The Signs of the Times which occupy our attention in this rubric are the signs which are connected with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in His final appearance upon the clouds of heaven and as they are peculiarly characteristic of our present day and age. The church, of course, is vitally interested in these precursory signs, signs which precede the final coming of our Lord. They and the life of the church are inseparably connected. All our life and hope stand or fall with them. Without them we are doomed. Should they fail to materialize our situation is utterly hopeless. The final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ means victory and eternal glory for the cause of God in the midst of the world. This explains the longing and desire of the church of God for this final coming of the Lord as expressed in the scriptures. The church gave expression to this hope throughout the Old Dispensation. Eve called her firstborn Cain and said: “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” Gen. 4:1. And how vivid is this longing of God’s waiting saints, as set forth in Ps. 130. That the church of today, nominally speaking, is not characterized by this passion and longing for Christ’s return is also a sign of the times. The Word of God also calls attention to the Great Apostasy, the great falling away or defection, and that the love of many shall wax cold. But the church of God continues to cry out: “Watchman, what of the night? When will it end? When will the morning dawn?” Among these signs of the times, the precursory signs, the signs which precede and are immediately connected with the final coming of the Lord, is also the sign of the antichrist.
The word antichrist is found in Scripture only in the epistles of John. This, of course, does not mean that these are the only passages in Holy Writ that refer to him. There are many passages in the Word of God that refer to him. The Lord speaks of false prophets that come in sheep’s clothing but who inwardly are ravening wolves. Besides, He warns that many shall come in His Name, saying that they are Christ, and shall deceive many. And in Matt. 24:24 we read: “For there. shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” And it is well known that it is the antichrist who is held before us in Revelation 13 and Revelation 17. In addition to this, we have a very vivid description of the antichrist, the Man of Sin, whose chief characteristic is sin, the “Son of Perdition,” in II Thess. 2:3-10. But the word antichrist itself appears only in the epistles of John—see I John 2:18, 22; I John 4:3; II John 7.
It lies in the nature of the case that the. antichrist should reveal himself in the New Dispensation. This does not mean that he was completely absent in the Old Testament. Even as Christ did not appear until the New Dispensation, but there was a shadow of Him in the Old Testament, so there was no antichrist until the New Dispensation, but there was a shadow of him in the days of the shadows. In Rev. 12 we have a picture of the church of God as in the Old Dispensation. The woman there, of whom we read that she was with child, represents the church of the Old Dispensation. The dragon who threatens her is, we know, the devil. And this certainly means that the church was constantly threatened by the representative of the dragon, and this representative is surely the type of the antichrist throughout the days of the Old Dispensation. We need not call attention to this in any detail. Think of Egypt, the wilderness, of Han-ran in the days of Esther. And many of our readers must be familiar with the name of Antiochus Epiphanes. That he is the focus of the book of Daniel, the little horn of Dan. 7, is beyond contradiction. What a monster of iniquity he was! He was determined, in behalf of Greek culture, to wage a relentless attack upon the Jewish religion and the scriptures, provoking the uprising which resulted in the temporarily brilliant period of Maccabean rule. We need not calI attention to him at length. He was especially a devotee, it is said, of the heather god Zeus, of whom it is probable that he thought himself an incarnation (hence his own title for himself—Theos Epiphanes, “God Manifest”). How he fought against Jerusalem! He first punished it as a rebellious city; later he determined to make it a stronghold of his kingdom as an outpost against Egypt, and it was to be Hellenized (made Greek). The Jewish religion was to be blotted out, the Temple was plundered and converted into a sanctuary of Zeus Olympios, the worship of Dionysis was introduced, the Jews were to sacrifice to heathen deities and eat sacrificed swine, while their books were to be destroyed. And these measures were enforced by frequent massacres.
The coming of the antichrist is characteristic of the New Dispensation. This of course, is understandable. Christ came. And His coming, of course, draws forth the coming of the antichrist. The word antichrist is a compound word, consisting of Christ and another word that may mean either “against” or “instead of.” We may combine these two meanings. The antichrist is surely he who opposes the Christ. But .it is also evident from the Word of God that he is opposed to the Christ in order to take His place. Do we not read this literally in the Word of God? Does not the Lord speak of false prophets who claim to be the Christ, to draw the attention of the people away from Christ and upon themselves, who, therefore, would take the place of the Christ?
