Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“The Antichrist”

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 12: “The Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:1-12)”

The Apostle Paul’s apocalyptic prophecy (2 Thess. 2:1-12) is an exposition of Daniel’s “little horn” and “daily” prophecy (Dan. 8:8-13). In fact, Paul helps us to understand the controversial “daily” issue.
The occasion for the Thessalonian apocalypse was a misunderstanding about the coming of the Lord created by some “unscrupulous person” [1] who had written to them under Paul’s byline creating confusion (“by letter as from us,” 2 Thess. 2:2). Although the full understanding of Daniel’s prophecies could not be known until these last days in which we live now, it is clear that the apostolic church understood that Christ’s second coming could not take place until Daniel’s prophecies of the great “falling away” came first. Jesus knew, and Paul knew, that the church needed that information (Matt. 24:15)!
Who can this power be? This Antichrist is that famous “man of sin,” that opposes the true God by exalting himself above God. The great masterstroke of Satan was to realize that the Roman Empire persecuting Christianity would not retard it. So “the son of perdition” takes up his place inside the “temple of God,” a great church that professes to follow Jesus and assumes the name of “Christian.” He claims to be God on earth.
Various efforts were made to bring reformation within the Roman Catholic Church, the most successful being known as the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The Reformers came out of darkness into a clearer understanding of the pure teachings of Jesus. They wanted to return to the pristine purity of the apostolic church which He originally established. Yet even they did not abandon all the false teachings of Rome, bringing with them such Rome-invented errors as: Sunday observance; the eternal torture of the lost; the natural immortality of the soul; the idea that a mere man can be the “Vicar of Christ,” a Pope; the union of church and state so that the religion of the majority becomes an oppressive power to deprive others of their religious liberty. This always leads to persecution. The papal Institution cannot be restored (2 Thess. 2:8).
Paul said that this evil Antichrist was beginning to work even in his day, but was kept back by some other power. When Paul was with them he had already told them “what withholdeth [the pagan Rome Empire] that he [the papacy] might be revealed in his time” (2 Thess. 2:6). “The mystery of iniquity”--the spirit of self-exaltation--that was institutionalized in the papacy “doth already work: only he [the Roman Empire] who now letteth [hinders] will let [hinder] until he [the Roman Empire] be taken out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:7). Paul is referring to the prophecy of Daniel 8 which he taught the people to understand. In those prophecies this Enemy of Christ is unmasked. The early followers of Jesus lived under the pagan Roman Empire. They prayed that that Empire might continue to exist, for they knew that when it passed away, a more dreadful power would arise that would persecute the true children of God.
How did the great Antichrist develop? The faith of Jesus was widely proclaimed in the time of the apostles and soon after. It overthrew the entrenched ideas of Roman and Greek paganism. Multitudes lost confidence in their former objects of worship and eagerly embraced the faith of Jesus. By the fourth century of our present era, even the emperor of Rome professed to be a Christian, and outlawed pagan persecution.
However, something worse soon developed. The leaders of the church began to dilute the pure teaching of Jesus by mixing into it the elements of Roman paganism. It was a gigantic process of syncretism. Thus they changed its total character, and the Medieval Church became a tyrannical power ready to persecute those who would not submit to her dictation. That persecuting power was not the true church of Jesus, even though it professed to beIt wrought havoc among the people, turning multitudes against the truth of Jesus. It gave them an entirely wrong idea of His faith.
The source of Paul’s prophecy derives from the “little horn” of Daniel 8:9 which represents Rome in its two phases (pagan and papal) until Christ’s coming “shall consume” “that Wicked” “with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). “From him [the little horn--the papacy] the continual [paganism of the Roman Empire] was taken away [taken up, lifted up] and the place of his sanctuary [headquarters in Rome] was cast down. ...” (Dan. 8:11, Amplified Bible). John the Revelator confirms this sequence: “the dragon [pagan Rome] gave him [the beast, papacy] his power, and his seat, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2).
“The daily” was the continual principle of self-exaltation in paganism. [2] This God-defying hubris was a thread which ran through the sequence of kingdoms from Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome and was lifted up by the papacy with the passing of the Roman Empire (note the word “great” in these verses, Dan. 5:30; 8:4, 8, 9, 10). Ellen White declares that the papacy incorporated and absorbed paganism into itself. [3]
While the Institution itself is “that Wicked” filled with spiritualism that can only produce “unrighteousness” which is disobedience to the law of God, the good news is that individuals within it will receive “the love of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:8-10). [4] Error is deadly, but the truth saves.
