In our last message we began to shed light on the spirit of the antichrist. We saw that the antichrist spirit is already in the world operating within the deep recesses of men’s hearts, in believer and non-believer alike, dictating their thoughts, understandings, and desires away from submission to Christ. We also saw that it is an error to assume that the antichrist is a definitive figure that will rise to become a global dictator.
In this message I would like to continue to consider with you the signs of the antichrist. Much has been said by Christian eschatology about the signs of the antichrist’s coming. John offers a number of distinct characteristics about the antichrist. The antichrist is a liar (1 Joh. 2:22), he denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 Joh. 2:22), he denies the Father and the Son (1 Joh. 2:22), he is a deceiver (2 Joh. 1:7) and on two occasions, we read that he does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh (1 Joh. 4:3, 2 Joh. 1:7).
The antichrist spirit is a deceiver and a liar. But, it’s important that we recognize what its deceptions and lies center around. I believe a key focus of its deception and lies is man’s identity. That spirit distorts man’s true being and identity in God. We first see this spirit at work in the garden where the serpent deceived Eve to eat of the tree by convincing her that she would be like God. The serpent capitalized on the fact that Eve did not know her identity. She was unaware that she was a living soul subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20). Before she ate of that tree, she had already entered into a denial of the Father and the Son, not merely in her actions but in her very nature and being. This distortion of man’s identity has been a target of the antichrist’s lies and deceptions from the beginning.
Today, there is an identity crisis in both the world and the church. We have a generation of youth who idolize and devoutly follow sport stars, Hollywood personalities, musicians, various celebrities and public figures. There are also those whose identity is tied to their religious affiliation, their political ideology, their race, their ethnic group, their class, their culture, their nationality, their gender, their professional group or whatever social movement or cause they support. In the west, the miasma of identity politics among right and left-wing proponents has produced a deep-rooted schism that has produced partisans who dismiss, disparage, humiliate and even detest each other for their views. Even the saints have been sidetracked from their moral and spiritual convictions to paddle aimlessly in these distasteful debates that breed discord rather than bring harmony and impart life. Whatever we “eat, sleep and drink” in this world other than Christ will cause us to walk after the flesh. And the fruit of the flesh is hatred, discord, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and death in all its forms.
I put to you that it is the antichrist spirit that is the catalyst for this confusion of identity, even among many of our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. John puts it in this way: “every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 Joh. 4:3). Now, some may wonder what the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh has to do with man’s identity.
Many believe that John was here speaking about the days in which Jesus Christ lived as a man. Accordingly, whoever denies that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin 2000 years ago and ministered in the flesh in the regions of Galilee and Judea is of the antichrist spirit. Now, I do believe that to reject the coming of the Lord Jesus in the flesh is to also reject His identification with humanity and His atoning sacrifice for the redemption of man.
However, there is something else that the Spirit would point us to here. You see it is possible for one to believe that Jesus Christ came in a body of flesh, to believe in His mighty works and His redemptive work on Calvary and yet have no union and intimacy with Him. We need to only look to Catholicism and Orthodoxy to drive home this point. Surely, to believe is an important step in one’s spiritual progression. To believe is to accept that Jesus Christ is true. But, James tells us that: “even the demons believe—and tremble!” (Jam. 2:19).
Therefore, believing that Jesus Christ came as a man of flesh 2000 years ago is not sufficient in one’s advancement to maturity in the Kingdom. Our believing must propel us to our ultimate union and oneness with Him in the Spirit. There must be an embodiment; a personification and manifestation of the Kingdom in the lives of those it finds its power and dominion. Christ in us, the hope of glory, must rule in our hearts and move and live as us. This is precisely what the antichrist denies by rejecting the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.
You see, the ultimate outcome of our inward union with Christ is His manifestation in our very own flesh. Paul testifies: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live IN THE FLESH I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). In Paul, Christ had come in the flesh because his life was governed and energized by Him. Similarly, “we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). What glory it is for Christ to be revealed in our mortal flesh!
Dear beloved, this is what it truly means for Christ to come in the flesh. This transcends believing in the man Jesus Christ who came as a Galilean. It requires knowing Him as He is now. It requires partaking in Him who now lives in us. It requires being Him in this world. Again, it is this coming of Christ in the flesh of His many-membered body which the spirit of the antichrist opposes.
By its denial, the antichrist attempts to obstruct a paramount agenda of the Kingdom of God. How? Through its teachings.
Notice that in both instances the antichrist “does not confess” Christ as coming in the flesh (1 Joh. 4:3, 2 Joh. 1:7). The spirit of the antichrist restrains the acknowledgement of Christ’s manifestations in man. Thus, Paul refers to it as: “he who now restrains” (2 Thes. 2:7). By its restraint, this spirit has made it an offense and a heresy to claim identification and oneness with Christ. And nowhere are his teachings widely accepted and guarded than by the religious church system of our day. You see, religion has taught us that we can never escape our identity in Adam and attain to perfection in Christ. It has indoctrinated us to believe that it is blasphemous to take to ourselves the character and nature that only belongs to God. But this is a false humility and a pretentious reverence.
Notice Paul was declaring that his new identity was Christ and that the identity of his old ‘I’ was no longer. In other words, Paul was claiming: I am not Adam, I am Christ on the earth. For, if you are not Christ, Adam is the only other alternative. Again Paul states: “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). What is it to have the mind of Christ if not to possess the identity of Christ? The mind of Christ knows that I am Christ – that Christ is my true nature, for it is no longer the old man, but Christ who lives in me. Though in me I still see much work that needs to be done, the mind of my spirit knows that I have been made a partaker of His divine nature. And so it is that nature I acknowledge as my true identity.
Now, I understand that some have misused this truth by running around claiming that they are Christ. Nevertheless, the ultimate evidence of the identity of such men is in the fruit of their life and not in their boast. But let us establish that our identification with Christ is not offensive to the Father, rather it is pleasing to Him. For it was for this purpose that our Lord redeemed us – to bring forth Christ as the new humanity on the earth. This is also why God chose to dwell in us and walk in us (2 Cor. 6:16).
Christ is the only remedy for the inherent human struggle for identity. And until man apprehends to His true nature in Christ, he will remain in the identity crisis of his Adamic consciousness. May it be clear to every believing saint that our identification with Christ is not about mental assent or mere declarations. As mentioned, there is a long journey from believing to being. Much of the Church today claims identity in Christ. But the proof of our identity in Christ is His manifestation in our mortal flesh. This entails Christ enveloping or possessing the whole person, quickening every faculty, bringing forth a total and complete revelation of His life.
Dear beloved, the Lord is pleased to bring forth the full expression of Christ in you. He is raising you up to live in the consciousness of the new man as your true identity. Turn your attention and conviction from every lie and deception of the antichrist to the divine work He has begun within and may you walk in the boldness and confidence of knowing that as He is, so are you in this world (1 Joh. 4:17)!