The point of this whole chapter is to bring comfort; that’s how it ends. You see the final little benediction in verses 16 and 17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” The whole idea of talking to us through the text of this passage is to give us comfort. This is about comforting us. And that is really Paul’s purpose all the way through his two letters to the Thessalonians.
Go back to chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians for a moment and you will find there that at the end of chapter 4 where he has talked about the rapture of the church, which is the next event, as we’ve learned, on God’s timetable. In anticipation of the fact that, “The Lord Himself,” verse 16, “will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” So he is saying to them, “As you look at the future, be comforted, because the next event is the Lord is going to descend from heaven. You’re going to hear the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God; and the bodies of dead believers whose spirits are with the Lord, their bodies will come out of graves. And then we who are alive will be gathered to meet the Lord in the air, and we’ll always be with the Lord.”
That’s the next event. That’s not when He comes to earth in judgment; there’s no judgment there at all. That’s what we call the snatching of the church or the rapture of believers. This is our hope. This is the next event that’s going to happen as far as the church of Jesus Christ is concerned. There are no signs. This is what we call an imminent event - it could happen at any time. The Lord comes, descends, we meet Him in the air. The bodies of the dead rise first and are joined to their spirits, which are already with the Lord; and then all of us are caught up and changed on the way to heaven, and He takes us to the marriage supper of the Lamb and to a time of rewards at His table. Be comforted, no matter what you hear people talking about.
And there are a lot of doomsdayers running around, a lot of them. I am always amazed at how many people who purport to be sensible Christians are selling end-time food stuff so that they can survive the tribulation. I got news for you: if you’re a believer you’re not going to need to survive it, you’re not going to be there. We’re going to be taken out of this world. It’s a great way to scare people and raise money on a false pretense. It’s bad theology and it’s deceptive; but those of us who know the Word of God know that we are waiting for the Lord, not to judge the world, but to take us out of the world.
He began 1 Thessalonians in the first chapter, did the apostle Paul, in verse 9 by saying that the Thessalonians had “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” We’re waiting for Jesus to come. We’re waiting for Him to come and gather us together with Him forever.
And then at the end of chapter 2, he says essentially the same thing, verse 19, “Who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord at His coming? You are our glory and joy.” The joy in ministry, the rejoicing in ministry is going to be the gathering together of the saints when they’re caught up to be with the Lord. That is a wonderfully comforting reality. And even at the end of chapter 3, he says that he wants the Lord “to establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” All of that puts hope and settled confidence and holiness as our comforting reality. And then in chapter 4, the rapture passage, verse 18 ends, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
And then in chapter 5 you have the day of the Lord. After the rapture comes the day of the Lord. The sequence is purposeful there. There is the gathering together to the Lord in the air, we’re always with the Lord, we’re comforted by that. “Then on earth when people,” verse 3 of chapter 5, “are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ destruction will come on them suddenly like labor pain upon a woman with child; they will not escape. But not you, brethren; you’re not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief.” You’re not going to be there. Believers are not going to be there. “We’re all the sons of light and the sons of the day. We’re not of the night or of the darkness.”
Down in verse 9, “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep,” – that is the very condition of believers at the rapture – “we will live together with Him.” Again, verse 11, “Therefore comfort” – same word exactly – “comfort or encourage one another, build up one another, just as you are also doing.” So that is the point of all that the apostle Paul writes about the coming of Christ. The rapture and the day of the Lord for the believer, to understand those things is to be comforted. And that’s, as I said, how chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians, verse 17, ends.
