I am not sure about you. Recently, there were moments in my contemplation when it suddenly hits me and I realised, “it’s an increasingly maddening world today.” Perhaps it’s a good time now to talk about discerning the end times.
End times has been on my radar since 6 years back. God spoke to me using hornbills, personal experiences, His rhema word, and I have been alert to the times ever since. He then led me through a divine encounter and I ended up sharing all this at a “National Prophecy Conference”.
Since then, His confirmations have not ceased but increased. Most recently, God has embarked me on a journey to build crisis-ready communities. It is part of a new wine skin movement He is doing around the world today.
Perhaps more of that in the later Parts? In Part 1, I wish to address common misconceptions believers have about the deception of the Antichrist.
Many Christians have the impression that overcoming the deception of the Antichrist and resisting the Mark of the Beast (MOTB) is a straightforward exercise – one as simple as just choosing Jesus over the fake christ. But if scriptures are to be studied carefully beyond a theoretical lens, from a practical one instead, it is highly unlikely to be so.
My insights are from 2 Thessolonians 2, which talks about “the lawless one” (verse 8) “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God” (verse 5). Most should concur he is the Antichrist.
Note in 2 Thessalonians 2 verses 9-10, my emphases in bold:
“9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” – 2 Thess 2:9-10.
Let me break down the bold emphases into 3 parts:
- “all.. lying wonders.. among those who perish”;
- “..all unrighteous deception..”
- “love of the truth”.
1.“all.. lying wonders.. among those who perish”
First, “lying wonders”. It implies that the lies of the Antichrist are not just another lie, but are extremely deceptive, that the word “wonder” is used to describe it. There are lies that can “deceive, if possible, even the elect” – Mat 24:24, and also all nations i.e. “by your sorcery all the nations were deceived” – Rev 18:23 (note the root word of “sorcery” is “pharmakeia”).
Second, who are those who “perish”? They are those who have been deceived. Deceived by what? The word “all” in both verses 9 and 10 implies the Antichrist will be deceptive on matters all encompassing; not just on the core issue of his identity.
Just like how Balaam was not able to curse Israel directly (core mission), but was able to cause many Israelites to perish by a deceptive scheme. So the Antichrist may not be able to hide what is written about him in the Bible, but he can play deceptive games – and we must expect him to do so for this is the nature and pattern of deception. And because it has been written so plainly in the Bible that he will!
Like how the sons of Israel cannot overcome immorality to get out of Balaam’s deceptive scheme, so shall Antichrist aim to have us entangled in his web of deception.
Think about the ultimate tool up his sleeve – the mark of the beast (MOTB; Rev 13:16-18). The game the Antichrist plays here is to have us dependent on it for buying and selling i.e. our livelihood. This all encompassing economic sanction leads to the following conclusion: a Christian will 1) need to have prepared a storehouse, or 2) he must have faith in God’s supernatural provision. Otherwise, 3) he must be prepared to die of thirst or hunger. Failing these 3 points, one should expect this unprepared Christian to be lost and thrown into grave uncertainty when the MOTB arrives.
But many Christians are complacent in their mind with this theory: that when the MOTB arrives, the identity of the antichrist would be clear that the choice to reject the MOTB would be undifficult. Hence, “focus on the gospel”! Leave such Antichrist and MOTB concerns to God! This is 21st century comfort theory and (un)thinking. The book of Revelation is part of the gospel! God wrote it so we can steward the truths in it – a big part of which includes us preparing for the coming trouble and also to discern deception and the times!
Think – have you ever been cheated, betrayed, scammed? Bad people didn’t come with horns, did they? They connected personally, gained our trust. Then unsuspectingly, fraud struck!
The Antichrist will be the greatest con artist ever. He would probably be personable, persuasive, warm and charming. He isn’t going to just talk about politics but also about life, parenting, children, ethics, social responsibilities. He will be outstanding among other political options. The world is going to adore him as a saviour in a time of crisis. Negative comments on him will be “factchecked”.
Tell me again it will be easy to discern the Antichrist’s identity? Even if we could, would it be easy to warn others about him? Your family members will find you a conspiracy theorist. You will experience cognitive dissonance from the social fallout. This will tempt you to embrace the Antichrist. Afterall, who wants to be on the targeted side of mainstream media propaganda? And of persecution? Maniac Hitler fooled a nation of 95% Christians and Catholics into complicit war crimes. Do we think it will be difficult for Antichrist to deceive an undiscerning church?
In that day, shepherds will lament that they had not built discernment in their perishing sheep. These are not light-hearted discipleship matters that a shepherd can afford not to equip his flock about. How have we been doing on this, Ekklesia?
2.“all unrighteous deception among those who perish”
For in the all-encompassing, entangling world of deception that the antichrist is going to bring us, we will be led towards “all unrighteous deception”.
For there will be social pressures, discrimination, economic sanctions, loss of income, loss of livelihood, loss of freedom, loss of respect, loss of significance, rejections, betrayals, accusations, false testimonies, persecution or even martyrdom that believers may have to face to persist in God’s ways.
Think about the discriminatory issues currently surrounding vaccination. Many have lamented, “what choice do I have?” Many Christians took the vaccine against their will. Such episodes can foreshadow the MOTB. How can we overcome the most draconian measure when we could not overcome less draconian ones?
