The Man Of Sin

By Samuel Tregelles


"That wicked . . . whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming"
2 Thessalonians 2:8
Chapters
1. The Course of the World During this Dispensation
2. The Person and Actings of the Man of Sin
3. The Apostasy, and the Introduction of the Man of Sin

1. The Course of the World During this Dispensation.

IF we allow our mind to rest only upon what the Word of God reveals concerning blessing, whether past, present, or future, we recognize but apart of what is therein contained we overlook that which may cause sadness to the heart, but which God has seen fit to reveal; and if we thus take a partial view of His revelation, we fail in estimating aright even that testimony concerning blessing at which we desire to look. Now if we did not know the things which have happened if we had not the fall set before us if we did not know the consequences of sin we should neither know the grace nor yet the necessity of redemption: we should fail to learn aright the work of Christ, did we not see why He came, and what was the condition of those for whose salvation His precious blood was shed: thus it is that the Holy Ghost instructs the children of God, showing truth by contrast, so manifesting the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it shall appear in all its fullness, as opposed to and triumphing over Satan and all his devices.

 

Thus it is with regard to the present subject, "the Man of Sin," respecting whom the Scripture states such awful things; in him will be the marvellous exhibition of the concentrated power of Satan, an exhibition with which it is necessary that our souls should be acquainted, if so be that we would have our thoughts rightly directed concerning the glory of the Lord Jesus which is to he revealed, if so be that we would understand aright how "the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil." Just as the Lord has triumphed over Satan in His resurrection, so will He manifest His power in destroying the dominion of Satan, even though it may seem at the very time to be especially triumphing in opposition to God.

 

In reading such a portion of the word as the second chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, we may well ask,

 

"When Shall These Things Be?"

 

"When will this fearful discovery of evil take place?" To such inquiries, this very passage affords a direct answer (verse 8), that it will be just before the coming of the Lord, seeing that it is with "the brightness of His coming" that this "Man of Sin" shall be destroyed. Now this point of time which is so distinctly marked, is not, I believe, a feature of small importance in the description; for thus we see brought together in most marked contrast "Him Whose coming is after the working of Satan," with the Lord Jesus, Who shall come in His own glory and in His Fatherís with the holy angels. Thus whatever we see that marks in this picture the dreadful power to be exerted by Satan over men, and the awful form that it will assume, it tells us also of the glory and power of the Lord Jesus: we have not to rest upon the testimony to grief and misery; the Spirit leads us directly onward to Him Who is above it all, and Whose coming will destroy him through whom it is carried on.

 

I believe that simply to take this passage as it stands in the Word of God will show very clearly that it is a person who is pointed out; one man through whom Satan will display his working. We read that

 

    "There [shall] come a falling away [the apostasy] first, and that man of sin [shall be] revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not that when I was yet with you, I told you these things ? And now ye know what withholdeth [rather, And ye know that at present there is what withholdeth] that he might be revealed in his time, For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way, And then shall that wicked [one] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might he saved, And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might he damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

 

Such is the description of the Man of Sin; such is his power; and such are they who share his destruction when the Lord cometh. We shall find many other passages, both in the Old Testament and in the New, which so speak of a person who is to arise as to identify him with this description; whilst they at the same time supply many particulars in the detail of circumstances.

 

Now, although many Christians may have passed over and slighted these warnings, and though many may still deem them to be of no practical importance, it is not for us to overlook that which God has thus revealed; we ought to consent to the wisdom of the Giver by receiving His gift, It is thus that I desire that we may look at the Word of God in examining its testimony on this subject.

 

The coming of the Lord, as has been already said, distinctly marks the time of the manifestations of this "wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth"; and in this indication of time, there is an important link of connection with Isaiah 11, a passage to which in these words the Spirit of God plainly refers. is there written: "He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall lie slay the wicked" (v. 4). Here, as in the Second of Thessalonians, the word "wicked" is in the singular, not speaking of the wicked generally. but in marked terms pointing out an individual person. We learn from the apostle that which we do not from the prophet, who the person is that shall he so destroyed by the Lord, even him who shall have set himself as the direct adversary of God in that day. The connection with the New Testament suffices to show that the events which are spoken of in Isaiah 11 concerning the Lord Jesus are such as will find their fulfillment when He comes again, when He will exercise the power of judgment which has been committed to Him, but which He did not use when He came in humiliation to suffer.

 

If these things will be thus when the Lord appears if at that time Satanís power over the earth will have a concentrated energy. so that, at the last, God will judicially send to the rejectors of the truth "strong delusion that they should believe a lie" it must he evident that

 

Towards this Point we are Tending,

 

and to this the world will attain, whatever fair appearances may now meet our eyes. The final state of the world when the Lord comes will he thus evil it will have increased in wickedness, instead of being, as it is in the thought of many, daily improved, daily less contrary to God than it was when it crucified his Son, It is when the height of evil is attained that the Lord will come in destroying judgment. Thus it is especially important to mark well the testimony of the Word concerning this consummation in judgment, in order that our hopes may be according to what God has revealed, and that they he not formed on any other ground.

 

It will thus be well to consider a few Scriptures which speak of this point, because it is essential that it should be clearly seen for us to apprehend aright the Scripture history of "the Man of Sin." The expectations of many Christians have been, that righteousness will increase amongst men, so that "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." I am not for a moment raising a question as to whether this prophecy of the Scripture will be fulfilled; but this I do state most unequivocally, that there is no scriptural ground for supposing that this universality of blessing will be brought about by any gradual increase of godliness amongst men, The place in which we find this prophecy ought to intimate this; for in Isaiah 11 the judgment of the Lord on the wicked person (v. 4) is introductory to the universal blessing (v. 9); so that until the one has taken place, the other cannot be looked for. If we really know that such a time will ever come, it will be from the testimony of the Scripture; and consequently whatever intervening circumstances are told us, they must also he taken into our consideration, It is natural to our minds to take some bright object of hope which the Spirit of God sets before us, and to rejoice in the anticipation of the blessing to come; but we fail in using the hope aright if we take it up as though our eyes were to be blind to all the sorrow and evil which is to intervene: we may shrink back in thought from any dark interval, but the object of hope beyond is given us as that which should sustain and cheer us in looking onward: the brightness of the coming morning only shines the more in contrast to the preceding darkness.

