SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
The belief of early times, that the Antichrist will be
personally energised by Satan, was based on Scripture. For his coming, we are
told, will be "after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying
wonders." Still more explicit is the language of the Apocalyptic vision, that
"the Dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority." And we
recall the words of the Lord Himself that, in that awful time, false Christs
and false prophets "will show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it
were possible, they will deceive the very elect."
To fritter away the meaning of these statements by referring them to the errors and follies of priestoraft is a profane trifling with the Word of God. Indeed, to put it on a lower ground, it is an insult to the intelligence of every Protestant. For no one whose mind has not been "doped " by "Christendom religion" could be duped by its "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits."
Even among spiritual Christians there are but few who attempt to realise what the condition of the Professing Christian Church will be during the age of which these Scriptures speak. In his Commentary on Matthew xii. 44, Dean Alford describes in a few pregnant sentences its sad history and present condition. And he adds:- 'What the effect of the Captivity was to the Jews, that of the Reformation has been to Christendom. The first evil spirit has been cast out. But by the growth of hypocrisy, secularity, and rationalism the house has become empty, swept and garnished by the decencies of civilisation and discoveries of secular knowledge, but empty of living and earnest faith. And he must read prophecy but ill, who does not see under all these seeming improvements the preparation for the final development of the Man of Sin, the great re-possession when idolatry and the seven more wicked spirits shall bring the outward frame of so-called Christendom to a fearful end."
If the present condition of the Church is a cause of distress and grief to all true Christians, what will it be when they are called home to heaven at the coming of the Lord, and the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit is no longer felt, as it is felt even in these evil days! It will not be the superstitious only who will be deceived by "the signs and wonders of falsehood." Even the infidel will accept their testimony. His unbelief today is not so unintelligent as is the quasi faith of many who pose as Christians and Ministers of Christ. Like them, he accounts for the miracles of Scripture by the fact "that the Bible was written by orientals for orientals, and that miracle and myth are congenial to the oriental mind." And he appeals to the absence of miracles during the history of Christendom. "If (he says) I witnessed miracles such as are alleged to have occurred in Bible times, I would renounce my infidelity." This is the mental attitude of multitudes of fair-minded men. And thus they spread a net in which they will become entangled in the coming Antichristian age. And if open infidelity capitulates before its "signs and lying wonders," surely the nominal Christians will flock to its shrines and join in its cult.
But, it will be asked, if the Lord's own people are "caught up" at His coming, and nominal Christians accept the Antichrist, who will be the victims of the persecution? Now, first, it is noteworthy that the Antichrist is primarily the persecutor of the "Covenant people." And though, in the Apocalypse, the Great Tribulation embraces Christendom, in Messianic prophecy it is spoken of only in relation to Israel. And while, in ancient times, idolatry was their national sin, the judgments which that sin brought upon them seem to have made them intolerant of idol worship. Indeed, the idolatry of "Christendom religion "is one element that prejudices the Jew against Christianity. No display of miraculous power would lead him to prostrate himself before an image.
And secondly, the difficulty above stated is one of many that are due to our inveterate habit of confounding plausible inferences from Scripture with what Scripture explicitly teaches. It is commonly assumed, and often asserted with emphasis, that in that coming age there will be no salvation for the sinners of Christendom. For is it not written that "God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness " But this is merely a special application of the great principle that the acceptance or rejection of Christ fixes the destiny of men. And we may not dare to assert that a just and loving God will hold that every unbeliever is a Christ-rejecter. Even in our own favoured land there are very many "church members" who have never heard "the gospel of the grace of God," but have it dinned into their ears continually that "the sacraments," plus a moral and religious life, will win heaven for them. And what of the multitudes who are never "evangelised" in any way?
And is there any Scriptural warrant for asserting that some, even in truly Christian circles, who are now "halting between two opinions," may not find mercy when brought to decision by being left behind at the coming of the Lord? All such will have forfeited the heavenly home and the heavenly glory that are the portion of the redeemed of this present dispensation. But we dare not assert that they can never find salvation, and be enrolled in the book of life; albeit they must needs "enter the kingdom" through torture and death, in a persecution more awful than any recorded in the past.
