Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Doctrine of the Last Things (12) The Coming of AntiChrist and the Binding of Satan

Written by Rev. C.A. Schouls
As we continue to look at the signs marking the coming of the Lord, we must deal with these two, which are revealed in Scripture. We will deal with two separate but related passages, which are of key importance in this.
A. The coming of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2)
The Apostle warns his readers not to be overly disturbed and acting as if the end of the world was just about to come upon them. This, apparently, was a problem in the church of Thessalonica. He had earlier dealt with this in his first letter and mentions it now again. He tells them two things must take place before the end: a) the great apostasy, b) the coming of the Òlawless one,Ó the Òman of sin and son of perditionÓ (v.3). In the Greek he is called the Òlawless oneÓ because he openly defies GodÕs law. This is the one whom John called the ÒAntichristÓ (1 Jn.2: 18,22; 4.3; 2 Jn.7).

Who will this be? Some of the answers provided by different people at different times point to a wide variety of individuals, including Satan, the ÒBeast out of the SeaÓ of Revelation 13 and 17, the Pope, Martin Luther, a whole line of wicked persons who together are called Òthe man of sinÓ and the Roman emperors. It is true that all who oppose God and who pervert His Word are Antichrist in so far that the God-opposing spirit is at work in them. But we believe that when the final Antichrist shall come he will be one person, living in the end time, who embodies all the rebellion against God and His law. He will gather support from far and wide, promise wonderful things to all the people but in so doing will reveal himself as the Anti-Christ--not only because he will be against Christ, but he will put himself up in the place of Christ.

He is described as Òthat man of sin (=lawless one), the son of perdition.Ó This means that he totally, deliberately and consciously opposes God and His Law and the result of it will be his destiny in hell, the place of perdition.

His activity will be God defying (v.4b)--Òhe as God sits in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.Ó Rebellion is his cause and he will try to raise himself up above and in the place of the true God and rule over His people. For them, this will be the period of great tribulation. His present concealment is mentioned by Paul in verses 6 - 8a. Although he is present in the mind of Satan, something or someone (vv.6, 7) is holding him back. What is that ÒsomethingÓ or ÒsomeoneÓ? It could well be that at this time Paul is thinking of law and order and those who enforce this--perhaps even the Roman law system. This probably is the most logical answer. The spirit of lawlessness holds in its womb the lawless one. Satan can hardly wait to spring him loose. When law and order are finally removed and the period of great tribulation will begin, then there will be nothing to keep back this Antichrist and he will be revealed in his God-defying power.

His defeat, however, is sure (v.8b)--Òthe Lord shall consume him with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy him with the brightness of his coming.Ó Returning on the clouds of glory, the Lord Jesus will step in for His people. It will not be a battle see-sawing back and forth but the very breath of His mouth will be enough to completely destroy this wicked one. Even the first gleam of the Lord's return will put an end to it all--both to Antichrist and to his program.

His Satanic power (vv.9, 10a) will be revealed in his ability to do signs and wonders. These will attract many people and convince them that he is, indeed, the Christ. The warning here with respect to signs and wonders must not be overlooked: not everything done in the name of Christ is really the work of Christ! (See Matthew 7:21-23) The energy of Satan will work through the lawless one and try to delude masses of people.

His followers will be punished with hardening in sin and shall be damned to eternal punishment (vv.l0b-12). This must not be seen as God becoming cruel and deliberately, with pleasure, hardening people and punishing them. He is always a God of love and He urges all men everywhere to believe His gospel of love. But when people, of their own accord and after repeated warnings, spurn His gracious command, then He hardens them so that those who were not willing to repent are now not able to repent. Their final judgment will be utter condemnation, for they, far from receiving the saving truth of God, have placed their delight in its very opposite, namely, unrighteousness.

B. The Binding of Satan (Revelation 20)
When we speak of this, we enter into what may be the most controversial of all the signs, for this includes also the Millennium (the ÒThousand Year ReignÓ). The question is not only, ÒWhat does this mean?Ó but also, ÒWhen will this take place?Ó Although much of this is written about in symbolic terms, we can place some order into all this, provided we follow the order set by the Bible itself.

When we turn to Revelation 20 we see the millennium is definitely spoken of (vv.2,3,4,5,6 and 7) and so it is wrong to say, Òwe do not believe in the Millennium.Ó We do--the question is, which millennium? Taking note of the biblical order we see this: after the thousand years comes Satan's Òlittle seasonÓ (v.3b). This being loosed is only for a short time and this is followed by Christ's Second Coming when, seated upon the great white throne (v.11), He shall judge all the nations. As everywhere else in the Bible, Christ's glorious return is followed by the final judgment (v.13).

The order of things is therefore as follows: Millennium, Satan's little season, ChristÕs Second Coming and the Resurrection of the dead, Final Judgment. Let us keep this order and not turn it around. Many do just that and teach that Christ's second coming will be followed by the Millennium. Although we may recognize many of these as Christian brothers and sisters and go along with them in many actions battling liberalism, we cannot agree with them on this point. They are ÒPre-MillennialistsÓ in that they believe Christ will come ÒpreÓ--that is before the millennium. We believe Scripture teaches otherwise. The confusion which is amongst them as regards the various details of all this should serve as a warning for us to be extremely sober on these issues. Neither should we shy away from Bible truths just because others have gone wrong on certain issues.

