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6. Truth Versus the Antichrist

– Chapter 6 –

Truth Versus the Antichrist

Are you interested in the truth? I hope that you’re in church today because of a genuine interest in the truth. Truth — which has to do with ultimate reality — would not concern you if you are going after material riches, a good job, or a comfortable home. Pursuing these things will only blind you to truth and reality. When I was a non-Christian, I too was preoccupied with so many things that I pushed out of my mind the truly important questions, including the question of the meaning of life. Many people ignore these questions when they go through the daily routine of working in daytime, and watching television in the evening.

Truth and the resurrection

Truth has everything to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and with his second coming. You see, if what Jesus said about his resur­rection did not come to pass, then we don’t have to believe any­thing he said about his second coming either. But if the resurrection has taken place, then we can be confident that Jesus will come again. The Lord’s resurrection, therefore, has profound and eternal consequences for our lives.

Several times the Lord Jesus spoke about his own resurrection. In the gospel of Matthew alone, he mentioned it five times — twice to his enemies, and three times to his disciples. He told his listeners that they will witness his resurrection on the third day after his death. That was a very bold statement to make because it would take only three days from his death to confirm the prediction. Yet Jesus was so assured of his own words that he said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mt.24:35). If those words had come from someone else, we might question his sanity.

But when Jesus spoke about the resurrection, not even his disciples really believed him. The word “believe” is rather vague. The disciples did believe in the resurrection in some vague sense, but Scripture tells us that when Jesus died, none of them actually believed that he would rise again. In fact, when the Lord was crucified, the disciples were so frightened that all of them — except one — fled from the scene. If it were not for this one apostle — John — who stayed by the cross right to the burial, the disciples wouldn’t even have known where Jesus was buried. It was so hard for Thomas to believe in the resurrection that even after Jesus had shown himself alive to the other disciples, they could not convince Thomas that the Lord had appeared to them.

Do you believe Jesus will come again?

The parallel is obvious. I wonder how many of you — Christians and non-Christians — truly believe that Jesus will come again. Most Christians would answer “yes” to the question of whether Jesus will come again. But if you look at how they live, you would see that they don’t really believe in the Lord’s return. As I said, there is a certain vagueness about the word “believe”. We may claim to believe when we don’t really believe. Or we may believe partially. I think many Christians are going to be caught in a great surprise when the Lord Jesus comes again.

The Bible tells us that some of the disciples believed in the resurrection, but many doubted. We would have to say, however, that the disciples probably had some justification for their unbelief. They could rightly say that the Old Testament says very little — indeed almost nothing — about the resurrection of the Messiah or the Christ. At least the Old Testament makes no explicit statement to that effect. But what is our excuse? Can we say that the New Testament is silent about the second coming of Jesus? Like it or not, we cannot give that excuse because the Lord Jesus, on several occasions, spoke unambi­guously about his coming again. He not only told his disciples about it, he also told his enemies. When he was put on trial, the religious leaders asked him whether he was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One (Mk.14:61). He said to them: “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven!” At these striking words, the high priest tore his own clothes, accused Jesus of blasphemy, and demanded the death penalty.

Truth is stranger than fiction. When Jesus spoke about the resur­rection, many of his listeners thought that he was telling them a fairy tale. What about you? Are you truly convinced that Jesus will come again, or do you also take it as a fairy tale?

The Lord’s second coming is linked not only with truth, but also with its opposite. Paul tells us of something extraordinary that will take place shortly before Jesus comes again: the great lie or apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3). Here we are confronted, once again, with the choice between truth and falsehood. If we refuse to believe the truth, we will believe the great lie because there is no middle ground between them. Paul is telling us that it will be increasingly difficult to believe the truth as we enter the days of the Antichrist.

We saw last time that deception is so deeply ingrained in the person of the Antichrist that wherever he is mentioned in the New Testament, the word “deception” or a similar concept appears. In 2 John 7, the Antichrist is explicitly called the deceiver: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (ESV)

The battle between truth and falsehood is not going to be fought in an obvious way, but in a frighteningly hidden way. It will be very difficult to tell who is speaking the truth and who is speaking false­hood. How can we protect ourselves from being deceived? To this question we must find an answer because it is a matter of eternal life and death.

