 18-28. How do we fit this into the scheme of fellowship with God?
So far John has been dealing with certain things within ourselves, that is, in I John he has been dealing (prior to verses 18-28) with things within ourselves that tend to interrupt fellowship: our failure to keep the commandments or to love the brethren, our failure to observe this injunction of not loving the world and living according to the mentality and outlook of it. All that, in a sense, is addressed to certain possibilities of failure resident within each member of God's church, and that is what he discusses in I John up to the point of I John 2:18.
Sadly, we cannot stop at that point. The dangers besetting us not only arise from within, there are certain dangers also outside us. So what John deals with in this particular section is the danger that always confronts us as God's people living in Satan's world arising, in a sense, in the very atmosphere in which we live. Certainly the danger that he emphasizes here is the danger that arises in and from the life of the church itself—that is, in our dealings within the church, and as church members, our dealings with the world.
In other words, we have not only certain things to watch as individual Christians, but also collectively, as a group, as God's people; and we have to be very wary of certain common, general dangers to which we are subject as members of God's church, and that is the theme that John deals with here, in I John 2:18-28.
Now there is a great enemy outside us who, as he tells us later on in the section, is trying to seduce us, and notice what he says here:
I John 2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.
This is referring to those who lead you astray, those who would entice you away from the real truth itself, to something that is not actually the truth, although it looks like it. It is the danger of being led astray by the great power that is searching us out; and it is out for our destruction and for the destruction of the entire church. That is the theme of the section from verse 18-28. It follows very logically from the previous exhortations. John moves from us ourselves to the whole atmosphere in which we live.
Now for the sake of clarity, thought, and understanding, here is one way that this section may be divided up. There are three great points in this whole exhortation.
The first point is the importance of realizing the nature or the character of the spiritual conflict in which we find ourselves, and this is the point of I John 2:18-19, also partly in I John 2:22-23.
The second point is the way we can realize this danger, which is the specific message of verses 20, 21, and 27, where you find the following:
I John 2:20-21 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 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.
I John 2:27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you, but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
This is the teaching of the anointing and earnestness that is held by every member of God's church.
The third point is the way to avoid the dangers that arise from this great spiritual conflict that we find ourselves in, and that is the theme of the remaining verses of the section.
These are the three great issues: realizing the character of the spiritual conflict, realizing the danger, and realizing the way to find a way to fight against it, to avoid it, thereby being delivered from all the terrible consequences. The faculty and the power that are given to us by God enable us to recognize it, and avoid it.
This is a theme that we run across quite frequently in the New Testament; there are many instances of it. You will find it for instance in II Peter 2 where Peter deals with exactly the same thing. A classic example of this is in Ephesians 6, where Paul talks about putting on the whole armor of God. Why does he tell us that? Because we do not wrestle with flesh and blood.
Ephesians 6:11-12 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
And of course in the book of Revelation is a book that is entirely devoted to this issue. In other words, the New Testament is full of this great theme of the spiritual conflict in which we find ourselves as Christians.
At this point I want to consider only the first section—the importance of realizing the character of this conflict in which we find ourselves.
I John 2:18-19 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. They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
We have two things to do in order to understand what John means here. The first is that we have to try to understand these terms. What is he warning us about? Secondly, we have to relate this danger with which we are confronted by in our lives today. How are we going to react to it? What are we going to do about it? Obviously the apostle John deals with it because it was something that was discouraging to these first century Christians, and it a matter that still tends to discourage people today.
Let us look first of all at the terms that the apostle John uses. He starts by saying that this is the last hour, or a last time, depending on the translation. Here again is a phrase that you will find in many places in the New Testament. For instance, the apostle Paul in writing to Timothy says:
II Timothy 3:1 But know this that in the last days perilous times will come.
This is a term that is characteristic of the New Testament teachings, and so it is important for us to understand exactly what it means. Some people have tried to shrug this off by saying that it is just part of the general error of the apostle John, and those early Christians, who were guilty of believing that Christ would return soon in their lifetime. Many early Christians thought that Christ was going to return in their lifetime and in their generation, and they fell into this trap.
