The World Before Christs Return.
by Howard Davies (
(This sermon was preached in Melbourne on 10th November, 1991).
We look at 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-7, but before we consider this passage, I want you to think about the sort of description you would give to this world in which we live today.
Certainly, one reaction would be to say that we live in a very wonderful and exciting world, for there are many things about this age which are undoubtedly marvellous. It is an age when the world is open to us through travel and instant communication. It is a world of incredible technology that both fascinates us and makes life easier for us in so many ways.
However, there is another side to this world in which we live. I think all of us would readily admit that there are aspects about our world which cause us great sorrow, great uncertainty and even great fear. We contemplate the present state of the world - the tragedies, the terrible violence, the inhumanity that confronts us every day in our newspapers. We see the nations in turmoil and we often sense that things are running out of control in so many areas. So we are forced to a mixture of views about this world. On the one hand we see how wonderful is Gods world and we recognize the benefits of technology and science. Yet our view is marred by the sorrow we feel for the terrible moral state of the world, and for the general godlessness and spiritual confusion that exists everywhere.
But I want us to assess the state and direction of the world today solely from a Christian viewpoint. Of course, the true Christian view is based on the knowledge that we are pilgrims and strangers passing through this world and that our citizenship is primarily in heaven. We must always look at this present world in that way. So, how is the Christian to assess the present state and direction of our world? That is the question I want us to carefully consider.
This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to
the Christians in Thessalonica, a small town in
These Christians were also suffering persecution So that we ourselves (says Paul) glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure (1: 4). It is obvious that they were hard-pressed. Then in addition to this, they had become alarmed and confused by the suggestion that Christ had already returned. So in chapter 2 we see how Paul dealt with this concern that they had.
We read Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand (2: 1-2). Here is the focus of this particular letter. It is to assure them that the return of Christ had not yet come. What is particularly important is that this answer given to them by Paul is also of great help to us today in understanding what must yet occur before Christ returns as He has promised.
However, before we look at this passage, I believe it is important for us to reflect on the general state and direction of the world today. Let me remind you of some of the things that have happened over the last year or two. By any reckoning, we have seen some quite incredible world changes in recent days.
First, we learned with some surprise and horror,
of the turmoil in
Then I remind you that early this year , we saw with great
concern, the progress of the war in the
While we may quite rightly wish to rejoice over nations co-operating with one another in peaceful ways, the very introduction of this terminology new world order from the super-powers surely ought to alert Christians to sit up and take notice. We may begin to wonder whether this is a further step leading to the joining together of all nations under one government.
Then I remind you of a second thing that has been making a significant impact upon the world over the last few decades. This is something more subtle, yet something that is affecting the hearts and minds of men and women far more than we may realize. That is the rise, not of a new world order, but rather the emergence of what is called The New Age Movement.
This New Age Movement may seem undramatic and even low-key, yet it is a real war of ideas for the minds of men, women and young people. It is a war that many are not even aware is being waged.
New Age teaching is really a form of monism ‑ that all is One ‑ all is God. It teaches that we are all part of God and that we simply need to allow our minds to discover this and to be open to it. Sometimes it appears in subtle ways ‑ through concern for the environment, with groups like the Green Peace Movement being greatly affected by this New Age teaching. It has gained ground through modern mans fascination by UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects). From this came a whole spate of films, such as the Star War; series, ET (Extra Terrestrial), and many others on this theme. Through this fascination with the unseen world of mystery, the New Age Movement has been steadily claiming the minds of many in the world today, even though the average person has little idea that his thinking is being affected by these things.
It is really a mixture of ancient eastern religions, for the New Age Movement teaches reincarnaion ‑ saying that each one of us has lived many lives before, and that we are even now continuing through this same process. And of course, they say that we must discover the true spiritual nature, which is, that we are God. To them, it does not matter whether you seek this through the occult, through contact with spirits or through contact with what they call spirit guides or channellers or through astrology, or even through drugs.
Some familiar names of people who have promoted New
Age teaching over recent decades include Margaret
Mead, the late anthropologist; Alvin
Toffler, who writes about the future trends in the world; Jonas Salk, the biologist who invented
the salk vaccine; and Elizabeth
Kubler-Ross, known through her writings on Death
and Dying. Currently, a
well-known New-Ager is the actress, Shirley
MacLaine. Indeed, the powerful
Included in the New Age teaching is the strange belief that crystals are very powerful. We see this in a film like Superman. When Superman loses his strength, he goes to the north pole to be renewed through crystals. Then a film such as The Dark Crystal (which may seem innocuous enough) is typical of some of the insidious teachings which stem from people who are disciples in the New Age Movement.
