Idolatry has been prevalent since the beginning of world history, but Revelation 13 tells us that it will reach its detestable zenith at the end of world history. This lesson takes you to that tragic scene.
The Fifth Column
In 1939, as the Spanish Civil War was coming to a close, General Mola was making his final plans to attack Madrid. Someone asked him which of his four columns would be the first to enter the city. He responded, now famously, with the words, “The fifth column” is first. General Mola’s hopes were pinned on the help of rebel sympathizers living inside the city of Madrid among the population. They were already at work behind Loyalist lines, aiding his cause, preparing for the overthrow of Madrid.
Since that time, the phrase, “the 5th column” has been used worldwide to describe people who assist the enemy from within. / George Sweeting, “Betrayal in the Church” (Moody Monthly, April 1992), quoted by Mark Hitchcock in, Seven Signs of the End Times (Multnomah, 2002), p. 81
The biblical term for the 5th column is the word apostate. An apostate is someone who masquerades for a while within the body of believers but eventually comes out and reveals his false belief.
This is the one who says they know Christ and they come to church but then somewhere along the line they announce they don’t believe the Bible anymore and they leave the church and deny Christ for the rest of their lives.
John the Apostle wrote about them in 1 John 2:19 where he describes them as explains, “They went out from us, but were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”
In light of our study in Revelation 13 regarding the Antichrist, I found it especially interesting that John continues in that same paragraph, verse 21, I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (that is the Messiah – God in the flesh); this is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
So John writes about those who’ve left the church, apostates who deny the truth about Christ.
Even worse than that are those who never leave the church. They create a 5th column, in reality they are in league with the enemy of the church.
Even worse than them are those supposed shepherds, those in leadership, who in reality lead the sheep astray.
This was Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders when he said to them, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock (why? Paul added), from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
The word for perverse (diastrefw) can be translated, “to twist or distort” . . . in other words, these apostates hide under the guise of true spirituality; they seem sound and true but they, in fact, twist the truth and distort its meaning; they use the same terminology of scripture but they have a different dictionary.
I agree with one author who wrote that it doesn’t take much effort to see that we live in a generation of surging apostasy. / Ibid, p. 82
Paul wrote to Titus that these who’ve turned away from the truth are defiled and unbelieving, they profess to know God but by their deeds they deny Him. (Titus 1:15-16)
These are the ones Paul warned the church in every generation about – this is the ever present 5th column – from within – that collaborates with the enemy, watering down the gospel and denigrating the mission of the church into nothing more than inoffensive doctrine where everybody can be included; anything goes lifestyles where everybody goes to heaven – in fact, you get to go to heaven whichever way you want to go.
As the world finally unites into one global government and one global economy, you also discover in John’s vision of the Tribulation – the rise of a one-world religion. It’s begins with the acceptance of every religion, so long as no religion doesn’t exclude the validity of any other religion.
Inclusivism and pluralism will be the rage. Everyone will have a god and every god will be validated.
Halfway through the Tribulation, as we will see in Revelation chapter 13, the happy days of every god will do, will morph into a religion with only one god – the Antichrist – and every human being on the planet will be required to worship him, or die.
So the days leading up to the emergence of the antichrist will be marked by many antichrists – or the spirit of antichrist – which will deny the truth of Christ’s exclusive claim to be God in the flesh (1 John 4:3).
And the spirit of antichrist will especially hate this exclusive saving role of Jesus Christ, of whom the Bible says, “There is salvation in no one else; there is no other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
This was the message of the early church. It was as unwelcomed then as it is now . . . and it will be the death sentence of anyone who believes it during the Tribulation period.
Before we look at how the Antichrist operates in his one-world religion, I believe it’s absolutely necessary for the church to be warned in this dispensation about what John wrote exists even now – that spirit of antichrist.
The New Testament clearly identifies the 5th column inside the walls of the church, so to speak, with two predominant characteristics.
First, they deny whatever truths of scripture they don’t want and secondly they practice whatever behavior they do want.
The apostate church, John has already revealed to us in Revelation 2 and 3, is the church that twists the truth to accommodate sinful behavior. Several churches among the seven who received letters were involved in open immorality that the church was either ignoring or accepting.
So the church today could be categorized as apostate – or nearly there – by observing the lack of distinction among professing believers.
Sin is condoned . . . and the church is not disturbed.