 

The Distinctive Features of this Dispensation not Universal Blessing.

 

In looking at the close of the things of earth in this dispensation, we ought to mark what are its distinctive features. If universality be not the character of this dispensation, what is ? A passage in Matthew 24 tells us, I believe, very simply  "This gospel of the kingdom shall he preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come" (v. 14). The present is the time when the gospel of the grace of God is to be preached that gospel through which all who receive it are delivered from the power of darkness, and are translated into the kingdom of Godís dear Son according to the commission in Matthew 28 to "teach all nations"; but blessed as the message is, and blessed as are its results to all who receive it. yet it is "for a witness" that it is to be preached "to all nations": there is no intimation that all nations, or even any one nation as a whole, will be converted, but much to show the contrary; for instance the Lord had just said that no nation as a body would receive the gospel, "ye shall be hated of all nations for my nameís sake"; while at the same time there is in Revelation 7, an intimation that in no nation shall the gospel fail of gathering fruit to God; for the innumerable multitude standing before the throne in blood-washed robes are "out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (v. 9). This gives us the true scriptural expectation as to results from the preaching of the gospel: fruit is to be looked for, but not universality; and even though the gospel may prove "a savour of death unto death" unto many, this fruit will be gathered from amongst all nations.

 

Whilst thus the Lord gives us abundant encouragement in labouring for Him in testimony, we have to bear in mind the intimations which He gives, that there can be no universality of blessing before the coming of the Lord, and His destroying the wicked one. The glory of the Lord Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, is thus to be declared; all the praise is to be His; and until He personally takes the world under His own righteous rule, we have no ground in the word for any supposition of a spread of righteousness, or of the knowledge of God, over the whole.

 

Widely different is the testimony of the Scripture from that opinion which many Christians have formed as to the prospects of the world It we turn to 2 Timothy 3 we read thus

 

    "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

 

The hope of many is that, instead of these "perilous times," of the coming of which the Spirit of God thus forewarns us, the latter days of this dispensation will he marked with special blessing and glory. The whole chapter runs on much in the same strain (just as we also find repeatedly in other portions of the New Testament); "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (vv. 12, 13). Nothing can he more explicit than this testimony How, then, it may he asked, is it that Christians have so disregarded it? The reason, I assuredly believe, is, that they have so rested upon detached portions of Old Testament prophecy, as to form altogether wrong conclusions; and I cannot regard the manner in which the testimony to previous judgment has been and is overlooked (even when, as in Isaiah 11, occurring in the same context) as being anything other than a device of Satan for taking them away from their true hopes, and from the thoughts which they ought to form concerning the world around.

 

The World is not Getting Better.

 

If we were to look at the world as becoming constantly less under the power of Satan than it was, so as to expect that soon he would have no place in it, and the whole would be fit for the kingdom of Christ our Lord, then, as desirous of the glory of our Lord we should be called on to use every effort to mend the system of things in the world, so that our energies might help on the expected day of blessing; but if, on the other hand, we learn from the word that we are daily drawing nearer to a more fearful display of the power of Satan than has ever been exhibited, and that the world (whatever appearances may say) is ripening for this; that whether or not there he more evil now than there was a few years ago, yet the evil of the last times will be unequalled then shall we see that our energies should be directed not to the mending of things as they are here, but to the bringing of souls to God. through testimony to the blood of Christ: taking them in fact out of this condemned world, instead of seeking to make them rest in it. It is with this that we have to do, if we regard the testimony of our Lord and His apostles. We may seek to do good unto all men; but to bring souls to Christ, and to establish the children of God, will be our great work, knowing that no efforts of ours can be in any way conducive to bring about the universal blessing of the earth. The Lord may bless us in gathering some to Him: He allows us to be His fellow-workers in this: but as to the bringing of the world into blessing, it is His own peculiar work: His destroying judgment must come first.

 

The Lord Jesus has given to the Church very direct and simple teaching concerning that separateness from the world to which they are called: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17). Again. "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keen them from the evil." Now there would not be long a world for the saint to he in, and yet to he separate from, if all was going on to universal blessing and godliness. I need not refer to many portions of our Lordís instructions; John 13-16, are one continuous strain of teaching, the whole of which would be obsolete if that dream of universal blessing before the coming of Jesus Christ were to he realized.

 

The Lord in the Parable of the Tares of the Field

 

(Matthew 13), intimates very distinctly the character of the present dispensation: "Let them both grow together until the harvest" (v. 30), is the judgment of the Lord concerning the tares and the wheat, instead of giving any countenance to that idea which is so prevalent in the minds of not a few Christians, that the wheat will gradually overspread the field, so that at length the tares will quite disappear. The Lord thus tells us that there will be no universality of blessing in the field (which is the world v. 38) before the harvest; but then we read "The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and that do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (vv. 41, 42). Thus pointedly has the Lord told us in many portions what we have to expect, and how and when the prophecies of universally diffused blessing will be brought to pass. We learn much profitable truth from this parable, The Church is to be manifested in glory in the kingdom of "their Father." No earthly hopes are given to them; their portion is to be as a "little flock," waiting for the kingdom. The world will still be the world, in spite of Christianity being in it; and in one respect it is made worse, because false professors the tares have sprung up consequent upon the preaching of the gospel. The great truth that I wish to press is, that to the end of this dispensation evil and good are mixed together, and therefore expectations to the contrary are sure to be disappointed; for unless the narrow way were to become broad, so that many should find it. it would he impossible for the predicted glory to belong to this dispensation.

 

The Epistolary Teaching

 

It may be well to refer to a few more passages which speak not merely of the continuance of evil, but which coincide in their testimony with 2 Timothy 3 in showing its prevalence in the latter days. In 2 Peter 3 we have this direct and especial warning "There shall come in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming?" Thus did the apostle see the last days marked, not by an increase of righteousness, but by the coming of these "scoffers." Just so we read in Jude: "Beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts" (vv. 17, 18). What does the apostle speak of as meeting the evil? It is in speaking of the abounding evil of the latter days that he refers to the prophecy of Enoch, so that he shows that nothing short of the judgment of the Lord will meet the evil. But is not the preaching of the gospel to prevail in putting away these men? Not at all. The passage shows plainly that it cannot, there was nothing which Jude saw, or which Enoch had seen long before, which could expel the prevalence of evil, short of the Lord Himself coming and executing judgment.

