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And He said to Abram, You must surely know that your seed shall be a stranger in a land not theirs, and shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also I will judge that nation whom they shall serve. And afterward they shall come out with great substance. And you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come here again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (Genesis 15:13-16 MKJV)

Israel stayed in Egypt so long because the iniquity of a particular group of people had not reached its fullness. The iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. There were many other people of the LAND that are not mentioned here. The Canaanites, the Girgashites, the Jebusites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Hivites and many other "ites" also lived in the land of promise. All except the Amorites had reached the fullness of iniquity. God and the promised seed waited for the Amorites to reach the point of utter decadence that precedes judgment. God in His mercy would not pass judgment one moment sooner. As with the antediluvian race, His Spirit would not always strive with them.

God's timing is often dependent on the fullness of iniquity. The ultimate and final showdown between Christ--the Son of God--and the son of perdition at the end of the Church age also awaits the full expression of iniquity. If we do not understand this principle, we can never understand God's end-time purposes. At the end of this age iniquity will once again come to fullness, personified in one person called the son of perdition. This will set the stage for God's remnant to come into their fullness. Now let us consider the mystery surrounding this son of perdition.

The Son of Perdition

The first mention of the son of perdition is found in Christ's prayer in John 17:12. "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled."

Out of the twelve, the only one lost was the son of perdition, Judas. Judas is a type and a sign of the son of perdition who will be revealed in the close of the age. This is a mystery, the mystery of iniquity.

What scripture was Jesus referring to when He said, "and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled"? It is a reference to a passage found in the book of Zechariah. It was spoken at a time when the iniquity of Judah was full. In their idolatry and violence they followed full in the way of Cain. The time of judgment had come. God sent Zechariah to declare His judgment.

There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is destroyed. There is a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is destroyed. For so says Jehovah my God: Feed the flock of the slaughter, those buying them kill them, and hold themselves not guilty. And those who sell them say, Blessed be Jehovah, for I am rich; and their shepherds do not pity them. For I will never again pity the people of the land, says Jehovah; but lo, I will make the men come out, each one into his neighbor's hand and into his king's hand. And they shall strike the land, and I will not deliver out of their hand. And I fed the flock of slaughter, even the poor of the flock. And I took two staffs for myself; the one I called Kindness, and the other I called Union. And I fed the flock. I also cut off three shepherds in one month; and my soul was impatient with them, and their soul also despised me. And I said, I will not feed you; that which dies, let it die; and that which is to be cut off, let it be cut off. And those left, let them eat, each woman her neighbor's flesh. And I took my staff Kindness, and broke it apart, to break My covenant which I had made with all the peoples. And it was broken in that day; and so the poor of the flock who were watching Me knew that it was the Word of Jehovah. And I said to them, If it is good, give My price; and if not, let it go. So they weighed My price thirty pieces of silver. And Jehovah said to me, Throw it to the potter, the magnificent price at which I was valued by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of Jehovah. Then I broke My other staff Union apart, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. And Jehovah said to me, Take to yourself yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those going to ruin, nor will he seek the young, nor will heal that which is broken, nor will he feed that which stands. But he shall eat the flesh of the fat and tear off their hoofs. Woe to the worthless shepherd who abandons the flock! The sword shall be on his arm and on his right eye; his arm shall be completely dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened. (Zechariah 11:3-17)

It is extremely important to note the context of this prophecy, in order to comprehend the full measure of what Jesus was conveying. God sent Zechariah to pronounce a word of judgment on Judah, and particularly on the shepherds of Judah. The flock was so wretchedly treated that they were called the flock of slaughter. They were bought, sold and killed. The buyers killed them and excused themselves of any guilt. The sellers had the audacity to view their ill-gotten gain as the blessing of God, saying, "Blessed be Jehovah, for I am rich."

In the late first century, Jude wrote of the ongoing defilement of Cain's way.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude1:4)
Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. (Jude 1:11, NASB).

Cain, Balaam and Korah all had one thing in common--they refused to be governed by God. These men mentioned in Jude did for the early Church what Cain had done for the antediluvian world. They were corrupting influences, blemishes in their love feasts.

