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14. God’s Kingship or Satan’s?

– Chapter 14 –

God’s Kingship or Satan’s?

I have been preaching a series of messages on the Antichrist, and this will be my last message. It is a vast subject, and I could continue on it for many more months. But we must wrap up today. I hope that the purpose of these messages has been fulfilled, such that we see the urgency of the matter and the dangers that lie ahead, and that our lives may be changed for the better. Many Christians live as though they have forever in this world, as though the Antichrist or even Christ himself won’t be coming, so they pass their lives with a purposeless­ness that is thoroughly alarming.

Satan the dragon

Soon it will be Chinese New Year, and do you know which year will be coming up? Those of you who live in Hong Kong would know, but some in Canada might not. Soon it will be the year of the dragon. To the Chinese people, the dragon is an impressive and glorious creature, indeed a mythical divine creature. The Chinese regard the emperor of China as the dragon. Chinese emperors used to put on the longpao, a royal robe with a great dragon on the front that marks the wearer as the son of heaven. Some women want to have their children born in the year of the dragon in the hope that when they grow up, they will be special.

The New Testament also has a concept of a dragon, and it is mentioned in only one book — Revelation — in which the dragon is mentioned 12 times. [1] Revelation is of course the last book of the Bible. The rest of the New Testament does not mention the dragon even once, so it is only when we come to the last book of the Bible — the one that speaks of “the things that must soon take place” (Rev.1:1) — that suddenly there is fre­quent mention of the dragon. And this doesn’t happen until midway through Revelation. The dragon first appears in Revelation chapter 12 in which it is men­tioned seven times, and this continues into chapter 13 in which it is mentioned three times. Hence ten of the twelve references to the dragon in the New Testament occur in these two chapters in the middle of Revelation. Near the end of Revelation, in chapter 20, the mighty dragon — Satan himself, enemy of God — is seized, bound, and thrown into the abyss, a pit.

The Bible does not underestimate the might of the dragon, a symbol of Satan. He is described as “a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems” (Rev.12:3). It is indeed an awesome creature that has seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on the seven heads.

The next chapter, Revelation 13, talks about the false Christ who is called the beast, and who looks similar to the dragon (Satan): “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphe­mous names on its heads.” (Rev.13:1, ESV)

The beast — the false Christ — will look almost like the dragon, also with ten horns and seven heads, but this time there will be ten diadems (crowns) on the ten horns rather than seven diadems on the seven heads. It doesn’t mean that the beast, the Antichrist, will actually look like that when he appears. This is symbolic language. Many have tried to make head or tail of Revelation, but here we have a simple clue, and it has to do with crowns.

The dragon (Satan) wears crowns, as does the Antichrist, the false Messiah. Both have seven heads and ten horns. The difference is that the dragon will have seven crowns on the seven heads, and the Antichrist will have ten crowns on the ten horns.

The battle between Christ and Antichrist

Who else wears crowns in Revelation? In verse 4:4, the 24 elders in heaven wear crowns on their heads, and they cast them before the throne of God (v.10). They don’t want to keep their crowns but offer them to God. In Revelation 19:12, we see an impressive figure riding on a white horse who is crowned. He has only one head, not seven, but on that head he wears many diadems (crowns). Do you grasp the message of Revelation? Do you understand the symbolism? It is a contest for crowns, for the kingship of this world. And Revelation predicts in symbolic language how the battle for the kingship of this world is going to be fought, and what the outcome will be. The final outcome is not in doubt, for the dragon with the seven crowns will be cast into the bottomless pit. Then the one who has many diadems, the king of kings and lord of lords, will rule the earth.

Do you realize that the battle is raging right now? It is fought in heaven and on earth, and between God and Satan through their representatives. Their supreme representatives in the last days will be Christ and Antichrist. That is when the battle will reach its climax, with Christ at war against Antichrist. But even before that takes place, there are already many antichrists in the world today. Even in this assembly hall, some are on one side of the battle, some are on the other side. You and I are on one side of the battle or the other side. You know where you stand, or ought to know. Are you on God’s side, fighting for his kingdom to be established on earth? Do you pray, “Father, may your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth and in my life.” Or do you even care who is king so long as you live a good life in your remaining years? You will have to choose sides: God or Satan.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The whole world — the people of the world — are living under the power of the dragon.