 

Such likewise is the testimony of the Apostle James. He speaks (chapter 5) of the rich men oppressing, and of slaughter, and of evil, up to "the coming of the Lord"; not an intimation does he give of any triumph of righteousness before that. The Apostle John likewise says (1 John 2:18), "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that [the ] Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." This testimony is peculiarly important. What was to the apostle the testimony that "the last time" that time which continues still and will continue unto the coming of the Lord had commenced? Was it that good was increasing? Nay; but that many Antichrists had sprung up, the coming of whom led the apostle onward to the Antichrist, who shall he the great consummator of evil before the coming of the Lord.

 

There are not a few consenting testimonies; all agree in this solemnly important truth. Our Lord taught it; and the Spirit of God by Paul, Peter, Jude, James, and John, five of the holy apostles, has confirmed it; that the latter days will be days of evil, is thus a truth not learned merely from one testimony in one portion of the word (although this would be ample enough for a believer to rest upon), but upon the accordance of many witnesses; it is a testimony clearly stated, manifesting what the present darkness is, and giving us to see how vast must he the brightness of the glory of our blessed Lord, who by His coming, will dispel the deep gloom of the present "night." Then, and not till then, will blessing be universal; so that "the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."

 

Before passing onward to the direct testimony of the word to the Man of Sin, it will be well to refer to a passage which briefly states the principle, which is shown by the Scriptures, already quoted: "When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever" (Ps. 92:7). This is a direct statement of those dealings of God which are revealed in the Scripture, but which are yet unfulfilled; evil has not yet risen to its height; the Man of Sin is not yet manifested in all the energy of Satan; but when the wicked shall thus flourish, it is that they may be destroyed for ever.

 

New Testament Witness Summarized

The following is a brief recapitulation of a few of the testimonies respecting the character of this dispensation.

 

I. Our Lord instructs us that the world will continue to be that in which the saints are, but of which they are not to be, up to the time when He cometh again.

 

II. Our Lord tells us of tares and wheat until the harvest. He teaches us that the way to destruction is that which is found by the many, while but few go in the narrow way that leadeth unto life.

 

III. The Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3) warns us of "perilous times" in the latter days.

 

IV. The Apostle John speaks of "many Antichrists" being an indication of the "last time."

 

V. The Apostle James calls on the brethren to be patient "unto the coming of the Lord," in the midst of extortion, slaughter, and oppression.

 

VI. The Apostle Peter forewarns of "scoffers in the last days, who shall walk after their own lusts."

 

VII. Such likewise is the testimony of the Apostle Jude, who also speaks expressly of the coming of the Lord, and nothing short of it as putting an end to the overwhelming evil.

 

Thus we have our Lordís instruction, both by parable and by direct teaching. together with the testimony of every one of His apostles who have given us any written instruction all consenting in describing this dispensation to be one in which there is evil both in the course and in the consummation.

 

2. The Person and Actings of the Man of Sin

Resting, then, upon the fact of the character of the present dispensation being thus shown, I will pass on to the direct testimony of Scripture concerning that person who shall, in the consummation, be the head of evil in the world, in opposition to the Lord and his right.

 

The Scriptures have been already cited which show that he will be destroyed by the Lord at His coming (2 Thessalonians 2 and Isa. 11). I refer to this again, not only because of the importance of the fact in itself, but also because this circumstance will serve to identify him whom Paul calls "the Man of sin" with a similar person or power mentioned in many other portions of the word. The book of the prophet Daniel is one in which especial mention is made of a power which shall prosper against the Lord, and will be in its full triumph over the saints of the Most High, up to the time when the "Son of Man" shall take the kingdom.

 

The following is a brief outline of what I believe to be set before us.

 

In the Visions of the Prophet Daniel

 

In chapter 2 the great image seen by Nebuchadnezzar symbolizes the empires which would rule during the time that earthly dominion was taken away from Israel. Dominion "wheresoever the children of men dwell" had been given by God into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (v. 38): the other empires were his successors in the exercise of this dominion. The last state of the fourth of these was a tenfold division, in which there was both the strength of the iron and the weakness combined with apparent strength, which is symbolized by the clay [potterís ware]. It is during this last state of the image that the stone falls on its feet, and then the whole of the metals, being broken in pieces and disappearing, the stone "became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." This is interpreted to be this: "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed," &c. (v. 41). It is almost impossible to read this chapter without remembering the words of our Lord "Whosoever shall fall on This Stone shall be broken; but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder" (Matthew 21:44). The Jews fell on Christ, and they were broken (Isa. 8); but when He returns, He falls upon the whole fabric of Gentile power, and grinds the whole to powder; then it is that His kingdom is so established as to fill the whole earth.

 

The vision of the tree seen by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4) appears to be symbolical of the judgment of God upon Gentile power, as well as belonging directly to the king of Babylon himself.

 

Daniel 7 speaks of the four great empires, the tenfold divided state of the last, and the actings against God, and the consequent judgment of God upon the last holder of their dominion; after which, "the Son of Man" and the Saints of the Most High receive and possess the kingdom.

 

Daniel 8 instructs us respecting certain actings against Jerusalem of a power which should arise out of a certain kingdom divided into four parts (which kingdom is defined to be that of the king of Grecia), "when transgressors come to the full," who should at last "be broken without hand."

 

The end of chapter 9 presents before us, I believe, in "the prince that shall come," the same person and some of his actings in blasphemy.

 

The three concluding chapters are a narrative given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, to inform him what should befall his people in the latter days (10:14); the crisis of the narrative bringing before us a king who would do according to his own will, who in his history and judgment appears to be identified with the power or person before spoken of by this prophet. These three chapters appear to take up in one combined and connected narrative the things mentioned in symbolic vision and interpretation in chapters 7, 8 and 9.

 

The Statements of Daniel 7

 

are those to which I will now refer in detail. In verse 13 we read thus:

 

    "I saw in the night visions, and behold. one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."

 

It can scarcely he questioned by any one that this instructs us concerning the giving of the kingdom into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ; this is the point to which the vision tends, the whole leading on to the glory of the Lord being thus manifested in contrast to all the evil and desolation which had previously been. The Lord Jesus evidently referred to this passage in Daniel when standing before the High Priest: "The High Priest asked him and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said unto him. I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Mark 13:62). Again in Revelation 1:7, it is written: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." Thus do we learn when it is that the Lord shall receive the investiture of His kingdom His earthly kingdom over all people, nations. and languages. This vision in Daniel leads us on to the time when the Lord Jesus returns again to execute that judgment which is the necessary introduction to His righteous rule.

