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9. Sin, Satan, and the Antichrist

– Chapter 9 –

Sin, Satan, and the Antichrist

We come to the ninth message on the Antichrist. In this series I have been touching on topics such as resurrection and the Antichrist, the cross and the Antichrist, and judgment and the Antichrist. These could be the head­ings of a systematic theology, but I have used the Antichrist as a foil to bring in all these important themes which are taught in the word of God. Today’s subject will come under the theme, “Sin, Satan, and the Antichrist.”

Satan doesn’t like this message

Satan must have been observing me as I was meditating and writing my notes in preparation for this message. And seeing my notes, he probably didn’t like what he saw, so he decided to give me a hard time in an attempt to weaken me. It is some­thing I welcome. I have been at war with Satan for a long time, and I am familiar with his tactics. Last night he began his familiar tactic of loud banging noise, and it went on for a few hours. The banging was so loud that if you stood in the wash­room you would get a headache. I don’t know if it was from upstairs or downstairs, because when I stood outside the door of the upstairs apartment to see where the banging was coming from, the noise suddenly stopped. Or perhaps it was from the downstairs apartment, with somebody bang­ing on the ceiling. I went to the downstairs apartment and stood outside, but there was no bang­ing. The door was shut, so the people inside could not have seen me coming. Remarkably, when I returned to our apartment, the banging resumed. I went out for a walk and heard the banging from outside. I looked at the apartment building but not locate the source of the banging. It went on to nearly 11 pm, and our daughter Grace complain­ed that it was giving her a headache. I said to myself, “Satan and I have been fighting for a long time, and he is back to his old games again”.

By 11 o’clock all was quiet, so I got on with my work, and later went off to sleep. But it looks like Satan was getting more displeased with my notes, for I was awakened by fierce bang­ing this morning. I looked at my watch, and I had barely slept four hours, for Satan was determined I won’t get any more than that. I thought, “If I can’t sleep, I will use the time for prayer and quietness.” There is no situa­tion, not even loud banging noise, that can stop us from praying. The banging went on for half an hour, by which time I was wide awake and there was no more question of going back to sleep. I went into the living room, and found my daughter sitting there wide awake. She is usually a sound sleeper, but this time she got up and read a devo­tional book. I am happy that today’s message is not going to please my enemy. So let us get on with it, and you may see why he is not pleased.

Be alert to Satan’s activities

As I shared some time ago, in my student days in London we had an Easter conference. It was a small conference with around fifty people, but we experienced such a mighty working of the Spirit that none of us there could ever forgot the experience. God’s presence could be felt and experienced in such a remarkable way that unless you have experienced this kind of God’s presence, it would be impossible for me to describe it to you. Immediately after this remarkable experience of God’s presence and of the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst, I knew that the old enemy, Satan, was going to attack. As one of the leaders of the church, I warned the church: “God has worked in our midst in an amazing way as we have experienced. But watch carefully and you will see how Satan will attack over the next few weeks or months.”

Recently I was looking through my old files, and found my notes with the title, “Observations on the activities of Satan”. In this little booklet I noted every activity of Satan in the church, case after case of his attacks carried out over the two or three months immediately after God’s amazing work among us. Since I was one of the younger leaders of the church, these cases were constantly being reported to me as they occurred, and I wrote them down. I am familiar with the enemy’s devices and strategies, and I am happy that he consi­ders me a target worthy of attack.

Is Satan real to you? For some people, God is not very real, and neither is Satan. That is unfortunate because nothing is so danger­ous as to be attacked by an enemy and not know it. This morn­ing as the banging carried on, I was thinking of what Satan has been doing in the two years I have been in Hong Kong. I thought about the time we first came to Hong Kong and stayed in Siu Lik Yuen. My wife and my daughter arrived a month earlier than I, and had been looking for an apart­ment. Helen is cautious, knowing that Satan finds me a particularly interesting target. So in looking for an apartment, she checked out the surroundings to make sure that no building work was going on. Every­thing in Siu Lik Yuen looked fine, so we moved in. Not long afterwards, they cleared a plot of land not far away, and began driving piles into the ground for a new building. If you live in Hong Kong, you would be familiar with the incessant banging and shaking that occur when steel piles are driven into the ground. The pile-driving machine goes zoom-bang, zoom-bang, all day long.

Then I flew to Singapore when the church there got started. I learned over the phone that the church, by God’s grace, was grow­ing numerically and spiritually. When I arrived in Singapore, they took me to the apartment where I was to stay. That place was quiet and peaceful, at least in the first few days. But after that, someone decided to change the water tank on the roof. The tank happened to be directly above my room on the top floor. For two weeks, the banging was so loud that my table was shaking, and my head too. My old enemy followed me everywhere, even to Singapore.

