And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist.... —1 John:4:3a
It is often taught that Antichrist is not a man but a spirit. Though the above verse refers to the "spirit of antichrist," John earlier makes it clear that Antichrist is a person: "...as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists..." (1 Jn:2:18). Many antichrists were already present, operating in the "spirit of antichrist." None of them, however, was the Antichrist who, John assures us, will eventually come.
Paul refers to Antichrist as "that man of sin...the son of perdition...that Wicked [one]...whom the Lord...shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders..." (2 Thes:2:3-10). If this is not the Antichrist, who would this supremely evil man be, who will sit "in the temple of God [to be rebuilt in Jerusalem in these last days], shewing himself that he is God" (v 4)? Who else but Antichrist, Satan's world ruler, would have such authority? "And all that dwell upon earth shall worship him..." (Rev:13:3-4,8).
Paul declares, "And now ye know what withholdeth [prevents] that he might be revealed in his time" (2 Thes:2:6). Yet many try to identify Antichrist before his time. This evil man, who is almost certainly alive right now, may not even know the eventual role for which Satan has been grooming him. Nor can Satan put him into power until God prepares the way.
...for that day [of Christ, or the Lord, see v 2] shall not come, except there come a falling away [apostasy] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition....(2 Thes:2:3)
This verse does not teach that Antichrist must appear before the day of the Lord and thus before the Rapture, which we believe initiates that day. Paul only states that the apostasy must come first. As for Antichrist, "that day shall not come, except...that man of sin be revealed...." Clearly the Antichrist will be revealed in "that day" and not before.
Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers of what must occur in order for Antichrist to be revealed: the removal of the One who prevents this revelation. At the time Paul wrote this epistle a Person was preventing Antichrist from being revealed; and Paul explains that this same Person will continue to do so until He is taken out of the way: "For...he who now letteth [prevents/hinders] will let [prevent], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed..." (2 Thes:2:7-8).
That God himself is the One preventing Antichrist from being revealed is clear for two reasons: 1) This One has prevented Satan's takeover for more than 1,900 years; 2) Only God is more powerful than Satan. That God, therefore, who is omnipresent, will be "taken out of the way" is the key.
There is only one possible interpretation: that the Holy Spirit indwelling the believers is the One preventing Antichrist from being revealed. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon men, but did not indwell them, and could leave them. Thus David prayed, "...take not thy holy spirit from me" (Ps:51:11). We offer no such prayer today, for we are "sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (Eph:1:13) whom Jesus declared would "abide with you for ever" (Jn:14:16). Christ told His disciples, "...he [the Holy Spirit] dwelleth with you; and shall be in you" (Jn:14:17). This special presence of God, unknown on earth until the day of Pentecost, can be "taken out of the way"—but only at the Rapture.
Christ assures us, "He that believeth on me,...out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water." John explains, "[T]his spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given [to indwell permanently]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (Jn:7:38-39). It is from heaven when He was glorified to the Father's right hand that Jesus, on the day of Pentecost, sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believers permanently, exactly as He promised ("the Comforter...whom I will send unto you from the Father..."- Jn:15:26), and the church was born. Thus Peter at Pentecost declared, "Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he [Christ] hath shed forth this..." (Acts:2:33).
It is only this special indwelling presence of God, which began at Pentecost, that can be taken away—and only through the Rapture removing Christians from earth. If Antichrist appears before the Rapture, then believers would logically look for him first; yet we are told to look for Christ (Lk 12:35-40; Philippians:3:20; 1 Thes:1:10; Titus:2:13; Heb:9:28, etc.). Nor could any other event except the Rapture unite the world under Antichrist.
Some suggest that the chaos caused by computer failures on January 1, 2000, will be the catalyst to usher in Antichrist's world government. In our opinion, the Y2K warnings of disaster border on extremism and alarmism, which we will attempt to deal with in a future issue. God has something far more electrifying and unifying in mind: the Rapture. In our opinion, nothing else could unite Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, atheists, communists, capitalists and everyone else—except the unspeakable terror caused by the sudden mass disappearance of millions of believers all over the world.
"Where did they go? Who took them? Will I be next?" That hysterical cry will be on everyone's lips—from cowering individuals to the bewildered United Nations meeting in emergency session. Most terrifying of all will be the question, "How can I escape when whoever took them comes back for more?" Almost no one will believe the biblical Rapture has occurred, because of a "strong delusion" from God (2 Thes:2:10-12).
The pretrib Rapture, uniting the world in a common terror and grief, will offer the perfect opportunity for Satan to put his man into power. With God's restraint lifted, all of Satan's power will be unleashed through Antichrist "in signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" (vv 9-10). Antichrist may claim to be negotiating with an intergalactic council for the return of the missing. Should he promise that those who take his mark in hand or forehead would not be snatched from earth, multitudes would welcome that guarantee.
We believe that the Rapture (not the appearance of Antichrist and tribulation necessitating survivalist tactics) is the next event on the prophetic calendar, and that it must occur very soon. In the meantime, the "spirit of antichrist" is preparing the world and a false church for his appearing. Consider carefully what John has to say: "...try [test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world"(1 Jn:4:1). Many spirits are involved in a common anti-Christ agenda, speaking through many false prophets.
John alerts us to a foundational truth which Satan undermines in any way he can: "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" (1 Jn:4:2). The denial of this truth characterizes what John calls "the spirit of antichrist."
