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The Antichrist

by Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945)

Arno C. GaebeleinVery little scripture, comparatively, suffices to tell us all that God wants us to know about Antichrist. The subject is soon exhausted because he is only human, except that he will be energized by Satan, so that he may be able to pass himself off as more than human. Satan is more than human as regards power; but he is only a creature. It is written of him, "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, until iniquity was found in thee." The iniquity that was found in him was, "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty." The way in which this pride manifested itself was, "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High" (Ezek. 28:11-19; Isaiah 14:12-15). These words appear to be addressed to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Babylon; but God's word goes behind these two kings and speaks of the being who is leading them on to the same self-exaltation that was the cause of his own ruin. He wants to drag others down into the same sin that he has fallen into, and to the same judgment that awaits him.

That was the character of his first temptation, in the garden of Eden. "God doth know," he said to Eve, "that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as [God], knowing good and evil." Accordingly not only was the tree seen to be "good for food, and pleasant to the eyes"; God had made it to be that; but it was also "a tree to be desired to make one wise" (Gen. 3:5, 6). From that time there has not been a human being free from the sin which the tenth commandment prohibits in the words, "Thou shalt not covet" except one, the Lord Jesus Christ, for "in Him is no sin." But He was not the seed of the man; He was the promised seed of the woman. Even as to His humanity He was the Son of God. The words of the second psalm, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee," speak of His incarnation, not of His eternal sonship; nor of His resurrection from the dead, but of His birth of a woman on a certain day, "this day;" when He came, not to exalt Himself as antichrist will do, but, having emptied Himself, not of essential Deity, but of the outward form of God, taking upon Him the form of a servant by becoming man; and then to humble Himself still more, even to the death of the cross. Deeper humiliation than that was impossible. His obedience brought Him to it. God having been glorified by that perfect obedience, in which the righteousness, the holiness, and the love of God, are manifested, has glorified Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2).

This is the Christ. The antichrist will be an utter contrast to that in every particular. In him will be fully exemplified the Lord's oft repeated words, "whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased." Instead of being the truth, he will be the exemplification of the lie. "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ." That is Jewish apostasy; but it will not stop at that. "He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22). This is the denial of the Godhead of the Father and the Son; to which the present apostasy, of both Jew and Gentile, is going on, to culminate and to be headed up in the great lie of antichrist.

The time and circumstances of His manifestation are revealed through the Apostle Paul. The Thessalonian believers had got into confusion and trouble of mind by failing to distinguish between "the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He will come as "the Morning Star" (Rev. 2:28; 22:16), and "the day of the Lord," when He will come as the "Son of Righteousness" (Mal. 4:2). ...We quote from a literal translation. "Now we beseech you brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, for you not to be quickly shaken in mind, nor to be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle as if by us, as that the day of the Lord is present" (2 Thess. 3:1, 2).

The apostle very evidently wishes us to understand that as long as "the coming of the Lord and our gathering together unto Him," is an event that is still in the future, that the "day of the Lord" cannot be present. It may be, and is, at hand; but as the rising of the morning star precedes the sunrise, so the coming of the Lord for those that are His, precedes the day of the Lord, and His appearing in glory. When He does thus appear it will be "with all His saints." Consequently, they will previously have gone to be with Him. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 reveals the way we shall go to be with the Lord; and 1 Thessalonians 3:13 reveals our coming with Him.

Then in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 the apostle tells us of one whom he calls "the man of sin." From the fact that Paul connects him with the "mystery of iniquity," which was working even in Paul's time, we see that he is the same personage that John speaks of as the "antichrist." At that time the denial of "Jesus Christ come in flesh" had begun. That is the denial of the true Deity, and the true humanity, of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 4:1-6). Paul further shows that the day of the Lord, instead of being present, as they feared, would not come until this man of sin had appeared. The day of the Lord will be the time in which judgment on the earth will be executed, as revealed in Revelation 6-19. The day of the Lord therefore waits for the object of judgment to appear on the earth. God has long patience; He allows men to go on in their course of evil until it reaches its height in the self-exaltation and blasphemous pretentions of the man of sin; God continuing His work of grace at the same time, until the moment comes when the command goes forth from the throne in heaven "gather the wheat into my barn." Then the kingdom of heaven passes to heaven (Matt. 8:11), and the kingdom of the Son of Man begins to appear on earth (Matt. 13:41).