The New Testament teaching itself shows that John and Paul had a correct understanding of the last hour, or the last time. Paul goes out of his way to teach the Thessalonians that quite obviously we are not to expect the return of Christ at any moment.
II Thessalonians 2:1-4 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means, for the Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
John says that certain things have to happen before the Day of the Lord will come. He warns them that there may be a great interval and that there is going to be a great apostasy. Paul says it is not coming as quickly as you think. He immediately counteracts that tendency, and there are many other passages in the New Testament that do exactly the same thing. John and Paul both knew that Christ was not coming very soon.
The book of Revelation alone is sufficient to show that this cannot be dismissed as just common error of imagining that Christ's return was at hand.
When we put together all the New Testament uses of these phrases, we are driven to some such conclusion as this: the whole period from Christ's first coming and especially from His death and resurrection and ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost—the whole of the period from that time until His final return, is the "last time," in one sense. You will find that sort of distinction in the Old Testament; they talk about the present age and the age to come—the age of the Messiah, the present time, and the last time here in the New Testament. The different apostles tell us that now they are already in the last time or the last hour.
John says at the end of verse 18 that it is the last hour; so whatever else we may say, it must include the last time or the last hour. It is sometimes used to cover the whole era from the resurrection of Christ until His return. It is equally clear that it is not confined just to that meaning.
Sometimes this phrase, “the last time,” is used about certain special eras. There are times of particular crisis and of special judgment, and those times are in a specific way the last time, at least for those people living at that time.
In other words, in the Old Testament, many judgments upon the world and upon Israel in particular; that prophecy of the final judgment indicates the final last time. So the whole age is the last time, but also specific eras and epochs when sin and evil are being unusually severe and fierce. And the time just before the return of Jesus Christ is, in a matter of speaking, the ultimate last time.
There have been intervening periods in the history of the church, like the terrible persecution of the early Christians—first by the Jews and then by the powerful unholy Roman Empire. And then there was a terrible period of the dark Middle Ages, and there have been other equally bad times since.
The right way, it seems, is to look at this whole thing and to realize that from the very beginning of God's church, there has always been this conflict, this mystery of evil, this mystery of lawlessness, as Paul called it, in II Thessalonians 2:7, and that has been going on right on through to today.
II Thessalonians 2:7-12 For the mystery of lawlessness is ready at work, only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
There are times when the conflict is unusually fierce and severe, and the church is subject to an especially terrible trial, but it all leads up to a final conflict of almost staggering dimensions that will be the immediate prelude to the actual visible return in glory of Jesus Christ.
Now back in I John 2:18, there is one additional thing I want to point out about the last hour. Listen to how the “The New Testament: an Expanded Translation” by Kenneth S. Wuest paraphrases it.
I John 2:18-19 Little children, under instruction, it is a last hour in character and even as you heard that the Antichrist comes, even now many antichrists, many of them have arisen and are here from which fact we know by experience that it is a last hour in character. Out from us they departed, that is doctrinally but they did not belong to us as a source of truth, for if they had belonged to us they would have in that case have remained with us, but they departed in order that they might be plainly recognized that all do not belong to us as a source of truth. [Speaking of the antichrists who are false teachers and who had been in the church; they were not speaking from God's truth.]
Notice that he adds the additional principles of character, "a last hour in character." Wuest is expressing an idea that any of us may die at any time; therefore this may be our last opportunity, our last hour, our last time to develop the character of Christ. We could be hit by a car going home from services, die of a heart attack tomorrow, or any number of things, so this is each and every one of us, our last hour, in that sense.
That seems to be what John means here, by the last hour, and that in turn brings us back to the next term he uses, and that is antichrist, which is a term that is actually only used by the apostle John. Notice the four scriptures where the word is found.
I John 2:18 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.
I John 2:22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.
