The AntichristRev. Barry Gritters
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
What is Antichrist? In these last days, this ought to be a burning question. Who is the Antichrist? How can a lover of Christ identify him? What will he look like? How will he behave? Where will his headquarters be located?
If you are expecting here an identification of a man or men who are Antichrist, you will be disappointed. If you are expecting a prediction as to how many years before Antichrist arises, you will not find it here. We hope to be faithful to the Reformed tradition of sober exegesis of God's Word and careful maintenance of the Reformed faith. (Besides, a desire to identify the Antichrist has often sidetracked the church from the important present calling she has regarding Antichrist's spirit. To see what we mean by this, read on to the end.)
The confessions of Reformed churches say very little about Antichrist. Except for passing references, one finds very little on eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) in the Reformed confessions, and nothing in The Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort) about Antichrist. This is not due to lack of firm positions on eschatology at the time the confessions were written (between AD 1563 and 1619) but to this, that eschatology was not one of the vital issues of the Reformation.
Nevertheless, the Reformers themselves had a good deal to say about Antichrist, not systematically, but throughout the whole of their writings. A treatise of Martin Luther written shortly before his death in 1546 was entitled, "Against the Roman Papacy; an Institution of the Devil." Luther began the holy tirade thus:
"The Most Hellish Father, Saint Paul III, in his supposed capacity as the bishop of the Roman church..." (Luther's Works, Fortress Press, Volume 41, pg 263). In that treatise he says that the pope is "the head of the accursed church of all the worst scoundrels on earth, a vicar of the devil, an enemy of God, an adversary of Christ, a destroyer of Christ's churches, a teacher of lies... a brothel-keeper over all brothel-keepers and all vermin, even that which cannot be named; an Antichrist..." (ibid., page 357-358).
In Calvin's treatise of AD 1544 entitled "The Necessity of Reforming the Church" (Selected Works of John Calvin, Volume 1, part 1, Tracts, Baker: 1983), Calvin says, "I deny that See (the Roman Catholic's throne of authority: BLG) to be Apostolical, wherein nought is seen but a shocking apostasy -- I deny him to be the Vicar of Christ, who, in furiously persecuting the gospel, demonstrates by his conduct that he is Antichrist..." (pp. 219, 220).
The Westminster Confession, Presbyterian creed of the next century, includes an article in which it boldly identifies the pope as Antichrist.
"There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition that exalteth himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God" (chapter 25, art. 6).
As heirs of the Reformation and as those told to discern the signs of the times, we, too, are concerned with the Antichrist. We will consider, then, Antichrist's identity, his purpose and method, our calling to oppose him, and his certain destruction.
Scripture teaches Antichrist to be a political, religious, individual, yet to come in the future (as of this writing), who is opposed to God and God's Christ and God's church. Although the only places in Scripture the name Antichrist is used are I and II John (I John 2:18,22,4:3, II John 7), the Bible is replete with instruction regarding the reality we call Antichrist. The key passages are Daniel 7, 8, 11; Matthew 24; II Thessalonians 2; and Revelation 13, 17 and 18 -- where Antichrist is referred to as a beast, a little horn, a false Christ, that wicked one, and the man of sin.
Antichrist: a false Christ
Antichrist's name gives us indication of what he is. He is Anti-christ As every Jew knows, the name Christ is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, whom the Jews expected to come in God's name to save them. The Messiah, or Christ, is the one anointed by God and qualified to carry out a certain work in God's name. Christ's work is to redeem God's people from sin and death by His own death, and to renew God's creation as a creation of righteousness and peace. The man Jesus of Nazareth (died circa AD 33) is this Christ. He is God's anointed, the servant of Jehovah. He is qualified to do the work of redeeming God's people and renewing creation. The confession of the church down through the ages is, "Jesus is the Christ."
Antichrist is a false Christ, according to Matthew 24:24. He claims to be anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and claims to be qualified to do the work in God's name of redeeming God's people and renewing the creation. But he is not. He is a liar. His claims are false. He is a false Christ.
