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The Rise of the Antichrist, Part 2

November 2nd, 2016

The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders, and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved. (2 Thes. 2:9-10, NET)

The Antichrist shall rise when the power that hinders him is removed or taken out of the way.

Three traditional different understandings of what this power is and how it shall be removed were discussed yesterday: (1) It was fulfilled when the Roman Emperor moved the capital of Rome to Constantinople (324 A.D.), and under this interpretation, the Pope must be the Antichrist; (2) The church invisible is this power and the prophecy will be fulfilled when the church becomes so weak and faithless so as to render itself incapable of fulfilling its role as a preservative of society (salt of the earth); (3) The church invisible is this power and the prophecy will be fulfilled when the church is suddenly removed by the Rapture. The third option is the on that I take, however, we also will see a weakened church in the last days leading up to Return of Christ (2 Tim. 4:3-5).

So, the voice of the true church will be virtually silenced – either by decay coming from within the church or by its removal from earth or both to varying degrees. We are already seeing the weakened voice of the church, the liberalism of European Christianity, the worldliness of the Charismatic churches with their focus on health and wealth, and the dead orthodoxy of conservative churches who, though they preach the truth, do so with little love for mankind or for God. In my lifetime, now sixty-five years old, it is worse than it has ever been. The ground of compassionate and faithful conservatism, of loving God and loving His Word and loving His world and loving the work to which He has called us, is harder and harder to find. It is still there, thank God, but it is rarer to discover.

My experience is that a very small percentage of professing Christians is well-grounded in the Word, or cares about becoming so. Most are content to remain as Christian consumers, looking for spiritual entertainment rather than the meat of the Word. More fight over incidental matters to the faith – which they claim are central to the faith, but are actually matters of interpretation. And they are dispassionate toward the lostness of the world. Thank God this is not universally true – there are pockets of devout faith in the world, but every generation seems to weaken the Christian witness by some means or another.

It is for this reason that before revealing the final judgments of God against the world, Revelation, in chapters 2 and 3, deals with the problems of the churches. We Christians, our faith, voice, worship, and service, are what holds evil back in the world. When our voice is silenced and our influence made null, then the Antichrist will rise.

The Antichrist will be an old-school Satanist: He will rise to popularity and power by doing it the old way or false “miracles, signs, and wonders.” Christ said:

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matt. 24:24)

Satan does have power to perform miracles. When Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh and his magicians, the magicians were able to reproduce some of the miracles that God performed through Moses – some, but not all. Whether this was by sleight of hand or truly demonic power is a matter of interpretation, for the false prophets of the world have used trickery and sleight of hand from the beginning.

The Reformers saw in this the claims of the Catholic Church that their priests were able to convert the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the mass. The Catholic Church has also claimed many miracles, though the miracles are not in accordance with the miracles of Christ and the apostles in the Bible. The miracles of Christ and the apostles always gave glory to God by meeting a genuine human need, and they were readily verifiable by crowds. But the “miracles” of the Catholic Church appeal more to the superstitious mind than to the logical one.

The absence of faith leads to vulnerability to deception: The scripture above says, “With every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing.”  It is not God who is uncaring here, but the Antichrist. He will care little or nothing about others, but he will deceptively lead the people to trust in him.

A false “miracle” must appeal to the fallen sinful nature and specific worldview of the individual, so these could take many different forms. For most Westerners the economy is of primary importance – we are very materialistic. If someone can balance the budget, keep the social programs functioning, and secure the borders – we would think they were wonderful. And, actually, the rest of the world also is materialistic, so they would respond to anyone who promised and produced jobs and other advancements.

The Christian should be able to stand above these matters in Christ – not to fear or worry but to trust God. I have known of some Christians who worried incessantly that someone they voted for might be the Antichrist. We see from history how many “antichrists” have risen and they often secured, or sought to secure, the support of the Christian community in their rise to power. Christians must stand above politics and teach and preach the truth graciously and without apology.

True Christian faith believes the Bible, trusts in Christ, follows the leadership of the Spirit, preaches the gospel, loves others and does good in the world, and seeks to be a moral voice.  If we will do these things God will use us to reach others and to push back the darkness on this earth wherever it exists.

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Salvation Come!

June 3rd, 2016

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! (Psalm 14:7)

The biblical understanding of life and human society is that God must come and save us. It is good, during election times, to keep this thought in mind.

Most ideologies put their hopes in humanity – that we must fix our own problems without any expectation of God’s help or deliverance. Some invest in political solutions, some in economic solutions, some in popular social movements, and some others are anarchists who put themselves above all others.

But the Christian understanding is that any human government is a temporary arrangement, born out of necessity, and not the ideal. We must wait for the return of Christ before the ideal will be established on earth – as Christ taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The order in Christ’s prayer is instructive – his kingdom must come first for his will to be done here like it is in heaven.

The values of his kingdom come to our hearts at our salvation, so the principle of the kingdom of God is already at work in this world. Through the teachings and witness of justice, mercy, righteousness, and compassion, we find the influence of Christ and of his future kingdom already among this world. A study of the history of the world’s governments will reveal that you cannot separate the establishment of fair and just laws from the influence of Christianity.

The Old Testament teachings of workers’ rights, fair compensation for injury, the central role of the family, the compassion for the poor and dispossessed, especially for the fatherless, and other central concerns of human justice, have become part of the fabric of world government and civilizations.

Yet we apply them unequally, imperfectly, and spasmodically. The problem is not only in the writing of just laws, but in the application of these laws and the daily living lives that will help establish justice.

The problem, in other words, is in the human heart itself, and no form of government will be able to completely establish justice until the heart is changed. And that must happen by God. so we pray as did the saints of old, “Oh, that salvation would come!”

Forgiveness came out of Zion: Zion was the fortified city of Jerusalem, but came to mean the temple mount itself, and eventually for Christians, the heaven of God – and all of this centered in the person of Christ. Peter quoted Isaiah the prophet when he said, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6 and Isaiah 28:16).

On Zion, on the temple mount, for centuries, the coming sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world was acted out daily by the priests and the daily sacrifices – the pictured the coming sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the sins of the world. The world cannot be healed and move forward until there is grace and forgiveness. In the sacrifice of Christ is the mercy and grace of God for the forgiveness of all the sins of the world.

The future Millennial kingdom will come out of Zion: At the return of Christ the bible teaches about a Millennial Kingdom – a one thousand year period of time in the future where the government of the world will be centered in Jerusalem and Christ will reign. (Revelation 20) Christ, as the stone rejected by the builders, will become the chief cornerstone of a new world government.

The eternal city New Jerusalem will also come “out of Zion”: Christ will also return. The author of Hebrews spoke of the eternal dwelling of God and also called it Zion: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). There will come a time when God will remove the impact of sin from the human heart, where he will remove our lusts and pride, and complete the spiritual transformation (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Thes. 5:23-24). There will come a time when human lives, whose hearts were unwilling to bow before Christ in faith and obedience will be removed from the scene of human society, and life shall be lived in the full knowledge and experience of his perfect Lordship.

So, during election seasons, it is good to remember these truths. We should elect the finest people we can – the most moral and decent – and enact the finest laws we can imagine. But the heart of our problems today is spiritual, and until Christ comes we will not live in perfect peace and justice. Yet he is coming! Salvation will come for us who believe! That is our hope!

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