I John 4:3 And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God and this is the Spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
II John 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
So these scriptures were written by the apostle John toward the end of the first century AD, and it was a time when there were many antichrists, as I John 2:18 states. Almost two thousand years ago the spirit of antichrist even now is already in the world.
What exactly does John mean by this? He talks about antichrist and says that there are many antichrists that are already in the world, in his time. Nevertheless these other teachings lead us to see that there is something that is also future about antichrist.
I John 2:18 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.
According to the Interlinear Bible, the word “the” is not in the original Greek, and the word “antichrist” is not a proper name, therefore it should not be capitalized. The Bible never once speaks of “the antichrist.” In biblical usage the term “antichrist” does not refer exclusively to a single, political, religious leader, to arise in our day.
“Antichrist.” Deceived by teaching a false, unbiblical Christ—in essence they changed the nature of God to suit their own ends and preach it as truth. Antichrist, which is from the Greek word antichristos, indicates two distinctions. First it means against Christ—one who stands against Christ, in opposition to Him. And also one who stands in the place of Christ.
This second distinction is not just one who opposes Christ, but in the ultimate sense, it is one who also makes himself out to be Christ, in an attempt to replace Him. Obviously one can oppose Christ but not claim to be Him. Generally being antichrist refers to someone who opposes what Jesus Christ represents, teaches, and is.
More often than not the opposition is something subtle and/or covert; it is shrouded in mystery, and that is the way Satan works against the church. He infiltrates by stealth, making false doctrine sound so logical, beneficial, and righteous (according to human reasoning) when in reality pride and self-righteousness are at the heart of the motivation.
Antichrists thrive on lying to themselves first and then to others, so lying is seen as a major trait of antichrist. Because antichrists are motivated by pride, they think they are always right; because of their insecurity, they have no tolerance for anyone else. In this way they brush aside God the Father and God the Son as irrelevant and inconsequential while they promote their form or their version of God.
An antichrist is one who often, in one sense, stands instead of Christ, taking the Christian name and yet opposing the very Kingdom of truth that the name implies. Notice again what John says:
I John 2:19 They, [antichrists] went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us they would have continued to be with us, but they went out that they might be made manifest [made plain], that none of them were of us.
So when we think of antichrist, we have to bear that in mind—these antichrists have arisen and went out from us, but they were not of us. In other words, they profess to be Christians; they acted like they were members of the church, some even became teachers in the church, yet they were eventually separated from God's elect, so that it would be clear to the true Christians that they were not of them.
While claiming to enjoy and value God's truth and His people, they deceitfully and subtly try to destroy the truth and the church; they have tried to do so for the last two thousand years.
You remember how Paul warned the people of Ephesus that these various false teachers would arise among them and would, in this very subtle way, mislead and entice many away from the truth.
Acts 20:29-30 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
Think about the Worldwide Church of God's breakup, and how many splinter groups came off of that, and how many different doctrines there are that have come out from those false teachers—many of those were false teachers. We can see how quickly and how easily the spirit of the antichrist can be within God's church, but most likely among the tares that are still influencing God's people. This has already happened in the greater churches of God, and it will continue to increase on into the great tribulation.
To summarize the teaching with regard to this subject, it seems that there are things about which we can be certain. A great deal remains uncertain. First, antichrists were already at work in the day of Paul and John. Second, although there have been many imitations of it, the greatest manifestation of the spirit of antichrist will reach its maximum influence and power in the years preceding Christ's return. Third is that the epitome of the spirit of antichrist will ultimately be manifested in one Satan-influenced or possessed thing. I say “thing” and not “individual.” I will explain.
This is a very basic aspect. What we have to realize is that in this present age we are confronted by such a power, both as multiple individuals and as one great power order. The spirit of antichrist permeates and characterizes the globalist, one-world order. The danger at this point is to be guilty of over-simplification, but what we can be sure of is that from the commencement of the church until today, and from today until the end of this age, there is an evil power at work—both attacking the church and working in the world.
