Who is the antichrist? Will we know him when he comes? Hollywood seems to have him figured out with movies like “The Omen”. But what does the Bible say about this shrouded figure that people fear so much?
To most Christians’ surprise, the word antichrist does not appear in the book of Revelation, from which most ‘end times’ themed books and films supposedly get their story line. Furthermore, the label antichrist is only mentioned five times in Scripture, and those five times are limited to the first and second epistles of John.
In the course of the paper I would like to briefly state what I think is a concise summary of antichrist.
Firstly, the antichrist is a heresy (false doctrine/teaching) not a person:
1 John 2:22 says, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” Clearly from this passage, to be antichrist is to deny essential doctrines about Jesus Christ, it involves also denying the Father, thus it has to do with an understanding of the Godhead, and the nature of Jesus. 2 John 7 gives us a bit more detail when it says, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Here the heresy of antichrist is explained to be a denial that Jesus came (thus a denial of his pre-existence, deity and actual coming to earth) in the flesh (that while being fully God, Jesus was also fully man).
1 John 4:3 continues, “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist…” One can see from these passages that antichrist is identified as a doctrine which is false about the nature of Jesus. All that’s contained in confessing Jesus is beyond the scope of this paper to deal with, but suffice to say, it would be a denial of His Godhood, human nature, and being part of the Trinity in relationship with the Father.
Why I suggest antichrist is not a person in particular is because of John’s words in 1 John 2:28, he says, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” John here corrects something which they had heard- that ‘antichrist was coming, but John says, wait, forget what you heard, many antichrists have come. John is correcting their view that one antichrist is coming by expanding it out to many people, not just one.
Secondly, the antichrist is not future, but present. 1 John 4:3 reads, “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. • This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard • was coming and now is in the world already.” John states, that antichrist was a present reality for the early church, it was not something to be looked for in the future. It’s strange that so many today still look forward for some end time political ruler who will be ‘the antichrist’ when John said was in the world already.
What becomes even more interesting is to read the context of our one passage as John points to certain people who were antichrist; notice 1 John 2:18-19,” Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” Notice how the many antichrists (people who hold to the heresy) were actually part of the church, but they left the church to demonstrate that they were not actually part of the Church. It seems then that antichrist is an apostate person who as discussed earlier, holds unorthodox views regarding Jesus Christ.
If we compare this with modern culture’s antichrist ideas, I think we see a disparaging difference. We are told he is some political ruler that somehow tries to be like Jesus Christ in copycat form, but later becomes totally evil as his diabolical plan to gain world dominion matures. He is never part of the church, but more of a peace maker with all religions. It appears that modern ‘prophecy’ writers find anyone dipicted as a central evil figure in ‘prophetic texts’, and just label them antichrist (it should be noted that none of the verses in John’s epistles regarding the antichrist are apocalyptic/prophetic passages).
In the end friends, it would be far more beneficial for us to follow the advice of Pastor Doug van Meter, “Fear Jesus Christ, not the antichrist.”