Janet Smith ©12-15-2016 gardenministries.org
The commendations and rebukes to the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 deal largely with how those churches either overcame or fell prey to Satan’s religious spirit; the spirit of antichrist. We can extrapolate the characteristics of the counterfeit satanic religious spirit from the rebukes and the commendations within the 7 letters and with those extrapolations, better understand what we are asked to overcome.
Keep in mind that Satan’s religious spirit can only counterfeit truth. Whatever the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ brings forth from the realm of mystery and reveals of His omnipotent and almighty, 7-fold nature, Satan immediately seeks to counterfeit. His one-trick-pony game plan is always the same: to present a counterfeit form of religion and seduce his followers to worship him instead of Jesus.
By the time of the Last Days, the religious evil spirit of antichrist will have developed or “matured” to being as close to bridal Christianity as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil can possibly counterfeit. At the same time, Jesus, the Tree of Life, is moving to bring His soon-to-be-wedded bride into full pure-and-spotless maturity through the inward working of the Holy Spirit.
For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the unveiling revelation of Jesus Christ in the Last Days will automatically expose and confront the 7-fold manifestations of the counterfeit satanic religious spirit of antichrist. The bride of Jesus Christ will accurately discern the spirit of antichrist and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, assertively resist Satan’s religious spirit. While greater vision and possession by the Truth of Jesus Christ comes to the bride, there comes a coinciding blindness and increased darkness to those who reject Jesus and who turn to the religion of the antichrist.
The satanic religious spirit of antichrist cannot emulate any bit of the inward truth of and intimacy with Jesus Christ, nor can he steal the riches of Christ’s glory. The spirit of antichrist can only mimic the outward manifestations and try to “look like” the real through outward means, which require materialistic wealth, mental brainwashing, fear, and demonic seduction to hook and draw converts and worshippers. This is why God is dealing so particularly with His people as He draws us heavenward and asking the bride to release any attachments to the bondages of world systems.
The religious spirit of antichrist will create dynamic illusions by closely counterfeiting the outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit-filled, lovesick bride of Jesus Christ who is performing many signs and wonders as Jesus harvests His end-time family for Father. The coinciding, fully matured counterfeit religious spirit will seek to harvest its own worshipers through false signs and wonders. The spirit of antichrist even tries to go after “the elect.” Mark 13:22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
But God always uses the enemy against himself. If a believer wholeheartedly follows God, obeys His Word, and loves not their life unto death (Revelation 12:11), they will overcome the religious spirit of antichrist and receive the bridal rewards listed in the 7 letters to the churches. The very attempts of Satan to hijack the emerging signs-and-wonders, lovesick bride of Jesus Christ will be the very thing that helps the bride mature until the fullness of Christ within her is complete and poured out from within—the ready bride!
Overcoming the religious spirit of antichrist’s delusions seems like it should be a pretty straight-forward process but many find overcoming very challenging. This is because walking out the truths of the 7 letters and becoming one with Jesus is Satan’s greatest threat and thus, he most vehemently seeks to oppose any would-be-bride-to-Jesus. Dealing with deliverance from the religious spirit of antichrist can be one of the most challenging battles ever fought by those who seek bridal union with Jesus Christ. The religious spirit of the spirit of antichrist is the one of the worst kinds of evil to overcome because its uniquely designed counterfeit nature especially appeals to humanity’s carnal nature that quite frankly, does not want the crucified-with-Christ path toward bridal union.
The Holy Spirit groans and labors within us, purposing to lead us into full maturity in Christ. As we obey and hold fast the Biblically-sound Word of the Lord through the pushes, the pulls, and the swirls of the smoggy religious spirit’s veil, if we faint not, we will breakthrough unto Christ’s fullness. While we contend with, repent of, and resist giving ourselves over to the easy-out compromises of the religious spirit of antichrist, we can completely trust that God is fully able to lead us, even when we are blind and the slope feels so slippery. In fact, God promises to lead us when we are blinded and debilitated but are still actively choosing to turn to Him and cry out for help!
Isaiah 42:16 “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Jude 1:25 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—1 Corinthians 1:8 He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the end, the real bride of Jesus Christ will completely differ from antichrist’s counterfeit religion because of her true, intimate love (John 13:35) for Jesus and for Father’s family. Signs and wonders aside, the bride of Jesus Christ will overcome simply because she intimately loves Jesus and her testimony fully reflects that she walks out Who she follows and what she believes about Him. There will be no denying who the bride of Jesus Christ follows! The Lamb of God is roaring through her faith-filled heart of true love.
