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1. Resurrection and the Antichrist


– Chapter 1 –

Resurrection and the Antichrist

1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? (2 Thessalonians 2:1–5, ESV)

The Lord lays it upon my heart to speak about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is still a spirit of prophecy in the church today, and there is a general feeling that the Lord’s coming is very near. I will concentrate on one aspect relating to the Lord’s coming, an important one: the Antichrist, the man of sin, a frightening figure. Some believe that he is already in the world.

The prophesied apostasy

2 Thessalonians 2:1–5, quoted above, speaks of the Antichrist in connec­tion with the great apostasy that will take place shortly before the coming of the Lord Jesus. Apostasy is the falling away from Christ. Since no one can turn away from Christ without first coming to him, this apostasy has everything to do with Christians. In the last days, multitudes of Christians will turn away from Christ. But don’t get the wrong idea. It doesn’t mean that the church will suddenly become empty. Christians will conti­nue to go to church, but they will no longer be faithful to the Lord Jesus. In fact they will tune their ears to other doctrines:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3–4, ESV)

This will be the situation of the church before the Lord comes again.

The man of lawlessness

The passage in 2 Thessalonians mentions something remarkable about the Antichrist, called the man of lawlessness: he will be revealed (v.3). At the present time he is hidden, but he will be revealed when the situation in the church and in the world is ripe for his activities. Then he will show his true self. This man of lawlessness is also called the “son of destruction” (“son of perdi­tion,” KJV), who will oppose — and exalt himself above — every so-called god or object of worship (v.4). He will take his seat in the temple of God, and proclaim himself God. Proud and self-exalting, he is the very opposite of the Lord Jesus who humbled himself. The Lord was already referring to the Antichrist when he said, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” (John 5:43, ESV)

The opposition to holiness

Let us talk about holiness for a few minutes, so that when the man of lawlessness appears in his unholiness, he can be identified. Christians unfamiliar with the teaching of holiness will be deceived because they won’t be able to recognize the Antichrist when he appears.

Some years ago, I preached holiness at a Christian conference in North America, and do you know who opposed my preaching? In a confe­rence of almost a thousand people, it was not the lay brothers and sisters but the pastors who opposed the teaching of holiness. My conference message was based on Hebrews 12:14: “without holi­ness no one will see the Lord.” This statement comes straight from the Bible, and was not something that I invented.

And they kicked up a storm over a verse which I preached from the Bible. I am almost ready to weep at this. They told me to define my doctrine, and I told them it is in the Bible. The pastors con­fronted me, saying, “Why do you preach holi­ness? This is salvation by works!” I couldn’t believe my ears. What? Holiness is salvation by works? Does anyone really think we can become holy in our own strength?

The pastors warned me: “Change your message or we will give you trouble.” I did not change my message — God is my witness — and I never will. I will preach holiness to the day I die.

True to their word, they have given me trouble all over the world — everywhere! Why? Because I preach holiness. When John Wesley preached holiness over two centuries ago, they threw him out of the church. He was a pastor in the Anglican Church, the Church of England, yet was barred from preaching at any Anglican Church in England. So he had to preach outdoors in the open air.

Why would pastors, of all people, oppose the teaching of holiness? I presume that they have studied a bit of theology at some seminary. They ought to know it is impossible to be holy except by grace — that amazing grace that “saved a wretch like me.” I preach holiness because God saved a wretch like me, making a saint out of a sinner. Is that not glorious? Yet the pastors tell us not to preach holiness.

I challenged the pastors to prove me wrong from Scripture. So far no one has taken up my challenge. I made it clear to them that if I had said anything false, I will apologize to this conference — and to any conference in the world. I said to them, “Prove me wrong from Scripture and I will apologize and confess my sin. Select the best of your scholars and I will debate you in public, in Hong Kong, Canada, or the United States — any­where.” But no one has dared to come out in the open. They only attack me behind my back.