Antichrist: opposed to Christ and to God
A little word study may help to understand the prefix "anti" in the name Antichrist. Just as antivenom is given to counteract the venom of a snake bite, and antiseptic is used against infection, so Antichrist is against, is opposed to, Jesus Christ. This tells us the essence of what Antichrist is: he is opposition to God's Christ. He is opposition to Christ personally; he is against Christ's Church; he is against Christ's Word, Holy Scripture. Furthermore, because Christ's mission is to show the name of Jehovah God to men by showing Himself to them (see John 17:6, John 14:8,9, and Revelation 13:6), Antichrist is opposed to God Himself.
So, although the Antichrist will leave the impression that his motivating force is love, concern for humanity, and pity for the oppressed, what drives Antichrist is not love but hatred. The one motivating force in his life is opposition to Jesus Christ, opposition to all that He stands for, and to all that stand for Him.
Antichrist: in place of Christ
The name Antichrist also indicates substitution. Antichrist opposes Jesus in order to supplant Him, to take His place as Christ. Although the English language does not often use the prefix "anti" to mean substitution, it is a common use of the preposition in the Greek language. When Scripture says that Jesus died "for His people," one of the prepositions used is anti indicating that He died as a substitute for His people. This is the secondary meaning of the preposition anti. Antichrist purposes to be "in the place of," or "a substitute for" Jesus the Christ.
II Thessalonians 2 points out how Antichrist comes as an impostor of the Christ from God, and how there is a striking outward similarity between Antichrist and Christ. Will Jesus Christ be revealed some day? So will Antichrist (Vss 3,8). Will Christ be in God's temple? Antichrist will sit there also (Vs 4). Is Christ God? Antichrist will claim to be (Vs 4). Did Christ support His claim to be God with signs and wonders? Antichrist, too, will perform signs and wonders (Vs 9). Christ has a kingdom; so will Antichrist. Christ comes by the power of the Spirit; Antichrist will come by the power of a spirit, who is the devil himself.
Does it surprise anyone, then, that in the Middle Ages Antichrist was called the "ape of Christ"? He comes in the place of Christ, making himself out to be Christ. In every way mimicking Christ, Antichrist will propose to be Christ. Antichrist is Satan's counterpart to Christ. Jesus was God's choice to establish His kingdom, redeem His people, renew creation; Antichrist is Satan's choice to establish his kingdom, gather in as many people as he can, and subject all to himself. All of God's plan hinges on the works of Jesus, the Christ; all of Satan's plans hinge on the working and success of Antichrist.
Antichrist: an individual person
Although there is difference of opinion among Reformed students of Scripture regarding this, it is not difficult to see why many believe that Antichrist will be one man.
A reality that stands opposed to Jesus, but also that claims to be the Christ, the anointed of God, must be a man as Christ was a man, a man in whom they put their trust, a man to whom the people can look for deliverance from their miseries. How can something claim to be Jesus, the man, and not be a man himself? Supporting this logic, II Thessalonians 2 seems to make this plain. Antichrist is "that man of sin" and "the son of perdition" (Vs 3); he shows "himself that he is God" (Vs 4); he is "that wicked (one)" (Vs 8).
Antichrist will be a definite individual, a particular human being. A single individual of outstanding ability and extraordinary power will arise, who is opposed to Jesus Christ and claims to be the Christ.
It is significant that Antichrist will be a man. Antichrist will not be some strange creature, unrecognizable to you and me, some foreigner, a man from Mars or another solar system. Antichrist will not be a stranger to humanity. Indeed, he will be the final and full development of man, of the human race. You will know him well, for his nature will be your nature. Man always has and always will claim equality and identity with God (witness the insane ravings of the Shirley MacLaines and others today). This man's claims will be believable; he will be one of us.
Antichrist: a political power
Revelation 13 gives further instruction about Antichrist, teaching that his kingdom will be both a political and an ecclesiastical empire. The vision of Revelation 13 must be read in the light of Revelation 12, where the dragon cast out of heaven, identified as the devil and Satan, pursues the woman (who represents the church of Christ) in the new dispensation.
