Part 3 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
The testimony of Jesus and His commands are a threat to the kingdoms of the world—including to the religious establishment:
1) The testimony of Jesus—the gospel—insults our pride and our glorying in our righteousness (or 'right-ness'). To say that Christ is the only way challenges our boasting in our 'ways', in our lawfulness, in our nation and our chosenness, in our politics and policies, and in our works.
2) His agape command—love one another as He loved us—does not harmonize with our priorities; He prizes people (including our enemies) and prioritizes the eternal, but we prioritize power and profit.
This is why in the time of the end, the Scriptures speak of 'rebellion', 'lawlessness' and 'antichrist'.
We prefer to think of the rebelliousness of 'the world'—the rebelliousness of unbelievers because, well, they just don't listen to us and believe. But when Jesus talked about 'the world', He drew no lines between unbelievers and the religious establishment (see John 15:18-16:2). 'The world' included people inside and outside the establishment.
"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs..." (2 Thes.2:1-3)
The word 'rebellion' means "Organized opposition intended to change or overthrow existing authority: insurgence, insurgency, insurrection, mutiny, revolt, revolution, sedition, uprising."
In other words, people who were under an authority have risen up to overthrow it and cast it off. This means that the "rebellion" is not something that comes from outside. It is not the rebellion of the unbelieving 'world', but instead rebellion of those who had been under Christ's authority but have now cast it off. It comes from inside the religious establishment, not from outside.
2nd Thessalonians 2 also speaks of 'lawlessness', which we naturally think of as meaning violation of the morality of the Ten Commandments—forgetting that the Ten Commandments are the law of the old covenant, and that the 'law' the new covenant is the agape command of Christ, "Love one another as I have loved you."
"Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love [agape] of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt.24:10-13)
A rebellion occurs among those who have faith and who follow agape love; Christ's law is considered impractical in the face of increasing wickedness in the world. In His name, false prophets and teachers lead people away from His law and faith in His righteousness alone; they set aside 'love one another as I have loved you' and speak instead what people want to hear: our side is 'right' and God sanctions our fight against our enemies.
"Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 Jn.2:18-19)
'Antichrist' is not something that comes from outside, but something that comes from among us, and draws us away from Him and His commands in favor of what we want to hear:
"They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them." (1 Jn.4:5)
Seeing the wisdom of the Cross is as foolishness, the spirit of the antichrist vindicates our ways, protecting our pride and our boasts, and keeps Christ's commands something safely 'spiritual' and not meant for use in 'the real world':
"Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." (1 Jn.4:2-3)
Often we would prefer that Jesus be simply "spiritual"—instead of being the Lord who came in the flesh and calls us to obey not only in our minds, but also with our bodies and every part of our lives. It's easier to keep "Jesus" as a matter of doctrinal and academic truth. We can boast in our profession of His name but keep Him safely compartmentalized, separated from interfering with our boasts, our pride and our ways. We can go on living without letting Him change our values to what He values—we can continue chasing power and profit, and thinking of our 'enemies' as people who keep us from getting them.
If we call Him, "Lord, Lord" and yet cast away His law of agape love in favor of profit and power, we're building our house on sand and turning away from loving Him in 'the least of these' (Mt.7:24-27,25:41-45). Our 'evangelism' becomes preaching His name with our ways instead of with His law—preaching a different "Christ" instead of the real Christ: an anti-'Christ', made in our own image, supporting, vindicating, and championing our ways.
IN CHRIST'S TIME
By the time Christ came to Judea, there had already been several candidates people had hoped would be the Messiah (Acts 5:36-37). The people of Judea looked for the Messiah to be a military leader who would come vindicate them and their politics, drive away their unbelieving enemies (the Romans), and restore the kingdom and the land of Israel to them. They looked for 'messiahs' like Barabbas and the other two rebels who were crucified on either side of Jesus—people who were fighting for Israel's freedom, independence, prosperity, and to bring back 'the kingdom'.
Jesus didn't fit their agenda. He wasn't the kind of 'Messiah' they wanted, and they became afraid that if people listened to Him, saw His power and believed the things He was teaching, they would all lose what they really valued:
"If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place [the temple] and our nation." (Jn.11:48)
The nation was first, and so was their religious establishment. The things Jesus taught were impractical to them—His grace, His commands, His forgiveness and His love. They thought that if they followed His ways, they would even lose their temple and ability to worship God. They believed that their spiritual freedom depended on their political freedom, and that they had to use the ways of the kingdoms of the world in order to establish the kingdom of God.
They believed that the 'enemies' of the Christ (the Messiah) were the Romans outside, but the truth is that the real 'anti-Christ' was inside of them.
Are Christ's teachings considered impractical today? Do we value our nation more than following Him? Do we think that His teachings are just good as 'spiritual' truths and not as something meant to literally be put into practice? Do we say "Jesus, Jesus" but bend His teachings to make Him fit our image and vindicate our ways?
Where is the spirit of 'antichrist' today?
Part 4: "Babylon"—Mixing Kingdoms