But a difficulty of another kind claims notice, It is argued that, if the Antichrist be energised by Satan, he must be a monster of wickedness. How then can he command the worship of "all that dwell upon the earth? This difficulty springs from the prevalent belief in the mythical devil of Christendom. Had such a monster appeared in Eden, Eve would have fled from him in terror. But she was "thoroughly deceived " by the real Satan when he posed as the great philanthropists and proclaimed "the gospel of humanity."
The characteristics of that Eden gospel are both simple and charming. "Hath God said!" "Ye shall not surely die." "Ye shall be as gods." First, it casts a doubt upon the plain words of the Divine revelation; secondly, it denies the eternal consequences of sin; and thirdly, it proclaims the elevation of humanity. In this gospel there is everything to attract the "natural" man, and nothing to repel him. And oven here and now, in Christian Britain, it is preached from numberless quasi Christian pulpits; and thousands, even of real Christians, are in some measure deceived and corrupted by it. Who then can doubt that, when it is accredited by a great display of miraculous power, it will gain universal acceptance
We cannot understand aright the prophecies relating to Antichrist unless we realise that, so far from being a monster of hideous mien and loathsome character, Satan is a being whom man, in his estrangement from God, would admire and emulate.
But did not the Lord Jesus brand him as a liar and a murderer? The words here referred to claim the closest scrutiny. They were addressed to the religious leaders of the Jews, devoutly zealous men who, having witnessed His miracles and weighed us teaching, were now plotting His destruction. To them it was He said,."Ye are of your father the Devil, and the desires of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh the lie he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth ye believe me not."
The gloss that the Lord's sayings were always true, and that the Devil told lies, is deplorably trivial. The lie is here the antithesis to the truth; and the Devil's being a liar is connected with his being "a murderer from the beginning." The beginning of what? We are here vouchsafed a glimpse into a past eternity, when, to the heavenly host was first made known "the mystery of God, even Christ," namely, that a Firstborn was to be revealed, who was "in all things to have the pre-eminence." The wonderful being whom we know as Satan, and whom the Lord saw "fall from heaven as lightning," aspired to that position; and he rebelled against the Divine purpose, and from that hour he has sought to thwart it. This is fully disclosed in the "Temptation" of our Lord. Who of us makes any serious effort to realise the meaning of that narrative? Having "led Him up," and given Him that mysterious vision of earthly sovereignty, "the Devil said unto Him, 'To thee will I give all this authority and the glory of them, for it hath been delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou, therefore,wilt worship before me it shall all be thine."
This was no mere outburst of profane folly. It was a bold assertion of a disputed right. Satan claims to be the true Messiah, the true Firstborn and heir of creation; and as. such he claims the worship of mankind. These apocalyptic visions foretell his greatest, as it will be his final, effort to supplant the Christ of God. And to that end he will give to the Antichrist "his power and his throne and his great authority."
Can we then be surprised at the sequel, that "all the world wondered after the Beast? And they worshipped the Dragon (Satan, the old Serpent of Eden) which gave power unto the Beast; and they worshipped the Beast, saying, 'Who is like unto the Beast?'" But even this is not all. For the Seer "beheld another Beast . . . who exerciseth all the power of the first Beast before him, and causeth the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first Beast." Thus the mystery of the Godhead will be travestied by this trinity of evil - Satan, the Antichrist, and the "False Prophet." And as already noticed, they will be accredited by signs and wonders that would deceive, if that were possible, the very elect. If we appreciate in any measure the awful significance and solemnity of what these Scriptures teach, we shall no longer be deluded by the almost unbelievable folly of seeking their fulfilment in the history of Christendom. It is not unnatural that an unbeliever should regard these visions as the brilliant day-dreams of a pious mystic. But that any spiritual Christian should treat them with such utter levity is no less strange than it is deplorable.
No intelligent student of these Scriptures can fail to
recognise that, in the age to which they point, there will be spiritual forces
in operation such as earth has never experienced in the past, and from which
the present age has been singularly free. For, as compared with both past and
future, this Christian age is marked by altogether peculiar
First, "the grace of God, salvation-bringing to all men, has been manifested," and the Lord Jesus is exalted, not only as Prince, but as Saviour. Therefore is it that the Divine throne is now a throne, not of judgment, but of grace. And this again explains the mystery of a silent heaven. For "the kindness and love-toward-man of our Saviour God has been manifested." He has spoken His last word of mercy, and when again He breaks the silence it will be in wrath. But until the Lord Jesus passes from the throne of grace to the throne of judgment all direct punitive action against human sin is deferred. Before the dawning of the "day of vengeance" "the acceptable year of the Lord" must run its predestined course.
