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February 23, 2021 12:01 am
Every generation has speculated about the identity of the Antichrist. Is he a man or an institution? Is he someone who is alive right now? Today, R.C. Sproul turns to the Bible to respond to these questions.
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What does the Bible mean when it talks about the Antichrist. If it merely means anti-than the antichrist is defined in terms of is opposition to Christ. The term if used in a secondary sense of awe want to eat would be somebody who subverts or seeks to replace Christ as a false Messiah every generation who speculated about this mysterious figure who is the difference home. We know when he arrives on the scene today and Renewing Your Mind. We continued our jerseys, groceries, the last days according to Jesus. Fortunately, we can piece together several passages of Scripture to give us clarity on who what the Christ is stuck they were going to look at one of the most fascinating and yet controversial subjects that refer to the last times and that's the question of the identity of the antichrist and in fact, it even begs the question when we talk about the antichrist because one of the questions that we encounter with respect to this idea of antichrist is, is there one antichrist or are there many antichrists antichrist singular or plural second question, when Congress is the antichrist a person, or an institution and an even more important question is the New Testament speaks of the antichrist in John's epistles, and in Paul's letters.
He speaks of the man of sin, or the man of lawlessness, and in the book of Revelation. John tells us about the beast is known by the number 666 will again are we dealing with three different subjects.
The man of sin, the antichrist and the beast, or are all three of these concepts interconnected and interrelated converging on one identity aloes are some of the questions will look at in addition to the $64,000 question that is who is the antichrist or what is the antichrist and how are we expected to recognize it or him now as I say there is fascination in the world since the fact sometimes preoccupation with the concept of the antichrist and say common feature of interest in the world of the occult. We saw the film smash hit Rosemary's baby, which was linked to this concept of the antichrist and the popular prophetess source serous of the 20th century, Jean Dixon prophesied several years ago that the antichrist has already been worn and as I speak is currently maturing into adulthood and will soon make himself known publicly. So those are some of the things that we encounter when we're looking at this question of the antichrist and the first thing I want to do is look at what the New Testament says specifically about the antichrist because the only place we really find out anything directly about antichrist in those terms is in the first epistle of John and so let's look at first John chapter 2 beginning at verse 18. John writes these words little children. It is the last hour notice.
The time frame of reference that is used here by John little children.
It is the last hour and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come by which we know that it is the last hour they went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been unless they would've continued with us, but they went out, that they might be made manifest that none of them were of us. Now obviously, in this context, John is speaking of many antichrists who already have come, and he's describing antichrists plural here in terms of those who have committed the sin of apostasy. Those who had once professed faith in Christ then left the Christian community and repudiated their confession and so here John links antichrist with apostasy. In chapter 4 beginning at verse one, where he says, beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world by this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of antichrist, which you heard was coming and is now already in the world that he talks about the coming of the antichrist. He speaks of many antichrists and he talks about the spirit of the antichrist who is coming but who is already in the world. So one thing is clear in John's description of antichrist that in his idea of antichrist.
He's talking about something that represented a clear and present danger to the first century church. Now let's take a couple minutes to look at the term anti-Christ. What is significant is the use of the term anti-which comes directly from the Greek on T which has two distinct meanings in the Greek language most frequently. The term anti-means against but sometimes the prefects on T in Greek means in place of now if it merely means anti-than the antichrist is defined in terms of is opposition to Christ, he is one who is against Christ. The term if used in a secondary sense of on T would be somebody who subverts or seeks to replace Christ as a false substitute. He is a supplant or a false Messiah. Now we don't necessarily have to choose between these two possible meanings or renderings of the term on T in Greek because anyone obviously who sought to supplant the true office of Christ as a false Messiah as a false Christ would buy the same action be working against Christ. And so the idea is suggested here that the antichrist is one who both works against Christ and tries to become a substitute for Christ. That is, is a false God or false Messiah. Now, in addition to John's teaching specifically using the language of antichrist. We have the teaching of the apostle Paul in his writings to the Thessalonian Christians in second Thessalonians chapter 2 verses 3 to 11. Let's look at this text.