Three problems concerning truth

The whole intent of deception is to present falsehood as truth, and truth as falsehood. This is the tragic situation of our world today, and it is something that you and I will have to face sooner or later. Already many people have been deceived. Some people speak the truth, but many others skillfully present falsehood as truth. In our attempt to find the truth, sooner or later we will encounter three enormous difficulties regarding the truth.

First, truth is hidden. Truth does not lie on the surface of things. The Bible says that truth will not stare at us obviously. That is why most people are oblivious to the truth. As I said, you can go through life without paying any atten­tion to the truth. The average man in the street is more keen about the latest CD player or digital television set. With so many exciting gadgets to keep you occupied, who has time to think about truth? As truth is a hidden truth, so God is a hidden God. Look around you. Can you see God? Isaiah 45:15 says, “Truly, you are a God who hides him­self.” Similarly, the kingdom of God is hidden, as evident in the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl of great price (Mt.13:44–46).

This leads to the second problem in finding the truth. The word “find” implies effort. It takes hard work to look for anything, and most people are unwilling to expend that kind of effort. Those who lack determination will never find the truth. Truth is like gold; it does not lie on the surface; you need to dig deep to find it. Few people are willing to expend that much effort to find the truth, or, to use the Lord’s parable, to find the pearl of great price. But even if you even­tually find the priceless pearl, there is another problem: You are going to discover that this priceless pearl will cost you everything. Many people, when confronted with the truth, would only admit: “Yes, I know you’re speaking the truth, but I simply can’t pay the cost!”

The third problem is how to tell the difference. Can you tell a genuine pearl from a fake one?

Today we consider only the third problem: How do we distin­guish truth from falsehood? Alas, alas! Finding the truth, or finding God, or finding the kingdom, is simply too great a problem! If it were not for God’s work in our hearts, who could ever find the truth?

But there is something else about truth: it has a way of sticking into your throat. When somebody points out your mistakes, your most likely reaction would be to reject the correction: “What nerve, talking to me like that!” Even if you admit the truth of the statement, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. In my ministry of counselling people, I often have to speak the truth. And do you know what? They hate me for it. Sometimes I wish I don’t have to speak the truth, but I must. When you help people analyze their problems and warn them of the possible consequences, will they be grateful? No!

Speaking the truth has never won me any popularity contest. I have many enemies, not because I like making enemies, but be­cause I am called to speak the truth even if it makes me unpopular. I am not a politician who say things to win your vote. A servant of God is called to speak the truth even if he gets spit in the face for it. Have you ever looked at the teachings of the Lord Jesus? He tells us the very things we don’t want to hear. And if any Bible teacher skips over the offensive part of the Lord’s teachings, he is a false teacher. The ultimate false teacher — the Antichrist — will tell you the very things you like to hear.

An erroneous concept of the Antichrist

Last Friday, while we were sending off some brothers and sisters at the airport, my daughter was given a leaflet with an interesting title: “The Ancient Roman Arena Appears Again in Singa­pore!” The opposite page says, “Represent God to Execute Justice! Vanquish the Tyrant Lee Kwan Yew!” If you think this is a political tract, you’re in for a surprise. This tract was published by a church that calls itself “New Testament Church”. The leaflet begins like this:

Superficially Singapore is a free democratic country with the rule of law, but in actual fact, the Lee Kwan Yew government is an Antichrist [notice the word Antichrist], a rebellious bloc which persecutes the church. Lee Kwan Yew is a merciless in­human tyrant! The Lee dynasty is a subhuman bestial regime!

This church published the tract over an incident which started when one of their members was arrested by the government. To protest the arrest, they organized a demonstration, but this only led to more arrests.

Before proceeding further, let us ask some questions about this so-called New Testament Church. From the tone of the tract, do you think this represents a New Testament church? Let me read to you the closing lines: “The Most High God who rules in human kingdoms says, ‘I shall turn Singapore into a dung pit and the abode of jackals. Passers-by will be astounded and mock at her.’”

At one point Lee Kwan Yew is labelled a Hitler, and all kinds of curses are pronounced upon Lee Kwan Yew and Singapore. I’m embarrassed. How can this church call itself New Testa­ment Church? Please don’t get me wrong. I have nothing personal against this church; I don’t know who they are; I had never heard of them. But how can New Testament Christians curse in this way? What does Jesus say in Matthew 5:44? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” What does Paul say in Romans 12:14? “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” But what do we see here but cursing?

