THE COUNTERFEIT MILLENNIUM

Vance Havner

Let no man deceive you by any means... (II Thessalonians 2:3)

Rip Van Winkle slept through a revolution. When he went to sleep, George III was ruler of America. When Rip awoke George Washington was President of the United States. Rip did not know what had happened and started whooping it up for the king. He almost got into serious trouble--he was hollering for the wrong George!

In these tragic times many well-meaning but mistaken souls are making a similar mistake. They are not shouting for the former monarch of a past age as Rip Van Winkle did, but for the false messiah of an age to come.

In II Thessalonians 2, two personalities emerge at the end of the age: Christ and Antichrist. Christ will return one day to reign over a kingdom of peace and plenty. But before He sets up His Kingdom, Antichrist will have his fling.

Satan is the Great Imitator. Every time God starts something, the devil comes up with a counterfeit. When Moses performs a miracle, Jannes and Jambres are on hand. So the Great Imitator presents a false millennium.

Many preliminary signs are offered from the new day promised by communism to the world brotherhood of religious liberals. By whatever name, this counterfeit millennium is the vain effort of old Adam to regain his lost Paradise and build the kingdom without the King.

The spirit behind most of the movements now promising a new world is not Christian. It is not light breaking through but darkness settling down. It is unregenerate man trying to create a society that will exist only when Christ reigns.

The issue now, as ever, is Christ or Antichrist. It is either God who became Man or the man who will claim to be God. When our Lord came to earth there was a Roman peace--law and order by imperial force. Before He comes again there will be another Roman peace. That peace will be shattered when the true nature of Antichrist becomes apparent; but he will first delude mankind with his program.

We are seeing some advance notices even now. The blueprint for the last empire of the Caesar's is foreshadowed in the confederation of Western Europe; NATO and other developments are straws in the wind. Ecumenical movements, overtures from Rome, the United Nations, and internationalism--all point toward the world church and the world state, the harlot and the beast. Regimentation, uniformity, and conformity, the leveling of the human race into one faceless mass--all are previews of the profane paradise when the counterfeit messiah shall reign.

The Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man now promoted by unregenerate men is not the program of Christ but that of Antichrist. It is so cleverly designed that it appears unchristian to oppose it. The few who can distinguish truth from error these days are in for plenty of trouble. Important clergymen will endorse the false millennium. Churches will put it in their budgets. Idealists will crusade for it, supposing they are "bringing in the Kingdom." It will offer rash amateurs and misguided youths a cause and a chance to be martyrs. It will provide a field day for all Rip Van Winkles who suddenly wake up and must "holler," even though it be "for the wrong George."

The history of human depravity began when men "changed the truth of God into a lie..." (Romans 1:25). It will reach its climax when "God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (II Thessalonians 2:11). The devil is a liar and the father of the lie (John 8:44). He began his deception in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve: "Ye shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4). All the unmentionable sins of Romans 1 grew out of that initial deception.

Before our Lord returns, many will come saying, "I am Christ," and they shall deceive many. That deception will reach its consummation in the ultimate lie, the man of sin--Antichrist.

We are being primed today for that final delusion. P.T. Barnum, the showman, said, "The American people love to be humbugged." We take to it like ducks to water. This is the most sophisticated and, at the same time, the most gullible generation in history. We buy more gold bricks and white elephants than all our forefathers. Throughout the day and most of the night we are barraged over radio and television by singing commercials: "This is the best detergent, the best automobile, the best anything, and everything. It has the new secret ingredient that nothing else has!" We know it is hokum, but we buy it just the same. In a thousand subtle ways we are being brainwashed for the ultimate lie.

While riding on a bus recently, I heard two men discussing the times and proposing their cures for the world's predicament. It was the same story, old Adam trying to produce world peace without Christ. I said to myself, "Two more candidates for the devil's millennium!" We hear it in panel, forum, and symposium, where, as one writer puts it, "We pool our ignorance." By education, sanitation, legislation, we are going to bring in the new earth.

Better environment is not enough. Adam was in Paradise when he fell! If better conditions were the answer, Adam would never have sinned. We've never had it as good since.

Mixing everybody into one Mulligan stew won't do it, either. There are a lot of bad eggs in humanity, but we are not going to improve them by scrambling them into one big omelet.

Christians should work with others, of course, in maintaining law and order, in seeking as much peace as is possible under the circumstances. But we must do it realizing that all such measures are only temporary. We will not pay any price for peace nor be snared into unholy alliances with this age by the argument that the end justifies the means.

We do not expect old Adam to regain Paradise. Spurgeon said, "Apart from the second coming of Christ, the world is more likely to sink into a pandemonium than to rise to a millennium. We are not building the Kingdom now. Our time is coming. Our King will set up the Kingdom when He comes. In this age it is a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men, not meat and drink but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."

Satan will launch modern movements under religious auspices in order to maneuver Christians into an awkward position. But we must not be taken in by advance agents of a counterfeit millenium. One of these days, many well-meaning church people will wake up to find out that they have been looking toward and working for, not the Kingdom of God, but the devil's paradise.... In the meantime, let us busy ourselves with our Saviour's program until He comes.

The principles of the Kingdom of God cannot be woven by unregenerated men into the pattern of our pagan society. The blueprints of the age to come cannot be forced upon this present world. The Sermon on the Mount cannot be legislated into the constitutions of this earth. Today false messiahs cry, "Lo, here!" and "Lo, there!" announcing false kingdoms and counterfeit millenniums. No matter how much Scripture may be quoted or how many prominent churchmen endorse such projects, Christians who support them are "hollering for the wrong George."

Lenin said to his Bolsheviks: "We will find our most fertile field for infiltration of Marxism within the field of religion, because religious people are the most gullible and will accept almost anything if it is couched in religious terminology."

