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How to Identify the Antichrist

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3 Dec 2023

The First Sunday of Advent

Mark 13

Isaiah 64:19; 1 Cor. 13:9; Mark 13:24-37


-       Season of Advent preparation for two comings of Christ: birth and second coming and final judgment. Therefore a penitential season: hence purple.

-       Our Gospel reading clearly about the end of history, what it will be like.

-       But it gives us great insight into how to live the Christian life today.

“Be on guard, keep awake.”

-       Story at end of reading:

“(The final hour) is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:32-36

-       Makes sense by itself: Christ is coming back at a time you do not know therefore keep awake and be on your guard.

-       But wider context of Mark 13 crucial. Our Sunday lectionary reading gives us only half of it.

-       This section is not just a generic exhortation to wait for Christ but a call for spiritual discernment. Critical to the Christian life.

-       Much Christianity doesn’t show signs of this: easy to simply accept anything that presents itself as good. But Christ shows us that the world is full of deception and that Satan desires to deceive even committed Christians.

Mark 13 – Wider Context

-       Before speaking about this passage, an exhortation not to switch off. These are the words of Christ and so as important as anything else he said. He tells us this specifically so that we will be prepared: “But be on guard: I have told you all things beforehand” (Mark 13:23). Pay attention!

-       In Mark 13, Jesus speaks to his disciples about the course of world history. And he divides history up into two parts: the world as it is now, and the world as it will be at the very end.

-       The point of this discourse is that Jesus is warning his disciples (including us) not to misread the signs of the times, to misunderstand the stage we are in.

The Present

-       What does Jesus say about the present?

Wars and rumours of wars. Mark 13:7o   Earthquakes and famines. Mark 13:8o   Persecution of Christians. Mark 13:9-10   The proclamation of the Gospel to all nations. Mark 13:10

-       These things happen now and they are emphatically not signs of the end of history.

E.G. “And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but do not be alarmed. The end is not yet.” Mark 13:7. “There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Mark 13:8

The End

-       What does Jesus say about the end?

The beginning of the end will be marked by “the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be” (Mark 13:14). More on that in a moment.  (Seemingly linked to this) Unprecedent tribulation (seemingly for all the earth). “For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be” (Mark 13:19).   “After that tribulation”, cosmic signs: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling down from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (Mark 13:24-25).   Only then, will Jesus Christ return: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:26-27).  This will be completely clear to all of humanity. No ambiguity.o   Excepting the Father, nobody knows when we will move from the present to the end, not even Jesus Christ (in his humanity). “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32).  We will know when we are going from the present period to the end period because of the signs Jesus tells us about: the abomination of desolation, unprecedented tribulation, cosmic signs.  Contrary to much speculation, it is not the end of the world, until God says so!

Why does Jesus tell us all of this? The Antichrist

-       The answer is so that we are not deceived by the spirit of the Antichrist.

-       Forget The Omen etc, look at the words of Jesus and the wider context of Scripture.

-       In Mark 13, we see the spirit of the antichrist is going to manifest itself in the present age and at the beginning of the end.

-       The Antichrist is both a spirit that manifests itself in multiple ways in the present and a figure who appears at the end of history.

-       1 John 2:18: “Children, it is the last hour, and you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.”

What does the Antichrist do?

-       In a general sense, pretend to be the real Christ (“antichrist” means literally “another Christ”) and lead people astray.

“See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” Mark 13:5-6o   “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.” Mark 13:21  Do not believe it because Christ’s true advent will be unmistakeable.

-       ‘Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.’ 2 Cor. 11:14. Just because something looks positive does not mean it is really good or from God. Counterfeits are more plausible than obvious frauds.

-       The delusion of the Antichrist is strong: “They will lead many astray” (Mark 13:6). They come, “to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (Mark 13:22). Christians and non-Christians are the target.

-       Antichrists perform counterfeit signs and wonders (Mark 13:22). May be false miracles, dark magic. But may be secular political “miracles”. EG Antichrist in Michael D. O’Brien novels who brings world peace, including peace in the Middle East.

-       Antichrists in history: promise total resolution of seemingly unsolvable problems if worship is given to political ideology and to god-like leader. Communism promises hardly any work, solution to all economic, social and class difficulties. Nazi fascism promised solution to Germany economic and social problems but ideology rooted in worship of Third Reich and the Fuhrer.

-       Christ and the rest of Scripture speaks of the final Antichrist: the Abomination of Desolation. He will fulfil the work of all other antichrists.  What will he do?

-       He stands where he ought not to be (Mark 13:14). Where is that? God’s temple. Also in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, The “man of lawlessness” ‘takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God’.

-       Some think that means literally rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Others as a false leader in the Church.

-       Key point: He ‘opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship…proclaiming himself to be God’. (2 Thess. 2:4).

-       Whatever else the Antichrist does, he will not honour God or the name of Jesus Christ.

Summary – Both now and at the very end, the Antichrist will:

-       Pretend to be the Christ, to be a messenger of God.

-       Perform counterfeit signs and wonders.

-       Promise solutions to unsolvable problems: eg world hunger, war, climate disaster, epidemics, disease etc in exchange for worship.

-       Exalt himself and draw attention away from the true God and Jesus Christ.

Why would anyone believe the Antichrist?

-       He offers quick and easy solutions.

-       Jesus exhorts us to wait and watch with diligence. This is difficult and real as opposed to easy and false. Words of Dumbledore very Christian: “Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

-       We don’t want to wait, suffer, be persecuted and die.

-       And yet this is what Jesus calls us to if we are to be faithful.

Therefore, “Be on Guard; keep awake.”

-       The Antichrist may approach the household of which Christ speaks and attempt to obtain entry. Will you be discerning enough and faithful enough not to admit him? Will you hold out and wait for the true salvation that is offered to us in Jesus Christ and in no other?

-       “Keep awake”. If you are asleep, then wake up. Many antichrists are abroad in the world already. And the man of lawlessness approaches.

-       Not my words, but the words of Scripture and the words of Christ, “Be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.” (Mark 13:23). “What I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:37)

-       May you be willing to wait for the true Christ and not to accept false substitutes. May you be willing to take the hard and right path and to reject that which is easy and false. May you take up the cross and follow after Jesus, scorning the rejection and hatred of the world. May you endure to the end and so find salvation at the last.

-       Stay awake. Keep watch. Be on your guard. And have a truly blessed Advent.


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