I am not saying these things to justify myself. I count it a privi­lege to suffer a little bit for the sake of Christ. I have suffered too little for him. So if he should grant me the privilege of suffering a little bit more for him, I would thank him from the depths of my heart. But I weep for the church of God which I love, and for the brothers and sisters whom I love — the very ones who were not allowed to listen to the truth. Let this sink into your mind: Without holiness no one will see the Lord. This is from the word of God.

We are reaping the consequences of the neglect of holi­ness. I recently heard the news of a member of a church in Canada who was sentenced to life for murder. A Christian who commits mur­der? And why? Because he was told by the church that once you are saved, you are always saved, even if you commit murder. So why not commit murder? Why not commit adultery? Why not rob and steal?

Paul says that the apostasy will come when people will no longer listen to the truth, especially the truth about holiness. They want to remain as Christians yet have the freedom to sin. I am sick of the wishy-washy Christianity that makes the non-Christians say, “Why should I become a Christian? Look at that Christian over there! I’m better than him!” And they are right. Many non-Christians are better than Christians. I make no defense about it, at least not until these Christians are trans­formed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Until then, there is no Christianity to talk about.

Without holiness no man shall see God. And no one can be holy except by God’s saving grace and mercy through the Holy Spirit who transforms sinners into saints. Paul calls Christians “saints”.

Holiness: A light in the world

Yesterday I shared a goal with my wife: that, by the grace of God, no one, especially no Christian, who commits adultery or fornica­tion or slander or any other kind of sin, can sit in this church and remain comfor­table, smiling and twiddling his thumbs, enjoying a sooth­ing message on so-called “grace”. May the stress on holiness be­come so unbearable to him that he either leaves this church never to return, or cries out to the Lord, “Forgive me! Have mercy on me! Cleanse me so that on that day I may see your face!” I want a church free of complacent Christians who think nothing of leaving a church service to play mahjong or gamble at the race­course, causing the non-Christians to say, “What’s a church elder doing in a place like this?” May this church shine brightly with a light that causes people to repent or become uncomfortable. The Bible talks about a light that cannot be hidden, that ex­poses the surrounding darkness. It is by this light that you become an out­stand­ing Christian in your school or place of work.

I am a pastor, yet I do know something about secular life. I have worked in the world. In the school where I taught, it was my aim to conduct myself so that my fellow teachers will ask, “What makes him so unusual, so different, so unique?” That aim was fulfilled in every respect, and I didn’t even have to wear any special clothes like black clerical garments. I have never worn a clerical collar in all my years as a pastor. If I need a collar before I am recognized by others as a Christian and a preacher, something must be amiss with me.

The school could not understand what made me so different. They were amazed that as soon as I walked into a classroom, the whole class of unruly students would be quiet immediately. I did not scold or shout at my students; I did not send them out for corporal punish­ment. Every student remained quiet in his seat, listening attentively to the word of God. My fellow teachers were amazed, and wondered what my secret was. That secret was God’s power working through me.

Three years after I left the school, I met a stranger who, after hearing of my name, asked me: “I’ve heard of you before. Didn’t you teach at such and such a school in Liverpool?” Yes, I said. Then he said, “No wonder! I have heard about you there.” Some three years later, they were still talking about that unusual teacher who elicited good behavior from his students with a reputation for unruliness. Such is God’s power working in holiness; and because the power is his, the glory belongs to him alone.

The coming of the Lord Jesus

I have something to say to the non-Christians here. This series of mess­ages is not going to be so technical or theological that you cannot understand what I am talking about. I want to speak very simply, and to your heart. The coming of Jesus has everything to do with you as non-Christians. Do not think that it has only to do with Christians.

When the Lord Jesus came the first time, he came in humility. He was despised and rejected. Choosing the path of suffering and humiliation, he was mocked and spat upon.

But when he comes again, a different picture will emerge: he will come in glory, power, and majesty. His glory will be mani­fested to the ends of the earth. Your own eyes will witness his glorious coming. Those living in sin and unholiness will find his glory unbearable, and will call upon the mountains to hide them from the face of God and from the Lamb (Revelation 6:16).

