As we continue to witness the aggressive momentum of evil and the overt powers of darkness increasing against Christianity around the world, we must consider in the light of biblical prophecy what God’s saints will face in the time of the End. It is already evident that these powers have swept across the nations of the earth, and we are now seeing this fomenting hatred against Christianity rising in our own nation. In this last article we will consider the powers of darkness and the final intent of the Devil against God’s saints.
Thus far in this year’s Straightway issues, we have mentioned several scriptures that aid us in the insightful understanding of Satan’s powers and influence coming into the time of the End. Perhaps a review of several of these passages will remind us of the times in which we live in the light of the global falling away from the Faith.
Scriptures Declaring the End Time
The second parable of Matthew 13 concerns the wheat and the tares. We must never lose sight that the wheat was sown by Christ the Son of man at the time of His first coming. After Christ gave the fourth parable of seven, His disciples asked of Him the interpretation of the parable of the wheat and tares. He revealed that the one who sowed the tares was the Devil, “the enemy that sowed them.” We cannot lose sight of this. We also read in 13:38, “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.” It is most important to see that the wheat represents God’s true saints; the tares are children of the Devil in subtle, religious fashion, sown all around and on top of the wheat. The tare seed was sown where the wheat seed had been sown. After two thousand years, we are at the most mature hour of history concerning intermingled wheat and tares. We are also at the most insane hour in history. It also could be said that we are at the deepest and darkest hour of global apostasy, especially in public Christianity. But whether we speak of spiritual godliness or wickedness, we are at the most mature hour. The tares have now become the controlling voice of the public, institutional church.
Christ appointed in the parable (for His own unique reason) that the separation of the wheat and tares not be dealt with during the first Church age. His judgment is set for the time of the end—and this may have already begun. Truly, the tares have become the voice of public Christianity in the End Time, while the wheat is rarely heard.
The parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 gives us much insight to the true remnant in the time of the End. We must be careful in speaking of the remnant in any generation, for not everyone who is identified with the remnant is of the remnant heart. Even with what seems to be remnant churches, there are those that are very close to the remnant, but they are not of the remnant heart in their living. Although much can be said about the five foolish virgins, the singular thing that kept them from being ready was their lack of additional oil. This lack was the only difference. They all awakened; they all had lamps; they all trimmed their wicks; and they all had some oil in their lamp. But it was that additional oil they did not have.
This parable reveals to us (whatever way we interpret that additional oil) that we must have an abundant life (the light of Christ consuming that life) that is continually ready for His coming. The remnant never has a “holier-than-thou” view of themselves. In fact, if one would inquire, they would express their inadequacy, especially from the perspective of what they long to be in Christ. My dear father, Dr. O. Talmadge Spence, would speak of the “surprises” to be found in heaven. And one of those surprises would be that “I made it! I am here! I am in heaven!” Certainly, if a person would ask the remnant individual, “Do you know without a shadow of doubt if you died today you would go to heaven?” On the authority of the Word the answer would be, “Yes!” But when we do finally make it to heaven, there will be the wonder, “I made it!”
In this parable the wise virgins did not collect this addition of oil with arrogance and a “holier-than-thou” spirit. The five wise virgins did say, however, “We cannot give you, lest we will not have any.” They viewed their abundance as if they had just enough. In our walk with God, I dare not say, “I have an abundant life.” We certainly have an abundant life in Christ, for the Scriptures reveal this to be true. But is that abundant life flourishing in me? Although meekness and lowliness will not permit the true child of God to boldly say so, his abundant life is clear to even foolish virgins.
Another important passage for the End Time is the first parable given in Matthew 13, presenting the four types of soil. The question may be asked, “Which of these four types of ground are Rapture ground?” The first ground is the hard ground—ground that has known the world’s constant traffic hardening the soil, making it incapable of receiving the seed of the Word of God. We read of this ground,
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side (Matt. 13:19).
We then read of the stony ground:
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended (13:20, 21).
This ground would not be ready for the Rapture. Then we read of the thorny ground:
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful (13:22).
This ground concerns a heart that may have believed, but over time the soil has become encumbered. It is evident that God is not number one in the life; for other desires and loves take the place of Him; Christ is not preeminent. The soil of the heart is either stony (with carnality flourishing), or the cares of life and the desire for money have encumbered the natural life. Luke 8:14 adds, “and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” This certainly indicates a life with little oil and desire for the things of God.
We are then introduced to the good ground. This ground
is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matt. 13:23).
In Luke 8:15, we also read,
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it [hold it down], and bring forth fruit with patience.