There’s another text that speaks to this, and I would just read it to you: Titus 2:11-13, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation” – or “deliverance,” or “rescue,” same word – “to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
We’re looking for Christ. I know we have all these doomsdayers saying, “Judgment is coming. Judgment is coming.” But the Bible tells us, “Christ is coming. Christ is coming.” There are people who think that the earth and all of those who are in it are going to literally go out of existence because of some environmental disaster, some melting of icecaps, or some destruction of ozone, or pollution of water, or bacteria and viruses running wild over the face of the earth, and we’re going to face that kind of doom. There are people who are crying out on the political scene all the time that the most important issue we have to face is the affect of greenhouse gasses and those kinds of things. But all of that notwithstanding, the future will, for believers, be very clear. Before judgment comes on the earth in the day of the Lord, believers will be snatched out. They’re snatched out in chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians; the day of the Lord; horrific judgment is described in chapter 5. We will not be there. We will not be there.
So we’re looking for Christ. We don’t need to live in fear. We need to live in comfort and hope and joy and love, realizing that the same God who created the universe sustains the universe, and He will consummate it according to the way that He has designed; and He’s laid it out for us. He’s going to snatch believers out, and then is going to come judgment on the face of the earth in a time called the tribulation, the last half of which is called the great tribulation. It’s all an explosion of satanic power, and as well ends an explosion of divine judgment, with the return of Christ. And at that point, He will remake the earth and its environment. He will recreate the earth and its environment, and set up His thousand-year kingdom, at the end of which He’ll literally destroy the entire universe and create a new heaven and a new earth, which is the eternal state. So as we look at the future it’s all in God’s hands, it’s all in God’s hands. So walk on the grass, shoot a deer, spray your hair – go for it.
Now we have the answer to the future in the Word of God. Paul wants to write the Thessalonians about the joy of this coming rapture. So look at verses 1 and 2. “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus, even our gathering together to Him.” “I want to talk to you about the rapture,” he says. “I want to talk to you about the rapture.” That’s what he means by “the coming of our Lord Jesus,” who comes in the air, and we gather up to Him and go to be with Him forever.
“And I want to write to you about this, so that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or disturbed.” He doesn’t want any believer to be disturbed about the future. We do not need to be disturbed about the divine plan for the future. We don’t need to be disturbed by eschatological issues. We don’t need to fear that, the last things, the end of human history. So Paul says to them, “You don’t need to be quickly shaken from your composure or disturbed.” But they were. They had become disturbed.
Now why would you be disturbed if you had just been told that the Lord’s going to deliver you from the wrath to come; and then after that, the day of the Lord will break out? And the day of the Lord, of course, is laid out all through Scripture, Old Testament and New, as the time of great, massive judgment on the ungodly. “Why would you be disturbed and lose your composure, be shaken, when you knew that the rapture was going to happen first?” Well, apparently they “had been shaken and disturbed by a spirit” – verse 2 – “or a message or a letter as if from us.”
Some false teachers had come and basically pretended to represent some spirit, divine spirit, that they were going to give a message from heaven; and that message from heaven was affirmed by a letter from Paul. So they had put together this package of bad eschatology that the believers were headed for the day of the Lord. In fact, they told them they were in the day of the Lord, and that’s how they explained the persecution that they were going through. So Paul has to correct them. He wants to write them about the rapture. He wants to comfort them in their persecution. He wants them to live in hope and joy and love. And so he needs to clarify this issue.
Now one thing is very obvious, it is unmistakably obvious, and we’ve touched on it a couple of times - obvious from all that Paul teaches, and that is this: that Paul expected believers to be snatched out of this world before the day of the Lord. That is a prejudgment rapture or a pretribulation rapture. Someone had come along and was saying, “No, you’re in the day of the Lord,” as if there were no rapture, or as if the rapture had been postponed, or they had missed it or something. Paul wants to solve their confusion because they thought, they thought they were in the day of the Lord. A lot of people think that today. They’re called post-tribbers. They think that the Lord’s going to take His people out after the events of the tribulation in the day of the Lord. That’s what the Thessalonians thought because of some deceivers who had come. So solving their confusion and allaying their fears and confronting their lack of composure and being disturbed, Paul clarifies for them that they have not missed the rapture and they are not in the day of the Lord, not at all.