If you have not consciously and deliberately renounced the king­ship of Satan, then to this day you are still his subject. To this day you are still in his kingdom and under his power. You don’t need to make any deliberate choice or do anything to remain a subject of the dragon or a citizen of Satan’s kingdom. To use an analogy, if you are born in the United Kingdom, you are automatically a citizen of the United Kingdom. You don’t need to file an application for UK citizen­ship. In the same way, if you are born into the world, you are already a citizen of Satan’s kingdom.

But you need to submit an application to become a citizen of the kingdom of God. The tricky part is that it is hard to get your applica­tion ap­proved. Isn’t that ironic? We would think that since the whole world lies in the power of Satan, God would be desperate to get more citizens into his numerically smaller kingdom (cf. Mt. 7:14). We would expect God to put up a billboard: “Everyone is wel­come to apply. You will enjoy many benefits in the kingdom of God.” But what happens when you apply? God will examine you and say, “Hmm, your applica­tion is not approved.” So you say, “Really? I gave God face and honor by my act of applying, yet he turns me down!”

We are even told that we need to take up our cross daily. “What!? The cross? Satan never asks anyone to take up the cross. He can give you the kingdoms of the world if you follow him. Burn some incense and your business will shoot up. Forcing the cross on us is way over­board!”

You and I were born into Satan’s kingdom, but to get into God’s kingdom, we must “strive to enter by the narrow gate.” And what happens after that? You will discover that you are no longer your own lord as in the past when you lived in Satan’s kingdom. Now you have to obey God and answer to him. But Satan believes in free enterprise in which you run your own show.

The other day I saw a book on how to make people do what you want them to do, yet make them think they are doing what they want. That is superb psychology, so clever and deceptive! Satan is a master psychologist, but Jesus refuses to practice psychology. Satan says, “Follow me and do what­ you like. You will be the boss of your own little kingdom, with the enjoyments of life.”

But when you enter the kingdom of God, you are told you are a slave of God. “What? A slave? I don’t like being a slave.” But without being a slave, you don’t become a citizen of God’s kingdom, much less become a son of God. In the New Testament, you don’t become a son without first becoming a slave. Some preachers ignore the slavery part and stress the sonship part. There are preachers who want to give you a pass­port to the kingdom of heaven that doesn’t require you to take up the cross. Satan will tell you, “Don’t be a fool. Take a look at my kingdom. The whole world is mine. Follow me and you will get the world. Follow Jesus and all you get is heaven.”

In the remainder of this message, I will talk about the kingdom or kingship of God, and base it on Matthew 24. God’s kingship is wonderful, but if you think you will get something for nothing, keep in mind that the pearl of great price will cost you everything.

The key to understand­ing not just Revelation but the whole New Testament is this central question: Will you have God as King, or will you remain under Satan’s kingship? You are under Satan’s king­ship by default, so you don’t need to make a conscious choice to remain in his kingdom. But not making a choice is already making a choice for Satan. If you want to stay in Satan’s kingdom, you don’t have to do a thing. Just ignore my message, and carry on happily in Satan’s kingdom. But if you want to enter God’s kingdom, you will have to make a deliberate and costly choice. Then God will become the king of your life, and wonderful things will happen.

The unity of Matthew chapters 23, 24, 25

Matthew chapters 23, 24, 25 are not separate units, but one inte­grated unit in the Lord’s teaching. Common themes run through the three chapters, including the kingship of God. And in the middle of this unit is Matthew 24 which talks about the end times and notably the pseudo Messiah, the false Christ, the Antichrist.

