The Antichrist - Part 2
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Beloved, we are the true “temple of God” (1st Cor. 3:16), and if we are “God in the temple of God,” are we not usurping the Lord’s rightful position in our heart? Ah, but this is exactly what the Self seeks to do in all things, even in religious matters of belief and worship as indicated by what Paul wrote in 2nd Thessalonians. And why does the Self seek to do this? Because of its excessive pride, which is formed and established in us as we mature.
Putting it simply, the Self is nothing more than an amalgamation of concepts within our hearts and minds which are instilled in us as children, adolescents, and beyond. Think about it! As children, we are subject to all manner of information conveyed to us via our family, friends, and society at large. As we mature, we are encouraged to embrace a great number of things which eventually become the identity we settle on. I am white, black, Hispanic, Asian. I am Republican, Democrat, Independent. I am a citizen of the greatest country in the world. I am a man, woman, gay, transgender, Christian, Atheist, Catholic, Protestant. I belong to this group, that group, many groups, all of which support my identity or Self, so I am comfortable in my skin and content to know that my Self is, may I say it, self-satisfied! After all, so many others around me support who and what I am. Ah, but what did Paul say?
2 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)
12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
Was Paul being unreasonable, or was Paul seeking to make us see that we cannot rely on others for our identity? And if Jesus said we must “deny” the Self, then what, pray tell, does this mean? If it’s true that our Self consists of those things I mentioned, would it not be safe to say that we are to deny these things? Please consider.
Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life (soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (soul) for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
What Jesus said in these passages may well be the most important things He ever said. What did He say? “If anyone,” no exceptions, “desires to come after Me, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, and TAKE UP HIS CROSS, and follow me.” “Deny”? Yes. Take up their “cross”? Yes. Does this not clearly show an “undoing” as opposed to a “doing,” a “tearing down” as opposed to a “building up”?
The Self is our identity, what we embrace or identify with on a daily basis. It’s the belief system in our minds and hearts and how we see ourselves in our own eyes and imagine ourselves in the eyes of others (reputation). Perhaps the Lord had this in mind when He said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life (soul), HE CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE” (Luke 14:26; ESV). “Hate”? Yes, that’s what Jesus said, and the Strong’s Concordance defines this word as, “To detest… by extension to love less.” Now, not for a moment would I expect anyone to hate their families or their own lives, but in light of what Jesus taught, are we not expected to love them less in contrast to our love for the Father and the Son? In fact, when we truly love the Father and Son first, won’t our love for others be better served? It would! And why is this? Because our love for others will not be influenced or constrained by those “labels” (concepts) which were heaped on us when we were younger!
Friends, let’s be raw and honest here. How many of these so-called innocent concepts or “labels” creep into our minds in everything we do on any particular day? How much are we influenced by the fact that we are white, black, or brown? How angered are we by those who do not identify with what we identify with? And what is the element which brings these things to the surface? Again, is it not our pride in what we believe? Though we may not wish to admit it, it is. Please consider.
Psalms 10:4 (NKJV)
4 The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.
Proverbs 13:10 (NKJV)
10 By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.
Proverbs 16:18-19 (NKJV)
18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
As these passages attest, pride is the element which brings “strife” and “destruction,” and are we not seeing this more and more every day? It’s hard to imagine just how simple this truth is, but our reality proves it every single hour of every single day. Consider war. Do we really know what is being said and done behind the closed doors of government and their justifications for any conflict? What about behind our own closed doors? How much strife is taking place at any given time in the homes and streets of our cities?
So what is “pride”? Paul tells us in Romans 12:3, admonishing us “not to think” of ourselves “more highly than” we “ought to think” (NKJV), so pride is simply what we think of the Self. No wonder Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2nd Cor. 10:3-5; NKJV). Arguments, knowledge, thought… friend, tell me, isn’t Paul addressing what’s going on “between our ears”?
So who is “antichrist”? It’s the Self sitting “as God” in the “temple of God,” a “wolf” in “sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15), a religious spirit of error along with the carnal mind that propagates the idea that what we believe sets us above others and makes us special, and it is out of this corrupted sense of superiority from which erroneous doctrines arise such as “eternal torment” and the “rapture.”
The Self can be very religious, leading us to think that we are following the right path and believing the right things while all the while simply propping up its identity with religious accoutrements. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12; NKJV).
Jesus did not leave us with any doubt. We are to deny the Self. We are to challenge every “label,” every concept, every so-called truth “between our ears” regardless of its source, and even more so “test the spirits, whether they are of God; because MANY FALSE PROPHETS have gone out into the world” (1st John 4:1; NKJV). Beloved, if the spirit and mind of what we believe does not expose and challenge the Self, it is most likely false. No wonder in regard to the “temple,” Jesus told His disciples long ago, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, NOT ONE STONE HERE WILL BE LEFT UPON ANOTHER, WHICH WILL NOT BE TORN DOWN” (Matt. 24:2; NASB95). No doubt, we are in turbulent times where the Self is being exposed in a way like never before and will, in time, be brought down by the mighty Spirit and Word of the Lord (2nd Thess. 2:3, 8).