Many Antichrists, One Antichrist
As we have seen in the previous sections on the New World Order, the final Beast of Revelation is arising in the form of a powerful alliance of nations. Today, it is represented by a group of allies that have as their goal the setting up of a global system run by the most wealthy and powerful financial and political leaders, which will eventually control the entire world with the Antichrist at its helm. This is the empire described by the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as well as the dreadful and terrible beast of Daniel’s dream and the beast having seven heads and ten horns of John’s vision in Revelation 13. At this point in history, however, it lacks unity, it lacks cohesiveness, and it lacks a powerful leader able to fully unite the individual countries into one vast empire.
The leader of the final world empire was seen by both the prophet Daniel and the Apostle John as arising out of the empire. Daniel saw him as the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8) coming after the 10 horns had arisen and John saw him as another beast coming out of the earth (Rev. 13:11) after the first Empire-Beast had arisen out of the sea. Both of these prophecies warn of the rise of a powerful dictator that will rule the final world empire at the end. We have come to know him as the Antichrist.
However, that name also refers to much more than the final world leader. The Apostle John said this concerning the term antichrist:
“Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists, by which we know that it is the last time.”
1 John 2:18
The name commonly applied to the leader of the final world empire actually has evolved from a more generic meaning. Originally, it did not refer to any one particular individual, but was a word used simply to indicate a spirit which was against Christ. John said that even in his day society was full of people who hated the Lord and openly opposed or persecuted Christians. Everywhere Christ was preached there were always some individuals who became blatant antichrists and opposers of the Gospel. Even the Apostle Paul was such an antichrist before he was converted on the road to Damascus. In the strictest of terms, therefore, anyone who rejected Jesus was considered a type of antichrist. John also said,
“He is antichrist, that denieth the Father, and the Son”
1 John 2:22
Ironically, the very man we have come to call the Antichrist is never really referred to by this name in the prophecies related to him. Although he certainly will become the embodiment of all that “antichrist” could ever mean and John even seemed to call him by this name in 1 John 2:18, the Bible uses a number of other explicit terms to describe him. Paul calls him the “man of sin”, the “son of perdition”, and the “wicked one” (2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Thess. 2:8). The Apostle John refers to him as the second “beast” and the “false prophet” (Rev. 13:11; Rev. 19:20). Daniel sees the Antichrist as the “little horn” arising from among the ten horns of the last world empire as well as the “king of fierce countenance” (Dan. 7:8; Dan. 8:23).
In the last days, the man we call the Antichrist will be the sole ruler of the final world order. He will be an unchecked evil which will be allowed to continue and permeate throughout every level of society. For we who now live in this pivotal generation, his coming will be the ultimate turning point for the Western Alliance and for the entire world.
Prelude to the Final Antichrist
In Paul’s second letter to the church of Thessalonica, he discusses the conditions in the world that would presage the coming of the final Antichrist. In chapter two, Paul begins this discussion by saying that he wanted to specifically teach them concerning the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is evident from Paul’s tone that the Thessalonian church was under the mistaken belief that the Great Tribulation may had already begun. At that time, they were under such severe persecution at the hands of the Romans that their logical reaction was to wonder if perhaps the Roman Emperor was the Antichrist and the persecutions were actually the fulfillment of the prophecies of the end.
Many of the Old Testament prophets had clearly predicted that the people of God would go through a time of tremendous trial in the last days. For those who were alive during the early Roman persecutions in the first century A.D., those events easily could have led them to believe that the coming of Christ was at hand. The Apostle Paul, however, had a better understanding of what was happening. He first told the Thessalonians not to be so quickly shaken by conditions in the world. Paul taught them that bad times do not automatically signal the Return of Christ. Through the prophecies in the Old Testament and by the new insight God had given him, Paul knew that there would be very definite things that would have to occur before the time of the end would come.
Don’t Be Deceived
Most of what the Apostle Paul told the church about the end of the age dealt specifically with the revealing of the Antichrist. This is what he began to say:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
2 Thess. 2:1-5
Paul’s teachings begin with a warning. He says that we should be careful not to be deceived about the Lord’s return. In particular, he says, we should never be misled concerning the timing of the events which will occur before Jesus comes. While these words have echoed down to us through the centuries intact, nevertheless they have been sadly ignored by many of the authors who have written about the last days. Paul predicted in no uncertain terms that the “man of sin” will be revealed before “that day”. And what was day he speaking of? According to verse one, he was referring both to the very day of the return of Christ and to the day of our gathering together unto him. In other words, Paul definitely prophesied that the believers of the last generation would be around to see the rise of the Antichrist and also experience his reign of terror before the Lord comes.
This concept runs diametrically opposed to modern-day preachers and writers who predict a last-minute rescue for the church just before the Antichrist is revealed. As we will see in other chapters of End Times Truth, an overwhelming amount of evidence from the Bible points not to a sudden and secret “rapture” to remove us from this world just in the nick of time, but it speaks of Christians being here and enduring until the very end when Jesus returns.
