Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 18th - Antichrist

Prayer Requests
Sarah and Tyler in China
Pastor Aaron's Minor Surgery
Pastor Dave preaching
VBS Results
Student Volunteers
Bethany's Counsin's New Salvation
The Costello's Rafting Trip

Text - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Real quick let's do a quick look-through at some books in the Bible that are written to specific churches and which ones they are.

From Revelation:
Ephesus - Loveless Church
Smyrna - Persecuted Church
Pergamos - Trying to love God and the World simultaneously
Thyatira - Doctrineless / Charismatic Church
Sardis - Works-Righteous Church
Philadelphia - Perfect Church
Laodicea - Apostate Church

Who were John's Gospel and three Epistles written to? Ephesus, for one reason to fight lovelessness and self-centeredness.

Any idea who the letters to Corinth were written to? The Charismatic Church.

Galatians? A works-righteous church.

First Thessalonians? A persecuted church, a wonderful church; full of hope, love, and faith.

Second Thessalonians? The hopeless church. How did they go from being a First Thessalonians church to a Second Thessalonians church? That's what we're going to look at today, and why their hopelessness was unfounded.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

They were shaken and alarmed by a fake letter from Paul and Silas saying that the Lord had come. Last week we considered why they would believe such a letter, and I missed a huge fact which would have impacted this. It's the "spirit and spoken word" which preceded the letter. This references the supposedly supernatural discerning of events that will lead to the end. Like the December 21st, 2012 supposed end of the age. Prepare to see huge cults grow up in the next few years around that date.

Thessalonica was probably caught up in all of these weird astrology and prophecy of men, and then lo and behold, a letter seeming to be from Paul saying that they'd missed it. My guess is that a friend of Paul who was not a Christian had written the letter and delivered it, and so combined with an sensationalized expectation of the end, and a trustworthy letter-carrier, and the church fell for the heresy that they had missed the rapture.

And it wrecked their lives. They were shaken in mind and alarmed, and we'll see in a future lesson that their church fell apart over the loss of hope.

How important is hope? It is vital.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-5 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?

Paul yells at his church here, angry that his church was deceived, but more angry that they fell for it. He reminds them not to be deceived but to remember the Word of God which he relayed to them. There is a huge mistake growing in the church called Preterism. This is a new belief from the 17th century, but it's becoming more and more common. It holds that all prophecy has been fulfilled with the exception of a few things, maybe Christ's return, but some go so far as to say there will be no end or final judgment of all, but each judgment is personal. It's unbiblical and dumb.

Paul gives two major things that have to happen before Christ will return. The first is a rebellion, or a massive falling away, or an apostasy. This will be discussed more with the second point.

The second this is that a man of lawlessness be revealed, the very son of destruction, Satan manifest in the flesh. He will claim to be God, taking his seat in the very temple of God. This is interesting, because the nation, not the people, Israel REALLY want to rebuild a temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem.

What is the temple of God right now? It's me, it's you, it's our body, for we worship in Spirit and Truth, not on any certain mountain. The problem is that the Muslims have a very special church on that rock. I hope to see it fall before I am called home. When that church falls, a temple will be rebuilt, and this will open the door for a man to exalt himself as the Holy One of Israel.

For the first two centuries, the church was certain this man would be a Caesar. But then the Roman Empire fell. The Catholic Church was quick to call out those who would speak against their cult as potential antichrists; especially Martin Luther and John Calvin. From the 1500's to the late 1800's, there was very little doubt that the Antichrist would be a Pope. But now the Catholic Church is an impotent little organism which is only a bother to the true church. Adolf Hitler was probably as near to an antichrist as there has been. After that, there was a mass craze that the antichrist would be a Soviet leader, but then the USSR fell. Not a few people surmised that Obama was the antichrist, but he's proved that he's not smart enough to be the antichrist. All this points to a desire for the church to have special knowledge of the end of the age. We'll see next week that our job is to glorify Christ and do good works, not to figure out who is the Antichrist.

And here we're looking at one man, Satan manifest in the flesh, for in the past there have been many antichrists.