Jude further explained,

These are hidden rocky reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you, shepherds who without fear feed themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn leaves without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots." (Jude 1:12 WEB)

It was during a love feast in the upper room that Judas went out from the presence of God, just as Cain had. Judas was religious, just as Cain was. Like Cain, Judas was a thief, seeking his own. He even stole from the common moneybag. Like Cain, Judas was a kingdom builder, a militant zealot, seeking to rebuild the kingdom of Israel and restore it to its former glory. Like Cain, Judas also plotted the death of his brother (Jesus) for personal gain, thirty pieces of silver. Judas also plotted the death of his brother (Jesus) and betrayed the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver. He later tried to repent by returning the silver to the temple rulers, but they would not receive it. To them, it was blood money, the price of blood. It is more than coincidental that Abel's blood cried out from the field where Cain had killed him and hidden his body, and here the thirty pieces of silver would be used to buy a field named "The field of blood" (Matthew 27:8).

So Zechariah went on to say essentially the very same thing as Jude.

. . .and their shepherds do not pity them. . .I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those going to ruin, nor will he seek the young, nor will heal that which is broken, nor will he feed that which stands. But he shall eat the flesh of the fat and tear off their hoofs.

Here we see the judgment on those who walked in the idolatry and violence of Cain. They reap what they sow. The very same violence would be enacted by shepherds who strongly exhibit the same iniquity, feeding on the flock in worship of themselves.

Judas had an entirely different goal than Christ. Judas wanted to build an earthly kingdom. His ambitions were counter to those of Jesus, who wanted to establish the Kingdom of God. These are two entirely different passions.

The chief characteristic of both Cain and Judas is a drive for an objective that is counter to God's purposes. Cain tried to advance himself by killing his brother. He not only contended with Abel but also disapproved of God's will. He did not accept God's choice. This was also the case with Judas, who betrayed Christ for his own advantage. The humble Servant Christ failed to meet Judas' grand expectations. Neither Cain nor Judas wanted or accepted God's will. Both wanted to establish earthly kingdoms by treachery. The greater ramifications of this will become more apparent as we go on.

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token (manifestation made by act) of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. (Philippians 1:28-29).

This suffering will be at the hands of men like Cain and Judas, religious men who offer sacrifices with their own gain in view. This is a clear manifestation of who they really are as they strive against you who truly believe.

Historically, the institutional church has fully exhibited the spirit of the son of perdition and is responsible for horrible violence and bloodshed. The perpetrators of this violence were religious people who thought they were doing God a service. Like Cain, they offered sacrifices, but betray and murder true believers wholesale. Although things are more civil in our day since murder is outlawed, the treachery and betrayal remain. Before the end of the age, as this mystery reaches its fullness, there will be a resurgence of the bloodshed as well. The son of perdition will be manifest in his fullness.

The government imposed by men can be no more perfect than the men who govern. For this reason God is calling men out of the corrupted cities to that city whose Builder and maker is God. This is more than figurative. It is a very real spiritual pilgrimage, with Jesus going before us as a Shepherd, leading the way. (See Isaiah 40:10,11).

Just as Israel could not come out of Egypt one moment before the iniquity of the Amorites was full, the fullness of this mystery, the mystery of iniquity, must also come before the manifest Sons of God can appear. All God's works are done in contrast. In His letter to the Romans, Paul asked a question that profoundly makes this point.

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "Even for this same purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth" (Romans 9:17 MKJV).

We do not agree with the fatalism of Calvin, nor do we pretend to fully understand God's ways. We have no intention of getting into the traditional debate over predestination. We do want to show that God contrasts His power and glory on the backdrop of iniquity, like a diamond set on black velvet. In order for the mystery of Christ to reach its manifest fullness, there must first come the fullness of the mystery of iniquity.

Falling Away-The Mystery of Iniquity

Paul spoke of this final apostasy or falling away in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. In verse three we read these words, ". . .let no man beguile you in any wise: for it (the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him VS 1) will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3 ASV).

The falling away has already occurred for the most part, but like the iniquity of the Amorites, it is not yet full. God and His children wait for the full manifestation of this mystery, so that He might show His power and declare His name throughout the earth.

