Counterfeit Christs

Since its founding, Satan has been sending hordes of deceivers and false prophets to destroy the church from within.

Wolves - Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash
Popular preaching tends to present the Antichrist as the ultimate global political leader, a tyrant bent on subjugating all nations through military and economic means. But New Testament descriptions show far more concern about deceivers working within the church that cause apostasy than with world political events - [Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash].

And in the book of Revelation, the target of the “war” waged by the “Beast from the sea” is the church, the “saints,” the faithful followers of the “Lamb” from every nation who have the “testimony of Jesus.”

The only New Testament documents that use the term ‘Antichrist’ are two of John’s epistles. In his first letter, he warns:
  • Little children! It is the last hour. And just as you heard that an ANTICHRIST IS COMING, even now, MANY ANTICHRISTS HAVE COME, whence we perceive that it is the last hour: From among us they went out, but they were not of us; for if of us they had been, they would, in that case, have remained with us; but it came to pass in order that they might be made manifest because all are not of us” – (1 John 2:18-19).

The passage does not deny that an individual “antichrist” is coming, but its point is that many “antichrists” have appeared already within the church.

MULTIPLE ANTICHRISTS

The term “antichrist” or antichristos is a compound Greek word formed with the noun christos (“anointed one”) and the preposition anti (“instead of”). It refers to someone who attempts to replace or imitate Jesus, and not necessarily to anyone who openly opposes him - (Strong’s - #G500).
The “antichrists” to whom John refers are men who “went out from us, but they were not of us.” They are false teachers that originate from within his congregations.

The Apostle admonishes his churches to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” then warns about “the spirit of the antichrist… which is already in the world.” Thus, the “antichrists” with whom John is contending are false teachers in the church, not national or world political leaders - (2 John 7).

DECEIT AND APOSTASY

Likewise, the Apostle Paul warns of the coming “man of lawlessness.” While his words might suggest a political figure, his concern is on this figure’s ability to deceive believers - “Let no one in any way deceive you” - (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).

And Paul links this deceiver to the coming “apostasy” that will precede the “day of the Lord.” When he is “revealed,” his activities will be “in accord with those of Satan, deceiving men and women, especially believers - (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21):

  • (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10) - “And then shall be revealed, the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will slay, with the Spirit of his mouth and paralyze with the forth-shining of his arrival; whose arrival shall be according to an inworking of Satan, with mighty works and signs and wonders of falsehood. And with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves, because the love of the truth they did not welcome, that they might be saved.”

The stress is on this man’s power to deceive and turn people from the true faith, not on his political activity, military prowess, or his sovereignty over nations.

Moreover, he will use “lying works, signs and wonders” to deceive his victims. And only those who hold fast to the apostolic teachings will avoid succumbing to his deceptions - (“So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by epistle of ours”).

WAR ON THE SAINTS

In the book of Revelation, the “Beast from the sea” is not called the “Antichrist.” to use John’s term. It possesses the character and authority of the “Great Red Dragon,” and in chapter 12, Satan does not wage war on the nations of the earth. Instead, he endeavors “to make war with the remnant of the woman’s seed, they who have the testimony of Jesus.”

Likewise, in chapter 13, the “Beast from the sea” makes war against the “saints, and he overcame them.” This “war” is reflected in the book’s “letters” to the “seven churches of Asia” as they struggle with persecution, deception, and false teachers - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7).

Church Ruins - Photo by Robert Levonyan on Unsplash
[Photo by Robert Levonyan on Unsplash]


And we should not forget the “Beast from the earth,” also called the “false prophet,” who mimics Jesus (“he had two horns like a lamb”) and uses impressive “signs and wonders” to deceive men into erecting an image to the first “Beast.”

FALSE PROPHETS

In his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus issues repeated warnings about coming “deceivers,” “false prophets,” “false messiahs,” and apostasy:

  • Beware lest anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and deceive astray.” - (Matthew 24:4-8).
  • And then shall many stumble, and they will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and deceive many. And because lawlessness will be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold”- (Matthew 24:10-12).
  • For there will arise false Christs and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not.”- (Matthew 24:23-26).

His warnings parallel those of Paul about the “man of lawlessness” and the coming “apostasy.” Deceivers will deceive many, and thereby cause “many to fall away.” Only those believers who endure “to the end will be saved.”

In the interim between Christ’s departure and his return, deceivers, “false prophets,” and “false christs” work to hoodwink his disciples, not the larger world that already lies in the lap of the “Wicked One.”

Warnings of this kind are common enough in the New Testament, and we ignore them at our peril - (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 1 Timothy 4:1).

Similarly, the Apostle Peter warns of coming deceivers that would work INSIDE the church of God to cause apostasy:

  • False teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality and because of them, the way of the truth will be maligned” - (2 Peter 2:1).

ONGOING ASSAULT

In the end, the “Antichrist” may indeed be a world political leader who uses military and economic might to dominate other nations.

But considering the many warnings in the New Testament, we should not be surprised if he first appears within the Church, where he will lead many believers to apostatize.

The satanic goal in all this is to wage war against Jesus. But the Devil can only do that by attacking the people who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” Christ sits on God’s throne well beyond Satan’s reach. Spending time and effort to deceive and subjugate a lost world that is deceived already and under Satan’s thumb is pointless.

And that is why upon his release from the “Abyss,” the Devil will gather all the nations of the earth to launch his final attempt to annihilate the “camp of the saints.”

Thus, the “Antichrist” is coming to complete Satan’s efforts that are underway even now. And the way for his “unveiling” is being prepared by the Devil’s army of deceivers that is driven by the “spirit of antichrist” And what better way to complete his malevolent plot than by offering clever alternatives in the guise of counterfeit christs and through the mouths of “false prophets,” deceivers who “appear as angels of light.”



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