“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” — 1 John:2:18
Somewhere at this very moment on Planet Earth, the Antichrist is almost certainly alive – biding his time, awaiting his cue. Banal sensationalism? Far from it! That likelihood is based upon a sober evaluation of current events in relation to Bible prophecy. Already a mature man, the Antichrist is perhaps active in politics and might even be an admired world leader. Or he could be the head of a multinational corporation, a little-known international banker of great wealth and behind-the-scenes influence, a sports hero – or he might arise suddenly from total anonymity. Somewhere he is being meticulously groomed, though as yet he probably has no more inkling than do those who encounter him daily of the ultimate role for which Satan is preparing him and will, one momentous day, utterly possess him.
Whoever and wherever he is, one passion rules this remarkable man – a lust for power. Even so, benevolence, prudence, integrity, and principle mark his circumspect public behavior. It may be that at this point in his life he is still convinced that his motives are altogether pure and unselfish.
Antichrist! The media has so conditioned our minds that the very word instantly conjures up the image of a sinister man who exudes evil from every pore. But Hollywood caricatures play into the hands of the real Antichrist, since no suspicion will rest upon this one whose admirable qualities so well conceal his dark designs. When the time has come for his surprising world takeover, precipitated by an unprecedented global crisis, he will be hailed as the world’s savior – and so he will appear to be.
The Apostle Paul dispels popular misconceptions and gives us the awesome facts: “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness...” (2 Corinthians:11:14,15). We may be certain that Antichrist will appear as the purest “angel of light” that Satan can produce.
Society has been undergoing a step-by-step preparation for the advent of Satan’s messiah, and in our moment of history has at last produced a generation so perverted that it will actually mistake the Antichrist for Christ. In the name of freedom and right of choice, our most blessed of nations has condemned its unborn to the cruelest of deaths, has made a mockery of the sanctity of marriage, entertains itself with films and music centered on themes of violence, Satanism, and sexual perversions, has all but destroyed millions of its youth with drugs, and has created an urban war zone and a poisoned planet. Evil will soon be ripe for harvest.
Jesus warned that many would come claiming to be the Christ. These numerous lesser antichrists who were already in the world, as the Apostle John explained in 1 John:2:18, would prepare the way for the real Antichrist who would appear in the last of the “last days.” Behold the ultimate deception: Satan posing as God, Antichrist masquerading as the true Christ, and not just the world but an apostate church as well totally taken in by the bold fraud. Instead of a frontal assault on Christianity, the evil one will pervert the church from within by posing as its founder. He will cunningly misrepresent Christ while pretending to be Christ. And by that process of substitution, he will undermine and pervert all that Christ truly is. Anything less than such a diabolically malevolent strategy would be unworthy of Satan’s foul genius.
This is an altogether different scenario from that envisioned by most people. If they believe in a literal Antichrist at all, they presume he will be an obviously evil ogre whom any child would immediately recognize. In fact, however, he will be the closest counterfeit of Christ that Satan can produce. Completely deceived by this brazen masquerade, the world will hail him as its deliverer.
And right there is where the plot thickens. If the Antichrist will indeed pretend to be the Christ, then his followers must be “Christians”! The church of that day will, with scarcely a dissenting voice, hail him as its leader.
Such perversion and deception are beyond the ability of the imagination to conceive. It is certainly not what the average person has been led to believe. Yet this is the picture which the Bible presents and to which current events ever more clearly seem to point.
It becomes immediately apparent that such an unthinkable scenario requires certain preconditions to make it credible. First of all, the apostate church in the last days must become so corrupted that it actually opposes what Christ taught while at the same time insisting that it is faithful to Him. Satan’s lie will be honored as God’s truth – without the church leaders who deceive, and those who are deceived, even knowing that such a metamorphosis has taken place. Moreover, the preparation for the great delusion must have been well in process from within the “last days” church itself even before the Antichrist appears.
Could Paul have meant anything less when he warned, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [apostasy, turning from the faith] first, and [then] that man of sin [the Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians:2:3)? In that day, sound doctrine will be despised (2 Timothy:4:1-4). For many people, objective truth will have been replaced by feelings and experience. For others, intellectualism and skepticism will have justified what will seem to be a very reasonable improvement upon “Christianity.”
Jesus himself, who raised the question whether there would be any faith whatsoever on the earth when He returned (Luke:18:8), used language similar to Paul’s. When His disciples asked Him what would characterize the last days just prior to His return, Jesus explained that it would be a time of the greatest religious deception the world had seen to that point, or would ever see again. He prefaced His remarks with this solemn warning: “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew:24:4; cf. 5,11,24).