Now as we look at this text I want to break it into some manageable points. And Paul simply says this: “First of all, don’t be deceived.” We’ll just say we’ll start with point one: don’t be deceived. Verse 3, “Let no one in any way deceived you, for it will not come” – that is the day of the Lord mentioned in verse 2, the day of the Lord, this consummate, final judgment – “the day of the Lord will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness” – or the man of sin – “is revealed, the son of destruction.” Do not be deceived. Do not be deceived.
Deception is creating anxiety; it’s creating fear. Do not be deceived by bad theology. Let me tell you something: bad eschatology is bad theology, and bad eschatology is deception. Bad eschatology is perhaps as common or more common than any other category of theology that gets misrepresented. It’s a major effort of Satan to cause believers to live in fear because they think they’re going to go through this day of the Lord experience; and so they live in fear, storing up like these doomsdayers to survive divine wrath. That is deception. Do not be deceived.
Secondly, do not be forgetful. And we’re reviewing for a minute. “It will not come unless the apostasy comes first,” verse 3, “and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” So second point: don’t be forgetful. Don’t be forgetful. “I was telling you these things while I was still with you. Don’t you remember that? I told you, the gathering of the saints comes first, the rapture, the catching away of believers meeting the Lord in the air, going to heaven. And there is the marriage supper of the Lamb,” described in Revelation. “There’s the rewards to the believers who have gathered around the Lord, and we will always be with the Lord.
So we’re out before the day of the Lord comes. I told you this. I told you about the rapture. I told you about the day of the Lord, the coming judgment. But I also told you that the day of the Lord would be marked by the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction dominating the world,” and by an event he calls the apostasy, the apostasy. Paul says, “You can’t be in the day of the Lord because the apostasy has to come first, and the man of lawlessness has to be revealed, the son of destruction. That has to be in place before the day of the Lord explodes in its full fury. That has not happened.”
Now what does he mean “the apostasy.” We talked about it already. I’ll just give you a brief review. It is “the apostasy.” It literally means “the defection.” It is an event clearly and specifically identifiable by the descriptive “the.” It is the specific apostasy, the consummate act of rebellion, an event of final magnitude. To identify the event we must identify the person connected to the event, the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction. So you’re not in the day of the Lord unless there has been the rise of the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, son of destruction; and in the middle of that period of time there will be this ultimate apostasy, this event that triggers the final explosion of divine wrath in the latter half of that day of the Lord tribulation.
The Antichrist is going to do that act, you can see it very clearly. Look at verse 4. The apostasy involves the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, and this is what he does, “he opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” This is what the Antichrist will do in that period of time called the tribulation. He will enter the temple, he will desecrate the temple, he will blaspheme the temple, he will blaspheme the true God. This is all described back in Daniel, as well as in the book of Revelation. It is even referred to by our Lord in Matthew 24:15, “This is what Daniel calls the abomination of desolation.”
In that future time, that time when Antichrist has taken a rule over the world, he will go into the temple. At the beginning of the seven years, he will come with peace. He comes as a rider on a white horse in Revelation 6 - no arrows, just a bow. It’s a peaceful kind of conquering. He makes a pact, according to Daniel 9, with the nation Israel to protect Israel. He is a global leader; he is a world leader, and he looks like a world savior, he looks like a protector of Israel. And once his power is sealed and settled in the middle of that seven-year period, he commits the abomination of desolation. He turns on Israel, begins to slaughter Israel; all hell breaks loose. Hell belches out demons who have been bound since way back in Genesis. The earth is overrun by the forces of Satan, and Antichrist sets himself up in the temple of God as if he is God. This is the ultimate blasphemy of the ultimate Antichrist.
The Thessalonians cannot be in the day of the Lord. There is no great global leader, there is no one who has made a pact with Israel, and certainly there is no blasphemous apostasy by that man of lawlessness. You’re not in the day of the Lord. So if you want to look hopefully and joyfully to Christ’s return, don’t be deceived by false teachers with bad eschatology; and don’t be forgetful of what the Scripture says; and that’s what I told you.
