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13. Antichrist Means Pseudo Christ

– Chapter 13 –

Antichrist Means Pseudo Christ

In the Old Testament, one of the great criticisms leveled against the leaders of Israel was that they had failed to warn the people of their sin and of God’s impending judgment. Terrible disasters were com­ing, yet the leaders failed to warn the people about them. God’s judgment then came upon the people like a thief in the night, catching them unprepared. Their nation was wiped out, as has happened more than once in the history of Israel.

I do not wish to be guilty of this kind of neglect, which is why in this series of messages I have been speaking about a danger that is coming upon the church in the person of the Antichrist. On the day when you and I stand before the Lord — when we will all stand before the king of kings and lord of lords — it will not be laid to my charge that I did not warn you of the dreadful danger that is to come.

Preparing for the long cold winter

Last time I spoke of the long cold winter of the Antichrist. I also told you how in Canada we prepare for winter, because if you are not prepared for the Canadian winter, it could cost you your life. Every driver in Canada knows of the danger of driving on the intercity highways. If your car breaks down in extreme winter, you may have as little as 20 minutes to live, or perhaps a couple of hours under certain situations. When the engine stops working and the heating goes off, you may not live long if no one comes to your rescue. That’s why in Canada we are well pre­pared (or ought to be) for the winter. There are a number of things we can do in prepara­tion. One is to install a citizens band (CB) radio in your car for making emergency calls for help. The police would usually tune into the emergency channel. The radio is not a luxury but a necessity in Canada. Yet many Canadian drivers don’t have a CB radio in their cars when they are driving intercity. If your car breaks down in the middle of the night when there are few cars on the road, you would have no way of calling for help. In daytime your situation is better because you can flag down another car, but what if you are in a remote area where few cars pass by? Canada is a vast country with a relatively small population, and if you are unable to flag down a car for help, you may not live for long.

Three ways to prepare

1. Prayer, our spiritual radio

We have a long winter ahead of us: the long winter of the Antichrist. At least it will feel long to those who have to endure it. Twenty minutes by the watch is a short time, but enduring twenty minutes of suffering will feel like a long time. In the long winter of the Antichrist, we must get our spiritual CB radios going if we are to survive. The crucial question is: Do you have a radio at all, and is it working? That radio is prayer, communion with God. When the Antichrist comes and you don’t know how to pray or don’t pray, you are finished. When the Antichrist turns his attention on you and you don’t know how to pray, you will be gone in the spiritual equivalent of twenty minutes. If you wait until the arrival of the Antichrist before you start learning to pray, it will be a bit late. Learning to pray is a preparation you must make now. It is urgent to get your radio working before winter starts. Are you going to wait until your car breaks down in the middle of the winter before you turn on your CB radio only to discover it’s not working? You can shout into the radio all you want, but nobody will hear you. Inside the car, you will be getting colder and colder with the outside temperature at -20 C, which is not unusual in January. You will die if your radio is not working. So we must learn to pray, and draw help and strength from the Lord at all times.

2. Keep a grip on the road: The word of God

A second thing that every wise Canadian driver does is to change his car tires from ordinary tires to snow tires as soon as the weather starts getting cold. If you drive in Canadian winter with ordinary tires, sooner or later your car will skid, go into a spin, or maybe fall into a ditch. But snow tires grip the snow and the ice. They are like a weapon; they lock into the snow, and give the car a firm grip.

We too need to have a firm grip on the road of the Christian life — the Way, as it is called in the New Testament. You may be on the right road and going in the right direction, but without a firm grip on the road your wheels will spin out of control. It is important to hold fast in the most adverse conditions. We need to have a grip on the road, the Way, to hold fast. The Way is the word of God, the Bible. Do you know your Bible? If you start learning the Bible only when the Antichrist appears, it will be a bit too late. You don’t just start installing snow tires when you are stuck in the mid­dle of nowhere.

3. Be properly clothed: Put on Christ

There is a third thing we need to do in winter: put on warm clothes. Paul says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). Christ is portrayed as the clothing we put on. Clothing protects us, beautifies us, and does many other things. I could preach a whole message on clothing to illustrate what it means to put on Christ.

Besides protecting us from the cold and beautifying us, what else does clothing do? When you see people in police uni­forms, you know that they are police officers. It is by their uniforms that we recognize police officers and their law enforcement authority. Putting on Christ means all of these things: he protects us, keeps us warm in the winter of the Antichrist, beautifies us, and glorifies us. And he gives his people spiritual authority against the power of the enemy.