The dragon is angry because the woman's man-child, Jesus Christ, is caught up into heaven before the dragon can devour him. Now he spits his poisonous black bile on the woman, persecuting her, making war with her seed! He hates and tries to devastate the church.
In chapter 13 we have the appearance of two beasts which are the product of the dragon in chapter 12-- his creation and servants ("...and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority" (Vs. 3). This first beast is a wild animal which arises out of the sea. It looks like a leopard, but its feet are like bear's feet and its mouth like a lion's. Its seven heads and ten horns make us think of the dragon himself in chapter 12:3 where he was pictured with seven heads and ten horns. The heads of the beast are full of blasphemy. And one of the heads has a scar from a wound now healed. After the beast has risen from the sea, the whole world worships this beast, while it spews out blasphemies against God and makes war with the saints and overcomes them.
This is the same beast that Revelation 17:3 refers to, where it is described as scarlet in color, ridden by a great whore. If you study the vision in Revelation 13 in connection with Daniel 7, you will see that the vision of Revelation 13 is based on that of Daniel 7, and that the beast of Revelation 13 is the beast of Daniel 7. John's beast from the sea is a combination of the leopard, bear, lion, and indescribable fourth beast of Daniel 7, whose ten horns give rise to one horn that speaks great, boastful things, and makes war with the saints and prevails!
What does this beast from the sea represent? Antichrist! But Antichrist as a world government, a political power, the likes of which this world has never seen. The origin of this beast is the sea, which represents the restless nations and peoples of the earth. Isaiah 57:20teaches, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose water cast up mire and dirt." If more is needed, Revelation 17 tells us that "the waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations." Little doubt is left when we see that the beast has horns and crowns. In Scripture horns are symbolic of power, and crowns of ruling authority. Besides, Revelation 13:2 says that the beast has power and a throne and great authority; and verse 7 says that he has power over all kindreds and tongues and nations. If any question remains, Daniel 7 says that the four beasts are four kings; and Revelation 17 says the beast from the earth is a king. The centuries of division and separation on this earth will end in one world government. The Antichrist is a political reality, a new world order, a global unity.
We emphasize the point in the preceding paragraph because there is often the impression that Antichrist will simply be a religious figure. Scripture makes clear, however, that Anti-christ will be a political power.
This political power will be a worldwide power. The beast has ten horns and ten crowns, representing fullness of power and authority over the nations of the world. Verse 3 says that all the world wondered after the beast. Verse 7 says that he has power over all kindreds and tongues and nations. And verse 8 says that all that dwell on the earth shall worship him (all, of course, except those whose names have been written in the Lamb's book of life).
But it is a worldwide power that is the goal of, and embodiment of, all previous world powers. This is brought out in Revelation 13 in two ways. Follow along carefully as we look at this important point. First, the beast of Revelation 13 has the characteristics of a leopard, a bear, and a lion, so that, even though it is the final development of Daniel 7's fourth beast, it somehow embodies the other three as well. The four beasts of Daniel 7, almost all agree, represent four great world kingdoms: Babylon headed by Nebuchadnezzar; the Medes and Persians led by Cyrus; Greece and Macedonia under Alexander the Great, and, finally, Rome. The beast of Revelation 13 is the final development of the old, Roman kingdom (which indicates that Antichrist will come out of the Christian West, and not the pagan East), but it takes into itself also the other great kingdoms.
Secondly, that Antichrist's is a worldwide kingdom is also the meaning of the seven heads of the beast described in Revelation 17. The 7 heads of the beast are 7 kingdoms-- five of them had already fallen, one of them was still standing (at the time John wrote this prophecy about AD 95), and one yet to come. Rome was the kingdom in existence, and the one yet to come is the Antichristian kingdom. The five which have already passed out of existence were the Greek kingdom, the Medo-Persian, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, and the kingdom of Babel, headed by Nimrod. We see, therefore, one beast with seven heads. And now the Spirit teaches us that the great kingdom of Antichrist, as the embodiment of these former kingdoms, succeeds where the other kingdoms ultimately failed, achieving its goal of world dominance. Nations cease their warring; the planet is united; the world is one. And that world belongs to Antichrist.