The church missed the road centuries ago when Christians ceased being pilgrims and strangers in an unfriendly world; instead of looking for their King to return, they began building the Kingdom down here. Since then they have been hooked into all kinds of projects and taken for a ride on all kinds of bandwagons. These movements, not of God, bring only disappointment, for, as Bishop Ryle has said, "Nothing so chills and dampens the faith of Christians as indulgence in unscriptural expectations."

Dr. Thomas F. Torrance of Edinburgh has said that "in due time even so-called Christian organizations may easily reveal themselves as a part of a many-headed monster of evil, the more monstrous because it is world-wide and bears Christian similitude." We must not be tricked by advance agents of Antichrist into becoming a part of the gigantic program of the last days that would deceive the very elect.

Our Lord delivered no lectures on how much tax to pay to Caesar, and Paul held no seminars on slavery. Let the church regain her peculiar and distinctive message. It is not her duty to beat the drums and second the motion for any project of this world nor to become a party to any crusade promoting a false millennium.

One is reminded of the would-be cellist who kept sawing away on one note. Somebody said to him, "That is not the way to play. You should not keep your finger on one string, but run up and down the strings." He objected, "Those fellows are looking for the right note, but I've found it!" The church has the right note for this or any other day, and Christians have no business playing any of the tunes of this age.

It may seem monotonous to keep on preaching the gospel when men want to strike another pitch more in keeping with the mood of this generation. It is grim tragedy when good people become so confused as to mistake the tricks of Antichrist for the work of God. The sin against the Holy Spirit in the days of our Lord lay in ascribing the work of God to the devil. It begins to look as though this generation might reverse the process and ascribe the work of the devil to God. Antichrist conducts a twofold campaign today: it is destructive in crime, war, the breakdown of our homes, in physical, mental, and moral degradation; but it is also deceptive in false movements that promise peace and brotherhood. One part of the crusade is negative, the other positive. The positive is more dangerous than the negative because many good people are misled by false projects under religious auspices. Satan does more harm as an angel of light than as a roaring lion. As frightening as present-day lawlessness and moral rottenness may be, greater is the danger from the paradise he promises than from the pandemonium he produces.

Dr. Harry A. Ironside wrote that the rider on the white horse in Revelation 6 is "man's last effort to bring in a reign of order and peace while Christ is still rejected, the devil's cunning scheme for bringing in a false millennium without Christ." Dr. Torrance calls the 666 of Revelation 13:18 "the number of so-called Christian civilizations without Jesus Christ." All the efforts of unregenerate men to build an ideal world fall short or perfection, as 666 falls short of 777. The only complete solution of earth's troubles lies in our Lord's return, and in the meantime any true betterment of society is the fruit of the gospel even as the Wesleyan revival saved England and started a flow of social and national blessings that bear fruit to this day.

Babel was man's effort at unity, and God cursed it with tongues no one could understand. Pentecost was God's plan of unity, and He blessed it with tongues everyone could understand. This age is witnessing another Babel of man's devising. It is not the business of the church to sponsor and bless such towers toward heaven. We must not confuse the coming Kingdom with the counterfeit. This is no time to be "hollering for the wrong George."

Rip Van Winkle was confused because he had been asleep. "... it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Romans 13:11).

The wide-awake Christian is not deceived. He reads between the lines and interprets what he reads in the light of the Bible, not the news commentators. Dr. Mordecai Ham used to say, "I read the newspapers to find out what man is doing; then I read the Bible and find out what God is going to do." The Christian is not swept off his feet by popular movements of unregenerate men to create heaven on earth. He renders unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, but he will not give to Caesar what belongs to God. He does not think the choice today is between being Red or dead--which reminds us of the Israelites when they murmured, "It is better to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."

The pressure on the Christian, however, will be terrific. The subtle, suave, satanic brainwashing from the world of Antichrist will beset him day and night. He will be ostracized, called un-Christian and unloving because he does not endorse the advance programs that prepare for the coming worship of the beast. He will not confuse the rider of the white horse in Revelation 6 with the Rider in Revelation 19.

Moreover, he will be embarrassed by prophecy faddists who cast reproach on the real truth by wild perversions. But his will be the blessing promised to all who read and hear and keep the message of the Apocalypse. Well did God write, "The more deeply the church plants in the earth the stakes of her tent and establishes herself at her ease here below, the more does the Apocalypse become to her a foreign and even repulsive book. The more, on the other hand, tempestuous winds shake the curtains of her temporary dwelling place and threaten to break their cords, the more does she feel the value of this marvelous book which teaches her to look up continually toward the Bridegroom Whose return she expects."

The wise Christian wastes no time trying to explain God's program to unregenerate men; it would be casting pearls before swine. He might as well try to describe a sunset to a blind man or discuss nuclear physics with a monument in a city park. The natural man cannot receive such things. One might as well try to catch sunbeams with a fishhook as to lay hold of God's revelation unassisted by the Holy Spirit. Unless one is born of the Spirit and taught by Him, all this is utterly foreign to him. Being a Ph.D. does not help, for in this realm it could mean "Phenomenal Dud"!

A man on trial was told by the judge: "You may choose a lawyer. There is one over there to your right, another to your left, and another out in the hall." The man looked to the lawyers right and left and said, "Judge, I'll take a chance on the one in the hall." Today the Christian is looking neither to the right nor left. His Advocate, the Saviour, is in the hall, "even at the door." But there is another also in the hall: the grim figure of Antichrist looms without. When he first appears he will not seem grim but gracious. His advance stooges are already with us, so pleasant as to make it appear evil not to endorse them. "...false Christ's and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things" (Mark 13:22-23).


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