So we prepare for the spiritual winter of the Antichrist in three important ways. First, we get our spiritual radios going — we learn to pray. Second, we get a firm grip on the road, the Way, by learning and living out the word of God. Third, we put on the Lord Jesus Christ to be clothed in him.

It is easy to recognize winter, but hard to recognize the Antichrist

In all my messages, I have been warning again and again that the Antichrist will be very hard to recognize. It is easy to recognize literal winter, but hard to recognize the Antichrist. It is easy to prepare for an enemy we see, but hard to prepare for an enemy we don’t see. In preparing for winter, we can observe the weather patterns; we are trained in this because winter comes every year. But not so with the Antichrist because he does not come every year. In fact, Christians can’t even tell if he has already arrived. We have enough trouble recognizing even minor anti­christs who are already in the world. The coming of the great Antichrist will certainly take us by surprise.

I have also warned that the topic of the Antichrist is being taught in two different ways today. There is the popular notion that the Antichrist will come from outside the church as some kind of world dictator who will persecute the church. I have mentioned again and again that this notion is unscriptural. I have been saying that the Antichrist will come from within the church, and I am not alone in saying this. This fact is shocking, and many have difficulty grasp­ing it. A pastor’s wife who recently visited our church was astonished at my message which said the Antichrist will come from within the church, which indicates that she had not heard this teaching before. Many pastors today are not aware that the Antichrist will come from within the church.

Books that speak of the church’s spiritual condition

1. Damned Through the Church

I have noticed that more and more books are being written on the dire spiritual state of the church today. I will give two exam­ples. I have already mentioned a book with a shocking title, Damned Through the Church. Its author said that he originally had a much stronger title in mind, but the publisher begged him to tone it down. But even the revised title, Damned Through the Church, is shocking enough.

Similar books are appear­ing these days, and I thank God that he is raising up servants who see the dangers in the church, and the need to issue a warning. If you think that such books are written by spiritual quacks and theological ignoramuses on the fringes of the church, you are mis­taken. Damned Through the Church was written by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, a minister of the Lutheran church who holds seven degrees, of which two are doctorates: a PhD and a ThD (Doctor of Theology).

2. The Subversion of Christianity

I recently came across another book with a striking title: The Subversion of Christianity, written by Jacques Ellul, a Frenchman. It is a translation of his French book, La Subversion du Christianisme. Ellul is a professor at the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences at the University of Bordeaux. He writes prolifically on many subjects, including Christianity and theology, and this is his fortieth book. [1] That is quite a lot of books for one man to write. He is well known in theological circles. A measure of the importance of this book is the fact that it was translated from French to English by Geoffrey Bromiley, a theologian and the sole translator, from German to English, of Kittel’s ten-volume Theolo­gical Dictionary of the NT. It shows the impor­tance that theolo­gians attach to this book by Professor Ellul.

I would like to read to you Ellul’s opening lines. At the start of his book, just before the first chapter, Ellul quotes Søren Kierkegaard, a great Danish thinker. This is what Kierkegaard says:

The Christianity of Christendom transforms Christianity into something entirely different from what it is in the New Testament, yea, into exactly the opposite; and this is the Christianity of Christendom, of us men.

Hard-hitting words! Kierkegaard is saying that Christianity today is totally different from what it was in the New Testament — in fact its very opposite. His words are stronger than anything I have ever said about the church.

As I said, we must keep a grip on the word of God, just as snow tires maintain a grip on the road. Kierkegaard is telling us that the church has long lost its grip on the road; it has spun around, and is headed in the opposite direction. It reminds me of what happened when Uncle Don drove me home from church one Sunday evening in winter. The car turned a corner towards an incline when it suddenly spun around, and we were in the opposite direction. Uncle Don is experienced in winter driving, yet even the snow tires lost their grip, and the car spun 180 degrees.

The world situation today is just as dangerous for the Christian. Kierkegaard warns that the church has gone off the track, and has spun 180 degrees to a direction opposite to that of the Christianity of the New Testament. So when we are talking about the Antichrist, we are indeed talking about the subversion of the church. More than a century ago, Kierkegaard had already warned us that the church had been subverted. That is why Ellul quotes him even before the opening chapter of his book.

