Scripture Reference: Daniel 8:25, Zechariah 14:4, Matthew 24:21-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:4-12, Revelation 13:8, Revelation 19:11-21
An Extraordinary ReturnDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | November 7, 1993
Selected highlights from this sermon
The last war on Earth will be a religious war. Jesus will face off against all of the other “gods” of the world—including Satan and the Antichrist.
In this message, Pastor Lutzer gives us a glimpse into the rise of the Antichrist, the things he will “teach” people, and the power that he and Satan will have.
But this is not a message of despair. The worst conflict in history will come to an end when Christ returns and defeats His enemies—once and for all.
In the Hofburg Library in Vienna, Austria, there is a spear believed by many to be the one that was used by the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s side. When Adolph Hitler was in his early twenties and was spending his life there in Vienna sketching and drawing some diagrams, and selling them so that he could live, he spent a lot of time in the Hofburg studying eastern occultism, and he became mesmerized by this spear. In fact, what happened is he was there studying when a tour guide said to some of the guests, “Whoever unlocks the mystery of that spear will rule the world.” That remark changed Hitler’s life. He began to study the spear and discovered that there were many spears that claimed to be the one that was used to pierce Christ’s side. But nevertheless he concluded that indeed this was the one and it had mystical awesome occult powers.
It is said that Hitler would sometimes stand before the spear inviting its spirit to possess him. One observer said that as he would stand there it would be as though he was engulfed in ectoplasmic light, absolutely taken over by the spear and its power. Later on when Hitler went to Munich, it was there that he became introduced to the deepest levels of occult transformation, and when he marched into Austria later without a shot, he went into the Hofburg and took that spear and held it to his bosom. The spear was then taken to Saint Catherine’s Church during the Second World War – that is in Nuremburg, and you can believe this or not, but through a fluke it fell into the hands of the Americans on the very day when Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin.
One of the things about Hitler that I believe is that somehow he is a prototype of Antichrist. Antichrist will come and march onto the world scene after there will be an economic collapse, and there will be a great need for powerful and strong leadership. He is one who will be able to do economic miracles, transforming a depressed economy into a very buzzing economy, and he shall always speak peace, but at the same time be preparing for war.
I find it interesting that the very last battle on planet earth, at the very wrap-up of history as we know it, is basically a religious war. It is a war between all the forces of Antichrist, and all of the gods that follow him, and then it will be a battle between all those false religions and Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords. And the final battle answers the question, “Which god is true? Which god reigns?”
If you’ve been with us you know that this is number eight in a series of messages entitled Christ Among Other gods because we have been trying to show the absolute superiority of Jesus, that there is none like Him, that the gulf between Him and other gods is infinite, and He alone is King.
And before I tell you about His return I would like to spend just a moment reviewing with you some information that perhaps you already know as to what Antichrist will teach. What is it that will be the basis of Antichrist’s rule? What is the culmination of false religion on planet earth? And what are its major doctrines?
First of all, Antichrist will teach, and the people of the world will believe in, self-transformation. They will believe that we can have a transformation of consciousness without a personal infinite god, but that we can bring it about ourselves. Marilyn Ferguson, in her book The Aquarian Conspiracy, says that this self-transformation, or esoteric experience, can take place in our lives in two different ways. The slow way is by meditation. You get into the eastern religions and that will put you in touch with the powers. The fast way, she says, is by transformation and psychedelic drugs. In the case of Hitler, he used both, drugs in Vienna, drugs in Munich, but he also came in touch with the powers. As a matter of fact, Dietrich Eckhart, who was Hitler’s mentor, said of him because he had transformed him into a thoroughly demonized being, “Follow Hitler for he shall dance, but it is I who have written the tune, and because of that I have introduced him to the powers, and I will have influenced German history more than any other German.” He believed that he had received a satanic annunciation saying that he was supposed to prepare the vessel of Antichrist.
This is now a parenthesis. Throughout history there have been many pastors and teachers who have said, “The end time is near. Things are shaping up in Europe. We can see it all happening,” and they’ve been wrong. But the reason that they’ve been wrong is because we must remember that Satan does not know when God is going to wrap up history, and he always has to have somebody ready who will step into the role of Antichrist at whatever period whenever he is needed. So there are times when it seems as if we are living near the end. And that’s why people have sometimes misread the signs.