 

The following is the interpretation given to Daniel of the vision of the four beasts which he had seen: "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings which shall arise out of the earth: but the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever" (vv. 17, 18). Thus there is reference briefly made to the Gentile powers, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, which have successively ruled; the whole of their dominion ending when the time cometh for the saints to possess the kingdom. This is in fact the brief and general outline of the history of the world until Jerusalem shall cease to be trodden down.

 

But besides this broad and general statement, the detail of circumstances is given in some respects with great minuteness; the three former beasts were, both in the vision and also in the interpretation, passed over so quickly as to show that it was something connected with the fourth beast, his times and his actings, to which the Lord would especially call our attention.

 

    "Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns which, were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows" (v. 19, 20).

 

In these words there is pointed out to us a power which is in the full exercise of dominion in the end of the rule of the beasts; what follows will, I believe, not only show us that this is a person, but likewise will supply us with other important particulars respecting his actings. The prophet proceeds thus:

 

    "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came. and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom."

 

The End of the Great Powers

 

Now follows the interpretation given to Daniel of those things which he had seen concerning the little horn:

 

    "Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall he diverse from all kingdoms. and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down. and break it in pieces."

 

This describes the Roman power which was thus established, and which in a divided condition still continues. "And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise." This speaks of a division of the whole Roman earth, such as has never taken place as yet, but which will be the precursor of what is spoken of by the interpreter immediately after: "And another [king] shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first and he shall subdue three kings." It is to he borne in mind that in the vision (v. 8), as well as in the inquiry of Daniel (v. 20), it was three of the first horns that were plucked up before the little horn; so that it is evident that the three kings whom he will subdue are three of the ten among whom the Roman earth will be apportioned. And "he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand, until a time and times and the dividing of time." Before going farther with the quotation of this interpretation, it will be well particularly to notice the coincidence which is found in the character of this king with "the Man of Sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2. Both stand forward as being pre-eminent in blasphemy: both appear to claim divine honours the one sitting in the temple of God showing himself that he is God; the other thinking to change times and laws: not only do their characters thus bear strong features of resemblance, but the judgment of each is yet more coincident, so as in fact to identify the two. The Man of Sin is destroyed by the Lord at His coming; and here in Daniel the little horn the king who subdues three kings rules for a certain definite and limited time, and then the interpretation continues "But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end." This had been thus seen by the prophet in the vision: after speaking of the Ancient of days sitting, and the judgment being set, we read: "I beheld then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke; I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame." That which follows this destruction of the beast, which takes place in consequence of the blasphemy of the little horn, is the kingdom being taken by the Son of Man (v. 14), and by the saints (v. 22): he triumphs until the time when the saints should possess the kingdom; and this is in precise accordance with 2 Thessalonians, in which the coming of Christ, that coming which ushers in His kingdom, is the time when the Man of Sin is destroyed. The interpretation thus concludes (v. 27) "And the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." These words are worthy of especial notice, because the foretold kingdom thus spoken of is not heavenly, but earthly; it is not saints merely reigning in heaven with Christ, but an earthly dominion given to certain who are here called "the people of the saints of the Most High." There is, I should judge, an evident distinction drawn between "the saints of the Most High" in the preceding verses, and "the people of the saints" who are here mentioned. Now I believe that even if we could not gain from this chapter any instruction as to who "the people of the saints of the Most High" may be, the comparison of other portions would show that it is Israel that nation to whom earthly dominion is promised that is meant I cannot now carry out the examination which would fully exhibit this; but some of the portions of the prophet to which reference will presently be made, will bear upon it.

 

The 7th chapter of Daniel thus gives us Gentile power in its history, actings, and final judgment; in the whole chapter no mention is made of Israel by name; the little horn triumphs and acts against God but in the succeeding chapter, a power is spoken of as acting against the Jews and Jerusalem in terms which are very similar; and this power will, I believe, be seen to be identical with him of whom I have already spoken.

 

Daniel 8 Considered

 

To understand Daniel 8 aright, it will be needful to bear in mind the testimony of many Scriptures, concerning the character of this time of the conclusion of the sorrow and desolation of Israel and Judah; I would refer, at present, to but one passage, Zechariah 14: there we find Jerusalem surrounded by foes, the city taken, the people in part already a prey, and then, in that very crisis, the Lord Himself comes as their deliverer, and takes vengeance on their enemies. Now Daniel 8 is a prophecy of things which would take place "in the last end of the indignation"; this must mean indignation against the Jews and their city, because it is these who are spoken of as being the objects of it (vv. 9, 11, 24). The chapter commences with the vision of the ram and the he goat the kingdoms of Persia and Greece the triumph of the latter over the former the division of the empire into four parts, symbolized by four horns; and then the vision thus continues (v. 9):

 

    "And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land [the land of Israel] and it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host, and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the Prince of the host, and by him was the daily sacrifice taken away."

 

An interpretation of this vision is given to Daniel, and from this we are farther instructed: "Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation, for at the time appointed the end shall be" (v. 19). Now here I would pause for a moment, because there is thus supplied to us a direct argument for the identity of the little horn in this chapter, with the one mentioned in chapter 7. The king that destroys three kings rules until the saints take the kingdom; he rules consequently in the last end of time when evil predominates: here the king, or little horn, is found in the last end of the indignation, "when the transgressors are come to the full" (v. 25); consequently he must reign at the very time mentioned in the preceding chapter. If these had been two distinct powers, it would have been impossible for them to have been other than contemporaries, seeing that they both rule up to the same point of time; but, further, they could not be two distinct rulers living at the same time, because the little horn, in chapter 8, springs out of one of the divisions of that which once had been the empire of Alexander, which afterwards formed a portion of the Roman earth; his power, therefore, would be a part of that of the fourth beast of chapter 7, whereas the divisions of that empire have been so spoken of as to preclude any other such ruler, except the little horn there mentioned, Thus it follows, that the little horn of each of these chapters is identical in time and in territory, as well as in acting and in character; and thus they cannot be looked at as being two distinct and separate rulers, but as being one and the same. Other circumstances, to which allusion is intended to be presently made, will also serve to demonstrate this identity.

