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Revival, Apostasy, and the Antichrist
By David A. DePra
Revival is not about signs and wonders. These are not indications of revival; indeed, they are sometimes earmarks of deception. Neither is revival about lots of people jumping on board a present movement in Christianity. Nope. For the movement may be false. Revival is exactly what the term infers: A coming alive again – to Jesus Christ.
Revival is about Jesus Christ – and not just generally. There is no revival unless individuals are being brought into a living relationship with Jesus. THAT is the bottom line. Everyone joining together and getting exciting about the latest thing they think God is doing, or even everything rallying around a new doctrine, or a new ministry, is NOT revival. People coming to Jesus in an unconditional surrender – in devotion, holiness, and dependence – THAT is revival.
You will notice that the word REVIVAL speaks of, "coming alive again." But this means two things: First, you were once alive, but did not stay alive. Something went wrong, such that you need to be REVIVED. Second, because of that, you need to repent. There would be no need for revival among God’s people unless we had left our first love and gotten interested in something else.
The fundamental earmark of any revival that is of God is REPENTANCE. The outcome of real revival is HOLINESS. In other words, revival means a return to those things we entered into at our conversion. We return to the CROSS. This is the only way to return to LIFE – through death. There is no life in anyone or anything else. Therefore, REVIVAL – coming to life again – is the result of coming to JESUS.
It only makes sense that repentance and revival go hand in hand. You would not need a revival if you never lost your initial vitality of life in Christ. Revival, by definition, means to make alive AGAIN. It is not so much new people getting saved, although it includes it, as it is Christians who have become lukewarm and backslidden repenting and coming to the Cross for forgiveness.
There is much talk today about a coming revival. But seldom is repentance and the Cross mentioned. Instead, all that seems to be mentioned is signs, wonders, and everyone deciding to pull together as a community of believers to prepare for the Second Coming.
Sounds good? Well, again, without the Cross, it isn’t good. But worse, the Bible never says that there is going to be a big revival before Jesus comes. It says there is going to be a great apostasy, accompanied by a great deception. Thus, the question must be raised: Would not the biggest deception be a false revival? Sure. People think they are following Jesus. But they are deceived.
The Bible indicates that Antichrist is not so much a person as a spirit. Not that there cannot be human representatives, mind you, but Antichrist isn’t going to be fully represented by one person – a future world leader. Antichrist has ALWAYS been around. John said so:
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time….Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:18, 22)
And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:3)
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 1:7)
Here we see that John didn’t think that the Antichrist was a literal person. It’s not that there will not someday be a person who sort of consummates everything John is talking about, but I don’t believe that PERSON will be the Antichrist. If there is such a person, he will simply be the latest and greatest representative of the spirit of Antichrist – the fundamental representative of that spirit.
But what IS Antichrist? A deceptive substitute FOR Christ – which at it’s root is against Christ, and everything He stands for, and everything He did in the way of His redemptive work. Antichrist is the alternative instead of Christ which is offered to religious people. It is a false redemption with a false Christ.
Some of the earmarks of Antichrist is that this spirit denies the identity of Jesus – saying He is not God. This is essentially what it means to deny the Son, and therefore, deny the Father. Antichrist also denies that Jesus was man – not come in the flesh. This is really a denial of the Cross – for if Jesus was not flesh and blood, then He did not bear our sin on the Cross. It was all an illusion.
Here we see the real essence of Antichrist: Antichrist is, in effect, Jesus Christ WITHOUT THE CROSS.
Now we are getting somewhere. Can we see that a presentation of Christ without the Cross is a complete distortion of EVERYTHING? Without the Cross, you have a perverted hybrid of Christianity -- one which leaves man IN SIN, in tact, without need of repentance, and with little more than a nice religion which has another Jesus (a false one) as the center piece.
Paul said, "For if he
that cometh preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you
receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel,
which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him. (2 Cor.
11:4) Certainly, "another Jesus," is one which is not,
"Christ crucified." It is one which makes us comfortable with
ourselves as we are, rather than focused on HIM. Christ without the Cross
is not only, "another Jesus," but Christ without the Cross is
ANTICHRIST. Indeed, we could not find, "a Christ," which is
more, "ANTI," in relationship to the real Christ, than one which is
presented without the Cross.
Now, don't misunderstand. I didn't say Antichrist would openly deny the Cross. No. The way in which the spirit of Antichrist usually denies the Cross is not by saying Jesus wasn't crucified. No, for that would deceive no one. What Antichrist does is deny -- by implication and subtlety -- an personal application of Christ crucified in the life of the believer. Thus, what you end up with are people who have never had any personal dealing by God through the Cross. This is the real goal, and outworking, of the Spirit of Antichrist.