The apostle John wrote that the church has already been warned. He said, “As you have heard, the antichrist is coming.” It seems that not one of these apostles preached without warning the people against this danger, and yet how ignorant we often are as God's people over these last two thousand years.
The church is always confronted by the subtle power, a seducing power, a power that represents itself in the name of Christ and in the name of the Messiah; and yet is denying the true Christ. Satan is a liar that denies Jesus is the Christ—that He is our only Savior. Satan and his conspirators are against Christ, denying the Father and the Son. It is actually a broad brush that depicts the attitude of the entire world, including those in mainstream Christianity. But, it especially characterizes those actively deceiving people. So the specific characteristic teaching of antichrist that opposes us (not always openly, but often in a very subtle way) is that they deny that Jesus is Christ.
It is clear from Scripture that an antichrist is a deceiver. One in some way denies that Jesus is Christ. How does one deny Christ? The answer is by evil works. Matthew 24:5 records that Jesus prophesied that many would come saying, “I am the Christ.” Paul told Titus that these deceiving imposters deny Christ by their works.
Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Many of these antichrists outwardly claim to be Christians, but they refuse to submit to and obey Him. The works of their lives, the things that they say and do, are evil. The apostle John tells us that an antichrist denies Jesus Christ, through His Spirit, comes into His people, living His life in us, and enabling us to obey the law of God. The NIV version, words it this way:
I John 3:24 Those who obey His commandments live in Him, and He in them, and this is how we know that He lives in us, we know it by the spirit He gave us.
The spirit of Christ is one of submission and obedience to God's law, and it enables us to produce good works. This is in stark contrast to the spirit of antichrist, which is a spirit of lawlessness, standing in opposition to God's law and way of life.
There are two main manifestations that were prevalent during John's generation. There were those who said that Jesus was only a man, and that was the end of it. He was just a great teacher and nothing more. There was also the subtle Gnostic error which said that the eternal Christ had come upon Jesus at His baptism and had left Him on the cross, so that Jesus, the Son of God, never died. It was the man Jesus who died, and Christ left Him before death. They talked about Jesus, but they denied that He was the Christ.
II John 7 For many deceivers which had gone out into the world, who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
Now there were some who taught that Christ had a phantom body which is why John said in his gospel:
John 1:14 And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
That is why John tells us he and the other apostles had seen and handled him. John made it a permanent record for us today.
I John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the word of life.
So this is referring to the reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and it was not a phantom body, but a true body. The Son of God died literally and actually, and He rose again. The thing to realize is that this tendency to deny Jesus is the Christ has been running through the whole of the history of the church. The church had to fight for her life on this very doctrine in those first centuries. Then you find it again in the dark Middle Ages, in the domination of the Roman Catholic Church priesthood—those false intermediaries between man and God. All was a denial that Jesus is the Christ.
Look back across the Protestant story, especially in the last one hundred and fifty years with their subtle denial that Jesus is the Christ—the denial of the miracles and the supernatural, the idea that Jesus is that great teacher, a political teacher, or a great moral example, but not the Christ. All these are nothing more than the manifestation of these antichrists and of the ultimate great antichrist that is to come. Our responsibility is to relate all these things to our own day and time and to our own generation.
There is another more subtle way that many today deny Christ and yield to the spirit of antichrist. As you know the Bible reveals that Jesus Christ, Jesus the Messiah, must return to this earth with authority to establish a one thousand reign of peace—the Millennium. If He does not return, according to Matthew 24:22, no flesh would be saved alive. Global extinction will be inevitable. Even though Christ is the only hope for this earth, mankind, because of its enmity against God, has devised its own counterfeits, philosophies, religions, and system of governments claiming to offer alternative solutions to global survival.
People believe that by channeling their resources, their technology, and their intellectual energies into solving the problems they face, they will be able to find their own solutions to the world’s ills. This is also the spirit of the antichrist—the denial of the necessity of the Messiah and His mission. People will discover that their solo approach will totally and miserably fail in the end.
