Thursday, October 12, 2006

Who is the antichrist? Part 6 (The temple)

This posting will discuss antichrist and the current prophecy interpretation that a third Jewish temple will be built in Jerusalem someday. Will one evil world ruler someday sit in a rebuilt Jewish temple and proclaim himself to be God? Once again, we’re going to challenge a modern day speculative interpretation of Biblical prophecy. I believe that Steve Wohlberg has accurately interpreted this prophecy. It may not be popular, but I believe it to be the truth.

From “End Time Delusions”:

The Left Behind books swirl completely around the topic of antichrist. Book number nine of these fast-selling, fictitious novels is called Desecration – Antichrist Takes the Throne. Released on October 30, 2001 with an initial print run of 3 million copies, the official Left Behind website then declared, “In Desecration, antichrist Nicolae Carpathia enters the temple in Jerusalem and declares himself God, leading the world to the brink of Armageddon.” Thus the eye of the storm is Jerusalem and the apex of the drama centers on Nicolae’s abominable entrance into a rebuilt Jewish temple.

The cornerstone Bible passage underlying the theology of Desecration and of countless other prophecy books which teach similar things is 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Describing the antichrist, Paul wrote: “[he] opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (vs. 4). Thus antichrist will sit “in the temple of God”. Desecration applies this to someone like Nicolae Carpathia who will enter a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem after the rapture. The implication of this common interpretation is that Paul’s antichrist-in-the-temple prediction has nothing to do with Christians today, nor has it had any real relevance to the Church for almost 2,000 years. Is this popular interpretation really what Paul had in mind? Let’s take a closer look.

It’s time for another Greek lesson. The original Greek word Paul used in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 for “temple” is naos. Here’s a safe principle of interpretation: Let’s allow Paul to interpret Paul. Did Paul use this same word anywhere else in his writings? Yes. In his letter to the early Corinthians, Paul wrote to “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Then he inquired, “Do you not know that you are the temple [naos] of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Here Paul clearly applied the word naos to the Christian Church – not a physical temple in Jerusalem. He did the same thing in his letter to the Ephesians. Writing to “the saints who are in Ephesus,” Paul said they were all growing “into a holy temple [naos] in the Lord” (Ephesians 1:1, 2:21). In fact, in all of his writings, every time Paul used the word naos, he always applied it to the Christian Church and never to a rebuilt Israeli temple!

Consider this: When Jesus Christ died on Calvary, His death put an end to all bloody animal sacrifices. When He cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), that was it. From God’s perspective, all earthly sacrifices were over because His Son was the final Sacrifice (see Hebrews 10:12). Think about it for a moment. If the Jewish people ever do rebuild a temple in Jerusalem and restart bloody sacrifices, this would be a complete denial of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Could such a rebuilt Jewish temple ever properly be called by Paul, “the temple of God”? Not in a million years! Such a temple would not be God’s temple, for it would be an open denial of His Son. The correct interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:4, based on Paul’s own use of naos, is that “the temple of God” is the Church. The lesson for prophecy students is this: antichrist, subtle and deceptive, will slither into Christianity.

Dr. Henry Grattan Guiness, (1835-1910) has often been called “England’s Greatest Teacher of Prophecy”. Founder of the East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions, Dr. Guiness was considered to be one of the three greatest preachers of his day, right along with Dwight L. Moody and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. A deep student of prophecy, and especially of the antichrist topic, he commented over 100 years ago:

"Observe the place occupied by the man of sin – the “temple” or house of God. This is not, and cannot be, any Jewish temple. Paul, who uses this expression in his prophetic portrait……employs it both in Corinthians and Ephesians with reference to the Christian Church… Paul, emphatically, the temple of God was the Church of Christ. This is the temple in which his prophetic eye saw the man of sin seated. It is no question of his bodily location in any structure of wood and stone, but of something far higher. The temple of God is that “spiritual house” in which He dwells. It is built up of “living stones” of true believers. It is here that the man of sin was to usurp the place of God. This is the “mystery”, the dread danger, the deadly evil, predicted by the Apostle."