Those who truly know the Lord and heed such warnings will not succumb to the spirit of the last days. Like God, who weeps over a rebellious world and delays His judgment to give men time to repent, they will have a passion to bring His truth to the world. Everyone who loves God more than this world, and to whom His evaluation of one’s life means more than the fickle opinions of men, will be kept from the delusion that will sweep the world. Those who fear God and keep His Word have no fear of what others may think or say or do to them, because they fear God with deep reverence.
The world must be prepared both religiously and politically to embrace the Antichrist when he suddenly rises to power. If “Christianity” is to be the official world religion (which must be the case if the Antichrist claims to be Christ returned), then it must become broad enough to accommodate all of the world’s faiths. As for the political climate, the world must be united in the twin causes of global peace and ecological rescue when this man appears.
There are only two persons who will hold absolute rule over this world. The first is the Antichrist and the second is the Lord Jesus Christ. Every person must choose between these two antagonists and their opposing kingdoms. There is no neutral ground.
Those who suggest that we can retain the idea of Christ’s return to reign over Planet Earth as the symbol of some “spiritual truth” suitable for all religions deny the very foundation of the Christian faith. Christianity is based upon the claims that Christ made about Himself and the eyewitness accounts of His life, death, and resurrection as recorded in the New Testament in undeniable fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. The distinctions that make Christianity unique are irreconcilable with any other religious belief, and any attempt at ecumenical unity is a denial of biblical Christianity. Consistent with the distinctiveness of Christianity, the Bible also teaches that peace will not come to this world through the triumph of Christ’s teachings, but only through His personal return to reign from Jerusalem....
How dare anyone think that a world ripening for judgment can be rescued by Christians working together in political/social activism with the followers of all religions, and with humanists and atheists! Scripture says repeatedly that nothing but the personal and physical return of Christ to this earth can put an end to its wickedness and suffering. Paul declared that “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” as it longs for a release that can come only through “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans:8:19-22). Paul makes very clear what this means: That only when Christians have received their immortal bodies and are glorified with Christ, ruling and reigning upon this earth with Him, will earth be delivered from its turmoil and pain.
The last days before Christ’s return are indeed prophesied as a period of growing evil, error, and spiritual delusion, manifested in both the world and the professing church. There are also, however, indications in Scripture that in the last days, millions of people around the world will receive Christ as Savior and Lord, thus hastening His return. Many of them will be the most unlikely candidates for salvation – New Agers, drug addicts, prison inmates, communists, Muslims, Catholics, the poor and the outcasts of society – as Christ seemed to indicate in the parable of the great supper (Luke:14:21-23).
Evangelicals tend to present the gospel exclusively as a remedy for personal sin and the procurement of an eternal home in heaven. They generally neglect to proclaim it as God’s means of bringing peace to this troubled planet, as did the angels at the birth of Christ and as did the early church. It is the duty of every Christian political leader, whether president, ambassador, or other official, to make very clear to the entire world that all human efforts to achieve peace are in vain unless Jesus Christ is invited back to this earth to reign in individual hearts and over all nations.
Skeptics argue that the early Christians and even the apostles, as well as countless others down through the centuries, all thought they were living in the last days, and that the term is therefore meaningless. It is true that in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts:2:17), Peter seemed to apply an Old Testament prophecy about the “last days” (Joel:2:28-32) to the outpouring of the Spirit at that time upon the disciples. However, carefully reading the context in Joel, along with Peter’s words, makes it clear that Peter was not declaring that what was happening at that moment was the fulfillment of Joel’s promise. Rather, it was a sample of what could have occurred if Israel had repented of her rejection of Christ: She could have experienced the millennial reign of her Messiah, which Joel went on to describe. It was an offer that Israel refused (as it had been prophesied she would) but one that she will accept at a future time, after God’s judgment has been fully visited upon her.
The Apostle John, writing in about AD 95, declared: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John:2:18). Yet John was by no means asserting that the “last days” had fully come, as some claim. He made it clear that although there were already many antichrists, the Antichrist was to appear at a future time.
Let us be reminded that the Rapture could have occurred at any moment. Indeed, then as now, the early church watched and waited in eager anticipation of being taken to heaven in that glorious event. There are no explicit signs to indicate that the Rapture is about to occur. The “last-days signs” are not for the church but for an unbelieving Israel; not for the Rapture but for the Second Coming. Nothing stands between the church and that “blessed hope” (Titus:2:13) of being caught up to meet her Bridegroom in the air.
