10.27.2010

THE ANTICHRIST Controversy Part I

See the Introduction
Already in the first century the church was faced with the question of how to understand the apostle Paul’s description of the coming apostasy and revelation of the man of lawlessness as recorded in II Thessalonians 2:1-12. Events continually surfaced that seemed to correspond to what Paul had described concerning a certain individual who would appear on the scene of history prior to Christ’s second return. In the mid 4th century, John Chrysostom (344-407) began asking questions that are still being asked to this very day. He wrote,
Here Paul discuses the Antichrist and discusses great mysteries. What is the “falling away”? He calls him Apostasy; so he will destroy many and make them fall away…And he calls him “the man of sin.”…But who is he? Satan? By no means. Rather he is a man in whom Satan fully works…He will abolish all the gods and will order men to worship him instead of God. He will be seated in the temple of God, not that in Jerusalem only, but also in every church.
Fascinatingly, Chrysostom recognized the mysterious nature of Paul’s description of a man who will one day seat himself “in every church.” For over 2000 years the church has been eagerly waiting for the final parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ, but nothing to date has come close to fulfilling the cosmic magnitude and eschatological consummation of all things that Paul describes in II Thessalonians 2:1-12. How then are we to understand the description of the Antichrist as given in 2 Thessalonians 2?

There has always been an attempt to play pin-the-tail on the Antichrist. The Reformers believed that the Pope as the Antichrist referenced by the apostle John. I can remember many Christians in the 1980s referring to Ronald Reagan as the possible Antichrist because his first, middle, and last name each had 6 letters—thus correlating to the number of the beast 666. And about this time a series of dreadful movies were being distributed among Christian depicting those who were not good enough to make the rapture and “left behind” as going through terrible torments at the command of the Antichrist—guillotine and all.

Before we address how the apostle intends for us to understand the revelation of the man of sin, it's important to understand the context into which this question is raised. 2 Thessalonians 2 is known as Paul's mini-apocalypse. It is fully of highly symbolic, apocalyptic language to describe a phenomenon of something that has been present throughout the whole of redemptive history. It is extremely important to begin with the big picture if we are to have a proper understanding of what the apostle is describing. Paul’s purpose is to reveal enough information to comfort the Thessalonians and to comfort us that when the day of the Lord comes, we will know—none of God’s people will be left behind. The whole design of 2 Thessalonians 2 is to provide comfort and protection so that God’s people are not deceived by what is going to transpire before Christ comes.

In verses 1-2 we read, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us saying that the day of the Lord has already come.” In his first epistle Paul had written to the Thessalonians about the coming of Christ. Chapters 4-5 of 1 Thessalonians provide great detail about what is going to happen when Christ returns. The Thessalonians were comforted with the truth that when the Lord comes (could be at anytime), he will bring with him those believers who have died, their bodies will be raised, and those who remain will also be changed in a moment (1 Cor. 15) and will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

At some point between the writing of his first and second letters, some group of people, some mockers within the church at Thessalonica began to trouble them with the lie that Christ had already come--that Christ had already performed the great gathering together as Paul described in the first epistle, and that they had missed it. Putting this in present day terms, the Thessalonians were faced with the heresy of Preterism—the idea that Christ returned for judgment in AD70 when the temple was destroyed and fulfilled all eschatological reference to the second coming of Christ. Understandably, the Thessalonians were greatly troubled by this false teaching.

In the second epistle, Paul addresses this falsehood. He writes, “I do not want you to become alarmed and troubled, whether by Spirit, or by Word, or by letter, as though it is from us.” Now it appears that Paul had no idea about who was going around saying this, but he knows about it, and he says, “it’s not from us, the apostles, those whom have been entrusted this authority by God.” Paul counters this attack by now discussing in his second epistle what is going to happen when Christ comes to those who are presently troubling them with falsehood. In 2 Thess. 1:6, he wrote,
...since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you and give to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire to take vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when he comes in that day to be glorified in his saints.
What Paul is now doing in this second epistle is assuring the church that the day of the Lord has not come because the unbelievers who are presently persecuting them have not yet been judged. Such a judgment will coincide with the second coming. When Christ comes there will be a resurrection of the just and the unjust (Acts 24), and, therefore, the Thessalonians didn’t have to worry about missing Christ’s coming or being left behind because its one major event, one second coming. Incidentally, the idea of a secret rapture of the church is completely incompatible with Paul’s point here. When Christ is revealed from heaven, every eye will see him, the trumpet will blast, and he will be glorified in his saints as, at that time, he renders judgment on those who do not believe. This is how Paul was assuring the Thessalonians that day of Christ could not have come.

Now we turn to Paul's description of the Antichrist.

15 comments:

