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4. Antichrist and the Spirit of Deception

– Chapter 4 –

Antichrist and the Spirit of Deception

1 John 2:18–23; 4:1–3; 2 John 7


We come to our fourth message on this dreadful figure of the Antichrist. We will look into the Scriptures, for I hope that you did not come here to listen to my ideas but to listen to the word of God.

The spirit of Antichrist in the church

The subject of the Antichrist is a very practical one because the spirit of Antichrist is already at work in the churches today. I hope that the spirit of Antichrist is not working in the life of anyone here. Of this we cannot be sure, but I earnestly pray that the spirit of Antichrist is not working in your heart; because if it is, you will not have any share in eternal life, not even if you call yourself a Christian, not even if you have been baptized, not even if you have attended church for more years than you can remember. I would say something more: As I will show from Scripture, the Antichrist is going to be a Christian, indeed an apparently super-spiritual Christian. Throngs of antichrists and false Christians are already in the churches today. If you are not impressed by the Christians you know, they may well be Christians of the antichrist type.

The good Christian that you know, the one who is active in church, the one who sings in the choir, the one who leads Bible studies — this same Christian may turn out to be an antichrist, though not the Antichrist. I speak from experience as one who has worked in the church for a long time. I have known many a promising Christian who eventually turns out to be an antichrist.

The churches in Hong Kong are full of people today, as were the churches in Shanghai in my non-Christian days. In Shanghai, when­ever I went to church, it would be packed with all kinds of people. Strangely enough, when the Communists came, the churches through­out Shanghai suddenly became empty. What happened to all the people who used to fill the churches every Sunday? Many, of course, were phony Christians (we knew that all along), but some were antichrists who betrayed us. I knew a sister who was an active Christian in our Shanghai church. One day she wrote us a letter which accused us of being spies and imperialists. She who appeared to be a God-loving Christian turned out to be our accuser.

In Hong Kong everything is fine and peaceful for the churches, with nobody giving us much trouble. But one of these days, it will be very evident what kind of people are now attending these churches. It is hard to tell now, but one day we will know.

The Antichrist will exalt himself as the real Christ

In my last message, I have shown that the word “Antichrist” has two possible meanings. If anti is understood in the sense of opposi­tion, “Antichrist” would mean a contra Christ. If anti is understood as a substitute (hence a pretender Christ or a replace­ment Christ), “Antichrist” would mean a pseudo Christ. We are left to choose between these two meanings.

My teaching on the subject of the Antichrist, which I have based solely on Scripture, differs from what is taught by most Bible teachers today. Most of them believe that “Antichrist” means a contra Christ, that is, a person who is opposed to Christ. But our analysis of the Greek word anti has shown that the biblical meaning of “Antichrist” is primarily that of a pseudo Christ or a replacement Christ, that is, one who will try to replace Christ. See the Appendix at the end of this book.

It is true, of course, that the one who pretends to be Christ is also an opponent of Christ in the sense that his subversive actions are hostile to the interests of Christ. In other words, it is true that a pseudo Christ is also a contra Christ. But that is true only in a hidden sense because his opposition to Christ will be concealed. Because of the nature of his deception, he will not speak openly against Christ until his deception has reached an advanced stage.

The spirit of Antichrist: an example

So as not to talk too vaguely, let me mention the case of Sun Myung Moon, a well-known Korean pastor whose followers in his Unification Church are often called Moonies. A few months ago, after I had preached in Montreal, a girl came up to me and invited me to attend a meeting of pastors. I said to her, “Please identify yourself. Which church do you come from?” She didn’t want to identify herself, so I pressed my point: “Look, I’m not going to attend this meeting of pastors unless you kindly tell me who is sponsoring it.” Eventually she admitted that she belonged to Pastor Moon’s church. “Do you mean Sun Myung Moon?” Yes, she said. So I said to her, “Let me ask you a direct question: Do you or do you not believe that Sun Myung Moon is the Messiah?” She gulped. So I continued, “Well, aren’t you going to answer my question?” She said she would rather not. I asked her, “Why not? Is Sun Myung Moon the Messiah or is he not? What is your answer?” She said, “That’s a difficult question to answer. I can’t answer it right now.” To that I replied, “Then neither can I accept your invitation.”

As you may know, Sun Myung Moon began as a pastor but he eventually exalted himself as the Christ, though in a secret way. This girl was evading my question for fear of disclosing a “messianic secret” revealed only to the inner circle of the Unification Church.