How to avoid error

In citing this example, I mainly wish to draw your attention to the statement that Lee Kwan Yew is the Antichrist. This clearly shows that the so-called New Testament Church has a completely erro­neous concept of the Antichrist. What then must we do to avoid making similar errors? To avoid error, we must do a number of things.

First, we must learn to think clearly. This point is so obvious that you may suppose that most people would make an effort to think clearly. Yet most people — Christians included — are very mud­dled and incapable of clear thinking. It is surprising how few people can think clearly. Despite a heavy schedule, I read many books every year, and I am often compelled to write comments in the margins of these books to highlight what is an obviously nonsensical or illogical statement. Brothers and sisters, please look to the Lord for the grace to think clearly. God has given us a mind, and we must learn to use it just as we use our other faculties.

Second, a thorough grasp of Scripture is vital for discerning spiritual truth.

Third, we must ask God to transform our lives so that our spiritual eyes may be opened to see spiritual things. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Cor.2:14). Spiritual discernment is not a matter of intelligence. A person may be highly intelligent, but if he is spiritually dead, he would not be able to see spiritual things. Jesus says that except a man be born from above, he cannot see the king­dom of God (John 3:3). His inability to see the kingdom is not due to any lack of intelligence, but because he doesn’t have spiritual vision.

Fourth, it is not enough to be born again; we must press on to spiritual maturity. Spiritual immaturity is a common cause of spiri­tual error. Hebrews 5:14 says that the spiritually mature are those who have their faculties trained to discern good and evil.

Muddled thinking about the Antichrist: an example

I recently read several books on the Antichrist, one of which is this colorful and interesting book titled How to Recognize the Antichrist by A.E. Bloomfield. I’m afraid that if you’re going to follow the advice of this book, you will not recognize the Antichrist at all! Before I explain why, I would like to recall something from a previous message.

Previously we have seen that anti has two possible meanings in Greek. The word can mean “against” (which is the common mean­ing in modern English, but only a secondary meaning in Greek), or it can mean “in place of” or “a substitute for”. In our examination of antichristos, we have established that anti has the latter meaning in the Greek, i.e., the Antichrist will be a pseudo Christ (or substitute Christ) rather than a contra Christ. Refer to the Appendix at the end of this book. In coming to this conclusion, we are on safe exegetical ground because the Lord Jesus never speaks of the Antichrist in the sense of contra Christ, but only in the sense of pseudo Christ (e.g. Mt.24:5; Lk.21:8).

In spite of this fact, of all the books about the Antichrist, only Bloomfield’s shows any awareness of the important distinction between contra Christ and pseudo Christ. But he rejects the idea of the Antichrist being a pseudo Christ or substitute Christ, for this reason: “If the world thought that he was Christ, they would be more likely to crucify him than to worship him” (p.17).

Do you see any problems with this argument? It sounds convin­cing, doesn’t it? Following this logic, if the Antichrist is a substitute Christ, then people would crucify the Antichrist just as they cruci­fied the real Christ. This argument sounds convincing, but it is riddled with logical and factual errors.

The serious factual error that he falls into is the all too common confusion of the two different senses of the word “Christ”. Although they refer to the same person, it is important to differentiate between “Christ” as a title of the historical Jesus who was crucified, and “Christ” as the glorious title of the coming Savior King, the Messiah. The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah in the latter sense, just as we Christians await Jesus’ return as the glorious Messiah-King. The Antichrist (or pseudo Christ) will pretend to be Christ in precisely this latter sense. He will pretend to be Christ the glorious Messiah, not Christ the crucified servant. When Bloomfield talks about the crucifixion of the Antichrist, he has obviously confused the two senses of Christ.

In the same stroke, he has also confused the first and the second comings of the Lord Jesus. Whereas his book is supposed to be about the second coming, he is now talking about the first coming. Had he been more observant, he would have seen from 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 that the Antichrist will imitate Jesus in his second coming rather than his first coming. The first time Jesus came, he came as a suffering servant; but when he comes again, he will come as King and Judge — at which time nobody will even attempt to crucify him. It is not the crucified Christ (first coming) but the glorious Christ (second coming) that the Antichrist will imitate. Hence it is nonsensical and irrelevant to even talk about a crucified Antichrist.

