One of the signs that come before the return of Christ is exactly what
Jude is talking about in his letter, deceivers in the church who try
to lead God’s people astray. “For false Christs and false prophets
will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray,
if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). What are we to do in
response to this warning? Peter tells us two things we can do.
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you
are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your
own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:17–18)
(1) Grow in the grace of Jesus Christ. God’s grace to us, seen most
clearly in his giving of Jesus, is the foundation of our lives. We are
to grow in it, be nourished, and strengthened by the grace that we
don’t deserve but do receive. Growing in the grace of God insures that
we persevere to the end and receive our eternal reward. Thank God for
his gift of grace and continually pray for more.
(2) Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Earlier, Peter says that
God has, “granted to us all things relating to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him” (1 Peter 1:3). We have the Bible, which
is what we need to grow in our knowledge of Christ so that we can find
joy, comfort and salvation in his presence. There is great danger in
not growing in the knowledge of Jesus (see 2 Peter 2:20-21). Let us
allow the knowledge of Jesus Christ in his word grow us so that we can
stand firm until the end. “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have,
so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11).
If we were to ask ourselves “which is most dangerous to the church?”—with the choice of either (1) a future worldwide Antichrist, who kills and marginalizes God’s people or (2) a corruption of the Good News that Christ alone can save by taking our sins and giving us his righteousness—what would we believe to be the most perilous?
We can certainly understand the effects of the first choice: life will visibly and categorically change for Christians when Antichrist takes power. He will wear out the saints (Dan 7:25). But do we see the destructive nature all around us—even rampant in our churches—where a works-righteousness pervades the teachings in many a pulpit and perverts the understanding of how one may be made right with God for many a professed Christian?
I would argue that the latter choice is the more dangerous; it is also more pervasive. We have grown lethargic in our understanding of how we might approach God. I wonder at the answers you would get if you asked your professing Christian friends on what basis they hope to enter heaven someday? Is it because they’ve lived a pretty good life, kept the golden rule, went to church, or any number of answers other than the only reason we can hope to be justified before God: on the basis of the finished work of Christ, who died for sins, of which we have repented and believed that Christ is our Messiah.
We live out the spirit of antichrist and have done Antichrist’s work when we fail to proclaim that it is by grace that we have been saved through faith. This is not our doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9). May it be that we would endure Antichrist, rather than a false gospel.