THE SECOND COMING: PART 3 - A Scriptural Study For the Close of the Age
The Great Deception
...the Astonishing Day of Christ
The most significant characteristic
of the end-time, according to Scripture, is not revival.
YEARS AGO AN OLDER FRIEND directed my attention to II Thessalonians 2:1-12 and encouraged me to study it because of its importance for the last days. I have looked at it for years, awed by the power and energy of what it says.
Some statements in the passage are awesome and fearful. No warning is so terrifying as that occurring in verse 11. It is that God will release an energizing power of delusion to lock those who refuse to love the truth into believing the lie. Yet, with this warning, comes a positive hope. It is that we can still receive the love of the truth that will enable us to stand through the most fearsome time the world has ever known. Actually, this is a gift God is ready to release unto those of us who will receive it. Think of it—the love of the truth.
Our purpose in this article is to examine the passage to which my old
friend directed me—and to see other passages confirming it and relating
to it. We recognize the Scriptures about the end-time as coming out of
the divine counsel of God for us who face the insidious deception of the
last days. I believe no passage of Scripture is more important in this
end-time day than this Thessalonian passage. It directs us to several
matters that are of life-or-death importance.
SECOND, this Thessalonian passage tells of the apostasy,
the great end-time falling away that will come among believers—especially
those on the fringe of serving the Lord. It is apparent many will turn
from the Lord and join the forces of the anti-Christ. Paul tells of this
again in I Timothy 4:1 Now the Scripture speaketh expressly
that in the latter times some shall depart ("apostatize") from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils ("teachings of demons"). What we learn from other Scripture leads us to conclude that at the same
time many are turning from the Lord, there will come a great in-gathering
movement of the Holy Spirit. This will draw many into the fold of the
Lord Jesus. It will result in the greatest harvest of souls ever known. All persons, everywhere, will be either completely with the Lord or completely
against Him. So sharp a line of contrast has never before been drawn.
FIFTH, the Thessalonian passage tells about our gathering
together unto the Lord Jesus Christ. This will be so powerful a time
that no force from heaven, earth, or hell can remain unaware of it or
go untouched by it. The passage also tells us precisely what will happen in the Parousía of the Lord Jesus. This is when He comes with the open display of
His might and governmental authority in all the earth.
LET US LOOK FIRST at the passage as it unfolds from the Greek New Testament. Some terms in it require a more precise interpretation than possible with a mere word-for-word translation. To give a clearer meaning, I've placed some words in parentheses. They do not occur in the original but are essential to understanding. Notice the word parousía. It means the coming of a great king or dignitary into his region of rule. It occurs three times in the passage. We do not translate it because its meaning is so precious.
Take note that Paul pointed to two important matters regarding the time of the end. They are clear in the verse.
In approaching these two matters, Paul used the strong word beseech. It is from the Greek erotáo and means "to put a matter before someone for their consideration by making an earnest appeal." It is a word used sometimes in prayer to God. Paul was concerned for the early believers. A deceptive spirit had come among them bringing wrong understanding about the return of the Lord Jesus. His concern was that of a good Pastor, or of a spiritual father, who wanted his people kept straight in the truth.
The first thing to which Paul gave attention was the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Coming is from the Greek parousía, that powerful word describing the most powerful Event ever. It will
take place at the end of this age as the Lord Jesus takes His place and
reigns in the earth. His glorious burst upon the scene will render powerless
all satanic operations.
From the beginning, Satan has put up a contest to place his own man in the high position belonging to the Lord Jesus. His attempted grand parousía will be with the design of taking this place finally and completely. But alas for him! His parousía will call forth the Parousía of the Lord Jesus.
Before the end, a determined force from Satan will work at bringing all world governments and institutions into favor with the anti-Christ. As his influence spreads and the final day approaches, all outward hope of a deliverance from his grip will seem to vanish—except from those whose eyes have been trained to behold Jesus in the darkness. Believers whose knowledge of Him reaches through the thick veil of deception and oppression will survive to the day of Christ.
