Series: Great Doctrines
Now I hope you will follow the message this morning. Take your Bible and place your hand there at the Book of the Revelation and at the second Thessalonians letter, and as I speak, you turn to the Scriptures with me.
There is an amazing thing that you will find in a close and intimate study of the Word of God, an astounding thing! It is this, that there is a whole counterfeit system in the image and likeness of God and God’s work and God’s institutions here in this earth. There is an angelic, heavenly, celestial, godly Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]. There is also a satanic trinity. Turn to the sixteenth chapter of the Revelation, and then, as I turn thereafter, turn with me. In the sixteenth chapter of the Revelation, the thirteenth verse, “And I saw three unclean spirits . . . come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet”; the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet [Revelation 16:13]. Then you have them described.
Now, turn to the nineteenth of Revelation and the twentieth verse. Revelation 19:20, “And the beast was taken, and the false prophet that wrought miracles before him . . . and they were cast alive into the lake, burning with sulfur, brimstone.” All right, the next chapter, Revelation 20, the tenth verse. There the three are again, “And the devil, the dragon, that old serpent, that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are . . . .” [Revelation 20:10]. There is the satanic trinity: the dragon, which is Satan, who is anti-God; the beast who is the Antichrist; and the false prophet which is the anti-church, the anti-Spirit, the anti-work of God here in the earth.
Isn’t that a strange thing? I had never thought such until I began to read here in the Holy Scriptures, then I found it to be true all through the story of the Revelation and the mercy of God. Whatever God does, Satan counterfeits it.
I remember over there in the seventh chapter of the Book of Exodus that the Lord God sent Moses and Aaron, and they stood before Pharaoh. And one of the signs of the authenticity of the message and mission of Moses and Aaron was this: they were to cast down their rods before Pharaoh, and their rods should be turned into serpents [Exodus 7:9-10]. Do you remember that story?
All right, do you remember the sequel? When Pharaoh saw the rods of Aaron and Moses turn into serpents, he was amazed and overwhelmed. It was a sign of God! Then it says, “And Pharaoh called for his enchanters and his magicians and his sorcerers.” And the Scriptures say, “And the enchanters and the magicians and the sorcerers cast down their rods before Pharaoh, and they turned into serpents!” And then the sequel, “And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened” [Exodus 7:10-13].
What God does, Satan does, and what God’s servants do, the emissaries and the priests of Satan also do. So I say, when you turn here to the Holy Scriptures and read there in the revelation of the Trinity, God our Father, and God our Savior, and God our Holy Advocate and Comforter [2 Corinthians 1:3], in those same Scriptures, you will also find an anti-God which is the dragon, and an Antichrist which is this filthy and loathsome beast, and the anti-Spirit which is the false prophet, and the false church, and the false priest, and the false preacher, and the false minister, and the false system of religion that he furthers in the world [Revelation 16:13].
Isn’t that an astounding and an amazing thing? But that’s what Satan does and that’s his work. He counterfeits God in the earth. First, anti-God: the dragon, that old serpent, the devil [Revelation 12:9]. I saved just a few moments for him because I spoke of him one whole service about, oh, four weeks ago. Do you remember when he is introduced in the Book of Isaiah and the fourteenth chapter? Do you remember what Satan said? Satan said in his heart, “I will be God,” lifted up, proud, exalted. So much so that Satan said, “I will be God. I will be the Most High” [Isaiah 14:14].
And because the pride and the ambition to overwhelm the throne of God was found in Satan, he was cast out and cast down [Revelation1 2:7-9], and a third of the angels were cast down with him [Revelation 12:4]. And from that hour until this and until the end, Satan wars against God, and he is bitter and furious, for he knows that his time is short [Revelation 12:12].
Satan has a kingdom. In the [twelfth] chapter of Matthew and the twenty-fourth verse and thereafter, the Lord Jesus speaks of the kingdom of Satan [Matthew 12:24-26]. And Satan has his subjects. Satan has a third of the angels that follow him [Revelation 12:4]. And he has demons and unclean spirits that follow him. And he has unregenerate humanity that follow him [John 8:44; Revelation 3:9].
And Satan’s task is the corruption of all that God makes in this universe. When God created this world and when God created the heavens and when God created all that He created, He did it as only God could do it, perfect and beautiful [Genesis 1:31]. And the chaos that was wrought was wrought by the vicious, corrupting spirit of the anti-God, by the dragon himself.