Farfetched though it may seem, as surely as Jesus came the first time, he will come a second time. Whether you are dead or alive when he comes, you will definitely see him, because everyone will be raised to face the judgment. God has appointed a judge: the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:22, 27). Whether you believe in his coming or not, does not change the fact of his coming, just as refusing to believe in the planet Mars does not take it out of existence.

The picture of his first coming is familiar enough: the mockery, the physical abuse, the crown of thorns, the blood running down his face, and finally crucifixion as a criminal — he died for you and for me. The world paid him no attention in any serious way, and to this day it still does not. Everyone pays attention to trivial­ities: bargain sales, shop­ping centers, job promotions, salary increases. Who has time to listen to this talk about eternal life?

What has happened to our sense of values? Unimportant things are occupy­ing our minds. In restaurants I hear conversa­tions coming from the neighboring tables. What do people talk about? Trivialities. The human mind is pitiful — so capable and intelligent, yet so easily occupied with tri­vialities. Satan has been successful in his work on man in preparing the way for the Antichrist.

The resurrection

It is not easy to talk about the Antichrist because some back­ground information is needed. I do not, however, wish to speak about the Antichrist in an academic fashion, but to show how all this applies to your life.

I start with the resurrection. How it relates to the Antichrist will become evident. There is such a thing as the resurrection. I am not talking about some vague resurrection in the future, but an actual phenomenon: bodily resur­rection. The word “resurrection” (Greek anastasis) appears not even once in the Old Testament, though there are indirect refe­rences to the resurrection in the OT. But in the New Testament, “resurrection” occurs 42 times, not coun­ting other words and phrases that refer to the resurrec­tion (e.g. “He is risen” or “raised up”) — these add up to hundreds of occurrences. Resurrection from the dead is a key idea in the New Testament.

Actual cases of resurrection

In my student days in England, I knew a fine brother by the name of Dr. Lo. He went to England to write his medical exams because his training in China was not recognized in that part of the world. He shared with me that when he was a young doctor, he was sent to a certain village in Guangdong province to look after a number of patients. The villagers knew him to be a Christian, and he proclaimed the glory of the Lord wherever he went.

But one day, a patient of his — an elderly woman — died. The worst that could happen to a young doctor on his first assignment is for a patient to die on him. He said to himself, “Everyone in the village knows that I am a Christian, and now they will know that my patient died on me!” He tried to revive the patient using every­thing he had learned from his medical training, but in vain. Anxious and despe­rate, he pleaded with the only other local doctor for help: “Please help me, my patient just died!” That doctor could only say, “What can I do? Am I God? If she’s dead she’s dead.” Dr. Lo rechecked the patient, and she had indeed died. Then he cried out to the Lord: “What am I going to do? What will happen to my Christian witness in this village?” With tears running down his face, he fell on his knees and prayed. Suddenly he heard a cough, and saw movement in the woman’s eyelids. Color was returning to her face, and she was coming back to life! As a medical doctor, he was qualified to tell whether she was dead or alive, whereas we non-professionals may give a wrong assessment. This instance of resurrection is not at all unique.

Everywhere I travel, and in every major town I pass through, I would check whether there is a local Christian bookstore. I would usually look for theological works but there was one time I saw an interesting, non-theological book that was on sale at the irresistible price of $1.99. It was a collection of testi­monies of what God had been doing in the lives of people (e.g. healing cancer patients). I will now recount a few of these testimonies since they have to with the resurrection. I restrict myself to those cases of resur­rection where the death was confirmed by a medical doctor or surgeon.

Dr. William S. Reid, an American surgeon, tells the story of his two-year-old son who had suddenly died of acute viral pneumonia while Dr. Reid had gone out to perform a surgery. When he returned, he tested his son for signs of life but the boy was already dead. All his efforts to revive his son were in vain. He fell on his knees and wept before the Lord. Soon he heard a sound. The little boy who had been dead came back to life. Dr. Reid tells his own story in a book called The Surgery of the Soul.