Let me read to you the first few lines of Ellul’s first chapter, for they sum up the purpose of his book:

The question that I want to sketch in this work is one that troubles me most deeply. As I now see it, it seems to be insolu­ble and assumes a serious character of historical oddness. It may be put very simply: How has it come about that the development of Christianity and the church has given birth to a society, a civilization, a culture that are completely opposite to what we read in the Bible, to what is indisputably the text of the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, and Paul? I say advisedly ‘com­pletely opposite’.

Ellul is saying that something unusual has happened. How has it come about that the Christian civilization — in France, Germany, England, and other places — bears not the slight­est resemblance to the church of the New Testament? For the most part, its churches have become state churches, in which the heads of the church are secular heads of state, as in the case of Church of England. The churches in the Christian civilization that we see in Europe and America contradict the Bible “not on one point but on all points”. Those are Ellul’s own words. I have never said anything quite as strong about the church. We must bear in mind that this book was written not by a nutcase operating at the fringes, but by a Christian thinker with intellectual and prophetic insight. We live in danger­ous times. The Antichrist’s work has been cut out for him because the subversion of the church has already started.

Why do some teach that the Antichrist is solely a contra Christ?

As we approach the end of this series, I want to repeat something I hope for the last time. We must distinguish between two possible meanings of the prefix anti in the word Antichrist. It is important for us to bear this distinc­tion in mind because it gives rise to two possible meanings for the word Antichrist.

As I said, anti can mean “against”. For example, an anti-aircraft gun is used against aircraft. Here the meaning of anti is “against” or “contra,” so I used the term “contra Christ” for this contra idea of the Antichrist.

But the other meaning of anti — the predo­minant mean­ing in the New Testament — expresses the idea that a thing replaces another thing as a substitute or replacement (see the Appendix of this book). When the New Testament says that the Son of Man gave his life a ransom “for many” (Mark 10:45), the Greek words here are anti pollōn — for us, in our place, as our substitute. So anti means something quite different from the common meaning “against” for the word anti in English. Speakers of English are generally unfami­liar with this sense of anti.

To express this sense, we use the term “pseudo,” which in the case of the Antichrist would make him a pseudo Christ — one who pretends to be Christ and tries to stand in the place of Christ.

Despite this important distinction between the two meanings of anti, many books on the Antichrist do not distinguish them, leading to utter confusion. We have two possible mean­ings of Antichrist — contra Christ versus pseudo Christ — yet most writers today talk about Antichrist as if he is solely a contra Christ.

Why do these books portray the Antichrist solely as a contra Christ? These books have one thing in common: they base their case on the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.

Daniel must be understood in its historical perspective

I won’t go into the book of Daniel because the details are too com­plex to explain in one message. All I will do is give a few brief points for those who want to do a further study of Daniel.

Where do these writers get the notion that the Antichrist is to be understood solely as a contra Christ? They rightly observe that in Matthew 24:15, the Lord speaks of “the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel”. Although Jesus refers to Daniel the prophet, he speaks specifically only of the abomination of desolation. It is an error to assume that because Jesus mentions one specific thing about Daniel, he is referring to the whole book of Daniel. That is a common exegetical error. If I quote a specific verse in the Old Testament, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am refer­ring to the whole book in which the verse appears. Why then do these writers assume that because Jesus makes a specific reference to the abomination of desolation in Daniel, that he is referring to the whole book of Daniel and to every prophecy in Daniel?

The confusion arises because they depend almost exclu­sively on Daniel chapters 7 and 8 for their biblical support. Chapter 7 speaks of four beasts that symbolize four kingdoms. What do these four beasts and four kingdoms correspond to? This has led to all kinds of interesting theories which we won’t go into.

To understand the book of Daniel, we need to look at it from its historical perspective. Daniel prophesied the coming of a great enemy of God and of God’s people who will desecrate the temple. This was fulfilled in the historical person of king Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the main figure in the desecration the temple in the period 167–164 BC. I have briefly discussed this elsewhere, so I won’t go into the details again. Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled when Antio­chus desecrated the temple by offering a pig, which to the Jews is an unclean animal, at the altar. So he polluted and desecrated the tem­ple and the altar, which was an abomination. Hence the Scriptures speak of “the abomina­tion of desolation” or the abomination that makes deso­late. The prophecy in the book of Daniel has been fulfilled.