Faithfulness will come at a great cost. So great that it will actually be easier to give in and accept the MOTB. Afterall, we would have instant comfort in giving in. Then, to justify our choice, we could start to criticise the dissenters. This is already happening with the vaccination issue. It is easier to abandon our god-given roles than to anchor in truth and justice. People can justify their hypocrisy with bible verses. Remember, antichrist will be supported by false prophet/s, as the spirit of antichrist fills the church (1 John 2:18).
It is necessary to talk about the cost of faithfulness now than to pretend it will never be required of us. This will affect our eternity. Preparing for the end times is a “gospel issue”.
Consider how we have coped with the pressures, losses, insecurities, discrimination, threats, fear, loss of recognition when we are faced with the need to limit the size of our congregations should we permit the unvaccinated in our meetings. Such unrighteous deception drives us towards embracing a spirit of division, didn’t it? But God loathes the divisive spirit. It is a foreshadow of greater evils to come. However, one is forced to betray kingdom culture to self-preserve.
Could this be a precursor of greater challenges? If elect cannot set example, how can sheep overcome?
If a sheep is unequipped, he can even be deceived to think that he is but forced without a choice to accept the MOTB. He starts to contend that God will not judge him for it. If we cannot stay true to kingdom values on the issue of vaccination, we could already be conditioned towards Babylon’s values, and to eventually accept the MOTB.
MOTB is unlikely to suddenly come without warning. The lost of the critical freedom to buy and sell should be preceded by the lost of general freedoms. Think again about current conditions – we do see freedoms encroached on a global scale. Does this hint of the effects of “conquering, and to conquer” of the first seal in Rev 6:2? It need not be so. But even if not, it should be a rehearsal (to train us for that final day) of it. Rehearsals are meant to prepare us for the real event. But if we don’t heed the preparation call and give up on the rehearsal, we get conditioned to give up at the real event.
As long as we are indifferent, we are already participating in “unrighteous deception”. Like Sodom, we would have been apathetic to the injustices that are already happening (Eze 16:49). Vaccine passes are being mandated across the world. In Singapore, the unvaccinated are restricted from restaurants. Some Churches have stopped catering to their unvaccinated members. Unvaccinated people have to pay $50 or more a week to take antigen rapid tests twice in order to keep their jobs or continue attending classes. Students are separated from their social circles. All this unjustifiably, even as Dr Fauci announced the science is that “the level of virus.. of a vaccinated person.. is exactly the same as the level of virus in an unvaccinated” for the Delta variant. Discrimination and social pressures – not healthcare reasons – push people, even teens, unwillingly towards vaccination.
Worse, notable figures accentuate societal divide and hate by implying unvaccinated persons are irresponsible, irrational freeloaders, anti-vaxxers or disease carriers who should be punished for their choices.
As “salt and light”, did we justify these unrighteous happenings? Did we not bother?
Part 3.“because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
Ultimately, we do not seek out the truth of a matter because we are not lovers of truth or justice.
Some church leaders justify: “trust the medical experts, government”, therefore, support the measures!
I wish to note as a matter of fact that such a justification is mere human opinion. “Trust for medical experts, government” should not justify complacency or apathy towards truth.
It’s time to check our hearts. What stirs it?
Remember the parable of the good Samaritan – the priest and the scribe were judged for not having compassion for the wounded man.
If we don’t love people, we won’t love justice, and we won’t love truth.
I believe many have this idea: “these injustices happen necessarily because of a pandemic.” This is where “they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved” serves as a warning.
God expects all of us to love truth. Once again, like how I do not think deception only revolves around Antichrist’s identity, I do not think “love of the truth” applies only to Jesus’ identity as our saviour.
If deception is all encompassing, truth needs to be all encompassing.
So rather than applying 2 Thess 2:10 i.e. “love of the truth”, technically on a specific truth i.e. Jesus’ core identity as God, I believe it right to apply it attitudinally.
Loving truth is an attitude. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” (Psa 89:14). Truth encompasses everything and it’s God’s worldview i.e. His way of seeing everything.
Like how we cannot separate loving God from obeying Him – e.g. Jesus says, “if you love me, do my commandments” – we cannot separate God from truth. The whole counsel of God informs us that we are to be people of truth foundationally. Our lens of truth ought to strive to be in alignment with God’s worldview like how we align our ways with His. His truths shall set us free (John 8:31-32).
Already, we have seen how failing to see the truth on matters like same-sex marriage and abortion etc have led to apostasy. Notable ministers and entire denominations have fallen away e.g. Joshua Harris; the Methodist denomination in the West. Indifference for truth is a veil that blinds our discernment.
Had we paid heed to God’s truth, we will know about “justice” as a weightier commandment (Mat 23:23; OT prophets). Apathy towards truth and justice is disobedience and God will make recompense (Isaiah 59). If only we have truth and justice in us as Christians! Our search for answers to gaps we see would have then led us towards uncovering God’s heart on many matters.
In summary, I have basically shared 4 factors why one may fall prey and perish by deception, and they are: 1) an underestimation of deception; 2) a lack of equipping to overcome trials; 3) a lack of love for justice; and 4) a lack of love for truth. Perhaps in Part 2 of this subject, I may share a 5th factor and I could possibly apply discernment to current vaccine controversy.