In all the 6000 years of human history Christ is the one Man who has totally believed the saving truth. He is the one and only human being who has fully experienced what it is to be “forsaken” of God (Matt. 27:46). No one else has been capable of sensing to the full what that means; it was He alone who has been “made ... to be sin for us who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). The 1888 message emphasizes that no one else has ever “tasted” lostness as fully as He did as He hung on that cross in the darkness. It was His faith that saved Him from eternal despair!
The faith that we are to exercise is therefore second-hand; we get it from Him! Rightly defined, it is a heart-appreciation of what it cost Christ to save us.
--Paul E. Penno
For Further Reading:1. E. J. Waggoner, “Pagan and Papal Rome,” The Signs of the Times, Nov. 26, 1885:http://1888mpm.org/articles/pagan-and-papal-rome
2. E. J. Waggoner, “The Spirit of Antichrist.” A series of sixteen articles published in The Signs of the Times from Nov. 24, 1887 to April 6, 1888: http://1888mpm.org/book/spirit-antichrist
Endnotes:[1] E. J. Waggoner, “The Spirit of Antichrist--No. 12,” Signs of the Times, March 9, 1888, p. 150.
[2] From 1844 until around 1900 Seventh-day Adventists were united in seeing “the daily” of Daniel 8 as paganism [the Roman Empire] “taken away” in order to set up the papacy which has been historically fulfilled. It was one of the key elements that enabled William Miller to resist the terrific pressure of his contemporaries to accept Antiochus Epiphanes as the preterist’s fulfillment of “the little horn.” See William Miller, Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ About the Year 1843 (1836) pp. 50, 51, quoted in P. Gerard Damsteegt,Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission, p. 22. See also E. J. Waggoner, “Pagan and Papal Rome,” Signs of the Times, Nov. 26, 1885.
Ellen White confirmed the pioneer’s view of “the daily” [Dan. 8:11, KJV] as paganism. “I saw in relation to the daily that the word ‘sacrifice’ was supplied by man’s wisdom and does not belong to the text and that the Lord gave the correct view of it to those who gave the judgment hour cry. When union existed before 1844 all were united on the correct view of the daily, but in the confusion since 1844 other views have been embraced and darkness and confusion have followed” (Early Writings, p. 74).
Now a more perplexing element of futurism is posed for the Restrainer found in 2 Thess. 2:6, 7. “... It’s possible that God Himself is the Restrainer described by Paul, holding the final events back until everyone has had a chance to hear the gospel.” 1 & 2 Thessalonians Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, July-Sept. 2012, (Tuesday, Sept. 18). Multiple fulfillments are proposed covering the spectrum from something bad in the past--the Roman Empire--to something good in the future--God Himself as the Restrainer. Jon Paulien, Letters to the Thessalonians (Pacific Press, 2012), pp. 141-143.
We have taken the Adventist pioneers’ “old view” of “the daily” or “restrainer,” which is the historicist position, that it was fulfilled with the Roman Empire passing on the baton of paganism to the papacy. The “new view” of “the daily” which came into Adventist prophetic interpretation at the turn of the 20th century, featured the idea that the Roman papacy took away or obscured the “daily sacrifice” of Christ’s high priestly ministry.
The logical conclusion follows that “the cleansing” or “restoration” of the heavenly sanctuary would commence at the terminus of the 2300 year prophecy (Dan. 8:14). However, the pioneer dating of the beginning of the 2300 years in 476 B.C. would be severely called into question, because the Roman papacy at the earliest could not have “taken away” “the daily sacrifice” (Dan. 8:11) until the fourth or fifth century A.D. Hence, the termination date for the 2300 years would be somewhere around the year 2700 A.D. at the earliest. It can readily be seen that this would cast in doubt the Seventh-day Adventist movement based on the prophecy of the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. It would call into question the reason for the church’s existence.
The “new view” of the daily has caused some to doubt the prophetic credentials of Ellen G. White who endorsed 1844 as the terminus of the 2300 years. Others have left the church because of doubts regarding the historical fulfillment of the sanctuary time prophecy.
[3] “Paganism, while appearing to be vanquished, became the conqueror. Her spirit controlled the church. Her doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions were incorporated into the faith and worship of the professed followers of Christ” (The Great Controversy, p. 49).
[4] John the Revelator “saw,” “Something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image, and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of gold” (15:2). John sees those who have gained the victory over the “beast” of Romanism; and “the mark of the beast” which is Sunday; and the “image” of the beast which is professed Protestantism. And “the number of his name,” which is the Roman Catholic headquarters, the heart of the papacy, the Curia. And the inspired prophecy declares that there will be some from this group who will respond positively to the “light” of that “other angel” of Revelation 18 whose message will “illuminate” the earth with “glory,” a final message of justification by faith that will startle the word and will call every honest-hearted soul now in “Babylon” to “come, out of her, My people” (18:4).
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to sabbathschooltoday@1888message.org