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2. The Cross and the Antichrist


– Chapter 2 –

The Cross and the Antichrist


In my last message, I talked about the resurrection in relation to the Antichrist. The Antichrist is a frightening figure to many people, and some have asked whether the Antichrist is an appropriate subject for inviting friends to our church. I can assure you that as this series of messages goes on, you will come to realize that the subject of the Antichrist is important for Christians as well as non-Christians, because the Antichrist will deceive the whole world.

Two more cases of resurrection

Last time I recounted several cases of resurrection that have taken place in modern times. I want to stress that I have not exhausted all my examples. I have many more examples, but time permits only a couple today.

There is the case of a car driver who was killed at the famous Indianapolis racetrack where cars can reach well over 150 miles per hour. Car racing is dangerous because the cars are light yet powerful. Accidents occur rather frequently, but most of them are minor. But once in a while, a truly horrific, heart-stopping accident takes place before our eyes. Sometimes it takes the form of a multi­ple pileup where several cars are smashed into a tangle of burning wreckage. The rescue team dashes out to the scene, ready to subdue the fire and rescue the drivers.

In my present example, a driver got involved in this type of pileup. Suddenly another car smashed into the cockpit of his car and hit him square in the head at full speed. It doesn’t take medical knowledge to imagine what had happened to his head. His crash helmet was shattered, his skull was crushed, his head was smashed open. Many people rushed to the scene and dragged him out of the car. The racetrack doctor took his pulse and pronounced him dead.

Not so fast! Our God is the God of the resurrection (which is the point of my last message). This dead driver had two devout Christian friends — a married couple — who witnessed the whole incident at the racetrack. They rushed to the scene of the accident, and started to pray for him even though he had been dead six or seven minutes. While they were still praying, the dead man started to groan. Everyone could see that he was coming back to life. “There is sound coming from him! He’s reviving! Rush him to hospital!” So he was rushed to a hospital, with the Christian couple following behind.

The medical specialists gave him next to no hope. Even if he survives, they said, his condition would be absolutely dire because of the massive brain damage. They hurriedly arranged a brain scan in preparation for an emergency brain surgery. They took one look at the results and got the shock of their lives! They could not believe what they saw. His head was in perfect condition without the slightest damage! They took another look at his crash helmet and indeed it was all smashed up.

There is also the case of Dr. Richard E. Ebby, who is himself a physician. I said “is” because he is still alive. He fell one day, smashed his head on the concrete, died, and later came back to life. He later wrote a book Caught Up Into Paradise which describes how he had departed from this life and entered what he calls Paradise. It describes at length his experiences in Paradise. The incident was a turning point in his life.

All these cases demonstrate that our God is the God of the resur­rection. The God I proclaim is not some philosophical or religious concept that nobody has time for. Who has time for philosophy or religion? My faith is not in a religion, much less a philosophy. My faith is in the living God. Not only is my God the living God, he is the God who can raise the dead back to life. That was the point of my previous message on the Antichrist. In that message I pointed out a crucial fact about the Antichrist, that he knows perfectly well that the key element of the New Testament, the key characteristic of the New Testament, is the resurrection. This exciting and marvelous thing — resurrection from the dead — is something the Antichrist knows about.

Jesus and the resurrection

The Pharisees refused to believe in Jesus even though they had seen the miracles he had performed. Yet they said to him, “Give us one more sign, just one more spectacular sign to show us that you are the Christ, the Savior King of Israel.” But Jesus refused to entertain them with spectacular wonders, and said to them, “Because you don’t have eyes to see what I have done, you will see nothing from me except one thing: the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (cf. Mt.12:39)

What was the sign of the prophet Jonah? The Pharisees knew what it was, for they were well versed in the Scriptures. Jonah the prophet was in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights. Just as Jonah was dead symbolically (or literally, according to some) for three days and three nights, and came back to life, so the Son of Man will die and be buried for three days and three nights. Was his death the end of the mat­ter? No, the Lord Jesus rose again! This sign — and no other sign — was granted to the Pharisees, and many of them did see the day of his resurrection.