The healing of the wound in Revelation 13 points to the success of Antichrist. We must not fail to see the significance of the healing of the wound.
One of the heads of this beast had a "deadly wound that was healed." The explanation of this is that in the time of Nimrod, at the tower of Babel, there was an attempt to unite all men into one great world power. God frustrated this attempt by dividing the men and women into different races with different colors and languages, so that they were forced to separate. Races have remained separate ever since. All their efforts to be united have been frustrated up to this point. At the end, Antichrist will succeed.
This, we believe, is what II Thessalonians 2 speaks of when it says, "he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." That is, "He that restraineth, will restrain...." There is something or someone that restrains, hinders, impedes, the Antichrist from coming; but in the end, that hindrance will be taken out of the way so that the Antichrist can succeed in uniting all the kingdoms and nations of the world into one.
One must be blind and deaf not to detect this happening today. In a way that has never happened before, that was impossible before, nations are holding hands and talking peace. Walls are coming down. Economies are becoming more and more interdependent. The union of all the world into one is on the horizon. One day soon the sun will rise on a united world, and Antichrist will be its bright and morning star.
Antichrist: an ecclesiastical power
But Antichrist is not only a beast from the sea. The second part of the vision in Revelation 13 further reveals him as another beast, one arising from the earth. This beast serves the first beast, wielding the power of the first beast, making all the world worship the first beast, and showing that without it the first beast is nothing. And the point of the vision is that the reality of Antichrist is two cooperating powers, the one political, the other, ecclesiastical.
The beast that arises out of the earth looks like a lamb. It had two horns of a lamb, but it was a beast. So immediately we understand the nature of this beast; it is a deceptive creature -- a ferocious beast disguised as a gentle lamb. The horror is that this beast masquerades as Jesus Christ, who is THE Lamb of God. This beast, too, is powerful, for it has horns. However, the power of this beast is not political or military. Rather, its power is the power of persuasive speech. It speaks like a dragon, persuading the world to worship the first beast, to build an image of the first beast, and to bow down to it.
It is plain that this beast represents false religion. Preaching and teaching make men worship something or someone. But this is false teaching and lying preaching. That's evident from the fact that this beast looks like a lamb, looks like Jesus Christ and all that Jesus Christ represents, but in actuality is a beast. He claims to speak like Jesus, but has the foul breath and fiery speech (in the eyes and nostrils of God) of a dragon.
This beast will not arise from Hinduism or Buddhism or any other pagan religion; he will arise out of Christianity itself. Few Christians would believe a Ghandi's claim to be Christ. When one looks at Revelation 19:20, that becomes obvious. There, in the passage that describes the defeat of Antichrist, we read that the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before the beast. This second beast represents false Christianity, the apostate church that calls itself "the Church of Christ" (we mean by this designation the broad "church," and do not intend it to be confused with a certain denomination of that name).
The work of the second beast is the service of the first, the cooperating with the Antichristian world government. What is that service? It is causing all the world to worship the first beast. He will call all men and women of the world to bow down to the first beast, who is the "Savior of the world." Now the prophecy of Revelation 17 comes to pass: the kings of the earth commit fornication with the whore, the false church.
If one asks what he should look for in the days to come, we say this: there will be political union all nations will be gathered together into one mighty empire. This is the first beast. There will also be religious union, joining all the religions and religious empires of the world. The powerful ecumenical movement of today, led by the religions of Christianity, will in the end fully succeed, swallowing up all the other religions of the world. You may expect to see one man over it all. Antichrist.
Why in the world would anyone work such deceitful effrontery? Why such effort in a sham kingdom? Why would any man with that kind of worldwide sovereignty even want his kingdom identified with Christ, labeled with the name of God?
