Much of the religious world is fascinated with the specter of the supposed coming Antichrist. Last week, Robert looked at passages people use to try to teach this doctrine, and in this episode he delivers more insights on the subject.

ROBERT >> We’re going to continue today our study of Bible prophecy and the last days. Last week we began talking about the antichrist, and this week we want to continue to look to see what the Bible really says. We hope you’ll stay tuned. I’ll be back in just a moment.

>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.

ROBERT >> In our study so far about Bible prophecy and the last days we have found out that the last days are not really some short time at the end; but rather it’s the last period of history.

It began actually about 2,000 years ago with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts chapter 2, and it’s going to continue until Christ comes again at the end of the world. And so already we have been living in the last days for some 2,000 years. They were living in the last days in the first century, and we’re living in the last days in our century as well. When Jesus comes, it’s going to be on the last day of the last days, at the very end of the world.

We also learned that there’ll be no signs of his coming, as is popularly believed; but rather, the Bible very clearly teaches us that when Jesus comes, he will come suddenly and he will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. And so we must always be ready and we must always be prepared.

And then we learned something about this so-called secret rapture of the church. Instead of Jesus coming some years before the end time and secretly rapturing up his people, no, the Lord’s going to come at the very last day at the very end of the world. Every eye shall see him, the Bible says, and all will be raised up, both the wicked and the righteous, and be assigned to their eternal destiny. That’s what’s really going to happen at the end of the world.

But then just last week we began talking about the antichrist, and we’re trying to look at all of the places in the Bible where we read about the antichrist.

Some people believe that he’s found in the book of Daniel. Some people believe he’s found in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. Some believe they’ve found the antichrist in the book of Revelation. But the term antichrist is never used in any of these books of the Bible.

Last week we looked at Daniel’s prophecies. We looked to see if there was really an antichrist at the end of the world mentioned there, and we found absolutely none at all. The Bible prophecies in the book of Daniel are rather about the end of the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman empires, all of those empires of history.

The book of Daniel speaks of the end of the Jews as God’s covenant nation. It speaks of the establishment of God’s kingdom, the church, during the days of the Roman kings, not the end of the world. And as we said before, the term antichrist is never used in the book of Daniel.

And so this morning I want us to continue our study of the antichrist, and I want to go with you to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, because we see here in this chapter where some go to find the antichrist, and yet the antichrist is not mentioned there. Rather, this passage speaks of the man of sin.

Some see him as evil personified in many different persons through the ages, and that may very well be what the apostle Paul has in mind. But as I look at this and examine it closely, it appears to me that he’s talking rather about the falling away of the church that resulted in Catholicism, and so we see that Catholicism personified in the Pope here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.

Let’s notice how this prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2 is actually associated with the falling away of the church and how that this one in the church, this man of sin poses as God. Let me read with you here 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?

So the apostle Paul had spoken with the church at Thessalonica about this falling away of the church and about this man of sin who would pose as God in the temple of God. So who is he talking about? What does Paul have reference to?

Well, we might notice that there was in fact a falling away that was already beginning in the first century.

I want to go with you to Acts the 20th chapter, where the apostle Paul was meeting with the elders of Ephesus in a little town called Miletus. He had met them there, and he was warning them and he was cautioning them about these evil deceivers that would come in and cause the church to be led astray. In Acts chapter 20, I want to pick it up in verse 28.

This is what he says: Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Yes, Paul knew that there would be some who would come into the church, some even from the leadership of the church that would speak false doctrine, that would lead people away from Christ, that would result in a falling away of God’s people.

Look at it also in 1 Timothy chapter 4. Here in this particular passage Paul is writing of course to this young preacher Timothy so that he will be aware of what is happening. And this is what he says.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Here we learn a little bit more about this falling away. It would indeed happen in the latter times. As we mentioned in the beginning, we are living in those latter times, but so were they in the first century.

You see, that’s when the falling away began, a long time ago, some 2,000 years ago. And you’ll notice some of the characteristics and marks of that falling away. They would be speaking lies and hypocrisy, they would be forbidding to marry, they would be commanding to abstain from meats.