Jesus told of the gathering together in Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From all over the world, he will draw those who are in the company of His elect.
The distant Prophets confirmed this gathering together unto him—from Genesis 49:10, through Deuteronomy 18:15, through Psalm 2:6-7 and Psalm 72, through all of Isaiah 53 ,and on, and on, through Matthew 28:18-29, Ephesians 1:10, then through Revelation 11:15 and 21:22-24. Christ Jesus will be the Head. No movement—within Christendom, or without—can provide a leader to take His place.
How this gathering together unto Him at His Parousía will take place I cannot imagine. It is beyond the scope of my mind, so I won't even try to tell. We can know some things, however. The Spirit will connect all believers, everywhere, to the power and government of Christ's Throne. There will be no more movements of the Holy Spirit known only by some few earnest believers, but not by others. The power of this gathering and of Christ's Parousía will reach into the most remote darkness the earth knows with a magnificent bond that will include every believer.
Paul's concern in this Epistle—and our concern, too—is that we arrive at the Day of Christ's return whole, with nothing to hinder His flawless government over us, in us, and through us.
Word has just come in the preceding verses 9 and 10 that some, redeemed through Jesus's death, out of every kindred (from the Greek phulé meaning "tribe; a body of people united by blood and descent," that is, every family), and tongue (language), and people (culture group), and nation will reign on the earth with the Lamb in His government.
Go over that again. Representatives out of every family, every language, every culture group, in every nation will participate with Christ in His Government on earth. This is one of those passages confirming to us that a great movement of the Holy Spirit is coming in all the earth to prepare a people for the Day of Christ.
Then, verse 12 reveals the seven-fold ascription of worthiness Heaven gives Christ as He takes the throne of His Government and reigns. It is apparent this is His Parousía. A multitude of heavenly beings say with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive...
As earth joins in verse 13, the adulation increases. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying,
By looking at these verses carefully, we see the three kinds of power that will find release as the Lord Jesus brings His Kingdom openly into the earth. (Go back to verses 12 and 13 and see the words dúnamis, ischúos and krátos.) The energy of all this power came into effect two thousand years ago in His Resurrection. It will come into an even grander effect at His Parousía and in our gathering together unto him.
Paul used these same words of "power" in Ephesians 1:18 describing the resurrection and the power the Lord Jesus released for us. We covered these words in past Ephesians articles. Let us review them:
It is interesting to note that Jesus used yet another "power" word in Matthew 28:18 when He made His Own declaration of governmental might. He said, All power (exousía, the authority and privilege of ruling) is given unto me in heaven and earth.
All the above—Oh, wonderfully! all the above—will work in His Parousía.
All that is contained in the eternal purposes of God, all that is proscribed in His Covenants with man, all that was released in Christ's resurrection will come into force and effect at the Parousía. Christ's followers, when He was here the first time, could not imagine His resurrection. It escaped their comprehension. So, how can we suppose to comprehend His Second Coming? We can only be ready.
Of course, there is coming satanic opposition to this powerful display of might from the Lord Jesus. The enemy's only hope of stopping Christ's dominion is through his power of deception. But, we thank God, the power of Christ is so much greater.
The deception of the closing days will be more intense and determined than ever. It will reach toward the high things of God's Kingdom and present duplicates of them—replicas, yea counterfeits, of the real—with the intention of swindling the elect out of their inheritance in the Kingdom.
To be shaken in mind and troubled means to be thrown out of one's sober and natural state so as to be unable to think straight or comprehend what is going on around one. Shaken is from the Greek saleúo. It can be used to speak of winds shaking a tree or tossing a ship at sea. But here, its reference is to the mind—a mind, if you please, in turmoil.
Mental shaking results in our being troubled. This is from the Greek throéo meaning "to be in an uproar." It is an operation of the emotions and describes someone who is alarmed, disturbed, terrified.
Imagine, if you will, being in a house shaken by the winds of a hurricane—as many have been—or being in a ship driven by a storm—as many have been and perished—and yet, in the midst of it all remaining calm and surviving. This is what will happen with many believers in the time of the end. Terror will strike into many hearts—but, others will remain quiet and stable who are under the same affliction.