However, the New Age Movement is not new at all. In Acts 8 we read of a sorcerer called Simon, who was described as The Great Power. And Simon had an accomplice called Helene who was described as the incarnation of thought and the divine mind. It is almost exactly the same sort of thing that the New Age Movement is claiming today, and it is really the old Gnosticism revived.
The tragedy is that these ideas are infiltrating peoples minds through films, through books (such as Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, which has sold over 25 million copies. It is written by a man who claims to have received it through a channeller - dictated from a spirit source). Then there are childrens TV programmes (such as the Ninja Turtles), which also have these New Age messages within them. So there are these various ways in which our minds are being re-educated to accept certain things. We may not realize this. We may feel somewhat wary about talk of a new world order and wonder what it may be leading to. But let us not overlook the far-reaching and dangerous teachings of the New Age Movement which are creeping into mens minds in these subtle ways.
Then there is a third thing in considering the current world picture. That is, an increasing trend within the Christian church towards complete tolerance in matters of doctrine and belief. There are some who strongly believe that the Church ought to be one, that we should have Church unity. Some are saying, We must get rid of this sin of schism - of division in the Church. All the churches should be one. We must all love one another and be tolerant of what others may believe. This is the great cry, regardless of truth and regardless of the doctrines believed in different groups of the church. All is being swept aside in this move towards church unity.
But it goes even further than that. There is a move towards combining all world
religions. A Hindu scholar currently teaching in a Lutheran college in
So there is this growing apathy and ignorance in Christendom towards the truth. Men are willingly ignorant of the Scriptures and want to reject the doctrine taught in them. There is this trend that calls on us to always be tolerant towards these things and not to hold to the truth that salvation is by Jesus Christ alone. So-called love and tolerance have become more important than truth. The result of this is the terrible confusion we see in the world and in the Church. Men turn from God and dismiss the Word of God, not knowing what they are to believe. And with the foundations destroyed there is this ever-increasing lawlessness, immorality and violence, so that the world is living in great fear. It is all the outcome of men turning away from the truth of God.
Here are some of the factors which are contributing to the present world condition and which point to the direction being taken by the world in this late twentieth century. As we summarize these things and reflect on them, surely this is saying to us as Christians that we must be sober-minded; we must be alert and recognize this process which is steadily going on in the world. What is the general diet of T. V. programmes with which people are constantly being fed? I have reached the stage where I am refusing to turn it on. The rare occasions I do see the T.V. these days, I seem inevitably to be confronted by pornography or violence, whatever channel is on. And we are undoubtedly being softened up for something far bigger. I believe we are living in the closing stages of what is really a great softening up process. We are being conditioned and prepared to accept the great lie which is described here (2: 11). What is this great event for which the whole world is being prepared? It is the coming of Satan himself - in a visible form, powerful and with great deception. And he is described as the man of lawlessness (v 3) who will be revealed to the world.
Those Christians living nearly 2000 years ago had this fear that Christ had already come. And if you wonder when Christ is going to come (and surely every Christian should look for His promised return), these verses in 2 Thessalonians clearly teach us that something tremendously significant and obvious must precede Christs return. This is the point to note here.
Paul says Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (the return of Christ) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God (2: 3, 4). Note that Satan will be visible. He will come as the Lord Jesus came - in human form. Satan will come as a man, and he will be seen by the world. But even as Jesus came into the world and was largely unrecognized, so Satan will come, and the world will be deceived by his flatteries and lies and will not recognize him for who he really is - the man of lawlessness. Scripture tells us that the only persons not to be deceived by him will be Gods elect (Matthew 24: 24). But he will come. He will exalt himself. He will set himself up in the temple proclaiming that he is God.
This temple is yet to be built. At the present time the Dome of the Rock is on the site in
But then look at verse 5. There is a mystery about this. For Paul says Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what witholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way (2: 5-7).
So here is something mysterious. Here is Satan being restrained. Something or someone is holding him back.
What can this mean? There is a clue in verse 3 Let no man
deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a
failing away. The word in the
Greek is apostasy. We recently had a Bishop from
While this rebellion or apostasy has direct application to the terrible falling away of true faith in God in the last days, and while there is sufficient evidence to suggest we have already entered that period which leads to this ultimate deception (the acceptance by the world of this man of lawlessness) there is also another aspect to this rebellion that we should consider.
In Revelation 12 we find something most interesting. When we talk about war, we tend to think of it as something that only happens on earth. But here in the Word of God we have this statement that there is going to be a war in heaven. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation,*and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of. His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12: 7-12).
[* Note. The salvation here is yet future.]