To ask these questions is to answer them. Antichrist's purpose is to destroy the saints, God's elect. And here we get to the heart of the matter. The man Antichrist, indwelt by Satan's spirit, is opposed to God and opposed to Jesus His Christ. With a hatred that can be traced back to the fall of the angels prior to Genesis 3, he despises God and God's cause in Jesus. But he cannot touch God because God cast him out of heaven, according to Revelation 12; and he cannot touch God's Christ, because Jesus was caught up into heaven. So the only thing that remains for him to do is to breathe his fire on the seed of the woman, the Church of Christ. Revelation 12 describes this church as the "remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." In Matthew 24 they are described as the "elect" of God.
The devil knows that to attack the Church is to attack Jesus, the Christ; and to do damage to the body of Christ is to inflict damage upon Christ. He also knows that, because the members of the church are the chosen of God, eternally loved by God (Deuteronomy 7:6-8), to destroy them is equivalent to defeating God. So the objects of his fury are the beloved of God.
His worldwide empire will be less an inflating of his ego than an attempt to see come to pass his millennia-long dream of defeating God and God's purpose in the woman's Seed. In his mind, the promise of God that the Serpent's head would be crushed must never be fulfilled. He must have the victory over and defeat God. To defeat God's people is to defeat God.
He desires to have you, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ -- the elect of God. And if that is true, you must know how he works. You must understand his methods.
Antichrist goes about his business by speaking the lie. II Thessalonians 2 says that he comes "with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." Revelation 13:12 says, "and he spoke as a dragon...." Revelation 17 tells us that he was a false prophet, a prophet being one whose calling it is to speak and to teach. The armies of the world may have guns and tanks and bombs to bring people into submission; but the power of speech and ideas is a mighty power. In his initial attempts to destroy the cause of God, the devil used a serpent to deceive the woman with crooked speech: "You will be like God." Now he uses a "dragon" who speaks crafty, lying words. His speeches will be heard by millions who will hang on his persuasive rhetoric. The content as well as the form of his speech will attract. Like most false prophets, he will even be sincere and passionate. But he is a liar. He adds dashes of truth to the mix, so that his lie tastes like truth. He will use all the right catchwords, using the language of the church, even throwing in a Bible text or two. But he is the ultimate Liar, and will deceive many.
He will use every tool available: school teachers, politicians, news broadcasters, artists, musicians, scientists and doctors, lawyers and businessmen. All will be pressed into the service of Antichrist to deceive men. But especially he will use those whose calling it is to persuade and to teach -- men who claim to be preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is this message that has such power to deceive? What is it that is preached by the now-apostate churches once rooted in true Christianity, that stirs up mankind to this ecumenical worship? What gospel will attract the hordes of men and women? What good news will knit the souls of such diverse peoples and nations and tongues?
The gospel of Antichrist is humanism -- the happiness of man, the glory of man, the peace and prosperity, the health and wealth of man. The number of the beast, do not forget, is 6-6-6, the number of man.
But we remind you, the Antichrist deceives. He will not tip his hand by declaring publicly, "I am the Antichrist." He will not claim that there is no God, no Christ, no salvation, and that the message of the Bible is a lie. But he will say, "I am your Messiah; you are God (Shirley MacLaine has comrades and consorts in the Rastifarians of Jamaica, whose word for "divine" is "I-vine"!); and an earthly life of peace and prosperity, of health and happiness -- that is salvation." The distant rumblings of Antichrist's thunder are growing louder.
Performing miracles, Antichrist will establish himself and validate his claim as God's anointed. This is the emphasis of II Thessalonians 2. Men have always performed miracles to establish their authority, presenting them as the credentials of their divine appointment. Moses did in Egypt. Elijah did on Mount Carmel. Jesus Christ and His apostles did. So will Antichrist. Revelation 13:13 says that the second beast "doeth great wonders..." and verse 14 that "he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast." Matthew 24:24 indicates the same thing: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." This is the teaching of II Thessalonians 2:9, "even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders...." The works of Antichrist will be the works of Satan, who has power beyond the natural ability of man.
Nor will these be fake miracles. These will not be just magic tricks of talented men like Harry Houdini and David Copperfield, but amazing deeds that simply defy explanation in human, scientific terms. Buttressing the claims of Antichrist will be nothing less than the superhuman power of the devil himself.