Although the Antichrist will not be crucified, yet it seems that Satan is so anxious that his pseudo Christ should bear as much resemblance to Jesus as possible that he arranges for the Antichrist to receive a death blow or a mortal wound (Rev.13.3,12). From this apparently fatal condition the Antichrist will rise again in an evident attempt to imitate Jesus’ resurrection. How he receives this death blow has not been revealed. In any case, Bloomfield is also incorrect in assuming that the Antichrist will not face death. Satan is willing to let him face death, or near death, or apparent death, so that he will resemble Jesus even in this respect. As a result of the death-blow, the Antichrist will evidently bear the wound, or death mark, in his body — again in imitation of Jesus, the “Lamb that was slain” (Rev.13.8) whose death mark will remain visible for all to see. Finally, we are also told that the Antichrist’s resurrection-like return from death will be so dramatic and so powerful in its effect that it will draw the whole world after him (Rev.13.3).

The substitute Christ as an enemy of Christ

Bloomfield (p.17) goes on to quote 1 John 2:22, “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.” (ESV) He then quotes v.18 and states, “In these verses John recognizes the fact that there is to be an Anti­christ, a special individual who will be against Christ” (emphasis his).

What is Bloomfield’s point? In v.18 the word Antichrist appears, but the idea of “against” does not: “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.” (ESV)

If Bloomfield’s point is that Antichrist is against Christ by the act of denying that Jesus is the Christ, then he is certainly correct. But this in no way supports his argument against a substitute Christ as he erroneously supposes. Being against Christ is already implicit in the term “substitute Christ” (in the sense of usurper, that is, a false or pseudo Christ.)

If the Antichrist is a pseudo Christ who claims to be Christ, he will deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. But isn’t that exactly in accord with 1 John 2:22 which says that the antichrist denies Jesus is the Christ? The same verse says that he also “denies the Father,” which accords with the fact that the Antichrist will proclaim himself God (2 Thess.2.4).

The act of denying that Jesus is the Christ does not mean that the Antichrist will deny that there is a Christ or Messiah, because if he did that he would thereby rule himself out as Messiah. His being against Jesus, by denying that Jesus is the Christ, shows that the Antichrist is an apostate who has returned to a state of unbelief. Unbelievers reject both Jesus Christ and God, so they are indeed enemies of God, something which was true of all of us when we were unbelievers (cf. Rom.5.10, “while we were yet enemies”; Col.1.21). From this it can be seen that the Antichrist is an enemy of Christ just as every unbeliever is an enemy of Christ, but also in the more specific sense of trying to usurp Christ’s office and glory.

What is being obscured by the constant insistence that the Antichrist is solely a contra Christ is the deadly deception in the work of the Antichrist. Notice the word “liar” in the very verse quoted by Bloomfield (1 John 2.22).

In the various passages refer­ring to the Antichrist from Matthew to Revelation, this element of deception stands out. In Matthew 24.24, Jesus directs our attention to “false messiahs and false prophets”; he does not generally speak of contra Christs.

If the Antichrist is truly a contra Christ, we would be able to iden­tify him as a contra Christ by his open hostility to Christ in which he publicly opposes and attacks Christ and his church. What then would be the point of the Lord’s warning that these false christs will make every effort to deceive even the elect (Mt.24.24)?

In view of all this, is it not clear that the great deception is already in progress? Even the teachers and writers on this subject appear, strangely and alarmingly enough, to be deceived already. It is now apparent that the elect are indeed in danger of being led astray.

I shall not bother to further analyze Bloomfield’s book, except to say that it contains still other errors.

Antichrist, super world dictator?

Recently I have read four books on the Antichrist, plus a number of other books on the last things. Let me give you the titles of these four books because they are pertinent to my message today. I have already mentioned the first book, How to Recognize the Antichrist by Bloomfield. The second is The Coming Antichrist by W.K. Price. The third is When Your Money Fails: 666 by Mary S. Relfe (as you know, 666 is said to be the secret code of the Antichrist). The fourth is The Coming World Dictator by John Wesley White.

