By Pastor Peter Bond
II Thess.2:1-4 & I John 2:18 -19
The Appeal of Love
The apostle John is often referred to as the ‘apostle of love’. This was the disciple who had leaned on the Saviour's breast at the last supper. This was the disciple that recorded Jesus’ famous words to Nicodemus in John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ John was, therefore, well qualified to exhort the saints of God in later life with these words: ‘Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that Loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.’ (I John 4:7).
Love ‘rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in truth’ so writes the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13:6. Love makes no pretence to maintain a false peace; love does not dodge its responsibilities for fear of offending the lukewarm, or the Christ-rejector; neither does it remain silent when danger is near at hand, nor play at religious ‘politics’ to preserve its reputation – love ‘rejoices in truth.’ It tells the truth, and lives by and in the truth, regardless of personal cost or consequence!
Love is Direct in the Context of Conflict
Thus we find the same John speaking with great plainness and with great affection. He will tell us, for example, without any fear of seeming to be ‘judgemental’, that so-called Christians who do not keep the commandments of God ‘are liars and the truth is not in them.’ (I John 2:4). He will tell us that those who claim to walk in the light of this Gospel, and yet harbour hatred towards a brother or sister, are ‘in darkness even until now.’ (I John 2:9). He will tell us ‘if any man love the world of the love of the Father is not in him.’ (I John 2:15)
Love ‘pulls no punches’, is very practical, watches jealously over its charges. Love recognises that the body of Christ is engaged in the greatest conflict of all time; and there is therefore no time for playing games or making easy speeches. The history of Christ’s true church is not marked out by compromises and religious spin doctors! It is marked out by men like Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Knox, and many others; men and women who could say ‘My conscience is captive to the word of God. Here I stand: I can do no other. God help me.’ And, my dear friends, God did help them; and God’s help will be with all who take their stand in love in this day!
Seeing Satan's Ultimate Goal
We are speaking then on identifying Antichrist; and we have to understand that no conflict is ever won without some knowledge of the enemy's intensions. This was ever the manner of Paul's warfare. In I Corinthians 9:26 he tells us ‘So fight I, not as one that beateth the air.’ Paul did not simply hit out and hope for the best; Paul identified the target, and aimed for the bull’s-eye!
Satan’s ultimate goal is plainly shown to us in the passage we read in II Thessalonians. Here we see ‘that man of sin...the son of perdition’ coming to the climax of his desire as he sits ‘in the temple of God showing himself that he is God.’
This intention is clearly indicated in Isaiah 14:13 and 14 where the prophet addresses the motives behind Satan's fall. He says ‘For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the North: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.’ This then is Satan's ultimate goal: he wants to be ‘like the Most High.’
Now Satan since his fall has always been worshipped as Satan. But this is not his ultimate desire; his ultimate desire is to be worshipped as God himself. To do this he must effectively impersonate the Lord Jesus Christ, moving aside the true Christ and establishing another Jesus, an alternative Jesus, an Antichrist.
This is not possible in a world of sin that knows not God; neither is it possible in the unspeakable depths of the occult world, where Satan is worshipped for who he truly is. Satan’s goal can only be reached in the context of the Church of Jesus Christ - he desires to sit ‘in the temple of God (the Church presently is that temple) shewing himself that he is God.’ And long before that moment of total deception described in II Thessalonians, the devil has been working to accomplish it in principle in every gathering that calls itself ‘the Church’ across the face of this earth! I think that ought to caution us as to where we give our allegiance on a Lord’s Day morning, and what we open ourselves to on that TV set in the name of religion!
A Clear Sign
I want to give you a clear sign by which you can identify the move of the spirit of Antichrist right here and now and the present time.
I want to look again for a moment at I John 2:19. In the previous verse John has referred to many antichrists; many agencies and influences compelled by the spirit of Antichrist. Verse 19 begins: ‘they went out from us, but they were not of us...’ The first sign of the moving of the spirit of Antichrist to accomplish his ultimate desire is a separation leading to polarisation. Notice, that move does not begin in the world. The world is being primed to accept Antichrist; but the initial move begins in the church – ‘they went out from US.’
John is saying, they were among us. They exhibited evidences of a new birth, they spoke of tongues, they carried a Bible, they attended church meetings, but in the process of time ‘they went out from us’ because ‘They were not of us.’ That spiritual polarisation began right there in the very heart of the first century Church; and after nearly 2000 years it is coming to its predicted climax.
The Cause of that Separation
I believe that the cause of that initial separation can be found in the confidence expressed in I John 4:6. Here John, ‘the apostle of love’, states and states emphatically, ‘We are of God: he that knows God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.’
The spiritual move that brings about separation and finally polarisation in the professing church of Jesus Christ, begins and continues with a turning away from hearing the Word of God: ‘he that is not of God heareth is not us.’