Thirdly, don’t be ignorant. This is a very important portion: don’t be ignorant. To be certain his readers are not ignorant of Antichrist he does some very interesting things, does Paul. He gives us four features of the career of Antichrist, four features, and it’s really remarkable in its general sense and also as you kind of spread it out a little bit over these four points; and I’ll show you what I mean.
There are four features of the Antichrist’s career. Number one is his revelation. Let’s look at verse 6. “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.” He’s talking about his revelation. He uses the word “revealed” there in verse 6. He used it of the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness in verse 3. He will be revealed. He uses it again in verse 8: “The lawless one will be revealed.” So there is a revelation.
You could say there is an incarnation, there is an incarnation. “He will be revealed, but not now. You know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. You know that he is being restrained now.” How did they know that? Because Paul had taught them that when he was with him. Important information for them. The Antichrist had not come and could not come until his time because he was subject to that which restrains him, now holds him down, holds him back, suppresses him – katechō in the Greek.
So he asks at this point, “What is holding him back? What is restraining him?” I would assume that Satan would have liked to have had the Antichrist here long ago. Perhaps he would have wanted the Antichrist to be some Caesar immediately after the career of Jesus Christ to come and do Satan’s horrific work. But Satan was restrained; it didn’t happen. Perhaps some great murderous conqueror through human history, but Satan could never do that because he was restrained from doing that. Perhaps Adolf Hitler was Satan’s next and most familiar effort, at least to us, to bring about a Satan-incarnated, evil man to become the final Antichrist. But even he couldn’t pull it off; he was restrained. Or any other of the kinds of people like Stalin, or Hitler, or anybody else who is a murderous leader.
But they’re all held back; it hasn’t happened. We haven’t seen Antichrist. We haven’t seen a global leader who rules the world by peace, who makes a pact with Israel to be their protector, violates the pact, sets himself up as God in the temple of God. Something’s holding this back, something’s preventing Satan from doing this.
What is it? Some people think it’s preaching the gospel, that Matthew 24:14 says the gospel has to be preached, then Christ will come. It has to be preached to the ends of the earth. So is it the preaching of the gospel that is holding Satan back?
Some have suggested it is some kind of special binding of Satan. Well, Satan is bound in the millennial kingdom for a thousand years, but he’s obviously not bound now, because he goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Some people think it’s the church because Matthew 5:13-14 says the church is to be salt and light. Well, salt and light are not restraints. Salt is a preservation and light is the truth, the symbol of the truth and righteousness. So God in His people has preserved truth and righteousness in the world, but that’s not the same as restraining evil. In fact, the Bible is clear that evil men are getting worse and worse. Evil is escalating. So the church is obviously the greatest blessing in the world because there’s the embodiment of gospel-saving truth. But the church can’t be the restrainer.
Some people have suggested, based on Romans 13, that government is the restrainer, the government is restraining Satan. That’s not true. There’s no effort made on the part of the government to deal with supernatural entities at all. Some people think it’s the principle of law and morality that’s in the fabric of culture and in the human heart. Some commentators years ago used to think it was the Roman Empire; but that isn’t even around anymore. And Michael the archangel has been suggested, based on his work back in Daniel. But none of those really work because neither angels nor people, whether individual people or people collectively, could stop Satan. We can’t control Satan. Michael found that out, as it’s recorded in the ninth verse of Jude.
They’re all human efforts or angelic efforts. No human effort can restrain Satan. There’s only one in the universe who can restrain Satan. Who is it? Keep it in mind, the devil is God’s devil; he never goes beyond the boundaries that God permits. The power that holds back Satan from bringing the Antichrist in final apostasy is the Lord Himself. So there’s a power in operation that holds back Satan’s plan. The man of sin cannot come until that restraining power is released. The Thessalonians knew that, so they should have known they were not in the day of the Lord because the Antichrist had not yet appeared.
The reason for the restraint – back to the same verse – the reason for the restraint is “so,” verse 6 says, “that in his time he may be revealed,” in God’s appointed time. Job 42:2, when Job had learned his lesson, he said, “No purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” In Isaiah 46:10, “My purpose,” says God, “will be accomplished.” Not Satan, not demons, not human forces, not devilish plan or purpose can operate until God allows it. God’s plan and God’s power control everything. Evil will never pass beyond God’s limits.