A mental shaking leads to an emotional shaking. This destabilizes a person and makes one very liable to fall when the times become unstable. There is so close a tie between the mind and the emotions, that instability in one has an effect on the other.
Psalm 46 tells of a stability in mind and emotion that is possible in the midst of trouble. It lays out the strengths—mental, emotional, and physical, along with material security—belonging to those under the rule and protection of God's Government.
The Greek word Paul used in II Thessalonians 2:2 for mind is nous. It means the part of us that perceives and thinks, that remembers and makes decisions. It is the part that makes resolutions and forms purposes. The nous is the intellectual part of us where understanding and intelligence reside.
Daniel had insight regarding this mental part of us. In telling of the maneuvers of the anti-Christ in the last days, he revealed how at one point .. he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant—Daniel 11:30. This means the anti-Christ will take control of the mind—psychic control, if you please—of all who apostatize from the faith. He will reach for the interior parts of the apostates to take them captive in mind, emotion, will, and conscience.
Anti-Christ supposes, by possessing these parts, he can then make his boldest move to take over the spirits of persons everywhere and gain control of all government. If he can gain the spirits of those given over to the Lord Jesus, he can then have the place he most desires—the temple.
But there will be those who withstand his maneuvers, especially his last one. We will see this as we look later at II Thessalonians 2:4. Here Paul tells of the man of sin sitting in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. We take note that every time Paul made reference to the temple as the dwelling place of God, he saw it composed of believers (The passages where Paul used the word naós when making reference to the temple are I Cor 3:16,17; I Cor 6:19; II Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21 and II Thes 2:4). He said, Know ye not that ye are the temple of God—I Corinthians 3:16. In his last great move toward obtaining this temple, the anti-Christ design is to confuse and deceive us who make up the temple.
Can you not see it? He wants us. We are that temple. He wants
us because we are where the Spirit of God dwells. From us, redeemed and
made whole in Christ, will go forth heaven's Government in all the earth.
In order to lay hold of our spirits, the man of sin is reaching for our minds. On obtaining this part in us, he aims to control our emotions and gain their strengths. By controlling our emotions, he intends to draw our will after him. On taking control of this, he thinks he will use us at his will. Then, he supposes he can possess the part in us called conscience. If successful, he actually believes our awareness of being sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God will fade and we will slip into his kingdom of darkness.
Let us not be ignorant of this. The forces of anti-Christ are moving with confidence to overthrow every follower of the Lord Jesus.
The roots of my own upbringing in the Lord reach into the Baptist faith, with strong ties to "eternal security." I do not quickly say that we can lose our salvation. But I do state that the enemy of our souls has set out to draw us back under his hold and present us as trophies in his kingdom. Because we have trusted Jesus as our Savior, we are a threat to his design. He will use every means possible to wipe us out.
Just holding the doctrine of "eternal security" or belonging to a church believing this way will not suffice in the day of his most determined attack. We must have a strong relationship with the Lord Jesus, Himself. And, I also firmly believe, we must receive the love of the truth.
Oh, I love those eternal security verses! Right after I was saved, my Pastor preached them over and over. John 10:28 became one of my favorites. It kept me through times of trial. About a year after I gave my heart to the Lord, I went through a trial. The thought came to me that perhaps I should give up being a Christian. But immediately, it came to me that I could not do that. So I did not even try. He has kept me ever since. This is not a doctrine within me. It is simply one principle of the life I live with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is another verse that laid hold on me back in those early years of knowing the Lord. It is Jude 24 Now unto him that is able (powerfully able) to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. Hallelujah! What's wrong with believing this with all our hearts?
And again—I remember that night when Philippians 1:6 became my very own. Look it up. It can become yours, too.
At the same time, I am aware of what Paul said in I Timothy 4:1 at which we looked earlier. In this verse, he said ... in the latter times some shall depart from the faith. Depart from is from the Greek apostésontai. It means to separate one's self, to withdraw, to become an apostate. In the very meaning of the word is the idea that for one to apostatize he must first have been with the faith. Otherwise he could not have departed from it.