One of our Shepherds Seminary graduates told me some time ago that as he arrived to his new church where he had been called to pastor, he got a phone call on Friday night before he was to preach his first sermon at his first church. The phone call was from a man outside the church who was attempting to reconcile with his wife who attended the church. He wanted the pastor to read a letter he was composing to his estranged wife and so he wanted to meet with the pastor. Our young seminary graduate was very excited. He told me, “Imagine, on my first weekend, I get to be involved in the reconciliation of a marriage.”
When he met with the man later that night and read the letter, everything changed. He realized as he read the letter that this man was pleading in vain. Evidently, his wife wasn’t very interested in reconciling because she was living with another man who was actually attending the same church.
And evidently everybody in the church knew about it. This young pastor came to find out that the man she was involved with was actually a leader in the church; in fact the pastor discovered that this man was the chairman of the Pastoral search committee that had just extended the call.
And that was his first weekend.
In every mainline denomination now, the facts are in and well known; abortion is as commonplace inside the church as outside; fornication is expected between single adults inside the church as outside; pornography is as rampant inside as outside; divorce as commonplace; greed as rampant and gossip as unbridled; homosexual behavior is condoned and even encouraged and adulterers move unrepentantly and unchallenged among the assembly.
They profess to know God but their deeds deny Him.
Add to apostate behavior, apostate belief.
The church at large today is throwing overboard historic, biblical doctrine that is now considered intolerant and out of date.
Doctrine is not overtly denied as much as it is discreetly distorted – as Paul warned – twisted and redefined.
No apostate inside the assembly gets up and announces that he’s denying Jesus Christ from here on out . . .but what he will deny is that Jesus Christ is God incarnate; that the resurrection doesn’t have to be literal; that the Bible doesn’t have to be infallible; that hell doesn’t have to be a real place.
The apostate will not deny that Christ exists, but he will deny that Christ is exclusively God.
The emergent church movement, popular in a number of circles today as just another apostate movement of church leaders who deny, among other historic doctrines, the necessity of faith in Christ alone for salvation.
Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest whose writings helped form the foundation of this emergent movement, put his belief in these deceptive terms when he wrote, “I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” / Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (Crossroad Publishing, 2000), p. 51
This doctrine is now fully accepted by the average American “Christian” and it is entrenched in every mainstream protestant denomination as well.
Brian McLaren, listed as one of Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America recently wrote this twisted statement in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy – code for, everybody gets into heaven – here’s one statement he made, “I don’t believe making disciples equals making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist or Hindu . . . contexts.” / Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy(Zondervan, 2006), p. 260
In other words, Christians can remain Hindus and Buddhists.
By the way, this is the same distorted reasoning popularized by “quote/unquote” people of faith you’ve been hearing about all your life – and every generation has its spokesmen.
Mother Theresa, who died a few years ago was admired – and rightly so – for her clinics that provided safe, clean medical aid to the terminally sick and dying – I happened to visit her clinic there in Calcutta. But her theology was a different matter and I never cease to be amazed to hear some evangelical leader quote her as if she were a true believer. In one interview she said, and I quote, “If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are. What God is, in your mind, you must accept.” end quote. / John MacArthur’s sermon, The Coming World Peace (online at gty.org/resources/transcripts/66-23
How empty of hope is that?
I don’t want the god of my mind . . . I want the God of the word. I don’t need a god I’ve invented . . . I want the God who was revealed in holy scripture that we, by the way, could never invent and still can’t begin to comprehend.
This one historic doctrine of saving faith in Christ alone is ever twisted by pseudo-spiritual leaders who say, as one leader did recently, with clever deception that can almost go unnoticed by an unsuspecting church, and I quote, “Although I believe in Jesus as my personal savior, I am not a Christian for that reason; I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.” / McLaren, p. 100
Jesus Christ had a different message, didn’t He? And it really wasn’t all that popular was it . . . because it wasn’t at all inclusive. In fact, he said on one occasion that most people are not heading toward heaven but toward hell when He said, “Broad is the way that leads to destruction and many there be that find it” Matthew 7:13
In other words, everybody doesn’t get to God. Even if a teacher named McLaren writes it in a book published by Zondervan that you can buy at your local Christian bookstore.