 

I now pass on to examine some further portions of the interpretation (v. 23)

 

    "And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up, And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power, and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people [Israel, thus spoken of according to the purpose of God]. and through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand: and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace he shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand."

 

We shall see, by-and-by, the meaning of the expression "not by his own power." "The Prince of princes" plainly denotes the Lord Jesus Christ "the Prince of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1). How, then, shall the destroying king be broken without hand? The Holy Ghost tells us, in other places already referred to, he shall be destroyed by the breath of the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, he shall he consumed with the brightness of His coming.

 

I now pass on to the prophecies contained in

 

Daniel 10, 11, 12

 

In them there is a narrative given by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Daniel, instructing him respecting what should befall his people [the nation of Israel] in the latter days (10:14). It is important to observe the Jewish character of the whole prediction, because, in so doing, we trace out those things which the Spirit of God distinctly presses on our attention; it was to cause Daniel to understand concerning his own people that this detail was given to him; thus the persons who are mentioned, and their actions, are spoken of always with a direct reference to that nation and their relation to it. The 11th chapter contains a history, the commencement of which harmonizes with the beginning of chapter 8. After this, follows a long detail of events to which it is not necessary at present to refer; while the latter part brings before us prominently a certain king whose character and actings appear unquestionably to identify him with the little horn of chapter 7 and of chapter 8. In verse 36 we thus read: "And the king shall do according to his will, and shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and he shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation shall he accomplished." Observe that these last quoted words identify this willful king with the little horn in Daniel 8, for he too will he in the last end of the indignation, while, as to blasphemy, this description accords with what we find in 2 Thessalonians 2, as well as in Daniel 7 and 8. The concluding verse of this chapter tells us of the termination of the career of this willful king: "He shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain, yet he shall come to his end and none shall help him." Here the glorious holy mountain is Mount Zion, that place of which God has said, "My eyes and my heart shall be there perpetually"; this mountain, standing as it does between the two seas, the Mediterranean and the Dead, will be polluted by the presence of this destroyer: his end is like that of which we read in Daniel 8; and just as the events there belong to the time of the last end of the indignation, so here, "he shall come to his end and none shall help him: and at that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people," etc. (7:1). Thus it is that, at the very time of that willful king acting in great fury and destroying, the purposes of Godís grace towards his ancient people, will be in course of accomplishment.

 

There is a circumstance mentioned in this place in terms very similar to what we read in Jeremiah 30; there it is written, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacobís trouble, but he shall be delivered out of it" (v. 7). Just so do we here read, that at the time of the standing up of Michael, "it shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." Thus do Jeremiah and Daniel coincide in their testimony as to a time of unequalled trouble, which is followed by their deliverance and the restored blessing of Israel.

 

From 2 Thessalonian 2 we learn that the Man of Sin prospers up to the time when the Lord comes; here in Daniel 11 and 12 that willful king holds his dominion unfit Israel shall be restored; now we know from Zechariah 14 and other portions, that Israel will not be delivered until the Lord comes; thus then this willful king continues until the Lord shall come again; this serves still farther to identify the person spoken of here with him, who is mentioned in 2 Thessalonian as well as with the little horn of Daniel 7. The identity with Daniel 8 is such as can scarcely need to be pointed out.

 

The First Resurrection Time

 

A difficulty has been found by some in the second verse of this chapter (12), from the resurrection there spoken of being looked at as though it were the same as that which is mentioned in Revelation 20:22, as occurring after the reign of Christ and his saints for a thousand years; but a little examination will suffice to show that this objection is unfounded; had it been otherwise, it would make the destruction of the willful king and the deliverance of Danielís people synchronous with the final judgment, instead of ushering in that blessing in their own land, of which the prophets speak so largely. But, observe 1st, that it is said, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (or more literally, "many from out of the sleepers," etc.); this in itself implies an eclectic resurrection, not the arising of oil indiscriminately, but simply of a multitude from amongst them. 2nd, that the words rendered "some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt," implying, apparently, a distributive mention of those who had been spoken of before, ought, I believe, rather to be translated, "these shall be unto everlasting life, but those [i.e. the rest of the sleepers, those who do not rise at that time], shall be to shame, to everlasting contempt." The words rendered "some," and "some" are never used to express a distributive mention of any who have been spoken of before, but simply "these" . . . "and those," (or, "the rest," or "others"). The difficulty which might thus be occasioned by this verse is not really an objection to what has been said; and the statement here made coincides with what we read in Isaiah 25, as connected with 1 Corinthians 15. In this last-mentioned chapter, after the resurrection of the saints is spoken of (none other being alluded to), it is said, "When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (v. 54). This refers to Isaiah 25, and then the prophet goes on to speak of the restored blessing of the nation of Israel, All this confirms what has been already said respecting the time when that oppressor comes to his end: it is when Israel is delivered it is when those who shall arise to eternal life are raised it is thus (as has been already shown from Zech. 14) when the Lord comes; just as in the New Testament we read concerning the Man of Sin.

 

This chapter in Daniel as well as the 8th, presents the king mentioned as having an especial reference to Israel, as the last power that triumphs over them. It is also said in chapter 8:25, "By peace he shall destroy many," implying, that however he acts afterwards in oppression, he comes in peaceably at first. Now in the New Testament, John 5:43, our Lord thus speaks "I am come in my Fatherís name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive." In these words there is an intimation that the Jews, having rejected the true Messiah, would acknowledge him who is truly the oppressor, the one who would afterwards be their cruel destroyer. It brings before us the power of Satan, who having blinded them, and turned them aside from truth, makes them the bond-slaves of error. Jesus came in His Fatherís name, and Him they received not; the Man of Sin comes after the working of Satan (2 Thessalonians), he does according to his own will (Daniel 11): he comes therefore in his own name, and according to the word of our Lord to the Jews "Him ye will receive." Thus is this head of evil, whom the Lord will destroy, connected both with the Gentiles and with the Jews; he is the last holder of Gentile power, as well as being at first owned by the Jews, and then becoming their oppressor.

