CHAPTER 7 - Unfulfilled Prophecy - The Satanic Influence in the Antichrist

 

The belief of early times, that the Antichrist will be personally energised by Satan, was based on Scripture. For his coming, we are told, will be "after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders." Still more explicit is the language of the Apocalyptic vision, that "the Dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority." And we recall the words of the Lord Himself that, in that awful time, false Christs and false prophets "will show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they will deceive the very elect."

To fritter away the meaning of these statements by referring them to the errors and follies of priestoraft is a profane trifling with the Word of God. Indeed, to put it on a lower ground, it is an insult to the intelligence of every Protestant. For no one whose mind has not been "doped " by "Christendom religion" could be duped by its "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits."

Even among spiritual Christians there are but few who attempt to realise what the condition of the Professing Christian Church will be during the age of which these Scriptures speak. In his Commentary on Matthew 12:44, Dean Alford describes in a few pregnant sentences its sad history and present condition. And he adds:- 'What the effect of the Captivity was to the Jews, that of the Reformation has been to Christendom. The first evil spirit has been cast out. But by the growth of hypocrisy, secularity, and rationalism the house has become empty, swept and garnished by the decencies of civilisation and discoveries of secular knowledge, but empty of living and earnest faith. And he must read prophecy but ill, who does not see under all these seeming improvements the preparation for the final development of the Man of Sin, the great re-possession when idolatry and the seven more wicked spirits shall bring the outward frame of so-called Christendom to a fearful end."
If the present condition of the Church is a cause of distress and grief to all true Christians, what will it be when they are called home to heaven at the coming of the Lord, and the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit is no longer felt, as it is felt even in these evil days! It will not be the superstitious only who will be deceived by "the signs and wonders of falsehood." Even the infidel will accept their testimony. His unbelief today is not so unintelligent as is the quasi faith of many who pose as Christians and Ministers of Christ. Like them, he accounts for the miracles of Scripture by the fact "that the Bible was written by orientals for orientals, and that miracle and myth are congenial to the oriental mind." And he appeals to the absence of miracles during the history of Christendom. "If (he says) I witnessed miracles such as are alleged to have occurred in Bible times, I would renounce my infidelity." This is the mental attitude of multitudes of fair-minded men. And thus they spread a net in which they will become entangled in the coming Antichristian age. And if open infidelity capitulates before its "signs and lying wonders," surely the nominal Christians will flock to its shrines and join in its cult.

But, it will be asked, if the Lord's own people are "caught up" at His coming, and nominal Christians accept the Antichrist, who will be the victims of the persecution? Now, first, it is noteworthy that the Antichrist is primarily the persecutor of the "Covenant people." And though, in the Apocalypse, the Great Tribulation embraces Christendom, in Messianic prophecy it is spoken of only in relation to Israel. And while, in ancient times, idolatry was their national sin, the judgments which that sin brought upon them seem to have made them intolerant of idol worship. Indeed, the idolatry of "Christendom religion "is one element that prejudices the Jew against Christianity. No display of miraculous power would lead him to prostrate himself before an image.

And secondly, the difficulty above stated is one of many that are due to our inveterate habit of confounding plausible inferences from Scripture with what Scripture explicitly teaches. It is commonly assumed, and often asserted with emphasis, that in that coming age there will be no salvation for the sinners of Christendom. For is it not written that "God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness " But this is merely a special application of the great principle that the acceptance or rejection of Christ fixes the destiny of men. And we may not dare to assert that a just and loving God will hold that every unbeliever is a Christ-rejecter. Even in our own favoured land there are very many "church members" who have never heard "the gospel of the grace of God," but have it dinned into their ears continually that "the sacraments," plus a moral and religious life, will win heaven for them. And what of the multitudes who are never "evangelised" in any way?

And is there any Scriptural warrant for asserting that some, even in truly Christian circles, who are now "halting between two opinions," may not find mercy when brought to decision by being left behind at the coming of the Lord? All such will have forfeited the heavenly home and the heavenly glory that are the portion of the redeemed of this present dispensation. But we dare not assert that they can never find salvation, and be enrolled in the book of life; albeit they must needs "enter the kingdom" through torture and death, in a persecution more awful than any recorded in the past.

