Three Angels Messages Part 59

Welcome back, as we continue our study of the Three Angels’ Messages found in Revelation 14. Thanks for joining us today! We are examining 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.’”

Besides what we read in Revelation 13 regarding the “beast,” there are three depictions of this entity in the book Daniel, and three others in the New Testament. In our last two sessions, we studied the “man of sin” described by Paul in II Thessalonians 2. We found that in Paul’s day, it had not yet made its entrance on the stage of world history, but would follow the decline of the power that was then present, 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.” His description fits harmoniously with the pictures given in Daniel, and Revelation 13. Let’s now look at another term, on that is quite familiar to most, the “Antichrist.”

Few terms in all the Bible have elicited more curiosity and notoriety than the term Antichrist as used by John in his epistles. Writing toward the sunset of both his life and the first century John wrote, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. By this you know the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” I John 2:18; 4:2, 3.

John had apparently instructed his audience on the coming falling away as had Paul. Like Paul, who had said, “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” John had noticed the roots of apostasy even in his time. The rejection of Scriptural truth, in his immediate day being the heresy of Gnosticism and its denial of the truth of the Incarnation, is the essence of apostasy. Though the Scriptures had clearly taught that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh, there were those in John’s day who refused to accept this doctrine. They set aside the Scriptures in favor of the human theories they preferred.

As time went on, the principle of setting aside the Word of God and advancing human traditions would taken on slightly different garb than the Gnostic teachings, but nevertheless the principle of the rejection of Bible truth prepared the way for the great falling away and the appearance of the medieval Antichrist.

There is a most amazing thing about this term that we must understand, of which most today are ignorant. Please pay careful attention to this! When we see it, we will be able to see how perfectly the term that John chose fits harmoniously with the description that Paul gave to the Thessalonians. How did the apostle Paul portray this system? It would be that it would purport to be Christian. It would sit in the temple, showing himself that he is God. It would not be an entity which would outwardly condemn or curse Christianity; itstead, it would be a system which would seek to sit in the seat of Christ. It would attempt to take the place that rightfully belongs to God alone. Keep those words in mind as we explore the meaning of the term Antichrist.

The English language is composed of two main etymological sources; Greek and Latin. A huge proportion of the words we use today can be traced back to either one or the other of these two origins. This can be sometimes be tricky because it may be that a word root or prefix may be found in both Greek and Latin, and great care must be exercised to make sure that the correct flavor is given to the term.

When most people think of the word “Antichrist,” what is the first thing that they think of? Invariably, they conceive of an entity (and unfortunately, too often that is a single person) which is against Christ. The prefix “anti” is given the meaning of “in opposition to,” like many other of our English words. For example, if someone is referred to as being “anti-government,” we understand that they have attitudes that are against or in opposition to government. Coming from a Latin background, the prefix “anti” can certainly mean that.

But the New Testament wasn’t written in Latin. It was written in Greek, and the prefix “anti” has a different connotation coming from that background. It can sometimes have the meaning of “against,” but it most certainly has another meaning. It is crucial for us to see this difference and catch this nuance! Let us look at how the Bible uses this term “anti” in other passages, and we will see the distinctive flavor of the word.

Mary and Joseph were warned, after the visit of the wise men, to flee to Egypt because of Herod’s wrath which found voice in the edict to kill the Bethlehem babies. This they did, and remained there until they were given divine instruction that it was safe to return to Judea. Joseph, Mary and the young Child returned to Israel. However, the Bible says that, “when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” Matthew 2:22. Take careful note: the phrase “instead of” is translated directly from the Greek word anti. It wasn’t that Archelaus was reigning “against” his father; he was reigning in the place of his father. There's a big difference!

In the New Testament, the word anti is translated by the word “for” in the KJV 15 times. Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life for (anti) a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45. Did Jesus give His life “against” many, or “in the place of” many? There can be only one answer. The idea of “in place of” is the emphasis, not “against” or “in opposition to.” In Hebrews we read of “Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” Hebrews 12:16. Again, the concept is one of “substitution,” or “in place of.”