We further learn from the parable of the wheat and tares that not until the wheat has been gathered into the barn, that is, not until the rapture of "those who are Christ's at His coming," will the judgments on antichrist and his followers be executed. The tares are gathered in bundles to be burnt at the time that the wheat is gathered into the barn. That concludes what is spoken of in the parable. What follows in Matthew 13:40-43 is additional to the parable, in which the Lord reveals, in plain speech, not parable, the judgments on earth, after the rapture of the church. It will be at that time that the great tribulation will take place; but as the wheat will have been gathered into the barn before the burning of the tares, the Lord shows us quite plainly and distinctly how the Church will be kept "out of the hour, [or time], of temptation, [or trial], which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth" (Rev. 3:10). Paul shows, also, in 2 Thessalonians 1, that the persecutions and tribulations the Church was then passing through were from the world. But when God recompenses tribulation to the world the Church will be at rest. Not until the Church is at rest in heaven will "the Lord Jesus be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." That will be the time of the great tribulation.

The goal of the present apostasy, that to which it directly tends, is revealed in what scripture says the "man of sin" will be. He will "oppose and exalt himself above all called God, or object of veneration, so as for him to sit down in the temple of God, setting forth himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:4). The development of this is now restrained while God continues His present work of grace. When that is over, and the wheat is gathered into the barn, the restraint will be removed; and the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth, and annul by the appearing of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8-9).

But this self-exalting man is but the tool of Satan. Satan is working by him. His pretension to be God himself will be confirmed by the working of Satan through him, "with all power and signs and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish." Those who have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved, will, by that refusal of the gospel, have laid themselves open to be deceived by the signs and wonders which Satan will work through this man. It is well to remember that the present offer of salvation, by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven, is God's final effort to save in this dispensation. To refuse it, as is now being done throughout Christendom, is to sin against the Holy Spirit. When that sin has been committed there is no further means of bringing such to repentance. Then God will send to them a working of error for them to believe what is false. As we see this working even now in the multitudes who are turning away from the gospel, and, believing the false teachings that Satan foists upon them, we have another indication of how near to the end we are. But believing a lie does not make it to be the truth. That is but the proof of being doomed. "That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

There is another reference to Antichrist in Isaiah 30:33. "For Tophet is ordained of old; yea for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it."

Tophet was in the Valley of Hinnon, outside Jerusalem, where dead bodies and garbage were thrown to be consumed by the fire kept burning there. It is taken by the prophet as a figure of hell; the name Gehenna is derived from it. The Lord made this contrast between it and hell, when He said three times, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48). In the valley of Hinnon the fire would go out when all was consumed; and the worm would die when it had no more corruption to feed upon. But in hell, the place of "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," there will be a kind of fire that will torment spirits, such as the devil and his angels are; spirits without material bodies. That fire will never be quenched, and the worm will never die, because the corrupt state will exist forever. There will be no repentance, no faith, no new birth in hell. Fire that torments disembodied spirits, as in Luke 16:24, is evidently of the same kind as that of which the Lord speaks in Matthew 25:41 and 46. This is the doom that awaits the false "king" and his followers. In Luke 16:24 the sufferings of the disembodied spirit are spoken of in terms of bodily experience, as that is the only language we have in which to express them. When Paul was caught up into Paradise he heard unspeakable words which it was not possible for him to utter when he returned to bodily conditions. Similarly when the sufferings of the disembodied spirit in hades are spoken of, terms expressing bodily suffering have to be employed.

During the millennial reign of Christ, the punishment of those who transgress and are cut off, will be visible. We read, "And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh" (Isaiah 66:24). The valley of Hinnon again supplies the figure of the dread reality. The glory of Christ, and the punishment of the lost, will both be visible during the millennium. Yet that will not prevent the greatest rebellion against God the world has ever seen, at its end (Rev. 20:7-10). "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," and remains the same to the end. Nothing avails for man but Christ upon the cross and the new birth.

In the Prophet Daniel there is but one passage, that speaks of Antichrist. On account of its importance we quote it in full.

"And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain" (Dan. 11:36-39).

We do well to ponder upon this passage. It describes a development, not out of conditions of degradation and vice, but of culture, education and refinement; in short of civilization. Much of it is in evidence at the present time. The mystery of iniquity, which was working in the apostle's day, is almost past the mystery, or secret stage, for many features of that which describes Antichrist is already present. Not yet concentrated in one man, but different parts of it in different classes of people; some countries even, like Germany, France and England, exhibit features of it, each peculiar to itself, in a way that is almost startling in its correspondence with the description of Antichrist here given. He will not be in advance of his times when he comes.

