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10. Antichrist Against Christian Soldiers

– Chapter 10 –

Antichrist Against Christian Soldiers

This is our tenth message on the Antichrist. I don’t know how much longer this series will carry on, for there is a lot of biblical material to cover on this topic if I were to work out all the details. I will remain as non-technical as possible on this vital subject of the Antichrist because if I were to make it technical for the benefit of those trained in theology, I fear that some others won’t understand the messages. I will keep the messages simple because in our midst are non-Christians and young Christians, and I don’t want you to be left in the dark about this important subject.

Two reasons the subject of the Antichrist is vital

First reason: The urgency of the times

I have many reasons for continuing on the subject of the Antichrist, but I will mention only two. The first reason is the urgency of the times, since the time is short. I notice to my anxiety, and much more to the Lord’s anxiety, that many Christians are oblivious to the urgency of the times. They live as if they are going to live forever in this world, so they live carelessly and superficially, and spend their lives on unimportant things. They don’t ever think of “redeeming the time” (Eph.5:16) because they don’t see the urgency of the times in which we live. I see people who have been in church for years, yet haven’t moved an inch spiritually. I think of what Proverbs says, that if a person is repeatedly warned and rebuked, yet doesn’t take heed, he will be destroyed (Prov. 1:24–33; 29:1). If he doesn’t take a warning to heart or sense its urgency, he will be taken away — he will pass away — suddenly with­out ever understanding it.

If you read the Scriptures carefully, everywhere you will feel a sense of urgency. The Lord’s coming will be like a thief in the night, for you won’t know the exact time of his coming. His coming will take us by surprise, so we need to be watchful as exhorted in many verses. [1] The urgency of the times calls for a soldier’s watchfulness. He doesn’t know when the enemy will strike — on which day, and whether in the morn­ing or the evening — so he is alert at all times.

Many Christians fall because they are not alert. They don’t even know what they on the alert for. They don’t know that Satan realizes that his time is short, so he will try to inflict maxi­mum damage in the short time left. I sometimes feel that we are in an army — if we can call it an army — that lacks the vaguest clue of what its mission is, how to fight the battle, and who the enemy is. There is no sense of urgency and no watchfulness.

Zeal for God is rare in the church today. Paul says that we must serve God with a godly zeal, and not “lag in diligence” (Romans 12:11), yet the church is full of wishy-washy Christians. As we see from Revelation chapter 3, the Lord Jesus cannot tolerate this kind of Christian. Why are so many Christians wishy-washy? Why do they waste their time on worthless activities, like quarrelling with one another? Why don’t they get on with equipping themselves in the word of God so that they can fight the battle? The average Christian’s understand­ing of the Bible is pathetic. Some have been in church for years, yet cannot find Hosea, Amos, or Haggai in the Bible. If you think you are good, try finding the book of Haggai in three seconds flat.

We are poorly equipped because we don’t have a sense of urgency. So we are preoccupied with many other things. We don’t understand Paul when he wishes that Christians would not be pre­occupied with boy-girl relationships, something that occupies the minds of young people to no end, and gets them into much trouble. Paul simply says, Why not remain single? and we think that he is a fanatic and nutcase. We might not use such strong words, but in our minds, Paul is a fanatic. But he is no fanatic, for he knows that the time is short. To paraphrase what he says in 1 Cor.7:26: “We are living in a time of crisis, so don’t waste time on this sort of thing, given the urgency of the times.” So we say, “Waste time!? Being with my girlfriend all day is the most valu­able use of my time! Paul doesn’t under­stand the delights of life. Maybe he had a girlfriend who left him, making him negative about boy-girl relations. Then this killjoy wants us to remain single like him, and get on with serving the Lord.”

We don’t share Paul’s sense of urgency when he says, “Why are you wasting your time when people out there are perishing?” So you say, “Whatever will be will be. Those who will be saved will be saved, those who won’t be saved won’t be saved. Isn’t this what you said in Romans chapter 9, if I understand it correctly?”

Do you have the sense of urgency? Many people don’t see the urgency. They don’t identify with Paul’s burning zeal that compelled him to go to the ends of the earth where the gospel had not been preached (Romans 15:20). Where do we find this kind of Christian? I fear that we may not see the urgency, and that we won’t be prepared when the Lord comes like a thief in the night.