Edward Bishop Elliott’s (1793-1875) classic, four-volume Horae Apocalypticae – A Commentary on the Apocalypse, was considered by many to be “the standard work on the subject” of prophetic interpretation. In his comments on 2 Thessalonians 2:4, E.B. Elliott agreed with Guiness:

"The impiety and pride of this Man of Sin were thus predicted; that he would be pre-eminently an opposer to Christ and his Church; that he would exalt himself above all that was called God, or an object of worship, i.e. above the gods many and lords many in the gentile heaven and earth, including the potentates and kings of this world; that he would sit in God’s temple (a phrase here meaning the Church) and actually there exhibit himself as God."

Thus Guiness and Elliott both understood Paul’s use of naos to mean the professed Church of Jesus Christ.

Paul said antichrist will “sit” in God’s temple. This doesn’t mean he will literally sit down on a four-legged chair. After Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven, He “sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Has He been sitting down for almost 2,000 years? No. When our Lord returns, He will come “sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mathew 26:64). Will He be sitting on a fast-moving heavenly chair? No again. To “sit” can mean to assume a position of authority. When Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, this means He was officially seated in Office as King of kings and Lord of lords, the Supreme Mediator on behalf of the human family. He now has all authority in Heaven and on earth (see Mathew 28:18).

Then what is the meaning of the antichrist sitting in the temple of God? A little reflection should make this clear. The shocking reality is that prophecy predicts that the antichrist will usurp the legitimate authority of Jesus Christ by assuming an unauthorized position of power inside the Christian Church. And thus, contrary to the New York Times bestselling book Desecration and countless other similar works, Paul’s prediction about an evil antichrist entering the temple of God has great relevance for Christians today.

Has the “spirit of antichrist” slithered into Christianity today? Is it relevant to Christians today? The answer is yes and yes. As I’ve mentioned before, many of us believe that by attending church for an hour on Sunday, we are leading Christian lives. We learn about God and Jesus Christ, but we don’t know the Father or the Son and therefore, are not following the Lord’s will for us. As a result, many of us today are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). We have become the Church in Laodicea that Jesus addresses in Revelation 3:14-22. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ wrote this letter for us, today….our generation. How can we overcome this “blindness”? Jesus gives us the answer –“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:18). He is telling us to repent, be refined by God and become a warrior for God, not an enemy. Become rich in God’s Spirit and Power and be able to see with a spiritual eye – which will allow you to see and overcome the enemy’s schemes. How did I overcome our enemy and give myself to God and His plan for me? A simple prayer that changed my life forever:

“Father, I no longer want this world or the things in it. I no longer want to go my own, selfish way. I want your will for my life….not my will, but yours. I believe with all of my heart that You sent your Son to die and be resurrected for me so that I may live in eternity with You. I want to be changed forever and follow You wherever you lead me, regardless of what it costs me in this life. Amen.”

I prayed this one day in June of last year not really knowing what would happen – but knowing that I would follow Him wherever He led me. It wasn’t until later in the year that I listened to a Pastor say that before you pray a prayer of obedience, you had better be prepared for life-changing events. God does not take this not make a vow to God and then decide you'd rather not. He will search your heart, and finding a heart full of love for Him and true obedience to Him – someone who is seeking Him with a humble heart – He will baptize you in His Holy Spirit and make you into the person He created you to be. You will become a disciple of Jesus Christ and follow Him wherever He leads you. After my life began changing immediately and in very significant ways after this prayer (I was still immature), I began to pray “Why is all of this happening to me?”. I was a little confused at the time about why God was changing my life so quickly and drastically. My wife came home a few days later with a cross to hang on our wall that was inscribed with Jeremiah 29:11-13. “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” If you want to find God, you must seek Him (in prayer) with all your heart. This is mentioned in other verses in the Bible. Do you want to know God? Let Him know you love Him and you’re ready to give up everything in this life to find Him. He will reveal Himself to you and reveal His purpose for your life. You will experience joy you never thought possible and find true faith.

The “spirit of antichrist” has slowly and methodically slithered into governments of the world and into Christianity itself. These antichrists are bringing about the “beasts” mentioned in Revelation according to the works of our enemy….a political beast and a religious beast. It’s going to happen in our lifetime. In fact, I believe the “beasts” are going to gain power very soon. With spiritual eyes you can see them forming right in front of us. There are many people who believe they are spiritual, but they are as blind as those who believe nothing at all. We’re all about to get a wake-up call.

In the next few posts, we’ll begin discussing who the “beasts” are. Prepare yourself mentally and spiritually for the truth. They have been right in front of you your entire life.

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