The spirit of Antichrist is at work even now. Already there are people in the church who exalt themselves to the place of Christ. It is mystifying that so many people can believe in a person like Sun Myung Moon. As far as I know, he has never performed a miracle or done any mighty works. His teaching is not outstanding. How then do we account for his large following? The apostle Paul speaks of the “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:7); Paul also speaks of a “strong delusion” that has come (v.11). Many members of the Unifi­cation Church originally came from other churches, so they were origin­ally Christians. In this generation, multitudes of Christians are going to be deceived, and I hope you will not be among them.

Let us look into the roots of deception. What makes a person believe a lie rather than the truth? Many sane and intelligent people believe that this Korean pastor by the name of Moon is the Messiah. If they can believe this now — and they number in the millions — obviously the world will be swept away when the great Antichrist comes. Of this the Bible warns us, as I am warning you now. What will the Antichrist teach that will attract so many people? Does the Bible provide any clues? What are the things that attract people, and what are the conditions in a person’s heart that make him suscep­tible to deception? In the heart of man there must be something that the Antichrist can manipulate to draw people to himself.

It is not that difficult to find out what are the things that entice people. In a world in which most people have no direction in life, many are weak and gullible. It is a gullibility that is exploited by busi­nessmen, and they even make the unflattering statement that a fool is born every minute. People become fools when they are controlled by their passions, lusts and desires.

Deception: An example

There is a Chinese proverb which says, “A foot of earth is worth an inch of gold.” In conventional wisdom, it is sound to invest in land and real estate because land is a secure form of riches. Land or property tends to hold or increase its value whereas money depre­ciates in value over the long term.

The other day I read a newspaper report of a property transac­tion that took place here in Hong Kong. According to the report, a man went around looking for real estate in the New Territories after receiving a lot of advice: “Want to buy property? Invest in where the people are moving to — the New Territories! Just look at all the farmers there. They used to sweat away, growing vegetables on small plots of land, but they sold their lands and became instant millionaires. Some even own entire blocks of apartments.”

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, this man scraped together a large sum of money and went around in the New Territories looking for a plot of land where developers might build the next apartment block. He came upon a village that looked promising, and there he was greeted by a friendly agent. “Want to buy this piece of land? It’s in great demand! Fifty people have already looked at it. Since you’re such a nice guy, I’ll ignore these fifty guys and sell you this piece of land. How’s that for a deal?” The prospective buyer couldn’t believe his good fortune.

He asked to be shown the boundaries of the property, and it turned out to be a much bigger piece of land than he had imagined. “Wow! It’s big enough for a whole apartment block! I’m going to be rich!” He made an offer, and they began to work out the details, filling out one form after another. They even had a lawyer on hand to ratify the transaction. At the crucial moment, the agent said to him: “A deposit is required, of course. A piece of land this big usually requires a big deposit. But since you look so honest, I’m only asking for a few tens of thousands.” The buyer rushed home to get the cash, rushed back to the agent, and handed over the deposit, for which he got a professional-looking document with signatures and seals.

A few days later, he went back to survey his newly-acquired pro­perty. As he was happily strutting about, a farmer came along and asked him what he was doing there. He answered, “What kind of a question is that? This is my piece of land!” “Your piece of land? You must be joking!” retorted the farmer. “No I’m not! I even have the papers here to prove it.” He produced the paper, but the farmer said, “It’s all in your imagination because this piece of land happens to be mine!” But the man answered, “Not anymore. It was even signed by a lawyer.” He pointed to the house where the lawyer was stationed but he was nowhere to be seen. Even the door sign had been taken down. This piece of paper, for which he had paid several tens of thousands of dollars, turned out to be phony. I am not inventing this story. It is a true story that appeared in the newspapers recently.

Are you greedy?

What makes a person susceptible to deception? Greed, for one thing. That is why astute businessmen say that a fool is born every minute. Have you ever looked at all your possessions and said to yourself, “Why did I buy all this junk in the first place? These things were so nice-looking when I bought them, but what am I going to do with them now?” Have you ever tried counting your pens? You have a silver one, a gold one, and an enameled one. To use your pens all at the same time, you would have to use all ten fingers. It’s the same with your clothes. You have in your wardrobe a jacket for spring, one for autumn, and one for winter. Fair enough, but what about your twenty other jackets and fifteen pairs of shoes?

