Beware of Antichrists

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In the last post we noted that John the Apostle is the only biblical author that uses the term “antichrist.” My conclusion was that the singular form of that term in 1 John 2:18 was synonymous with the “spirit of antichrist” mentioned in 1 John 4:3, which is also defined as the “spirit of error” in 1 John 4:6. And I also concluded that the plural form of the term used in 1 John 2:18 refers to the false teachers/false Christians.

But after writing that post brother Roger commented and forced me to rethink another interpretation I had already decided against. I saw two things being referred to by John, namely false teachers and the spirit of error. It is also possible to see three things being referenced, namely false teachers, the spirit of error (i.e. spirit of antichrist) and an anticipated personification of that spirit of error.

Everyone Uses Tradition to Interpret the Bible

My conclusion was based on my best effort to understand John’s words in its context alone. In other words I was using the Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) principle of the Reformation. But my post was a great example of the weakness of that principle. I believe I could argue for my interpretation from John’s epistles. But I am sure that brother Roger feels he can he can defend his interpretation on the same grounds (and I think he can). So that leaves us at an impasse. This is the weakness of the Sola Scriptura principle. But in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 we find a principle that can help us.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

Here we see that the Apostles didn’t just record their teaching on paper, but also on the hearts of “faithful men who were able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). So in cases such as this it is wise to see what the teaching of the early church (100 A.D. – 300 A.D.) was on such issues. When we look at their writings we find that they had a consensus that the Antichrist referred to a future personification of the spirit of error. In light of the fact that our biblical interpretation could go either way, it is wise to consult our elders who were closest to the Apostles, and some of whom were themselves disciples of the Apostles.

So though it is off topic, I thought I would throw out this important principle for you to chew on. Some might shout “Scripture Alone!” in defiance to my suggestion. But even the highly respected Martin Luther himself wrote a preface for every book of the Bible explaining how to read it properly. Actually, everyone reads the Bible with the help of tradition, whether it be by applying their denominations core principles or by appealing to the Reformed Tradition’s Sola Scriptura principle. So, please don’t bother leaving any comments saying that you and your group go by Scripture alone; we are all influenced by some tradition. If we feel we go by the Bible alone, then we must recognize that many other groups say they do the same and yet come to different conclusions. Only when we are aware of the influence of tradition on our reading of Scripture can we be careful about what traditions we allow to influence us. When we deny any influence, we are most open to deception.

I personally trust the early Church fathers (100 A.D. – 300 A.D. / Pre-Nicene Fathers) more than anyone else to have a good grasp of what the Apostles taught. They were closest in culture and language to the Apostles. And as I mentioned, many of them were direct disciples of the Apostles or disciples of men who were. This does not mean that they have the authority of Scripture anymore than one would say Calvin’s Institutes or Matthew Henry’s Commentary are on equal footing with Scripture; no way. It just means that I trust Irenaeus, Clement, Ignatius, Tertullian, etc. to understand the meaning of Scripture more than either of those commentaries. So we start with Scripture, and when we get stuck we refer to our commentaries, not blindly, but in order to see if they can help bring clarity to things that are unclear. My primary source of commentary just happen to be the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Anyway, that is not what this post is about at all! Just consider it a bonus 😉

The Annoying End Times Trend

There are various ways people respond to the subject of the Antichrist. Some people’s eyes light up like a kid at Christmas. We can tell that we have touched on one of their favorite topics. They could spend hours talking about events in Israel, the European Union and the various earthquakes and famines in today’s news. An asteroid impacted Russia last week and I’m sure End Times enthusiasts have taken note of that 😉 I am not saying that these are not useful topics, or that we needn’t know about these topics. I believe it is important that we have clear biblical teaching on these subjects. I am also not saying they are unrelated to the coming of Antichrist, I believe they are intimately related. But I do believe these topics are often approached with the sensationalism of a supermarket tabloid, instead a sober study of God’s word.

