Antichrists: Plural, Past & PoisonousSeries: An Eschatological Mix
ANTICHRISTS: PLURAL, PAST & POISONOUS
Sermon By Terry Siverd / August 01, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
Welcome to one an all. This morning's sermon will be another in our series on eschatological matters. Please open your Bibles to the New Testament epistle of First John - - 1Jn.2:17-18 - - The world is passing away, also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.
This morning I want to point out three particulars about the antichrists.
First, the antichrists were a plurality of people. Sometimes we hear others speak of THE Antichrist - - as if it (he or she) was a singular entity. The apostle John makes it very clear that there was more than one antichrist. He notes that “many antichrists have arisen” (vs.18).
Secondly, the rise of antichrists was a 1st-century event, meaning they were a group of people anchored in the past. Throughout the centuries various interpretive approaches have been connected with efforts to identify the antichrist. Some have institutionalized it: Roman Empire … Catholic Church … Third Reich … Muslim Religion … ISIS. Others have personalized it: The Beast of Revelation (Rev.13) … The Man of Sin/Lawlessness (2Thess.2) … Some claim it was a first-century Caesar Nero … In the Middle ages it was Muhammad … During the reformation it was a certain pope … In the mid-1900's it was Hitler … Most recently the antichrist has been associated with Presidents Reagan, Obama and Trump and Bill Gates. Depending on who you read, each of these characters represented the embodiment of evil. I don't buy into either of the above views. The best source for identifying the antichrist is the text of Scripture itself. There is no need to sensationalize or complicate things, let's just let the Bible interpret itself.
To be antichrist is to be against Christ.
In predicting the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in AD 70, Jesus enumerated many things that would take place before that first-century generation would pass away (Mt.24:34). In Mt.24:11, Jesus stated, many FALSE PROPHETS will arise, and will mislead many. My conclusion is a rather simple one: the antichrists were the false prophets of the 1st century. It might be proper to take a quasi-institutionalized view of the antichrists since they represented a sizable number of 1st-century Judaizers. Judaizers were Jewish zealots who were bent on clinging to the Law of Moses. The dictionary defines the verb “Judaize”: to bring into conformity with Judaism…to adopt Jewish customs and beliefs. Their message was poisonous, working to contradict and undermine everything taught by Christ and His apostles!
Several passages from the book of Acts speak about these Judaizers. These antichrists are seen very early in the book of Acts - - they were the ones responsible for the stoning of Stephen. The story of the death of Stephen begins in Acts 6:8-15 and concludes in Acts 7:54-60. Acts 6:11 / they (the Judaizers) secretly induced men to say, 'we have heard him (Stephen) speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God...they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council. And they put forward false witnesses who said, 'This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we heard him say that this Nazarene Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.' The story concludes in Acts 7:54f - - Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him...They drove him outside the city (Heb.13:13/outside the camp) and began stoning him.
A second illustration is found in Acts 21:17-31a. Paul travels to Jerusalem to report to James and all the elders about his missionary efforts among the Gentiles. They said to him (Paul), 'You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you are teaching the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.' What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a (Jewish) vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote (cf. Acts 15:23f), having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.' Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple, giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each of them. And when the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the multitude and laid hands on him, crying, 'Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everyone AGAINST our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place...And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together; and taking hold of Paul, they dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. And while they were seeking to kill him...
Thirdly, and last of all, these antichrists were poisonous. These Jewish zealots who came from Asia represented the antichrist movement. When John writes to the seven churches of Asia he refers to them as the synagogue of Satan (Rev.2:9 & 3:9). This chosen phrase, the synagogue of Satan, identifies them as Jewish and wicked. In two of his three brief epistles John describes these antichrists in more detail. They went out from us, but they were not really of us... / 1Jn.2:19. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. / 1Jn.2:22. These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. / 1Jn.2:26. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 1 Jn.4:2. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. / 2Jn.7.
Basically, the antichrists denied that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) sent by The Father to bring to an end the Jewish age.
In today's FamilyMatters essay, Beware Of The Dogs, you will see that these antichrists are called by various terms: False prophets (Mt.7:15) … False apostles (2Cor.11:13-14) … False teachers (Gal.1:7) … False brethren (Gal.2:4). They are called apostates (1Tim.1:19-20 & 4:1 with 2Tim.2:16-18 and Titus 1:10, 14 & 16). These antichrists were labeled deserters (2Tim.4:9) … scoffers and/or mockers (2Pet.2:1 & 3:1-4). They were also called: ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing (Mt.7:15) … dogs from the false circumcision (Philp.3:2) …savage wolves (Acts 20:28) … wild beasts (1Cor.15:32) … lions (2Tim.4:17 and 1Pet.5:8).
The antichrists would have been content in pledging allegiance had Jesus came to secure the future of Old Jerusalem. However, in being put to death in the flesh, Christ Himself proclaimed the approaching end of the Jewish age. When He spoke about the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem, the antichrists became a hornet's nest. Not only did these antichrists resist the new and living way, but they worked overtime to persuade faithful Christians (Jews & Gentiles) to abandon the ship of Zion and return to the old world of Judaism which was passing away (1Jn.2:17).
2Pet.3:3-4 / In the last days mockers will come saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?...All continues just as it was...