27 June 2021

Ravenous Wolves

Throughout the present age, the Church has been plagued with deceivers bent on misleading believers and causing their apostasy

Wolf Pack - Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash
The term “
antichrist” is found only in two of John’s three epistles. In the first, he warns that “it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come to pass.” He does not deny that an individual “antichrist” is coming, but his point is that many “antichrists” are active already in the church - [Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash].

The Greek term rendered “antichrist” or antichristos is a compound formed with the preposition anti and the Greek term for “Christ,” or christos. The preposition signifies “instead of,” not “against” - An “anti-christ” is a man or woman who works to replace the true Christ with a substitute “christ” – (Strong’s - #G500).

The “antichrists,” plural, to whom John refers are men who “went out from us, but they were not of us; …but they went out that it might be plain that they all are not of us.” They are false teachers that first appeared within the church - (1 John 2:19. See also - 2 John 7).

The term “antichrist” is derived from the repeated warnings by Jesus about coming deceivers:
  • (Matthew 24:4, 24:24) - “Beware that no man deceives you…many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and deceive many…many false prophets will arise and deceive many… Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is Christ,’ or ‘there’; believe it not. For there will arise false Christs and false prophets and they will show great signs and wonders; insomuch-h that, if it were possible, they will deceive the very elect.”
Paul presents a similar scenario in his description of the “man of lawlessness” and his ability to deceive believers, and he links him to the future “apostasy.” And Paul’s words are quite similar to Christ’s warning - “Let no one in any way deceive you”:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) – “Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him; to the end, you be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man deceive you in any wise; for it will not be, except the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness be revealed, the son of destruction, he that opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sits in the sanctuary of God, setting himself forth as God.
The “man of lawlessness” will seat himself in the “sanctuary of God.” This is the only passage in which Paul expresses any interest in the Temple, assuming that structure is what he has in view. Elsewhere, consistently so, Paul applies this and similar terms to the church - (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:19-22).

The image of the "man of lawlessness" is derived from the book of Daniel where it originally referred to the persecuting activities of the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, the “Little Horn” of the “fourth beast.” That king most certainly was a political figure; however, in Judaism, he is remembered far more as a deceiver who led many Jews astray by his promotion of pagan practices - (Daniel 7:7-8, 8:10-14, 11:30-36).

Paul links this “man of lawlessness” with the coming “apostasy.” This one will act “In accord with Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth to be saved. And for this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness” - (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

Paul’s emphasis is NOT on this figure’s political authority or military prowess but on his ability to deceive and turn people from the faith. His purpose will be to destroy the church, and for this very reason, Jesus will destroy him at his “arrival.”

Likewise, in Revelation, though the “beast from the sea” has some political aspects, he “wages war against the saints,” NOT against other nation-states. Whether this is the same figure Paul or John had in mind, Revelation never applies the terms “Antichrist” or “man of lawlessness” to him. Consistently in the book, Satan and his minions unleash “war” against the followers of the “Lamb,” those “who have the testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7-10).

Lighthouse in storm - Photo by Tina Rolf on Unsplash
Photo by Tina Rolf on Unsplash

Thus, already in the first century, false prophets and deceivers were active within the church, hoodwinking many believers. Their goal remains to this day to foment
apostasy from the true faith. And warnings about coming deceivers and apostasy are common in the New Testament:
  • (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) - “False apostles and deceitful workers” of his day who “disguised themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”
  • (1 Timothy 4:1) – “The Spirit explicitly warns that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
  • (2 Peter 2:1-22) - “False teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality and because of them, the way of the truth will be maligned.”
By misleading the elect, Satan hopes to destroy the church. It is only in this way that the “Dragon” can attack and harm the “Lamb” - by waging war on the “seed of the woman” - (Revelation 12:12-17).

In the end, the “Antichrist” may turn out to be a world political leader. However, considering the many warnings from Scripture, perhaps we should not be surprised if he first appears within the church. The modus operandi of the “man of lawlessness,” for example, will be to offer a false version of Jesus; something “instead of Christ.” He will proclaim “another gospel” and a “different Jesus," one fundamentally at odds with the Messiah revealed on the Cross of Calvary.

Finally, serious consideration must be given to the challenge of Jesus - “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he, after all, find the faith on the earth?” Whether by means of deception or outright persecution, many will “depart from the faith” before Jesus returns in glory at the end of the age.

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