If we may second Thessalonians 23 through 11 Paul begins by saying let no one deceive you by any means for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. You remember that when I was still with you I told you these things, and now you know what is restraining that he may be revealed in his own time.
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 the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming in the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan with all power signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be. Say, and for this reason God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Not again. The context in which Paul talks about this mystery of iniquity or the mystery of lawlessness. The man of sin, the son of perdition is in response to trouble.
It was brewing in the Thessalonica and community. The Paul speaks of the beginning of second Thessalonians 26 is in or two people be upset by reports that allegedly have come from me somebody been circulating in the church.
False rumors that had allegedly come from Paul and one of those false rumors was that the Christ had already come. And Paul is now writing to correct that misapprehension and reminds them of what he had said to them, formerly when he was in their midst that certain things had to take place before the coming of Jesus. Obviously there were expecting a very quick appearance of Jesus and some had actually been convinced of the word, heard the rumor that he had returned pulses not yet because before that takes place. We have to have the appearance of this man of lawlessness, and so on. Now let's look at it again. That day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and now he's referring to an apostasy.
That's what it means to fall away, a repudiation of true faith. I remember the difference between paganism and apostasy. A pagan is one who is an unbeliever who has never made a profession of faith and apostate is someone who makes a profession of faith and then later repudiates that profession of faith that is an apostate can only be someone who was within the covenant community within the visible church. Benjamin Warfield is convinced that in this text Paul is not talking about an apostasy that will take place at the end of history in the manifestation of wickedness and moral decline within the Christian church he's talking about the apostasy of the Jews in the first century which was a major problem that is recounted in the New Testament. Christ came to his own his own received him not.
Paul had this tremendous ongoing burden for his own kinsman, according to the flesh, Israel, the author of Hebrews warns that current generation of Jewish people about the dire danger of neglecting the great salvation that had come, and so the apostasy of the Jews of the apostasy of Israel is tied to that generation of Jews who rejected the Messiah that had appeared in their midst and that would indicate a great falling away. But then Paul goes on to say that they will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, not one of the reasons why biblical scholars and commentators believe that Paul is here describing the same thing that John is talking about in his letter with respect to the term antichrist because Paul describes the man of sin into basic what he first of all, opposes Christ. He is against Christ. He is anti-Christ, and second of all, he exalts himself above all that is God, and claims the right to be worshiped, and so on, so that in this case, the man of sin, or the man of lawlessness is one who is antichrist in both senses of the word anti-that I spelled out a few moments ago what else does Paul say about the man of lawlessness that exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
He describes a man of lawlessness of actually being seated in the temple that if those words are to be taken literally, then you have one of two options either. This occurred while the Herodian temple was still standing or it must refer to a future event that will require the rebuilding of the temple. That's why many people today, particularly among dispensationalism believe that there will be because there must be not only the restoration of the Jews to the land of Palestine, but the reconstruction of the temple and the reinstitution of the sacrificial system for the final appearance of antichrist to take place as he literally is seated in the temple this business about desecrating the religion of Israel and the temple of God also links Paul's description of the man of lawlessness to geniuses. All of it. This course when Jesus talked about the abomination of desolation which was linked to one who would commit some kind of serious form of blasphemous sacrilege which Jesus also spoke of terms of the signs that he predicted in the all of the discourse then Paul goes on to say, do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things, and now you know what is restraining that he may be revealed in his own time.
For the mystery of lawlessness is all ready at work justice John talks about the Antichrist being already in the world and already working so Paul in his description of the man of lawlessness. This mysterious person as being presently already at work, but he says that in the present situation, this man of lawlessness is being held in restraint by one of the great mysteries of the New Testament is not only the identity of the man of lawlessness of the that of the Antichrist. But the question of the identity of the one who restrains or the restraint now one of the most fascinating and I think frankly bizarre arguments that dispensational scholars bring for their view of the pre-tribulation rapture. The view that the church will be taken out of the world before the last tribulation arguments. I've read it go on like this that the only one who really can operate as the restrainer of evil in this world is the Holy Spirit.