And secondly, the Holy Spirit is now dwelling upon earth. " The promise of the Father" was not merely that believers in Christ should have the Spirit's guidance and help, for that was the portion of the people of God in every age, but that, when the Lord Jesus returned to heaven, He would send the Holy Spirit to take His place on earth, a promise that was fulfilled at Pentecost. So really is He present with us that the greeting from heaven, with which certain of the Epistles open, is only from "the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." And during His presence with His people upon earth the powers of hell are definitely restrained. But, when the people of the heavenly election are called from earth to their heavenly home, at the Coming of the Lord, that restraint will cease, "the Man of Sin" will be revealed, and the powers of hell will be permitted to operate in ways and to an extent unprecedented in the past. Another element which tends to a misreading of these prophecies is a want not only of sympathy, but of acquaintance, with the promises and hopes of Israel. As believers of this dispensation "our citizenship is in heaven," whereas Israel's citizenship is earthly. The true Israelite, therefore, in the coming age will not be looking for the Lord to call him away to heaven, but for "the coming of the Son of Man" to "restore again the kingdom to Israel, " and inaugurate the promised rule of the heavens upon earth. The Lord Jesus was "born King of the Jews." And when He began His Ministry by proclaiming that "the kingdom of Heaven is at hand," that "gospel of the kingdom" did not mean that God was about to rule in heaven, but that, in fulfilment of Messianic prophecy, Divine government was about to be established upon earth.
And this explains the attitude and conduct of the Jewish leaders toward the Lord Jesus. They argued that, if He was indeed the Messiah, He was the promised "Son of David," who would put an end to Gentile supremacy and restore the Davidic covenant, which had been in abeyance ever since the imperial sceptre was entrusted to the King of Babylon.
(So deep and widespread is ignorance of all this that those of us who are advanced in years remember when the belief prevailed, even among spiritual men "of light and leading," that the Kingdom of Heaven would be established, as of course, by the preaching of the Gospel. If such a belief has survived the apoatasy of the last half-century, surely this hideous world war will avail to quench it. Human nature being what it is, there can be no reign of peace on earth without stern and righteous government.)
The Messiah they were looking for would be a conquering hero, who would deliver them from their enemies and revive the glories of the greatest of their kings. And such the future Antichrist will be; not merely a false Messiah in the religious sense, but a mighty Kaiser. The Apocalyptic visions already quoted clearly indicate that he will be a man of transcendent natural qualities. "All the world wondered after the Beast . . . and they worshipped the Beast, saying, Who is like unto the Beast? Who is able to make war with him? " The mingling of Kaisership with Deity is as old as classic Paganism; and it is not altogether unknown in later times. But it will be no mere theory in the case of the Man of prophecy. A great statesman, an orator (v. 5), and a brilliant general - here is the "superman "whom nations will honour, and armies will follow with enthusiasm. And when we take account of the fact that, added to this, he will be endowed with the superhuman powers of Satan, we can understand the words of Christ, that none but the elect of God will refuse to render him Divine homage. In these visions the word "beast" signifies primarily an empire or kingdom, and then it is used to symbolise an individual. The Beast of Rev. xiii. is clearly identical with the fourth Beast of Daniel vii.- the last great Gentile world-power. But in the Apocalypse it appears at a later stage of its development. Three periods of its history are marked in Daniel. In the first it has ten horns. In the second it has eleven, for a little horn comes up among the ten. In the third it has but eight, for three of the ten have been torn away by the eleventh. Up to this point Daniel's vision represents the beast merely as the fourth kingdom upon earth," but here it turns away to describe the action of "the little horn."