The exegetical problem begins when the writers assume that the Antichrist will be a contra Christ, so they take Antiochus, this Greek king who tried to force the Jews into accepting the Greek religion, as the model of the Antichrist. In their view, the Antichrist will be a super Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek king prophesied by Daniel.

Three reasons Antiochus is not a model of the Antichrist

1. You cannot be “anti” someone you don’t know exists

First, it doesn’t make much sense to say that Antiochus is a model of the coming Antichrist because Christ had not yet come in his time. How can Antiochus be a model of the Antichrist since he cannot be anti somebody — Christ — whom he didn’t know existed? Antiochus was an enemy of the Jews, but that does not make him an enemy of Christ himself.

2. The contra Christ idea dilutes “Antichrist” to “anti-Christian”

Second, these writers view the Antichrist as a political figure — in some cases a military figure like Antiochus — and as a contra Christ, so they view the Antichrist basically as a persecutor and oppressor. If that is all there is to the Antichrist, there would be nothing unusual about it, for the church has always been persecuted from its early days. Since there is nothing new about persecution, is there any­thing unique about the Antichrist’s work of persecution? If you say that his persecution of Christians is unique for its worldwide scale, wouldn’t that make him anti-Christian rather than anti-Christ? Despite the connection between Christ and Christians, they are not iden­tical, nor one and the same. If we understand the Antichrist solely as a contra Christ, how can he persecute the risen Christ who is not on earth but is at the right hand of the Father far away from the reach of the Antichrist? The Antichrist cannot harm Christ directly, but only harm Christians. Therefore we would have to dilute the term Antichrist to Anti-Christian, that is, dilute contra Christ to contra Christian.

3. To attack Christians on a spiritual level, the Antichrist would have to be a spiritual and not just a political figure

Third, does it make any sense to equate a political leader or a military figure with the Antichrist? After all, Christ is not a political or military figure but a spiritual figure. Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). If the Antichrist is a political or military figure, he might attack Christians politically or militarily, causing great physical harm, but he cannot attack us spiritually if he is only a political figure. Only a spiritual Antichrist can attack us on a true spiritual level, and not merely political. He can still perse­cute us for our faith, but he cannot attack us at the deepest spiritual level.

What about Adolf Hitler as a model of Antichrist? One writer says Hitler is the model for the Antichrist and rejects the idea of Antiochus as the model for the Antichrist. It is true that Hitler is a model of the Antichrist in some limited sense, but in certain important ways he is not a model of the Antichrist.

First, Hitler was a Christian, brought up as a Roman Catholic. Hitler hated the Jews, but he never said anything against Christ. As for Antiochus, it is not certain that he was against the Jews per se, but only against their religion which caused the Jews to reject his Greek or Hellenizing policy.

Second, Hitler never attacked Christian doctrines or the church as a church per se. But he persecuted, directly or indirectly, certain leaders of the church such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer who were actively opposed to his political policies. And Hitler’s attack was on the political rather than the spiritual level.

The Antichrist will be a pseudo Christ

All these theories about the Antichrist as a political figure who persecutes the church are off the track. On the contrary, the truly great danger to the church is the pseudo Christ who comes from within the church — a church that has been subverted and corrupted as Montgomery, Kierkegaard and Ellul have warned us. The danger is that we are being deceived without our knowing it.

Suppose somebody points a gun at my head and says, “Are you going to believe in Jesus? If yes, I will shoot you. If no, I will let you go”. That is certainly a threat to my faith, but not nearly as danger­ous as deception, for I can still see the danger in front of me and make a decision. I can say, “I won’t deny Jesus, so go ahead and pull the trigger.” It is certainly a danger but not as dangerous as a false teacher who misleads you such that you think you are on the right path when you are on the wrong path. You have lost the way to eternal life without your knowing it. Isn’t that much more terrify­ing?

In any case, the contra Christ idea does not provide us very much that we can pre­pare for. That is because the world has always been contra Christ. Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The world has always been contra Christ, but this does not bring out the biblical meaning of Antichrist.

The contra Christ idea does not include the pseudo Christ idea, but the pseudo Christ idea includes the contra Christ idea. Because the pseudo Christ wants to take the place of the real Christ, that in itself is a hostile act that is contra Christ. So while we hold the pseudo Christ idea, we do not reject the contra Christ idea. But the reverse is not true. The contra Christ idea that is popular today does not recognize the pseudo Christ idea.

A real gun or a pseudo-gun?