Then when the Holy Spirit—brooding over the woe and the sorrow caused by the great rebellion of that dragon [Genesis 1:2]—when the Holy Spirit brought order out of chaos [Genesis 1:2], there you will find once again in the garden of Eden, that slimy serpent, that subtle snake, that old dragon who’s the enemy of God, you’ll find him in the beautiful garden of Eden, corrupting our first parents [Genesis 3:1-6]. And from that tragic and fallen day until this, there you will find the serpentine trail here, there, everywhere against God and against God’s people, our archenemy and our adversary, the dragon, Satan, anti-God. He has a kingdom [Colossians 1:13], and he has a work here in the earth [1 Peter 5:8]. Wish I had time to go into some of it.
I sat down by President Black, Robert College in Istanbul, so many years in Bulgaria, married a Bulgarian, and he said, “This stain of the communist control over people is a miracle! It’s mystical.” I sat down by missionary Connelly who had just come out of Red China, sat down by his side in Hong Kong, and he said, “I cannot understand it. Nationalist armies that refused to fight, now, under a communist banner, lay down their lives. I cannot understand it.”
The understanding is simple. Satan has a kingdom in this earth [Matthew 12:24-26], and just like in the kingdom of Christ you have a new birth and you’re born again, you’re regenerated [John 3:3]; so Satan is able to take unregenerate humanity and make fanatics out of them as they are born into the kingdom of night and of darkness. He is the anti-God.
Now, the dragon and the beast, the Antichrist [Revelation 16:13]; will you turn to the second Thessalonians letter and the second chapter? The second person in that satanic trinity, the Antichrist; 2 Thessalonians, the second chapter. There is a strange, mysterious, iniquitous person that the Bible reveals that is coming into this earth, and this is what Paul says about him, then we will turn to what John says about him. Second Thessalonians, the second chapter:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him,
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter from us, as that the day of Christ has already come. [2 Thessalonians 2:1-2]
You have it translated, “is at hand” [2 Thessalonians 2:2]. Actually, “as that the day of Christ is come,” is already come, already here. No. No. Not so! There are even some who say we are in the glorious millennium now. Not so. Not so!
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that Day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, a great apostasy, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that as God he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Remember ye not, that, when I was [yet] with you, I told you these things?
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now hindereth—letteth, will hinder—will let, until He be taken out of the way. [2 Thessalonians 2:3-7]
And he’s talking there of the Holy Spirit. Some of these days the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way, out of the world; and when He is, then this man of iniquity, and this mystery of sin, and this son of perdition, this Antichrist, will be revealed.
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming:
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. [2 Thessalonians 2:8-9]
Look at that seventh verse, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. In 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul describes the mystery of godliness. Do you remember what it is? “The mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” [1 Timothy 3:16]. Here is the mystery of iniquity, Satan manifest in the flesh as God, “sitting in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” [2 Thessalonians 2:4]; Satan incarnate, iniquity incarnate, wickedness incarnate, vileness incarnate, all of the powers of Satan incarnate. What words he calls him, the man of sin in the third verse [2 Thessalonians 2:3]; the son of damnation; the mystery of iniquity; that Wicked [2 Thessalonians 2:7-8].
Ah! What things doth Satan have in store in that final and ultimate contest with the Lord God Almighty and with His Son Jesus Christ! But we must hasten. We must hasten. Here in the first epistle of John in the second chapter, 1 John 2:18, he says, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”
There is coming one great and final Antichrist, and then all kinds of little incarnations of the vileness and wickedness of Satan are already among us. Then, in the Revelation, and the thirteenth chapter, beginning from 1 and going through 10, there you have a description of that Antichrist according to the revelation given to John [Revelation 13:1-10].
Oh, what things Satan does, counterfeiting the Lord Jesus Christ! And that Antichrist when he comes shall set himself up as God and shall rule against God [2 Thessalonians 2:4]. But we haven’t time for that. We come now to the third person of that awful trinity, the dragon and the beast, the Antichrist, and now, the false prophet [Revelation 16:13].
I tell you, my dear people, I was overwhelmed—I was overwhelmed when I read here in this sacred Word that Satan has his churches, and Satan has his preachers, and Satan has his theology, and Satan has his priests, and Satan has his temples. Satan has his religion. Satan has all of these habiliments and ordinances whereby he counterfeits and copies the true revelation and the true faith and message of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For example, Satan has his church. In the Revelation, the second chapter and the ninth verse, look at that, “the synagogue of Satan!” [Revelation 2:9]. Turn to the third chapter of the Revelation and the ninth verse, in the third chapter where he refers again to the synagogue of Satan [Revelation 3:9]. Why, that’s unbelievable!