Not only was the Lord Jesus raised from the dead, he himself raised others from the dead. In front of a crowd he com­manded dead Lazarus to come out of the grave, and indeed he came out. In the same way, the Son of Man will one day speak to the dead and they will come forth from their graves (John 5:28–29). That is why I stress that the sign of the New Testament, the sign of Christ, is the resurrection.

In the approximately three years of his earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus raised only a handful of people from the dead. In that time, many others had died but were not resurrected, for it was not the Lord’s business to traverse the land, raising up everyone who had died; otherwise, he would have no time for anything else. If raising the dead was not the focus of his ministry, why did he bother to raise anyone from the dead? There was a purpose to this: to give a sign or a symbol of the important truth that God is the God of the resurrection.

Even today, some two thousand years after the New Testament period, God still raises the dead. Again it is only a small handful of people that he raises, but that is sufficient to remind us that he was — and still is — the God of the resurrection.

A strange thing happened when Jesus died

Strange things were happening on the day the Lord Jesus died. Darkness fell upon the land because the sun refused to shine on an earth that put the Lord to death. Matthew 27:51–53 describes some­thing eerie that took place immediately after Jesus died: The earth quaked powerfully and broke open many tombs. Many dead saints were raised and appeared to the people of Jerusalem!

If you visit Jerusalem today, you will be amazed by the great number of tombs all around the city. Just outside the temple area, for example, are tombs and more tombs cluttered along the hillside, down to the Kidron brook, over to the other side, and up towards the Mount of Olives. There are tombs everywhere — tombs from every century, from every age, from every locality — because every­one wants to be buried near Jerusalem, the Holy City.

Picture the situation. A mighty earthquake broke open many tombs, many of which were caves. The tremors rolled away the stones that sealed the tombs, exposing the interiors of the caves. For anyone with a stomach to peek inside, it was a most unsettling sight. To make matters more chaotic, the Sabbath was coming. Because the Jews did not work on the Sabbath, the tombs were left unattended. No one dared to venture out of his house, so that for once the entire populace was faithful in keeping the Sabbath!

But the worst was yet to come. What do we read in the passage? God’s resurrection power — the same power that raised Jesus from the dead — was working so powerfully that a multitude of saints, including Old Testament saints, were raised from the dead, and they walked straight into Jerusalem! When the Jews resumed their work after the Sabbath, they encountered a most ghastly sight: people wrapped in grave clothes and bundled up in bandages, walking about in Jerusalem. Many onlookers must have fainted. To add horror to horror, some of the resurrected saints had died only recently. Imagine answering a knock on the door, only to be greeted by a family member who had died a few weeks earlier!

Exciting things were happening in Jerusalem in the days of the Lord Jesus. I have something to tell you: Exciting things will happen in your life too if you know the living God.

Let’s face reality

You may say, “I get it. You’ve given us examples of modern-day resurrection. I agree that the sign of Jesus is the resurrection. But I have a small problem: I have never seen anyone being raised from the dead. I wasn’t there when the poor people fainted on the streets of Jerusalem.”

How can we be sure that Jesus actually rose from the dead? How did Paul know that Jesus rose from the dead? Why was the resur­rection such a crucial element in Paul’s preaching of the gospel (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15)? He even says that if Jesus has never been resurrected, then we, of all men, are most miserable. If resur­rection is not real, what are we living for? Let’s face this issue boldly and honestly. What is the use of believing in God if you are going to end up in the grave 10 years from now, 20 years from now, even 50 years from now? The human life span is miserably short compared to the length of human history. Let’s get the picture right because we don’t want to live in illusions. Christianity has nothing to do with illusions. Let’s face the realities of life and the realities of death. Fifty years from now, maybe none of us in this meeting hall will be physically alive. My friend, you may be young now, but all too often the young die first, especially in this age.