How shall I regard this? In II Thessalonians 2:3, Paul said, before the day of Christ comes, there will come a falling away first. This is a weak translation regarding a falling away. It is from the Greek hé apostasia. Hé is a Definite Article. It means "the." Apostasia means "defection, apostasy; the act of standing against someone with whom one once stood." These words mean "the apostasy." It is apparent Paul had reference to something very definite that will take place in the latter day.
Paul made another powerful statement in II Timothy 3:1-7 about
the last days and those who hold a form of godliness but are never
able to come to "an acknowledgment of truth."
Facing these verses, and being aware of my own tendency to stray from the Lord, I had to allow my security to find a greater stronghold than my adherence to the doctrine of "eternal security," even though I saw it had powerful Scripture backing it.
Two things happened that I believe are keeping me. One, I let the Lord Jesus break my will. In His becoming my Lord, I gave up any right I might one day have to defect from Him, even under the most severe pressure. Two, I received the love of the truth. I remember the time. Something from His Spirit was placed in me that would enable me to know—instinctively and certainly—what comes from Him and what comes from the enemy.
The battle is fierce; it rages all around. It will become more severe. More than any believers have ever faced at any time in history, we will face trouble at the time of the end. We cannot have our confidence in our ability to hold on to Him. Our confidence must be in Him. He does the holding.
Spirits of deception flock after believers as soon as they are born again and seek to draw them back into the darkness of former ways of living. Spiritual deception, born out of satanic darkness, often carries with it religious overtones. It can be close to truth born of the Holy Spirit. Only the pure in heart can discern the difference.
The first time I became aware that demonic forces will presume to use the Scriptures was over 35 years ago in Haiti. I would not do this now, but I went then into a voodoo conclave to see what they did. It was a display put on for tourists, yet it was authentic. In the course of the ritual, much was made of chanting what many call "The Lord's Prayer." At first, I thought it was an indication that some of what they were doing might be all right. Perhaps they were Christians. Then I saw the absurdity and filth of the ritual and realized it was all evil. They had taken something wonderful and pure and polluted it by placing it in a demonic ceremony.
I have repented of going into that voodoo tent, and have renounced the curiosity I then held. I did learn something, however. I saw how demons can take what is pure and good and defile it.
Now, it did not take much discernment to recognize the corruption in that voodoo tent. A babe in Christ could see that. But here we are now in the time of the end. Deception in these days is reaching for us with an intensity and refinement higher than any ever known.
I DISCUSSED THE DECEPTION that is coming upon us with my friend, John Brown. He made mention that the most significant characteristic of the end-time, according to Scripture, is not revival. It is deception.
The greatest deception of the end-time will be religious delusion. The closer we come to the end, the more subtle will be the deceit. It will reach into the high things of the Kingdom with counterfeit word and faith and manifestation so like the pure that only the most discerning can know the difference.
The value of a counterfeit to a crook is measured by how closely it resembles the original. The nearer it is to the true, the greater is its power to deceive. Should a counterfeiter reproduce a perfect likeness of an original, it would yet remain worthless. The value is not in how it comes but from whom it comes. The only difference between a perfect counterfeit and its original is the source.
When the tempter came to Jesus, he spoke what was true and yet conveyed
the lie. He quoted Scripture, but it was wrong because it was not what
the Father was saying to Jesus.
Note what they called Jesus ...Lord, Lord. Note the three things
they did—prophesied, cast out devils, did many wonderful works—all marks of good committed believers. Note what He said to them ... I never knew you. This is strong language. It is even stronger in
The reason Jesus turned these away from His Kingdom was that they still worked iniquity. The Greek has a Definite Article with iniquity, making it the iniquity. It is from the Greek hé anomía. This is a very definite iniquity. I believe it is the original iniquity that entered through Adam. These people did everything that was right, but they still held on to the iniquity that came through being descendants of Adam.