After all that banging in Singapore, I returned to Hong Kong for a short while before heading off to Israel. In Hong Kong we stayed in Siu Lik Yuen again, and guess what? The up­stairs apartment was being renovated.

In Israel, I stayed in brother Johann’s apart­ment. It was peaceful for the first few days, then suddenly the enemy mobilized his forces and it was time for the upstairs apartment to do some renova­tion. The drilling went on for the whole time I was there. Wherever I go, there would be some noisy work — banging, renovating, knocking down walls — that begins shortly after my arrival, and it would go on for months, and always right above the apartment where I was staying.

When I returned to Hong Kong from Israel, we stayed for a few months at an apartment on Prince Edward Road. You guessed it. Again they were in the process of building an apartment block right behind us. One would think that in such a crowded and developed area, they wouldn’t build anything, yet they were either renovating an old building or building a new one. The noise and banging accom­panied us for most of the three months we were staying at Prince Edward.

Then we moved to Shatin. Once again Helen surveyed the area carefully, checked the adjacent apartments, upstairs and down­stairs. Everything was fine. But over the past few months, there would be someone upstairs or downstairs or next door doing some renovating, drilling, banging, and knocking things down. Our next-door neighbor moved out three months ago, so renovation was also taking place there for the last three months.

All this continued over a period of two whole years! If you think it’s just coincidence, that is doubtful. By definition, something that happens regularly is no longer a coincidence. A coincidence, by definition, is something that hap­pens unexpectedly and out of the normal pattern. Anything that hap­pens regularly over two years is no longer a coincidence, especially when you move from place to place, and check out each place in advance.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one

Let me start with 1 John 5:19: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (ESV) It is the second part of this verse that I would like to impress upon your minds: “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one”.

Let me make clear that all the people who had been knocking and banging these two years had no malicious intent whatsoever, not in the least. We have nothing against each other. Their knocking and banging was not any deliberate design on their part.

Yet there is a power that has been orchestrating this entire performance without any of the individuals realizing that they were being used to attack a servant of God, albeit a lowly servant. None of them was aware of it, and they are entirely blameless in this matter. Nonetheless, they were orchestrated and coordinated to carry out this program of attack in terms of loud disturbance. This is the point: the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

It is precisely because Satan is in control of the world that he can orchestrate it. He can use you for his purposes without your know­ing that you are being used. If you are in the power of the evil one, you are under the power of sin, and you will be used by Satan to cause harm which you do not intend. You have no malicious intent, yet you are unwillingly and unwittingly a tool in Satan’s hands — unless you are in Christ.

The Bible makes it clear that there are only two possibilities: you are in Christ, or you are in the evil one. To be in Christ is to be a genuine Christian. But a nominal Christian is not in Christ; so he is a more dangerous tool of Satan than even a non-Christian. He may have the name of “Christian” but he is still living under the power of the evil one, under the power of sin. In the Bible, a Christian who lives like a non-Christian is worse than a non-Christian. Unless you are a genuine Christian — one who is truly in Christ, lives by God’s power, and walks with the living God — you are in the power of the evil one.

You are either in Christ or in Satan. This is something that you know to be true from experience, and not just because the Bible says so. The words of the Bible are true not just because they are found in a book called the Bible, but also because we experience them to be true. You must be under no illusions as to where you stand. At this very moment, every one of you in this meeting hall is either in Christ (and you know it) or in Satan, in the power of the evil one (and you probably don’t know it). That is the fearful thing about being in the power of the evil one — you might not think you are in his power. You can live your whole life in his power and not know it. It is like having a cancer in your body that is killing you, but you don’t know about it until it is too late.

Sin and Satan have everything to do with the Antichrist:

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the day of the Lord’s coming] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. (2Thess. 2:3, NASB)

Here the Antichrist is called “the man of lawlessness” or, in a few versions, “the man of sin”. He rejects God’s law both outwardly and in his heart. He doesn’t live under anyone’s control, much less un­der God’s control. In the same the chapter, we see how he functions:

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked decep­tion for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:9–10, ESV)

Some people are excited about the days ahead in which we will see signs and wonders. If you want to see miracles, Satan will oblige you, with miracles manifested through the man of sin.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one. How did this situation come about? How did you come to be in the power of the evil one without your knowing it? The answer is simple: sin. Sin offers pleasures, excitement, and enjoyment. We would not sin if sin offered no enjoyments. Is there anyone here who doesn’t really know what sin is, or have never sinned? There is not one person in this hall who doesn’t know from experience what sin is. Even if you don’t know what Satan is in your experience, you certain­ly know what sin is, for you have experienced its power. And who is behind that power? Satan! He is an undercover agent of the highest order, who makes James Bond pale in comparison. Satan is like an under­cover agent who works without being identified, even disguising himself as an angel of light (2Cor.11:14).