He will be revealed in the time, his time, God has appointed. This is very interesting, because you remember Galatians 4:4 says that “Christ came” – and it says it this way – “when the fullness of time was come, when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His son.” There was in the plan of God a time for the incarnate Son of God to come. Jews had waited centuries and centuries and centuries and centuries, but He only came in God’s appointed time. And so, God as He ordained a time for His Son, the incarnate Son of God to come, God has ordained a time for the appearing of the man in whom Satan lives. His appearing is set by God’s plan.
Now get the picture. Satan wants basically to copy Christ, to have a human being supernaturally empowered - his false Christ, pseudo-Christ, Antichrist. But he will not come until God’s time is fulfilled.
Now look at verse 7. However, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.” That is not to say there isn’t lawlessness. He is the man of lawlessness. He is the final, ultimate embodiment of lawlessness. That’s just a long word for “sin,” rebellion against God. That man of sin, that man in whom Satan dwells, that man who is like ten thousand Hitlers, that man has not come. But lawlessness is already at work, because as John says in 1 John 4:3 there are now many antichrists; and the spirit of antichrist is everywhere. Whoever denies that Jesus has come in the flesh, that is an antichrist. So antichrist lawlessness is everywhere.
But the mystery of lawlessness, what is that? That’s the unrevealed aspect of lawlessness. When you see the word “mystery” we’re not talking about Agatha Christie or something like that. Mustērion in the Greek means “something hidden,” not yet revealed. The gospel of the New Testament is the mystery in the sense that it wasn’t fully revealed in the Old Testament. The rapture of the church is called a mystery; it wasn’t revealed in the Old Testament. The believer as “in Christ,” that’s a mystery revealed in the New Testament. Paul is an apostle of the mysteries, the things hidden in the past that are now revealed. The resurrection is a mystery that is now revealed.
So the mystery, the hidden reality of the revelation of Antichrist has not yet come. But the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Lawlessness is an unfolding all around us. Second Timothy 3:13, “Evil men get worse and worse.” That’s been true since our Lord’s time, and that’s why the apostle Paul said it. Starting then, people get worse and worse and worse. So the mystery of lawlessness, that is to say the unfolding revelation of evil at a massive level.
And by the way, evil grows fast and far. That’s why by the time you get to the sixth, seventh and eighth chapters of Genesis, God had destroyed the whole entire world because evil was so rampant. Evil now is regenerated again when the eight people came out of the ark. They were sinful; and evil has been basically spreading since they stepped on dry land. Wickedness, lies, hypocrisy, false doctrine, sins of every kind – all of it is operating now. And that’s what he means in verse 7; it’s everywhere.
Antichrists are many and they are everywhere. Lawlessness is everywhere. “Only,” verse 7, “he who now restrains will do so until he’s taken out of the way.” The Antichrist hasn’t come yet; the spirit of antichrist, yes. First John 2:18, already in operation. But the man who finally embodies that spirit in a consummate way and rules the entire world is not yet revealed, because he who now restrains will do so until he is removed, “taken out of the way,” ek mesou. “Taken out of the way” is what it means.
We face then the question, “What is this power?” Well, I just said it’s divine, and the best answer as to who it is is the Holy Spirit. He’s the Divine One who strives with sinners in Genesis 6. He’s the Divine One who convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment. Until the Holy Spirit gets out of the way, the Antichrist cannot come.
Now, that doesn’t mean, please, that the Holy Spirit leaves the world. First of all, that’s impossible because He’s omniscient, omnipresent. He knows everything; He is everywhere. So He’s not going to leave the world. Furthermore, there’s going to be a massive revival during this seven-year tribulation. Revelation says people will be converted, saved from every tongue, tribe, nation, people. Massive, innumerable, millions of people converted. The nation Israel converted; 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from every tribe become the evangelists and preach the gospel.