THE CHURCH'S CALLING: OPPOSE ANTICHRIST PRESENTLY
The critical danger for the church today is exactly the reality called Antichrist. There is a danger that the church, as it were, posts a lookout to scan the horizon for Antichrist, so that the lookout can warn the people of God when the enemy has arrived and sound the warning to give battle. In the meantime the church is busy with its own legitimate work, but supposes that the Antichrist is of no danger presently. That is precisely what Antichrist wants the church to believe.
God's call to His people is to oppose the Antichrist now. We are not saying here that the Christian's calling is to be ready to oppose Antichrist when he comes, urgent as that calling is. We are saying that our calling and the calling that we urge you to carry out is this: Oppose the opposer of Jesus Christ presently. Not someday, but today.
It is possible to oppose him now, for he is present now. Before you race ahead to find us naming names, or identifying persons and churches, let us explain. I John 2:18 does not say, "Antichrist shall come" but "Antichrist comes...." That is, there is a process of Antichrist coming all down through the history of this world. This process involves the coming of many Antichrists (in the plural). Thus, Matthew 24 can warn of "false Christs" and can say that many shall come in Jesus' name saying, "I am Christ." This also explains how Paul can say in II Thessalonians 2 that the mystery of iniquity is working. Even as Paul wrote that letter, the mystery of iniquity was active in the world, preparing the way for the final Antichrist and his work.
Recognizing Antichrist's "spirit"
Even in the old dispensation there were Antichrists, like Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, and others. But especially in the New Testament since Christ's ascension, Antichrist has been coming. The great Antichristian kingdom with its mighty head will not appear ex nihilo, out of nothing, but will be the result of a long and gradual development. And that long and gradual development is and has been the work of the spirit of Antichrist, the spirit of Satan himself, laying the groundwork, preparing the way, making ready for the revelation of the man of sin, the son of perdition.
Was it wrong, then, of the Reformers to say that the pope was Antichrist? If the Reformers meant that the pope at that time, Pope St. Paul III, or another, was the personal Antichrist, the man of sin, the final culmination of the Devil's work in this world, they were mistaken. He did not complete the picture the Scripture draws. But one may not dismiss the Reformers as wild-eyed fanatics. Consider: the pope is and was also a political figure. That is no less plain today than it was in Luther's day. Then already the pope laid claim to the right to crown kings and invest them with the authority to rule the world. Today, the Vatican has its ambassadors in almost every nation of the world and even we, the United States, send our own representatives to the pope. The pope is a political head.
Rome has always embodied the Antichristian spirit and principles: a headship that is in a man, a pope, a hierarchy; an authority of tradition in addition to the one Word of God; a salvation by works in addition to faith and grace; a worship of another (Mary) in addition to the worship of the one alone in whose name we find salvation (Acts 4:12).
A present struggle
The struggle of the people of God against Antichrist has always been and will always be a present struggle. The call to oppose Antichrist must always be given in the present imperative. Whether in the future the church's children (your children and my children) are able to withstand the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, depends, to a great degree, on the success of the battle we wage against his spirit today.
The second beast is working; his labor is under way. We are not referring to specific persons, or particular institutions and churches. We are referring to the spirit of our age that rejects God and God's Word, and promotes with all of its power, MAN. The purpose of education today is man's welfare; the purpose of science is man's pleasure; the goal of entertainment is the good life for man. Hedonism says it all. The world is crowded with Antichrists presently. No, look not only on the horizon for Antichrist. Look about you. Oppose him today.
The manner of opposition
We do not oppose him with guns and tanks and bombs. We do not try to prevent his coming or overthrow it when it comes by political power plays. We oppose him in a spiritual manner, in the same way Jesus Christ opposed him during His ministry, and in the way Jesus taught His disciples to oppose him in theirs -- by faith and the powerful Word of the gospel. We oppose all that opposes Jesus Christ. We oppose humanism that exalts man and promotes the cause of man and man alone. This is why Reformed believers from the beginning have maintained that it is necessary for them to maintain good, Christian schools in which their children are educated. The world inculcates its young with humanistic values and humanistic goals, and we must have no part of that mis-education. We oppose humanism from the pulpits of our churches, and put out those ministers and elders who would preach and teach this kind of a gospel. In this way we oppose Antichrist today.