But back to Antichrist and self-transformation, the Bible says regarding Antichrist, “And his power will be mighty but not by his own power he will destroy mighty men and holy people.” His power will be given to him. He will be transformed and he will tell us that we too can be transformed either through drugs or through meditation. We too can be in touch with the power to have that special experience of enlightenment, a very key word. This is Satan’s most dazzling deception. You see what he always wants to do is to counterfeit Christianity. He wants to counterfeit Christ and God.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again because if you are not born again you will not see the kingdom of heaven.” Satan says, “I want to give people a born again experience,” and so what he does is he tells us we can have our own mystic experience as we get plugged into the power thoroughly demonic teachings. One of the teachings of Antichrist is the power of self-transformation.
There’s a second doctrine and that is that men and women are god. He will teach the deity of mankind. Now take your Bibles and turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:4 where we see this most clearly where we have Antichrist spoken about, and we can see here the awesome power and deception that will overtake the world. It says of him (this is verse 4 of 2 Thessalonians): “He who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Now many of us believe that this will take place in the middle of the Tribulation period. He will have made a covenant with the nation Israel to protect the nation, but then he will turn against the Jews, and he will go to Jerusalem where the Temple will already have been built during this period of time. And he will say, “I am god. Worship me.”
And everybody who has been schooled in the New Age Movement and the influence of eastern religions in America and throughout the world will say, “Well, why can’t he be god? After all, we are god too.” Don’t we all remember Shirley McLaine, running out onto Malibu Beach, shouting, “I’m god, I’m god,” and Charles Colson saying, “Aren’t you glad she’s wrong?” (laughter)
And so he’s going to believe in the deity of mankind, and look at the miracles he’s going to do to pull it off. It says in verse 8: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” That’s actually what we’re talking about today – Christ’s coming to crush all of this rebellion. “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.” It really is that they might believe the lie. What is the lie? The lie is the deity of mankind. Ever since in the Garden of Eden Satan said to Eve, “You will be like God,” people have believed it. It is the most dazzling deception – the deity of mankind.
Then third, there will be a commitment to globalism because remember it says in Revelation, and this is an awesome verse regarding Antichrist, “And all that dwell upon the face of the earth shall worship him except those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.” He is going to, for a few days or a few weeks, receive what he believes to be absolutely universal worship, and you can’t have that unless the whole world becomes a global community.
I have in my hand the Global Ethic that was published at the Parliament of World Religions here in the city of Chicago, September 5, 1993 – a global ethic. This global ethic says that all the religions of the world can unite. All the religions of the world can be together and we can change the world globally.
It begins by saying the world is in agony. “The agony is so pervasive and urgent that we are compelled to name its manifestations so that the depths of its pain might become clear. Peace eludes us. The planet is being destroyed. Neighbors live in fear. Women and men are estranged from each other. Children die. This is abhorrent.” And we certainly would all agree with that.
But then it goes on to say that we must commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice and peace, that we will not injure, torture or kill other human beings. There is much in this document that is good that we would agree with. But I want you to know today that no Christian can possibly sign this document without signing on to Antichrist’s agenda. For one thing, it doesn’t even mention the word God because there were some Buddhists who objected to the use of the word God in the document since some Buddhist groups do not believe in God.
For another, it does capitalize all the way through the word earth. You see it is Mother Earth. Years ago when I wrote a book on the New Age Movement I had a quote in which someone said, “When you go to bed at night say goodnight to Mother Earth.” You know, tuck her in nicely. Have a good sleep, Mother Earth. Pantheism is the belief that everything is god and the earth is god, and unfortunately this philosophy also lies underneath those who sometimes promote globalism and the entire global agenda.
And so what Antichrist is going to do is have a global strategy for the world. Now this document has no power. None of us were compelled to sign it though, incidentally, it was not made up by the Parliament of World Religions. It already came and we were told that there would be no debate about it but many people signed on. But what Antichrist is going to do is to have a structure whereby it can be enforced. And I can already see it happening where people are asked to sign on, and then if you don’t, they say, “See, you’re opposed to peace. You know, these Christians are standing in the way of a global agenda. Here we are on the verge of a brand new age when we are going to bring peace and we’re going to end hunger in the world, and who in the world won’t get on the agenda? It’s those Christians who think their God is the right one.” A commitment to globalism!