In its true biblical sense, the antichrist has a wide application; it can refer to persons, powers, attitudes, and behaviors. The spirit of antichrist is found in individuals, institutions, religions, societies, and in governments.
Adam Clarke's commentary gives this description of the spirit of antichrist:
A person, thing, doctrine, system of religion, polity, etc. which is opposed to Christ and to the spirit and spread of His gospel, is antichrist. Every man who opposes the spirit of the gospel, and every teacher and writer who endeavors to lower the gospel standard to the spirit and tastes of the world is a genuine antichrist. No matter where or among whom he is found, the heresies which sprang up in the days of John were the antichrist of that time. And we may bring this matter much lower, every enemy of Christ, everyone who opposes His reign in the world and others or in himself, is an antichrist. And consequently, every wicked man is an antichrist, but the name has been generally applied to whatever person or thing systematically opposes Christ and His religion.
The antichrist's primary work is deception which also characterizes Satan and his attempt to undermine the work of God. Satan's deception of mankind began in the Garden of Eden and continues until the second coming of Christ.
Satan the dragon or serpent of Revelation 12 is the same serpent mentioned in Genesis 3. Thus the thread of Satan's deceptive work can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. In fact, there has been little in this world (over the past two Millennium since the days of the apostles) that have not fallen within the broad spirit of antichrist. Why? Because Satan is still the god of this world.
II Corinthians 4:2-4 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who in the image of God should shine on them.
The world is under Satan's rule, not God's government. But Satan's days are numbered, and since people from the world do not really believe that Satan is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, they ignore his wiles and enticements, but we are to be sober and vigilant in our resistance. So prophesy hobbyists talk about a coming antichrist while they ignore the immediate spiritual crisis of lies and deceit that is instigated and encouraged by Satan himself. He is the father of lies, and those who think like him, act like him. This is the spirit of antichrist.
I John 2:21-22 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. [He is directly applying it to the spirit of antichrist]. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.
Lies are always a major sign of the existence of the spirit of antichrist. Ezekiel prophesied of a systematic failure of society. In Ezekiel 22:6-12, he scrutinizes behaviors; and then in Ezekiel 22:25-31, he scrutinizes what we might call personnel or people. The issue is still impurity, spiritual pollution, and this prophesy is almost a commentary on Ezekiel 7:23-27 where prophets, priest, elders, and king mislead the city.
The total effect is a web of deceit, as these pillars of communities are seen conspiring. Ezekiel accuses Israel of conspiracies in economic prediction, similar to Wall Street today. Self-serving religious leaders promote anti-God doctrine. They even tried to change the nature of God. Today we see similar things going on in many mainstream professing Christian churches that are promoting Islam by reading the Koran in their worship services. The new religion coming out of this is called Chrislam. We see this syncretism of religion in preparation for the one world religion, and the spiritual treason is directly hostile to Christ Himself, but is supposedly done in His name.
Ezekiel 22:25-31 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey, they have devoured people, they have taken treasure and precious things, they have made many widows in her midst. Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things, they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying Thus says the Lord God, when the Lord had not spoken. The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy, and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them, I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath, and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads, says the Lord God.
This is exactly what is going to happen to this nation, for the exact same sins and evils. This is an accurate description of the antichrist mentality, and a listing that represents everyone in society, from government, to religion, to the whole citizenry. God's righteous anger against them is poured out according to the degree of the wickedness of their evil deeds.
The spirit of antichrist is blanketing the earth, holding nations and kingdoms in the grips. In this generation various individuals will personify that spirit in a powerful way. In national distress, men and women turn to other men and women who appear to offer solutions. The Bible specifically mentions two of these powerful individuals who will come to be virtually deified by mankind. One is called the Beast and the other is called the False Prophet. The term antichrist is often applied to one or the other of these prophesied personalities and often preachers and prophesy hobbyists confuse the two. They dispute the one and some of the attributes of the other; some of them even blend the two into one. In Revelation 17, we will briefly look at these two satanic personalities; the Beast of the book of Revelation is a great dictator who is to rule over ten nations or geopolitical groups during the years just before Christ returns.