Take a walk around Hong Kong and see whether you can find a block on which there are no shops. With so many shops every­where, I wonder how they ever manage to stay in business. If they depend on people like me for their business, the owners would go bankrupt. Three pharmacies can be on the same block, or five opti­cal shops in the same shopping center. Many people wear glasses, it is true, but surely we don’t change our glasses every month! These stores are prospering because people want to acquire more and more. If you return empty-handed from a shopping trip, you would feel that your time has been wasted, wouldn’t you?

All this may seem minor, but sooner or later, Satan is going to catch us. When we go fishing, sometimes we can sit there all day and catch nothing. But when we finally do catch something, it is because the fish wants something to eat — just as we all want to eat. Look at how many restaurants there are in Hong Kong. The other day, for the fun of it, I looked in the Yellow Pages under “Restaurants”. To my amazement, I counted forty pages of restau­rants; this number does not include the noodle shops, wonton shops and street-side stalls not listed in the Yellow Pages. The restaurants in New Town Plaza, for example, are so packed that you have to queue up. The next time you go fishing, don’t laugh at the fish that goes for the squiggly worm. Our own stomachs compel us to walk into a restaurant.

Where do the antichrists come from?

The word “Antichrist” is used by only one New Testament writer and that writer is the apostle John. The word appears a few times in his first and second letters. Let us therefore turn to these letters, starting with 1 John 2:18, to gain a better understanding of the Antichrist:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18, ESV)

This is John’s reminder to the Christians that they have heard of the coming of the Antichrist. John goes on to say that even at the pre­sent time, many antichrists have arisen. The next verse tells us where these antichrists come from:

They went out from us [from us Christians, from the church], but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:17, ESV)

Shocking to say, these antichrists come from “us” — from the church! The Antichrist will not be an outsider or a non-Christian. On the contrary, all antichrists, including the Antichrist, will come from within the church. In other words, the church is the breeding ground of the Antichrist. Sickening, isn’t it? Yes, even before the antichrists come out from our midst, even before they separate themselves from the church, even before they reveal their true identity, they are already in the church. That makes the whole matter disturbing and frightening.

Thank God for the genuine Christians that we find in every church. There is, I am sure, hardly a church in the world where there isn’t somebody who genuinely loves the Lord. But the Lord himself talks about the tares among the wheat (Mt.13:24–30, 36–43). The tares are in the majority because the spirit of Antichrist is already at work in every church.

The Antichrist denies that Jesus is King, Savior and Lord

Lest we are too confident of our ability to escape from the deception of the Antichrist, let us look further into the chapter, 1 John 2, in verses 22 and 23:

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22–23, ESV)

It says here that the Antichrist is going to deny that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah.[1] If we are confident that we will never deny Jesus’ messiahship, let us bear in mind that denial does not have to be verbal. According to Titus 1:16, some Christians deny their Lord and Master by the kind of lives they live.

Examine your own life. Are you denying Christ with the kind of life you are living? Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, you know very well that the church is full of phony Christians and pseudo Christians whose conduct is shameful by the standards of Scripture and whose lives are a disgrace to their Lord and Master. By their lives they deny Jesus as Lord and King. They might not deny him with their lips but their lives speak louder than their words.

When the Antichrist sets himself up as the Christ, he will also deny the messiahship of Jesus. But his denial will not be verbal, at least not in the early stages of his deception; it will be very subtle and almost imperceptible. Now we can see why the Moonies want to conceal their belief in the messiahship of Sun Myung Moon. This girl who spoke to me didn’t want to tell me whether Rev. Moon is the Messiah or not. If she had truly believed that he is not, she could have told me so and settled the question straightaway.

The same words may have different meanings

The Antichrist — the false messiah — is going to deny that Jesus is King and Savior and Lord, but he will still acknowledge Jesus as a great teacher and even as the Son of God. Yes, even the sects believe that Jesus is the Son of God. It all sounds very nice until you ask them what they mean by Son of God. Don’t be deceived by words; you must safeguard your eternal well-being.

I feel so sorry for the average Christian today. Christians today are like sheep without a shepherd; they cannot tell who is speaking the truth and who is speaking falsehood. They do not have enough spiritual discernment and training in the word of God to tell. That is why our church provides one training after another to equip you for survival in a world where confusion reigns. If you belong to this church and you don’t take the opportunity to receive the Basic Discipleship Training and the Intermediate Discipleship Training, you will have missed an opportunity that very few churches in the world offer. We are providing you with all this training so that you can discern the truth, understand the Bible, and tell what is true and what is false.