Therefore, of the four soils, only twenty-five percent is declared as “good ground.” And even within the good ground, only one-third of that twenty-five percent is one hundred percent in the reception of truth for its heart and life. So again, we are viewing the End Time with a lot of spiritual problems of heart and life. Who is going to be ready for the Lord’s secret coming?
Another crucial passage concerning the End Time is Revelation 3:14–22. This Scripture reveals the last Church age. Such a “Christian” Church age has a powerful influence on anyone living in it. How often over the years we have quoted the Greek scholar R. C. Trench’s definition of the age (Gr., aion):
It is all that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, being the moral, and or immoral atmosphere which at every moment we inhale, again inevitably to exhale.
This definition is not simply revealing the secular age in which we live; it also addresses the present Church age. We are breathing in this age (at times unconsciously). The easiest life to live today is lukewarmness.
We must take heed to the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This insightful statement from the Lord reveals that only those whose mind is fully made up realize they must grasp for themselves the kingdom. Yes, we will have to be aggressive to take the kingdom by violence and go on with God. The present Church age’s powerful lukewarmness is greatly against an aggressive walk with God.
Back in the Philadelphia Church Age, revival was the atmosphere of God’s moving on both sides of the Atlantic. Revival was part of the age; one seemed to have breathed revival and awakening. But this last Church age atmosphere is lukewarmness. Therefore, it will be only a minority, a remnant that will be diligent in their pursuit of God and with God. Yes, there is the hope in this last Church age of the promise to the overcomer (Rev. 3:20, 21). The very word overcomer is referring to the one who overcomes both his secular and religious age. In this overcoming, we read in Revelation 3:20 of a supping with Christ and Christ with the individual. This is the description of one with that additional oil, one who is in communion with God, in fellowship with God. No matter how weak the Christian feels, the life is in fellowship with God. Though we may view our life in certain situations weak and frail, God sees us deeper than what we see ourselves. We tend to conscientiously judge our life by how we feel on a given day: “I feel victorious today!” And yet, other days we may view ourselves down in the deepest valley of despondency. But God judges our overcoming by the steadiness of our life, that we are going on with God.
The Most Difficult Hour to Live for Christ
Dear reader, we live in the most precarious time of history. Where am I in this? It seems, according to Scripture, that the Rapture comes in the End Time. It seems it comes at the culmination of the last Church age. It seems it comes at the darkest hour of the declining of souls bringing the end. The Rapture, it seems, will be composed of two orders of saints—the Bride and her attendants. Every true saint raptured will be in one of these two companies mentioned in Revelation 4—the four living creatures in the throne, and the twenty-four elders around the Throne. The parable of Matthew 25 seems to deal with the attendants to the Bride and Groom rather than the Bride. Note an Old Testament shadow and type of these groups:
There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her (Song of Sol. 6:8, 9).
The attendants are closely associated with the Bride. The attendants are identified with the true remnant. They may not have the boldness of a Luther; they may not have the depth of the heart of Wesley; they may not have the prayer life as deep as maybe what Andrew Murray talks about; but they have those spiritual characteristics in their lives. Yes, they have them, but perhaps not the depth. Some of God’s people, amidst deep trials, were constant in their faith and walk with God. Yes, they were mortal; yes, they had weaknesses; yes, there were lingering side effects of a past; but do we even live the depth of what they lived? Do we live a life that even approximates what they lived? The End Time is going to be the most difficult of times to live the Christian life; nonetheless, some of the greatest Christians will be overcomers in the End Time. I think if you were to ask them, they would say, “It’s not me; it’s the Christ within me!” God often uses our weaknesses to keep us humble so that we will not think more highly of ourselves than what we ought to think. This probably is part of the surprise, “I made it to heaven!”
The End-Time Trilogy of Satan’s Attacks
We must prepare our hearts for the rise of three major attacks of Satan against God’s saints. The year 2020 may be the year when any remaining stability in our country collapses. It may truly be the most crucial year for God’s people and remnant ministries in our country. We may witness several Bible schools closing or compromising in order to stay in existence. But whatever arises to shake what presently exists, nothing is to touch the heart and the walk of the true child of God, even the closing down of precious things. We must not view these changes as God leaving His blessed children; rather, God is giving more over to the Devil to bring about the culmination of the ages. Such dark situations must not affect our hearts; we must go on with God. But again, we must get ready for what is ahead in the Devil’s strategy to set forth his “man of sin,” the Antichrist.
In Daniel 7, there are three End-time workings of Satan leading up to and including the coming of Antichrist that Christians need to be ready to face. As chapters 1 through 6 of Daniel reveal more of the history of Daniel’s contemporary (yet including some prophecies), Daniel 7 begins the prophetic section of his book.