Every government is frightened of undercover people who operate within their ranks. The communists in China know this very well. I saw the communists come into China, and those who yelled com­munist slogans the loudest may well be Kuomintang agents or people hostile to the communists. They are the ones who waved the flag most fervently, or shouted “Long live Mao Zedong!” the loudest. The communists are not ignorant of this tactic, yet the problem remains: How do you tell that a person is an enemy agent? At the self-examination sessions, he may con­fess to not loving Mao Zedong as he ought, and exhorts his comrades to repent of this error. And to complicate matters, he may be a longtime member of the Communist Party.

Every government knows that it is not the enemy outside who is the most dangerous — the one who holds a machine gun and yells slogans against you. Rather, it is the enemy from within — the one who yells slogans in your support — who is the most dangerous. This is the situation we will face with the Antichrist. I have said many times that the great­est danger to the church is not a person who openly fights against Christ. An Antichrist who is merely a contra Christ is not a real danger to us. The greatest danger is the pseudo Christ, the false teacher within the church who has all the appearance of holiness.

Paul warns the Corinthians that if they should see an angel of light shining in their midst, be careful, for he could well be Satan. Does sin always display itself as something ugly? Have you ever seen what some criminals look like? They are suave gentlemen. Their hair is groomed, they use expensive perfumes, they wear elegant ties, and they are polite and courteous. They never dirty their hands, leaving the dirty work to their minions to carry out. Have you ever seen how difficult it is to bring a mafia boss to court? The FBI, for all their investigative efforts, have great difficulty getting them to trial.

This is what we need to understand about Satan and the Antichrist. Those who teach that the Antichrist will be a world dicta­tor who persecutes the church are teaching contrary to Scrip­ture. The greatest danger to the church is an antichrist who operates from within the church.

Similarly, Satan makes sin attrac­tive to sinners. Preachers often portray sin as something terrible and repul­sive. Sin is indeed ugly and repulsive to God, but when is sin ever ugly and repul­sive to the sinner? We don’t see things from God’s point of view, so it takes a spiritual man to see things the way God sees them.

Three Reasons Why Sin is Attractive

1. You get something for nothing

Let us consider the case of a thief, and look at things from his point of view. If you tell him that stealing is bad and harms the victim, do you think he cares? He doesn’t care if it is bad for others so long as it is good for him. From the sinner’s point of view, sin is attractive. Stealing is attractive because you want to get something for nothing. That is the philosophy of the world. It is the thinking that drives lottery tickets. You pay two dollars to win a million; that’s as close as you can get to gaining a lot for nothing. In this world, if you can get some­thing for nothing, you are smart. That is the whole point of stealing.

2. Sinning involves skills we take pride in

Example: Pickpocketing

The second attractive thing about stealing is the skill required. Just as a craftsman takes pride in his crafts­manship, so the thief takes pride in his techniques. If we are caught stealing, it is because we are not skillful. We may be clumsy, or our hands are too slow. The skills of Hong Kong pickpockets are impressive, and they work with light­ning speed. When I go on a bus, I am cautious not to take too much money with me. But despite my cautiousness, I once boarded a bus with one hundred dollars in my pocket, and got off without the hundred dollars. The pick­pocket didn’t even cut my pocket. It was pure skill, and I take my hat off to him. Skill is the second attractive thing about stealing.

Example: Robbery

Do you know how hard it is to rob a bank? You may end up in jail before you can get two dollars across the counter. You have to plan the robbery with the precision of a military operation. In some movies, an American military mission would hire professional criminals to help their commandos pull off a hos­tage rescue operation. That’s because the conven­tionally trained military people lack some of the skills that criminals possess. The criminals know how to pull off a bank robbery, and such skills can be put to good use for a military operation. We could use a few peo­ple like that in our church, to carry out gospel outreach operations.

Sin is attractive when you get something for nothing, but also when it requires skill and precision. You might not be committing sin on a grand scale like theft or robbery, but think of the sins you have committed. You committed them for the same reasons, to get something for nothing or to prove to yourself that you are clever.

