Prophecy by The Book: Chapter 8
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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The End Times & The Antichrist
The Bible (the Book) discloses that toward the end of history an increasing
struggle between the forces of good and evil will occur. Indeed, there will
be an intensification of both of these before Christ comes back. Here we may
turn to Matthew 13, and first to Jesus' parable of the wheat and weeds (or tares)
that grow until the final harvest (v. 30). In Jesus' own interpretation of the
parable (vv. 36-43), He says that wheat represents "the sons of the kingdom,"
His true disciples, and the weeds "sons of the evil one" (v. 38).
There is continuing growth of both until the harvest at the end of the age (look
back to v. 30), when the weeds will be burned (recall Armageddon!) and the wheat
Basically, this signifies both the growth of Christian faith and its opposition
until the return of Christ, and doubtless the climactic growth of both at the
very end. What do we see today?
1. The extraordinary growth of the kingdom of God. Jesus, following His parable
about the wheat and weeds and before His interpretation, refers in two additional
parables to mustard seed and leaven. In the first case, although the mustard
seed is "the smallest of all seeds...when it has grown it is the greatest
of shrubs and becomes a tree" (v. 32); and in the second case, the leaven
is "hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened" (v. 33).
These parables depict a steady increase of the kingdom of God, the spiritual
kingdom; and today we are surely seeing that. There is an unmistakable evangelical
resurgence in our own land, an increasing openness to the gospel in many other
countries of the world, and in this last decade of the twentieth century a vastly
heightened effort to get the message of the gospel to all the peoples of the
earth. Missionary agencies are everywhere speaking of this as the decade of
world evangelization, and many are setting a goal by the year 2000 of having
a gospel witness in every part of the world. All of this is prophetically important,
especially in light of Jesus' words in Matthew 24:14"This
gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as
a testimony [or "witness" kjv] to all nations; and then
the end will come." The surest sign of the end being near at hand is the
completing of the gospel proclamation. Incidentally, this does not mean all
the nations or peoples turning to Christ, but all having an opportunity to hear
and repent and believe. Total witness does not mean total conversion. Still,
we may expect to see a tremendous increase in harvest. It is happening already.
For example, recent witness in Central America and South America has resulted
in millions turning to Jesus; and this is happening in many other places in
the world. Such a deluge may just be ahead that we will hardly know how to deal
with the multitude of new converts streaming in! The final aspect of all this
will be (as earlier discussed) the turning of Israel to the Lord. This will
occur after "the full number of the Gentiles come in"the
climax of the gospel to the whole world!
What is particularly significant about this late outburst of gospel witness
is the increasing way it is being fired by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus first
declared the gospel mission, according to Acts 1:8, He said: "You shall
receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses
in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end ["uttermost part"
kjv] of the earth." Today we are realizing more and more the need for this
Holy Spirit power to carry forward the final taskand this is especially
where the Holy Spirit (or "charismatic") renewal comes in. It is only
by the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit that hard barriers can be broken
down, that the gospel proclamation can overthrow forces of evil arrayed against
it, that miracles of healing and deliverance can occur, and that people may
both see and believe. Holy Spirit empowered missionmore and more
people are recognizingis essential to this final thrust of the
gospel. As long as there is a call for the gospel to go forth, and until the
task is completed, the Holy Spirit alone can provide the power and wisdom of
2. A parallel increase of evil in the world. Recall again the wheat and the
weeds: the weeds grow apace with the wheat. So throughout history, but particularly
toward the end, will evil become more and more manifest. Read Paul's words in
2 Timothy 3:1-5, which begin: "But mark this: There will be terrible times
in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful,
proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love,
unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal...treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of Godhaving a form of godliness
but denying its power" (niv). In a certain sense these words could characterize
any earlier period in history, but today there seems to be a marked intensification
of all this. "Terrible times" describes it well. On the American scene
alone, there is an ever growing and ever encroaching growth of immorality that
seems to be sweeping over our nation. Lovers of money ("anything for a
buck"), lovers of pleasure ("do it if it feels good"), lovers
of self ("my self fulfillment"). Thus homosexuality ("my sexual
preference") and abortion on demand ("my rights not that of
one yet unborn") are becoming rampant.
Especially is there a pernicious and growing attack on Christian values, biblical
morality, even to the removal of God and His name from the public arenaand
a reviling of all things sacred. Christ, the only holy One, is depicted in some
quarters as perverse (a foul mouthed bigot), a heroin-shooting drug addict,
and even His cross dipped in a vat of urine. Christian bashing is now popular
in our increasingly secular land.