The preceding chapter, Matthew 23, speaks of hypocrites who profess God as their king, yet their lives show that God is not their king. The church is full of people who claim God as their king, but they are just as hypocriti­cal as the Pharisees. By the way they talk, the way they think, the way they live, you can tell that God is not king of their lives. That is what Jesus says to the Pharisees at the start of Matthew 23. They teach God’s word and God’s law, but their lives betray their real self. They are tombs painted white on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones.

If you want to be a Christian, please don’t be this kind of Chris­tian. There are already too many stumbling blocks in the world. If you don’t want to live under God’s kingship, why not remain in Satan’s kingdom without ever claiming to be living under God’s kingship? Every day you will be denying God in your school or office.

In the latter part of Matthew chapter 24, in the parable of the unfaithful servant (Mt. 24:45–51), there is a servant of God who beats up his fellow servants. As a servant of God, either a pastor, a bishop, or someone with religious authority, he is filled with a sense of self-importance. He says, “My master’s coming is delayed” (v.48), so he abuses the people entrusted to his care. This Christian leader is every bit as bad as the Pharisees.

Then Jesus gives another parable, that of the ten virgins (Mt. 25:1–13). Here we see ten Christians, among whom are five foolish virgins whose lights were shining, but they ran out of oil and stopped shining. You may be one of those who shone with a certain light, but as the darkness started pressing around you, your light began to dim, and you ran out of oil because you did not endure. That is why the Lord Jesus says that before you think of entering the king­dom of God, count the cost as to whether you can endure to the end.

The last part of Matthew 25, in verses 31–46, is the parable of the sheep and the goats that are gathered before the Lord Jesus, king and judge, seated on his glorious throne. We see again that the theme of kingship spans all three chapters. The Lord Jesus judges the goats, the false Christians who look like sheep but are not. Do they believe in Jesus? Yes, for they call him Lord and Master. They even call out to him, “Lord, Lord,” but Jesus says, “Don’t call me Lord, for I don’t know you. Your life has been a disgrace, and you have stumbled many in your lifetime.”

Wars and rumors of wars, and the days of Noah

We now come to Matthew 24, an interesting chapter in which Jesus prophesies wars and rumors of wars (v.6) in a deteriorating world. There have always been wars throughout human his­tory, so the point of this prophecy is that wars will intensify and become more frequent in the last days.

In contrast to the wars and rumors of wars at the start of Matthew 24, we see a starkly different situation towards the end of the chap­ter. Here Jesus says that the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah (vv.37ff). He depicts Noah’s days not in terms of violence but in terms of human activities such as eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. There is nothing inherently wrong with these activities, but the problem is that the generation of Noah was concerned only with earthly things. Is there anything wrong with getting more degrees and earning more money? It all seems harmless, but the problem is that we are pre­occupied with transient things and ignore the eternal things.

Anyone who lives like that is under Satan’s kingship. The world is the only domain that Satan still possesses, and he wants you to set your minds on this world. He will try to divert your attention from the kingdom of God, which he depicts as airy-fairy, without telling you that the world is passing away even if it looks real and tangible.

Jesus depicts Noah’s generation as peace time rather than war, with human activities such as eating and drink­ing, marrying and giving in marriage. How do we reconcile this picture of peace with that of wars and rumors of wars? How can war and peace coexist? Right now in 1988, is the world in peace or at war? What is your answer? You may say, “I am not experiencing war around me, so we must be living in relative peace.” But that is out of touch with what is happening in the world. A Christian ought to read not only his Bible but also the newspapers.

The South China Morning Post of January 25, 1988, has a report on the global military expenditures in the year 1987. Do you know how much the world spent on weapons and armies in 1987, in this so-called peace time? It boggles the mind: 930 billion U.S. dollars. I cannot even input the 12 digits into my calcula­tor. This is peace time? The report did some calculations for us: 1.8 million U.S. dollars spent every minute. And six countries in the world account for 75% of the global military spending of 930 billion U.S. dollars. It also says that the global military outlay for the preceding year, 1986, was 880 billion U.S. dollars, which means that there was an increase in just one year of 50 billion U.S. dollars for weapons and armies. Are we living in peace or are we living in war?

