Tuesday, March 26, 2013

P2 - Who and what is Anti-Christ?

1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

Yesterday we aimed to identify the what, when, and who of the Anti-Christ throughout the scriptures. We first proposed four ways in which scripture identifies "Anti-Christ", and then unfolded the first one: Anti-Christ will be the Ultimate Rebel against Jesus Christ.

Today we will continue our study, focusing attention on the remaining three meanings of "anti-Christ" in scripture:

-Anti-Christ refers to the historic rebellion against Jesus Christ
-Anti-Christ is any form of personal rebellion against Jesus Christ
-Anti-Christ is spiritual rebellion against Jesus Christ

Anti-Christ refers to the historic rebellion against Jesus Christ
The Holy Spirit says in 1 John 2:18 "Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many anti- christs have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour."  John helps us to see that when speaking of "Anti-Christ", we not only need to understand that Anti-Christ is a person yet to come, but that "Anti-Christ" is also describing the general historic rebellion against Christ.1  Certainly those who oppose Christ throughout history could be easily included in this second category.  John writes elsewhere on this point in 2 John 1:7 "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist." (ESV) John includes "many decievers" among the "defectors" who have "went out" from them.  The history of redemption is littered with examples of those who have opposed Jesus Christ:2 

Common to all the various historical "anti-Christs" is the perisistent attempt to destroy Christ and His people - whether by political, financial or religious maneuvering.  John is concerned for his flock, and for us reading his words.  We need to be aware of the historical meaning of anti-Christ, but we also need to be aware of a third category...

Anti-Christ is any form of personal rebellion against Jesus Christ
Having seen anti-Christ as referring to an ultimate rebel and the historic rebellion against Jesus Christ, John identifies a third meaning: personal rebellion in the form of unbelief about Jesus Christ.  As we have noted before, the term anti-Christ refers to a specific rebellion or attack against the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We see for example in 2 John 7 about those who denied Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh as being "anti-Christs and deceivers".  In 1 John 4:2-3 we see similar personal unbelief about the full humanity of Jesus Christ.  So to act like anti-Christ in a personal way deals first of all in denying Christ's full-humanity.  We also note secondly that to act personally like anti-Christ means to deny Christ's full Deity.  1 John 2:22 speaks of those who denied Jesus being the Christ, which by that point in John's way was tantamount to denying the full Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Additionally, to deny Jesus as Christ was to deny His mission as the Saving Messiah. 

In understanding the doctrine of anti-Christ to be personal as well as historical and future, we can see why John is so burdened to write these words of warning.  We as Christians need to pay heed, since we are living in an age predicted by scripture to be full of deoctrines of demons and a great falling away. (1 Timothy 4:15 & 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

But lets consider one final meaning of this term "anti-Christ in scripture, namely...

Anti-Christ is spiritual rebellion against Jesus Christ
John writes in 1 John 4:1-3 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God 3and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God". (ESV) Anti-Christ can refer to a future ultimate rebel, a personal expression of unbelief or historical examples of rebellion against Jesus Christ.  However in this final category, the spiritual nature of anti-Christ is that it is a spirit or spiritual principle that runs through hostility against Christ in every age, including today.  We ultimately know for instance that Satan is the chief spirit who is energizing anti-Christ, whether personally, historically or what will be an ultimate ruler. 

All forms of anti-Christian doctrine, movements and persons are influenced by the forces of darkness that conspire against Christ and His people. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:11-18)  This is why John urges his readers to "test the spirits".  If anyone or any movement claims to be Christian, and yet deny Christ's full deity or humanity, then they are not Christian by anti-Christian.  The spirit of anti-Christ speaks of the spiritual climate of our unbelieving culture, which we know is growing increasingly hostile to the Gospel.  

The great and blessed hope - both now and in the future
In this short series on the subject of "anti-Christ", we have considered four meanings of this term in scripture:

1. Anti-Christ will be the Ultimate Rebel against Jesus Christ
2. Anti-Christ refers to the historic rebellion against Jesus Christ
3. Anti-Christ is any form of personal rebellion against Jesus Christ
4. Anti-Christ is spiritual rebellion against Jesus Christ

We know that the great and blessed hope we have in defeating anti-Christ on all accounts is through the True and Living Christ.  We know that it is He who will slay the ultimate rebel, the Anti-Christ, the "son of perdition" by means of the breath of His mouth at His second coming. (2 Thesslonians 2:8)  Second, it is the promise of Jesus Himself that guarantees that despite what "anti-Christ" teachers may appear in history or on the local level, the truth of God's word is able to defeat error. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)  Thirdly, only the Lord Jesus Christ in conjunction with the Holy Spirit can defeat the personal rebellion of unbelief against Christ and His gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)  Then finally, we know that despite the influence of the forces of darkness and the spirit of anti-Christ operating in this world, greater is the Holy Spirit and Christ in us than that evil spirit who is operating in this world. (1 John 4:4-5). 

1. In the immediate context of John's writing he is referring to those "professing" believer's and teachers who walked away from the faith. I put the term "professing" in quotation marks, since the people of whom John wrote about were not true Christians to begin with - but rather make-believers.  

2. The chief mark of any of these distinctions of "anti-Christ" in the scripture is that they in some fashion specifically oppose Christ or anything having to do with Him.  Consider the following examples from history:

a. We could classify Cain as the first type or example of anti-Christ, since he rebelled against the idea of God-ordained salvation grounded in the death of an innocent sacrifice. His outcome was the killing of righteous Abel, his brother.

b. Nimrod, the builder of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10, pictures Anti-Christ in that he constructed ancient Babylon and attempted to be the first world ruler who opposed God.

c. Moses had to contend with the likes of Korah, who challenged his God given authority as God's prophet in Numbers 16. Moses of course is a type or pattern of the Ultimate Prophet Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1-4), hence it follows that Korah represents anti-Christian rebellion and teaching. (compare Jude 11)

d. In Moses' time another deceiver arose to deceive the people through rebellion, sorcery and political intrigue - Balaam, the Pagan prophet in Numbers 22-24. We know Balaam is an example of the historic rebellion against Jesus Christ due to the fact that false teachers espousing the ways of Balaam in Revelation 2:14.

e. Who can forget the greatest traitor of all-time, Judas Iscariot. The Bible says in John 13:27 that Satan himself entered into Judas to betray the Lord Jesus Christ. Historically speaking Judas represents the very things John was warning his readers about.

f. Certainly in our past and most recent history, many examples of anti-Christ could be cited. In the early church for example, many of the Roman emporers such as Nero were viewed as "Anti-Christ". In the Middle ages (800 A.D-1500 A.D), various popes and false religious leaders were regarded as Anti-Christ. In the Reformation of the 1500's, Reformers like martin Luther regarded the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church system as Anti-Christ. During WW2, men like Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler were all thought to be Anti-Christ.