Nobody could believe, nobody could be regenerated, nobody could be born again if there weren’t a Holy Spirit present, because that’s all the work of the Holy Spirit. So the work of salvation, sanctification, even the spread of the gospel is the work of the Spirit. So it doesn’t meant that there’s no Holy Spirit here; that would not be possible. What it does mean is that He stops the restraining work, holding back Satan. He’s restraining Satan from sending Antichrist.
But when the time comes, Antichrist will show up. He will show up at the beginning of the week, and as I said, riding on a white horse with a bow and no arrows he conquers. Doesn’t take long before all kinds of judgment breaks out. He becomes the covenanted protector of Israel, Daniel 9 says, signs a pact with Israel to protect them. Does the very opposite; blasphemes God and goes after Israel to slaughter all the Jews he can. So the Holy Spirit is the One who deals with sin. He’s restraining Satan from full, final lawlessness in the form of the ultimate Antichrist. This One who restrains is the Holy Spirit; the one He restrains is the Antichrist.
A sense of this entire passage, just as we look at it, seems to be this: Satan, while perfectly aware of the fact that he cannot become incarnate, he cannot become incarnate. Nevertheless, he would like to imitate the second person of the Trinity in this respect as far as possible. Second person of the Trinity became a man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan wants a man. He wants a man over whom he can have absolute and complete control. He wants a man who will perform his will as thoroughly as Jesus performed His Father’s will. But as yet, the Devil is frustrated in his attempt to put his plan into operation, because he is being held back, held back by the Holy Spirit until the divinely decreed moment when the Restrainer, verse 7, “is taken out of the way.” As soon as that happens, verse 8, “Then that lawless one will be revealed.” “Then that lawless one will be revealed.”
When the Holy Spirit steps aside, sets aside that restraining power, swiftly fierce, fierce satanic work begins. It’s described in Revelation 6-19, that whole section, and it begins with the lawless one being revealed – mentioned for the third time his revelation. And we’ve already seen his career previous weeks in Daniel and Revelation, so we’re not going to go back and look at that. But just to grab Paul’s words here, we start by looking at his revelation in God’s time.
Secondly, as we think of his career is his destruction. Look at verse 8, “whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.” Just as the revelation of the Antichrist is set according to God’s timetable, so is his destruction.
His dominion will be remarkable. Daniel 7:26 says, “His dominion literally will be taken away,” even though it’s a global dominion. “It will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.” Or in the language of Revelation 17:11, talking about the Antichrist, it basically says, “The beast goes to destruction.” Or in the language of Daniel 11:45, “He will come to his end, no one will help him.”
Now the word “slay” could be translated “overthrow,” or literally “make an end of.” It’s a broader thing than just death – it does encompass that – but it’s the end of his entire dominion. Again, that’s the language of Daniel 7, “His dominion will be taken away, annihilated, and destroyed forever.” And then in addition to that, to the end of his dominion will come the end of his life, and he will be brought to an end. That means “destroyed,” katargeō, “abolished, destroyed.” He will kill the man after he overthrows his global dominion.
How does he do that? By the word, the breath of His mouth. He speaks him into judgment. Satan’s false Christ, a counterfeit of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has a parousia; he has a revelation like Jesus did, a revelation. He has a message for the world. It is a lie; it is deception. He can do powers and signs and wonders, and even has a false resurrection. He has a massive impact on people. He is a supernatural person, because the supernatural person is working through him. This is a false Christ with a false revelation, a false message, false supernatural power, false resurrection; and he comes to a quick end.
When does it happen? Back to that same verse, verse 8. “He is brought to an end by the appearance of His coming.” His end is when Jesus shows up. This is a visible encounter with the glorious Lord Jesus, who will paralyze the daring presumption and arrogant activity of this lawless one. This is so powerful a reality that I want to read you the description of it at the end of Revelation 19.