Do you understand that passage? Do you see what it is saying? It is speaking about this great mystery - that spiritual warfare is something that is going on, even in heaven. We know there is conflict on the earth, but here is a statement referring to a war in heaven. It is spiritual wickedness in high (heavenly) places (Ephesians 6: 12), although the outcome of this conflict in heaven has already been determined. In a judicial, legal sense Satan was defeated when Christ was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. From that time, Satans doom was written. One aspect of his punishment is that he must be cast out of heaven and hurled to the earth where he is filled with great fury, for he knows that his time is short.
However, while the judgment and the sentence have been pronounced upon Satan, it seems that the actual execution of that casting out of heaven has been delayed. In the intervening time since Christs ascension, Satan has been restrained, despite the fact that his evil influence is still very much apparent through original sin and the evil which is present in the world today. God, by his restraining grace, has kept evil within certain limits by instituting earthly rulers and governments, for the powers that be are ordained of God (Romans 12: 1). But over and above this, Satan himself has been restrained, quite possibly by the archangel Michael, who is the presiding angel of the Jewish nation, and who ultimately is described as the victorious opponent of Satan in this war in heaven (Revelation 12: 7).
So we try to visualise this picture. That even now, Satan is in this limited and restricted state. He is being restrained. We do not know exactly when his final expulsion from heaven occurs or exactly when he comes down in the form of a man to deceive mankind. Yet one of the significant things suggested by this final hurling down to the earth of Satan is that he comes just when the nation of Israel is on the very eve of its restoration, and when its spiritual eyes are about to be opened to the truth about Jesus Christ, the One Whom they have rejected through these past 2000 years.
But this we do know, Satan will come before
Christ returns. And in that first period
of three and a half years, he will deceive men so that the whole world will
wonder after him. He will bring peace
for a time. But then at the end of three
and a half years he will think to change things. He will set himself up in the rebuilt temple
We must ask what lessons we should learn from this passage from 2 Thessalonians. Surely the most vital lesson is that we must recognize what is now happening in the world. In other words, that we realize that we are now in this softening up period. That all the godlessness and immorality that confronts us on every hand; that the spiritual confusion arising through the New Age Movement; that these calls for tolerance and unity in religion; that all these things are affecting the minds of those in this world. They are all preliminary to something far more terrible and evil to come.
We note it says that they (speaking of the people in the final days) perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.* And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a (the) lie (2: 10-11). Do you see the softening up process? People are now beginning to say It does not matter what we believe, as long as we are people of goodwill, as long as we are sincere in trying to believe in God. Surely it does not really matter whether we are Christians, or Bhuddists, or Muslims, for we are all going in the same direction. This is believed by many today. Then, having reconciled all these other religions, they add Surely it does not really matter that the Mormons may claim to have another revelation of truth since Jesus Christ through their prophet Joseph Smith. Or Surely the Jehovahs Witnesses are sincere and believe much that we do. And, Surely it does not really matter that the Roman Catholic church tells us that we can also go to God through Mary, and that Jesus is not the only Mediator between God and man. None of these things really matter. What matters is that we are tolerant and accept one another in love.
[* Note. The salvation here may not refer the eternal salvation obtained through faith in Jesus Christ as ones personal Saviour.]
This is what many people are saying. And what is happening is that there is a softening up process going on, so that ultimately it will lead to nations and religions coming to this state of mutual agreement and tolerance ‑ One World Order. At that point ‑ Satan will finally be cast out of heaven and will come down to earth and deceive the world with great miracles and signs and wonders. Surely even the way many people in the Church seem so eager to be impressed by signs and wonders is but another side to this softening up period, so that many (even in the Church) are being made receptive to these things and are putting themselves in great danger of being equally impressed and deceived by Satans signs and wonders when he comes to the earth.
So as we consider these things, let us recognize that we are in this situation where the world is being prepared for the Great Lie. Satan will come, and be received. The question to face is this. Are you a child of God? Have you been born again and given a new nature from God? Have you repented of sin? Are you really believing the Word of God? Or, do you think this is all rather far-fetched, and that it is a good thing that we should be tolerant of every other belief?
Do not think you have plenty of time because the fulfilment of these things may seem to be (at the very least) seven years away. It is absolutely vital that you believe the truth NOW; that you repent NOW; that you cry out to God to forgive you NOW. For this Scripture in 2 Thessalonians teaches that if we refuse the truth of God, He will ultimately send a great delusion, so that those who have refused the truth will be the first to swallow this great lie which comes from the man of lawlessness. Then it will be too late.
May God help us each to be wise in recognizing the truth of His Word, and to see that these things are happening in the world. Let those who love Him not ,despair, for Jesus has said, When these things begin to come to pass, ... lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21: 28). The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. He will put down this man of sin. He will bring in His glorious [millennial] kingdom. May God help us to ponder these things and to be found living unto His glory alone.