Other people hear the word antichrist and roll their eyes. “Here we go again, baseless speculation that has nothing to do with my daily walk with Christ.” Many have been completely turned off by the enthusiasm of the enthusiasts. They conclude, and reasonably so in my opinion, that if the Antichrist is merely some guy who is going to take over the earth after all the Christians are all taken away in the rapture, then why should they spend their precious time trying to figure out his identity. This mindset leads them to completely ignore the biblical teaching about antichrist(s) and other end times related issues. This can’t be right. After all God wrote about these things in his word. If all “all Scripture” is indeed “useful” we can’t write off eschatology, but we must seek out what the Bible has to say about it. We can be sure that whatever the Lord has to say about this matter will not be useless, but divinely useful for our salvation.

In the last post we reviewed all the passages in the Bible that use the term antichrist. These were all found in the 1st and 2nd epistles of John. We found that John doesn’t speak about anything about the revived Roman Empire that is taught in Revelations chapter 13. Nor does he connect the Man of Sin found in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 with this particular term. This is not to say that in the course of our study of eschatology (i.e. study of end times) we will not see any correlation between what John is teaching and what these other passages teach. In fact, as I mentioned above, the early Church saw the correlation between these passages of Scripture. They called the Man of Sin in 2 Thessalonians the Antichrist. But we will not be able to see how they are related accurately until we look at each passage in its particular context. Only after looking at each piece of the eschatological puzzle can we hope to see the big picture.

So before jumping into those other passages and letting John’s teachings get swallowed up by Beasts ruling the world and a Man of Sin sitting in God’s temple claiming to be God, let’s sit at the Apostle’s feet and let God teach us through him what an antichrist is.

Who or What?

Most of the talk about Antichrist is related to who he is. Many U.S. presidents have been candidates as possible fulfillments of Antichrist, and most of the past United Nations’ chairmen have been nominated as well. Some probably even considered Steve Jobs as the Antichrist; some people out there probably still do! I’m sorry but this all seems silly to me. What use does such speculation have in our walk with the Lord? And if it doesn’t affect our walk with the Lord, who needs it?! I just don’t think that God warned us about Antichrist, the Beast and the Man of Sin so we could be involved in such speculation. I believe we were warned about such things so we could prepare, and beware.

John’s teaching on this matter is very practical. He doesn’t talk about who the Antichrist will be. In fact, as my difficulty in interpreting his writing illustrates, he doesn’t even clearly spell out that Antichrist is a person at all. But this is not to say John is unclear, by no means. He is very clear! But not about who the Antichrist is, but about what an antichrist is.

John shows us that antichrists are false Christians. They are those who claim to be followers of Christ but spread a false gospel. They are those that are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are those who are influenced by the spirit of error, which is none other than the spirit of Antichrist. This tells us that if we are going to apply the term antichrist to anything or anyone, we must be ready to show that it is a preacher of a false Christianity. If not, we should use a different term altogether. John gives us a clear picture of what antichrists look like. We mustn’t imagine that the personification of the spirit of error will be so radically different than the little antichrists that were already around in John’s day (1 John 2:18).

So how is this useful for us? Like the other Apostles, and the Lord himself, John is simply warning us to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. We are to beware of false prophets preaching a false Christianity. We must know our faith. This doesn’t mean that we need to know all the ins and outs of theology. On the contrary, our faith is not centered in theology, but in a person, Jesus Christ. John calls us to obey Christ’s commands, walk in his Spirit, trust in him and love the brethren. He doesn’t tell us to get a master’s degree in theology so we can avoid being deceived! It is obvious that highly educated theologians are just as easily deceived as the common disciple. In fact, an over dependence on the intellect in spiritual matters is one of the great deceptions of the spirit of error. This is not to say people can’t avoid deception if they are intellectual, it is just to say that intellectual understanding of the Bible has never kept anyone walking in the Spirit and commands of our Lord.

In 1 John chapter 2 John tells the churches that they already “know the truth” and they need to make sure that they abide in what they have already heard. They don’t need anyone to teach them something new. As Jude would put it, they had already received the faith that was once and for all given to the saints. They didn’t need to learn the next new thing. They didn’t need to consider a new message. They needed merely to continue trusting in Christ and obeying his commandments (1 John 2). He was telling them not to be deceived by clever sounding philosophies and theologies. Instead they were to remain in childlike trust and obedience.