We oppose hierarchical church government. Hierarchy in the church (the rule by a few "holy ones," or by an intellectual elite, from the top down) is Antichristian in spirit and purpose. That is one main reason the Reformers were opposed to the pope. Audaciously, he set himself up as Vicar of Christ, head of the church, whose word no priest or bishop or counsel, much less layman, could question. We oppose Antichrist today by opposing hierarchy -- a lordship of man, a setting aside of the Word of God and the replacing of it with the word and will of man.
We oppose the ecumenical mania, rife today in the churches. There are powerful winds blowing -- hurricane force winds -- blowing across the churches to bring them together into one, large church body. Robert Schuller, world-acclaimed pastor of one of the largest Reformed churches in America, calls the church world: "It is time for Protestants to go to the Shepherd (pope) and say, What do we have to do to come home?" (Los Angeles Herald Examiner, September 19, 1987). The bottom line, the common denominator, that summons all together is the goal of a world in which man will have earthly peace and prosperity. It seems that the only "heresy" in the minds of most churchmen today is the questioning of the ecumenical movement. There is even a widespread notion abroad, showing itself also in Reformed circles, that all the pagan religions are legitimate, nothing other than the expression of the universal religious feelings of mankind that probably find their best expressions in Christianity. Witness the Protestant preachers praying with Muslims. The basis for that is Humanism. The church of Christ today opposes Antichrist by giving battle to those notions and ideas prevalent in the church today.
We oppose Antichrist by opposing all heresy in the church. Heresy, or false doctrine, is nothing less than opposition to Jesus Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. How often does not Jesus warn His disciples of those wolves in sheep's wool who will misrepresent the truth to draw men away from Jesus? But how much concern is there today for fighting heresy, exposing false doctrine for what it is -- Antichristian in spirit and purpose, paving the way for the man of sin himself who will deceive many?
Opposing heresy, we promote the truth. The people of God who have a heart for God's Christ and Christ's church take the offensive in this battle against Antichrist. Promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Promote biblical church government. Promote the proper, presbyterian form of church government. Promote the proper manner of church union and reunion -- on the basis of the truth of the gospel of God.
Finally, we do battle with Antichrist in ourselves. For Antichrist has an ally in my own sinful nature. Here is humanism in its basic form -- in my own heart. Here is the false doctrine of salvation by the works of man, right here in my own proud breast. Here is hierarchy, the rule by a few --by me. Right here in my own heart I find sympathy with the notion that salvation comes by faith and by works. In myself is the lie in its crudest form -- "Ye shall be as God."
When the saint fights Antichrist in his heart, with his heart, God will give him the strength to oppose Antichrist when he is revealed in the last day, at the end of which he will be destroyed utterly and completely.
ANTICHRIST'S CERTAIN DESTRUCTION
Antichrist will succeed in deceiving many. By his earthly successes and charm, Antichrist will deceive millions. The ungodly world as well as many in the churches will fawn over him. Those who do not will not only be mocked, they will be killed.
And for that, the wicked will be damned. This is the teaching of II Thessalonians 2:10-12. Even their deception is a judgment of God upon them; when Antichrist comes, God will send a strong delusion that they should believe a lie. The reason for this is that they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved. They heard the gospel, understood the truth, but rejected it. They will perish with the Antichrist.
But in the end, Antichrist will be destroyed. God's people will be saved by sovereign grace, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. And Antichrist will be destroyed.
The religious Antichristian empire will be destroyed by the political Antichristian empire. For a time he uses the whore; in the end he turns on her (Rev 17:16). The political empire breaks up into the battle of Armageddon: the kingdom of the beast (the Western, "Christianized" nations) against the kingdom of the east (the pagan, non-Christian nations). In the middle of that battle, Jesus Christ will return to destroy the Antichristian kingdom, consume Antichrist with the spirit of His mouth, destroy him with the brightness of His coming, and begin the judgment.
Jesus Christ reigns!