Number four, there will be a commitment to utopia. Utopia! We can usher it in. You should just see how optimistic this document is, though it was written by a man who had some sense of realism. But, he says, “We appeal to all the inhabitants of this planet. Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed. We will pledge to work for such transformation in individual and collective consciousnesses for the awakening of our spiritual powers through reflection, meditation, prayer or positive thinking (Choose whatever you like or none of the above.) for the conversion of the heart.” This is for the conversion of the heart. “Together (Get this, folks.) we can move mountains, and without a willingness to take risks and a readiness to sacrifice, there can be no fundamental change in our situation. That’s why we commit ourselves to a common global ethic to better mutual understanding, as well as to a societal beneficial peace offering Earth friendly way of life (earth, of course being capitalized).” Utopia is on the corner. It’s just around there.
The Bible says regarding Antichrist in Daniel 8:25, “And through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed, and he will magnify himself in his heart, and he will destroy many while they are at ease.” I like the King James translation here. It says, “Through peace he will destroy many.” And you have all of the doves of peace that will be flying around, and behind it will be the most brutal politically motivated religious organization that this world has ever seen that will be viciously cruel.
Let me give you one other commitment of Antichrist, and that is, of course, intolerance to those who disagree. Intolerance of all descent! Listen to the words of Mariah Tims. He says, “The plagues of revelation are a special package of karma visited upon the obstinate, that they might awaken to their wrong attitudes. Animals that don’t adapt become extinct. Remember survival today means understanding and responding to change within the context of internal revolution.”
Now the Bible says that when Antichrist comes people are going to be forced to take his mark upon their forehead or upon their hand. Scholars of the Scripture used to wonder how that can take place. Today we understand it a little better. It could well be some kind of computer chip. And in a cashless society (which would only make sense because that would end all of the drug money that is being laundered, and so forth, so that everything would have to go through a common computer) you would not want to lose your I.D., your pin, your personal identification number, and it could be tattooed on your hand or on your forehead (wherever you wanted it), and it may well be that you don’t even know the number yourself so that you could never be held up by someone who could make you confess what your number is.
And then the Bible says that those who do that in order to live, because without it you can’t buy or sell, are indicating that they are buying into the beast’s religious agenda. Remember we’re not talking politics in the end as much as we are religion. All that dwell upon the face of the earth shall worship him. Now it is in that context that the Bible talks about the return of Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that there is going to be a battle called The Battle of Armageddon because Antichrist’s power is going to wane and it’s going to fall apart, and he’s going to come to the Middle East, and it’s going to begin there at the Valley of Armageddon, but it is going to spill over at least for 200 miles throughout the Middle East. And it is going to be the bloodiest and the most vicious and cruel battle that has ever been seen on this planet. So first of all it will be fought in Israel, but secondly it is the worst conflict in history.
There are two passages that I want you to turn to. The first is Matthew 24 where Jesus predicts what is going to happen, where He gives us a glimpse into the end time and how bad it is going to be. In this chapter he begins by talking about Titus surrounding the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., but this becomes a picture of the Great Tribulation, and the final return of Christ to this planet. It says beginning in verse 21: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’….” (Benjamin Crem says that there is a Christ who is right now in the Himalayan Mountains and is waiting to be revealed, and when he comes he’s going to be taller than Jesus. Well that’s what the Battle of Armageddon is going to be all about – to see who’s taller.)
But notice it says, “Here is the Christ.” If anyone says, “Here is the holy man.” I never knew how people could worship a man until I saw the Dali Lama at the Parliament of World Religions, and people were clamoring to touch him. And Antichrist will have an aura about him that will be so magnetic. In fact, he will probably say that he is a reincarnation of some previous important personage. And everybody will worship him.
But Jesus said, “When somebody says that Christ is over there, don’t believe them.” Verses 24 through 27: For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
And in verse 30, Jesus says, “There will be the sign of the Son of Man who will appear in the sky, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn.”
Now I need to be clear and say that many of us believe that when this happens you and I will already be in heaven because there will be a rapture of the church that will take God’s people to Himself. And then there will be a period of time of great tribulation when there are some people who will believe on Christ. That’s why there are believers during the Great Tribulation period when God continues His work with the nation Israel. But then Jesus Christ comes to the Mount of Olives and we come with Him.
