Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif., addressed the question Christians often ask, "Who is the antichrist?" The answer he offered, however, was not what we often get to hear.
Whenever something is popular, successful and effective, there will be imitations, Laurie, the lead pastor at Harvest Church, told the audience as he began the Sunday morning's message, part of a series called, "Revelation: The Next Dimension."
Satan is "the ultimate imitator," he said. "He has this cheap imitation of all things that are true." For instance, the pastor said, we have real Christians, and Satan has people who pretend to be believers but they are not. Similarly, we have real miracles, and "Satan has fake imitations of miracles."
Explaining about the antichrist, Laurie said, "God has His Son; His name is Jesus. And one day, Satan will have his son, not exactly in the way God's Son has come, because Jesus is God incarnate. But in a way, Satan will have his version … his imitation of Jesus… We have Jesus Christ, and Satan will have antichrist."
The pastor described the antichrist as "history's vilest embodiment of sin and rebellion." This coming world leader, however, will not be what we expect – he won't be dressed in black from top to bottom or bear a visible mark of 666, he said. On the contrary, the antichrist will be suave, intelligent, engaging, magnetic and charismatic.
"He [the antichrist] will do what no other man has been able to do. There will be global peace. He will solve the Middle East peace puzzle. He will rid the world of terrorism… He will be hailed as the greatest peace-maker… But behind that will be a satanic superman… the most evil man who has ever walked on the earth."
Laurie quoted historian Arnold Toynbee as saying a few years ago: "By forcing on mankind more and more lethal weapons and at the same time making the world more and more interdependent economically, technology has brought mankind to such a degree of disaster that we are ripe for the deifying of any new Caesar who might succeed in giving the world unity and peace." Toynbee's statement, the pastor said, "fits the biblical scenario."
The coming of the antichrist is getting closer every day, Laurie said, reading from Revelation 13:1-9. Hitler, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, all were "forerunners of who is to come, who will harness the economic and technological power of this world and bring about a one-world economy, a one-world government and a one-world religion."
Laurie said the antichrist will be a "fake Jesus," and many will believe in him. The antichrist is coming to deify Satan, the pastor said, quoting from Revelation 13: 4, "Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?'" This is what Satan always wanted, to be deified, to be worshiped, Laurie said. And this is why Lucifer was thrown out of heaven.
The antichrist is also coming to take the place of Jesus, Laurie said, as he quoted Revelation 13:5, 6, "The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven."
The antichrist is coming to kill Christians, Laurie went on to say, and quoted verse 7, which says, "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation."
We can already see anti-Christian mentality becoming more common in the world, including in the United States that was founded on Judeo-Christian values, the pastor remarked.
Laurie said the antichrist is coming also to dominate the globe. He will come as a man of peace; he will bring about temporary peace. "He will be so successful that many will think he is the messiah." He will deceive many.
The antichrist is not alone, Pastor Laurie added. He has with him the false prophet, referred to as the "second beast" in Revelation 13:13, 14: "And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived."
This makes an unholy trinity, Laurie said, explaining that Satan is in God's place, the antichrist in Jesus' place, and the false prophet in place of the Holy Spirit.
While we resist only the things that appear to be evil on the surface, the devil can come as an angel of light, the pastor reminded the audience. He will come with religious deceptions. A sign of the end times is when people turn away from their Christian faith, and there are attempts to take people away from the Bible as the authoritative source of truth and the uniqueness of Christ, he added.
But who will the antichrist be? While this was the title of the message, "I have no idea who the antichrist will be, and nor does anyone else," Laurie told the congregation, advising them not to waste their time in speculating.
"The antichrist cannot even emerge until we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air," the pastor said. "We won't be around to find out who he is. Our job is not to be looking for antichrist; our job is to be looking for Jesus Christ."
A more important question, Laurie suggested, is to ask oneself, "Am I an antichrist?" – not "the" antichrist.
Quoting from 1 John 2:22, "Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son," Laurie said there's a choice between believing in Jesus or in Satan. He reminded the audience that Jesus said, "You are either for Me or against Me."
Those who are with Jesus, Laurie added, have their names written in "the book on life," quoting Revelation 13:8, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." Laurie concluded by saying, "I can't think of anything more important than that."