Worse, the blood of those around us who perish will be required of us, and how will we answer for this? If love cannot motivate us, maybe fear can. Ezekiel 3:17–21 says that if we have the message of life and don’t pass it on to the wicked, God will require from us the blood of those who perish. Let that sink into our minds. When Paul said goodbye to the Ephesian church, he was able to say, “I am free of the blood of any of you because I have preached to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26–27) On that day, will the blood of your classmates, your colleagues, your family members, be charged to your account if they perish?

The urgency of the matter is the reason I keep the subject of the Antichrist before us. Jesus will not come until after the Antichrist appears (2Thess.2:1–3), so when the Antichrist is revealed, you will know that the Lord will be coming soon after. With the coming of the Antichrist so close at hand, are we going to wait for him to come before we burn with zeal? This is self-decep­tion because when he comes, it will be too late for you to be zealous, as I will explain soon. Now is the time to be active and zealous, and to know the urgency of the times, for when the Antichrist appears, it will too late for you to be zealous. If you miss today, you will not have another day. Those who do not stand today or burn for Christ today, will not stand on the day of the Antichrist, much less burn for the glory of God.

Second reason: The dangers facing a true Christian

The second reason I am keeping the subject of the Antichrist before you is to impress upon you the dangers of being a Christian. This is crucial because it is only when we under­stand the dangers of being a true Christian that we will begin to count the cost of being one. As I said, if you cannot burn for Christ today or stand for Christ today, you won’t be able to do it when the Antichrist appears. If it is already hard enough to be a Christian today, let me tell you that it’s going to be near impossible when the Antichrist comes.

Let me explain what I mean. In all his teachings, the Lord Jesus constantly warns us that being a Christian is a dangerous matter. In this church, we have never lied to anybody about this: we have never presented a rosy picture in order to get more people converted. I have never said that becoming a Christian means peace, joy and bless­ings. Now, these things do come, but only to those who count the cost and pay the cost of becoming a Christian. If you became a Christian without counting and paying the cost of being a Christian, peace and joy will not be yours. Anyone who preaches peace and joy without mentioning the cost, is perpetrating a lie. But that’s what many evangel­ists do today in evangelistic rallies, in the hope that people will come to the front and make a decision for Christ. The evangelists fear that the people will not come to the front if you tell them of the dangers of becoming a Christian, so they only talk of peace and joy and eternal life. The Lord Jesus says in many places [2] that he who saves his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will save it. Why is this not mentioned in evangel­istic meetings? The Lord never said, “Believe in me and everything will be nice and rosy, and you will have eternal life”. No, what he says is, “If any man wants to follow me, let him take up his cross daily.”

What does the cross mean but suffering and death? Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him take up the cross of suffering and death.” I don’t have the author­ity to sugarcoat this bitter pill for you. If you preach a false and rosy gospel, people who become Christians for the spiritual opium that relieves their pain will collapse when the Antichrist appears. All those who treat Christian­ity as a spiritual aspirin to relieve the pains of life for one week — and return to church a week later for the next dose — will collapse when the Antichrist comes. What is the point of having 100 or 1000 people make a decision for Christ today if none of them will stand? In the coming days of the Antichrist, fearful things will happen to anyone who professes to be a believer.

I too can preach a sugar-coated gospel that will fill a church or an auditorium with people who love this kind of message, but to what end? Do we construct a house of straw and wood, only for it to be burned down by a fire? I would rather build a structure with steel and concrete. Its walls may be blackened by a fire, but the building will stand in fiery trials. What kind of church does the Lord Jesus want to build? A church built on solid rock.

Jesus tells us that becoming a Christian is enlisting in the army, not vacationing in Switzerland or Thailand. Nobody in his sound mind would enlist in the army if he is not ready to die. What kind of a soldier are you if you are not ready to suffer and die? The theme of being a soldier or spiritual commando runs through the Bible, and I will give you some examples of this in a moment.