If we have trusted in Jesus Christ, and submitted to him as our Lord (with actions and not words only), we are called to continue in this path. When false gospel’s come along they always bring us to a crisis of faith. They call us to make a decision. They say, “You must follow this new philosophy and theology, if not, you are not faithful to Jesus Christ.” Even though we have been walking joyfully in the path of discipleship, this new teaching comes to shake our simple dependence on Christ. Such errors make us feel that unless we “know” what they know, and accept their “special divine knowledge” (“gnosis” – What the Gnostics claimed to have), we are not yet perfect in our walk with Christ. They cause us to question the simple childlike faith Christ called us to for a more intellectual and theoretical faith. John warns us about this.

1 John 2:24-27

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us -eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But he anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie -just as it has taught you, abide in him.

This is how we avoid antichrists, the spirit of antichrist and the Antichrist! If we avoid the what, we needn’t worry about avoiding the who.

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10 thoughts on “Beware of Antichrists

  1. I agree that in Luke 21:20-24 Jesus predicts that Israel would be scattered because of rejecting Him. But then They would be gathered back from all the nations as predicted in Ezekial 36:22-28. And Jesus said Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles UNTIL the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled. This is the church age and God’s representative is the church. During the church age there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile if you believe according to Ephesians. But what happens after the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled?

    I also agree that Rom 9 shows that Israel in the past was elected, Rom 10 shows that Israel in the present is rejected but Rom 11 shows that Israel in the future is accepted. Even at that time antisemitism was creeping into the church. Paul reminds them that they are grafted in to the olive tree contrary to the natural and to be careful. He did not want them to be ignorant of this mystery and be conceited. Israel was experiencing a hardening in part UNTIL THE FULL NUMBER OF THE GENTILES HAS COME IN. And so all Israel will be saved Rom 11:26. for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

    As for the land Israel is brought back to, we see in Gen 13:14-15 God deeds a specific people (descendants of Abraham) land FOREVER. God describes the boundaries of this land grant in Gen 15:18-21. It is reaffirmed to Isaac in Gen 21:12 and to Jacob in Gen 26:2-4. Also reaffirmed to David in Ps 105:8-12. And in Jeremiah 31:35-37, despite their failures, they would never be a people cut off from Him.

    So, right now Israel has forfeited her being God’s representative on earth. The church, dominated by Gentiles is in that position. But when God determines that time is fulfilled, Israel will play a part again. Jesus was telling his disciples in Acts 1 that it wasn’t their place to know when that would be. But it doesn’t mean that it was unimportant. When that time came, we would be in the last of the last days. Then God will bring them, as a remnant to obtain all the promises given to their forefathers.

    To me it’s not a thing of being Pro Israel (& AntiPalestinian) but believing what God says and how His plan for saving both the Gentiles and the Jews. Which is Jesus! And coincidentally the World, who opposes God, doesn’t want anything to do with His plan. Nor does Satan.

    And so this opposition to Israel having come back into the land as prophesied to the God deeded her…..I have wondered….is it part of end time deception? Why is Jerusalem SUCH A BIG DEAL to all the parties involved? It was predicted it would become a stumbling block to all the nations. God says in Jer 3:17 that the nations will call Jerusalem the Throne of the Lord.

    • Thank you for your input. I understand & respect your perspective. Our major difference is our interpretation of the OT. It seems you hokd to a dispensational literal historic interpretation. I interpret the OT thru a Christiological perspective, which basically “spirituallizes” a lot of OT promises. So we will have to agree to disagree:) I am also a bit Anabaptist, so i dont believe Christians should play any role in earthly politics. So, you can see why im not the greatest person to answer your original question;) The only thing i think of israel & the palestinians is that they are wicked, violent, oppresive & deceptive worldlings that have rejected God & need to repent & get saved;) Im not a fan of Fox News or AlJazeera;) lol! Gbu!