Jesus has a church, the ekklēsia. “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25]. Satan also has his church, the synagogue of Satan [Revelation 2:9]. Jesus has a bride. “Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” “Come hither, and I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife” [Revelation 21:9]. Jesus has a bride. Satan has a bride, and we haven’t time for that. But the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation is given over altogether to the mystic, harlot church: “The woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand” [Revelation 17:4]. She is the mystic, harlot church that belongs to Satan, riding on the scarlet-colored beast, belongs to Satan, belongs to the dragon [Revelation 17:1-4].
The Lord Jesus Christ has a cup and has a table. In the first Corinthian letter and the tenth chapter, “The cup which we bless, is it not the cup of the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” [1 Corinthians 10:16]. In the—I think it’s the [twenty-first] verse of that same tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: and you cannot sit at the table of the Lord, and at the table of devils!” [1 Corinthians 10:21]. Satan has his cup and Satan has his table just like the Lord Jesus Christ has His cup and the Lord Jesus Christ has His table.
And when I read things like that in God’s Word, I am overwhelmed and astonished! O Christ, how can we—how can we know when we’re not being deceived, for that false prophet who is described here in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation beginning at the eleventh verse, that second loathsome, vile animal is like a lamb! Do you see that? In the thirteenth chapter and the eleventh verse, he’s “like a lamb,” he’s “like a lamb,” that false prophet, and that is a description of the false prophet [Revelation 13:11]. Look at the thirteenth and fourteenth verses, “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on earth… And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast” [Revelation 13:13-14]; there is a satanic kingdom in this earth [Revelation 13:1-10], and there is a satanic religion that supports that satanic kingdom in the earth! [Revelation 13:11-18].
Lord, how can Thy people cease from being deceived? How shall we tell and how can we know? Turn with me just once again in this letter of John—First John and the fourth chapter. Listen to the earnest appeal of this sainted, old, and beloved disciple of the Lord. Listen to his word, “Beloved, beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into this world” [1 John 4:1]. When a man stands up and he says, “I am a preacher of Christ,” that doesn’t mean he’s a preacher of Christ. When you’re driving down the highway or driving down a street and there it says, “This is the church of Christ. This is the temple of the Lord,” that doesn’t mean it’s the church of Christ. That doesn’t mean it’s the temple of the Lord. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into this world” [1 John 4:1].
Because that man says, “I am a preacher,” that doesn’t mean he’s preaching the true message and revelation of God. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come” [1 John 4:2], and I’ll tell you another reading there,
Every spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye should hear that it should come; and even now already is in this world.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. [1 John 4:2-5]
Beloved friends and my yokefellows in this ministry, oh, how I could pray that our people might be a people like this: when a man preaches, whether it is I or some other, when a man preaches or when you read what he writes, or when you listen to what he says, that you would take this open Book and read—does he speak according to the revelation of God? Does he say, “According to the great, great infallible Words that are written in this holy and immutable Book?”
And when the minister stands up and he says, “Now with regard to these fables in Genesis,” and, “Now with regard to these legends in the Pentateuch,” he is not speaking according to the Spirit of God! To him, they’re just legends! They’re just myths. They’re just stories out of a dark and medieval mind. When a man stands up and he speaks and he says, “Now, according to the ignorant superstitions of the peasants of that day, they made a remarkable story about the birth of Jesus. They said He was born miraculously. They said He was born of a virgin. But today, in this enlightened age and in this scientific era, we know better than that! No man is ever born of a virgin. He was not virgin-born. That’s just a part of the superstition of the unlettered, ignorant, common people of the day!”But God’s Book says He was born of a virgin! [Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23-25].
And I must stop. So with all of the revelations in the Holy Book, and He lived God in the flesh [John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16], and His name was Immanuel, “God with us” [Matthew 1:23]. And He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:2-7]—bodily, physically, the same Lord Jesus Christ—and He ascended into glory, and He is coming again in the flesh, in the flesh [Acts 1:9-11]. “For a spirit,” said our Lord Jesus, “hath not flesh and bone such as ye seen Me have” [Luke 24:39]. And He is coming again, just as He left, coming in the flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 1:9-11]. And we shall live in His sight [Revelation2 2:3-5], raised, resurrected, you, this according to the word and the power and the promise of the Holy Spirit of God [Romans 8:11].
“Try the spirits whether they are of God: for many false prophets are gone out into this world” [1 John 4:1]. And if he does not speak according to this Word, the Spirit of God is not in him [1 John 4:3].
We must close, and while we sing this invitation hymn, somebody you give his heart to the faith unchanging. Somebody you take Jesus as your Savior. Would you come and put your hand in mine? Somebody you put your life in the church, a family you, or a couple. While we sing this song, if the Lord would bid you come, if the Spirit says go, would you make it now? Would you make it now? In the balcony around, anywhere, someone you, whom the Lord hath touched, whom God bids you to come, while we sing the hymn, would you come? Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com