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First, from their assigned position in the wilderness these witnesses decry the rising of Antichrist with certainty, yet, without surprise. They were timely apprized of this event. In apostolic times there were spirits of Antichrist, 1 John 4:4—many antichrists, chap. 2:18. Paul had told the Thessalonians, while he was yet with them, of the future coming of this enemy, 2 Thess. 2:5, and of the cause of his temporary delay, v. 7. Peter had forewarned the disciples of the same when he said, "there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them," etc., 2 Pet. 2:1. No wonder that John says, "Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come," 1 John 2:18; or that he gives the very essence of his diabolical character in the graphic description. "He is Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son," v. 22. That Mr. Faber should fancy this enemy developed in the French Revolution, the infidelity or atheism openly avowed in the enemy’s camp, is not at all surprising. The expositor belonged to the witnessing company—was not in the wilderness, but in the enemy’s camp. It is perfectly natural that even a good man, so circumstanced, should fail to distinguish between theoretical and practical atheism. The assumption of Faber is, that the apostle John describes a theoretical or avowed atheist—one who denies the doctrine of the Trinity. This assumption is not true, as may afterwards appear. The Antichrist delineated in Scripture avows his belief in a Trinity of divine persons as openly as Mr. Faber. The author forgot that there were professing Christians in apostolic times who professed that they knew God, but in works denied him. He did not know, or he had forgotten, that Antichrist is not composed of open and avowed enemies to Christ, as were the French atheists, but of professed disciples of Christ for:
Second, these two witnesses have always testified—not formally against pagans or infidels as such; but—against apostate Christians, as composing an organized and complex system of opposition to the Lord and his Anointed. And just here, the witnesses have detected the secret of Antichrist’s successful enterprise among the human family.
In modern language the prefix anti, conveys the idea of opposition; as in the term anti-slavery, but in Scripture the radical idea is substitution, as the learned will readily see in the Greek form of the word ransom, and many others. Such is the force and significance of the dissyllable anti, when in composition with Christ—one in the place of Christ. 2 Thess. 2:4. On this idea of substitution, the Holy Spirit is pointed and diffuse in Scripture, that none might be deceived but such as are willingly ignorant, 2 Pet. 3:5, in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, 2 Cor. 11:3; so the coming of this enemy is after the working of Satan, with all signs and lying wonders; and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, 2 Thess. 2:9-10. "Many false prophets are gone out into the world . . . this is a deceiver and an Antichrist," 2 John 7. The combination is ostensibly on the side and in the interest of Christ, and the elements of which Antichrist is composed were obviously professing Christians. "They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us," 1 John 2:19. Here is the apostasy, and so the witnesses are fully borne out in asserting that Antichrist is a great Christian apostasy! To trace the origin and development, in the organization and modifications of this enemy of all righteousness, is the special work of Christ’s witnesses. The origin is doubtless of equal date with the fall of man; but the visible manifestation is to be found after the apostolic age; for:
Third, Paul, Peter and John are explicit as to this point: "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith," 1 Timothy 4:1. "The mystery of iniquity doth already work, only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way," 2 Thess. 2:7. "And through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandise of you," 2 Pet. 2:3. "Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come," 1 John 2:18. "The ten kings—have received no kingdom as yet," Rev. 17:12. Paul, as is supposed, wrote the second epistle to the Thessalonians in the year 54, and Antichrist was then future; John wrote his first epistle in the year 90, and the Revelation in 96, and as yet, that enemy was not fully organized. It is alleged, by the best divines, that the year 606 was the epoch at which this long predicted enemy of Christ, and scourge of the world, was first developed, when Phocas, the Roman Emperor, proclaimed Boniface bishop of Rome, head of the universal church. Assuming the proximate correctness of this date, the witnesses could not, for many centuries back, be wrong, in directing their testimony against that combination; for, in that transaction and alliance, they saw the prestige of all similar acts of spiritual fornication between the woman and the kings of the earth.
Fourth, besides the many minor and mixed associations, as lesser Antichrists—monkeries, nunneries, freemasonry, and such like coalitions and fellowships, all of which prepare and furnish the elements which constitute the Antichrist: the formal combination—the great confederacy is to be found in the junction and intercourse of the apostate church and state. These, combined and cooperating, are the party with which the witnesses have to deal. The deception practiced upon human credulity by the grand adversary, who rules in the hearts of individuals, is successfully carried on by imitating the divine ordinances and institutions as nearly as his diabolical ingenuity can invent. By acquainting themselves with the person of the Mediator, his offices, dominion and ordinances, revealed in the Holy Scriptures; and ascertaining from the same source, that the devil would counterfeit these; the witnesses of Christ are thus qualified to distinguish between the rights of Christ and the impious claims of Antichrist.