In last week’s blog, “Should the church defy the Government?” I wrote the following: “It’s my opinion that the “evangelist” who wrote to me recently misses the point. It appears he’s bought into fear and conspiracies about a one-world government and an antichrist agenda. While these beliefs are widely held by many Christians today, they are based more on the Left Behind novels than on God’s Word. I’ll explore that in next week’s blog!” Well, here’s next week’s blog!
When I became a Christian in the late 70s, end-time prophecy was all abuzz. Israel had become a nation in 1948, and according to a misinterpretation of Matthew 24:32-34, Jesus’ Second Coming would happen within one generation (40 years). That meant Jesus would be back by 1988. I thought I’d hit the jackpot becoming a Christian just in time. I devoured Revelation and Daniel, The Late Great Planet Earth, and all the prophecy books around. The planets would align on March 10, 1982, causing earthquakes, tidal waves, and violent storms that would lead to a natural disaster takeover by world governments. These events would see the rise of the antichrist and a one-world government, the Great Tribulation, and the return of Jesus. Nothing happened!
I have since learned that this is just one of many false prophecies of the end. Individuals and religious groups have been forecasting the end of the world for centuries. They really should give up. There’s no future in it!
In the forty years since my conversion, I’ve come to realise the interpretation of Scriptures relating to the antichrist, one-world government, and the rapture are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. The vast majority of evangelical and Pentecostal Christians hold beliefs about these things based more on the Left Behind books and movies than Scripture. That, my friends, is not a good way to study the Bible.
A Shaky Foundation
Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins wrote the 16 Left Behind books between 1995 and 2007 and sold 80 million copies. The books are based on a dispensationalist interpretation of Bible prophecy, a relatively modern invention developed in 1827 by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren, and spread widely with the 1909 publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. Darby went on to be the founder of the Exclusive Brethren cult after George Mueller (and other Brethren) challenged him about some of his unbiblical doctrines. Charles Spurgeon also claimed these teachings were false. And so, much modern understanding of Bible prophecy originated from a heretical cult leader and popularised by books and movies. This is hardly a good foundation for understanding God’s Word!
Who is the Antichrist?
So, what about the antichrist and one-world government? Let’s explore antichrist first. There are four references to the antichrist in the Bible, and they are all found in John’s letters:
“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” (1 John 2:18). John continues by explaining what he means by antichrist, “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). The antichrist(s) was already in the world of John’s day (1 John 4:3), and was not some figure who would appear two thousand years later. The antichrist was any person who did “not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 1:7).
1 John was written to encourage Christians who had been expelled from synagogues for their faith in Jesus; the Messiah. The synagogue was the heart of the community and so to be excluded was a terrible punishment. Because of this, some Christians had denied Jesus’ messiahship so they could be welcomed back by family and friends. John reminds Jesus’ followers that such people have left the church and “have gone out into the world.” By their actions and their words, they are antichristos (one who opposes Christ).
Anyone who opposes Christ is the antichrist. But these people have nothing to do with the Beast in Revelation 13 who is often, mistakenly, called the antichrist. The Beast is not a person – people rarely crawl out of the sea sporting seven heads with ten horns! The Beast is the Roman Empire, which, amongst other things, persecuted God’s people, especially during the reign of Nero. Nero Caesar’s name has a numeric value of 666. It could be said that any world system that stands opposed to, and persecutes, followers of Jesus is an antichrist system.
As for a one-world government and currency, the Bible is entirely silent. Sometimes Daniel’s prophecies, as well as some chapters in Revelation, are interpreted that way. These interpretations buy into Darby’s dispensationalism, which misinterprets Bible prophecy. In Daniel chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. In this dream, God reveals the kingdoms that will follow Babylon – Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. These same four empires are also outlined in Daniel’s vision recorded in Daniel 7.
Dispensationalists insert a time gap (dispensation) between the fourth kingdom – Rome – and the end times before the Second Coming of Jesus. They say there will be a revived Roman Empire in the last days, and the antichrist will rise up to rule it. The European Common Market (now the European Economic Community or EEC) was said to be the Beast’s kingdom’s forerunner. As mentioned before, this is not sound Biblical interpretation.
Daniel 2 tells us, “in the time of those kings [of the fourth kingdom], the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (44). During the reign of the Roman Caesars, God would set up His eternal kingdom, the kingdom of God, or, of heaven. God did this through Jesus Christ who taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is not a geographical location. It’s wherever God rules in the hearts of people. As this rule is extended, the world becomes a better place, and that’s precisely what we’ve been witnessing for two millennia. The world is better than it was, but not as good as it will be.
The Sign of the End
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Personally, I’m not looking for an antichrist, although there have been and will be many who oppose Jesus. I’m not waiting for a one-world government, a great tribulation, or a cashless society. There will continue to be wars and rumours of wars, famines, pandemics, and earthquakes. Christians, and people of other faiths, will face persecution. But the end won’t come until every ethnic group has an understandable presentation of the good news about Jesus. At that time, Jesus will return, and his people will gather to him.
“According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words“ (1 Thess. 4:15018).
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!