Why do I say this? Because we live in a world full of wars. Who are the first to die during a war? Are they not teenagers and those in their twenties? People in Europe know this all too well. World War I wiped out a whole generation of young people in Britain, Germany, and the rest of Europe. Such was the scale of destruction that if you go to Europe today [1986], you will meet many elderly women who are single. They are single not because they are unat­tractive or unmarriageable, but because there were not enough men for them to marry in their generation. My daughter and I recently met one such lady from England. She never got married, and she explained why. Her sweet­heart, a gallant young man, was sent to the front before they could ever marry. He never came home. Like many other young men, he never came home. And that happened to tens of thousands — No! Hundreds of thousands! — in Britain, not to mention all the casualties in France, in Germany, in Belgium, in Russia, in China. Nobody knows how many Chinese died during World War II. Some estimate thirty million, some fifty million. In any war, it is the young who suffer the highest casualty rate.

Maybe none of us here will be physically alive fifty years from now. That is not meant to scare anybody, but we do need to face reality. Am I speaking the truth or not? Exactly what is the point of believing in a God who can do nothing for us? What is the point of putting our faith in a weak God? Do we use religion as a sedative to calm our nerves, to keep ourselves in illusion, and to give ourselves a weekly shot in the arm so that we can stay in one piece for a whole week until we crawl back to church on Sunday for another shot in the arm? If so, then we are drug peddlers of the first order. Religion is an opiate, and I am not going to waste my time preaching this kind of religion.

Why did Paul devote his life to preaching the gospel? Why would a man of such intelligence, and with such ability to be successful in the world, preach the gospel? Why did he put everything he had into the gospel? Because he had seen the risen Lord. Paul himself says, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim.1:12; cf. 1 Cor.9:1).

I believe in the resurrection

You may say it was fine for Paul because he saw Jesus after his resurrection. And before that, there were 500 eyewitnesses at the same time and the same place (1 Cor.15:6). That’s enough witnesses in any court of law. You may say: “That’s fine, because there were many witnesses, but I myself haven’t seen anything.”

Maybe you do have a case. But I have something wonderful to tell you. Do you know why I believe in the resurrection? Is it be­cause of the modern-day cases of people raised from the dead? No. Is it because the Bible talks about the resurrection that I believe in the resurrection? Partly so, but not the entire reason. Is it because Paul saw Jesus after the resurrection? Yes, but still not enough. Is it because of the 500 people who saw Jesus at the same time? Partly so, but still not enough.

Why do I believe in the resurrection? Because I have experienced the power of the resurrection. The New Testament has this message for you: every true Christian experiences the power of the resurrec­tion. How do you account for the fact that thousands of Christians in China are willing to endure hard labor for twenty years, thirty years, or until they die — for the sake of Christ? I personally know some such people. They just need to give up this business called Christianity, and the door to freedom will swing open for them. The persecutor asks them: “Did I get you right? Are you really going to lay down your life for this nonsense?” Yes they will!

My wife Helen and I visited Hungary recently, and there we met Christians of outstanding faithfulness. Neither jail nor torture nor execution behind the Iron Curtain could stop them from standing firm to the end. I met the Hungarian pentathlon athlete Andras Balczo, five-time world champion, three-time Olympic gold medalist, who threw everything away for the sake of Christ. After winning a gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics, he went on Hungarian radio and announced, “I believe in Jesus Christ!” The whole nation was shocked. No one gets away with that in an Iron Curtain country. The Communist Party pulled him from the top all the way down to the bottom.

Why would these men throw away the glory of the world for the sake of Jesus Christ? We don’t have to go so far afield — just consider the coworkers in our churches alone. We now have 36 full-time coworkers serving the Lord on three continents. They are all profes­sionally trained, either as engineers, computer specialists, doctors, or food scientists. Are they so crazy as to throw away their good life in the world, renouncing all the money they could have earned? Simple arithmetic tells you how much money they could have made by pooling their earnings from their professions. Imagine how much money has been thrown away for the sake of the gospel.

