Vol. X — No. 45 November 9, 1969
2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
Let not 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 opposeth and exalteth himself above (against) all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing 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 withholdeth (restrains or hinders) that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (restrains or hinders) 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 hi…, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all the 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: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
In Christ Jesus, who would have our faith in Him able to recognize the Great Antichrist, Fellow Redeemed:
During this past week Lutheran students attending the University of South Carolina received an invitation to a joint Reformation Service that is being held this evening at the Christian Ecumenical Center, that is, the Wesley Foundation. This Reformation service is being sponsored jointly by Catholics and Lutherans. The service is being called “A Celebration of Our Oneness in Christ.”
Think on this! Christ and Antichrist are to be joined in a celebration of ONELESS! How can this be? Is this service to be a belated confession that the Reformation was all wrong, that every Lutheran is schismatic—guilty of recklessly and needlessly destroying the unity of Christendom? Or has the Catholic Church changed? Has the Pope confessed his sin—the sin of blasphemously cursing the very heart of the Gospel? There is no evidence of that, for at this very moment he is struggling to maintain his absolute supremacy in the church. Have Lutherans changed? Alack and alas—most of them have! The greatest need in the Lutheran Church today is the need for reformation in head and members. Most Lutherans today have departed so far from the glorious truth of the Gospel that God by grace alone, for Christ’s sake alone, and by faith alone forgives sin that they can no longer recognize the Pope as the Great Antichrist prophesied in Scripture.
But what am I talking about when I speak to you this morning of the Scriptural doctrine of the Great Antichrist? Most of you confessed last Sunday in Sunday School that you had never heard this doctrine preached or taught. What is it all about? St. John wrote in his first epistle (2:18): “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,” Notice that John distinguishes one antichrist from the many antichrists. There are many antichrists, opponents of Christ, false prophets loose in the world, plying their trade of polluting and corrupting the living Word of God. But there is one antichrist in a class by himself, the Very Antichrist, the Great Antichrist. John said that he shall come; he has come. Paul described his history and detailed his fingerprints in the verses of our text, which is the sedes doctrinae—the chief passage that speaks on the Great Antichrist in the New Testament. The Lutheran Church since 1537 has officially confessed as an article of faith, not just as a mere historical judgment, that—
St. Paul outlines the successive stages of this historic development of the Great Antichrist. First—
The Great Antichrist is called “that man of sin.” In him the initial rebellion of our first parents came to a climax. What was the nature of that rebellion? It was a refusal to trust the goodness and kindness and love of God. It was a determination to go it alone, to carve out one’s own destiny, to trust oneself for one’s own future instead of trusting the Lord. This basic self-trust, which is transferred to the question of man’s salvation, is theologically called the “opiniolegis,” the opinion or prejudice of the law. It is precisely this that characterizes and governs man’s intellectual, emotional, and volitional existence. Man just naturally thinks in terms of works and rewards, deed and merits. This is the common denominator of all the religions that man has developed in his history— the conviction that man must and can somehow, in some way, by some deeds that society or the church or some organization prescribes earn and merit his own salvation.
This world-wide, ecumenical delusion that man can save himself or contribute to his own salvation by his own efforts has reached a climax in the institution of the papacy—that “man of sin…the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above (or against) all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God,” The Great Antichrist is not to be found outside the church in the political arena. Down through the ages people have claimed that the Roman Emperor Nero, then Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin were the Great Antichrist. Some are awaiting a more ghastly future development of evil. Such thinking goes in the wrong direction, for the Great Antichrist takes up his seat in the temple of God—in the Christian Church, in the very hearts of believers. This is precisely what happened in 1302 when the Pope proclaimed as an article of faith for all Christendom that submission to the Pope is necessary for salvation.
This happened twelve hundred years after the time of St. Paul. But he said that already in his time the mystery of iniquity was at work. The falling away was beginning. Think of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He marveled that his beloved Galatians had so soon turned their backs upon the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ for “another gospel,” which wasn’t gospel at all—that law works are necessary for salvation. That deadly virus of man’s works, human merit as necessary for salvation, was at work already in Paul’s day. By divine revelation Paul foresaw the time when this secret under-cover working would break out into the open. He wrote—
When you read this prophecy, you realize that Paul considered this whole matter to be among the ABC’s of Christianity. He had spent but a short time among the Thessalonians, but he wrote to them: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” The whole issue of the Antichrist deals with the heart of the Gospel. And so Paul wrote, “And ye know what withholdeth (restrains) that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: Only he who now letteth (restrains or hinders) will let, until he be taken out of the way.” There was a restraining force at work in Paul’s day. There was someone who was holding back the development of the mystery of iniquity, preventing the Antichrist from coming out in the open. Paul tells the Thessalonians that they know what this restraining force is. Do we?