Daniel 7 explodes with prophecy as somewhat of a comprehensive chapter giving us insights of the past, the present, and leading us into the future (though not necessarily in that order). In verses 9–14, we read of the culmination of history with the coming of the Kingdom of Christ. But in verse 15, Daniel was grieved in his spirit by troubling visions. He returns in thought to the great beasts (v. 17) which he mentioned earlier in the chapter. Yet, it is revealed to the prophet (v. 18), “But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even for ever and ever.” Thus we read that there will be the Son of man in verse 13 Who will take the kingdom, but the kingdom will include the saints of the most high (v. 18). This term saints continues to be mentioned throughout these verses. We understand that the saints mentioned in the latter part of the chapter are the prophetic saints found in the Tribulation Period. We do not declare necessarily that these are only Jews, but the title certainly will include Jews who have come to know the Messiah during that Tribulation Period. Although there will still be many Gentiles, the Jews will become the more prominent saints of the Tribulation Period. Additionally, there are saints in the End Time, before the Tribulation Period; therefore, this chapter is somewhat going back and forth between these times.
We must establish a principle, beginning in verse 24.
And the ten horns [in the Tribulation Period] out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they [the saints] shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him (7:24–27).
From the context of verses 18 through 27, the saints will take the kingdom. However, what will happen before they take the kingdom?
Although the word Antichrist is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the little horn is mentioned in the Book of Daniel. It is not until we enter the latter part of the New Testament (the writings of John) that this name Antichrist and its description step forward in sacred writ. It is a name in the Greek language that describes him as one who both will be against Christ and will present himself as a substitute for the Messiah.
There are three evils this Antichrist will escalate against the saints. In the first context, he will bring persecution. In the second context, he will make war with the saints and prevail. There may not be a deliverance from the fiery furnace when he comes; there may not be a miracle that takes the saints out of the clutches of the Antichrist. Within the war against the saints, Antichrist will prevail. In the third context, he will wear out the saints.
The context in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 takes place in the Tribulation Period. It will be the most difficult time of all human history to live for God. If you are caught living for God, the consequence will be death.
We must remember that prophecy can be a one-time prophecy, or it can have several stages of prophetic fulfillment. This aspect of prophecy has been an enigma for interpretation, and God has made it so. In Matthew 24, we see this enigma of how to interpret the time period of the prediction: the End Time’s increase of false prophets, precarious situations in the weather, the falling away, and even matters regarding the “elect.” We must also include the abounding of deception. When are these prophecies to be fulfilled? The hermeneutical interpretations concerning prophecy certainly vary as to whether prophecy is fulfilled before or after the Rapture (or with no rapture at all). Many Bible prophecies are preliminary to a final fulfilled prophecy in the Tribulation Period. The global falling away will bring fearful sights even before the Tribulation Period. In fact, situations and circumstances may get so bad that one would think we are in the Tribulation Period. Such sights and evils will come and will escalate within the Tribulation Period after the Rapture. This will be true in this matter of the trilogy powers of the Devil against the saints—there will be increased persecution; there will be war with the saints; and there will be the wearing out of the saints. These three will begin by Satan before the Tribulation Period but will culminate under Antichrist.
Antichrists versus Antichrist
The apostle John is the one that introduces the term Ho Cristos, or “the Antichrist.” First John 2:18, 19 states,
Little children, it is the last time [the last hour]: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They [the many antichrists] went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
We then read in verse 22: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” We also read in 4:3, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” John will also mention the word Antichrist in 2 John 7, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
What is to be seen by these verses concerning this term Antichrist? The prefix “anti” is to be viewed from two perspectives. He is (1) a substitute of Christ, and he is (2) opposed to the Christ. We also view from these contexts that antichrist is also a mood and spirit that will prevail in the last days. We know the last days began with the first coming of Christ. So, this spirit is against Christ Jesus. We do have shadows and types in the Old Testament of Antichrist; but, there cannot be a false Christ imitating before there is the true Christ.
These Scriptures indicate there will be a “spirit” of Antichrist that will pervade the earth before the coming of this person of the Antichrist. This spirit is what Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” It is already working; it is already prevalent in the earth. It is true, we have not come to the man himself yet, but the spirit of Antichrist is universally among us. It indicates that this spirit of Antichrist will be so deep, so powerful, and of such global proportion that it will finally birth a person who is the enfleshment of that spirit. The question may be asked, “Is the Antichrist living today somewhere on the planet? He may be, but we must definitely say that the spirit of Antichrist is intensely controlling our world in nearly every compartment of humanity. Antichrist is a spirit; it is a mood; it is an attitude that is becoming more and more the controlling spirit of the earth. It is the spirit of Antichrist.