      • Yes, we can agree to disagree on our view of these points. I became interested in your post because of your topic exploring the spirit of the antiChrist in the days since Christ appeared and wondered what all that encompassed. The admonition to watch out for those who would preach a false gospel. Obviously Satan wants to thwart Gods plan to save souls. I’m sure there are many ways he will go about it!

  2. Would you say Replacement Theology is at the heart of why some Christians believe that Israel should give up East Jerusalem to the Palestinians? Would any of this thinking (the world turning against Israel because they won’t give in to the Palestinians on this point of Jerusalem) be considered the spirit of AntiChrist or this thinking be part of end time deception? I am just wondering if this is important to the topic of the spirit of the antichrist or not so much. Does the Bible speak to this in any way? I am thinking we are “in the time of the Gentiles” and the Bible references the future of the Jewish nation “after the time of the Gentiles” when an awakening for them happens.

    • Kathy,
      The term “antichrist” is only used by John in 1, 2, & 3 john. So strictly speaking it has nothing to do with abomination of desolation, man of sin, etc. John uses antichristS to refer to false teachers in the early church which were forrunners of the still to come Antichrist. So in John’s mind, the connection is that the Abtichrist will be a false teacher. He doesnt touch on the political aspects of the Antichrist in his epistles. But of course Rev 13 does make that connection. So basically, antichrist is a word used by john referring to the false gnostic teachers of his day as forerunners of the future false teacher the antichrist. He also mentions the “spirit of antichrist” which he defines as the “spirit of error”. So, the spirit behind false teaching is the spirit that will give rise to the antichrist.
      As for the political questions you asked, i believe in “replacement theology”, though i believe that term does not accurately represent my view. I hold what was held by all christians up until the 19th century with the rise of dispensationalism. Namely that believing gentiles have been grafted into Israel (rom9-11, eph2-3, gal3-4, etc) & those jews that reject messiah are cut off (though if they repent can be grafted back in) from the Holy Chosen People of God. My prayer for Israel is that they repent & be reconciled to the God they have rejected, not that they get their national boundaries the way they want them. As 1 john says, “he who denies the Son does not have the Father either”.
      Gbu

      • That is really the question I should have asked. Is the question of the boundaries of the land promised to them by God JUST a political question? I am not an expert on Replacement theology, so perhaps I misunderstand the teaching. But if it basically says Israel’s place in God’s plan for mankind has run its course, and now God’s plan is through the church, we would see the fight over the land as only political, and only the mere desire of Israel to “have their boundaries the way they want them”.

        The rise of anti-Israel feelings over the centuries has been orchestrated in the past by the spirit of the antiChrist to thwart Gods plan for mankind. So, the question this all causes me to ask is ‘is the pressure of the world on Israel to give up land (& particularly Jerusalem) purely political. It seems that even though Israel lost possession of the land because of their sin and unbelief, that God irrevocably deeded the land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacobs descendants. God warned nations in the past that essentially they needed to be careful about their dealings with Israel. But is all this passé?

        Is the plan God has for the world in end times, that began when Jesus came on the scene, have either very little to do, or nothing to do with Israel or Israel possessing the land after they were gathered back from all the corners of the world. Was this only for Israels benefit?

        I’m trying to come to a biblical view of all this. On the one hand…over and over God did not view favorably the nations who opposed Israel because opposing Israel actually boiled down to opposing Gods plan and was probably prompted by the spirit of the AntiChrist. Did that stop when Christ came? Is God still using Israel today to reveal Himself to the world?