A woman in our church sent me an email; she and her husband have been attending Colonial now for a few months. She said they left another Baptist church in our county – never told me the name of it – but she talked about what led them away. In her Bible study group, a discussion had taken place on the subject of pluralism – or many paths lead to God – Islam, Hinduism, whatever, she wrote was accepted. She said she spoke up an quoted John 14:6 where Jesus Christ said, He was the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him. Only one other lady in the Bible study agreed with her. Later on a Sunday she approached her Sunday school teacher to ask about it. Evidently he believed it too. In fact the teacher told her that John 14:6 had many interpretations and that she needed to talk to a Hebrew scholar explain who it doesn’t actually exclude Islam or Hinduism.
I found that interesting that the teacher would send her to a Hebrew scholar since that verse isn’t written in Hebrew – a minor point, I’m sure.
Her teacher went on to tell her that John was the only place in the Bible that stated Jesus was the only path to God.
She writes, it seemed that many key leaders in our church quietly supported this view of many paths to God. Well to you and any others from churches that deny the singular effect of the Christ’s atonement to forgive sinners and save them for eternity – I say, welcome here . . . we believe it’s the truth.
I gotta finish this introduction. Actually, this is heavy on my heart – I wanted to get through the entire paragraph in Revelation 13that introduces us to this coming one-world religion, but the more I studied this deception and all the scripture involved in warning the church, it was clear I needed to slow down.
I gotta slow down.
You probably thinking, “Slow down? My child is gonna graduate from High School before you finish Revelation.”
Some of you had your children go through Middle School and High School in the Book of Romans . . . how many of you regret that now? Don’t raise your hands.
Beloved, the closer to the end of the church age we come, the more resistant our world will be to the exclusive claim of Christ to make ready the introduction of the Antichrist who will in a matter of 36 months have the world worshipping him alone.
The refusal of the world to worship Christ alone will soon be replaced by a world who will eagerly worship the Antichrist alone.
And so to every generation, Paul warns the church of the coming plethora of false teachers who will attempt to deceive the flock of God.
To the church in Corinth he writes, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ; no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness whose end will be according to their deeds.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Listen, how come it’s so easy to deceive people. How come these guys can get away with it without very many people waking up to it?
For one thing, Satan knows the human heart was created to worship; and it will worship something or someone.
Everybody has faith in something. Everybody believes in something. Even those who say they don’t believe in anything have faith that there is nothing in which to believe.
Well, get ready . . . the day is approaching when the human race will be deceived by a religious leader who will turn the heart of the world to worship the Antichrist.
The Anti-Spirit’s Partnership
Now, notice verse 11 of Revelation 13. Then I saw – this is John’s way of introducing a new vision – then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth;
You might note that the first beast – the Antichrist – came up out of the sea, we’re told in verse 1 of this same chapter. More than likely this represents the Mediterranean Sea – since the Antichrist will rise from the revived Roman Empire that surrounds this sea. / Adrian Rogers, Unveiling the End Times in Our Time (Broadman, 2004), p. 159
This second beast, called the False Prophet in Revelation chapter 19, arises from the earth. The word is translated “land” in Matthew 2:6 where we read of the “land of Judah”; also in verse 20 of that same chapter we read about the “land of Israel” . . . same word is used.
In fact, for this reason, there are many who believe that the False Prophet will be Jewish.
You might say, “there’s no way a Jewish man would ever promote a one-world worship system and try to get along with Muslims and Christians.”
I have in my study a copy of an interview that took place last month with the a Chief Rabbi in Israel who said, “It is my dream to create a united religious nations.”
He went on to explain that since Abraham is the father of all three monotheistic religions, embraced by the majority of the world’s population – Islam, Judaism and Christianity – that connection should begin a dialogue of peace.
But you’re probably thinking, there’s no way the Muslim world would ever follow a Jewish religious leader.
I just happened to read from a journal I subscribe to and in it an article in this month’s edition which revealed that the King of Saudi Arabia, a devout Muslim representing the most religiously intolerant country on the planet, had convened a conference in Spain.
That conference in Madrid has been termed “historic”. For one thing it was a conference on religious inclusivism, attended by evangelical leaders – and I use the term evangelical loosely; liberal lobbyists from all kinds of denominations; Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Zoroastrians – by the way, these are not people who believe in Zorro.
They are monotheists who believe in an uncreated god named Mazda. And yes, that sporty car bears his name with the exact spelling; Mazda, the god of the Zoroastrians. So those of you who drive Mazda’s . . . you’re in deep trouble. Just thought you’d like to know.