Along with this, there is a growing departure in much of the church from its
own basic faith. "A form of godliness" may be there but no power"denying
its power." Thus departure from the Lord ever increases. Jesus prophesied
it would happen. Matthew 24:12 reads: "Because wickedness is multiplied,
most men's love will grow cold." This is primarily love of the Lord but
also love for one another. It is also departure from the truth of Christian
faith. In many places there is erosion of belief in Christ as the Son of God,
His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, and His coming again. Paul
speaks in 2 Thessalonians of a future day when "the apostasy" (2:3
nasb)a total "falling away" (kjv) will occur.
In many ways we seem to be close to this: our major denominations often appear
cold in their lack of love, and have largely fallen in with the ways of the
world. The most obvious cases in point relate to abortion and homosexuality
with no strong stand from many mainline churches against either; but also there
is little concern for the salvation of the lost and for holiness of life. This
is the lukewarm church that Christ declares in Revelation He despises: "Because
you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth"
(3:16). A tepid church Christ will not have.
At this point I add a few words about the Antichrist. Much is being said these
days about the possible appearance of the Antichrist, even to the naming of
persons. Let me offer one suggestion: stay close to the Book again. Who, what,
is the Antichrist? Reference is made by name to the Antichrist in only one portion
of the New Testament, the first and second letters of John. According to 2 John
7: "Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge
Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist"
(nasb). Also in 1 John 2:22 we read: "Who is the liar but he who denies
that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and
the Son." Who then is the Antichrist? From these verses the Antichrist
is not so much a particular person as anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ,
the Messiah, the fact that "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14): the
central truth of the Christian faith. John also says, "Many antichrists
have come" (1 John 2:18), and also that "the spirit of antichrist...is
in the world already" (4:3). And the "last hour" is the hour
of multiplication of antichrists"many antichrists have come;
therefore we know it is the last hour" (2:18).
The Antichrist, accordingly, is one who denies the Incarnation and in so doing
shuts off people from the fruit of that Incarnation, namely salvation and eternal
life. The Antichrist is not one who commits such sins as murder, adultery, and
theft even to a maximal degree, nor is he one who tortures and kills Christians
in some gruesome manner. He is far worse than any of this: he deceives people
about Jesus Christ and shuts the door to eternal life. He is "Anti,"
opposed to, "Christ": this is the ultimate evil and the ultimate deception.
For there is no greater tragedy in the world than that of turning people aside
from Christ, the Son of God, who has wrought mankind's salvation.
Where then is the Antichrist, or at least "the spirit of antichrist"
today? Surely, it is seen in the defamations of Christ already mentioned, in
a religion such as one that specifically denies the divinity of Christ (there
is no stronger barrier or more bitter opposition to the message of Christ than
the Moslem faith), and in the New Age movement that reduces Christ to one of
the manifestations of deity and proclaims another Christ is about to appear
(the "Maitreya"). But also the Antichrist is represented in liberal
forces of Christianity that view the Incarnation as a myth and hold that Jesus
at most was a highly inspired man; thus they shut off people from salvation.
The spirit of antichrist is all around us with false christs also
multiplying. Remember: "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is
the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son."
The Antichrist is verily hereand exists everywhere that through
deception Christ the Son of God, the Christ, is opposed, defamed, and shunted
3. The final victory of Jesus Christ
I have spoken of both an extraordinary growth of the kingdom of God and a parallel
increase of evil in the worldthe growth of wheat and weeds, gospel
success and gospel attacks, unprecedented harvest and unprecedented persecution.
It is a poor reading of prophecy by the Book to expect nothing but a glowing
future for the church with all people finally coming to salvation and evil reduced
to small proportions. Indeed, we may be very grateful for the doors of opportunity
now open throughout the world for a great harvest of souls to be brought in.
However, there will beand even now isan increase of
evil resistance. One place in the Book of Revelation speaks of the devil coming
down "in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!" (12:12).
Thus he will increasingly inspire nations, false religions, and the lukewarm
church to attack Christ and His people. And for a time he may seem successful
(see Rev. 13 for the beasts, the devil's henchmen, that conquer the saints)hence
there is unparalleled vilification and persecution ahead. Howeverand
here is the final truthwhen evil has reached its peak of intensity,
Christ suddenly will return to destroy every vestige of it: the weeds will be
"burned" and the wheat gathered into His "barn" (Matt. 13:30).
At the close of His explanation of the parable about the wheat and weeds, Jesus
adds: "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of
their Father" (Matt. 13:43 nasb).
With such a glorious consummation ahead, we should, on the one hand, be all
the more challenged to proclaim the gospel that the harvest may be great and,
on the other, encouraged to stand fast in the midst of the worst that evil can
bring against us, knowing that the Lord will ultimately triumph and we shall
be with Him forever.
This is the final word of prophecy (Rev. 22:20): "Surely, I am coming
soon." And our reply is the last word of response: "Amen. come, Lord
Jesus." Then John closes the bookthe last verse in the Biblewith
these words: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints.
So concludes our study of prophecy by the Book.
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Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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