Christ comes; heaven opens; a white horse. He who sits on it is Faithful and True. He judges, wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire. His head has many diadems. He has a name written which no one knows except Himself. He’s clothed with a robe dipped in blood. His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations and rule them with a rod of iron.” That’s the breath of His mouth. “On His robe and on His thigh a name, ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’”
“I saw an angel standing in the sun,” says John in the vision, “crying to all the birds of heaven, ‘Come, assemble to the great supper of God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and those who sit on them, the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, the small and great.’” This is the final judgment of sinners on this earth.
“I saw the Antichrist and the kings of the earth and the armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” The Antichrist is going to try to make war on the returning Christ. “And the beast” – the Antichrist – “was seized, with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. The rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.” There’s not an actual sword out of his mouth, but his very breath kills. The Lord literally kills the ungodly, kills the Antichrist, the false prophet, sends them all to hell. So you see his revelation and you see his destruction.
The third thing you see about Antichrist here is his power when he is functioning, verse 9, “That is the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan.” “Activity” is the word energeia from which we get “energy” or “power.” What he does he does in the power of Satan, “with all power and signs and false wonders.” He operates in satanic power. He does power, signs, and wonders. “Power,” dunamis. “Supernatural actions, signs,” sēmeion, which basically means it’s a “sign.” This power act is a sign pointing to his supernatural nature. And produces wonder, astonishing results.
So this Antichrist will do some astonishing things, mighty acts. I don’t think we can simply say that they’re fake. All the forces of hell, supernatural forces can do amazing things, supernatural things, like the magicians of Pharaoh. By the way, all three of those words – “power, signs, and wonders” – marked the ministry of Jesus Christ.
So here’s the false Christ. He has his own revelation; he has his own message; he has his own signs. One of those signs is a false resurrection. Satan’s power is limited, but it is supernatural, and he uses it for his works. Read thirteenth chapter of Revelation and you can see what he does. They’re false, not in the sense that they’re not supernatural, but in the sense that they support a lie. They’re false in the sense that they support a lie. When it says at the end of verse 9 “with false wonders” that explains what it means in verse 10, “and with all the deception of wickedness,” all deceptive wickedness. It’s a lie. Everything that he does is a lie.
And at the same time, remember he sets himself up in the temple as God, and the world believes he’s God, and the world takes his mark. His whole operation is a lie - false, deceptive, luring people to believe that the Antichrist is Christ, that the power behind the Antichrist is God, that Antichrist is God’s man, that he is the world’s savior, that he is the one who should be worshiped; and every hellish, supernatural ploy Satan has will be used to achieve that deception.
And finally, a word about his influence, verse 10. We saw his revelation, his destruction, his power, his influence. All of this deception of wickedness is for those who perish because they didn’t receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.
Antichrist’s malevolent influence will be on all those who are perishing. Those who are perishing is a category. First Corinthians 1:18 says, “The gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing,” those who are on their way to hell, the unregenerate, the ones who believe lies, the children of Satan, John 8. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you don’t believe Me because you’re of your father the Devil, who’s a liar from the beginning, and you believe lies.”
This is the group of people who have succumbed to Satan’s deception. The entire world, with the exception of those who’ve believed the gospel, are under his influence. And why are they under his influence? Because they didn’t receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. They didn’t receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. That phrase “the love of the truth” is so wonderful.
“They didn’t receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” They heard the truth. The truth will be preached during the time of the reign of Antichrist. It’ll be preached in heaven by flying angels. It’ll be preached by 144,000 Jews. It’ll be preached in Jerusalem by the two witnesses who are killed. It’ll be preached to the ends of the earth. There will be people who hear the truth but don’t love the truth so as to be saved. Just mark that, okay. Hearing the truth is not enough.
“Loving the truth.” What does that mean? Preferring it above everything else. Loving the truth means you sell everything to buy the treasure in the field in the pearl of great price. “The love of the truth,” used only here - that’s a phrase only here in all of Scripture. And here the gospel is at our hands.
The truth of the gospel: they gave it no welcome; they gave it no love. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But to those who do not believe, He brought judgment. Same John 3.