Jesus promises to marry His fully transformed, Holy Spirit-filled bride who cries out to Him, “Come!” And when the Spirit and bride say in union, “Come!” it is because the Holy Spirit bears witness that the Bride is truly ready! She has responded to Christ’s preparations and obeyed the Holy Spirit’s leading until she is fully free from the world, the flesh, and the devil’s hold. She laid it all down for the sake of knowing her Bridegroom Jesus! In all truth, the ready bride can now say, “I am ready to become the wife of the Lamb!” Revelation 19:7 For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Because of its slippery, insidious nature, most people don’t even realize how they have been regularly exposed to and influenced by Satan’s many-faceted religious spirit. The attacks of the religious spirit can be experienced so personally and subjectively that the person doesn’t even realize that they are being attacked. Jesus, who is all Truth, seeks to lead us back to Himself as the Truth. By declaring what is the Truth about Himself, He is also either directly rebuking or making implications of the counterfeit. The extrapolations, or “Counterfeit Offerings” are this articles attempt to see between the lines of the commendations and rebukes to the 7 churches, to discover the unspoken or implied nuances, and directly expose many of the ever-evolving manifestations of Satan’s religious spirit. We may not have realized just how much the religious spirit has proliferated and “matured.”
Now it’s time to find and discuss the following “Counterfeit Offerings of the 7-Fold Satanic Religious Spirit of Antichrist.” The first bullet point serves as a main headline issue that provokes either the commendation or the rebuke. Other reasons may appear within each letter but the first headline bullet point seems to be more foundational and is thus highlighted as a major driving force behind the rest of the letter. Certainly there is overlap and one can even see how the problems in one church lead to the problems in another church and have a cause-and-effect cycle. The 7 churches together provide the whole picture of all that is asked by Jesus to overcome. It’s helpful to have a Bible nearby to read each church letter as you read the following counterfeit offerings of the 7-fold satanic religious spirit of antichrist.
The Counterfeit Offerings of the 7-Fold Satanic Religious Spirit of Antichrist
EPHESUS: Revelation 2:1-7 (Ephesus: meaning of name = “permitted”)
The Church Called to Lay the Foundation of Apostolic First Love Relationship with Jesus
• False apostles
• Having suffered many-a self-centered disappointment, the person who at first, gave their emotionally open-hearted “First Love” to Jesus is no longer willing to endure until the end and seeks a reason to leave the grueling process of believing the pure Word of God. The religious spirit offers a more convenient counterfeit.
• The satanic religious spirit offers self-love in lieu of First Love and provides a conduit of “worship” through human intellectualism and cultural camaraderie. Books are written that undermine the Bible’s ultimate apostolic authority and new rules are set for societal acceptance and performance (in which hypocrisy begins to flourish).
• Intellectualism becomes the human’s “higher power.” Based on what is deemed good and reasonable for humanity to coexist, a logic-and-reason-based, code of conduct is formed that is expressed through the social network of cultural camaraderie. Compliance to this hefty list of do’s-and-don’ts is enforced through cultural acceptance and praise or rejection and disapproval. This spoken and unspoken cultural code of conduct replaces the need to develop a vulnerably intimate, First-Love relationship with Jesus.
• Commitment to the current code of conduct is the duty that has replaced any need for extravagant faith and heartfelt, enduring obedience to Jesus Christ. Self-love, coupled with intellectualism, bypasses the need for great faith and as such, offers a closed-heart alternative that is more dependent upon human performance than upon God. Such self-love performs for “love” from a duty bound sense of obligation having given up on any hope for a fully transformed heart.
• Human intellectualism (i.e. “earthly wisdom”) “protects” the human heart from the Holy Spirit’s messy, awkward, convicting process and offers a form of acting like the person loves Jesus without the hard work.
• The elevation of rationalization and intellectualism over faith and trust allows the religious spirit to reject any need to “remember, repent, and return” to an open-hearted, hope-filled, love-sick first estate when a person may have first encountered the love of Jesus and accepted Him into their heart.
• Tolerant acceptance of nicolaitan practices are normalized. Nicolaitan in Greek means, “dominate the laity,” (Nico: dominiate, Laitan: laity). In this religious practice, rules replace relationship. The “all-knowing” Church leadership presumes to be intellectually and spiritually better qualified to “hear from God” for the lay people then the lay people can hear from God for themselves. In this vein of the religious spirit. nicolaitan priests and elders create systems of religion that promote dependence on the church, its institutional rules, and its “inspired” human leadership instead of teaching people how to develop a personal and direct relationship with Jesus Christ.