The report says that in 1987, the nuclear inventories of the two superpowers, USA and USSR, increased at the rate of 16 nuclear bombs per week, or more than two new bombs daily. The total destructive power of all nuclear weapons in 1987 is 2,600 times the combined explosive power of all the armaments in the world in all World War II. You have probably seen WWII newsreels of the carpet bombings of Germany and Japan. I visited Germany imme­diately after WWII as a young boy, and was shocked by what I saw. Germany was absolutely flattened by the Allied bombings. Yet the destructive power of the nuclear weapons today is 2,600 times that of the entire WWII. So are we are living in peace time?

The main point of Matthew 24 is that wars and rumors of war will intensify year after year, as suggested by this newspaper report. So the year of the dragon will be an ominous year, won’t it? We will probably add another 50 billion dollars to the global military expen­diture this coming year.

The Bible is truly amazing. Read your Bible and the news­papers, and if you have eyes to see, you will be amazed by how God’s word is being fulfilled before our eyes.

Why do some say that the Antichrist is a contra Christ?

In my last message, I pulled out a pistol to everyone’s shock, in order to illustrate a point. Of course everyone breathed a sigh of relief when I said it was a fake gun, though it looked dreadfully similar to a real gun. In fact that toy gun costs only $4 U.S. and fires plastic pellets. Yet criminals can rob banks with this gun because it looks real.

What was the point of that illustration? It was to drive home the impor­tant distinction between a contra Christ and a pseudo Christ. You will not find anywhere in Matthew 24 any reference to a contra Christ, but there are several mentions of pseudo Christs or pseudo prophets. The stress is on the false­ness of the pseudo Christs.

Strangely enough, the New Testament says nothing whatsoever about a contra Christ. So where did this teaching come from? I am fearful about these last days in which false teaching goes around parading itself as true teaching, just as the false Christ will parade himself as the true Christ. He is an imitation Christ, a counterfeit Christ, yet he will deceive many with his falsehood.

I get more and more puzzled when I read books on the Antichrist that I had bought from Christian bookstores. Why do these books teach a contra Christ when in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 you cannot find anything about a contra Christ? Or for that matter, the rest of the New Testament?

The an­swer is simple. The whole exposition of a contra Christ derives from a certain interpretation of Daniel, mainly Daniel chapter 7 and portions of two or three other chapters. In this interpretation of Daniel, the Antichrist is said to be modeled on king Antiochus Epiphanes IV, a detestable figure whose coming was pre­dicted by Daniel in a prophecy that was fulfilled in history. Matthew 24:15 says, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place …” (ESV). Modern commenta­tors assume that because Jesus specifically mentions the abomina­tion of desolation, therefore the whole sequence of events recorded in Daniel will somehow be repeated once more in the last days, repeating all the events leading up to Antiochus Epiphanes. That assump­tion has not been proven, and every attempt to do so will fail be­cause there is simply no support for it in the New Testament. Jesus speaks of one and only one event from Daniel that will be repeated in the last days: the desecration of the temple by an abomination in the temple. It doesn’t mean that the whole sequence of events in Daniel will be repeated. Moreover, the abomination of desolation will take place specifically within the temple “in the holy place” (Mt.24:15).

Some will say that the beast (singular) in Revelation 13 is similar to the beasts (plural) in Daniel 7, but there is a key difference. Daniel 7:3–7 speaks of four separate beasts in sequence, one after another, but there is no such sequence of beasts in Revelation 13. The beast in Revelation 13:2 is just one beast, not four beasts, and is a composite of four animals. There is no indication that apostle John sees the sequence of events in Daniel 7 leading up to Antiochus Epiphanes being repeated in the last days.