300 religious leaders convened in Spain where this Muslim King shocked everyone by his open embrace of other religions when he said, and I quote, “We all believe in one God, who sent messengers for the good of humanity in this world and the hereafter.” In other words, we ought to find common ground in our monotheism and in the name of unity in religion get along. / “Security on the Island of Grace” (Friends of Israel Magazine, January/February 2009), p. 8
John records here the rise of a powerful, demonically inspired man who will rise to a place of pseudo-spiritual leadership.
Notice John’s vision further; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.
More than likely this image of a lamb isn’t so much his counterfeiting of Christ, the Lamb – we know the Antichrist will try to pull that off. This is language that takes the reader back to Christ’s words in Matthew 7:15 where He describes false religious teachers as men dressed as harmless sheep, but they are really hungry wolves who will tear you apart.
This is part of his deception. Nobody’s afraid of a little lamb. They don’t scare people. A lamb is gentle, harmless, innocent and throughout scripture, ceremonially clean. / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 170
He’s gonna be the perfect gentleman.
But John adds to this description at the end of verse 11, “but he spoke as a dragon.”
That ties him to the language of Satan who is called to as the dragon in this expose.
How does the dragon speak? He is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 John also said of Satan in that text, “whenever he lies he is speaking his native tongue.”
The Prophet is in league with the enemy. He is actually partnered with Satan.
He will work like no 5th column ever worked behind the scenes, ultimately aiding the one who will destroy the billions of people who’ve surrendered to this false messiah.
False prophets are all like this. They often appear meek and mild and harmless. They offer hope and solutions to the problems troubling men and women. Yet they are the voices of hell and when they open their mouths, Satan speaks. This false prophet will come like a lamb, speaking false, deceptive words of comfort. He will promise the suffering, tormented people of the world that all will be well. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 59
F. F. Bruce called him the “Minister of Propaganda”. / Quoted in Stewart Custer, Revelation: From Patmos to Paradise (BJU Press, 2004), p. 151
In reality, he’s in partnership with the Devil himself.
I want you to underscore not only his partnership, but his primary objective.
The Anti-Spirit’s Passion
Verse 12. He exercises all the authority of the first beast (that is, the Antichrist) in his presence.
There are some who believe he is the antichrist. The text clearly indicates he is exercising the authority of the Antichrist in the very presence of the Antichrist.
Others believe that the False Prophet isn’t really a person, but an institution . . . a religious ideology. Trouble with that is that you won’t have institutions or ideologies thrown into hell, but people who are ultimately judged by God. / MacArthur, p. 58
Revelation 19:20 reveals with terrifying finality that the beast is seized along with the false prophet who performed signs in his presence . . . and these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone (Revelation 19:20).
But for a short space of time, the false prophet will act with great passion to accomplish what? Verse 12 again, And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.
Simply put, his passion is bring about a one-world religion that raises the voice of humanity to praise and glorify the false messiah.
He literally will function as one who seeks to glorify Antichrist.
Just as Satan will seek to counterfeit God the Father; the antichrist will attempt to counterfeit God the Son, the False Prophet will then attempt to counterfeit the Holy Spirit.
Listen to these contrasting descriptions we’re given in the Bible:
- The Holy Spirit exalts Christ – John 15:26
The Anti-spirit – the false prophet – exalts the Antichrist
- The Holy Spirit reveals Divine revelation – John 16:13
The Anti-spirit is an instrument of satanic revelation.
- The Holy Spirit seals the believer to God forever (1 John 3:24)
The Anti-spirit will seal unbelievers with the number of Antichrist.
- The Holy Spirit builds up the Body of Christ (John 7:37-39)
The Anti-spirit will build up the followers of Antichrist.
- The Holy Spirit enlightens mankind with the God’s truth (John 14:17)
The Anti-spirit will deceive mankind with Satan’s lie. / Adapted from Edward Hindson, Revelation: Unlocking the Future (AMG Publishers, 2002), p. 142
You can easily see nothing less than a counterfeit trinity.
- Satan – the first person – anti-God who is the father of this plan and scheme.
- The second person – Satan’s “son of perdition” – the Antichrist – a human being empowered by him to perform his bidding.
- The third person – Anti-spirit – the one who exalts the “son of perdition” and seals his followers forever. / Adapted from Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: God’s Last Word (Zondervan, 1971), p. 241
Here is the anti-trinity . . . this is the counterfeit trinity from the Kingdom of darkness, come to deceive the world from following the true and living God and those heading for the kingdom of heaven.