What can prevent Lutheran students at the university from falling for this “historic service” in which the slaves of Antichrist are to join with confessors of Christ to express oneness? The restraining force is the love of the truth and the one who “withholds,” “he who now letteth,” the one who is restraining this diabolic force is the individual Christian and the groups of Christians who fearlessly and faithfully bear witness to the truth. When the early Christians began to lose their first love for the truth, then error began to creep in. When Christians began to grow weary of the Gospel, began to take the grace of God for granted, then the natural virus of work-righteousness began to assert itself. Then the dam was broken and the floodgates torn open for the Antichrist to assert himself openly. All roads of error lead back to Rome. Why is it that Lutherans in the year 1969 can sponsor joint Reformation services with the dupes and slaves of the Antichrist? It is because the love of the truth has died out in most Lutheran churches and in the hearts of most people who call themselves Lutherans. It is because most Lutherans today no longer believe that salvation is alone by God’s grace for Christ sake to be received and made one’s own by faith alone. The Lutheran churches have condoned the membership of their people in anti-Christian organizations which proclaim the common denominator of all churches to be the hell-inspired doctrine of man’s ability and responsibility to contribute to his own salvation. The Lutheran churches have also fraternized with and practiced inter-communion with the Reformed who preach Christ and in the same breath establish all manner of rules and works as necessary for salvation. This is the apostasy, the falling away within the Lutheran churches of today. Neither clergy nor lay people know, believe, accept, and are faithful to Jesus Christ. For that reason their faith does not recoil in holy horror before the Great Antichrist.
During the Middle Ages the Papacy brazenly asserted itself on the stage of world history, but the Lord of the Church was not unmindful of His little flock. Paul’s prophecy speaks of that Wicked One—
A mortal blow was struck at the Papacy some four and a half centuries ago when the Lord of the Church raised up Martin Luther to uncover and restore the truths of the Gospel once again. The development of the Roman Catholic Church was indeed “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.” History has revealed the forgeries on which the papal claims for secular power were based. And don’t for a moment forget that the Catholic Church has never denied its claim that it rightfully should exert authority over the secular governments of the world. History has also exposed the lying wonders—the miracles about the saints, the visions of Mary by which the gullible are deceived and want to be deceived.
Notice that the prophecy states that the Lord shall consume the Great Antichrist with the spirit of His mouth—that is, not by external force or political pressure, but by the power of His Word. This is the weapon that Luther used—the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
This is the very weapon that the Lutheran churches have and are throwing away in our day. The love of the truth is dying out. This accounts for the fact that so many Lutherans today are crawling on their knees back to the slavery and tyranny of Rome. The rise of the Antichrist and his revival in our day is a judgment of God upon those who tire of the truth. St. Paul wrote that the Antichrist would come “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: That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” When people no longer want the Truth, the Lord sends them a lie as a judgment against them. And they swallow that lie—hook, line, sinker, pole, and all. This is what is again happening in the Lutheran churches and other Protestant churches today. Let us be warned!
The Lord delivered a fatal blow to the Antichrist at the time of the Reformation. He has recovered somewhat. What lies ahead for him? Paul wrote of the Antichrist:
The Papacy with its worldly power, its worldwide organization, its influence shall continue “after the working of Satan” until the end of time. Think of how the movies and television glorify the activities of the Antichrist—idealizing and romanticising the careers and activities of the nuns and priests. Think of the power of the Catholic Church in American politics. The Antichrist continues and shall continue his word of deceiving the hearts of men, women, and children—yielding and being broadminded on so many things, but always insisting that the Pope is by divine right the head of Christendom and that submission to the Pope and obedience to the laws of the Roman Catholic Church are necessary for salvation.
What is our defense against the Great Antichrist? Not rioting, not political action, not the use of force, but rather standing fast and clinging to the everlasting Word of Truth. Faith in Christ as the one and only Giver of salvation is the greatest armament that one can have against the Antichrist. Bowing to the Lord only in His Word is defense against the demands and the tyranny of the Pope. May the Lord grant us grace to grow in grace, in knowledge, in understanding for the protection of our souls and for the sake of our eternal salvation. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.