 

The things which have been already stated are

 

Further Confirmed by Other Portions of the New Testament

 

Revelation 19:18, etc., describes the coming and rule of Christ thus

 

    "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True; and in righteousness he doth judge arid make war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns, and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself, And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God, And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron ; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, And he hath in his vesture and on his thigh a name written, ĎKing of kings. and Lord of lords.í And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great."

 

Thus far this portion of the apostleís vision speaks of the glorious coming of Christ, and the judgment which he will execute then upon those who dwell on the earth; the vision continues to speak of one who is distinctively the adversary who opposes the Lord, and will he destroyed by Him.

 

    "And I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire. burning with brimstone, And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth, And the fowls were filled with their flesh."

 

Thus do we see that there is one pre-eminent in evil, and the leader of the kings who are banded against the Lord Christ the beast and on him it is that the especial vengeance of the Lord is poured forth.

 

These two particulars would in themselves present a strong resemblance or connection between the beast and the Man of Sin, even it they did not at once establish an absolute identity. This identity may be, however, inferred from the fact of each being presented before us as the head of evil, and the opposer of the Lamb. But if we trace backward the history of the beast, as the Holy Ghost relates it in the book of Revelation, this identity will be yet more strongly manifested. He is mentioned in chapter 13, thus

 

The Wild Beast

 

    "I saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy: . . . . and the dragon gave him his power, and seat, and great authority . . . And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months; and he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven, And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given unto him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations."

 

Thus does "the beast" stand forth as pre-eminent both in earthly dominion and in blasphemy against God, It is to be observed, "The Dragon gave him his power, and seat, and great authority": this gives us, I believe, the explanation of what we read in Daniel 8 concerning the little horn there mentioned, "His power shall he great, but not by his own power"; and just so is it that in 2 Thessalonians 2 we read concerning the Man of Sin, that his "coming is after the working of Satan," and thus all that he holds will be Satanic greatness and Satanic authority. In Revelation 13:4, the worship of the beast exhibits completely all the glory attributed to him that belongs of right to God; it is, in fact, applying the song of Israel on the shore of the Red Sea to him who is the enemy of God. Israel had sung. "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?" but the worshippers of the beast say, "Who is like unto the beast?" In verse 5, the limit of the rule of the beast is mentioned, "forty and two months." just so in Daniel 7, the rule of the little horn is to last "a time, times. and a half," that is, in other words, three years and a half, forty and two months, 1,260 days. as though the Spirit of God had taken an especial care that none should misunderstand the term in question; if we doubted what it might mean when expressed in years, it is told us in months; if this double testimony could yet be ambiguous, it is told us in days, so that we have thus a threefold confirmation.

 

"All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" [or, "written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb"]. This describes to us what man will have reached in sin when the Lord comes: all but the elect saints will be worshippers of this person all acknowledging him instead of that Lord who has been in the world, and has been rejected by it. Now there is a passage which speaks of one definite enemy of Christ, concerning whom the saints are warned. The apostle John says, "As ye have heard that [the] Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time" (1 John 2:18). Again, he describes this "Antichrist": "He is Antichrist who denieth the Father and the Son" (v. 22). Again, in chapter 4:3, the Spirit of Antichrist is spoken of as denying Jesus Christ come [eteluthota] in the flesh; and, in 2 John, verse 7, and Antichrist is said to be one who denies Jesus Christ coming [erchomenon] in the flesh. If this be the character of an Antichrist, how much more must it be that of the Antichrist the great opposer of the Lord? Antichrist may, in fact, be taken as a descriptive name of this person; and I do not question but that he individually is the one pointed out by the Spirit of God through the apostle.

 

I know full well that this is a fearful picture, to see the whole course of the world going on until the whole is headed up in this person, who shall set himself up against God; who shall rule over the Jews when returned to their land in unbelief, like the unclean spirit to his empty house (Matthew 12); and not over the Jews only, but also over all tongues, people, and languages; and this dominion not merely temporal, but likewise, through the energy of Satan, that which claims the honours due to God. All this is fearful; and yet, if we would estimate the glory of the Lord Jesus aright, we must know what will be the height of that wickedness which he will destroy at His coming.

 

Many of the portions of the word that I have quoted have been explained away, or applied to subjects to which, in their detailed statement, they were by no means rightly applicable. I speak this confidently, because nothing which has ever been, has at all met these descriptions of evil and of blasphemy. Take, for instance, that which is written in Daniel 11:45: "He shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain," compared with 2 Thessalonians 2: "He shall sit in the temple of God"; now to what can this expression apply?

 

"The Temple of God"

 

is used in Scripture of but three things I. The actual Temple at Jerusalem. II. The bodies of individual saints. III. The true spiritual church of God, the elect. Now it is evident that it is only in the first of these three that Antichrist can actually sit; and thus the place spoken of to Daniel, "the glorious holy mountain," coinciding with "the temple of God" in 2 Thessalonians, indicates a certain fact which has never had a semblance of a fulfillment. There it is that this oppressor will sit: there will he be worshipped by all whose names are not written in the book of life of the slain Lamb. This alone would be one indication that these prophecies cannot be applied aright to the Pope; and remember also that in Revelation 13:8, it is plainly said that "ALL shall worship him" except the elect. Now there have been, and there are, many wicked who have never acknowledged Papal authority in the least: but the very terms of the prediction show that none (at least within his territorial sphere) shall be excepted from joining in this worship save the elect of God; all others will acknowledge Antichrist as God. These two facts the place and the extent of his power show that neither the Papacy nor anything else which is or has been, can be identified with the Man of Sin, even though in some features a resemblance may be traced.

 

In Isaiah 14 we find Israel in their own land taking up a taunting proverb against one who is called

 

The King of Babylon

 

(v. 4); amongst other things it is said: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" This word "Lucifer," is often applied to Satan, and some have even interpreted this passage of him; but nothing can he more incongruous, and the word itself only means "the morning star"; and it is clear that our translators used it as such in this place: that idea is certainly conveyed in the words, "son of the morning," which follow; and it teaches us at least one truth, that as Christ himself is "the bright and morning star," so will Antichrist claim this character, and, it may be this name; and thus when used, as it is here, as a taunt, it has a peculiar force. "Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit also in the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north, I will ascend above the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (v. 13). Here we have the blasphemy and the place of this king: Mount Zion is evidently indicated by "the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north" (see Ps. 48:2).