Is he discernible in our present day? We read in I John 2:18: “Little children, it is the last time (or 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.” ‘This time is the New Dispensation. It is the last hour upon the clock of the unfolding of God’s counsel with respect to the coming of Christ’s kingdom. The clock has struck Eleven. This occurred at Pentecost; the next time the clock strikes, Twelve, will mark the end of the world. And throughout this last hour there have been many antichrists. Throughout this last hour many false prophets have arisen. And they will culminate the antichrist.
This antichrist is held vividly before us in Rev. 13. We need not discuss the question whether he will be a person or a federation of powers. I believe that he will be a person. Of course, he will not merely be alone. No dictator has ever been what he is as merely alone. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, etc., were what they were because of their support by those who stood with them. Rev. 12 speaks of two beasts. In Rev. 13:1-10 we read of the monster that rises up out of the sea. This beast has seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. This beast represents the antichrist from the aspect of his political power. The deadly wound that was healed was inflicted at the tower of Babel. Now that wound is healed. The various beasts mentioned in verse 2 refer to world powers. Now, at the end of the ages, the governments of the world will be united. The wound shall have been healed, and the antichrist will be supreme. Also Gog and Magog, the heathen nations, will be in subjection to him. And this antichrist, we read, shall make war with the saints, to overcome them. Power was given him over all kindreds and tongues and nations. All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. All shall worship him, except the saints. They will be persecuted and killed. These will be the days of unprecedented fury and violence for the people of God. They will be the days of which the scriptures declare that they will be shortened for the sake of the elect.
Rev. 13, however, also speaks of another beast. In the verses 11-18 we read of the beast that rises up out of the earth. This beast has two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. This beast, too, represents the antichrist. Of course, there are not two antichrists. There is only one antichrist. This second beast represents him from his religious aspect. The antichrist will be greatly admired. We read in Rev. 13:8 that all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him. His reign will be characterized by great prosperity. Peace will reign. Everywhere people will enjoy prosperity and abundance. The lusts of the flesh and of the eyes will prevail throughout his kingdom. Of course, it will be the kingdom of antichrist. Upon his head will be the name of blasphemy. He will deny the God of heaven and earth. He will denounce and ridicule the Christ, the Lamb of God that was slain from before the foundation of the world. He will, we read, sit in the temple as God. He will claim full responsibility for the peace and prosperity of his kingdom. He will be worshiped and acclaimed as the sole source of all their abundance. They all will bow down before. him, and shout it out: Heil, Savior! Now we read in Rev. 13 that the second beast serves the first. The church, the false church, with all its teaching and philosophy, will prepare the children of men for this antichristian kingdom. This false church will corrupt the Word of God, undermine the foundations of the truth, substitute the lie for the truth, instill into the hearts and minds of the children of men the love of Mammon, the love of the things that are below, the desire to make this world a better place in which to live. A social gospel will replace the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The earthly will replace the heavenly. All things shall have but one purpose: to lead men away from the God of heaven and earth and His Christ, and to set up a kingdom in which the results of sin will be banished but sin itself will prevail and rule supreme. And whoever oppose this development of the antichristian kingdom will be destroyed; there will be no place for them upon the face of the earth.
Do we recognize this development today? How important it is that we recognize it! For those who are asleep, spiritually, Christ will come as a thief in the night. Of this we read in I Thess. 5. How terrible this will be!
Besides, it is not all difficult to envision this development. True, many things must yet happen. Indeed, many things have already happened. The gospel has been preached to all nations. Earthquakes, terrible earthquakes, have become frighteningly common. There is also much famine throughout the world. And so we could go on. Yet, many things must yet happen. The nations must become united. The peoples of the earth must become one. Let us bear in mind, however, that this can happen in a comparatively brief period of time. It is not difficult to envision a time when a leader will emerge out of all our present chaos who will lead the peoples of the earth out of our present problems and difficulties. Such a man will surely be worshipped.
Finally, I must call your attention to one more thing. I refer now to the church, the nominal church, that which calls itself the church of God and of Christ. In the past, churches have been merging. They have been merging, of course, at the cost of the truth. And this movement will surely accelerate. However, look at this church today. It is assuming more and more the aspect of the false church. Synodically, they occupy their attention, not with things that concern the truth, but with things that are of a social nature. The fundamental truths of the Word of God are being denied and undermined. The authority of the Scriptures as the unerring, infallible Word of God is being questioned and denied. The synthesis is replacing the antithesis. Fundamental institutions such as marriage are becoming increasingly a laughing stock, a mockery. The carnal enjoyment of the things that are below supercede the things of the Kingdom of Heaven. The reign of antichrist is being prepared. What shall we say? Let us be sober and watch unto prayer. Let us hold fast that which we have, that no man take our crown.