Another reason for rejecting the idea of a purely contra Christ is that any teaching that stresses a contra Christ will of necessity stress persecution as the main aspect of Antichrist’s work. A contra Christ can only be a contra Christian because Christ is now at the right hand of the Father, and out of the reach of the Antichrist. So the contra Christ is really a contra Christian, since the emphasis is on persecuting Christians. There has always been persecution from the beginning of the church, and we don’t deny that. But the dangerous aspect of the Antichrist is not persecution but deception, and this is what Jesus warns us of several times in Matthew 24 (in which the word “mislead” occurs in verses 4, 5, 11, 24). He says in verse 4, “See to it that no one misleads you”; this is in fact the opening sentence of his whole discourse on the last days. The Lord’s concern is always with the danger of deception. This is also Paul’s concern in chapter 2 of 2 Thessalo­nians, in which the real danger is deception rather than persecution (“let no one deceive you in any way,” v.3). In the entire chapter, Paul never mentions the persecu­tion of the saints. In Revelation 13, the signs, wonders and miracles are designed to deceive; persecution will then come to the saints who see through the deception.

The issue comes down to emphasis. Those who teach a contra Christ would focus on persecution and see deception as a secondary concern. But those who teach a pseudo Christ will emphasize both deception and persecution, with greater emphasis on deception.

The Antichrist will be a Jew

Another reason for teaching a pseudo Christ rather than a contra Christ is that a contra Christ can be a Jew or a Gentile, but a pseudo Christ can only be a Jew. Anyone who claims to be Christ or the Messiah can only be a Jew, for “Messiah” is the Jewish title of the promised Jewish king from the line of David. No one can meet that requirement unless he is a Jew. That greatly narrows the field.

Anyone who is familiar with early church history would know of Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon and a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of the very apostle John who wrote about the Antichrist in his letters. Irenaeus taught that the Antichrist, the pseudo Christ, will be a Jew. In fact, many of the very early church fathers taught this, with few exceptions. The reason is not hard to see. The early church was composed of Jews and Gentiles, with Jews predomi­nating in many places. But over the years, the Jewish component in the church became smaller and smaller, and almost disappeared from a church that had become predominantly Gentile. One of the great tragedies of the church is that it failed to reach the Jews with the gospel, and eventually excluded them almost completely. I have visited Israel many times, and hope to do what I can to reverse that situation. We owe the gospel to the Jews.

Just as the Jews disappeared from the church, so the teaching of a Jewish Antichrist disappeared from the church. As a result we feel that we can include Gentiles as candidates for the Antichrist, leading to wild specula­tions that he might be Antiochus, Napoleon, Hitler, Gorbachev, or Bill Gates. But the king promised by God — the Messiah who will rule not only over Israel but the whole world — will be from the line of David. If the Antichrist claims to be the promised Messiah he will have to be a Jew.

Some reject the idea that the Antichrist will be a Jew for the reason that the Antichrist will blaspheme God, and it is unimagin­able that any Jew would blas­pheme God and set himself up as God at the temple. This is to misunderstand the Jews, for the Jews are no different from the Gentiles in this respect. We only have to recall that Communism — the most power­ful atheistic system in the world, and one that denies God — was founded by two Jews, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

There is also the case of Herod Agrippa I, a grandson of Herod the Great, in Acts 12:20–23. (The name Herod refers not just to one king but a bloodline of kings.) Despite having Jewish blood, Agrippa accepted divine honors when the people shouted, “The voice of a god, and not of a man.” So an angel of the Lord struck him down. The fact that Agrippa had Jewish blood and was of Jewish descent, did not deter him from seeking to be proclaimed God.

In speaking of Herod, we can bring in an important factor. In Jewish thinking, the fact that your father is a Jew does not make you a Jew, but if your mother is a Jew, you will be counted as a Jew. The Herods had Jewish blood on their mother’s side, so the Jews had to grudgingly admit that the hated Herods were Jewish.