But a difficulty of another kind claims notice, It is argued that, if the Antichrist be energised by Satan, he must be a monster of wickedness. How then can he command the worship of "all that dwell upon the earth? This difficulty springs from the prevalent belief in the mythical devil of Christendom. Had such a monster appeared in Eden, Eve would have fled from him in terror. But she was "thoroughly deceived " by the real Satan when he posed as the great philanthropists and proclaimed "the gospel of humanity."

The characteristics of that Eden gospel are both simple and charming. "Hath God said!" "Ye shall not surely die." "Ye shall be as gods." First, it casts a doubt upon the plain words of the Divine revelation; secondly, it denies the eternal consequences of sin; and thirdly, it proclaims the elevation of humanity. In this gospel there is everything to attract the "natural" man, and nothing to repel him. And oven here and now, in Christian Britain, it is preached from numberless quasi Christian pulpits; and thousands, even of real Christians, are in some measure deceived and corrupted by it. Who then can doubt that, when it is accredited by a great display of miraculous power, it will gain universal acceptance

We cannot understand aright the prophecies relating to Antichrist unless we realise that, so far from being a monster of hideous mien and loathsome character, Satan is a being whom man, in his estrangement from God, would admire and emulate.

But did not the Lord Jesus brand him as a liar and a murderer? The words here referred to claim the closest scrutiny. They were addressed to the religious leaders of the Jews, devoutly zealous men who, having witnessed His miracles and weighed us teaching, were now plotting His destruction. To them it was He said,."Ye are of your father the Devil, and the desires of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh the lie he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth ye believe me not."

The gloss that the Lord's sayings were always true, and that the Devil told lies, is deplorably trivial. The lie is here the antithesis to the truth; and the Devil's being a liar is connected with his being "a murderer from the beginning." The beginning of what? We are here vouchsafed a glimpse into a past eternity, when, to the heavenly host was first made known "the mystery of God, even Christ," namely, that a Firstborn was to be revealed, who was "in all things to have the pre-eminence." The wonderful being whom we know as Satan, and whom the Lord saw "fall from heaven as lightning," aspired to that position; and he rebelled against the Divine purpose, and from that hour he has sought to thwart it. This is fully disclosed in the "Temptation" of our Lord. Who of us makes any serious effort to realise the meaning of that narrative? Having "led Him up," and given Him that mysterious vision of earthly sovereignty, "the Devil said unto Him, 'To thee will I give all this authority and the glory of them, for it hath been delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou, therefore,wilt worship before me it shall all be thine."

This was no mere outburst of profane folly. It was a bold assertion of a disputed right. Satan claims to be the true Messiah, the true Firstborn and heir of creation; and as. such he claims the worship of mankind. These apocalyptic visions foretell his greatest, as it will be his final, effort to supplant the Christ of God. And to that end he will give to the Antichrist "his power and his throne and his great authority."

Can we then be surprised at the sequel, that "all the world wondered after the Beast? And they worshipped the Dragon (Satan, the old Serpent of Eden) which gave power unto the Beast; and they worshipped the Beast, saying, 'Who is like unto the Beast?'" But even this is not all. For the Seer "beheld another Beast . . . who exerciseth all the power of the first Beast before him, and causeth the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first Beast." Thus the mystery of the Godhead will be travestied by this trinity of evil - Satan, the Antichrist, and the "False Prophet." And as already noticed, they will be accredited by signs and wonders that would deceive, if that were possible, the very elect. If we appreciate in any measure the awful significance and solemnity of what these Scriptures teach, we shall no longer be deluded by the almost unbelievable folly of seeking their fulfilment in the history of Christendom. It is not unnatural that an unbeliever should regard these visions as the brilliant day-dreams of a pious mystic. But that any spiritual Christian should treat them with such utter levity is no less strange than it is deplorable.