An unmistakable proof that this passage is a description of Antichrist is that the man described is evidently a Jew. Of Israel only could it be said, "Whose are the fathers" (Rom. 9:5); this man will be a descendant of the fathers, for twice in the passage they are called "his fathers." He is therefore a Jew. He would need to be that in order to be accepted by the Jews as their Messiah. But he will not own the God of his fathers to be his God.

Another thing that marks him as a Jew is that he will not regard the desire of women. The desire of Jewish women was to be the mother of the Messiah. That desire has been fulfilled. The true Christ has been born of a virgin mother, exactly as foretold by the prophet (Isa. 7:14); for but Him who was so born this man has no more regard than he has for the God of his fathers. He comes himself as the Christ, although it is not likely that his mother thought that "the desire of women" had fallen to her lot when he was born.

But, instead of the God of his fathers, there is a god whom he will honor, called the God of forces. It is doubtless the beast, of whom he makes an image and puts it in the temple that will then have been erected in Jerusalem. As this is the god he depends upon to support him in his false pretensions, he honors him with gold, silver, precious stones and pleasant things. He will also divide the land for gain, regardless of the way God has commanded it to be divided in Ezekiel. In short he will do his own will; exalting and magnifying himself above every god, speaking blasphemies against the God of gods. But this will reach the limit of God's endurance. The predetermined indignation will be accomplished. Trouble arises, first, by the king of the south pushing at him. Then the king of the north will assail him with an overwhelming force and even Egypt will not escape. Then there will be a "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time." But divine interference on behalf of God's people in Israel will then appear. Michael will stand up for them, and every one found written in the book will be delivered (Dan. 11:40-12:4). We do not attempt to forecast the changes in the map of Europe that will then, evidently, have taken place, and which may be the outcome of the present war. These details are, for a wise purpose, "closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Dan.12:9). Enough is revealed of what the present apostasy is developing into, to warn us to be entirely separate from it, while we are waiting to be translated at the coming of the Lord. He that hath this hope in Him will purify himself from the Spirit of the world, so apt to be engendered by the awful details of this war of nations, as well as from everything else that defiles and dims the expectation of the Lord's return.

We have now to consider what is said of Antichrist in the book of Revelation. In chapter 13 two beasts arise; one from the sea, the other from the earth. The beast from the sea is not the Antichrist, but the Roman Empire, as it will soon emerge from the turmoil of the nations; and its final atheistic head, with a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. The beast from the earth is Antichrist. We quote the passage in full:

"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is [666]." Revelation 13:11-18.

The first thing to note with regard to this beast is that it arises out of the earth; not, like the first beast, out of the sea. The sea represents the Gentile nations, acted upon by the winds of heaven; that heaven which was the work of the second day, the only work of the six days which God does not pronounce "good." The reason was that the being hostile to God was there, "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience." When, therefore, Daniel saw the four great Gentile empires arise, it was out of conditions of strife and turmoil produced by the four winds of heaven striving upon the great sea (Dan. 7:2).

But the second beast arises out of the earth, for he is not a Gentile but a Jew. He comes of that nation through which stable government, not acted upon by Satan, will be established in the earth. But that will not be through this man, who is but the tool of Satan, but through the One whom Satan could not tempt, even Him, upon whose cross the representative of the Roman empire placed the inscription, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." This is the King whom God will set upon His holy hill of Zion, as we read in the second psalm, a psalm which bears directly upon the circumstances of the times we are now considering.

He has two horns, like to a lamb, and speaks as a dragon. The horn is a symbol of authority, government, and the power by which it is maintained. No one has a right to it except as conferred by God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore we are to be subject to them. And they should recognize that there is a power over them—"that the heavens do rule" (Dan. 4:26). But this they are not doing; they are doing their own will without any reference to God or His will and authority, until, when this power arises, it will not be ordained of God; it will be Satanic; all acknowledgment of the true God will be thrown off, and it will make itself to be the object of worship. Hence while it has two horns like a lamb; pretending to be the Messiah of both Israel and Judah, its speech betrays it as Satanic; and its actions fully bear this out. The authority that it exercises is not that of God, but of the first beast. This favor it reciprocates by causing the dwellers on the earth to worship the first beast, who is the emperor of the then revived Roman empire, with its seat at Rome. The great signs and wonders, which Satan gives him the power to work, even to imitate Elijah in calling down fire from heaven, will so mislead the masses who have refused to believe the gospel, that, at his behest they will make an image to the beast. Then he will have power to give, not life, but breath, to the image, and to cause it to speak. Then, to complete the iniquity, he will command worship to the beast, instead of to the true God. "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints," for he will have power to cause that as many as will not worship the image of the beast shall be slain. This persecution will doubtless have its center at Jerusalem, where the temple having been built, many believing Jews will have returned.