Revelation 17:12-14 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the lamb, and the lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.
Biblical imagery of a beast is a symbol of a political system or the leader. How does the beast achieve great power and authority? Ten leaders will give their power and strength to the beast, and this beast power is a group of nations some of which will be Israelites. Revelation 17:13 says these nations are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. Working hand and hand with the beast will also be the False Prophet, a great miracle-working religious figure.
Revelation 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
So we see the antichrist, Satan, and an antichrist human political economic leader and a antichrist human religious leader. Each having a antichrist evil spirit, and they are driven by the spirit of antichrist.
Revelation 19:20 Then the beast was captured and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Obviously they are two separate individuals. The false prophet will command the obedience of millions by means of lying wonders and fake miracles, so we see the spirit of antichrist working to deceive the world. You remember how deceitfully powerful his religious predecessors prophesied to be.
Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
False christs is just another term for antichrist. If these religious predecessors are that powerfully deceitful, how tremendously powerful will Satan's ultimate false prophet be?
Revelation 13:13-15 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
The apostle Paul calls the False Prophet “the man of sin, son of perdition.” This miracle working individual is a great religious figure who will declare himself to be the messiah, and many will believe him to be Christ in the flesh. Paul describes him in II Thessalonians 2.
II Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no one deceive you by any means, for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Here we see the spirit of antichrist working powerfully in this man and completely taking over his mind and will; and he is the last one of many who will have stood in the place of Christ.
Now back to the beast. It will not be political craftiness alone that will propel the beast power, his rise of power will be supported and encouraged by the False Prophet; the False Prophet presides over a great millennia-old religious system. This system is an image or a copy in the religious sphere of the ancient mystery religions, and it is a syncretized nation of the world’s pagan religions and includes counterfeit Christian symbols.
Satan, the master counterfeiter of God's truth, has always used symbols and icons in his deceptions to identify who are his. Among the hundreds of symbols is the obelisk standing in every major city on earth: the Washington Monument located in Washington and Baltimore will mark those cities. There are hand signals, like the goat of Mendes where the hand is held up with the two middle fingers pointing down and the two outer fingers pointing up to symbolize the horns, also called the horned goat. In addition it is represented as an upside five point star, as well as many other ways. These are just two simple examples of the ways that Satan identifies those who are his, putting his mark on them. I am not saying that is the mark of the beast. Sabbath-keeping is what separates us from those who have the mark of the beast. But he definitely has his “marks” that mark his people.
One side item that is interesting is to start watching the American Flag and how it is used behind political figures and also in other different ways, because I have noticed just recently that the Republican Party has shown an American flag with upside down, five point stars which is the symbol of the goat of Mendez or horn goat. They are becoming bold in their markings and showing who is who; it is just a scary thought that it is so prevalent. We have to take note of the things that are so subtle and subliminal in the way that they are claiming their world.
The beast will be supported and rise to power by the False Prophet; and in turn the beast will use his political might to enforce religion uniformity. It will convince much of the world during the Great Tribulation that Christ is really the antichrist; because of this deception, many will refuse to repent and submit to Christ at His return.
Revelation 16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give Him glory.
These people will have hardened hearts; they will be driven by the spirit of antichrist. The idea of the antichrist as a single powerful individual at the end time has been promoted by religion—to prepare people for the deception that Jesus Christ at His return is really the antichrist. It is used as a distraction and a diversion from the many antichrists that have come into the church and that are in the world. It is meant to deceive, if possible, even the elect. It will be Jesus Christ, returning in power and glory, that will decisively overthrow the beast and the false prophet, and they will be cast into a lake of fire and be consumed alive.