Iniquity means the attitude of doing what one wants with no regard for what God wants. It is the exaltation of self-will above God's will. It is basic in human nature. The difference in us and in the anti-Christ is that in him it is raised to its highest degree. He is lawlessness personified.
Doing all the right things, no matter how religious and productive—if they are born out of self-will—they cannot fit one in, or enable one to function in, the Kingdom with Christ. Therefore Jesus said, I never knew you.
Those whose faith resides in ministry, doctrine, affiliation, experience, saying prayers, and even the bare Word of God not quickened by the Holy Spirit, if they are not subject to God's will, they will find themselves subject to the great delusion of the last days.
We find this same word in II Corinthians 11:3. What a revelation is here! But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled (deceived) Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
There are words so important in this verse and so relevant to what is presently upon us that we must take time to see them. First take beguiled. It is from exapatáo, the word translated deceive in the Thessalonian verse. Seeing it here helps us understand that the serpent did indeed swindle our dear ancient Mother out of what was rightly hers. He presented her with something so close to the true that she could not discern the difference. He seduced her. He cheated her. He beguiled her. He deceived her thoroughly.
How did the serpent accomplish this? Through subtlety. This is from the Greek panourgía which means "capable of doing anything." The serpent was not a snake in the grass as we might suppose. Revelation 12:9 tells us he was ...the great dragon, ...the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world. His seduction of Eve came out of his ability to fake his way on any level.
That first deception released in the hearts of Adam and Eve was not a call to become like demons, but rather, to become like God. The intrusion into their understanding was not to distract them from their godly calling, but rather to provide them with Satan's way of coming into calling. How cunning and deceitful!
Genesis 3:1-9 tells of that serpent's approach to Eve. In that first deception we can find the basis of all spiritual deception. What began there will become full in the final days.
In that first deception, the serpent cast doubt on God's Word as he said to the woman, Yea, hath God said Genesis 3:1. This meant, "Is it indeed a possibility that God said thus and so to you?" His intent was to deny God's Word and replace it with his own altered version. In doing this, he set out to confuse Eve as to what the Lord had said. What he went on to say bore enough resemblance to the original to sound right. It seemed to remain in line with the divine intention. Satan's words drew Eve away from the purity of what God said so he could replace it with what would aid him in his plan to gain the world for himself.
The woman was open to the serpent's attack because she twisted God's Word, then added to them. God had said in Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. She said in Genesis 3:3...God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it. She added that last part.
God said in Genesis 2:17 for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Eve altered it to say lest ye die—Genesis 3:3. This means, "...lest, perchance, ye might die." She interpreted it to mean, "There is the possibility of death coming as a result, but there is also a possibility that it may not." What she said was so close, and sounded almost right, yet it bore two errors prevalent in spiritual deception. She added her own thoughts to what God said and she altered what He said.
Paul's concern was that our minds not be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Corrupted is from a Greek word meaning to become "ruined and depraved" so as to have no more value—especially for the purposes of God. Simplicity is from a word meaning "simple, open, frank, straight-forward." The enemy would like to ruin the inner parts of us so that a simple, open, frank relationship with the Lord Jesus becomes so difficult as to be almost impossible.
What the Holy Spirit is doing right now is reaching inside us to free us from the spiritual and emotional trash that makes us liable to fall into the anti-Christ's traps. We welcome the Holy Spirit's awesome—and, some times, painful—work.
The "prophet" Balaam, Numbers 22-24, is a prime example of someone bringing a word that sounds right, is nearly right, and is spoken with regard to the high purposes of God, but that carries with it a contamination that comes over on the people who hear it.
Before he became involved with the people of Israel, Balaam was a diviner. The Lord held divination as an abomination. According to Deuteronomy 18:10-12, it brought corruption over on those who practiced it. Even though Balaam began speaking what was right and apparently chose the side of the Lord against the inhabitants of the land, the corruption remained in his spirit.
The New Testament brings three indictments against Balaam. These judgments help us see what can be transferred to the hearers of false teachers and prophets who speak what is true but convey a lie.