These four books have one thing in common: they all portray the Antichrist as the coming world dictator. This is already appa­rent from the title of the fourth book, The Coming World Dictator. These writers differ over certain details but they all agree that before Jesus comes again, there will be this great world dictator. Bloomfield even says that the Antichrist will be a super-Hitler. Why? Because he will persecute the Jews even more brutally than Hitler ever did.

When Your Money Fails describes how this super-dictator will control all the money in the world, and even take bank notes out of circulation. If you have any cash left, you might as well dig a hole and bury your money because this super-dictator will control the world monetary system. How then will you buy and sell? Simple, says the writer. Just as nowadays you would use a charge card, so the day is coming when you will use a super charge card with the number 666 on it.

Let me try to understand this. If a boy goes to a corner store to buy a handful of sweets, will he present a plastic card and have the amount deducted from his account? Not exactly, says the writer, because it will not be an ordinary card. The super-dictator will implant this card, or a symbol of it, into your right hand or into your forehead. We are told that the technology for this already exists. They will use a special device to implant an invisible mark into your forehead — instantly and painlessly! If you don’t want it on your forehead, you can have it on your hand. When you buy something from a store, your forehead or your hand will be scanned by a device similar to those that read product barcodes.

This marvelous system has many advantages. For one thing, you will never lose your money. You will never forget to bring along your charge card. American Express will never have to remind you, “Don’t leave home without it!” because it’s implanted in you. Even more wonderful, nobody can steal it from you. You will never have to worry that your passport or identity card may be stolen.

It is interesting that every book on the Antichrist portrays him as a super world-dictator who will control our lives so totally that without the number 666 we cannot buy or sell anything. There is plausibility in all this because something to this effect is men­tioned in Revelation 13.

But if this is how you will try to recognize the Antichrist, I am afraid you will not recognize him at all. That is quite a statement to make, but we need only ask: What is the New Testament definition of Antichrist?

New Testament definition of Antichrist

In the New Testament, the word antichrist (Greek antichristos) is found only in the first and second letters of John. Therefore our definition of Antichrist must derive from John’s usage of this word in his letters. The following are all the occurrences of antichristos in the New Testament (all quoted from ESV):

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)

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. (1 John 2:22)

… 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 4:3)

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 7)

From these passages and their contexts, we can deduce four things about “Antichrist”.

First, when John uses the term antichrist, he is referring to false Christian teachers, i.e., Christians who teach false teaching. John even tells us where these antichrists come from: they come from “us” — that is, from the church (1 John 2:19).

Second, these false teachers make their teachings sound plausi­ble by making them sound spiritual. They teach for example that Jesus did not come in the flesh with a physical human body like ours, for he is too spiritual and too holy to take part in human flesh. But the fact is that the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus came as a human being with a physical body like ours.

Third, although these antichrists are Christian leaders and teachers, they do not live godly lives. John tells us that they walk in darkness rather than light. One sure evidence of this is their lack of love. If a church is lacking in love, you can be sure that it doesn’t have the truth. That is why John, particularly in his first and second letters, is constantly talking about love — not human love, but God’s love manifested in our lives.

Fourth, the Antichrist is strictly a religious figure. Contrary to popular belief, he is not a political figure, much less a super dictator. He may have political influence, but he is foremost a religious figure. A parallel would be Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini who is mainly a religious figure but has immense political influence.

These four points do not fit the picture of the Antichrist that our friends describe. After looking at the scriptural definition of Antichrist, it may come as a great surprise — and embarrassment — to us Christians to discover that the greatest liar in history will be a Christian! When we Christians acknowledge this, we are slapping our own faces. But that is exactly what the Bible says. The Bible, from beginning to end, is ruthlessly honest. It tells us that the Antichrist is going to be a Christian, not a non-Christian. The Antichrist will go out from “us” — that is, from the church! That is too shocking a state­ment for many Bible teachers, which is why they would rather speak of a world dictator without ever mentioning that he will be a Christian, much less a prominent Christian teacher and church leader.

The Bible warns us that the first victims of the Antichrist will not be unbelievers but Christians. After reading the leaflet by the “New Testament Church,” I find this very plausible. How can any group of Christians call themselves a New Testament church when they behave and write in a way that is totally contrary to the spirit of Christ and of the New Testament? It seems that the great decep­tion has already begun. Unless you are committed to pursuing the truth, you may be the next victim of deception. May the Lord grant you the desire to pursue the truth wholeheartedly.


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