Three Angels Messages Part 58

Thanks again for joining with us in the study of the Three Angels’ Messages found in Revelation 14. We are continuing to look at the message of the third angel, which begins by stating, “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation.’” Of the meaning of these symbols, we can afford no uncertainty! But the Bible gives us ample information to be absolutely positive in our understandings, revealing no fewer than seven different pictures of this entity.

Besides what we read in Revelation 13, there are three depictions of this entity in the book Daniel, and three others in the New Testament. Last time we began a study of the “man of sin” described by Paul in II Thessalonians 2. We found that it had not yet made its entrance on the stage of world history, but would follow the decline of the power that was present in Paul’s day, that of civil Rome. When the Roman empire began to crumble in the 4th and 5th centuries, it was time to look for the next player on the stage, the “man of sin,” the “son of perdition.”

Students of the Scriptures who lived during this time of transition understood this progression clearly and looked toward the fall of Rome, which would be followed by the emergence of the Antichrist, the horn power of Daniel. An impressive array of commentators of the 2nd through 5th centuries expressed this view, that the continuing presence of the Roman Empire was withholding the full manifestation of the “man of sin.” This list includes Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyril, Chrysostom, Jerome, Theodoret and the majority of the church fathers. See Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 1, p. 407.

For example, Jerome wrote, “He (Paul in II Thessalonians 2) shows that that which restrains is the Roman empire; for unless it shall have been destroyed, and taken out of the midst, according to the prophet Daniel, Antichrist will not come before that.” Jerome, Commentaria in Jeremiam, book 5, chapt. 25 in Migne, PL, vol 24, col. 1020. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 1, p. 444.
Along with Daniel’s portrayal, Paul is also in agreement that this system will continue until the return of Jesus. Said Daniel, “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.” Daniel 7:11. Likewise in Paul’s account, the “lawless one” will be consumed and destroyed “with the brightness of His coming.” Its tenure would be allowed to continue until the return of Christ in glory.

Significantly, and this point cannot be overemphasized, the time span contemplated by this presentation overrules it being a “one person” entity. Coming into being at the demise of civil Rome and continuing to exist until the return of Jesus demands that it be understood as a system, a “kingdom,” rather than one individual. Again, the empire of the papacy is a perfect fit for Paul’s prophecy.

His descriptive term “lawless one” is worthy of note. “And then the lawless one will be revealed.” The term is from the Greek anomia, a combination of the negative “alpha” (“alpha privative”) and the word for “law,” nomos, hence “one without law,” or “lawless one.” The kingdom of Satan is built upon the platform of rejection of God’s law. The earthly manifestation of that kingdom, the papacy, has made it a studied policy to undermine the commandments of God, the Decalogue. With unabashed confidence it claims the authority to wipe away the second of God’s commandments and to so change the fourth that the day of worship set aside by God, as a memorial of His creative act as been obliterated.

It only takes one link of a chain to be severed to render a chain useless. Imagine a thief, bolt cutters in hand, approaching a gate secured by a chain. The thief places the bolt cutter on an exposed link of the chain and presses the handles together. There is the sound of the “chink” as the link is cut and falls. The chain is now separated. But then the assailant places his bolt cutter on another link of the chain and proceeds to likewise sever that link. Do you think that that would ever happen? Would any thief cut through a second link of a severed chain? No! Why? Because it only takes one link to be broken for the chain to be of no use.

James said, speaking directly of the Ten Commandments, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:10, 11. There is no question that James is speaking of the Ten Commandments. Might we extrapolate James to say, “He who said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ also said, ‘Keep the Sabbath holy.’ Now if you do honor your father and mother, but break the Sabbath, you have become a transgressor of the law”? Would that not be in the spirit of what the apostle is stating? Who has the right to say one of the Ten Commandments is of less importance than another? Were not all ten inscribed by the finger of Jehovah God?

Notice that James is speaking of one “stumbling,” a word that suggests a non-intentional and perhaps inadvertent act. What would he say regarding an entity that has blatantly promoted an open attack against God’s law, teaching (notice that the word “catechism” comes from a root meaning “to teach”) and even compelling the disregard of God’s holy law?

Our minds are directed back to the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” To press the argument a bit further, since the Sabbath Commandment is the longest of all ten, and since it is embraced in the very bosom of the Decalogue, is the Commandment which identifies the Creator God as the giver of the law and is the only one which begins with the word “Remember,” it would hardly make sense to even suggest that it was in the category of being the “least” of the Commandments!

Paul states that the emergence of this “man of sin” is a “mystery;” the “mystery of iniquity.” KJV. There are two primary “mysteries” revealed in Scripture. Along with this one, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.” I Timothy 3:16. The “mystery of godliness” speaks to God becoming man, through the incarnation of our dear Lord Jesus. The Divine took on the form of the human, an act which is profoundly beyond human comprehension. The “mystery of lawlessness,” or the “mystery of iniquity” is exactly the opposite. According to the very context in which this term appears, it is man becoming God, or at least claiming to be God. He “sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

The “mystery of godliness” is an act of self-sacrificing revelation of truth that results in salvation for mankind. The “mystery of lawlessness” is an act of self-exaltation clothed in deception that results in the destruction of mankind. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” II Thessalonians 2:9, 10. What awesome words!

Both have their respective time of “revealing.” The lawless one, Paul predicted, would be “revealed in his own time.” The word translated “time” is from the Greek kairos, a word which denotes “appropriate” or “correct” time. It is the same word we noted in Galatians 4:4 where we read, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.” The “mystery of godliness” represented by the birth of Christ, the true Messiah, was according to the divine timetable. The “mystery of lawlessness” represented by the birth of Antichrist, the false system, came also according to the divine timetable.

The word kairos is more specific than the word chronos, which can also be translated “time.” Paul was aware of the sequence of prophecy. He knew that God had a timetable into which the various components fit. History confirms that civil Rome was “taken away” by their removal to Constantinople and by the diminishing of their power through the attacks of the Germanic tribes. Into that vacuum, at the “specific time,” stepped the bishop of Rome, and the papacy was born. As we have seen, the uninterrupted reign of this power, the 7-time mentioned period of 1260 years has been fulfilled with pinpoint accuracy.

There is a sad comparison between the “revealing” of the man of sin, the Antichrist, the apostate power who brings deception, and the “revealing” of the true Christ, the Lord Jesus. The apostle John opened his discourse, the last book of the Bible with the words, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Both the word “revealed” in Paul’s description of the mystery of iniquity, and the word “revelation” in John’s opening remarks identifying the One Who is the mystery of godliness come from the same Greek word, apocalypses, which means literally, “the removal of the cover.” There is an apocalypses of the man of sin, and there is an apocalypses of the Man of righteousness. We mentioned this word at the very beginning of our study. Two “revelations”--but how different!
Paul’s first words as he opened this discussion, “do not be deceived” echo words of Christ as He revealed the signs of the end. “And Jesus answered and said to them; ‘Take heed that no one deceive you.” Matthew 24:4. These words of warning indicate that the devil will most certainly attempt to marshal false information on this most important subject for the purpose of misleading human beings. How can we prevent ourselves from being deceived? By studying and applying the Word of God! Please join us next time as give further attention to the critical and relevant prophecies of Scripture!