Conversely, if you don’t want to be a soldier of Christ, don’t become a Christian. If you want to go on a vacation tour, or become a spiritual drug addict who gets pain­killers from the church, there are other churches that will offer you this. But not this church. We don’t peddle spiritual drugs here. This is a place where the army of the Lord is being built up, to fight the battle to which we have been called, to suffer and to die. Rejecting the message of taking up the cross would be a grave mistake as you will find out when the Antichrist comes.

The church as an army

You would have observed that there are fundamentally two types of Christian. Both profess to be Christian, both have been baptized, yet there’s a fundamental difference between them. One type of Christian — the one we are familiar with — consists of those who become Christians to save their own spiritual necks and for other selfish reasons. It is hard to differentiate such Christians from non-Christians for they remain self-centered even after conversion. They become Christians to gain comfort, or because they are lonely and want a church social life, or because they cannot handle the pressures of life and seek support. I hope you did not become a Christian for these selfish reasons.

Now it does happen that people come to God for selfish reasons, but the Lord gradually transforms them such that over time they lose their selfishness and become self-giving. But the majority of those who become Christians for selfish reasons remain in their selfish ways. If your family is not impressed with your Christian life, or if your colleagues see no difference between you and some non-Christians, then you are Christian only in name.

But there is another type of Christian: soldiers of Christ who enlist not merely to save themselves, but to join the battle against sin, evil, and Satan. They enlist to fight for spiritual libera­tion, and are prepared to suffer and to die.

Yet when you meet such Christians, you will notice a surprising quality about them. Contrary to our expectation, they are not solemn and joyless people who grit their teeth all through life, but are filled with joy, peace, and a positive outlook in life. In biblical teaching, true joy and peace come only to this kind of Christian.

The Lord is building an army, not a church of self-centered people who are not any better than some non-Christians. I say some non-Christians because many of them are better than Christians, and it would be unfair to mischaracterize them. My point is that the Lord is not interested in so-called mass conversion but in enlisting spiritual commandos to fight under his leadership. He says, “Take up your cross and follow me.” He will lead the battle against evil. He will be the first to die in battle, and we will follow closely behind. This kind of Christianity is equipped with God’s power.

You may have read of the recent revolt in the Philippines. I was intrigued by the comments of a journalist stationed in the Philippines who said, “Mrs. Aquino came to power by a wave of popular support”. His next remark was, “But the crowd that supported you can just as quickly turn against you.” He was warning that Aquino was quickly losing the popular support she first had, for the crowds are unreliable. If you appeal to their interests, they will sweep you into power. But as soon as they feel you are not serving their inte­rests, they can turn against you overnight.

Having the support of mass crowds is not always reliable. But a dedicated and well-trained army unit, even if it is small, is more reliable and potent. Soldiers are more consistent, and it is not easy to divert their commitment from a cause. Even today there are army units in the Philippines that remain loyal to Ferdinand Marcos despite his corrupt rule. That doesn’t surprise us because army units are loyal and conservative. Governments derive their power not from popular support, but from dedicated and powerful army units, as every dictator in the world knows. The dictator might not have the popular support, but at least he has full control of his army. The army may be just a few percent of the population, yet it controls the country. Do you know how many soldiers were involved in this latest attempt to overthrow the president of the Philippines? It is almost laugh­able. Eight hundred men! This small group tried to take over a country, and they nearly succeeded. As I said, the power of an army of committed soldiers, no matter how small, is far more potent than a large crowd of people numbering in the millions who are neither here nor there.

In the world today [1987] we have one billion Christians among the five billion people in the world. Among the Christians, there is a small minority of true Christians, but the majority are nominal Christians. Do they have any impact on the world today? You would think that one billion Christians would create an enormous impact on the world, but there is no impact.

Anyone who knows some history will know that the fortunes of many countries are determined by small, efficient, well-trained, and dedicated military units. The communists took control of China with its small, efficient, and dedicated army. A few thousand men took over a country which, at that time, had a population of over 500 million. If we know how world history works, we would not look for numbers. In the gospels, you will find that the Lord Jesus often stayed away from the crowds, and would spend his time with twelve men, then seventy. Later it was a group of 120 dedicated people who, at Pentecost, determined the history of Christianity.