A year and a half from now, we will have 50 full-time coworkers who have turned their backs to the world. Are they crazy? They are not! By the grace of God, I trust that we, whatever our weaknesses may be, are not crazy. So why are we doing all this? Because we have experienced the power of the resurrection here and now. If there is no such thing as the resurrection, all this talk about the resurrec­tion would be pie-in-the-sky. Who wants to live for a fairy tale, much less die for a fairy tale?

You may ask, “Do I understand you correctly? Did you say you have experienced the power of the resurrection?” Yes, and Paul himself speaks about the resurrection, for example in Romans 6: we have died with Christ, we have been buried with him, we have been raised with him. I have been crucified with Christ and I now live in the power of the resurrection. I have had a foretaste of the power of the age to come. That is what being a true Christian is all about.

There are millions of Christians who have never expe­rienced the power of the resurrection. I don’t know why they are even Christians at all. From the quality of their lives, you can see that they don’t really know what being a Christian is all about. They may come from a Christian background, or believe in various Christian doctrines, or have attended Sunday school, but they don’t know the power of the resurrection. We can rightly call them nominal Christians. If you are this type of Christian — and there are too many in the churches today — I feel sorry for you. If you think you can smuggle your way into the resurrection on that day, you are going to be disappointed because only those who have truly experienced the power of the resurrection now will have any share in the future bodily resurrection.

What happens after we die?

What happens after we die? Do we become ghosts who roam about in the shadows, hoping that someone will leave a bowl of porridge on the floor? The poor ghost finds a bowl of porridge but it’s a pitifully tiny bowl! What? No porridge and no orange? Poor thing! And what does he get? He gets paper money that nobody can use, paper furniture that nobody can sit on, and a paper car that no one can drive.

When we die, do we disintegrate into dust that is swept away by the wind? If so, life is not something to get excited about. You might as well slouch in front of the television and get some thrills. Live it up for a few years before you disintegrate into dust or become a shadowy figure that floats from place to place looking for a bowl of porridge. If that doesn’t excite you, maybe you can be a monkey in the next life. We are told that mon­keys evolved into man, but now we are reversing the evolutionary trend. And if man can turn into a monkey, what prevents him from becoming a beetle, and after­wards an amoeba? He might even vanish altoge­ther! If you are more hopeful, you can aspire to become something more noble — like a cow or a horse. If you want to be tall, you can hope to be a giraffe. Better yet, become another person. No thanks, I don’t fancy another life in this cruel world!

But our God, the God of the resurrection, is our hope. Paul says that the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, the things that God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor.2:9). You cannot even begin to imagine what God has prepared for those who love him.

The bad news

But there is the bad news. Why tell you the bad news? Because the Antichrist will tell you only the good news, and I don’t want to be party to the Antichrist.

You don’t need to be trained in logic to see that there is no resurrection without death. Death precedes resurrection. If you have not died, you cannot be raised from the dead. We must die with Christ before we can be raised with him. That’s the unpalata­ble part that sticks into our throats. We want to hear something else: “Tell me more stories about raising the dead, like the one about the car driver who got killed — that’s simply out of this world! Or the one about the guy in Florida who got killed by a 38 caliber bullet, and was brought back to life. But spare me all this talk about taking up the cross.”

Let me repeat: No cross no resurrection; no death no life. That is why so many Christians today have never experienced the po­wer of the resurrection. Have you experienced the resurrection? For nominal Christians, the resurrection is only fantasy or mythology. How can you know whether the resurrection is real or not? Experience it. How? Die. To experience spiritual resurrection, you need to die spiritually with Christ.