Tragically, this antichrist spirit pollutes the teaching of many seemingly Christian churches and leaders. Remember, the Greek prefix anti not only means "in opposition to" but also "in the place of." The antichrist spirit opposes Christ under the pretense of representing Him and leading His church.
To warn of a denial "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" seems, at first, unnecessary. Very few people deny that Jesus Christ really lived. The date on coins and documents around the world attests to that historic fact. John, therefore, must have meant much more than that, as careful thought reveals.
Clearly, the phrase "is come in the flesh" indicates that Jesus Christ existed prior to His incarnation as a babe in Bethlehem. He is God the Son, one of three Persons of the Godhead (Col:2:9), "the Almighty...the Alpha and Omega" (Rev:1:8,11); the Creator of all (Jn:1:3); the eternal Word "made flesh" (Jn:1:14). "For unto us a child is born" refers to the baby Jesus. The very next phrase, "unto us a son is given" (Isa:9:6), refers to the Father giving His eternal Son into the world: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..." (Jn:3:16); "the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me" (Isa:48:16, etc).
This given Son is called "The mighty God, The everlasting Father" (Isa:9:6). To deny that God has come in flesh expresses the very spirit of antichrist. That spirit is manifested in the Jehovah's Witnesses' denial that Jesus is God. Islam and its Koran, though honoring Jesus as a great prophet, also deny His deity. So do a substantial percentage of those who call themselves born-again Christians. These people are lost, no matter how lustily they sing, "O how I love Jesus," and how faithfully they attend church; for Jesus himself said, "Before Abraham was, I AM" [this is God's name, Jahweh/Jehovah, from Ex 3:14] (Jn:8:58).
The Mormon's denial is more devious: At the time Jesus came into the world He was a spirit being, half-brother of Lucifer and of all of us in a pre-earth state. Our "Father in heaven" was once a sinful man on another planet and was redeemed by that world's Jesus. The heart of Mormon doctrine is "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." The Mormon's God is an exalted man with numerous wives through whom he has millions of spirit children who must come to earth in order to become gods, as Jesus did. The body Jesus took in order to achieve godhood was produced when "Father God" came to earth and had intercourse with Mary. Behind such teaching, writes John, is "the spirit of antichrist."
The Roman Catholic claim that Mary is "the Mother of God" and the "spouse of the Holy Spirit" offers an even more subtle anti-Christ twist. In fact, Mary is not the mother of Jesus as God, the Eternal Son of God given by the Father to be the Savior of the world. She is the mother of Jesus as man, the mother of the body the Father prepared for His Son in her womb: "Wherefore when he [Christ] cometh into the world, he saith...a body hast thou prepared me" (Heb:10:5). Nor is she "the spouse of the Holy Spirit." The creation by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb of the body which Jesus took when He became man had nothing to do with a relationship to her that could in any way imply that the Holy Spirit was Mary's spouse.
The Mary of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, inspired by the spirit of antichrist, has been elevated above Jesus, who is almost always pictured as a babe in her arms or a child at her side. Far more prayers are said to this false Mary than to Jesus and the Father combined. Many prayers ask her for the salvation which Christ, who is the Savior, promises all who believe in Him.
Reincarnation as taught by Hinduism (or New Age) is another denial that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." It requires that He come repeatedly in other bodies in successive lives. At His incarnation, Christ took up permanent residence in human flesh; the same body that was laid in the grave was raised from the dead, never to die again, leaving the grave empty. In that resurrected, glorified body, Christ now lives at the Father's right hand. Yet as surely as that fact is denied by the teaching of reincarnation, so surely is it also denied by Roman Catholicism's dogma that Christ comes in the flesh over and over to die continually on its altars as a wafer turned into His literal physical body.
Such teaching comes through the spirit of antichrist. The sacrifice of the Mass denies the clear teaching of the Bible: "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many...we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once...after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever...there is no more offering for sin" (Heb:9:25-10:18). Defying such Scriptures, Catholicism declares, "Hence the Mass ...[is] a sacrifice in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated...in the sacrifice of the Mass our Lord is immolated...the eucharistic sacrifice is the source and the summit of...the Christian life....In the sacrifice of the Mass in fact, Christ offers himself for the salvation of the entire world" (Vatican II, Eucharisticum Mysterium, 3.,18.).
Through this false teaching, the spirit of antichrist has Catholics literally worshiping the wafer as God ("all the faithful ought to show to this most holy sacrament the worship which is due to the true God"- Ibid., 3.f.). They think that salvation comes gradually by repeatedly ingesting Christ's physical body and blood—this wafer.
The errors of both reincarnation and the Sacrifice of the Eucharist are refuted by Scripture. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb:9:27) refutes reincarnation. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many...there is no more offering for sin" (Heb:9:28; 10:18) refutes the alleged sacrifice of the Mass..
Christ's entrance into flesh to become a man took place only once—and is permanent in that same body. He was not "raised" a spirit being as His disciples imagined: "Handle me, and see;" Jesus told them, "for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Lk 24:39). One must believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ in order to be saved: "That if thou shalt ...believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom:10:9); "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel...By which also ye are saved,...how that Christ died for our sins...was buried, and...rose again the third day" (1 Cor:15:1-4). No other gospel will save the soul. Let us proclaim it without compromise and thus counter the lies perpetuated by the spirit of antichrist. TBC