Those events that Christ prophesied when He was asked for signs of His coming are intended to warn Israel of Antichrist’s appearance and that after guaranteeing her peace he will seek to destroy her. Those specific signs also herald the coming of Israel’s Messiah to rescue her from Antichrist’s attacking armies, an event that Christians refer to as Christ’s Second Coming in power and glory. Since the Rapture comes first, however, certain signs that indicate the nearness of the Second Coming may cast their shadows far enough in advance to tell the church that the Rapture must be soon. Nevertheless, we are always, regardless of any signs, to expect the Rapture to occur at any moment and to live in that expectancy.
As for the Second Coming, it would have been premature for Israel to expect it when only a few of the signs were yet in evidence. Jesus declared: “When ye shall see all these things, know that it [the Second Coming] is near, even at the doors” (Matthew:24:33). Israel has been alerted so that she might know exactly when the moment of her Messiah’s intervention to save her has come. How many of these signs will cast their shadows before them at the time of the Rapture, no one can say. We do know, however, that our generation is the first for which any of these shadows have appeared, and we now have many.
The New Testament writers seem to have understood the “last days” as a time that began with the ascension of Christ and would culminate with His second coming. That event would be preceded by specific signs indicating that the generation that would exist on earth at that time would be living in the last of the “last days.” It is exciting to note that no generation has ever had solid biblical reason for believing that it was living in the last of the last days preceding the second coming of Christ – no generation until ours.
Question: Doesn’t the pretrib rapture contradict the parable of the weeds (Matthew:13:30): “Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: collect the weeds and tie them into bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn”? Verse 39 also says “the harvest is at the end of the age” and the harvesters are angels. A pretrib rapture also removes the grain of Mark:4:26-29 before it is ripe as required in Ephesians:4:12-13.
Response: First of all, in these parables it is not Christ rapturing His own up to heaven but the angels gathering both wicked and righteous. Nor is there a resurrection; but both the wicked and the righteous are alive upon earth. There is nothing about the judgment of those who have died. Furthermore, in both parables it is the wicked who are taken first.
The Rapture and resurrection must occur before the final gathering of the wicked from earth for Christ’s promise to be fulfilled that His disciples would reign on thrones over the twelve tribes of Israel (Lk 22:28-30). Revelation 19 records the marriage of Christ and His bride in heaven before He returns to rescue Israel in the midst of Armageddon and to destroy Antichrist and set up His kingdom. Obviously, the Rapture must have already occurred for Christ’s bride to be in heaven. She accompanies Him from heaven to earth to reign with Him (“they shall be priests of God and Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” – Rv 20:6).
In these parables, however, the wicked are destroyed first and then the righteous are gathered – and there is nothing about a resurrection. In contrast, the rapture passages either imply (as in Jn 14) or directly include the resurrection of believers (as in 1 Thes 4:16 and 1 Cor:15:52-57) – and there is nothing about the wicked being taken at all, much less first.
There is no question that both parables refer to “the end of the age.” This must be the end of the Millennium, during which multitudes of those whose hearts are evil have been allowed to live side by side with the righteous under Christ’s reign on earth from David’s throne in Jerusalem. It is only at the end of the thousand years when Satan is loosed that the wickedness of the hearts of those who are secretly opposed to the Lord is revealed, they follow Satan in an attack against Jerusalem and are all destroyed together (Rv 20:7-9). Then the righteous living on earth are brought into the eternal kingdom of the new heavens and new earth – over which His bride will continue to reign with Christ.
Ephesians:4:12-13 has nothing to do with either parable, with the Rapture or the judgment at the end of the Millennium. The subject in verses 11-32 is “the edifying of the body of Christ” here in this life.
Perfection is not realized until we arrive in heaven itself. So when Paul says, “Till we all come...unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the fulness of Christ,” he is clearly speaking of the post-resurrection and glorified state of believers in heaven. He is not suggesting that the church must achieve this perfection on earth before the Rapture in order to qualify to be taken to heaven. There is no hint in Ephesians:4:12-13 or elsewhere in Scripture that the Rapture cannot occur until the “grain of Mark:4:26-29...[becomes] ripe” as you suggest. The passage in Mark could better be applied to evangelism àpropos of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 and Paul’s expression: “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Cor:3:6).
The idea that the church must be perfected on earth is false for several reasons. The fact that the longed-for perfection does not come until the resurrection – when Christ will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil:3:20) – is clear from this and many other passages (1 Cor:15:51-57; 1 Jn:3:2; Heb:9:28, etc.). If we must be purified and perfected here on earth, when are those already in heaven through death perfected? Obviously, they and we who are caught up “together with them...to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes 4:17) at the resurrection/Rapture will all be perfected through the transformation of our vile bodies at that time and at the “judgment seat of Christ” before which we “must all appear” (2 Cor:5:10) for the judgment of our works (1 Cor:3:12-15).