Example: Seduction

I once asked a sister why she had committed a particu­lar sin. Every­one thought she was a nice Christian, but one day she came to me and confessed that she had committed fornication. I looked at her in disbelief. A Bible study leader, an active Christian committing fornication? And she knew the consequences. I said to her, “I want to ask you one question. Why did you commit the sin?” She said, “I wanted to prove to myself that I am still attractive to men, and am capable of seducing them through my charm and attractiveness.” I said, “And that’s why you committed fornication?” “Yes.” Then I said, “Do you know the consequences of such a sin in the church?” She said, “I would like you to deal with me in whatever way is necessary to free me from the terrible bondage of sin I have come under.” I asked, “Do you really see the seriousness of this sin?” She said yes.

It all started as something enjoyable and exciting. She wanted to prove to herself that she could seduce a man she wanted by her skill and attractive­ness. But if you give something for nothing, including sex, to a sinful man, he will take it even if you are not that attractive. In the end, she proved nothing to herself, and it only harmed her. In the end the sinner will taste the bitter results of sin. Sin is sweet in the mouth, making you drunk and delirious, but afterwards it will bite you like a serpent.

3. The excitement of sinning

There is a third aspect that is attractive about sin: the excitement. Sin is exciting because anything that involves a risk is exciting.

Over the years, you may have watched the same type of movies many times, and they all have the same old plot you have seen a dozen times. You can predict what the guy will do next: pull out his gun and kill someone. How boring.

But if I kill some­one in real life, that is exciting! Many murders are committed in the United States every year. In 1976, around 18,000 murders took place, most of them in anger. But the explana­tions given for some of the murders are beyond under­standing. The other day, a criminal was interviewed on television. He was asked why he had committed murder, and he said, “At first I wanted to commit suicide, but I didn’t have the courage, so I killed the first guy who walked by.” You are left scratch­ing your head at this kind of thinking. It seems that he was bored with life and was looking for some excitement. And he found excitement in stabbing someone. For the murder, he was put behind bars for a few years, less than ten years, and was released. Maybe the next time he gets bored and is too scared to commit suicide, he will kill again, and spend another five or six years in jail.

Was he a lunatic? Not in the least. During the interview, he was perfectly rational and clear-minded. So why did he kill someone? It seems to stem from a desire for excitement. When life is bor­ing and unfulfilling, you find a way to make it worth living.

So sin has its joys. First, you get something for nothing. Second, it takes skill. Third, it is exciting. These are three attractive reasons for committing sin, at least from the sinner’s point of view. Which of the three is your reason for sinning? Or do you enjoy sin for all three reasons? Do you get satisfaction from shouting at a subordi­nate at your office? Tearing him apart gives you satisfaction and releases the pressure off you. What is more, it takes skill to tear someone apart: You have to construct sharp coherent sentences, and needle the guy in a way to make it hurt.

The worst sin is pride

These are the reasons the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. There is yet another sin that is far more subtle and appeals especially to decent people who go to church on Sundays. We don’t rob or steal, so we feel superior to thieves and robbers. We are proud of the fact that we are nice, decent and respected. It is not wrong to be nice or helpful, but if that leads to pride, you are guilty of the worst sin of all. Pride is a detestable sin in God’s sight.

How do we religious people fall into this sin? Notice that I said “religious” people, not “spiritual” people. The spiritual man is not proud, but the religious man easily falls into pride. You may feel proud of the fact that you have not committed outward sins, or that you stole only one pencil from the company while everyone else stole ten. You cheated a few thousand dollars from your income tax, but that rich guy cheated millions, stashing the illicit money in tax havens. You are a decent person by comparison, even when compared with the phony Christians who attend church and carry big Bibles. If that is your mindset, then you are under Satan’s power more than anyone else, whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian.

It is terrifying how Satan can get you. If you pursue the good, he gets you. If you pursue the bad, he gets you. Satan checkmates you either way, and defeats you every time. There is only one way out, and that is through the power of God.

Like a mafia boss, the Antichrist will have it both ways. He will be a good guy when it suits him, and a bad guy when it suits him. A mafia boss can give thou­sands of dollars to the poor, yet kill a dozen rivals without blinking an eye. He has to do some good and some bad. He cannot live by doing all good or doing all bad.

How can you live under Satan’s power, yet try to maintain a good conscience, without going insane? Just do a bit of bad and a bit of good. Steal from the office but give five dollars to a beggar. The clinking sounds of the coins in the tin can will make you feel good. Donate to a charitable organization like Oxfam to feel better about the money you cheated from taxes or stole from your company. We play a game of deception with our conscience, and think we are clever. This opens to way for Satan and the Antichrist to do their supreme work of deceit.