The full armor of God and the sword of the Spirit

I earlier said that the theme of Christian soldier runs through the New Testament, so let me give you some of the evidence for this. It would take too much time to cover this in detail, so I will go over it quickly. We are familiar with Ephesians 6:11 onwards, in which Paul speaks of putting on the full armor of God, and taking up spiritual weapons. Would there be any need for armor and weapons if we are not in a war? Paul takes it for granted that the Ephesian Christians — indeed every Christian — would under­stand that when we become Chris­tians, we are enlisted in the spiritual army.

Do you know what happened when the Communists came into Shanghai? As I shared in my testimony, I was interested in a military career before I became a Christian. I watched the battle in Shanghai from my apartment rooftop to get a good view of the surround­ing areas. Bullets were flying and the night sky was lit up with artillery fire. Huge fires were burning in the suburbs as I watched the battle raging on. Then I saw something interesting. As the Communist soldiers advanced into Shanghai, do you know what the Nationalist soldiers did? They left their weapons on the streets, and soon the main streets of Shanghai were littered with sub­machine guns, hand grenades, rifles, and even uniforms. That’s because the Communist soldiers will shoot anybody in a uniform, especially if he carries a weapon. As the Nationalists were collapsing in face of the Communist attack, they fled to save themselves. They didn’t want to suffer or die for a lost cause, so they got rid of their weapons, and removed their helmets and uniforms. They even knocked on doors because they couldn’t very well walk around in their under­wear. The point is that anyone carrying weapons and dressed in uniform would be recog­nized as an enemy.

Yet Paul says in Ephesians 6: “Put on your uniforms and take up your weapons! You don’t want to be a defeated soldier who surren­ders to the enemy!”

Are we like the Nationalist soldiers in Shanghai who got rid of their uniforms and weapons? Are you afraid of being recognized as a Christian? When you are at your office or in the world out there, are you wearing your uniform and holding your spiritual weapons so that people see a soldier of Christ? The New Testament does not know of soldiers dressed in civilian clothes, who wave white flags and don’t take up wea­pons. As soon as you take off your uniform and dispose your weapons, you are no longer a soldier of Christ. Like the Nationalist soldiers, you have denied your cause.

We fight against a numerically superior force

The Lord Jesus portrays the Christian life in terms of warfare. In Luke 14:31–32, he speaks of a king who sits down and deliberates whether he is able with 10,000 soldiers to fight an enemy army of 20,000 soldiers. I have preached on this interesting passage before, and will not cover it again. The Christian must count the cost because in this war the odds are stacked against us. In the Christian life, the chances of suffering and dying are very high when an army of 10,000 soldiers battles an army of 20,000. You and I are committed to fighting a force numerically larger than ours. We will always fight as a minority against a numerically superior force. That is why our chances of suffering and dying are extremely high.

Paul often uses the metaphor of warfare. Romans 6:13 says that a Christian is to present the mem­bers of his body as “weapons” of righteousness. Here the Greek word hoplon means “weapons,” but it is watered down by some English Bibles as “instruments". It’s curious that they should do this, for it indicates that they don’t like military termi­nology. But as Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament rightly observes, “The New Testament always has the word hoplon in the plural for weapons.” So when this word is used in the plural (as in Romans 6:13), it always means weapons, not instruments. Romans chapter 6 is about baptism, and Paul is saying that when you are baptized and become a Christian, you are to present arms to the Lord Jesus just like a soldier going forth in battle presents arms to his commanding officer or general. We present the members of our body — our arms, our legs, our whole person — as weapons for righteousness.

Paul takes up this theme in Roman 13:12 where he again uses hoplon: “Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the weapons of light.” You put aside your former life of sin, and put on the weapons of light, for God is light. Paul uses hoplon again in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruc­tion of fortresses” (NASB). Those who enlist in the army of God are powerful and well equipped. We have no reason to fear the battle because our wea­pons are powerful. But where are the power­ful Christians today? It is my goal to make this church a church that, by God’s grace, obeys God’s call to enlist in the army of God, to be equipped with powerful wea­pons that bring down enemy strongholds.