How must we understand the passage in Revelation 20? Let us lay down a few principles:

1. See the Vision Literally:
If we immediately begin to spiritualize, we will have problems. John sees an angel coming from heaven, holding a key and a chain. He subdues Satan and locks him into the Òpit.Ó The crafty old serpent is overcome and securely bound. He is so securely bound that he remains bound for a thousand years. Having bound him, the angel throws him into this hole, puts a lid on it, locks and seals it. It is all very secure and definite.

2. See the Meaning in the Light of the Entire Bible:
Satan's being bound is not absolute and does not mean that he cannot do anything; his being bound concerns the nations. See in this connection Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:17,18; John 12:20-32. Matthew 12:29 tells us that it was Jesus who bound the strong-man, Beelzebub, the devil. In which sense did Jesus do this? Luke 10: 17,18 and John 12: 20-32 show us that it is in the sense that Jesus restrained the devil so that he could not stop the spreading of the gospel to all the nations. When the seventy missionaries (Luke 10) returned, Jesus said He saw Satan falling as lightning from heaven. It was when the Greeks wanted to see Jesus that the Lord said, Ò is the Prince of this world cast out ... and I will draw all men to myselfÓ--not just Jews, also Greeks and other heathen nations. During the Old Testament times, the gospel had been limited to the Jews; now it is worldwide. And Satan has not been able to stop this spread of the gospel. As we have seen, the Gospel Age is one of the signs of the Lord's coming.

The thousand-year binding of Satan means that he will not be able to gather all the nations (Gog and Magog) in battle against the church. It is only after this period has expired that he is able to do so (Rev.20: 8,9). Then he will have his Òlittle seasonÓ--which will be at the same time as the raging of the Antichrist. His binding begins with Christ's first coming and will last until just before His second coming. During this time, Satan will fail in uniting all the nations against the Church. Of course, he has tried--but the briefest study of history will show that he never succeeded.

After the Roman Empire disappeared, there was a period of chaos in Europe. The Muslims attacked and were driven back by Charles Martel (grandfather of Charles the Great) in 732. Europe remained safe for Christianity. In the 16th century the Muslims threatened again and came to the gates of Vienna. It was Charles V (who opposed Martin Luther) who drove them back. Meanwhile, the corrupt regime of Rome was destroyed by the Reformation, which was able to take such a hold in much of Europe because Charles was so busy repelling the Muslims.

God does work in wonderful ways! Two hundred years ago the anti-Christian forces of the French Revolution were spread abroad by the armies of Napoleon--and God used the British Duke of Wellington and the Russian winter on land and Admiral Nelson on sea to stop this. Hitler's evil empire was destroyed by Allied strength. Communism has crumbled of its own accord. All these anti-Christian forces have failed because Satan is bound.

This same truth is taught from a positive viewpoint in 1 Corinthians 15: 24-28. The kingdom has been given to Christ; He rules now, on behalf of his Father, until the end of time. Then He will return it to the Father and God will be all in all.

To be sure, it seems as if Satan is not bound at all. He still goes about as a roaring lion, devouring so many. This truth would seem to give support to the idea that the Millennium is still to come. But if we hold all the Scriptures together and read them soberly, we come to a different conclusion. Then we see that he is just like a mean dog, securely chained and therefore harmless, even though he may bark and snarl--but do not come within his reach for then he will devour you! Satan can do much damage within the circle of his imprisonment, but not beyond.

While this binding endures, the gospel will be spread across the entire world. We see this happening and we are challenged to be a part of it. The kingdom of God is being established. When this Gospel Age comes to an end, then there will be the brief season of Satan being loosed, and that will be followed by ChristÕs glorious Second Coming.

Note: For a more detailed treatment of this subject, refer to W. Hendriksen, The Bible on the Life Hereafter, from which much of this material was drawn.

The Thessalonians appeared to be shaken at the thought of ChristÕs imminent return. What is the proper Christian attitude when thinking about this event? Is that attitude present among us?

2. Some have said the Pope is the Antichrist. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why? Why would such a statement ever have been made?

3. In general, how do Reformed churches deal with members who hold to ÒPre-MillennialÓ views?

4. What are some of the features of the millennium which the Pre-Millennialists expect? Are these ideas in harmony with Scripture?

5. Would it be easier today than 100 years ago for the Antichrist to gain control over the world? Why or why not? Does this teach us anything about the nearness of ChristÕs return?

6. Will the Great Tribulation (i.e. the loosening of Satan) be a sudden event or may we see this as taking place gradually and at different rates in different places?

7. What is the meaning of the terms ÒPost-MillennialismÓ and ÒA-MillennialismÓ? Is ÒA-MillÓ an accurate and satisfactory term?

8. Granted that Satan is bound in the one respect that we see in Revelation 20 and other passages, what practical use should we make of this?

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