  1. The NEWEST Pretrib Calendar

    Hal (serial polygamist) Lindsey and other pretrib-rapture-trafficking and Mayan-Calendar-hugging hucksters deserve the following message: "2012 may be YOUR latest date. It isn't MAYAN!" Actually, if it weren't for the 179-year-old, fringe-British-invented, American-merchandised pretribulation rapture bunco scheme, Hal might still be piloting a tugboat on the Mississippi. roly-poly Thomas Ice (Tim LaHaye's No. 1 strong-arm enforcer) might still be in his tiny folding-chair church which shares its firewall with a Texas saloon, Jack Van Impe might still be a jazz band musician, Tim LaHaye might still be titillating California matrons with his "Christian" sex manual, Grant Jeffrey might still be taking care of figures up in Canada, Chuck Missler might still be in mysterious hush-hush stuff that rocket scientists don't dare talk about, John Hagee might be making - and eating - world-record pizzas, and Jimmy ("Bye You" Rapture) Swaggart might still be flying on a Ferriday flatbed! To read more details about the eschatological British import that leading British scholarship never adopted - the import that's created some American multi-millionaires - Google "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" (note LaHaye's hypocrisy under "1992"), "Hal Lindsey's Many Divorces," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)" and "Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)," "LaHaye's Temperament," "Wily Jeffrey," "Chuck Missler - Copyist," "Open Letter to Todd Strandberg" and "The Rapture Index (Mad Theology)," "X-Raying Margaret," "Humbug Huebner," "Thieves' Marketing," "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal," "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "The Real Manuel Lacunza," "Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism," "America's Pretrib Rapture Traffickers," "Pretrib Rapture - Hidden Facts," "Dolcino? Duh!" and "Scholars Weigh My Research." Most of the above is written by journalist/historian Dave MacPherson who has focused on long-hidden pretrib rapture history for 35+ years. No one else has focused on it for 35 months or even 35 weeks. MacPherson has been a frequent radio talk show guest and he states that all of his royalties have always gone to a nonprofit group and not to any individual. His No. 1 book on all this is "The Rapture Plot" (see Armageddon Books online, etc.). The amazing thing is how long it has taken the mainstream media to finally notice and expose this unbelievably groundless yet extremely lucrative theological hoax!

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  2. It would be good to send this article to Dr. David Jeremiah. I wonder what he would say about it.

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  3. Dear John, thanks for the suggestion. I'm not sure he would really appreciate the article. How did you feel about it?

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  4. David Jeremiah might not appreciate this article, but he doesn't concentrate on the rapture, even though he believes it to be the way things will happen. It is easy to listen to those who agree with your perspective, and not so easy to listen to those who don't.

    I think "the rapture" is a misreading of scripture.

    To concentrate on whether it is lucrative or not is missing the point I think. And the personal attacks seem to suggest that somehow the rapture is wrong because of the "success" of some of the writers.

    It should stand or fall on scripture alone.

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  5. Dang anonymous,

    You're getting angry over an issue you can't control. Relax a little. When the end comes it comes. Just try to live a Christ like life and don't sweat the small stuff.
    Bernard

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  6. Sorry Gordon, I was commenting too much on the anonymous comment.

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  7. Send it, the article that is...
    As well to Swindall, and MacAurthur.....
    And the whole TBN family.

    Smoking flax...

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  8. Would any of the pastors or teachers, listed in the quoted article above;
    Fall in the category of " False prophets", or "False teachers " ?

    Smoking flax...

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  9. Perhaps of interest.

    Your system does not like my Google account and password so am using "anonymous"

    B.T.W., My mother recently confirmed that guy who was youth pastor at my boyhood church is the same as the Dr. Jeremiah in California. I BELIEVE that was his first pastoral assignment after college

    W. Aardsma

    Supporters of ‘Antichrist’ protest Miami-Dade judges - 03/10/2009 -...http:!/www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/v-print/story/942...
    MiamiHerald.com
    Posted on Tue, Mar. 10, 2009
    Supporters of ‘Antichrist’ protest Miami-Dade judges
    BY JACK DOLAN

    Wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with “666”, about a dozen followers of Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, the Miami-based minister who proclaimed himself the Antichrist, protested his “persecution” by the justice system in front of the family courthouse on Tuesday.
    Last year, following a bitter divorce that featured dueling claims of lesbianism and physical abuse, Miami-Dade judge Roberto Pineiro awarded more than $2.2 million to the minister’s ex-wife, Josefina de Jesus Torres.
    In his ruling, Pineiro determined that de Jesus’ Growing in Grace church was a personal business, rather than a religious nonprofit, so the ex-wife is entitled to half of its assets.
    JoAnn de Jesus, the minister’s daughter who also handles the church’s finances, says the judge based his decision on a “prejudice against my dad” and not on the evidence.
    De Jesus and her father’s followers are hoping to get the multi-million dollar judgment overturned. Pineiro could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
    The minister, who claimed his teachings have replaced those of Jesus Christ and therefore he should be known as the Antichrist, has refused to pay up.
    He has been “moving around a lot lately”, his daughter said, to avoid the arrest warrant issued against him for contempt.
    “My father is afraid if he is captured, people will sell their houses to help him because they love him so much,” she said.
    Many of de Jesus’ followers say his clash with secular justice system is further proof that he is the Second Coming. The original Messiah also faced significant legal difficulties, they note.
    “It just makes me more secure,” said 38-year old de Jesus follower Angel Toro. “His persecution means he’s really divine.”
    While de Jesus cannot preach before a live congregation for fear of being dragged away in handcuffs, he still records video sermons that are broadcast to more than 20 nations through a sister church in Colombia, his daughter said. In explaining his decision to treat de Jesus’ and the church’s finances as one, the judge wrote that de Jesus “dominates the Ministry like only a god can.... In what other corporation does the board of directors literally worship the president?”
    De Jesus exploded into popularity -- and controversy -- in the past few years after he declared himself to be Christ. His ministry, Growing in Grace, quickly expanded to more than 300 churches in 30 countries.
    Eventually, de Jesus amended his title to Antichrist and he, his ex-wife and many followers got tattooed with the number of the beast, a practice that generated headlines worldwide.

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  10. We need to be ready for Christ to come right now. That's why we must spread the news of His saving grace to all people. Tomorrow may be too late to tell that person and lead them to Christ.

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  11. The photo has caught my attention. The Antichrist is clothed in sheep fur.

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  12. I have really enjoyed this blog. Keep up the good work.

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