• False apostles create doctrines and teachings that lead people away from cultivating a passionate, First Love relationship with Jesus. True apostles lead people to or back to a First Love relationship with Jesus Christ.
SMYRNA: Revelation 2:8-11 (Smyrna: meaning of name = “myrrh.” Myrrh was presented to Jesus at his birth, and, mixed with wine, presented to him on the cross. It was also a part of his body’s preparation for burial)
The Church Called to Sacrificially Love Jesus—Even Unto Death
• False sacrifice
• False humility gives a look of being pious without paying the actual price Jesus is asking. Afflicted by a fear of man and fear of suffering, but still wanting to look spiritually profound, the religious spirit offers alternative forms of suffering but produces no Holy Spirit fruit or greater intimacy with Jesus.
• Cain offered his sacrifice to God from a self-righteous religious spirit. The prophet Abel knew God and what kind of sacrifice would please Him: a lamb.
• A person may refuse to enter into the sufferings that Jesus is actually asking of them and instead, inflicts suffering on themselves in order to get attention or to prove a point.
• If asked by Jesus as a sacrifice of love, to be stripped of all worldly and natural dignities and fleshly comforts and become poor to become rich in Christ, religious excuses for keeping their “stuff” abound.
• The religious spirit rejects the Galatians 2:20 crucified-with-Christ path toward freedom.
PERGAMUM: Revelation 2:12-17 (Pergamum/Pergamos: meaning of name = height elevation)
The Church Called to Receive Christ’s Two-Edged Word that Separates Out and Sanctifies True Identity
• False identity
• Instead of engaging in the Holy Spirit’s work that separates us unto Himself and out from the world, the flesh, and the devil, religious spirited “church” people opt to use their spiritual gifts from God to accumulate wealth by merchandising their giftings and by using their gifts to manipulate people for their own selfish gain. Example: the prosperity “faith” gospel. If I have been entrusted with much, could Jesus just as easily ask me to give it all away and I would immediately and gladly obey Him?
• Unwilling to confront and oust those who will not repent from using their spiritual gifts from God to merchandise and manipulate people for their own selfish gain.
• Tolerant acceptance of nicolaitan practices where church leadership presumes to be better qualified to “hear from God” for the lay people and thus, nicolaitan’s subject lay people to the institutional rules of the church or denomination by elevating the rules above developing their own personally intimate relationship with Jesus as Lord. The institutional church is presented as the “Lord” rather than Jesus Christ Himself. Example: “Rules your way to righteousness” over-involved, rule-enforcing leadership replaces the need to learn how to hear from Jesus for yourself and directly respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
THYATIRA: Revelation 2:18-29 (Thyatira: meaning of name = “odor of affliction”)
The Church Called to Pursue Fullness and Bridal Intimacy with Christ and Represent Him in Leadership
• False prophets
• People who have the gift of prophecy but use it to “prophesy” from their own delusion in order to tickle the ear of their followers. These followers (and their leaders) want to be spiritually absolved and accepted by the church even though they are unapologetically practicing idolatry, indulging in immoral behavior, and making money to support their compromised lifestyle. They are told to seek the church for forgiveness instead of going directly to Jesus. The person is not asked or empowered to “go and sin no more.”
• Avoiding the struggle of full repentance and cleansing, the religious spirit excuses people from needing to seek the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their life. False prophets refuse to correct or exhort to believe God’s inspired scriptures, embrace the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and receive His empowerment to repent from of immoral and idolatrous lifestyle.
• False prophets tell people what they want to hear but will not also tell them what they may need to hear.
• Presumption of leadership while refusing to embrace the cost of becoming a leader, which includes being willing to lose all for the sake of Christ.
• Presumption to speak the “word of the Lord” without accountability to the Holy Spirit. Refusal to look at the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fruit which either validates or invalidates the Prophet’s message and his or her fruit-bearing relationships with Jesus and His body.
SARDIS: Revelation 3:1-6 (Sardis: meaning of the name = “Red Ones”)
The Church Called to Become Fully Conformed to Christ’s Image and Be Alive and Awake to the Times
• False image
• The church that puts on a great show and looks alive but does not cultivate a personal and corporate intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and thus, produces no lasting fruits of the Holy Spirit. The self-centered-image church is all about achieving excellent performance that looks good to themselves (and to the world).
