We have been looking at the spirit of antichrist, and we want to look further at his philosophy and purpose.
Daniel 7:25 says, concerning the antichrist, that he "shall intend [in other words, he will do this deliberately, on purpose, intentionally] to change times and law."
In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, he is called "the man of sin." In verse 7, he is called "the mystery of lawlessness," and in verse 8, he is called "The lawless one." One more text about the antichrist says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits.…" 1 John 4:1. One of the great tragedies, one of the great disasters of our time is that almost the whole Christian world is in violation of this verse.
Apparitions and Wonders
When there is an apparition, when there is a spiritual happening, when there is a wonder, when there is a miracle, people gawk at it and say, Is that not wonderful? But what does the Bible say? The Bible says, do not believe every spirit. It says to test the spirits. If you are going to make it through the times just ahead, every spirit, every miracle, every teaching, every wonder, every sign must be tested by the Word of God.
"Test the spirits." Obviously all the spirits are not good, because the Bible says to test them "whether they are of God" or not. "…because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them." Verses 1–5.
Now, verse 3 is explicit and exact. It says, "every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God." That is an unequivocal, general, absolute statement. Furthermore, he says, "This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world."
In 1 John 2:18, 19 the apostle John makes it clear that there are many antichrists. He also makes it clear that these many antichrists are people who came out of the bosom of the Christian church. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." Verse 19.
Even though he acknowledges that there are many antichrists, he also acknowledges that there is one power that he calls "the antichrist." He says, "You have heard that the Antichrist is coming." Verse 18 (NKJV.)
The spirit of the antichrist is the spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. (See 1 John 4:3.) This has to do with the philosophy and the purpose of antichrist. What is it all about? The question is, of course, what does it mean to say that Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh, or to not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh?
The Word "Flesh"
There has been much controversy over this text for many, many centuries. The reason that it is difficult for people to understand is because the word, flesh, is a technical term in the New Testament. In every branch of knowledge, we have technical terms. Whether you are studying medicine, aviation, electricity, chemistry, every branch of knowledge has certain technical terms to explain certain things that you are studying. The same is true in religion. The Christian religion has some technical terms, and to understand the Bible, you must understand what these technical terms mean. When the apostles talk about the flesh, they have something very specific in mind. Let us examine a few texts and see if we can figure out what this technical term means.
The Basis for All Sin
The word flesh, comes from the Greek word sarx. In the Latin equivalent, it is carnal and the English equivalent is flesh. What does this technical term mean in the New Testament? We will let the apostle John answer that. "For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world." 1 John 2:16. John says there are only three things in the world, and one of those things is the lust of the flesh.
So obviously, flesh is a technical term. It is one of only three things that even exist in this world. Now let us see what the apostle Paul says about it. He uses this term probably more than any other Bible writer does. "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish." Galatians 5:16, 17.
Paul says there is a fight going on in your mind, and that fight is between the flesh and between the spirit. Because of that battle, you cannot just do what comes naturally. "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident." Verses 18, 19.
If the lust of the flesh is expressed in works, what will happen and what are the works?
Paul lists about 17 things that tell what the works of the flesh are: "The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Ibid.
Paul lists all these things and then he adds, and all the other things like that. Those are the works of the flesh. People who live and manifest the works of the flesh are not going to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Do you now understand what the apostles mean when they talk about the flesh?
In our modern, English speech, the modern equivalent expression to "the flesh" and all these things that he listed here, would be sin! Carnal equals flesh, self. This is our fallen, sinful human nature. Ellen White says that is what we have inside. (See Education, 29.) This is important for young people to understand. She says that we have within us "a bent to evil" that we cannot resist if we do not have help. Is that true?
The Deceitful Heart
Have you ever heard a young person say, Well, I do not want to be a Christian, but I am going to be a good person. Oh, no, you are not! You may be a good person outwardly, but your heart will not be pure and holy without the power of Christ within you. It will not happen.
The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked and who can know it? (See Jeremiah 17:9.) In other words, nobody can know it. That is the flesh is—your sinful, fallen, human nature. The apostle Paul talks about this extensively in Romans 8:1–14. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.…For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded [that is fleshly minded] is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind [that is the fleshly mind, the unconverted mind] is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. [Notice, it is impossible.] So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
Fallen Human Nature
When we are converted, we receive the Holy Spirit. Then a warfare takes place in the heart and the mind, the warfare between the Spirit and the flesh. Paul says you will live, if according to the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, the sinful, carnal, fallen human nature; that bent to sin that you cannot resist on your own without divine help. That is why Jesus came, to give you that help.
Notice in verse 3, that God sent "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," and He condemned sin in the flesh." So when the New Testament talks about the flesh, it is talking about our fallen, human nature. Does that make sense? We see that repeatedly—in Galatians 5, Romans 8, and many other places in the New Testament.
I want you to see something very interesting in 1 John 4:3. It says, "every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist." This has to do with the basic philosophy and the purpose of the antichrist.
Again, the word flesh is talking about our fallen human nature. So let us look at that text again, replacing the word flesh, with the words our fallen human nature. "Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the fallen human nature is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist."