Ask a Jehovah’s Witness whether Jesus is the Son of God, and he will answer, “Yes, Jesus is the Son of God.” That beautiful-sounding answer may cause you to say, “Praise the Lord my brother! There is really no difference between you and me, for I also believe that Jesus is the Son of God!” Not so fast! Ask him what he means by Son of God and you may be taken aback by his definition. You see, they use the same words but the meaning is entirely different.

Another example is the resurrection. It is important to believe in the resurrection because, according to Romans 10:9, if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. If somebody tells you that he believes in the resurrection of Jesus, ask him what he means by resurrection from the dead. If he comes from a liberal theological seminary, his definition of resurrection may surprise you. You see, the liberal theologian also believes in the resurrection, but he understands it differently from the way you understand it, or from the way the Bible teaches it (that God raised Jesus bodily from the dead). The liberal theologian also believes that Jesus is alive today, but only in some vague sense of being alive in your heart. He does not believe that Jesus was ever physically raised from the dead. The liberal theologian also uses the word “resurrection” but it carries an entirely different meaning. Complicated, isn’t it? That’s what I am warning you of.

The Antichrist denies Jesus Christ has come in the flesh

1 John 4:1–3 teaches something else about the Antichrist:

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:1–3, ESV)

The last few words confirm what we observed earlier: that the spirit of Antichrist is already in the world. A new and important element is brought out in verse 2: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Note here the reference to the full title “Jesus Christ” rather than the shorter title “Jesus”. The full title Jesus Christ is a confession that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah. But even this confession is not yet complete unless we confess further that this Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. In other words, a false teacher may acknowledge Jesus as the Christ but deny that he has come in the flesh, that is, in a physical body.

John gives us a simple test: Do you confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? The importance of this confession is readily seen in the consequences of denying it, especially when that denial is taken to its logical conclusion. According to these false teachers, Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh but only in the spirit; therefore Jesus Christ was not a human being with flesh and blood. Here is where we see the consequences of this teaching: Since there is no forgive­ness of sins without the shedding of blood (Heb.9:22; Lev. 17:11), he could not have died for us. In other words, a dehumanized Christ dispossessed of flesh and blood cannot even save us.

Although this teaching is biblically false, it sounds super-spiritual because it promotes a super holy and super pure Jesus who never got entangled with human flesh. Let me warn you that multitudes of false teachers, including the false Messiah, will teach spiritual-sounding doctrines to deceive people whose foundation in the word of God is weak. Even today, the false teachings that are current in the church all sound super-spiritual. (An example is the spiritual-sounding phrase “sovereignty of God”; here the problem lies not so much in what is said as in what is not said.)

The false teachers who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh may still acknowledge his messiahship. But that does not vindicate their teaching or make it any less false and dangerous. Do not be deceived when they say, “I fully confess Jesus as Christ, but Christ is too pure and holy to be entangled in human flesh. Haven’t you heard that without holiness no man shall see the Lord? Don’t you know that holiness is incompatible with the flesh? Christ is too holy and too pure to defile himself with degraded flesh.”

Brothers and sisters, I reject this false teaching. We see from the Bible that holiness is not true holiness unless the body itself is holy. What does Scripture say? “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you (make you holy) completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thess. 5:23, ESV).

The Antichrist can give you the world

I am told that in northern China, donkeys are used for grinding millet. The donkey turns a heavy grinding stone as it walks round and round. This is a mystery. How can anyone make a stubborn donkey go in endless circles? Certainly not by whacking it with a stick. I have seen how stubborn a donkey can be. You can whack it repeatedly and it will only flap its ears. If you whack it once too often, it will jump up and kick you. The mystery deepens as you watch this rebellious creature walk in circles patiently for a few hours without anyone giving it a whack. I puzzled over this mystery until one day I discovered the secret. First the farmer blindfolds the donkey; then he dabs a bit of sesame paste or peanut paste on the nose. The donkey can smell the paste but cannot see it. The fragrance is enough to motivate the donkey to walk round and round for hours. If it slows down, the farmer simply puts a fresh dab of paste on its nose. The donkey’s attention is focused on this fragrant sesame paste that it is hoping to enjoy.

This is a picture of man, isn’t it? The Antichrist will promise you the things you want. And what do you want? You want the things that pertain to eternal life plus a whole lot of things on earth. Nobody gets a better deal than a Christian in North America today. Turn on the television and the message of the “gospel” comes in. The preacher stands before a crowd and there he does some­thing so captivating that it grips your atten­tion. Flowing down like water from his hands are “greenbacks” (U.S. dollars). The camera focuses on the big basket full of greenbacks in front of the pulpit. This is the sesame paste that is being applied to your nose. If you don’t quite understand this kind of gospel, let the preacher himself explain it to you: “God is so good; he is the God of grace. You are the sons and daughters of our God and King, the creator of heaven and earth.”