Paul continues to explain how this mystery will unfold.

. . .who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4 MKJV)

This passage reveals several things about the son of perdition. The word sits in the phrase "he sits as God" is the Greek word kathizo. Although it is translated set in many instances, kathizo carries the thought of continuance. "To have fixed one’s abode, to set, appoint, to confer a kingdom on one."6 The words "setting himself forth, that he is God" reveal the effort and objective of the son of perdition. He sits, posturing as though he were God, but he is also trying to consolidate that position. We have words for this in our English vocabulary such as imposter, counterfeit, and fraud. The purpose of the son of perdition is to displace the Son of God. He is Satan's counterfeit messiah. We believe this mystery will manifest in both an individual and corporate expression of iniquity in the final days. Just as Christ the true Messiah has a many-membered body called the Body of Christ, the son of perdition will also have a corporate expression, many antichrists. John wrote:

Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18)

Both are waiting to come to fullness. The falling away had to occur first so the full manifestation of the son of perdition might be manifest. The sons of God will be displayed on this ebony backdrop.

Paul was not only speaking of the immediate fulfillment of Christ's words, "For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will lead many astray" (Matthew 24:5 WEB.) He was more concerned with the long-term fulfillment of this iniquity--the fullness of the mystery of iniquity.

Jesus was lowly, emptying Himself, taking on the form of a servant. Antichrist, the opposite of Christ, exalts himself. This is the difference between the Spirit of Christ and the spirit of antichrist. In killing Abel, Cain preferred himself above his brother. He rose up, exalting himself in his own brutish way.

Because this is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain was of the evil one, and killed his brother. And for what did he kill him? Because his works were evil, but the things of his brother were righteous. (1 John 3:11-12 LITV)

People who exalt themselves above their brothers are of the spirit of antichrist and have believed the lie (See 2 Thessalonians 2:11). The article the in the Greek implies that there is only one lie that all others spring from. It is the lie that Satan used to tempt and deceive Eve. "You shall be as God, knowing good and evil." It was the lie first born in the heart of Lucifer who said in his heart, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14).

If we don't love the truth there is only one other option, The Lie. We can embrace Christ's humility, empty ourselves like He did and walk the way of the cross as servants, or we can take the path of self-exaltation. The strong delusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:11is believing the lie and seeking to climb to the lofty heights of godhood. Any man who is going the wrong way while thinking he is on the right path is deluded. The way to life is through descending into the grave, possessing the mind of Jesus, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God and yet emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant. Those who choose the wrong path, climbing the heights or building towers to heaven, fully identify with Satan, who first planned to set his throne above the stars of heaven and exalt himself above all that is called God. The ambition to climb is the strong delusion, the antithesis of the humble, lowly servant Christ! The serpent that deceived Eve has enticed these deluded people onto another path so that their thoughts are corrupted from the purity of Christ. They have embraced another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel. (See 2 Corinthians 11:3-4) This Deceiver knows no limits. He even tempted Jesus to climb up and rule over (Matthew 4:8-9).

The Mystery is how this darkness can be perceived as light. Atheism is not Satan's greatest deception. His greatest deception is religion! Remember Cain's sacrifice. The mystery of iniquity will be fully manifest in the context of a counterfeit church, driven by another spirit, manifesting a drive opposite to the Spirit of Christ.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul sees this mystery coming out of the midst. "For the mystery of lawlessness already is working, only he is holding back now, until it comes out of the midst." (LITV)

This mystery was and will yet be manifest out from the midst of the true church. In his epistles Paul gives us a vivid picture of what this apostasy will look like. He told the Ephesian elders that after his departing, "savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves" (Acts 20:29-30, NKJV). Note the objective, to draw away disciples. Wolves rise up to do something that no one dared to do before. They try to draw away the disciples after themselves to establish congregations in their own name, with themselves as the center. Consequently, virtually every denomination has some man/women as its founder and namesake.

Just like Ishmael, this apostate corporate expression of the counterfeit son, the son of perdition, is intent on passing itself off as the real heir.