Remember Paul’s solemn warning to Timothy in II Timothy 4:3+4: he says: ‘for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine... They shall turn away their ears from the truth...’ Paul is not speaking here of the world; the pronoun ‘they’ refers to those who form a part of the church. ‘They shall turn away their ears.’ At that point the spirit of error is poised to take control, polarisation has begun; and in due course it is going to be said, ‘they went out from us’, they weren't willing to sit under sound doctrine, they would no longer hear us; they ‘turned away the ears from the truth.’
These people still carry a Bible; they hadn’t abandoned church life or their claims of Christ; they weren’t cold or lacking in zeal, far from it! In fact the Scripture says they were insatiable: they heaped up for ‘themselves teachers having itching ears.’ They went overboard for meetings, conferences, books, CDs and seminars. The problem was, those ‘teachers’ were according to their own lusts, or desires. They weren't necessarily charlatans or false prophets (some evidently were) but they were teachers who would tickle the hearers’ ears, clearly avoiding the issues of sin, holy living, and the true state of the church. Not everything they taught was untrue by any means; there was a deceptive mixture of truth and error, as well as many omissions from the full counsel of God. But undoubtedly the ‘spirit of error’ was in control, and the church emerging under such teaching was to be a part, not of the bride of Christ, but the bride of the Antichrist! Friend, as you read this message, thousands in our western world are being swept along the crest of this demonic wave whose motivating power is the spirit of Antichrist.
Identifying Antichrist: Some Pointers
I said earlier that the apostle Paul always located the target and aimed for the bull’s-eye. Love rejoices in the truth, and cannot remain silent when danger is near at hand. With these things in mind, let me give you some clear pointers indicating the advancement of the spirit of Antichrist in present-day church circles. I am sure as you read them many individual cases will come to your mind.
The spirit of Antichrist turns ears away from God's truth. It accepts, and promotes things for which there is no authority in the Bible. Whether they be doctrines, revelations, experiences, testimonies, manifestations or supernatural happenings, the spirit of Antichrist accepts, defends and upholds them.
The spirit of Antichrist promotes pragmatism. If it is seen to ‘work,’ if it brings success, it brings people in, if it brings money in; then regardless of whether it can be supported by the Word of God, the spirit of Antichrist vigorously upholds it, claiming that it must be God. Many in the professing church worship the God of pragmatism.
The spirit of Antichrist uses carnal means to accomplish the work of God; it will even stoop to sinful methods if positive results are guaranteed. It argues that God’s love for souls and his desire to save them at all costs makes Him willing to lay aside His purity, his Holiness, His righteousness, and even His truth to accomplish the task! However, Psalm 138:2 assures us that ‘the Lord has magnified his word even above all his name.’ The ‘Name’ in relation to the Almighty signifies his divine, immutable nature and character. For God to suspend His truth, His word, to get the job done, would be to bring a reproach upon His own name!
The spirit of Antichrist protects the reputations of false prophets; it protects its own. Liars, adulterers, compromisers and Christ-deniers may all find shelter under the canopy of charitable enterprise and claims of previous track records. Incidentally, Judas Iscariot had an excellent track record before a covetous heart caused him to be dubbed the ‘son of perdition’ by the Lord Jesus himself! My wife and I sat dumbstruck as we watched one of the most prominent evangelists of the last half-century publicly deny that Jesus was the only way of salvation on a major television network in America. This is the work of the spirit of Antichrist.
Hope for the believer
Paul admonishes is Timothy in II Tim 4: 2 to ‘Preach the Word.’ This is the place of hope and assurance in these troubled times, not just for the preacher, but for all Christians. ‘Preach the word; the instant in season, out of season.’ Say nothing, lay aside the Word of God, refuse to wield ‘the sword of the spirit’; and the spirit of Antichrist will come in like a flood and swamp the vulnerable minds of the professing church that has been bullied into trying to believe everything that is put out in the name of Christianity.
A good friend of mine, who held a senior position in a teachers’ training college, once passed the remark, regarding discipline in schools: what you choose to walk past (and say nothing by way of correction) will, in due course, become your standard. How sadly true that this is what happens in church circles of our day. Preachers and consequently Christians have neglected to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine (II Timothy 4:2) thus blatant sin in the church remains unchallenged, worldliness abounds, evangelism stoops to the level of pantomime in its methods, and the blessed name of the Lord Jesus Christ is inevitably blasphemed among the heathen!
I can assure you dear saints of God, as I close there will be people who are willing to stand up and be counted. Christ is not returning for a worn--out religious machine, or people holding between two opinions; he is coming back for a glorious church, a militant church (II Timothy 2:3); a church spotless and without blemish. May God equip us all to be a part of such a company in this late and urgent hour. Amen.