Not long afterwards, this surgeon was called to the pediatric ward of a hospital to certify the death of a little girl who had been dead for a while. He went to her bedside, did the usual checks, stopped the resuscitator, and removed the intravenous tube from her arm. As he was about to sign the death certificate, he saw her mother weeping. Then he remembered how he him­self had wept over his dead son a few weeks earlier. Then the Lord’s compassion filled his heart. He felt he could not simply sign the death certificate and close the book. He cried out to the Lord, and the words in John 11:25–26 came to him: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and he that lives and believes in me shall never die.” He placed his hands on the little girl’s head, and prayed, “Lord, you gave me back my little boy. Will you not give this little girl back to her mother?” The Lord immediately answered the prayer. The girl came back to life and was reunited with her mother.

Let me mention one more case that involved a well-known Bible teacher and writer, Dr. Michael Esses (1923–1993). He was not a medical doctor; his doctorate was in theology. Dr. Esses travelled to Mexico by car and trailer with his wife, their son, and their 12‑year old daughter Kathy. (Many Americans go on holidays by towing a trailer complete with sleeping and cooking facilities.) At one point during the trip, Kathy was leaning against the trailer door inside. The door suddenly opened, and she fell out of the trailer eight feet below, cracking her head on a concrete block. Blood was pouring out of her head. The family wrapped her in a blanket and rushed her to the nearest government hospital, but she was dead on arrival.

That government hospital was not authorized to issue death certificates, so the girl was taken to a civilian hospital for the doctors there to issue one. The Bible teacher looked to the Lord and remembered the Scripture verse which says to give thanks in all circumstances (1Th.5:18). Give thanks? How is that possible when his daughter had died such a terrible death? But he was determined to praise God in the midst of the tragedy. He praised God, and gave thanks to his name. He decided to pray for his daughter even though she was already dead with her skull split open. He said, “Lord, if you want to take my daughter, thanks be to your name. But if it is your will to revive her, her life is in your hands. Let it be done according to your will.” Nothing happened. They took her body seven miles to the civilian hospital for the death certificate. There she was taken into an examination room while her parents waited outside.

Soon the doctor came out of the examination room, shouting Americanos locos! Although the Bible teacher hardly knew any Spanish, he understood the meaning of “loco” — it means crazy. He asked the doctor why he was shouting Crazy Americans, and he said, “Why did you bring your daughter here? There’s nothing wrong with her!” The teacher rushed into the exami­nation room and saw Kathy sitting up in perfect condition, though her head was shaved for the examina­tion. There was not a scratch or a bruise on her head even though her blanket was soaked in blood.

These are not fairy tales but testimonies by responsible people who are still alive [in 1986 when this sermon was preached]. I am not talking about events that happened many years ago, but about contemporary cases. You can travel to the United States, and visit these people to find out whether the cases are true or not. I can help you locate them. Just as the Lord Jesus raised the dead, so the same power of resurrec­tion is active today. I glory in my living God.

“I am the resurrection and the life” — are these fantastical words to be explained away by some mythological interpretation? When Jesus said he is the resurrection and the life, he meant exactly that. He raised the dead. He told Jairus’ daughter to get up, and she got up (Luke 8:41–56). In Nain he saw a woman weeping for her dead son, her only son. Like the medical doctor who had compassion on the weeping mother, the Lord Jesus had compass­ion on this woman in Nain. He stopped the funeral procession, ordered the casket opened, and told the young man to get up. He got up, and the funeral was changed into a celebration. (Luke 7:11–17)

In the case of Lazarus who had been dead four days, his sister Martha told the Lord that the body will have a stench (John 11:39). But Jesus ordered the stone removed, and told Lazarus to come out. What a sight! Can you imagine the reaction of the people? Some of them must have collapsed. When Pastor Joe’s father died two or three years ago, Joe called me to ask whether he should pray for his father to be raised from the dead. I told him to do as the Lord leads. His mother heard all this and said, “I can’t stand the thought of it. If my husband rises from the dead, I think I will die!” What glory and power! The dead are raised!