And listen, the anti-trinity is gonna sound a lot like the deceivers I quoted from earlier today.
Rob Bell, another supposed emergent leader in the church, was interviewed in a supposed evangelical magazine. In that interview Bell said, “The church has . . . preached horrible messages about being left behind and that this place is going to burn – [these are] absolutely toxic messages that are against the teaching of scripture, which state that we are connected to God, we are connected to the earth, we are connected to each other. Your relationship with God is tied into your relationship with the soil . . . [then he says] go back to Genesis.” / Relevant Magazine, “Rob Bell Tells It Like It Is”, January/February 2008
So I did.
In Genesis we discover the original sin and mankind’s spiritual death through disobedience. No longer connected to God. But we see God’s initiative in taking the lives of innocent animals and clothing Adam and Eve in their skins – a picture of sacrificial atonement that will be culminated in the final sacrifice, promised to Adam and Eve, the seed of the woman, the suffering Messiah who will crush the serpents head in final victory.
That’s what you find in Genesis.
In Genesis we watch the world judged through a flood and those left out of the ark are destroyed.
Sounds a lot like left behind and this place is gonna be judged, to me!
Go back to Genesis and you have Satan, sin, atonement, grace, a promise, and a coming Messiah.
Listen, your relationship to God today, my friend, if you have one, is not tied to the soil . . . your relationship to God is tied to a Savior.
And anybody who tells you otherwise is a false teacher who speaks the dragon’s language of lies.
But our faith – the faith of the redeemed who’ve been rescued from the god of this world;
Our faith has found a resting place not in device or creed;
We trust the ever living One, His wounds for us shall plead.
We need no other argument, we need no other plea,
We say – it is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.
The fifth column, unbelievers within the church will promote unity at the expense of truth. But the religious unity the world clamors for is trivial, superficial, self-centered and ultimately flawed and temporary.
But an assembly, committed to the truth, revealed in the scriptures can enjoy true unity of heart and purpose – not only in the assembly but between assemblies.
We’re actually out of time . . . why don’t you go ahead and pack things away and stand . . . it will give you the impression that we’re almost through . . .
I want to close with an illustration of gracious unity, based on our confession of truth, biblical faith.
I received this week a gracious letter from Pastor Gregory and the Alliance Church here in town.
Many of you know we worked together at the recent Memorial service for Kay Yow. Our two churches combined choirs and some 350 volunteers. We wanted to see the gospel of Christ take root in the hearts of thousands of people who would hear Kay’s testimony. As an addendum here, the beautiful one page tribute that our Communications Department put together that had Kay’s testimony on one side – we received a request to allow NCState to print 10,000 copies to distribute. Our Ministry Leader, Paul Franitza wisely said “Yes, but only if you print both sides and include Kay’s testimony.” They agreed.
Pastor Gregory wrote me and then included a letter to Colonial – I believe it will not only encourage you but serve as an illustration of unity, not at the expense of truth, but unity that exalts the truth of Christ.
“I have reflected a bit on what enabled our congregations to minister together so well. I’ve tried to crystallized my thoughts and here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
First, we share a common belief in the trustworthiness, authoiryt and sufficiency of Holy Scripture. We are persuaded we are called to strive to live by every word our God speaks. We prayerfully depend on Christ to sanctify us by His truth. Thank you for loving the word of God and the God of the word as you ministered to us and alongside us.
Second, we share a common conviction that the gospel is powerful to save. The gospel we love and herald is not a ragbag full of human speculations and hearsay hopes. It is of divine origin. God alone planned, promised and provided the gospel – the only saving message in existence. Thank you for your faithfulness to the good news that forgiveness and eternal hope are ours only through Christ our Redeemer and Lord.
Third, we share a common devotion to the fellowship of believers. How sweet is the taste of the communion of the saints. Our choir and congregation have not stopped talking about the kindness, generosity and glad-hearted serving spirit of the saints at Colonial. Thank you for your overflowing love for the people of Christ.
Finally, we share the conviction that our supreme purpose is to glorify God. It was a joy to serve the cause of God’s glory with you.
With much gratitude,
Pastor Mitchell Gregory
Cary Alliance Church
Cary, North Carolina
This dear friends, is the basis of true, joyful, religious harmony – it is based on the objective revealed truth of scripture, it is built up in Christ our Lord, and it pursues the declaration of the gospel of Christ and glory of God.