Lou: Our question in this chapter has been, “How Soon Will the Conflict Be Over?” From what you have said, the close of the conflict seems to be tied in very closely with the Second Coming of Christ. But is that really the end of the conflict? Aren’t there some other very important events, such as the Millennium and the destruction of the wicked, that are part of what we might call “the conflict?”
Graham: That’s true. There are major events that come after the Second Coming. But there is a sense in which the Second Coming really does mark the end of the conflict, because the key to the conflict is not a physical war in which the powers of heaven are arrayed against the powers of earth. Rather, the essential conflict is in the minds of God’s children throughout the universe. And the Second Coming means it’s all over in that sense. The loyal are committed forever to loyalty, and the disloyal are committed forever to their rebellious rejection of God. The important conflict is the one that takes place in our minds.
We’ve talked about how the most essential aspect of the conflict is for God to demonstrate the truth about Himself. Some will object, “That doesn’t make us very important.” But if His demonstration does not lead some of us to inner conviction, He’s failed. So we are not just pawns. He is trying to win us. We are very much involved in this conflict. It is not just heavenly, this war is being fought in the minds of God’s own children.
Lou: This takes us all the way back to the first chapter, the one about the nature of the conflict. If it were a struggle about power or armies, God could have settled such a conflict in one minute. Instead, it is a struggle for decisions related to trust.
Graham: So we are not just spectators of the conflict. We are very much involved, and we are coming to understand some of the most important questions about Him.
Lou: Since we’re talking about the End, it reminds me of the first letter of John: “Children, it is the last hour. We know that it is the last hour” (based on 1 John 2:18). Was John wrong?
Graham: All the Bible writers who deal with the subject describe the End as very near. I’m thinking of Joel and of Jesus Himself, who both said the End was very near. One could also point to the statement in Peter, “With the Lord a thousand years are as a day, and a day is as a thousand years” (based on 2 Peter 3:8). Then John saw signs of antichrist in the apostasy of some key people in the Church, and that led him to believe that the End was near (1 John 2:18-19). And the impending death of John (he was in his nineties) also suggested it could have been near (John 21:20-23).
One night, perhaps soon after writing his letters, John fell asleep in death. When he wakes up, from the most refreshing sleep ever, it will be the Second Coming! Now, he might have some questions about the timing of the End at that point, but I doubt he will have any complaints. And while he didn’t see the great closing events before the Second Coming, he will get to witness everything from then on: the Millennium, the Third Coming, the re-creation of the world. John won’t miss any of that. All he will really miss are the troubles of the End-time (Dan 12:1; Rev 7:14). As we have discussed before, the saints who fall asleep before the Lord comes will arise in time for everything that really matters. They will even rise first.
Lou: John talks about the Antichrist in his letters (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). What is the Antichrist? What do we mean by that term?
Graham: “Anti” suggests opposition, and that opposition is expressed in many ways. The most destructive way is not open opposition but subtle misrepresentation. If anyone misrepresents Christ, he is an “anti-Christ.”
Lou: So it’s not just one person in all the history of the world.
Graham: There are many, many antichrists. Already in John’s day many antichrists had appeared (1 John 2:18). The spirit of antichrist has been working all these hundreds and thousands of years. I believe the End has always been very, very near. If the conditions had been met, everything would have ended much sooner.