In my last message I showed that the Antichrist knows the importance of the resurrection. That is why he will try to duplicate it, as we see in Revelation 13. There we read that the Antichrist will give the appearance — and only an appearance — of having died, and then he will seemingly rise from the dead. That creates a big problem. You look at the Antichrist who seems to have been raised from the dead, and you look at the historical Christ who was raised from the dead, and then you begin to wonder which one is the real Christ. Dear friends, this brings us to the heart of the matter. It is a matter of life and death to be able to distinguish between the true and the false. While you are listening to my preaching now, can you tell whether I am speaking the truth or not?

Misconceptions about the word “Antichrist”

The word “antichrist” itself is misleading in Chinese and in English. It is usually rendered in Chinese as 敌基督 (1 John 2:18), which literally means an enemy of Christ. As we will see, this is a distortion of the Greek word anti. A similar confusion arises in English because the English prefix “anti” has a different meaning from the Greek prefix anti. In English, when we speak of an anti-aircraft missile, we mean a missile that destroys aircraft. The missile is anti-aircraft because it opposes and destroys aircraft. Carrying this logic over, many have assumed that the Antichrist is simply the one who openly opposes the Christ, or attempts to “shoot down” the Christ. If this is how you understand the meaning of “antichrist,” then you do not quite understand the magnitude of the problem.

Look up the word anti in any Greek dictionary, and you will discover that it does not mean “against” or “opposed to”. On the contrary, it means “replacement of” (see the Appendix at the end of this book for details). Hence, the Antichrist is not a counter Christ but a counterfeit Christ or a replacement Christ. He will appear before the world not as a self-proclaimed enemy of Christ, but as the real Christ himself.

The word anti in New Testament Greek also has the meaning “on behalf of”. This sense is found, for example, in the statement that the Son of Man came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). Here the word “for” translates the Greek word anti. In other words, Christ died anti our sins. He died for our sins, not against our sins. He died on our behalf, not in opposition to us. This gives us an indication of how the Antichrist will pretend to come on behalf of Christ, that is, in the name of Christ, and as the Christ.

The misconceptions about “anti” and therefore “Antichrist” have led to the wrong notion that the Antichrist will be easy to identify, being simply the one who openly wages war against Christ. That is a wrong understanding of the situation. The Antichrist will appear before the world not as one who openly opposes Christ but as the real Christ himself. When he appears to the world in his deception, there will be great confusion over whether he is the Christ or not.

There is a similar confusion in the churches today over who is speaking the truth. If you are a non-Christian, you must be confused by so many claims and counterclaims. But thanks be to God, there is a way to know who is speaking the truth and who is speaking falsehood. We will come to that at the conclusion of this message.

The spirit of the Antichrist: You will be like God

The word “antichrist” occurs four times in Scripture, and only in 1 John and 2 John.[1] The spirit of the Antichrist is already in the world (1 John 4:3). In fact, it has been in the world for a very long time, even from the Garden of Eden. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he said to them (to paraphrase): “Did God really say you must not eat of the tree of knowledge? Don’t believe that, for on the day you eat of it, you will become like God. Although you were created in his image, you are not completely like him yet because you don’t have his knowledge. He is omniscient and knows every­thing. Just eat of the tree, and you will become 100% like God. All it takes is one small bite!”

How tempting and how attractive! If you become like God, you would never have to die, or live in poverty, or wash your clothes. As Eve was fixing her eyes on the forbidden fruit, she succumbed to the temptation.

There is nothing mysterious about the Antichrist or the spirit of the Antichrist. In preaching about the Antichrist, I am talking about the whole of human history from Adam to the end. It is the story of a long succession of antichrists until the final Antichrist who will be the logical conclusion of what had started in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve ate of the fruit because they wanted to be like God by being his equal or even, finally, taking his place.

All along the spirit of the Antichrist has been telling us that we can be­come like God. The Antichrist will establish himself in the temple and proclaim himself God (2 Thess.2:4). Man’s hour has finally ar­rived, fulfilling his ambition of reaching the heights of godhood, an ambition he has been pursuing all through history.