This word anti is used repeatedly in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) to describe the succession of kings. “And it happened after this that the king of the people of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place.” II Samuel 10:1. Making sure that his throne was going to be transferred to Solomon, King David said to Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and take him down to Gihon. There let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel; and blow the horn, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, and he shall be king in my place.” I Kings 1:33-35. There are literally scores of examples, more than 80 of them, of this type of usage in the Septuagint, describing a king ruling in another’s place. In Genesis 36, anti appears in every verse between verse 33 and 39. In I Chronicles 1, between verses 44 and 50 it appears 6 times.
Some other interesting samples of anti are also observed in the Old Testament. Notice this one as King David lamented the death of his rebellious son Absalom. “Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said thus: ‘O my son Absalom--my son, my son Absalom--if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!’” II Samuel 18:33.

When Abraham ascended Mt. Moriah and was prepared to plunge the knife into his son Isaac, his arm was stopped and he was pointed to a ram caught in a thicket. “So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.” Genesis 22:13.

After the split of the kingdom, Rehoboam was attacked by Egypt, which carried away the gold shields which had been forged by King Solomon. “In their place King Rehoboam made bronze shields and committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard.” II Chronicles 12:10. In all of these verses in the Septuagint it is the word anti that is used and translated by the phrase appearing in italics.

There can be no question but that the Greek word anti conveys the meaning “in the place of” or “in the stead of.” While the concept of “against” or “in opposition to” might also sometimes be present, the primary sense seems to be that of substitution. How do we apply that knowledge to the term we are currently studying? When John wrote about the coming Antichrist, we must incorporate that central idea of anti into our understanding of the term. We must look for an entity which, though its overall policies would end up standing in opposition to God, one of its key characteristics would be to stand in the place of God, or at least attempt to do so.

What do we find in the Roman Church that corresponds to this? We find that the papacy has claimed to be “in the place of God” by assuming the titles and names that belong to God alone. The papacy has claimed to be “in the place of God” by claiming the authority to tamper with Scripture and God’s holy law. The papacy has claimed to be “in the place of God” by asserting the right to forgive sins, a prerogative that belongs only to God. Modern prophetic interpretation has put the papacy “in the place of God” in the prophecy of Daniel 9, the 70th week in which they teach that it is the Antichrist who confirms the covenant. This is taking the place that belongs to Jesus, Whose achievement of dying on the cross is the legitimate subject of that prophecy!

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, all of this was predicted by Daniel, Paul and John. Satan, working through a human institution, the papacy, has challenged the authority and place of God. He seeks the worship and adoration that belongs to God. He desires the place and power that belong to Jesus. The term Antichrist, correctly understood, as meaning “the one in the place of Christ,” brings these aspirations and goals into sharp focus.

In one of the stranger ironies of all time, the pope has worn the title “Vicar of Christ.” What is the etymological root of the word “vicar”? It comes from a Latin background, since his capitol is in Rome. What does it mean? It means “one in the place of.” The adjective “vicarious” and the adverb “vicariously” bear out this meaning. Any dictionary will provide you with that definition. But give this thought careful consideration. What if the pope wanted to express that idea, of being “the one in the place of Christ,” but have the title come from a Greek rather than a Latin background? What term would convey the concept of “the one who is in the place of” from a Greek source? Just think about this! Coming from Greek rather than Latin, that term would be “Antichrist”! That’s what “Antichrist” means literally; “The one in the place of Christ.” Amazing! A more accurate fulfillment of the term Antichrist, as employed by the papacy, could not be found. She indeed purports to take the place of God on earth, to stand in the stead of Christ.

Our only hope is to place our faith in, and follow the teachings of the genuine Christ, the Lord Jesus. He deserves our obedience and our worship. His Word is authentic and the only rule for our lives. Satan may attempt to take our feet from the path of righteousness, but as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can not be deceived.