A Religion of Human Nature
The antichrist power does not acknowledge that Jesus came in fallen sinful nature. In fact, that is one of the foundational points of their theology, and anyone who has studied and understands the Roman Catholic faith will confess that.
Ellen White says that the Roman Catholic religion is the religion of human nature. (See Signs of the Times, February 19, 1894.) It is a very logical religion, and it has tremendous appeal to human nature. Here is why. If Jesus did not come to this world in the likeness of sinful flesh, if He was not tempted on every point like we are tempted, if He did not come in fallen human nature, then He was different than we are. Does that make sense? If He came in the unfallen nature of Adam in the Garden of Eden, then He is different than we are.
Now let us just think this through a minute. If Jesus is different than we are, if He did not even participate in the kind of temptations that we have, because of that difference, it would mean He was not tempted in every point like we are. But the Bible says that He was. (See Hebrews 4:14–16.) If He was not tempted in every point just like we are, if He did not have a nature like we have, He cannot understand us, so there is a gulf between Jesus Christ and us. How would you like to pray to somebody who could not understand you?
You need help. Who can help? There were some holy people who lived in the world who were just like you. We call them saints and they can speak to Jesus and talk to Him about your need. They can feel the way you feel. That is part of the reason for the development of the doctrine of the theology of the intercession of the saints. It is why people pray to saints. They know that the saints understand them, because they are alike.
They do not believe that Jesus understands, because He was different than they are. The intercession of saints is just the beginning. Christ is thereby removed far from human beings, far from the sinner. Sinners are afraid to even approach Christ. They think that they must approach somebody who is more like themselves. They would like to approach Mary. They think she would understand a little better, however, even Mary is not enough, because they believe that she was immaculate.
Becoming Like Jesus
There is another problem that comes in. If Jesus was completely different than we are, not only can He not understand us, but how could we ever be expected to become like He is, because His nature is different than ours.
A few select people will become like Him. We call them saints. What the great mass of mankind will have to do is to simply keep their sins confessed. There are hundreds of millions of sincere people who know nothing else about the Christian religion except that Jesus is different than they are. They can never become like Jesus and they can never overcome.
A Terrible Delusion
They do not understand the gospel. The gospel teaches, not only forgiveness of the guilt of sin, but also that you will overcome your sins. In fact, Scripture promises salvation only to those who overcome. (See Revelation 3:5.) No one else is promised salvation. (See John 8, 1 John 3, and Romans 8.)
But people do not know that. They believe that you can be saved in sin as long as you keep your sins confessed, so they go to confession every day, every week, and keep confessing their sins. These people do not expect to overcome their sins. They know that they are going to sin for the rest of their lives, but they think if they keep their sins confessed, then they will go to heaven.
It is a terrible, terrible delusion that has taken almost the whole Christian world captive, and I am sorry to tell you that there are Adventists today who have been taken captive by this delusion, too. They think if they just keep their sins confessed, they will go to heaven.
A Great Disappointment
Jesus addresses this theory in Matthew 7:21–23. These are Christians who believe that they are going to be saved. But they are not going to be saved, and the day of God is going to bring to them the most bitter disappointment. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’"
These people believe that they have received the Holy Spirit. They have been working miracles, speaking in different languages, prophesying in Christ’s name. These are the people who have participated in the great revival of antichrist at the end of the world, and they cannot believe that they are not saved. They say, You have to have made a mistake, Lord. But from lips that never make a mistake comes the following reply: "‘And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."’ Verse 23.
The Lie of Antichrist
What is their problem? They are breaking God’s law. They thought that they could be saved in sin; this is the lie of the antichrist. 11 Thessalonians 2:9–12 says, "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all powers, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie."
The lie is that you can be saved in sin. That is the lie of antichrist. That is the philosophy of antichrist. That is the objective of antichrist. "That they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Verse 12.
There was a time when Seventh-day Adventists did not believe the lie. Some time ago I looked over the notes of sermons that I first preached as a young minister, before we had such things as the new theology in the Adventist Church. I was surprised how clear the message was. If you wanted to be saved, you had to overcome sin. That is just the way it was. That is the way it still is, but we have been influenced by the lie, the teaching of antichrist that you can be saved in sin, just by keeping your sins confessed. We cannot be saved without overcoming sin!
A Terror to Evil-doers
Have you read about the early Christians in The Great Controversy, chapter two? It says that their doctrines were a terror to evil-doers. Is what you believe a terror to evil-doers? If it is not, then what you believe is not what the early church believed.
Seventh-day Adventists have been affected by antichrist. We have been affected by the lie. I am praying that, by the grace of God, I can help people remove the blinders from their eyes, so they can see the truth. The truth is that not one of us are going to be saved in sin. Not one! If there is any sin in our mind or in our character, that we have not overcome, we are not going through the pearly gates. It is just that simple.
People have heard the lie for so long that when they first hear that they cannot be saved in sin, they are shocked, they can hardly believe it! The lie of antichrist has gone all over the world. It has affected almost all Christian churches and even non-Christian churches, but it is still a lie. It is the lie of the antichrist power.