Now hold onto those thoughts, and I also want to remind you of Revelation chapter 2 and chapter 3. I’m not going to read from this this morning, but I want you to remember that in these two chapters, Jesus Christ was in fact writing to the churches near the end of the first century when this letter was delivered to them, reminding them about those who had come into the churches who were teaching false doctrines, cautioning them not to be deceived, not to be led astray, recognizing that some of these churches had moved away from him and needed to repent and come back to him. And so we see by the end of the first century that a number of churches were already falling away from the truth, from the grace of God.

Now, the Catholic church came from those who departed from the faith. They changed the organization of the church that you read about in your Bible. They introduced numerous false doctrines, including the doctrine of purgatory, the idea that you could baptize by sprinkling rather than immersion, as well as infant baptism, which you never read about in the scriptures. They introduced the idea of worshiping God with musical instruments, something that was never done by the first century church led by the apostles that we read about in the New Testament. They introduced the worship of Mary and the idea of celibacy and the infallibility of the Pope.

And we need to remember that there in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 when we were reading about the falling away and this man of sin in the temple of God posing as God, we need to remember that the Pope himself claims infallibility and that he has been described as, quote, God on earth, Lord God the Pope, more than God.

And so we see this one in the midst of this falling away standing up and posing as God, just as Paul described here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.

Now I want you to notice something else about the prophecy here concerning the falling away. And we’ll notice something about this man of sin. He was already at work, and he was being restrained when Paul wrote this letter in verse 6 and verse 7. Let’s read it, 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.

And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.

That’s right. This man of sin that we read about in 2 Thessalonians 2 was not some antichrist at the end of the world; he was this one who was already at work when Paul wrote the letter to the churches here in Thessalonica.

You see, the Roman empire that then ruled the world was restraining this apostate church. We read of the persecution of that empire against God’s people in the book of Revelation. And throughout the book of Acts we see when the church had its very beginning that the Romans were there to restrain them. And we can see them as they began to fall away and as they began to move away from Christ, the Roman empire continued to work against them, keeping them in check until it came, that church, into Rome’s favor. And that was several centuries later during the time of Constantine, who at that time empowered Catholicism, in fact, caused them to be known throughout the world. But then when Rome fell, that apostate church rose in power.

And so it appears that this is what the apostle Paul is talking about here. Here’s the falling away of the church, here is this man of sin posing as God, claiming to be the Lord God and have the power of God and speak with infallibility as God, and here is the Roman empire trying to restrain this movement and these people until finally Rome falls and that apostate church comes to power.

Now let’s notice something else in verse 8 of this chapter. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

You see this? That man of sin, that apostate church that’s personified in the Pope, this will continue until the coming of the Lord. It won’t be until the Lord comes that this will be put to an end. And it is true, of course, that Catholicism has survived through all of these centuries, and it is still present around the world today.

Notice something else in verses 9 through 12. Here Paul says, 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. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

You see, this man of sin, this one who sits as God in the apostate church is a deceiver. And of course we know that the Catholic church is well known for her deceptions, her apparitions, her false miracles, the speaking and the bleeding images and many other deceptions we could think of and talk about concerning that apostate church.

But I want you to notice here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 this passage is not about a man who suddenly arises at the end of the world, but this is about the falling away of the church that began in the first century, resulting in the Catholic church with her Popes, and will continue until Christ comes again. And let me emphasize the term antichrist is never used in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, just as it was never used in the book of Daniel.

But now let’s go somewhere else, because there are many who want to go to the book of Revelation to find the antichrist. But again we’ll see that the antichrist is not mentioned there.

Let’s notice in Revelation chapter 1 that the book of Revelation actually speaks of things, quote, which must shortly take place. Look at it here in Revelation 1:1.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave Him to show His servants things which must shortly take place. He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.

Notice verse 3 of Revelation 1. Blessed be he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

So the book of Revelation speaks of things which must shortly take place, for the time is near. That’s what we learn in the very first three verses of this book.

We go to the end of the book, and we see as John closes the writing of this book, he emphasizes these very same things. Look in Revelation 22:6.

Then he said to me, These words are faithful and true. And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

And then again in verse 10 of this last chapter of the book of Revelation, And he said to me, Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.

That’s right. What was written in the book of Revelation was about things that were at hand. It was shortly to take place, it was near, and so the book was not to be sealed.