Paul portrays the Christian as a soldier (1Cor.9:7). He exhorts Timothy to “fight the good fight,” literally, “war the good war” (1Tim.1:18). Paul says, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2Tim.2:3–4, ESV)

At the prayer meeting a sister shared that she had just returned from our church camp in Toronto where she lived in a bedroom shared with about ten sisters. They were crowded into one room, and the bunks were such that she would bang her head at one end and her feet would kick the other end. I couldn’t help smiling. It is the same with our Montreal camp which was designed to toughen up the church people as a contrast to the easy life in Canada. It was arranged that everyone would live in tough conditions. If you thought Five Oaks Camp was uncomfor­table, the Magog camp with its army style tents is far more so. If it rained hard enough, the water may start dripping inside the tent and onto your face. In Canada, the night is often cold even in summer, so you would freeze in the tents at night time. But at Five Oaks Camp in Ontario, at least you sleep in wooden cabins. The purpose of these camps is to toughen up our people with a few days of hard life. The first day was uncomfortable with the mosqui­toes and other interesting creatures, but we so enjoyed the camp that we soon forgot about the hard life. In fact, my concern about the recent camps is that they are getting more and more comfortable, and are losing sight of the original purpose of military train­ing. So we introduced early morn­ing exercises, and encouraged jogging and swimming for physical toughening.

Paul says to Timothy, “Endure hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2Tim. 2:3). We in Hong Kong no longer know how to endure hardship, do we? The situation is even worse in Canada because life in Canada is easier. Non-Canadians would sometimes ask, “How do people survive in a cold place like Canada?” Cold? Every house in Canada is so well heated that you don’t feel the cold in winter. In Hong Kong you still feel the cold of winter because of inadequate heating, but not in Canada. In Hong Kong the summers are long, hot and humid, but in Canada it is hot for only three or four weeks in summer. The same heating system for winter can be often be switched to air condition­ing for summer. We are like the American soldiers in the Korean war who became known as “chocolate soldiers” because they would not fight without getting their daily ration of chocolate. I was still in China during the Korean war and it became a standard joke in China that the Americans won’t fight without getting their rations of corned beef, chocolate, and other good­ies. We don’t have to laugh at them, for we are probably worse than the American soldiers who went to Korea.

We must learn to die

There is one more point before I close. We must learn to endure hardship, but more than this, we must learn to die. If we are going to be soldiers, you and I must learn to die. What kind of soldier is afraid to die? Yet I see a lot of Christians who fear death. Although death is not something to be dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders, we must train ourselves to be ready to die. No one can take up the cross who is unwill­ing to die, for the cross was originally an instrument of execution, not an ornament that we wear around our necks.

A recent case of a close friend of mine grieved my heart. He was a well known pastor in England whose name I will not mention. One day his doctor told him he was dying of cancer. What grieved my heart was that it set him on a frantic search for healing. I think Paul would have been embar­rassed by such a reaction from a pastor. This pastor travelled from one end of the world to the other looking for someone in the church who had the gift of healing to heal him of cancer. Countless people prayed for him, yet he died, for God was not pleased to answer the prayers for his healing.

I have shared many times that I do not reject the gift of healing. I myself have played some part in healing. I prayed for a person with cancer, and the cancer completely disappeared after the prayer. So please understand that I don’t despise healing. There is a proper place for it, but it has to be a proper place. It must never be used for the purpose of fleeing from death. We must be ready to say, “O Lord my God, I am ready to die with joy and dignity, if this is your good pleasure.” Paul said to the Philippians: “I don’t know which to choose, to stay in this world for your sake or to die and be with Christ.” (cf. Phil.1:21–24) But Paul’s preference was to depart and be with Christ (v.23). You don’t see in Paul any trace of the fear of death. When he was told that he will suffer and die in Jerusalem, he set his face towards Jerusalem (Acts 21:10–14). What would you have done? Stay away from Jerusalem as far as possible?

Hebrews 2:14–15 says that Christ died for us in order that we may be delivered from the fear of death, which for many people is a lifelong slavery. You fear death because you want to preserve your self, your ego, your self-centeredness, your self-will. You cling to security, and cannot function as a soldier of Christ.