Satan rarely openly denies what the Bible says. No. What He does is agree with what the Bible says, but then changes what it means. Note: To agree with what the Bible says, but to change what it means, is really nothing more than changing what it means for US. Thus, it is really to deny it altogether.
If I agree that Jesus was flesh and blood, and died on the Cross for me, that is good. But if I then deny that I must come to the Cross to be set free from sin, I have really denied that Jesus’ death on the Cross has any meaning. I may agree, in words, with the fact of His death, but I have DENIED it as having personal application. Thus, I have denied it PERIOD. I may agree, in words, that Jesus came in the flesh, but I am denying that this has anything to do with MY flesh – with my life. This is the spirit of Antichrist. It found a place in the church right at the beginning and has one today.
As stated, Jesus Christ without the Cross -- either directly or indirectly -- is the spirit of Antichrist. Satan knows that if you can get this teaching into the church, it undermines everything. Thus, he started trying to get it in right from the beginning of the church.
Get that. There was pagan Gnosticism. But this isn't what John wrote against. John wrote against, "Christian Gnosticism." Gnosticism had gotten into the church and was emerging with the name of Jesus Chris pasted on it.
This, "Christian Gnosticism," which is the specific heresy against which John was writing, is alive and well today. Gnosticism taught that all that is of the material world, including flesh and blood, was evil. Thus, God would never have anything to do with flesh and blood, or the material world, much less become a flesh and blood man. This led to the logical conclusion that Jesus did not really come in the flesh – but His body was an illusion. So that means He didn’t really die – His body did not bear our sin. And He did not really rise bodily from the dead.
Not only did Gnosticism teach this regarding Jesus, but it taught the same error regarding believers – for if Jesus considered the material world so evil that he could not become a man, then He certainly would never come and make His home in US. Thus, in a stroke, Gnosticism introduced into Christianity creates a Christianity which is not CHRIST IN US, but is merely a religion about Christ. It denies Jesus bore our sins on the Cross -- and therefore we, personally, have no benefits, or responsibility, with regards to His finished victory on the Cross.
But -- not to worry. Gnostic teaching has got us covered. Any brand of Gnosticism will carry the notion that we don't really NEED the benefits of Christ's finished victory. Neither do we have any responsibility to come to the Cross in repentance. For Gnostic teaching says that because, "God loves us all," that He accepts us just as we are -- with the intention of leaving us that way. There is no need to come to the Cross. We are just fine, "in Adam."
"Gnostic Christians," also believed that the way to salvation -- their version of it -- was through knowledge and learning. The word, "gnosis," means, "knowledge." Sure. What else is left but merely intellectual knowledge of Christ once you deny the necessary of the Cross as the gateway to salvation?
So it is today. There are many Christians who unwittingly think that salvation is a matter of learning doctrines about Jesus, and obtaining degrees in theology. There are Christians who are absolutely deceived by their own arrogance and learning. (And most of it is error.) Jesus said, "If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross." But they think He said, "If any man would be my disciple, let him take up his degree and brain power."
But you see, the moment I say something like that, people get angry and resentful. They think I am putting down education. I'm not. I'm putting down the exaltation of man's intellect OVER the Cross of Jesus Christ. If people cannot see the difference, they ought to worry. They may already be deceived.
The point is this: Any teaching which neglects, waters down, omits, or rejects, the necessity of the Cross of Jesus Christ in the life of the believer is Gnosticism. It is the spirit of Antichrist. Any form of Christianity which turns our death and resurrection in Christ into nothing more than a list of doctrines to KNOW, is Gnosticism. It is also the spirit of Antichrist. Why? Because in that case our Christianity is only, "knowledge" --"gnosis!"
Christianity does include knowing many things -- but all Truth and knowledge are bound up in the Person of Jesus Christ. HE IS THE TRUTH! But we cannot know Him at all if we don't know Him as CHRIST CRUCIFIED. And we know Him as CHRIST CRUCIFIED by coming to the Cross through repentance, and BEING CRUCIFIED WITH HIM!
I say it again: Deny this Truth and you deny Christ Himself. That is the spirit of ANTICHRIST. Gnosticism was the spirit of Antichrist in the first century, and although not called by the term, is today in the church in other forms.