Satan is the utmost personification of the spirit of the antichrist and antichrist's rule over the nations will be forever ended. I only gave you a brief synopsis or touching of the Revelation prophesies, and that is all I meant to do—to make a distinction between those individuals.
Why does God allow these antichrists to be active in His church? In I John 2, these antichrists have been in the church; they even seemed to be enthusiastic for the church and the members, and obviously many had even risen to the point of being, if not just teachers, then ministers. It is very likely that they are among us today and within the greater churches of God. The apostle John says that antichrists have gone out from among us—meaning the church—however some of the more devious antichrists stay and subtly cause trouble. I do not know who they are, and you do not either, because only God knows their hearts, but they are there.
Why does God allow such seed in the church? To test the righteous. Sometimes people leave a congregation because of others who are attending who they think are not living up to the standard of righteousness that they have set. Psalm 11 addresses this with a general principle—a psalm designed to be an answer to the council that others have been giving him to escape; it implies that he determined at that time and always to put his trust in God. They advised him to flee; and under the circumstances, he felt that would have shown a lack of confidence and faith in God, so he determined to persevere and to rely on God's intervention, which would come according to God's will and at the right time.
Psalm 11:1-5 In the Lord I put my trust, how can you say to my soul, flee as a bird to your mountain? For look, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
So, we are always being tested by God in every trial and in every blessing to see where we stand. It is very sad that so many individuals have left and gone on their own, or just floated from church group to church group, because they are in very serious danger of having the spirit of the antichrist, I certainly hope not, but they are in danger of that affecting them.
I John 4:1-4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets [antichrists] have gone out into the world. By this you know the spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
I John 4:6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us, he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Now, the spirit of Christ can also be called the spirit of truth; and the spirit of antichrist can also be called the spirit of error. God has allowed antichrists among us to test our faith. Our God and Father and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, test our defense of God's truth and test our loyalty to one another. So we should be easily forgiving one another, not holding grudges, because we certainly do not want to have the attitude of antichrist. We have to look at some of the manifestation of these antichrists, and we must actively apply all these warnings to our own lives because antichrists are doing their dirty work right now.
We are living in the last hour, in that general sense; we are living in a last hour also in a more specific sense, not only Christians but also many secular writers and historians at the present time are teaching us that we are living in what they call an age of transition in a turning of an age in one of the great turning points of history, and this is undoubtedly true.
We are living in a time when essential changes are taking place in the history of mankind, and it is one of those turning points when things that appear to be stable are being shaken, and there can be no doubt at all but that the western civilization is coming to an end and the rest of the world as well. It is certainly one of the last times, and there is every indication that this is the last time. What we can be certain of is this the spirit of the antichrist is working. It was working in the time of Paul and John, and it is working in an accentuated and heightened way today. It is a time when God's people must be careful and very guarded, and must be aware of this subtle power that would lead us astray. And we must learn to stand fearlessly for the truth. If we notice that something is confusing, or someone is lying, or there are lies involved, we can know that the spirit of the antichrist is there.
In I John 2, the apostle John was telling the early church members that it was the last hour in their own lives for building the type of character they would need to function usefully and well in God's Kingdom. They were admonished to guard the truth because antichrist false teachers would try to pervert it.
For a final scripture we will turn to Revelation 3; the message for us today is the same. In our last hour and in this end time, we must resist and overcome this antichrist society. We must not be so focused on and distracted by looking for the antichrist in this end time. We must not fail to realize and recognize that there are many antichrists attempting to take our crowns. Notice why there is praise given to the Philadelphians of God's church.
Revelation 3:10-12 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I come quickly hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
It is an understatement to say that it is very worthwhile to hang on to our crown—to make sure that we are aware of what is going on around us, and to protect our minds from what is going on in society. We must be on our constant guard of God's truth and persevere in our application of it, because in a world of constant temptation where the spirit of antichrist is at work throughout all society and even more subtly threatening us in the church, we do not want to be robbed of that crown that we will wear for eternity. May God help us keep it.