You see, the things that were coming upon the church that you read about in the book of Revelation were coming upon this first century church. These things were already happening, and they would continue to happen in this first century. Now, this is very important in understanding and putting a time frame on the book of Revelation.

The book of Revelation is not about something that happens at the end times, but it’s something that was already coming upon the church. And to help us understand this idea of sealing up a book, let’s go back to the book of Daniel.

In Daniel chapter 8, if you go back there with me, you’ll see in Daniel 8:1 where it says, In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, to me, Daniel, after the one that appeared to me the first time.

Well, he tells us here that he got this vision during the time of King Belshazzar. This would be about 550 BC. And the vision had to do with Antiochus Epiphanes in about 164 BC. You read about it in verse 13 and 14. Let me read that to you.

Daniel says, Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, How long will the vision be, concerning daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot? And he said to me, For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary will be cleansed.

So we understand this, and we’ve studied this before in earlier lessons, that this is talking about something that was happening during the days of Antiochus Epiphanes about 164 BC. That’s about 400 years from when the vision was given to Daniel. And then notice what it says about this in verse 26 of Daniel 8.

Here we read, And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future.

So Daniel spoke. He had a vision of something that would happen, what, some 400 years later, and he was told to seal up that vision. Why? Because it was many days in the future.

Therefore, Revelation should not be understood as referring to things far removed in time from John’s day, no, but to that which was soon coming upon the church. Otherwise, it would have been sealed. But it was not sealed because you see, it was about to happen.

To take the book of Revelation and apply it to things at the end times thousands of years later from when the book was written simply will not fit in with the time frame that was given to us.

Now, the Lord willing, in the weeks ahead, we’ll continue to explore the book of Revelation, and we’ll see what it really has to say about some so-called antichrist that rises up at the end of the world. But let’s remember this morning that nowhere is the term antichrist ever used in the book of Revelation.

I want to thank you so much for listening in on our program on these Sunday mornings and studying with us about these most important things concerning the end times, concerning the end of the world, concerning the coming of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. And I hope that in studying these things it’ll help us all to examine our own hearts and our own lives so that we’ll be ready when that day comes.

Whether it comes today or whether it comes a thousand years from now, the only thing that really matters is whether or not our hearts are right with God. Have you obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ? Recognizing Jesus as Lord and as savior, have you turned, made that decision to turn away from your sin and to confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and give yourself to him in the waters of baptism so that your sins can be cleansed, so that you can be made a new creation in Jesus Christ, so that you can be raised up out of the waters of baptism to live a new life? That’s the only thing that’s going to matter when you see Jesus when he comes again.

Are you right with God?

Have you been obedient to the gospel?

Are you a Christian?

And for those of us who have become Christians, who have been united with Jesus Christ, for those of us who know him as our Lord and our Savior, are we walking in that knowledge?

Are we continuing to live our lives in such a way that we are respecting him as the one who has kingship over our hearts?

Are we living our lives with faith?

Are we continuing to trust in him?

Or have we left our Lord, have we turned our backs on him? Wherever you are in your relationship with the Lord today, I hope that you’ll make it right and that you’ll let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven today.

>> Unto the hills around to do I lift up my longing eyes.
Oh whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid, from God the Lord whom heaven and earth hath made.
From every evil shall he keep thy soul, from every sin.
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, thy coming in.
Above thee watching, he whom we adore shall keep thee henceforth, yea, for evermore.

>> We place you on the highest place, for you are the great high priest.
We place you high above all else, all else, and we come to you and worship at your feet.
We place you on the highest place, for you are the great high priest.
We place you high above all else, all else, and we come to you and worship at your feet.
And we come to you and worship at your feet.

ROBERT >> Want to thank you so much for watching our program today. We’d love to hear from you. Let me encourage you to contact us with your questions, comments, or requests at The Truth In Love, P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053. You may e-mail us at requests@ttil.tv. Or call our toll-free number, 800-819-2966. And also, please visit our web site at www.ttil.tv. All our materials, our services are absolutely free of charge. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.

>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so, showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.

Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall.
Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.

Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go.
When my heart is weary, when the day is long, sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song.

Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall.
Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.

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