People say that nobody can be perfect. In other words, everybody is going to sin a little bit. Yes, almost all the people in the world are going to sin, but they are not going to heaven. The only people going to heaven are the people who quit sinning. And, oh, friend, do not believe it because I said so. Read your own Bible.
This is not an obscure Scriptural theory. Read John 8, Romans 6, Romans 8, Galatians 5, 1 John 3, the book of James, and Revelation 2, 3, 21 and 22. It is there! Scripture makes it very clear, that when Jesus comes again, He is going to have a people who are without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish. They are the only people He is going to save.
A Complete Change
Maybe someone is saying, There is always someone who is sinning. I guess I will just not be able to go to heaven then. No, you will not be able to go to heaven if you do not let the Lord work in your life so that there is a complete change. The Lord wants to save you. He has the power to save the most vile, degraded sinner. (See The Desire of Ages, 258.) Matthew 22 relates the story of a wedding for a king’s son. After the people who were first invited would not come, the king said, Go into the highways and byways and bring in all the people. That is happening right now.
When I was preaching the gospel in New Guinea in 1996, a lot of the church people did not accept it. Do you know what happened to the people who would not accept it? The Lord bypassed them and picked someone else. He picked the vile sinners, and they came and accepted the gospel. While I was there they had a baptism, and one of the persons baptized was the former leader of a drug gang. He found the gospel, or the gospel found him, he gave up his lucrative drug business and became a Seventh-day Adventist.
When we come right down to the end, there are going to be people on the inside of the city, who, in their past have been vile, degraded sinners, but they came to the Lord and said, Lord, please change me. Their biggest sin, they bring to the Lord and say, I am willing to give it up.
The Smallest Sin
We need to think as well about the other side of the coin, because most of us have probably never been the leader of a drug gang, the head of a house of prostitution, or have done some other horrible thing; but the smallest sin, that we are not willing to forsake, will keep us out of the Kingdom. The smallest sin! The sin that nobody knows about. The sin that you just enjoy. Perhaps you are a deacon, an elder, an evangelist, or some other church leader, and no one knows about this small sin. But the smallest sin that you will not forsake will keep you out of heaven, because God is going to have a people who are without spot or wrinkle.
You might be going to a Seventh-day Adventist Church and still have the lie of antichrist in your mind, because you do not realize that all sin must be given up, forsaken, and overcome. Jesus has promised to give you power to overcome. Do you believe that? Many people have told me that they could not overcome. Yes, you can! The Lord said that you can do it. Why do you not put God to the test, and say, Lord, here I am; I am going to give it everything that I have.
The Lord will not answer your prayers if you just give Him half of your heart, but if you make a total and complete surrender and bring your vile sin to Him, you will have victory!
The God that we serve is powerful! Do not ask if it is His will. Ellen White says when you are asking for victory over sin, you do not need to ask whether it is God’s will, because it is His will to deliver us immediately. (See The Desire of Ages, 266.)
If there is sin in your life that you have never overcome; if you will come to the Lord today and say, Lord, I am willing to give up that sin now, today, the Lord will give you the power to give it up, the chance to be changed today!
If we are going to go to heaven, we are going to have to get serious. Ellen White wrote that when God sees that we are really serious, He will attract the heart to Himself as a magnet. (See Our High Calling, 337.) Do you want that to happen in your life?
God wants to do that for you, but unlike the antichrist, He never uses force. God will not operate in violation or your choice. Friend, are you going to escape the lie that you can be saved in sin? The reason people like the lie is because it is so attractive. 11 Thessalonians 2:12 says there is pleasure in unrighteousness.
If you are having pleasure in unrighteousness, you are lost. Do not fool yourself. The fact that you are in a Seventh-day Adventist Church is not going to save you at all when the plagues begin to fall.
I have met people, with a sin in their life, and when I urge them, encourage them, to allow the Lord to deliver them, they say, Well, the Lord knows how I feel. Yes, the Lord does know how you feel, but you are not going to heaven with those kinds of feelings, thoughts, and actions. It is not going to happen.
God Longs to Set Us Free
The Book says that you are not going through the pearly gates with sin. There are going to be a few people who say, I believe what God says. He has promised that He can deliver me from every sin; every darling sin He can take away from me, and I am willing to cooperate.
Do not fool yourself. Do not think, Oh, I know what the Bible says, but I can still divorce my wife and marry somebody else and go to heaven. Watch out! Read the Sermon on the Mount. (See Matthew 5.) Jesus did not promise salvation to anybody in that kind of a situation. Watch out! Do not commit the sin of presumption. Do not say, I know the Bible says this, but the Lord knows I have this habit that I cannot overcome and I just have to do it. Watch out!
God is powerful, and He wants to heal you and me. I do not know what the passion is in your life, that the devil has put in your heart and in your mind, that you cannot overcome. I do not know what your heredity or your past environment has been so that you have a certain problem in your life. I do not know, but God knows all about it. And God is waiting to set us free.
If we are going to be set free at all, we are going to be set free in this life, friends, because we are not going to heaven in chains to be set free there. If you want to be set free, bring your sin to the Lord. He is just waiting for you to ask.