1 Jn 2:18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. NIV
It seems that every generation, from the days of the foundational apostles until now, has sensed the imminent return of Jesus Christ. This eschatological hope has produced an environment ripe for a wide assortment of end-time prophets expounding their pet theories concerning world events. The only real issue to my mind is that Jesus will return and those who are faithfully watching and waiting will be propelled into the eternal reality of uninhibited existence in the fullness of the Godhead.
Unfortunately, what seems to dominate any discussion on the return of Jesus is a focus on temporal earthly events. It is true that Jesus indicated signs of his return but it is for him we must look, rather than interpreting the signs.
I have chosen to make a few comments about the last days because of a discussion I have had recently. One of our church leaders, Maryleen, told me of an email that was going around (again) “revealing” a new development in credit cards. Apparently “they” (whoever they may be) have developed a card that is designed to go under the skin of the hand or behind the ear. If you try to remove this implant there is some “poison” (come on) that is released into the blood stream. What is even more amazing is that people are passing this on with the understanding that they were “spreading the gospel”.
The first point here is that the gospel is NOT about cards or marks or poison; it is not about Israel, Jerusalem, or persecuted believers; it is not even about healings, miracles, signs and wonders; it is Jesus Christ and the message of the cross. Secondly, with the extreme human rights activism in this current age, not to mention the fact that many societies are now democratic, only the most gullible would believe that people could be duped or forced into receiving a poisonous credit card in their hand or head.
Col 2:17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. NIV
Let me explain firstly about interpreting Scripture. Jesus made it very clear that all Scripture speaks of himself (Jn 5:39) as does Peter (1Pt 1:10-12). Revelation declares that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10). People interpret Scripture using many different keys. Some interpret Scripture to prove God wants us all to be rich, or to live until we’re 100 or to justify their decision to act in a particular manner. This is mishandling the word of truth. To correctly handle the word of truth (2Tim 2:8-15) is to interpret Scripture with Jesus and the cross as the key.
Apocalyptic literature, which Revelation is, is a series of pictures containing symbols etc to express a truth. If I were to describe a person as having eyes of fire, would people expect to literally see flames coming from his or her eye sockets? If I said my wife was an angel, would you expect to see her flying around with wings? Of course not! It is symbolic language used to express an idea. The symbolisms of Revelation are no different.
My biggest concern though, is that with so many people continuing to interpret apocalyptic language in a literal fashion they leave themselves open to missing the subtle work of antichrist.
Mt 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. NIV
Jesus pointed out that if it were possible for the elect to be deceived the work of antichrist in the last days would be so deceptive that even they would be fooled. If we are waiting for cards to be inserted under our skin; for temples and sacrifices to be re-established in Jerusalem; for scorpion tailed flying beasts or swarms of modern gunships to begin killing millions of people (though helicopters are already doing this in many regions of the world) then we will fail to realise that the spirit of antichrist is already at work and the figurative warnings of marks on the hand and forehead are already happening.
Controlling people through a mark on the hand is symbolic of trade – the hands are used for work, to trade etc – and the forehead symbolises thought – the forehead symbolises our ability to think, to reason and to discern what is right or wrong. (For a complete discussion of the knowledge of good and evil see my book “will the real church stand up” page 45) Scripture tells us not to conform to the patterns of this world (thinking as the world thinks) but to be transformed through renewed minds (Rom 12:2).
From the minute we are born we are taught how to think. Our values, beliefs and systems of thought are manipulated and controlled by Hollywood, advertisers, education systems, books and peers. Our ability to trade and our desires for profit are also controlled; firstly, by how we have been taught to think; and secondly by the market place. Politics is not determined by human needs and/or priorities but by business. Multinational corporations influence world monetary policies and many well meaning Christians believe their billion dollar marketing propaganda. Business is good, better, best and social reform and social welfare are evil. (This is my big concern with the “marketplace ministry movement” in its current form. I do not believe it has been adequately “transformed” by “renewed minds” to flow in a way that is Kingdom focussed.)
What I am endeavouring to say here is that the mark is already at work. The spirit of antichrist is already evident. It is subtle not obvious. It will, or already has, deceived the brightest minds but those who are spiritually discerning will see the philosophies of western corporatism for what they are – antichrist.
What is subtle or deceptive about guns and cards and tattoos on the forehead etc? How would this “deceive even the elect”? Yet, listening to many television preachers, noting the preaching and philosophies of many churches, and seeing the priorities of many professing Christians it is clear that the deception is here. Their minds are already controlled with no ability to discern their own evil desires, let alone the evil in the world. Lust is not revealed in extremes but in amicable middleclass living. Pride is not revealed in the few obsessive egotists but in the self-congratulatory attitudes of most people.
The accumulation of sensual experiences found in food, thrill rides, reality TV and celebrity watching is lust of the flesh. The accumulation of possessions and earthly security is lust of the eye and the need to be respected and acknowledged is pride.
I am not trying to become an end-time preacher or prophet. I will leave that to the many conspiracy theorists, I am simply stating that if it is sooo obvious, as many have portrayed, then no one would be deceived, not even the world. I know many non-believers who know all about 666, the antichrist and Armageddon. Will they be tricked by a poisonous card? Only an idiot would be.
Revelation is happening now. It began 2000 years ago and it will culminate with the return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus returns he is not going to be looking for the most accurate end-time prophets but for faithfulness in the earth. For those who stand in opposition to the spirit of antichrist in every age and are not conformed to the patterns of this world by corporatist propaganda but are transformed by the renewing of the mind through the power of the Spirit. He is coming for those who have stood firmly on the only Word of God – Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1,14) and the one gospel – the message of the cross (1Cor 1:18 – 2:5).
Let’s stop looking down and around and start looking up! Jesus – not end-time teaching – is our redeemer, the author and perfector of our faith.
Even so Lord Jesus, come!