ONE: Some people become taken with the way of Balaam and sell themselves out for money. Peter tells of those ...which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness..—II Peter 2:15,16.
From Numbers 22:7 we learn that the wages of unrighteousness are the rewards that come from delivering false prophecy, which is divination. II Peter 2:3 tells of those who through covetousness... with feigned words make merchandise of you. Feigned is from the Greek plastós from which we get our word "plastic." It means that which is fabricated, forged, counterfeited. Peter is telling of words coming from "plastic" ministers who make speeches that please the hearers and bring in offerings. The followers of these will be poor and lacking in the day of Christ.
TWO: Others become taken with the error of Balaam which promoted greed. Jude said, Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core—Jude 11.
The word error in this verse is from the same Greek root word as deceit in II Thessalonians 2:2. So it could be called "the deceit of Balaam." Greed will cause a person to run after a delusion with their eyes blinded to what actually lies before them. What a woe!
THREE: Others become taken with the doctrine of Balaam which leads into impure practice. The Lord Jesus said in one of the church letters in Revelation, But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication—Revelation 2:14.
How terrible this is! But let us see something. Balaam did not teach the people outright, with words, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication. We learn some thing here. What a Prophet or a Teacher is ministers more than what he or she says. Look at Numbers 24 and 25. Balaam gave such exalted words in 24:15-24 they were like Messianic prophecy. But see Numbers 24:25 and 25:1 And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place. And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.
If his words did not teach it, what he was in himself communicated it. His personhood taught fornication. His spirit came over on the people.
What a minister is carries more importance in ministering the word than what that one says. It is possible to communicate deceit and error while speaking what is true? This is the insidious form of deceit that will try and come over on the people of God in the last days.
What a challenge to us who minister the Word! Let us wait before God to hear what His Spirit is saying. Let us learn to speak what we hear from Him. But, more than that, let us lay our hearts bare before Him for His searching.
PAUL HELD ANOTHER CONCERN in II Thessalonians 2:2. It was that believers not be deceived by the written word. Most of us have learned to reject teachings put out by groups like the Herbert W. Armstrong association and the Watchtower publishing society. But there are others more insidious in their deception. It is with regard to these that we need the help of the Holy Spirit.
Years ago, shortly after I received the infilling of the Holy Spirit, I became taken up with some books then popular in the Body of Christ. They were filled with unusual and high revelation about Christ, the word of God, faith, and who and what we are in Christ. Much of it was true, but it led to my own self-gratification in the things of the Lord. To put it plainly, those books led me to use the promises of God for my own personal gain rather than the gain of Christ's Kingdom. They led me to center on myself by concentrating on getting God's blessing on my own life.
One day, the Lord spoke to me to lay these books aside. Not long after that, I picked up a book written by a famous minister who was having many miracles in his meetings. The words in his book were almost exactly the same as in the books the Lord directed me to put down. I saw the same in another's books. I only took notice but said nothing. I knew the Lord was directing me away from some of the doctrine that was developing throughout the Body of Christ. I neither spoke against it, nor did I promote it.
Years later, I found how greed and deception had remained in the lives of many who had subscribed to those teachings. It became so corruptive that it came over on large segments of the Body of Christ and caused many to turn from the faith.
A deep concern came within me. The question arose: How can I know what
I didn't know how to go about doing that. So, I simply asked the Lord for it.
Oh, He gave it to me that day! I did not know all truth, but I did receive a love for truth.
Receiving the love of the truth has sometimes been painful because it has meant knowing the truth about myself. As I've seen my need and depravity, He has revealed His mercy and righteousness. Sometimes it has meant walking alone while others followed what was popular. That has been especially painful, but it has helped me know the Lord better.
Now, here is the amazing thing. There are countless others who have received the same love of the truth that I received. The Holy Spirit is gently bringing us together. What a precious thing it is. We are no longer joined by doctrine, experience, affiliation or class. We are joined in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is precious; when we come together, we come under the Head of the
Lord Jesus Christ.
We Continue with the next MASCHIL:
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