Judas and the Antichrist

2 Thessalonians 2:3 says that before Jesus comes again, there will be the apostasy. There will also be the appearance of the man of sin, also called “the son of perdition” or “the son of destruction” — that is, a person who will inherit destruction. Do you know where that term comes from? In John 17:12, the Lord Jesus refers to Judas as the son of destruction or the son of perdition, depending on the Bible version: “I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” (NASB)

The title “son of perdition” or “son of destruction” which is given to the Antichrist, the man of sin, is shared by only one other person: Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles appointed by Jesus himself for the ministry of the gospel. Let us bear this shocking fact in mind when we hear the popular teaching that the Antichrist is going to be a Gentile political dictator who will persecute the church.

Judas was an apostle of equal rank with his eleven fellow apostles, even Peter. Yet we read the dreadful words, “Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot” (Luke 22:3). Satan entered into a Chris­tian? Much more than a Christian. Satan entered into an apostle of Jesus Christ.

How did Satan capture Judas? I have already outlined the attractiveness of sin by which Satan will catch us if we are not alert. The next time you find sin exci­ting, or as a skill challenge, or a way to get some­thing for nothing, or a source of pride, watch out, for Satan has a hook inside the sin.

You may say to yourself, “I’ll just taste the bait, for I am too clever to swallow the whole thing with Satan’s hook inside.” But a fisher­man knows that he doesn’t have to wait for the fish to swallow the bait. As soon as he feels a light touch on his line, he pulls it hard without waiting for the fish to swallow the bait. He only has to hook the lip of the fish when it tastes the bait. And if you so much as taste Satan’s bait, he is going to hook you.

That was how Judas was caught. John 12:6 says that Judas the super-Christian (since he was an apostle) was a thief. Now you can under­stand why I spent much time describing the motivations of a thief. Judas was caught by one or more of the three hooks I men­tioned regarding the attractiveness of sin. If you think that Satan cannot catch you, or that you are smarter than Judas, then you have truly deceived yourself.

Judas was so trusted by his fellow disciples that he was made their treasurer. It shows that Judas was outwardly spiritual. He talked about the needs of the poor, as we see in John 12:3–6. Yet all along he had been stealing money (v.6) while also giving money to the poor. He had to do some good. And because he himself was poor, he probably felt no compunction in helping himself to the mo­ney. I am sure he had a way to rationalize his actions, as does every sinner. Satan then catches you with his fishing line.

Will the Antichrist be the resurrected Judas?

Judas is the only person other the Antichrist to be called the son of perdition, and that leads to our final question: Is Judas therefore the Antichrist? That is an interesting question. Some people think that the Antichrist will be Judas raised from Hades, the world of the dead. Dr. Richard W. DeHaan, a well-known Bible teacher in North America, holds this view. He thinks that Judas will be brought back again in the last days to serve as the Antichrist, and that the Christian world will recognize him as an apostle. Judas might even come back as a deeply repen­tant man, so that people think he is now a genuine apostle, for who can raise the dead but God?

All this is possible and interesting but doubtful. I don’t think the Antichrist will be a resurrected Judas. The Antichrist may be similar to Judas but he is far worse. At least Judas seems to have some conscience. Although he did not repent after betray­ing the Lord, at least he felt enough remorse to commit suicide. But the Antichrist will have zero remorse over all the evil he will do.

Secondly, there is no obvious reason for God to bring Judas back from the dead, from Hades, to be the Antichrist.

Thirdly, Judas never had the aspiration to set himself up as God, unlike the Antichrist who has exactly this aspiration (2Thess.2:4).

Although the Antichrist will not be Judas brought back from the dead, I would say that DeHaan is correct to this extent: many will think that the Antichrist is a repentant Judas raised by God’s power.

On the basis of Scripture expounded in this series of messages, it suffices to say that the Antichrist — like Judas if he had not betrayed the Lord — will be a great church leader and Bible teacher. He will manifest signs and wonders that the people will not know are being done by Satan’s charismatic power.

Are you in Christ or in Satan?

You are either in Christ or in the evil one. If you are in the power of the evil one, then like Judas and the Antichrist, you are a son or a daughter of destruction, and are head­ing to disaster. I beg of you, turn away from sin as fast as you can. Promptly let God set you free from sin, for Satan may not give you the luxury of time that you hope you will get.


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