 

"But how (it may be said) will all be so deluded as to acknowledge this man? How is it possible that those who have advanced so far in intelligence as men have now, can possibly become so sunk in superstition as to be guilty of such idolatry?" God "shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie." Awful words!

 

Thus have I referred to many portions of Scripture, all bearing a coinciding testimony to the fact of a person standing forth just before the coming of the Lord, in the fullness of opposition in blasphemy persecuting those who belong to God claiming divine adoration owned by all but the elect but destroyed by the Lord himself when He cometh in glory. Before going on to speak of the circumstances of his introduction as given in 2 Thessalonians 2, I would thus recapitulate

 

A Few Particulars Concerning His Person and Actings

 

such as are proved by the Scriptures already cited.

 

I. He is the last head of Gentile authority in the earth, the last wielder of the Roman power, continuing to triumph over the saints until the Lord cometh (Daniel 7).

 

II. He is first owned by, and afterwards persecutes the Jews, causing them to suffer until the Lord delivers them (Daniel 8:11; Isa. 14).

 

III. He claims to be worshipped as God in the temple at Jerusalem; and all, save the elect, shall own him as such (2 Thessalonians 2; Daniel 7, 11; Isaiah 14; Revelation 13).

 

IV. His dominion continues for three years and a half (Daniel 7; Revelation 13).

 

V. He springs out of the last state of the Roman Empire. when it shall be divided into ten parts; that part from which he arises will be also one of the four portions of the empire of Alexander; he will conquer mightily, he will destroy three of the ten kings of the Roman earth, and the nations of the world will own his rule (Daniel 7, 8, 11).

 

VI. His power, both temporal and spiritual, will be wrought by the energy of Satan, men being judicially given up by God to a "strong delusion" (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13).

 

VII. The kings of the earth will be gathered under him against the Lamb: and then it is that he with all his adherents will receive that doom which is predetermined to them and to him: the Lord will destroy him with the breath of his lips (Daniel 7, 8, 11; Isa. 11; 2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 19).

 

3. The Apostasy, and the Introduction of the Man of Sin

The testimony of the Holy Ghost in 2 Thessalonians 2 is not only to the person and blasphemy of the Man of Sin; but there is likewise mentioned in connection with him, or as introductory to him, "The Apostasy." It might be carelessly thought that it would be almost needless for a warning to be given against Antichrist because, when he personally stands forth, there will be in him enough to open the eyes of all. It may perhaps be so I do not know but of this I am certain, that however manifest the Man of Sin may be when revealed, however much there may be in him to open the eyes of all, yet nothing but the free grace of God in Christ Jesus could suffice to hinder any of us from joining in the worship of this man, from saying, "Who is like unto the beast?" God works amongst his children by giving them warnings, and the Spirit, teaching them to take heed to the exhortation, delivers them from the snare; but those who know not the blood of Christ, who are not the children of God through faith in Him. may hear the warning, they may judge that when the evil is seen it will he time enough to flee, and thus they put from them the message which, if the heart had received it, would have delivered them.

 

Now our God does not tell us of the crisis of events alone, but he speaks to us in such a way as to give even these solemn warnings.

 

A Present Application to our Consciences

 

It is so in this case: we have not to think of the Man of Sin only with him (if the Lord so wills it) we may have individually nothing to do. But we find "the Apostasy" standing in juxtaposition to his name, so that it behaves us to know, not only the person of the Man of Sin and his actings, but likewise the meaning of this term. Now if we look a little farther on in the same chapter we shall receive through the Spiritís record further light concerning this. In verse 7 we read, "the Mystery of Iniquity doth already work, only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way; and then shall that wicked be revealed," etc. Now in this expression "The Mystery of Iniquity," there is, I believe, a mention made of the principle of "the Apostasy" this was even then working; it would continue to work until that hindrance (whatever it be as far as I see, it is not revealed to us in the word) be removed, and then the Man of Sin would be manifested. Thus in the one place we have the Apostasy followed by the Man of Sin, and in the other, the Mystery of Iniquity continuing to work until it ushers in that Wicked whom the Lord will destroy. Just as that Wicked and the Man of Sin are clearly identical persons, so I believe that the Mystery of Iniquity is the principle which carries on and consummates the Apostasy. But this Mystery of Iniquity was working then when Paul wrote. Overt apostasy there might, perhaps, not have been, but the hidden corruption was at work; and if it was thus then, how much more must it be so now? and onward it will go even unto the Man of Sin and the Lordís judgment upon him.

 

We must not forget

 

The Gradual Character of Many of the Workings of Satan:

 

each successive downward step may be in itself scarcely observable. or, if observed, it may be looked on as so trifling as to be unworthy of a thought. Do not we know it to be thus? and this is. I think, peculiarly evident in the workings of the Mystery of Iniquity up to its final and awful developments. Those who go on with the stream before the revelation of the Man of Sin, will be led away by that delusion, which will bring upon them, and upon him, quick destruction from the Lord. The Man of Sin is not presented as once, but after the long working of evil, after the truth has been long presented, and that truth has been despised and rejected, after the long-suffering of God has been abused, and to the sin of the rejection of the Lord has been superadded the full rejection of the testimony of the Spirit to the preciousness of his blood, then it is "because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved . . . .God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie; that they all might he damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

 

Such is the crisis of those who are swept away by the power of Satan. Let us now seek what instruction the Spirit of God has given us concerning "the Apostasy" which leads on to this. I use the expression. "the Apostasy," because it more exactly and definitely renders what in our translation is termed "a falling away": the Spirit of God not only marks some indefinite departure, but with all distinctness of language, he points at the departure which at length leads to such fearful consequences.