They refused to repent; they refused to believe; they refused to follow. This is the condition of unbelief that loves sin, loves not Christ. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be damned,” 1 Corinthians 16:22. They choose not to believe, so they come under the full influence of Antichrist, and they are not saved.
The results of this one, willful unbelief; look at verse 11. The results of this willful unbelief, “For this reason” – because they do not love the truth so as to be saved – “for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” Because of willful unbelief and rejection of the gospel, refusal to love and obey the truth that saves there’s a severe, divine recompense.
“The people alive at that time who will not believe, who will not love the truth, God will send upon them” – this is amazing – “a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. That’s a divine judgment. What a thought. The sovereign power of God acting to seal their eternal fate. This is like Pharaoh, right? Exodus 8-9: Pharaoh hardened his heart; God hardened his heart. Pharaoh hardened his heart; God hardened his heart.
You harden your heart; that’s your choice. God will harden your heart, sealing your eternal damnation. Proverbs 5:22 says, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his own sin.” Judgment falls on that hardness, and God sends a deluding influence, a force of deception, a force of delusion so that they believe the lie, the lie of Satan about Antichrist.
So judgment comes in the form of an inability to see the truth, an inability to love the truth, an inability to be saved, and they are judicially sentenced by God to accept only Satan’s lies. They will deliberately choose falsehood, and a time will come when they cannot choose anything but falsehood. Thus it says God uses Satan and the Antichrist as instruments to punish the perishing who have refused to love the truth. First Kings 22 talks about the Lord putting a deceiving spirit in the mouth of false prophets. First Chronicles 21 talks about Satan being used by God to move David to number Israel. God does not delude them into unbelief, but punishes them for willful unbelief by sealing their eternal destiny.
Refusing the truth they are turned over to damning lies. The sinner refuses light, chooses darkness; darkness he shall have. He hardens his heart; hardened it shall be. He refuses to love the truth, he will receive a lying spirit and he will love lies. He spurns eternal life, he will have eternal death. In all ages those who persist in sin will find eventually they won’t be able to escape that choice.
So perishing people hate, reject the saving gospel, refuse to love Christ; rather, love sin, will not believe the truth, believe lies, will not follow God but follow Satan. Eventually, unless they repent, they will not have a choice. This is the Antichrist, and this is his career, and this is the future. But we’re not looking for Antichrist, right? If you want to live in joy and love and hope, then you need to be looking for Christ who will deliver us from the wrath to come.
Father, we thank You for Your truth. We love Your truth. You have opened our hearts to make that a reality. We thank You. We thank You that You have chosen us from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. We thank You that You called us through the gospel to gain the glory of our Lord Jesus.
We have no fear about the future. We have no fear about death. We have no fear about the future of what happens to this planet; it’s all in Your hands. You made it, You sustain it, and You’ll bring it to its end. You gave us a detailed description of the creation. You’ve given us a chronicle of Your sovereign working through all of human history. You’ve told us how it will all end, in detail – the rapture, then the day of the Lord. And even during that period with horrific judgments coming on the earth, many will be saved. Then You return with those You raptured, set up Your earthly kingdom. You remake the earth into an Eden-like paradise once again. You reign from Jerusalem with Your people for a thousand years, after which You destroy the entire universe and create a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells forever for You and Your saints. This is prewritten history.
Lord, what do we say to You of gratitude and thanksgiving, for giving us this gift of forgiveness of sins and salvation and love of the truth? We have new life in Christ. We follow Christ, not Antichrist. We follow the One who is God incarnate, revealed in Your time, who lived a perfect, sinless life, died a substitutionary death, and rose again for the forgiveness and justification, salvation and glorification of His people. We thank You for the true Christ.
May the glory of Christ be spread across the earth even now; may You gather in Your people; and may You come to gather us to Yourself soon. We’re ready and eager, but not until You’ve gathered all those whom You love and for whom you died. Do that, Lord, for Your glory, we pray. Amen.
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