This spirit is evident in the growing aggressive persecution increasing in the world, especially in the United States. Our President communicated with international leaders this year encouraging them to support laws that would preserve Christians from being killed. It is evident that tens of thousands of churches are being burned with tens of thousands of Christians (at least, in name) being decapitated in many countries while government leaders simply stand by without any retaliation. The news media is not reporting these incidents; they keep the public in the dark as to the countries of such intense persecution and the number of killings taking place. Certainly, the term Christian is a very broad one in our times; most identified with it would be in the apostasy. But the very term Christian now incites hatred at escalating proportions. The present, growing voices among Washington politicians are boldly attacking Christianity while overtly endorsing Islam. Much of the persecution is from radical Hinduism and Islam; the Koran promotes such persecutions against both the Jews and the Christians.
Why are such religions madly against Christianity? One of the passages of Scripture, mentioned in the list from John’s writings, declares that if one denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, or if one denies that Jesus is come into the flesh, he is antichrist. A key hatred of these religions is they do not believe that God has a Son. The Muslims hate Jesus because of what they believe Christianity has done with Him. Islam says that Allah (their god) is so great that he cannot have a son. Yet, the Koran declares that Jesus was born of a virgin. How can a person come into the world in the flesh, be born of a virgin, without the seed of a man, and not be of God? Of course, Islam believes Jesus is one of twenty-seven prophets, but not the Son of God. This is where the attack is today. They claim Jesus is not the Son of God; He did not come in the flesh; He may have died on a cross, but was not resurrected; He is not sinless; He never preexisted in heaven as a person.
These are the truths about Christ Jesus that are denied. For these reasons, they are against Christianity. Therefore, these religions persecute those who believe such truths. They violently hate the declaration there is one Son of God, and that Son is the only Saviour; He did triumph over death, hell, and the grave; He is the only Mediator; and today He is at the right hand of God the Father, ever living. The world religions cannot take this; the irreligious cannot permit such an absolute decree of Jesus. There is no other Person in all the religions of history that even approximates what the Bible declares Jesus, the Son of God, to be.
Sadly, the more aggressive the attacks of the world and the nominal church against Jesus become, the quieter the professing Christians become. Christians do not want to be persecuted, so when Christ is attacked, the tendency is to back off in the testimony of Him. Persecution is intimidating. The tendency is to separate oneself from Christ (and even from His saints) when the persecution increases.
The final attack (through the spirit of Antichrist) in the End Time is to wear out the saints. How does the Antichrist spirit wear out the saints? It starts with the persecution of the saints, the constant pounding, defaming, intimidating, and maligning of their reputation. The second is to make war with them. We are already witnessing this in many countries of the world with the public execution of Christians; the world religions and governments are making war against the Name of Christ. This certainly has been part of history, but it is escalating in our contemporary.
The open war and persecution against the saints have become evident on television, in the social media, in the public schools and universities. Christianity is being boldly attacked in Washington in an unprecedented manner. These attacks would have never been “publicly” known thirty years ago, because some semblance of righteousness restrained the wicked.
The Book of Jude warns us of the way of Cain, the wages and greed of Balaam, and the gainsaying of Core. This trilogy is a spirit that pervades history. We see this becoming an integral part of the contemporary Christianity with the Charismatics’ greed for money; this is the way of Balaam. In order to gain the wealth today, Christianity must compromise. We also have never witnessed a day of gainsaying and the bold, aggressive talk against authorities as is witnessed today. It is the spirit of the times! It is the spirit of Antichrist.
Such powers’ constant onslaught and beating down (physically and emotionally) will finally wear out God’s saints. People will leave good churches because of this wearing out. They will reason, “I can’t take this any more.” “The standards of dress and living are too strong; even my family is turning against me.” “Things are being said against me; it is too much to bear.” “I must resort to an easier form of Christianity.” We will witness an increase of professing Christians falling away because of this wearing out of the saints. That is the reason why the Bible tells us we must endure unto the end; it is the only way we will be saved. Yes, we must endure to the end.
We are in a bold hour against God, against Christ, and against God’s saints! And in such a wearing out over time, the love of many is waxing cold. Certainly, this will be true in the Tribulation Period, but we are in its prelude. This is the spirit of Antichrist that will lead to the Antichrist himself. The tendency today in ministries is to compromise in order to continue existing, yea, to keep the people’s very lives from perishing.
May God help us in these days of the spirit of Antichrist, this mystery of iniquity that is already energizing society. May we overcome in the power of Christ and His Word through the persecutions, the wars against us in the various fields of human existence, and in the powers that are endeavoring to wear out the saints.