This is getting exciting! Amen, Hallelujah! Turn up the volume because I want a stronger whiff of the sesame paste. And there’s more: “According to the Bible, God the Creator owns cattle on a thousand hills. Amen! All the cattle that you see, all the trees in the field, all the oil in the ground — did you make them? Of course not. Did the scientists make them? Of course not. Did the geologists make them? Of course not. Who then made them? Our Father in heaven, that’s who. Amen! Hallelujah! Then it’s up to us to dig it up. All the gold and silver belong to God our Father, and also to his children. Just claim it from God. Shame on you! There’s no excuse for being poor when your Father possesses heaven and earth. You lack faith. So stand up and shout Hallelujah! and have faith in God!”

I’m not kidding! Go to North America and turn on the television and tell me whether I am exaggerating or not. I’m telling you the truth. This is the gospel of the sesame paste — a gospel that offers not only eternal life in the future but also the abundant life on earth right now.

“Amen! Hallelujah! Eternal life will come in the future, brothers and sisters. But we are practical people who live for the present. Don’t worry about eternal life when you have four or five decades left; start think­ing about it only when you are getting close to the grave. While you are still young and healthy, live for today. As the Bible says, this is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it! Amen! Hallelujah!”

No kidding, brothers and sisters. I’m not inventing anything; I’m only imitating this television preacher. It is not my intention to en­tertain you but to show you the substance of what the Antichrist will preach. This kind of preaching is already sweeping away millions of people. I can also preach like that. But thanks to God’s grace and mercy, I don’t. My conscience doesn’t allow me to preach a different gospel. What then do I preach? I preach the cross. In case you didn’t know, this kind of preaching will never get the multitudes to contribute megabucks to your organization.

Do you know what are the financial assets of those who preach the television gospel? This American evangelist has a broadcasting station and several satellites, each costing tens of millions of U.S. dollars. The central transmitting station is worth another tens of millions. These preachers control entire complexes of hotels, vir­tually whole towns. If you are wondering what hotels have to do with Christianity, I’m equally puzzled. This is the kind of preaching that will bring in the crowd and the money. The deception we see now is just a prelude of what is to come. When the Antichrist comes, he will promise you what you want: money, good health, and good job prospects.

Jesus Christ’s Lordship must be shown in your body

One last thing. To guard yourself from being deceived by the Antichrist, first you must make Jesus Lord and King of your life. Second, you must make him Lord and King of your body. The Bible attaches great importance to the body; hence the importance of confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Never think that a teaching is made more spiritual by rejecting the body. I consulted the concordance to see how many times the apostle Paul talks about the body. A quick count tells me that he mentions “body” 88 times, not counting related words such as “flesh”. I close with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 6:13:

Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immoral­ity, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:13, NASB)

Yes, the body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. To put it simply, either we live the Christian life victoriously in the physical body or we don’t live it at all. Never think that being a Christian is simply a matter of believing in certain doctrines about Jesus. The way you live your everyday life is very important because it involves your body. It is disturbing that many Christians commit immo­rality and still think they are going to be saved. In my work in the church, many young people come to me to confess their sins because they could no longer cope with their guilt. Again and again they have confessed to me that they have been guilty of immorality.

Understand Paul’s words: “The body is not for immoral­ity but for the Lord.” If you are a Christian, your very body belongs to the Lord. Why do so many Christians fail to live a victorious life that glorifies our God and King? Often it is because their bodies drag them into sin. But take comfort, for Paul goes on to say, “And the Lord is for the body”. The Lord does not reject the body; he is for the body. He will give you strength and power to live for his glory in the body.

But also bear this in mind: If Jesus is not Lord of your body, he is not Lord of your life at all. A human being cannot be separated into two components, the one physical and the other spiritual. The Bible speaks of the physical and the spiritual as one; your body and your spirit are one. To say that Jesus is Lord of your spirit but not Lord of your body is nonsensical as far as Scripture is concerned.

As I said, the Antichrist will come from within the church, from among those who are living in sin and immorality. If Christ is not Lord of your body, I can say categorically that you will not be saved — not even if you have been baptized, not even if you believe that Jesus died for you. For then you are living in the spirit of Antichrist.

[1] Christ and Messiah are equivalent titles. Christ comes from the Greek term christos which is equivalent to the Hebrew word for Messiah.


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