Let me quote to you Zechariah 14. It says, “His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof towards the west and towards the east so that there shall be a very great valley, and then toward the north and towards the south.” It will literally break apart when Christ comes and every eye shall see Him. People say, “Well, how can every eye see Him? Is ABC going to be there? Is NBC going to be there? Or maybe the answer finally is CNN. They will be there. Right? That’s a possibility but another possibility is that when Jesus actually begins His majestic approach, it may take so long that there may be this sign in the sky that the entire world may turn its 24-hour revolution so that everyone sees what is in the sky, and that every eye beholds Him and sees His glory. And as He begins to descend then finally on the Mount of Olives, everyone of the people in the Battle of Armageddon are going to say, “Let’s all gang up and take care of Him,” no matter what their differences. Whether their differences are geographical, whether their differences are religious, they are going to set all that aside and they are going to say, “We need to fight against Christ,” and so they will turn on Him. And the Bible says that He will come and He will slay them. And all the false religions, and all the people who believe that “we are god,” and all the people who thought to themselves that they could have their self-transformation, those who believed in the fundamental goodness of man, that we did not need redemption, all of them, the Bible says, will be destroyed.
Now let us turn to Revelation 19. There are a couple of verses that I would like to point out to you where we have a detailed description of Christ’s coming. Revelation 19:11 through 14 says: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.”
Who are those armies? Look at verse 8. At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb it says: “It was granted her (that is Christ’s Bride – us) to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” That means that we come with the Lord Jesus Christ.
You say, “Well, where am I going to be at this time of great glory, when the heavens open and when the majestic King comes to descend upon the earth?” If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will be with Him. Perhaps in a number of years I hope to lead another tour to Israel, but don’t feel badly if you can’t go because if you’re a believer, you are in for the grand tour.
And so the text goes on to say: “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” And then the Scripture says in verse 20 what happens to the beast, and what happens to all these people who went around saying, “He is God,” and then people saying, “Look, don’t complain. He is giving us bread on the table. Why are you complaining?” because they will think that their physical bodies are much more valuable than their eternal souls.
It says that the beast was seized and with him the false prophet. And we might add all the other false prophets that have lived who performed the signs in his presence by which he deceived those who had received the Mark of the Beast and those who worshiped his image. “And these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.” If you think that the judgment is somewhat severe, what you need to remember is the simple fact that God regards the greatness of our sins in accordance with the greatness of the being against whom our sins have been committed. That’s the reason why the justice that is served through the judgment seems so harsh. It is because, you see, we are no longer able to honor the glory of God. And not a one of us can. And that’s why we need Christ. And if you are here today and you have never personally believed on Him, you will be included in this final judgment because all in the end will either worship the beast or worship Christ, and the division will be complete and it will be eternal.
Let me paint you, in conclusion, two pictures. The one we have already talked about, but in another passage in Revelation it says that an angel went throughout the whole earth, crying with a loud voice, and said, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes his mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured unmixed in the cup of His fury, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” And it says that the smoke of their torment shall rise up forever and ever. And those who worship the beast have no rest. It says all the people who said, “You know, it doesn’t matter what your belief is as long as you are sincere (that’s important),” their smoke goes up forever and ever. What a terrible picture of all false religion that has not acknowledged God’s own Son, Christ, as King of kings, and Lord of lords.
But let me now paint for you another picture. John says, “And I saw, as it were, a sea of glass mingled with fire. And them that had gotten the victory over the beast and over his image and over the number of his name, and they stood on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, oh Lord, and glorify Thy name, for Thou only art holy, and all nations shall worship before Thee, for Thy judgments are made manifest.” And He carried me away in the spirit to a great high mountain, and showed me the New Jerusalem descending from heaven from God. And its light was like unto a stone most precious, even as a jasper stone clear as crystal. And I saw no temple therein for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it. And there is no night there. And there shall in nowise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” And Jesus said, “Behold I come quickly. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. And the Spirit and the bride say come. And let him that heareth say come. And let him that is athirst come and drink of the water of life freely. He who testifieth these things sayeth, “Behold, I come quickly.”
Even so come, Lord Jesus.