Adam failed in the Garden of Eden, so we think we are smarter than this ancient fellow. We live in the high-tech age, but Adam wouldn’t even know how to press the buttons of an electronics gadget. We are sophisticated high-tech creatures who have the potential to become like God.

We are close to being gods — at least we think so. Look at our high technology. The other day I was taking a pleasant stroll on the walk­way that encircles our apartment block, breathing in this so-called fresh air, a rare and precious commodity in Hong Kong. I suddenly noticed that someone was watching me with a television camera. I continued walking around the block, and saw another camera. I soon discovered that there was a camera at every key location on the walkway.

Wonderful! Man has almost reached the heights of God. Man can be everywhere and see everything. He can sit comfortably in his control station and monitor my every step. He wants to be like the omniscient God, because knowledge is the key to omni­presence. Look at this marvelous satellite technology. From outer space you can look down towards earth and take a photograph of any house that happens to interest you. The United States can monitor what is going on in Russia on every street. They knew about Chernobyl before the Russians spoke a word about it. And the Russians are into this game too, monitoring what is happening in the United States.

We try to be like God through technology. A laptop com­puter today is more powerful than a computer that fifty years ago filled a whole room. We have super computers. We went from the atom bomb to the hydrogen bomb. What is there we cannot do? We are getting so powerful that we may blow ourselves apart. Attaining godhood is getting to be a dangerous affair!

The Antichrist will preach a message that will be music to your ears, a message about becoming like gods. Most of you are too young to remember Hitler except through history books. But to some of us, Hitler lived not very long ago. Wasn’t he an impressive figure? We can still watch newsreels of Hitler standing on a platform in a large stadium, shouting “Heil!” to the multitudes. He had style! Lesser gods do things one way, but the top god does things his own way. Everyone there worshipped and adored Hitler as the savior and redeemer of Germany.

Hitler was a prototype of the coming Antichrist. Although he was but one of many antichrists, he was quite a remarkable exemplar. He preached an irresistible message about being super­men. Most Germans loved it. It was music to their ears. “That’s what I like to hear! I was a nobody until I found out I am a superman! Of course Hitler is the superman of supermen, but that still makes me a superman. Together we will build a virtually eternal thousand-year Reich!” This bolstering of the ego, this exaltation of man to the place of God, is the message of the Antichrist.

The message of the cross

Man has been striving to become like God, but the message of the cross goes the opposite way. That is why the message of the cross is unpopular today. Was Christ born in a palace? No he was not. Was he born in a village? No, not even in a village. Where then was he born? He was born in a manger. A manger is not the beautiful little cot depicted in the Nativity, but a dirty trough for animal fodder. He went further down, even to death on the cross. He died not as a glorious freedom fighter or a decorated hero of mankind but as a common criminal.

For a long time man has been trying to change the message of the cross into something palatable. So it was made into a beautiful cross, gold-plated and adorned with gems, that we wear around our necks. You may call me a spoil-sport, but there is absolutely nothing glamorous about the cross.

We will not experience the resurrection unless we go right down, even to death on the cross. We must change the direction of our lives. All along we wanted to be like God, but now we are going to go down to the lowest level, even death on the cross. That is the message that many don’t want to hear. I don’t expect them to like the message just as the Antichrist knows they won’t like it. The message of the cross is foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Cor.1:23). Nobody likes this message, but it is a message that I will preach because it is one that the Antichrist will not preach.

Are you trying to go up and up like the tower of Babel that got nowhere? Or do you want to go down and down, and be lifted up into a new life by the resurrection power here and now? That is a choice you must make.

Many do not like the message of the cross. Some have objected to our message, saying that it is difficult and preoccupied with this never-ending talk about taking up the cross and following Jesus, unlike the preaching in some other churches. But it is through the cross that you are going to experience the power of the resurrec­tion.

It is the message of the cross by which you can discern who is speaking falsehood and who is speaking the truth. Just as Hitler never preached the cross, so the Antichrist will never preach the cross. Are you willing to listen to the message of truth?

[1] 1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7


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