      • I believe israel is a big part of end time events. I believe that many jews will come to Christ before the end (rom 11). But i also believe the israelites were cast out of their land for rejecting Christ (luke 21:20-24), that they are displeasing to God as a nation (1thes2:14-16), are presently hardened under God’s judgement (rom9-11). So as the israelites of old were judged by being destroyed by babylon (jeremiah) & harrassesed by the surrounding nations when they wouldnt repent (judges) i believe God used the Romans to exile them & is now using the palestinians to harrass them. If they were right with God, & that is only by receiving Christ, we wouldnt see God disiplining them so harshly (mat23:37-39).
        So basically i believe that God is judging Israel until He decides to lift the hardening He has placed on that nation. I believe Israel is displeasing to God for their unbelief, pride & viloence. & i believe the Palestinians are displeasing to God for the things they are doing even though God is using it. Just as God judged the Babylonians for what they did to Israel though it was God who was behind it. So, in my view, it would be silly for Christians to get involved & take sides since it is God’s sovereign hand at work and we cant know all He has in mind. Our kingdom is not of this world, & we dont believe God is worshipped in Jerusalem or any particular piece of land, but in Spirit & truth thru God’s Son (jn4). So Jesus told his disciples when they asked about the restoration of Jerusalem (acts1) that this issue was none of their business, instead they should focus on preaching the Gospel. So that is what i believe we are supposed to do. God knows how to judge the nations, that is none of our business. So both anti-israel & pro-israel stances are worldly & unchristian in my view. We are called to love all men (jew & palestinian) preach the gospel to them, not take political sides. Hope this helps some:) Gbu!

  3. My brother
    I just read your article and found myself saying a hearty amen more often than not. I agree 100 % that “the spirit” who will be fully realized in the end time deceiver has been operating in “so-called” Christian leaders since the time of the apostles.

    2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;” (NAS95)

    In every generation of the church age the unsuspecting sheep have follow these wolves in sheep’s clothing. This has led to the various “traditions” of the fractured Christianity that we see today. Whether it is for money, power, prestige or some other fleshly desire, Satan takes advantage of the carnal greed of these wolves and uses them to lead people away from the truth of God’s word. (By the way, the shark picture is a nice touch.)

    You are right on. In 1 John 2:18, the Holy Spirit is warning the church of every generation to beware of Church leaders who have this spirit of error that will be fully realized or personified in the final deceiver who will be destroyed upon our Lord’s return.

    I also agree that the subject of Antichrist is way overly sensationalized. Most of the “popular” end time teaching has more to do with selling books and making money than being faithful to what the Bible actually says. By contrast I praise God for you my brother because your writings indicate your extreme concern for what God has actually said.

    The reason that I chose to comment on the subject of the Antichrist in the first place is because I used to hold the position that Antichrist was “only” the spirit of error. I was raised in a fellowship that taught that the Antichrist was only a spirit of error and not a real person. It was only after years of reading the Bible with out using the official “fellowship approved goggles” that I realized the connection between the Antichrist in John 2:18 and the miracle working end time deceiver referred to in other passages. The pertinent question that changed my view was: In 1 John 2:18, where would apostle John’s intended audience have heard about this end time “opposer” that John refers to as “antichrist”? The search to answer this question led to the conclusion that they had heard about the “opposer” from the same source from which we would hear about it 2000 years later; they learned it from the teaching of the inspired word of God or the teaching based on that word.

    Our Lord thought it important for us to be aware of both this coming end time deceiver and the evil spirit that would empower him, which would be active in every generation of “so-called” church leaders. So maybe you will find the following comments about the final “opposer” of Christ to be of some interest. (If not, the delete button works great.)

    In the Bible there are several contexts that speak of the end time deceiver that will be destroyed when Christ returns. One of these is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. As Pointed out in the earlier comments, the prefix “anti” in the Greek word translated as “opposes” in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, connects the man of lawlessness to the one John calls the “anti”-Christ. Paul informs us in verse 9, that this false teacher will deceive with “signs and false wonders” and will be one “… whom the lord will slay” when He returns. This context also informs us that this deceiver will be one who “… opposes and exalts himself” “above all gods”. He would even display himself “… as being God” (Theos, not Christos as some teach.)

    In the context of Daniel 7:7-28, we learn of an empire and a future ruler of that empire, which will both be destroyed at Christ’s return. In Daniel’s vision a 4th World Empire is portrayed. This 4th empire is portrayed as the ten-horned beast that would “… devoured and crushed and trample down” the other kingdoms. As Daniel was pondering the ten horns of this beast, another “horn” came up among the other horns. The horn portrays a future ruler in the 4th empire. This horn had eyes like a man and “… a mouth uttering great boasts”. He would even “… speak out against the Most High”. As the context continues, in verses 20-22, we are informed that this boastful horn would be “… waging war with the saints” “until the Ancient of days came”. We are told, in verse 11, what happens to both the ten-horned beast and the beast’s boastful horn:

    Daniel 7:11 “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.” NAS95.