The Antichrist will be Jewish on his mother’s side. But what about his father’s side? Even if his father is Gentile, the son would still retain his Jewishness from his mother. The following scenario is plausible: From his mother’s side, the Antichrist would be accepted as a Jew. But if the Antichrist has a Gentile father, the son would also be acceptable to Gentiles. The Antichrist would then be acceptable to both Jews and Gentiles.

I could preach many more messages on the Antichrist, but we must wrap up. We saw that the battle is over kingship. On one side is Satan’s kingship and his representative the Antichrist, the false Christ, the pseudo Christ. On the other side is God’s kingship and his representa­tive Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. Many won’t be able to tell Antichrist from Christ, with there being many parallels between them such as the doing of signs and wonders. In this battle over kingship, the Antichrist, the pseudo Christ, will be like a gang leader who tries to supplant the real king, Jesus Christ.

I recently read a book called Yakuza. The Yakuza is the Japanese equivalent of the triads in Hong Kong. Criminal gangs operate in Japan despite the fact the Japanese are nice and polite people.

I get embar­rassed every time I go to Japan. The Japanese would bow to me and speak to me in Japanese. At an airport, I was about to ask a flight attendant which boarding gate I should go to, when she bowed to me and spoke in Japanese. When I go on a train in Japan they talk to me in Japanese; when I reply in English, they would be wondering why this Japanese doesn’t speak Japanese.

The Japanese people are so polite that it is hard to imagine that gangs operate in Japan. But this book of nearly 500 pages tells us the surprising truth about the Yakuza. It was written by The Center for Investigative Reporting that does investigative report­ing at great risk to themselves. The Yakuza are so powerful that they influence government decisions. According to this book, the Prime Minister and his cabinet would consult the Yakuza. The Yakuza even have occasional access to the Emperor himself.

The Yakuza control 26,000 legal businesses in Japan, and count­less more illegal businesses. Their annual revenue, while not known with accuracy, is possibly 22 billion U.S. dollars a year. They control gambling, street activities, and, above all, drug trafficking which brings in over 50% of their income.

Many Japanese people respect these gangsters as heirs of the ancient Samurai tradition. The Yakuza would occasionally carry samurai swords with them, with which they kill people, though very seldom today. They have special tattoos on their body. They are so loyal to their leaders (Christians can learn loyalty to God from the Yakuza) that some would chop off the tip of their little finger, wrap it in cloth, and present it to their leaders as a token of their loyalty. One reason the organiza­tion is so powerful is that it is bound by an ardent loyalty to one another and to the leaders. The Yakuza are disciplined, well-organized, and loyal to one another (there are 110,000 known Yakuza members). If you go to Japan and see a finger that is missing its tip, you may be looking at a Yakuza.

An interesting thing is their patriotism to the Samurai tradition. The Yakuza are patriotic to their country, and many fought in the Japanese army in World War II. Those who survived the war came back with the military experience that proved invaluable to the Yakuza organiza­tion.

I conclude on this point: Don’t think that because the Antichrist or the pseudo Christ is the man of lawlessness, he will behave in an openly lawless way. His lawlessness will not be dis­played publicly, at least not initially, for the Antichrist seeks the cover of legitimacy as part of his strategy of deception.

The book I mentioned has photographs of past Yakuza bosses, and they all look like perfect gentleman. They are dressed in smart suits, and have a gentlemanly demeanor. If you meet them on the streets, their followers too are dressed in business suits, so you would not realize that they are criminals.

When the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, appears, he will behave in a lawful manner. Like the Yakuza, his lawlessness is under cover. That is what makes the pseudo Christ so dangerous.

May God give you the courage to renounce your citizenship with the kingdom of Satan and his false Christ, and to speedily, before it is too late, transfer your loyalty and citizenship to God, to his kingdom, and to his Messiah King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] In the New Testament, the Greek word drakōn occurs 12 times, all in the book of Revelation, in verses 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 16, 17; 13:2, 4, 11; 16:13; 20:2. Some Bibles such as ESV and NASB have an extra occurrence of “dragon” in Revelation 12:7, but it is inserted for clearer English, and is not found in the Greek text.



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