I have experienced the power of resurrection in my own life: spiritual resurrection. God’s power of resurrection can transform the most vile sinner (“dead in trespasses and sins”) and raise him to a new life. That is even more wonderful than the physical resur­rection of the dead. I have seen sick people miraculously rescued from the grip of death, but to me that is not as important as spiri­tual resurrection. I have prayed for victims of acute ailments such as cancer, and they were completely healed without a trace of cancer. But to me, that is less impressive than the transforma­tion of lives that I have witnessed. The power of the resurrection creates a new man. I was dead in trespasses and sins, but I was raised. If you knew me in my non-Christian days, you would doubt whether I was the same person that you see today. Indeed I am not the same person! I have become a different man. My father saw the change in my life after I had become a Christian. Three years after I became a Christian, I visited him in Singapore. When I was about to leave, he said to me: “I have observed you for the past three days, and I want to tell you that you are a totally different person from the son I knew before. You were very bad but now you are totally different.” Such is the power of the resurrec­tion.

Resurrection: The sign of the Antichrist

The sign of the Christ is the resurrection. The Lord himself said to the Jewish leaders: “No sign will be given to you except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39). He was referring to his own resurrec­tion. Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so the Son of Man will be dead three days. Just as Jonah came out of the fish, so the Son of Man will be raised from the dead.

The Antichrist knows this sign very well, and that the resur­rection is the sign of the Christ, the sign of the New Testament age. He will try to perform the same sign in his own life, deceiving multitudes of phony Christians who cannot discern the truth. These Christians will welcome the Antichrist as Christ himself.

There is a Chinese saying: Man has the face of a human being, and the heart of a beast. This applies aptly to the Antichrist, for he is called “the beast” in Revelation 13:3. The same verse men­tions something very striking about the Antichrist, in the state­ment “as if it had been slain” (NASB). Here “slain” is the same Greek word (sphazō) that is applied to the Lord Jesus in v.8: “the Lamb who has been slain”. Hence the Antichrist will imitate Christ in his death. The words “as if” indicate that the death is not real, but illusory. But the imitation goes even further because the apparently fatal wound will be healed (v.3). This is an attempt to imitate Christ even in his resur­rection! The Antichrist will give the appearance of being fatally wounded; the multitudes will not know that he has not actually died. Then he will give the appearance of being raised from the dead. Verses 11–12 of the same chapter talk about the second beast (the false prophet) who exercises all the authority of the first beast (the Antichrist). Verse 12 speaks of “the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed”. Verse 14 speaks of “the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.”

Surviving the deception of the Antichrist

I am talking about the resurrection because the Antichrist will try to deceive the church with an imitation sign of the resur­rection. You must experience the power of the resurrection in your own life because the whole world will be deceived. Revelation 13:3 says, “And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast.” Verse 8 says that “all who dwell on the earth will worship him”. The Antichrist will startle the world with a marve­lous imitation of the resurrection.

Will you and I survive? You will not survive unless you have experienced in your own life the power of the resurrection, which transforms you and opens your eyes to discern the truth. The only people who won’t be deceived by the Antichrist are the saints. Verse 7 says, “It was given to him to make war with the saints.” Why does the Antichrist wage war against the saints, the holy ones? Because they are not deceived. They will refuse to follow and worship the beast.

The same verse says that the Antichrist will “overcome” the saints. We will be suppressed, persecuted, and put to death — just as the Lord Jesus warned in Matthew 24 concerning the last days. These saints will be faithful: “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints” (Rev.13:10). Revelation 12:11 says: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (NASB)

If you love this world and this life, you will not survive the Antichrist’s deception and persecution. May God grant you to experience the power of the resurrection.


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