And at this epoch it is that Revelation xiii. opens. The first three stages of the history of "the fourth kingdom" are past, and another has been developed. It is no longer a confederacy of nations bound together by treaty, but of kings subordinate to a Kaiser whose greatness has won for him the supremacy. And this is the Prince of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks; the Antichrist of the New Testament; the man whom Satan will single out to administer his awful power on earth in days to come, the man to whom he will give his throne, his power and great authority - all that the Lord Jesus refused in the days of His humiliation. If Expositors are right in assuming that he is the prominent figure in the several visions of the prophet Daniel there seems to be no doubt that he will come to notice first as the ruler of some petty State within the territorial limits of the ancient Grecian Empire. He is called "a little horn, a symbol that well suits one who should arise from one of those petty principalities which once abounded in Greece. For "a little horn" indicates what he is, not as a man, but as a monarch. In his origin he will, of course, be merely human; and for a time he will be a patron of religion. But after the terrible crisis in his career, at which he sells himself to Satan, he becomes a relentless persecutor, and he ends by claiming divine honour.
This amazing change takes place at an epoch of supreme import in the course of the future age, namely, the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel. For it is an epoch signalised by the war in heaven between the Archangel and the Dragon; when Satan and his angels will be "cast out into the earth," and the Seer bewails mankind because the Devil is come down into their midst, "having great wrath because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. As the Coming Prince of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is identical with the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians, that Epistle claims notice here. Both the Epistles to that church indicate that a grievous persecution was then raging in Thessalonica, and the Christians had come to believe that the Tribulation of prophecy had begun, and "the day of the Lord was at hand "-" the great and terrible day of Jehovah." Having regard to the teaching of the First Epistle it may seem strange that such an error could prevail. But, owing to the persecution, the Christians, no doubt, could only meet furtively and in scattered groups; and their leaders being possibly in hiding, their knowledge of that Epistle depended probably on what they remembered of it from hearing it "read in church." Moreover, it would appear from chapter ii. 2 and iii. 17 that they had received a forged letter, as from the Apostle, cancelling or modifying the teaching of the First Epistle. And the Hebrew converts among them would have knowledge of such Scriptures as, e.g., Isaiah xiii., Joel ii., and Malachi iv. 5. And, with these in view, they inigbt easily glide into the error which the Second Epistle was designed to correct.
The Apostle's words, "I beseech you on behalf of the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (R.V. margin), show clearly that the error against which he was warning them was destructive of the truth he had taught them. They could not live looking for "that blessed hope" (Titus ii. 13) if they were living in view of the awful terrors of the Tribulation and the day of the Lord. For these lines of truth are wholly separate. The one is the line of Messianic prophecy, leading up to the coming of Christ as Son of Man, in a future age, for the deliverance of His earthly people, and for the establishment of His earthly Kingdom. The other is not within the range of Messianic prophecy at all, but points to the fuiluiment of the hope of His heavenly people of this Christian dispensation. Following the words above quoted, the Apostle proceeds: "For it (the day of the Lord) will not come except the falling away (the apostasy) come first, and the Man of Sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped. So that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God."
These words claim careful attention. The so-called Protestant interpretation of them finds their fulfilment in the Pope's being carried into St. Peter's at Rome, and seated there somewhat higher than the "tabernacle of the host." If St. Peter's were thus divinely recognised as "the templeof God," those of us who reverence, and seek to obey, His Holy Word would promptly make a qualified submission to Rome, and repair at times to the appointed shrine! This Protestant interpretation thus undermines Protestantism altogether! And this is only a very low ground for rejecting it, for such trilling with and perverting of Scripture is deplorable and evil in the extreme. The Apostle's language points to the same crisis as the Lord's words respecting "the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet." And it will be fulfilled when the Prince of Daniel ix. violates his treaty with the Jewish people, and desecrates the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.The Antichrist will set up his image upon the Temple, to be worshipped by all (see p. 89 ante.) And (on certain "high days," no doubt) he will personally sit enthroned within the Sanctuary, "setting himself forth as God." This twofold desecration is generally overlooked.
But is it credible that any Jew would acknowledge a Gentile as Messiah? Now first, we have no definite ground for assuming that the Man of prophecy may not be an Israelite. And secondly, are we to assume that "all power and signs and wonders of falsehood" would prove unequal to the task of forging a pedigree, and obtaining the acceptance of it by an apostate people? For the "elect" among them will repudiate him. And the language of Daniel ix. 27 is noteworthy; it is with the many that he will make the treaty, implying that a minority of the nation will stand aloof and refuse to be a party to it. And lastly, if to the apostates of Christendom "God will send strong delusion that they should believe the lie," is it strange that the apostates of Judaism should also be thus divinely given over to delusion? And, moreover, we are not dealing here with a human forecast, but with a Divine prophecy.
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