So the first assumption is that the restrainer of second chapter of second Thessalonians is the Holy Spirit and then the speculation goes like this since the Holy Spirit indwells Christians. The only way the Holy Spirit could be taken away. The only way the full restraining power of the Holy Spirit could be removed from the planet would be you have to remove every Christian from the plant so they see this as a sort of disguised teaching of the pre-tribulation rapture which I think is really unwarranted, speculation.
We don't know who restrainer is may simply be the restraints of God who restrains evil, but since he speaks in specific terms of an individual or an institution. Some have suggested that the restraining power here is an institution like the Roman government or some scholars have suggested that the one who was actively restraining the man of lawlessness at this point in time was Paul himself, and that again is speculation because we don't know what it is that she restraining her who it is that's restraining the man was lawlessness all we are told is that he who now restrains will continue to restrain until he is taken out of the way and then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming bags on the say the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan with all power signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perished because they did not receive the love of the truth that they may be. Say, for this reason God will send them strong delusion, etc. now here it seems to suggest that the man of lawlessness will be endowed with supernatural powers, giving lying signs and wonders and will be working in concert with Satan.
Now these elements of the description of the man of lawlessness is already at work here correspond in a remarkable fashion with the description that we get of the beast of Revelation whose mark is the mark 666 so I'm going to do in our next lecture is to focus attention on the beast of the book of Revelation. But before I do that, let me suggest to you that the preliminary study that we have done indicates strongly I believe and I would say the majority report in historic Christian scholarship is that the figure of the antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the beast in the book of Revelation all refer to one and the same thing, so that whatever light we can learn from the antichrist will teach us something about the man of lawlessness. Conversely, whatever we can discern about the meaning of the matter. Lawlessness will tell something about the antichrist and again where we learn about the antichrist amount lawlessness will shed light on our understanding of the mysterious beast who is introduced to us in the apocalyptic literature of the book of Revelation and again we are left still with the question person or institution. Is this something that happened in the first century once and for all.
Or was there some archetypal manifestation of this person or institution in the first century, we can expect the fuller manifestation later on in history. These are some of the questions that remain on the table as we lose Dr. RC Sproul often said there is a great deal of mystery when it comes to the end times in the book of Revelation, and even when we can't come to a solid conclusion, there is help in the knowledge that we do have so that we will be frightened by the rumors that often are the subject of popular Christian books.
Dr. RC Sproul continues his series. The last days according to Jesus here on Renewing Your Mind were glad you joined us today. We are making our way through portions of the series all week clarifying important scriptural truths on the end times is RC is already told us this week is so much of the Bible's information about the return of Christ is in imaginative, poetic language and that's why can be a mystery, but I think this entire series will be a great help to you as you continue your own study so contact us today with a donation of any amount to ligature ministries and we will be happy to send you the two DVD set the title of the series.
The last days according to Jesus, our number is 800-435-4343. You might find it more convenient to go online to make a request it's Renewing Your Mind.org. Dr. Spruill founded leader ministries. In 1971 there in the hills of Western Pennsylvania.
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Our aim is to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible. And it's only through your financial support they were able to carry on this important work. So we thank you for your generosity.
When you contact us today to request the series or web address again is Renewing Your Mind.org or if you prefer to call us. Our number is 800-435-4343 tomorrow. Dr. Spruill will provide more insights into this mysterious figure known as the antichrist because of the religious activity that surrounds this figure of the beast and antichrist. Some have argued historically that the antichrist will be some kind of a clergy person who will seek to be a false Christ or a substitute.
I hope you join us Wednesday for Renewing Your Mind