• Being so busy with looking good on the outside, the inside work of embracing and developing a crucified-with-Christ life is neglected, thwarting the maturing process in which the spiritual ability to discern the times and seasons of God is developed. The religious spirit keeps this church asleep and dead to the life of God.
• The church that says, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name…” And He replies, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”
PHILADEPHIA: Revelation 3:7-13 (Philadelphia: meaning of the name = “Brotherly Love”)
The Church Called to Obey God’s Word to “Endure” Until The Fullness of Jesus Comes and Transforms
• False grace
• Using God’s grace to stay stuck in sin and immature instead of using God’s grace to press in, believe, and endure until the Ephesians 4:13 indwelling of Jesus Christ’s full measure is reached. The religious spirit rejects the need for entering into the Father’s love that James 1:4 describes as perseverance unto maturity.
• Spiritual warfare is not taken seriously and the Word of God is not viewed as a weapon of warfare. In fact, by invoking “false grace” as coverage enough in all areas of need, the religious spirit creates passivity.
• The religious spirit of antichrist undermines the literalness and effectiveness of Scripture and thus, denies the need to use the Scriptures as a weapon against Satan and his forces of darkness.
• Learning about God and building a knowledge base about Him is considered “spiritual growth,” instead of getting to intimately know and love Jesus personally.
• Following the Holy Spirit’s leading and holding an uncompromising belief in His Word is conceptually accepted but having a personalized relationship with the Holy Spirit and the Word is “unbalanced.”
• Teaching does not need to have an accompanying action plan to walk out what is being learned. Information for the sake of information about God’s truth is enough. Application of the truth unto full obedience is too much and unnecessary.
• False grace teachings promote God’s “grace” as an excuse to stay broken instead of engaging in the process of believing that God’s grace is given to every believer to undergo the process of being fully transformed and conformed into the image of Christ, going from (2 Corinthians 3:18) glory to glory, in Jesus’ (John 1:16) grace upon grace to get there.
• False humility and false grace “believes” that God’s ok with us staying in our human brokenness as long as we just keep asking for forgiveness and act empathetically and compassionately toward the other broken people, expecting them to do the same for us while no one presses in for transformation and fullness of Christ.
• Because of God’s “grace,” endurance is unnecessary. We don’t need to develop great faith because the journey of developing intimacy with Jesus by sharing in His sufferings is too extreme and there isn’t enough provision to go the distance. Being crucified-with-Christ asks too much and gives too little, too late.
• False grace does not mature the believer or develop the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment between the Spirit and Soul. The satanic religious spirit can only access and falsely “inspire” the human soul. Such “inspiration” sounds and feels very spiritual but is really only reaching and tickling the soul, not the spirit. Soul inspirations can only inspire the ambitions of the soul and serve only to perpetuate self-love.
LAODICEA: Revelation 3:14-22 (Laodicea: meaning of name = Justice of the People)
The Church Called to Exemplify the Justice of God Through His Chosen People
• False “Holy” Spirit
• Rich in material goods and steeped in entitlement, there is no need for conviction of truth or for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to bring a believer into maturity by developing an intimate love relationship with Jesus and which necessarily includes embracing some level of suffering.
• Invalidation and rejection of the crucified-with-Christ lifestyle through an unwillingness to be asked to “lose it all for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:8) or “sell everything and give it to the poor.” (Mark 19:21)
• Overly sensitive, refined, and easily offended, people fastidiously groom and perfect their outside world with the hope that it will change their heart (but cannot). They settle for an outward “looks good” self-image, while ignoring and rejecting the rebukes and discipline of the Holy Spirit Who alone can change a human heart and Who alone can fill and transform from the inside-out.
• Believe that there are many religious paths to God. Lukewarm “Christians” will falsely accuse and label those who believe that Jesus is the only way, calling them: “haters,” “right-wing,” or “extremists.”
• The squeaky-wheel “voice” of the religious spirit of antichrist bully’s those who differ from their belief.
• An affluent church member can purchase spiritual status and buy their way into church leadership.
• The look of outward success is spiritualized to mean that they have attained God’s approval in spite of moral, social, and spiritually compromised lifestyles that do not seek to fully align with Scriptural truths.
• Social justice worldview seeks to replace the need for the Holy Spirit and instead, through self-earned “righteousness” and good works, one can commend oneself as “self-righteous” and thereby alleviate the burden of the Holy Spirit’s conviction, the guilt of sin, and forego any need for forgiveness and repentance.