01 January 2023

Beasts in the Sanctuary


Throughout the present age, the Church is plagued with deceivers bent on misleading believers and disrupting the church

The term “antichrist” is found only in John’s epistles. In the first one, 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.”

The Apostle does not deny that an individual “antichrist” is coming, but his point is that many “antichrists” are active already among his congregations.

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

MANY ANTICHRISTS


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 in the church - (1 John 2:19. See also - 2 John 7).

Most likely, John derives the term “antichrist” from the repeated warnings of 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 connects him to the future “apostasy.” And his words are quite like Christ’s warning - “Let no one in any way deceive you” - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

This “man of lawlessness” will seat himself in the “sanctuary of God.” This is the only passage in which Paul expresses any apparent interest in the Jerusalem Temple, assuming that structure is what he has in mind.

Nevertheless, elsewhere, and consistently so, he applies this and similar descriptive language to the church. And according to him, the body of Christ IS the naos or “sanctuary of God,” the exact same term he uses when describing the unveiling of the “lawless one” in the “sanctuary of God”- (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:19-22).

IN DANIEL


The idea of the "man of lawlessness" is derived from the book of Daniel which refers 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 figure to the coming “apostasy who 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).

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

And in the book of Revelation, although the “Beast from the sea” has some political aspects, he “wages war against the saints,” NOT against other nation-states.

REVELATION


Whether the “Beast” is the same figure Paul or John has in mind as the “lawless one,” the book of Revelation never applies the terms “antichrist” or “man of lawlessness” to him, or perhaps, “it” (in Greek, “beast” is in the neuter gender). Consistently in the book, Satan unleashes “war” against the followers of the “Lamb” - (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7-10).

Thus, already in the first century, false prophets and deceivers are active in the church, hoodwinking as many believers as possible. To this day, the goal remains the same - instigate apostasy from the true faith.

Moreover, warnings about coming deceivers and apostasy are common enough in the New Testament. For example:

  • (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 intends on destroying the church. It is only in this way that he can attack and harm Jesus. - by waging war on the “seed of the woman… those who have the testimony of Jesus” - (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 look for him first to appear in the church.

The modus operandi of the “man of lawlessness,” for example, is to offer a false version of Jesus; something “instead of Christ.” He will proclaim “another gospel” and represent a “different Jesus," one who is fundamentally at odds with the Messiah revealed in the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

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 persecution, many will “depart from the faith” before Christ arrives “on the clouds” at the end of the age.



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