    In Daniel chapter eight, we learn more about this 4th empire. The 4th empire would follow the Greek empire and would be the entity that would destroy the temple and end the Jewish sacrificial system. It was the Roman Empire that fulfilled these prophecies. The ten-horned beast portrays the Roman Empire. In verse 25, we learn that a future ruler of the 4th empire would “… cause deceit to succeed through his influence”, he would “… magnify himself in his heart” and he would “… even oppose the Prince of princes”. Did you get that; he would “oppose” Christ . In verse 25, we are informed that this “opposer” of Christ would be “… broken with out human agency”.

    In Daniel 2:44, we have the conclusion of another vision that portrays the 4th empire’s destruction at Christ’s return. That vision informs us that the 4th empire will be in power, in some form, when Christ returns to rule.

    Daniel 2:44 “In the days of those kings (the Roman kings) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” (NAS95)

    So, the prophecies of the 4th empire informs us that the 4th empire and the future blaspheming ruler of this empire, (who will “… oppose the Prince of princes”), will both be destroyed in “fire”. They both will be “… waging war with the saints” “until the Ancient of Days” will come. The 4th empire, the Roman empire, persecuted the church at the beginning of the church age and the 4th empire will be restored in some form, at some time in the future, and along with the “opposer” will be persecuting the bride of Christ at the time of Christ’s coming in the clouds to take the His bride to heaven.

    Isaiah 26:20-21 “Come, my people, enter into your rooms and close your doors behind you; hide for a little while until indignation runs its course. For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity…” (NAS95)

    In the book of Revelation, we can learn more about this ten-horned beast and the boastful, blaspheming “horn”; they both will be destroyed upon Christ’s return to rule the earth. In Revelation 13:1-10, we learn that the ten-horned beast would be empowered by Satan and that this empire would “… make war with the saints”. We are also informed in this context that the ten-horned beast had what appeared to be a fatal wound. The fatal wound indicates that the Roman Empire would appear to be dead for some period of time, (as it appears to be dead at the present time).

    As the context continues, in Revelation 13:11-18, we learn that this evil empire, which had a past history of persecuting the church, the empire with what looked like a fatal wound, would once again be alive and active. The empire had the appearance of “… another beast” but had all the “authority” of the previous empire that had the apparent fatal wound. This empire had the appearance of “a lamb” but its speech betrayed it; “he spoke like a dragon”. In Revelation 13:13-14, we are informed that “the beast” that had the fatal wound is present with the performer of the “great signs”. This one who performs the great signs is the one who forces the masses to worship “the image of the beast” and receive the “mark” of the beast.

    In Revelation 19:11-21, we have a portrayal of Christ returning to earth, with his bride, to rule the planet. That context tells of the final demise of the ten-horned beast and the one who “performed great signs” back in Revelation 13:13. In Chapter 19, the deceiver who performs the signs is called the “False Prophet”. In the portrayal, of Revelation 19:19-20, it is the armies of the kings of the earth and “the beast” and “the false” prophet that stand to oppose Christ upon His return.

    In Revelation 19:20, it is both the ten-horned beast and the “false prophet” that end up in the lake of fire. The false prophet is said to be the deceiver who caused his followers to receive the “mark” and worship the “image”. This connects the false prophet to the one who “performs great signs” in the context of Rev. 13:11-18. This also connects this “false prophet” to the other prophecies of the final end time miracle working deceiver and “opposer” who will be destroyed upon Christ’s return to rule the earth.

    So, we see there is a continuing thread of prophecy that answers the question: Where would apostle John’s intended audience have heard about the Antichrist’s coming? In His inspiration through John, the Holy Spirit’s intended audience is all the saints of the entire church age. So, those who initially received John’s epistle would have been informed by the same prophecies of God’s word that inform us today of the “opposer” of Christ. This would be true whether faithful teachers told them of these prophecies or they gained the information through searching the Holy Writings for themselves.