Let me give an illustration. I hope it won’t shock you too much. As you can see, I came up to this podium wearing a jacket. It just so happens that today is a cold day, so you may think that the Lord had prearranged the cold weather for me to give you this particular illustra­tion.

Here is something inside my jacket. I am now holding a 36 caliber Beretta, a powerful handgun. When I was a youth living in China, the situation in China before Communist rule was turbulent, so my father and I both had a gun similar to this one. My father’s gun had a nicer handle, but mine had a handle like this one. What we had was not a Beretta but a 38 caliber Browning. People with police or military training would know what a Browning 38 looks like. It looks similar to the Beretta.

This Beretta is popular because of its compact size. That’s why you didn’t even notice that I was carrying a gun in my jacket when I walked to the platform. It is small enough to fit into my vest pocket without much of a bulge. I can put it under my armpit using a special shoulder holster, and then cover the whole thing with my jacket. That was the way my father used to carry his gun. This gun is small enough to conceal but powerful enough to kill. It is a deadly auto­matic weapon.

If I call this gun a contra-gun, I wouldn’t be saying anything special, for all guns are contra-guns in the sense of opposing other guns. Shootouts are common in the United States where there more guns than people. [2] As for this gun I am holding, there are two possibilities: it is either a real gun (a contra-gun) or a fake gun (a pseudo-gun). Which one is it?

Many bank robberies are carried out with a gun. If I point this gun at a bank teller, it would be foolish for the person to assume it is a fake gun. In fact, law enforcement officers say there is no quick way to tell whether a gun is real or not, and in some cases, it is hard to tell even if you look closely. I don’t think you can tell whether this gun is fake or real. In fact, many bank robberies are carried out with this type of gun. As you may have heard, the police are pressing for legislation to prohibit the sale of fake models of this type of gun, because it is hard to tell whether it is real or fake apart from a care­ful inspec­tion. Nowadays you can buy a high-quality model gun that a gun expert cannot tell whether it is fake or real until you fire it. It is made like the real gun down to the fine details, the main difference being that it lacks a real firing chamber.

Even if I pulled the trigger of this gun, can you tell it is a real gun? I now pull the trigger (click). Nothing happened, so would you say it’s a fake gun? Not so fast. You cannot assume it is fake, for there is no bullet or live ammunition inside. A real gun will make a clicking sound even if it has no bullets. The fact that I was able to cock the gun shows that it could still be a real gun. Your only safe conclusion would be that I have not put any live ammunition into it.

To analyze this in a different way, I could say this is not a real gun because it is incapable of firing real bullets. Or I could say it is not a genuine Beretta, yet it is nonetheless a real gun manufac­tured by a different gun company. It is like visiting a computer store and buying a Pineapple computer that looks like an Apple computer, but doesn’t run Apple software. It is a fake Apple computer, yet is a real computer because it runs the Windows software.

By now you must be wondering whether my gun is fake or real. Well, this is not a real Beretta or even a real gun. It is a model gun that doesn’t fire bullets of any kind. Yet if I pointed it at somebody in broad daylight, he would be a fool to assume it is just a fake gun. So allow me put this fake gun back into my pocket.

When we say that the Antichrist is a contra Christ we have not said anything significant, for the world has always been contra Christ, just as all guns are contra-guns. But if I say that the Antichrist will be a pseudo Christ, I am saying something very signi­ficant. This is exactly what the Bible teaches in First John and elsewhere. The coming Antichrist will claim to be the real Christ, and that will make him extremely dangerous. He will not be like my fake gun, but will be a non-Beretta gun that is nonetheless a real gun that can fire real bullets.

The New Testament does not speak of the Antichrist as a contra Christ. The Lord Jesus speaks repeatedly of pseudo Christs (false Christs) in Matthew 24. The man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2 is not a contra Christ, for he will claim himself to be God.

How to prepare ourselves? How do you tell the true from the false? First, you need to pray for spiritual discern­ment. Second, you must get a firm grip of the word of God. Third, you must put on Christ at all times, like wearing a bulletproof jacket. If you take off Christ, you will lose your protective armor. If you put on Christ, he will be your armor, your protec­tion, your beauty, your power, your glory, your authority.

[1] By the time Jacques Ellul died in 1994, he had authored more than 60 books and 600 articles.

[2] In 2017, there were 120.5 civilian firearms per 100 persons in the United States. See Wikipedia article, “Estimated number of civilian guns per capita by country”.



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