 

Apostasy from The Faith, and "Justification by Faith"

 

It is written thus in 1 Timothy 4 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart [or shall apostate] from the faith" before continuing the quotation. it is important to mark what is meant by this word, "the faith": now, we might, perhaps, in reading such a passage as this, take "the faith" to be the whole form of Christianity, in the same loose sense as that in which men speak of the Mohammedan faith, the faith of the Church of Rome, and the like; but this, to say the least of it, is a very unscriptural use of the expression "the faith" it is not Christianity as opposed to Judaism, or any false system, but it is faith, that which unites a sinner to Christ, which is here spoken of. Thus the express testimony of the Spirit is, that certain shall apostatize (using the term of 2 Thessalonians 2) from faith; they shall deny this to he that which God has made it; they shall take other grounds as being those on which a sinner can be justified they "shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron: forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain front meats which God hath commanded to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." Here then is a description of some of the characteristics of the Apostasy, the early steps, as it were, by which it would come in. That righteousness which is of value before God, is the righteousness which cometh of faith: but so soon as an attempt of any kind is made to super-add something of our own, in this, then, directly there is the principle of apostasy. When Christ was first preached, faith in His blood was the one declared ground of blessing to sinners: but so soon as the works of men came in, then directly there was so far apostasy. To take up the commandments of God and to press obedience to them, as additional to faith in order to obtain justification, would be a principle of apostasy; how much more, then, to take un abstinence from the gifts of God, as though that could be a matter of obligation? Unless we see fully the simple ground of a sinnerís acceptance, we never can at all comprehend what apostasy from faith is: we cannot see how such things as are mentioned in verse 3 can have such a character of desperate evil in the sight of God: we can never see that practical holiness follows, and does not precede acceptance.

 

Soon it was, indeed, that this principle of apostasy began to spring up; ordinances to be observed; and commandments of abstinence were put in the place of that faith through which the soul of a sinner has present immediate acceptance before God: and from the first springing up of the evil, to this day, wide has been the desolation resulting from a false principle once admitted. "But does not this express testimony of the Spirit apply to the Church of Rome? Is not that the apostasy here pointed out?" Surely this description does apply to Rome that church is indeed apostate; but the testimony respects not Rome only the apostasy cannot be limited to her alone. It describes manís religion, in which self may be something in opposition to Godís religion, which makes Christ everything, The Church of Rome is described; but not that merely, but whatever makes any addition to faith.

 

The apostle thus continues, in verse 6: "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ." This shows how deeply important the testimony is; and how earnestly every one who wishes to he a good servant of Christ ought to press these truths. It is very uncommon, however, for any one to put the brethren in remembrance of them; and one reason of this is, undoubtedly, because many look on the apostasy as being that which is confined to Rome a something with which we can have nothing personally to do, unless we join that church; and, therefore, there are not a few who would be loud in the denunciation of Rome, and yet would not remind the brethren of "these things," because these things strike at the root of every framework of false doctrine which man might erect as a fancied ground of acceptance, whether wholly or partially such, with God. Unless indeed the Gospel of the grace of God righteousness imputed to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly be truly seen, it is impossible that any one can be a good servant of Jesus Christ, putting the brethren in remembrance of "these things."

 

Now it is undeniable that faith has been departed from; it is undeniable that holiness in the flesh, in one form or another, is sought and advocated; many who would not desire wittingly to overlook the blood of Christ, begin by an attempt at mending the flesh, as though they could succeed by remedying that which is irremediable. The attempt is continually made, and how? In one way or another it constantly assumes this form an attempt to hinder the abuse of that which God has given to be used, by restricting the use. "But are not restrictions needful?" God has given his own restrictions and limits, In the passage to which reference has just been made, the attempt to introduce holiness in the flesh works partly by "commanding to abstain from meats"; now God has created them "to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth." This, then, is Godís restraint, the principle which he brings in to prevent abuses; "for every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving."

 

Principles of apostasy having come in, the stream flows onward until all that are borne on its surface become a part of the supporters of the Man of Sin. We have personally to do with the Mystery of Iniquity; and it is not for us to trifle with evil when it may seem to us to be comparatively harmless. Our calling is, to have fellowship with Christ Himself in glory; it becomes us not in any way to tamper with present evil. I do not look now in detail at the many specific forms which the principles of apostasy may be assuming around us they all embody, in one way or another, a departure from faith. "But if a saint will be kept from sharing the destruction of the Man of Sin, why need he now to take heed?" Such are the questionings which the heart may put forth, but to what do they amount? Just this Let us go on in evil as far as we can, trusting that the arm of God will keep us. I know full well, from the testimony of the word, that heaven and earth will sooner pass away than any of the children of God, preserved in Christ, can perish; but no ground does the word give for carnal presumption; and it is the height of presumption to tamper with evil when it appears to be comparatively little, in the thought of being preserved when it becomes overwhelming. The Lord preserve his saints from this madness!

 

The Apostasy, the Precursor of the Man of Sin, has set in

 

the Scripture tells us how he himself comes. His "coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders." Do the saints give heed to this testimony? Do they really believe that miracles will be wrought by the energy of Satan? Surely this is not believed. Many would apply all that is written of the Man of Sin to the Church of Rome, which they would also identify with the Mystery of Iniquity, as if that which is introduced, and that which introduces could be identical. But the Spirit of God speaks here of real miracles, not mere illusions: They are miracles; and in Revelation 13 we see what some of them are: further "and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might he saved." Thus, these miracles will deceive men; they will be led away to follow him who comes in the energy of Satan. Are there not many who say that a real unquestionable miracle would convince them of anything? It behooves the saints to take heed to the truth of God, and to know that it is superior in authority to aught that can be brought against it, however confirmed by miraculous power, It is nowhere written that God will confirm to us a new revelation of miracles; but it is written that Satan will thus introduce the Man of Sin.

 

And he will he received first, as the holder of the power of the earth, when the worldís corruption has gone on to its crisis; secondly. as the head of the Jews. when their iniquity had fully reached its height: and thirdly, as the head of apostate Christendom, so that he will be worshipped by all whose names are not in the Lambís book of life. "God shall send them strong delusion. that they should believe a lie: that they all might he damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

 

In this threefold character does the word present him; and in each of these headships, there is an attempt on the part of Satan to take possession of something for Antichrist which belongs to Christ. But the Lord will take to Himself His great power and will reign; He shall come as the Head of the Church. as the King of Israel, and as the Lord and Potentate of the whole earth. Satan urges on his efforts to one point the setting up of the Man of Sin. God uses the same acting of evil as his opportunity of taking out of the hand of Satan all that which. through sin, has fallen beneath his power. Then will the earth be blessed beneath the rule of Christ: then will Israel be saved nationally, the rebels being purged out, while the nations of them that are saved will walk in the light of the heavenly city, the abode of the saints; who enjoying the eternal presence of the Lord. will rejoice in seeing all things out under Him. The Man of Sin being destroyed, the joyful song will be: "O Lord. our lord. how excellent is thy name in all the earth!"


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