By Merrill Olson
The Bible speaks strongly about a future evil world ruler who will seek to dominate the world and set up his own kingdom (Revelation 13). He will be energized by Satan and receive his authority from him (v. 4). He will also rise to power and prominence in the beginning of the Tribulation period. He will sign a peace treaty with Israel and later double-cross the Jews and will seek to destroy them. He will be an imposing and intimidating figure. He will have oratorical and intellectual skills plus military and economic expertise that will make him the world leader. And the world will marvel and follow him and bow down to him in worship (v. 4).
For those who turn to Jesus during this horrific time, they will suffer severe persecution and many of them will experience martyrdom (Revelation 7:9-17). In fact, the Word of God describes them as “a great multitude” (v. 9).
Nevertheless, Scripture explains that even though there is a future Antichrist, there is still “the spirit of the Antichrist” that is already at work today. This “spirit” seeks to promote cultic and heretical doctrines even within the church (1 John 4:1-3) through false teachers. In fact, John writes with great urgency stressing the truth that not a few but “many false prophets have gone out into the world” (v. 1). Consequently, Satan does not merely want to oppose the church as we read in the New Testament; but, he wants to deceive her (2 Cor. 11:14). He is not always waging war against the gospel. Instead, he also seeks to infiltrate the walls of churches, Christian schools, institutions, organizations, and denominations with subtle error and compromise.
Therefore, the apostle John, in dealing with false teachers, is stressing the truth as to what Christianity is grounded and based upon in “the Christological question”: What do you really believe about Jesus Christ? In other words, is He simply an enlightened religious teacher, or is He the very incarnation of God? John says, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ [the Messiah of God] has come [perfect tense] in the flesh [He is the incarnation of God] is of God” (1 John 4:2). This is the biblical truth that stands without compromise. Anything less is “the spirit of the Antichrist.”
The Spirit of God always honors Jesus Christ for who He is (John 16:14). Even the demons got it right when Jesus walked this earth even though they did not worship Him (Mark 1:24; 3:11). But, demons are now Satan’s minions to spread truth with error.
As a result, there are believers who tragically trust everything they read from a Christian bookstore or book seller, or what they hear on Christian radio and television. Because of this, they become prime targets for doctrinal deception through the lurking of “the spirit of the Antichrist.” “Antichrist” means “against Christ.”
So, what do we do as people who belong to Christ through being born again? We are to “test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). For that reason, the only reliable way to test any teaching is to measure it with God’s written Word. It is the perfect standard of truth (John 17:17) and the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). It provides us with our primary defense against error (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Heb. 4:12).
Merrill Olson served as a senior pastor for thirty-four years. He received a B.S. from Minnesota State University-Mankato, an M. Div. from Bethel Theological Seminary, and a D. Min. from Columbia Evangelical Seminary. He is currently involved as an interim pastor along with a teaching and writing ministry. His emphasis is on apologetics and training believers to defend their faith in Christ from God’s Word. He is well versed in Bible prophecy as it pertains to end times. He is a gifted speaker with the conviction that only by the Word of God can people experience inward transformation by the Holy Spirit. He and his wife, Jan, reside in Minnesota and have two daughters and four delightful grandchildren.
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