We cannot preach a gospel of freedom from sin without preach­ing freedom from the fear of death. It is not just the fear of physical death, but the fear of losing ourselves. There are two things we fear about death: that our body will die; and that we will lose ourselves — our identity, our pride, our self-centered existence. We fear the loss of these things even more than physical death.

A tragic example

Something happened in Hong Kong a few days ago that was on the front page of the South China Morning Post. There was a photo of a young man falling to his death, spread-eagled with his arms stretched out like a skydiver, crashing from the seventh floor to the concrete ground below. Many of you saw the news on television or in the newspapers. A photographer captured the fall of this young man seconds before he crashed to his death, seven floors down. An attempt to resuscitate him failed. One of the explanations given for his suicide was that he had been confined in a detention center. Another is that he fared badly in his exams. It was a double blow: he could not face the world after failing his exams, and he was viewed as delinquent after spending time in a detention center. He feared something more than physical death: the loss of self, the loss of face, the loss of pride. It was like losing his soul. This is something we fear more than physical death. It is what Jesus describes as losing one’s soul. The young man had nothing more to live for.

As a start, we can learn not to fear physical death. Then we can learn not to fear the loss of self and pride. We must learn not to care what people think of us, which is a form of self-centered­ness. Why are we sensitive about what people say about us? Because the self is very much alive.

Revelation: A book of war

When the Antichrist comes, he will inflict great suffering on the saints who remain true to Christ, and grind them down.

Revelation is a book of war. I looked at the statistics for the book of Revelation, and it is interesting that no other book in the Bible speaks of war, suffering, and death as much as Revelation, which also happens to be the book that speaks of the Antichrist.

Let me quickly give you the statistics. In the book of Revelation, the Greek word for “war” occurs 9 times in the noun form and 6 times in the verb form, for a total of 15 occurrences. Yet the word occurs only once in the gospels. The word for “armies” occurs 4 times in Revelation. The word that means “victory in war,” usually translated as “overcoming,” occurs 16 times in Revelation; it also occurs 7 times in the first letter of John. These words are concen­trated towards the end of the Bible, the end of the New Testament, because we are moving towards the end when the Antichrist will come. He will inflict such suffering and death on Christians that if you cannot stand firm now, you won’t have the slightest chance of standing in that dreadful future. Don’t think that you can become a faithful Christian only later on, at the last minute, when the Antichrist makes his appearance. If you are not faithful now, you won’t be faithful at the last minute.

To learn suffering, we must toughen ourselves as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 9. He tough­ened himself through physical discipline, in order to be ready for suffering. And did he ever suffer! He went through all types of physical abuse: he was whipped, stoned, beaten, and got shipwrecked three times (2Cor.11:23–27). He toughened himself to be ready for intense suffer­ing, just as soldiers go through intense training.

Think through the matter of death in order to be ready for the day your doctor tells you you are dying, so that you won’t go into a state of shock. You look calmly at the doctor, lift up your eyes to God, and say, “Thanks be to God! I have prepared for this hour, and now my hour has come.” The doctor may be the one to get a shock instead, for he has never seen a patient like this.

Don’t be like the pastor I knew who travelled the world in a desperate search for healing. If it is God’s will to heal me, let his will be done. If it is not his will, give thanks to God, for I’m going home. Today is the day to prepare your heart and mind. If you are admitted to hospital tomorrow and the doctor says to you, “I’ve got bad news for you. You have cancer.” What will you do? Break down in tears? What if this news breaks tomorrow? How will I take it? Think through the matter, and don’t evade it. Now is the time to prepare for it. If one day you are given the privilege to be shot for the name of Christ, will you cower before the rifles? “Lord, why did you put me here? I have been a good Christian who puts money in the offering box every week. But now I am about to die.” I hope you will be able to stand there and look at the executioners in peace and joy, and say with Stephen and with Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Then look up and see the glorious Lord as he stands to welcome you. Learn to die so that we may live triumphantly. He who does not know how to die in the Christian life will not know how to live the Christian life.

[1] Matthew 24:42–44; 25:13; Mark 13:33–37; Luke 12:35–40; 21:34–36; 1 Thess. 5:2–6; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15.

[2] Mt. 10:38–39; 16:24–26; Mark 8:34–37; Luke 9:23–25; 14:26–27; 17:33; John 12:25.



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