* * * * * * *
The Last Wars and the Wise. (Daniel 11).
by James Payne
The organisation known as the United Nations
might more accurately be described as the disunited nations, having regard to
the large measure of disagreement on so many matters. So when the final united nations organisation
is in being some fissures and divisions will be found among them as predicted
by Daniel. In his prophecy concerning
the Little Horn which comes up among the ten on the head of the fourth beast,
that horn is said to cause three of the other horns to be plucked up by the roots. The displacement and subsequent replacement
of two of the kings referred to are dealt with in some detail in this
chapter. The third need not concern us
just now [i.e.,
The two spoken of here are clearly
The parallel between the prophecy of this
chapter and the vision of the eighth chapter
is very apparent, but the vision of chapter 8
had been understood by Daniel only in part.
Gabriel is commissioned to cause Daniel to understand it, but at the
close of the chapter Daniel says I was astonished
(troubled) at the vision
but none understood it. It is
clear, therefore, that Daniels understanding of the vision was not at that
time complete. But Daniel was intent on understanding, and so we are told in chapter 10 that years afterwards he set his heart
to understand and for this purpose he fasted and prayed for three weeks, and
Gabriel is sent again to give him understanding. He says, O Daniel,
the words that I speak unto thee.
He is now to be made to understand in plain words and not merely by the
portrayal of events in a vision. Again
the angel says, I am come to make thee understand what
shall befall thy people in the latter
days. This is the subject of the prophecy, and
we should expect, therefore, to find the bulk of it is taken up with the events
Chapter 8 shows us that the little horn grows out of one of the four horns there described, and these are explained as the four kingdoms into which the Grecian Empire was divided upon the death of Alexander the Great. And the interpreting angel states that it is in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences shall stand up. Thus we have a gap in the chronology of that chapter which takes us from the successors of Alexander on to the manifestation of the Man of Sin. In the parallel of chapter 11, therefore, we should expect to find the gap occurring at approximately the same place in the order of events. It seems to me, therefore, that the gap exists in that chapter between verses 4 and 5, and carries us from the successors of Alexander on to the last days and then shows us in somewhat greater detail the rise of the Man of Sin ‑ the king of fierce countenance, here described as a Vile person.
We will now proceed to consider briefly a few of the details set out in that passage.
The Kings of the South and North.
The Aggressive King of
now exalted in his victories, turns his face unto the isles (verse
18). This probably means that he
will seek to annex certain islands in the
Mr B W
He also casts down the
Prince of the Covenant (verse 22). This probably refers to the leader of the
international parliament established at
At this juncture we have introduced in this chapter
The Wise or Understanding Ones.
These know their God
They are therefore possessors of eternal life. They fear God, for the
fear of the LORD is the beginning of
wisdom. They have understanding
of the times, for they are in a position to instruct
many. In short, they are the followers of Christ in
The Antichrist places
the Abomination in the
From this point onward we read nothing more in
this chapter concerning the understanding ones.
With the placing of the abomination of desolation they have either fled,
or perished for their faiths sake. In
the remainder of the chapter the man of sin, the King of Babylon, is presented
to us as reigning supreme and unhindered.
He magnifies himself above all gods.
He is spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2
as one who opposeth and exalteth himself above all
that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the
Toward the close of his reign, however, he again
receives opposition from both
(* This message was given at an S.G.A.T Conference in April, 1949.)
This Sunday [11:11:2011] sees the tenth anniversity of the day that will be forever remembered simply as 9/11.
It was a day that many said, changed the world
forever. On that day global terrorism
was born. The most secure country in the
world, became just like the rest, vulnerable and at risk. Much has been said since that incredible day
It is now a must visit attraction on any trip to New York and when you stand there you cannot but be moved as you realize the size of the buildings that collapsed and the number of people who perished that September morning.
Since then we have had
President Gadaffai could say anything he wanted about what he was going to do to the rebel forces, but without the support of his people all his rhetoric was worth nothing.
In some ways we have learned nothing from 9/11 because the evil that germinated that horrendous act still exists in the world today.* However it is an event that reminds us that good can overcome evil, when the people stand up and say enough.
How can we ever try to do that here in Norhern
The psalmist marvelled at not just Gods ability to forgive his sins but to forget the past. Each day brings about a new start, the past is allowed to teach us but not to condemn us. Many who lost loved ones that day 10 years ago will weep once again for their loss, as do many others who have lost loved ones before and after that day, maybe even you! However, there does come a time when we do have to move on, not to forget but to move on and show by it respect and appreciation, courage and determination. May 9/11 once again be a call to each one of us to do just that. (The Leader, Sept. 9, 2011).