The Real Antichrist
As stated, Antichrist is, "Christ," without the Cross. Gnosticism represented the spirit of Antichrist, for it created a Christ who did not really die on the Cross, and thus, created a hybrid Christianity, wherein there was no necessity of a personal experience of the Cross.
Note that, "Christianity without the Cross," leaves man in tact – in Adam. But he is supposedly saved -- through knowledge and learning. Thus, he has a nice, respectable religion that talks about Christ. But note: Adam cannot have real Christianity, which is Christ IN US. That is possible only if Adam comes to the Cross and DIES.
The Bible teaches that the only way OUT of Adam is through the Cross, and this will result in a new birth INTO Christ. Antichrist offers new birth – a false one – INTO Christ, without having to come to the Cross to be delivered out of Adam.
We see this happening today more than ever. We are offered Jesus – but not THROUGH the Cross. We are told that Jesus is our blessing machine, and someone who will solve our problems. More and more we are told that Jesus came to affirm us just as we are – even if we are homosexual, living in adultery, or self-righteous. It’s all ok, because God loves us. There is no need to REPENT OF SIN. Such a suggestion is a negative message, according to some.
Remember that Antichrist is represented by a number: 666. Six is the number of man – and 666 is man in his completion -- in his complete rebellion against God. Can we see that this is corporate Adam? It is man -- complete in himself -- hardened in his denial of the Cross. The spirit of Antichrist.
All who are in Christ are the Body of Christ, and all who are in Adam, we might say are, "the body of Adam." Those who are in Adam, and see the Truth of the Cross, and reject it, are becoming hardened in Adam -- and thus, complete in him. This condition is represented by the number 666. They have given themselves over to the spirit of Antichrist.
The Man of Sin
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. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholds that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now restrains will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that 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 lie: (2 Thes. 2:1-11)
People are looking for a human Antichrist. But it took God Himself to be Christ, so why do we think a mere human could be Antichrist? Nonsense. I’m not saying that there will not be human representatives of the spirit of Antichrist. There will be, and there HAVE BEEN. But I am simply saying that Antichrist is not one person. Antichrist is corporate ADAM in his complete rebellion against God – as inspired and legitimized by Satan. This is 666.
There are only two classification of human beings on this planet. There are all of those who are in Adam, and there are those who are in Christ. In Adam all die, but in Christ all are made alive. (I Cor. 15:22) Those in Christ are the Body of Christ. As mentioned, all those in Adam are the Body of Adam – or to use a more familiar phrase – they are the corporate," man of sin," mentioned by Paul in the above passage.
This, "man of sin," has always been around, of course. But as the Truth of the gospel spread, corporately he hardened himself against Christ -- which is what ANTI Christ means, isn't it? This, "man of sin," took shape, and came into a unity; into a place where he could, "sit in the temple of god, proclaiming himself to be god." What a picture of 666 -- man in complete rebellion against God, ruling over himself!
In other words, since the beginning, there has been a corporate, "man of sin," arising from the sea – from the mass of humanity. There have always been people who have hardened themselves against God. But in the last days, HE -- this corporate man of sin -- is coming to maturity – gaining a clear identity. His rebellion against God is being finely tuned, and made complete. Rebellion against God is being legitimized and even lauded. The consummation of this path of rebellion will finally be seen when he sits in what Paul calls, "the temple of god, showing himself to be god."
What is this temple of God? Well, it could be said that the temple of God is potentially anyone's heart. This would show the condition of people who reject Christ -- they proclaim self-rule and self-ownership in their hearts. But as mentioned, the individuals who do this down through the centuries are said to form together a corporate, "man of sin." And in these last days of APOSTASY -- not revival -- this, "man of sin," is going to corporately sit in the, "temple of god" -- which is nothing other than the church. (see I Cor. 3:16)
Paul says in the above passage that the Second Coming will not take place until there first be a great falling away. Apostasy is never a word which applies to unbelievers. Unbelievers cannot fall away. They have no where from which to fall. Believers fall away. Thus, Paul is saying that this, "man of sin," this, "corporate Antichrist," will take shape and come to maturity IN THE CHURCH. People in the church will accept a Jesus without the Cross. They will buy into a Christianity which affirms them in Adam, indeed, hardens them in Adam. This is exactly what is going on, more and more, today.
So we see that instead of the Body of Christ, we have the Body of Antichrist. Instead of people in Christ through death and resurrection, we have people who are still in Adam, but with lots of religion about Christ. Christianity without the Cross is not merely Gnosticism. It is the spirit of Antichrist.
