Counterfeit Christs

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

Popular preaching presents the Antichrist as the ultimate global leader, a tyrant bent on subjugating all nations. But New Testament shows far more concern about deceivers working inside the church and causing apostasy than with political events in the surrounding world.

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, 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, and they originated in 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” referred to by John are men who “went out from us, but they were not of us.” They are false teachers active 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.”

Therefore, the “antichrists” with whom John is contending are FALSE TEACHERS IN THE CHURCH, and not national or world political leaders or military conquerors- (2 John 7).

DECEIT AND APOSTASY


Likewise, Paul warns the Thessalonians of the coming “man of lawlessness.” While his words might suggest a political figure, his concern is with this malevolent 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).

The stress in 2 Thessalonians 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 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 overcomes them.” This same “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).

And we should not forget the “Beast from the earth,” also called the “False Prophet,” who mimics Jesus (“he has two horns like a lamb”) and uses impressive “signs and wonders” to deceive men so they erect 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).

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

In the interim between Christ’s departure and his return, deceivers, “false prophets,” and “false christs” are working 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).

Likewise, the Apostle Peter warns of coming deceivers who will work INSIDE the church of God, causing the apostasy of many:

  • 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).

In the end, the “Antichrist” may indeed turn out to be a world political leader who uses military and economic might to wage war on other nations. But considering the many warnings in the New Testament, we should not be surprised if he first appears within the Church.

The satanic goal is to wage war against Jesus. But the Devil can only do that by attacking his people. Christ sits on God’s throne well beyond Satan’s reach. But spending time and effort deceiving and subjugating a lost world that already is deceived and under Satan’s thumb is pointless.

And that is why, in Revelation, upon his release from the “Abyss,” the Devil gathers all the nations of the earth for 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 driven by the “spirit of antichrist.”

And what better way to complete his 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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