Beginning as early as the late first century, John warned: "Little children, these are the end times, and as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen. By this we know that it is the end times. They went out from us, but they didn't belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us" (1 John 2:18-19 WEB).

John later warns of one who rose up in the midst of the believers and ruled over them.

I wrote to the assembly, but he loving to be first of them, Diotrephes, does not receive us Because of this, if I come, I will recall his works which he does, ranting against us with evil words. And not being satisfied with these, neither does he receive the brothers; and those intending it he prevents, and thrusts them out from the assembly. (3 John 1:10-11, LITV).

These people go out from the church by exalting themselves above their fellow believers or allowing others to exalt them. These who love the preeminence not only displace godly men like John, but they even displace Jesus. This is the true meaning of the word antichrist, for it not only means against Christ, but in place of Christ.

The danger here is not so much that one man will rise up among the saints, but that he would delude the rest of the body by his example. A little of this leaven has leavened the whole lump.

As Paul continues to warn,

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers. (2 Timothy 4:1-3 NKJV).

As many a Protestant will attest, Paul looked into the future and saw the celibate priesthood of the papacy, which also forbade certain foods on certain days. But is this the greatest danger to the church?

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3, NKJV).
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NKJV).

Note here that men will heap to themselves teachers who will teach according to their own desires, not the will or desire of God. They are content with appearing to be godly, but in reality they deny Him access to their lives and become totally powerless in their faith. These passages give us a sense of the apostasy that did occur and is indeed occurring in the end times.

2000 Years of the Last Days

Some might say, "These things are prophesied for the last days and are still in the future." Note here that the first century believers understood that they were living in the last days. (See 1 John 2:18 and Hebrews 1: 1-2)

According to Joel, the Holy Spirit would be poured out in the last days. Those who witnessed the Spirit's outpouring on the day of Pentecost were living in the last days. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh" (Acts 2:17 NKJV).

The falling away has already happened. It happened in the last days, just as Paul and John foresaw. The church has fallen from power to a form of godliness. We have a lot of form and very little Spirit.

By the close of the first century, one church had all but utterly fallen and the rest were soon to follow. The church of the Laodiceans was about to have their candlestick removed. Revelation 3:20 depicts their condition as an assembly rudely leaving Christ standing at the door, knocking and asking to be let in. It had become so bad that even though He was knocking and asking, few were listening. He had clearly been shut out. By the close of the first century the falling away was already in full swing

. John foresaw this mystery after it had come to fullness. Things worsened dramatically, for toward the close of the age, the apostate Church is depicted as a murderous harlot. On her forehead a name is written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations in the Earth (Revelation 17:5). The Kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. (Revelation17:2) She is guilty of the blood of the Saints and in her hand is a cup full of that blood. (See Revelation 17:6)

From the time that Paul wrote, "For the mystery of iniquity does already work" (2 Thessalonians 2:7) to the time that John received the letters to the seven churches was only about 24 years. In that short time span the church at Laodicea had all but fallen so that God described them as "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). Things were escalating rather quickly. Only 200 years later Christianity became fully paganized with the help of a despotic Roman emperor.

Sun god

How far the church had fallen can be seen in a brief review of church history. Under the direction of Roman emperors, the church embraced numerous pagan holidays. They adapted their priesthood after the order of the pagan priesthood. They erected buildings, now called churches, fashioned after the order of pagan temples and Roman civic centers. They took the garments of pagan priests, and the goddess of the pagan temples, Isis or Artemis the Great Virgin, the Mother of God,or the Queen of heaven, otherwise known as Mary. In keeping with the pagan custom of deifying men they venerated saints, naming temples after them. The Roman mosaic below shows how far the church had fallen. It depicts Christ as the sun god ascending into heaven in his chariot. The worship of the sun was not outlawed in the Roman church until the fifth century. Constantine, the supposed Christian emperor, maintained the title, Pontiff Maximus, the god over all other Roman gods. He later also took the title of the thirteenth apostle. Christianity had fallen right into the lap of paganism. The worship of the Son had been confounded by the worship of the sun.

So much for the fall! Now for the recovery!

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