False revival will celebrate Adam (666) – and call him Christ. That is Antichrist – and a deception. It is a falling away from Christ to Adam, but under the guise of being a revival. The missing element which is the pivot point is THE CROSS.
Isn’t this terribly ironic? But how could a falling away from Christ will look like a revival?
Easy. The Cross is a negative thing to natural man. Thus, once you leave out the Cross, people can be happy with themselves. Just offer them substitutes to keep them happy in Adam. Give them exactly what natural man wants! Tell them God affirms them -- no matter what sin they are caught in. This will SEEM like new life. It will seem good to not have to repent. It will seem like REVIVAL.
But how can we know the Truth about these things? What is our protection against being deceived? Paul told us directly, and we have seen John warned us:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:6-9)
You will note that Paul did not say that if someone does signs and wonders, or claims new revelation from God, that THEN they can preach another gospel – for God is nevertheless with them, or that they have, "the anointing." No. Indeed, Paul is saying that the gospel being preached or taught is THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS. If someone is preaching a false message they are NOT of God. He includes even HIMSELF to be under this mandate.
Today if a minister goes around supposedly doing miracles, we dub him, "an anointed one," and then dismiss most everything he teaches, because obvious he could not do the miracles if God were not with him. Well, first of all, are they really miracles? Most of the time, they are not. But it really doesn’t matter. The question is whether they are teaching the Truth – preaching the gospel Paul preached. We are to ignore the miracles and first look at that. The teaching will define the miracles, not the other way around – for the Bible reveals that even false prophets can work REAL miracles.
Here's the question: If a minister is continuously preaching error, and profiting from it, would God bless his ministry with signs and wonders -- affirming him? Obviously NOT. Thus, we must ask where the signs and wonders are coming from in the ministry of those teaching error? Clearly, either they are not really supernatural in nature, or they are coming from a source too terrible to contemplate.
What we teach about Christ is what defines us -- what we teach about Him, not only in word, but through demonstration and life. What gospel did Paul preach?
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:17-18)
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Cor. 1:22-23)
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:1-2)
The implication here is not that Paul talked about nothing except the Cross. No, for he writes about plenty of other Truths in his epistles. The implication is that the Truth of the Cross was at the foundation of the gospel. Without it, nothing was right. With it, you could build upon a solid basis.
False revival will not preach the Cross as a personal necessity. But real revival, which is by the move of the Holy Spirit, will always center upon it. That is because the Cross is the only way to LIFE. It is the only way for believers and unbelievers alike to come alive – be revived -- in Jesus Christ.
Today people are more and more looking at signs, wonders, and miracles – most of them fake. We have forgotten what the Bible says about false prophets. A false prophet is one who teaches false things. But he is not necessarily one who does false miracles. Read Deut. 13. There God states plainly that a false prophet might say true things. But in the end, he will use the true things he says to lead people away from God. To whom you are led is the key.
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proves you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. (Deut. 13:1-4)
And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceives them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. (Rev 13:13-14)
So ask: Are we to go by signs and wonders as an indication that God is in something? Or are we to listen to what the person is saying about Jesus Christ – and how His redemption applies to us personally? Clearly, the latter. But most people ignore this mandate from God.
Often, people operate from the premise that if they are in God’s present move of the Spirit, or if they are in what is supposed to be revival, that anything which happens must be part of that move. Almost as if nothing could possibly get in that is not of God. But this is not sound, Biblical reasoning – and would not be Biblical reasoning even if people were in a real move of God’s Spirit. Indeed, it is dangerous thinking. John said, "Test the spirits to see whether they are of God." (I Jn. 4:1) The fact that we need to test the spirits proves that God is warning us that it is quite possible that evil spirits could try to deceive people even in churches. Why the need to test them if ONLY what is of God is going to be permitted in churches by God? You wouldn’t need to test them. Yet there is almost NO testing, or questioning, going on in many places today.
How do we test the spirits? Surely discernment and prayer. But without a question, by going to the Word of God. God is simply not going to do things in His churches which are not in the Bible. It isn’t because He is unable do whatever He wants. But He won’t do anything outside of scripture because He has promised not to do anything outside of scripture. The Holy Spirit will always work in a way that can be verified by the Bible.
But today, this is ignored. In some places, it is openly taught that God WILL do things which are not in the Bible, and will bring new revelation. Today it is said that there is going to be a great revival – indeed, that it has already started. But again, what is revival? Revival is not excitement about us being God’s special people, about manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and is not about money. Revival is about the Person of Jesus Christ. It is repentance, the Cross, and a RETURN to Christ.
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