Apostasy to Precede His Rise
Paul also indicates in 2 Thess. 2:3 that before the rise of this man of sin there will be a universal “falling away”. From the original language it’s apparent that this event will take the form of a great apostasy from within the church. Apostasy is a condition where people who once knew the truth and followed it, suddenly and willfully become followers of false teachings and actually transform into enemies of Christ. It is one of the most heinous sins that a person can commit; after knowing the truth to willfully turn away from it. The Bible likens it to a dog returning to his vomit or a pig going back to wallowing in the mud after having been cleaned up (2 Peter 2:22).
The prophecies of the end paint a bleak picture of widespread spiritual decadence. An age where the church will become lax toward the truth and the world will try to obliterate any mention of Christianity and eliminate true followers of Christ once and for all.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus sent a special message through the writings of the Apostle John that was a prophetic letter to a first century church in the city of Laodicea, which illustrates this falling away. It was the last one of seven letters that the Lord commanded John to send to seven churches in Asia Minor. Christ spoke through these letters about the general spiritual conditions which were prevalent among the members of these churches, which no doubt was real in his day. However, his words were to serve not only as practical advice to the literal first-century congregations to which they were addressed, but they also turned out to be examples for every believer regardless of the age in which they lived. Christ’s words thus became guidelines that each church could use in evaluating their spiritual health.
There is also much more to these letters than meets the eye. In addition to their obvious spiritual nature and guidance, these letters also appear to be prophetic—accurately describing the prevailing conditions within successive ages of the church dating from the first century to the time of the end. In other words, the conditions within the last church, Laodicea, would become prophetic statements for the general conditions within the overall church which would exist in the last days. This is what Jesus said concerning this “end-times” church:
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot.
“So, then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…”
What better prophetic description could there be for the modern Twenty-First Century church? Especially in the West, we are richer and more arrogant in our supposed Christianity than any age before us. The entire system of the Western World has been built on the lust for more and greater material things. Capitalism for all its published virtues, only works because there is a basic desire within all of us to covet. Coveting provides the strength to propel the economies of the world forward and create our unmatched standard of living.
Unfortunately, Christians have been caught up in material pursuits to nearly as great an extent as nonbelievers. Many Christians think that earthly prosperity is some kind of God-given right that automatically comes with knowing Jesus. To them a poor or downtrodden Christian is an anomaly that somehow equates with sinfulness. The result of this attitude has been the creation of a money-hungry monster which tries hopelessly to pass for Biblical Christianity.
Many of the people who do not believe in Christ are more aware of this situation than those who are a part of the church. The first complaint people invariably throw at modern Christianity involves not the goodness of God nor the path to salvation, but the constant chorus of begging for donations. The church seems more concerned with fund drives than they are with lost souls and the good news of the Kingdom. They often are more concerned with building programs than in the Return of Christ. Most churches have even appropriated to themselves the Old Testament principle of tithing, which was exclusively to the Temple and the Levites, to justify the gathering of ever more money and material things to themselves. However, in the words of Jesus, they know not that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” If we only understood how close we are to the end, this situation would never be!
The laxity growing within Christianity is destined to preface the rise of Satan’s man to power and actually aid in his acceptance. Churches that once stood for the truth now are becoming corrupted by immorality and the lust for riches. Many mainline traditional denominations have even ordained homosexual ministers and see nothing wrong with lifestyles that were previously considered sinful. Other churches have replaced the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom with the preaching of popular political or social causes, which have nothing to do with Christ. These are the churches that never mention the concept of Christ’s return or the fulfillment of prophecy. These are very people who have turned their backs on the true Savior and will find themselves ripe for receiving the false one. When we consider a country like the United States with its traditionally strong Christian image and vast number of churches, it may seem hard to imagine how this could happen. However, the ever-present desire for riches and the preoccupation with the cares of this life are starting to seriously erode America’s character, which is also causing the church to close its eyes to the prophecies.
We now live in a time when people think it is acceptable to kill millions of unborn babies and endorse any lifestyle out of the false doctrine of “inclusion”. We live in a time when someone standing up for the true principles of Christianity is considered a dangerous person or someone engaged in “hate speech”. We also live in a time when people are becoming desperate for answers to the hopelessness of this world, while actively rejecting the hope that is in Christ. Just imagine if a tremendous leader were to suddenly come on the scene on the heels of a major economic or political upheaval, seemingly having all the answers to our problems. I wonder how many people would be tricked by his charisma and immediately follow him?
Do not be deceived. The day of the Antichrist’s rise is coming quickly, and the only way to escape the temptation of the false Christ is to stay close to the truth of the real one!
Next: The Persona of Pride