    As we observed earlier, the prophet Daniel portrayed the 4th world empire as the ten-horned beast. This beast and its “boastful horn” would both be persecuting the saints until the “Ancient of Days” comes. Also, this ten-horned beast and its boastful horn would be an “opposer” of the Prince of princes. The empire and the “opposer” will both be destroyed at the same time. We also see this “opposer” in apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians and in the book of Revelation. In both of these cases the “opposer” is the miracle-working deceiver that will be destroyed at Christ’s coming.

    Daniel 7:11 “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.” (NAS95)

    2 Thessalonians 2:7-10 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” (NAS95)

    Revelation 19:20 “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”

    Daniel 2:44 “In the days of those kings (the 4th empire) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.”

    So we see a common thread of prophecy that connects the final Antichrist to the miracle-working deceiver that will be destroyed upon Christ’s return to rule the earth. The spirit of Satan will empower this end time deceiver. It is the same evil spirit that has been working in false teachers, of every generation of the church age, to corrupt God’s truth. As you pointed out, this is indeed the point of 1 John 2:18. The evil spirit that will experience its full realization in the coming “opposer” of Christ, the Antichrist, is presently at work in men professing to be Christian leaders.

  4. Chris,

    Very nicely put. I would on the whole agree with you about the Early Fathers. Perhaps though I could add a rider onto the thought?

    Unfortunately the Early Fathers were not perfect -they had the beginnings of a tendency towards supercessionism/Replacement Theology which became the thin end of the wedge for later serious theological antisemitism.

    Yet at the same time they were closer to the events of the New Testament and as you pointed out; some were even disciples of the Apostles.

    The question is: how do we utilise the interpretative tradition of the Early Fathers without turning them into a Christianised form of ‘Torah b’al peh’ (Oral Law) and subverting the authority of Scripture? I am sure that others have said it before me but there is a difference between Sola Scriptura and SOLO Scriptura. Many believers do not know the difference. I think your article actually illustrates that distinction quite well.

    My thinking is that where the Early Fathers expound on a doctrine and we can find good contextual and exegetical support for their interpretation, and it fits the overall framework of biblical (as opposed to Systematic) theology, that is harmonious with the whole narrative of Scripture; then this gives us good reason to accept their interpretation over another. I know I am stating the obvious here, but sometimes it helps to spell things out.

    As I understand it Sola Scriptura is all about the authority of Scripture being paramount, so that all things to be received must be judged by it. Whereas Solo Scriptura; is that the Bible is the only thing -period. No other sources are to be received.

    In a general way, I would say that a certain two movements illustrate how NOT to handle interpretive traditions.

    Calvinism
    This generally relies on the interpretive foundation of Augustine. Calvin’s reliance on Augustine is woven into the warp and woof of his system. While I would not call Calvin’s use of Augustine totally uncritical, I think on the whole he seriously errs on the side of elevating Augustine’s thinking over that of in-context biblical exegesis and overall biblical narrative. Even though Calvin is supposed to be a major Reformer and holding to ‘sola scriptura’ in practice I don’t think he actually applied this principle consistently or he would have given Augustine the boot. On the whole the Calvin apple did not fall too far from the Roman tree in his adoration of all things Augustine, Though Calvin rejected the authority of the Roman Church as a higher authority than Scripture, I believe he actually fell into the trap of of replacing it with Augustine at many points, thus subverting the authority of Scripture and producing a caricature of the Gospel.

    Darbyism
    Darby definitely went onto the Solo Scriptura track, writing off interpretive tradition wholesale. It is not therefore surprising that the doctrine of a pre-Tribulational Rapture was accepted when such an attitude was present, the fact that it had no previous historical appearance became irrelevant in this kind of interpretive environment, leaving it wide open to accepting all kinds of bizarre stuff. A lot of modern evangelical protestantism is infected with this kind of thinking -a rampant interpretive individualism that respects nothing but itself, resulting in an interpretive ‘free for all’. Such abominations as the ‘Prosperity Gospel’, Toronto Blessing can only be propagated and spead as they have done in such an environment.

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