Then, further to get rid of all opposition, he causes all to receive a mark, publicly displaying allegiance to the beast; either on their right hand, that is by their work;  or on their forehead, that is by their openly manifested profession, that they are loyal to the beast; and only such will be able to buy or sell. That will be the great trades-union to which all will have to belong on pain of death.

The distinguishing mark will be either the name of the beast, or the number of his name. That will admit of no neutrality, such as being a secret believer in Christ and silent publicly. There must be a positive profession of loyalty to the beast such as no true believer could make, be he or she ever so timid. Consequently blood will flow; martyrs will again be slain. Against all this influence which the devil will exert, there is the warning in Revelation 14:9-11, and the encouragement not to shrink even from death in verses 12, 13.

But what is the significance of the number of the beast? That it has some moral import seems evident, for the elucidation of it is a mark of such wisdom and understanding of the meaning of it as would absolutely forbid a believer from receiving it. The moral character of the beast would be revealed in the meaning of the number. The number is not six hundred three score and six, as in the A. V. but 6,6,6. Six repeated three times. We have therefore to find the scriptural meaning of six and three. The fourth commandment of the law was "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work" (Exod. 20:8, 9). Six, therefore, represents the period of man's work. Three is the number of full manifestation. When God is fully revealed it is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three persons, One God. Man consists of body, soul and spirit. All that is in the world comes under one of three heads;  viz: "The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). From this we learn that 6,6,6, is manfully manifested by his six days of labor. Peter says further, "Beloved be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). So that as the commandment says "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work," and one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, we may quite expect that the period allotted to man in which to do all his work, is six thousand years. We know further that forty is the number of probation, trial, testing. The life of Moses, the one through which the law was given, consisted of three forties. Forty years in Egypt, forty years in obscurity, and forty years from Egypt to Pisgah. The Lord was in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan. And it was at the end of forty centuries that, man's probation being over, the Lord Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. Two thousand years more under grace completes the period allotted to him in which to labor, and he reaches his full manifestation in the beast.

But if the number 6,6,6, has such an evil significance, is it not strange that the beast should choose it to distinguish his followers? It would be so if he saw what the believer sees in it. But he sees it to be a mark of gratifying progress and attainment. He glories in what is really his shame.

Antichrist comes before us again under the sixth vial, as the false prophet. "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."

We have here another instance of the number three being significant of full manifestation, and further showing the suitability of three sixes being the number of the beast. Satan has now got two men so thoroughly imbued with his spirit, that they become like himself, sources of evil influence, even commanding demoniacal spirits to go forth to the kings of the earth, and to the people of the world, to gather them together to the battle of the great day of Almighty God. Then, because of the great power of the evil influences which will be let loose, deceiving those that have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved, the Lord interjects words of warning and encouragement, to be heard by His people of that day, that they may watch and keep their garments of white raiment, with which they have been clothed (cf. Rev. 3:18). He will come to the world as a thief, unexpected and unwelcome, but to His people as their deliverer. It is not the rapture of the church here, that has taken place between chapters three and four; this is His coming as in Matt. 24:29-31, when He will come as the "Son of Righteousness," and the day will dawn.

We have one more passage to consider, in which it revealed to us the result of the battle of the great day of Almighty God, and the doom of the beast and the false prophet, or antichrist.

"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war with him who sits on the horse, and with his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who wrought the signs before him, by which he misled those who received the mark of the beast, and those who do homage to his image. The two were cast alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone; and the rest were killed with the sword of him who sits on the horse, which sword goes forth out of his mouth; and all the birds were filled with their flesh" (Rev. 19:19-21).

This will be the result of the battle of Armageddon. It is not a long continued war, but one decisive battle; the world on one side, and Christ and the armies of heaven on the other. The beast and the false prophet are taken and have a doom peculiar to themselves. They are cast alive into the lake of fire without passing through death.

We have that revealed to us, in holy scripture, what the present defection from the faith is developing into and the judgment that will be its end. The Lord's words of warning to His people of that time, may well be heeded by us also now. "Blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments, that he may not walk naked, and they see his shame."

From Meat in Due Season: Sermons, Discourses and Expositions of the Word of Prophecy by Arno C. Gaebelein. New York: Arno C. Gaebelein, Inc., [19--?].

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