1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Historically, the church of the antichrist has been called Rome, but let me show you something interesting that is happening.

Revelation 17:1-6 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk." And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations." And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

Some basic things, this church is lacking in holiness, her purple and scarlet robes are indicative of the priesthood. The angel goes on to describe that she is made up off all of the world, and used by the Antichrist for his purposes. Since the Reformation, this church has been called Rome. This seemed to be true then, but I guarantee you she's made up of multiple churches under a flag of ecumenicalism.

Today in the world, Pope Benedict the whatever is using very Evangelical language, which is the squishy stuff saying if you just believe, you'll be fine, Rome has a very hard time saying anybody will go to Hell. They are leaning in the direction of Protestantism without going so far as to be saved. Likewise, Protestantism is leaning towards Catholicism with their mysticism, doing things to draw near to God. How do we draw near to God? God brings us near by the blood of Christ, we become efficient in our faith by loving God and loving others in deed and truth, not just in word or talk. Rome and Evangelicalism are leaning towards each other about to meet in the middle, and neither is redeemed.

Likewise, the great antichrist Rick Warren is embracing Islam and saying that Jesus Christ's Father is the same God as Allah. He is not, Allah is bribable, unjust, capricious, whimsical, and ungracious. He couldn't be any farther from the Living God. Richard Dawkins, one of the world's leading atheists, has announced that Christianity is an excellent source of morals. Likewise, the guy in the White House is a Muslim who claims to be a Christian.

All of these religions are leaning in towards a common point; they will not be saved, but a time is coming very soon when there is one world religion under the banner of tolerance, and then all they'll need is one leader, who will claim to be the God of this tolerance and all of these religions.

Where is he now? Let's read.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

Very important to see here, Christ is WAY bigger than Antichrist. He is restraining him, and he will easily put an end to Antichrist's life. These things all have to happen before Christ will come. This is a lot to happen, but it's not to say it couldn't happen in a decade. It's not going to happen today, but we should still have an urgency to minister for Christ. Even if he doesn't return during our lifetime, we're still racing against the clock to live for him in our measly few years, which might be 100 years if we're lucky. For example, Jim Elliot, whose video we watched at VBS, died at 29 and yet did amazing things for Christ; history is replete with great saints dying young having done much in their short lives.

A time is coming when this apostasy will result in almost no new converts to Christianity.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

But now we have a similar question of why did Thessalonica believe the false letter; why will people follow after this Antichrist?

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Satan is able to do parlor tricks. He can do signs and wonders. This is reminiscent of Moses and Aaron in front of Pharoah;

Exodus 7:9-13 When Pharaoh says to you, 'Prove yourselves by working a miracle,' then you shall say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.'" So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Satan is able to do tricks that are reminiscent of God's miracles. God's are obviously much better and longer lasting, but when people hate God, they'll follow any weird things, having itching ears heaping teachers to themselves. We'll talk more about God blinding their eyes next week, but God gets to a point where he loses patience with people and gives them up to Hell. This is called reprobation, we'll talk more about it next week.

What sort of false signs do you think Satan may be doing? Healings, prophecy, gold-dust, and pretending to cast out demons. If you watch these things on TV, you see all manners of people with weird things wrong with them being healed. You can never see these things, it will be like brain-tumors or eye problems or hearing problems. Dr. Justin Peter's has made it his life's work to preach the true gospel to people who are falling for this antichristian religion, and he says when you go to one of these churches, you see all sorts of sick people hidden away in the back, who would never make it up on stage because you can see what is wrong with them. He says he's seen it so bad as healthy people to sit in a wheel-chair so they can stand up and walk on stage.

Matthew 16:4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.

What's the sign of Jonah? A miraculous salvation, the Resurrection, a transformed life, and preaching of repentance.

This coming religion is wicked, and Jesus Christ hates it, yet he is losing patience and is giving men over to their lusts, but he won't let it happen forever.

2 Peter 2:2-3 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Christ hasn't returned yet, many things need to transpire before them. We must hold fast to the hope of the Resurrection and his return, striving for holiness, and serving him until he returns or calls us home.