ANTICHRIST - SO WHO IS RIGHT?
Before I conclude these studies on the Biblical picture of antichrist in relation to the widespread popular teaching found in books, movies and current preaching and teaching, let me do a quick review.
Popular teaching presents the picture like this:
1. There will be a silent and secret rapture of the church during which Jesus will snatch believers away from the earth and the Holy Spirit will be removed with the church. This implies that Jesus’ return will happen in two parts; when He raptures the church and when He returns to the earth with the saints, separated by a period of time.
2. After the rapture, the antichrist will make his appearance in the world, an evil and powerful world leader who will come from outside the church. His appearance will trigger seven years of tribulation during which time people will still become believers in Christ.
3. He will invade the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem after three and half years, stop the daily sacrifice and proclaim himself to be God.
4. At the height of his power, Jesus will return with His saints in power and glory to overthrow the antichrist and set up His millennial reign on earth.
A serious study of Scripture contradicts these teachings on the following points:
1. Antichrist, as presented by both Paul and John, is not a single, evil individual who arises outside the church in the end times but a spirit that was already operating in people from within the church in their day. "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." 1 John 2:18 (NIV).
Anyone who manifests the treacherous spirit of Judas, one of Jesus' trusted followers whom Jesus called 'the one doomed to destruction,' (John 17:12b;2 Thessalonians 2:3b), is operating in the spirit of antichrist. "Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist..." 1 John 4:3a (NIV). He is not an obvious evil character from outside the church but a less obvious trend in people within the church who occupy positions of leadership and influence.
2. The rapture will not be silent and secret: "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. (NIV). This is a fulfilment of the Feast of Trumpets which heralded the Day of Atonement in which God judged His people.
3. The Roman Empire, not the church or the Holy Spirit, was the restrainer, holding back the power of the Church until Rome fell and the centre of government moved to Constantinople.
4. The influence of antichrist arose after the restrainer was removed and in the wake of a massive falling away during which the churches moved away from the simplicity and power of the early church with it devotion to Christ and faithfulness to the teachings of the apostles and became more and more ritualistic and dominated by the church of Rome.
5. The Roman church, led by a succession of corrupt popes, became self-exalting, usurping the authority of God in His own temple, the church. It became a man-led and man-centred kingdom (Daniel 7:19-21), making great claims for itself. It was powerful and made war on the saints, (between the 6th and 18th century, the Roman Catholic Church has murdered 150 million in the name of the church!).
6. According to historians, it was the church, not the barbarians who came down from the north, that cause the Dark Ages. It was the church that stifled learning, reasoning, scientific discovery and philosophy. The Bible was taken away from the people, illiteracy was encouraged and even the priests could not read the Bible.
The church, which had been an organism of life and blessing to the world, had become a monster. The Reformers of the 16th century stood up against Rome and called the people back to the Bible.
(To be continued…)
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