Jesus and the future (Part 4)

Our discussion of the future according to the Bible continues with information on the Antichrist.  In 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3, Paul also warned that the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed. Another term for him is the Antichrist. “Antichrist” literally means “in place of Christ,” so this individual will be both a substitute and opponent of Christ.

Before the final Antichrist appears, the New Testament declared that many antichrists would surface. Jesus said as much earlier in Matthew 24:5, and John wrote it clearly in 1 John 2:18 and 22 as he spoke about false teachers. “As you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come…Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.” The apostle John was speaking of Gnostics in his day, but any false teacher who teaches contrary to the Bible and the message of Jesus as Savior is antichrist, an opponent of the Lord. Yet the Bible explains that there is one, ultimate Antichrist.  While mentioned in 1 John, and shown symbolically in Daniel and Revelation, the clearest description of the Antichrist comes from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. It says,

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. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for [that day will not come] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Paul gives seven characteristics to mark the identity of the Antichrist. One, he will be a human male, not a demon or Satan himself. Two, he will be a “man of lawlessness,” or a man of sin, living outside of God’s will.

Three, he will “set himself up in God’s temple.” There are two explanations for the term “temple.” Taken literally, he will be in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem; taken symbolically, he will be in the Christian church. Paul spoke figuratively of the Christian church as the “temple” in 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21, and 1 Timothy 3:15. Since there is no temple presently in Jerusalem, the symbolic use of the word “temple” for Church fits.

Four, he will claim to be God. Daniel prophesied about his blasphemy in Daniel 11:36, saying, “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.” Five, he will do miracles by Satan’s power. Although Jesus was falsely accused of performing signs by the power of the devil (Matthew 12:24), this man will actually conduct them by Satan’s authority.

Six, he will do evil that deceives people. Revelation symbolically displays these last two characteristics in Revelation 13:13-14. It states, “And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.” Seven, he will be destroyed by Jesus at Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel was shown the Antichrist’s end in Daniel 7:26-27. “But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, Paul said there was a restraint on the Antichrist that would be removed before he was revealed. It is unclear what Paul meant, since he referred to this restraint both as a thing (“what is holding him back”) and as a person (“the one who now holds it back”). In any case, the Antichrist’s appearance will be clear. Both Daniel and Revelation show the Antichrist persecuting Christians, using images of killing and war to communicate this coming reality. Daniel 7:25 says he will “speak against the Most High and oppress his saints.” Therefore, it is vital for believers to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 24: “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

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