APPENDIX #4: THE ANTICHRIST
© Rosemary Bardsley 2015
This is not an exhaustive study on the Antichrist, but seeks to pull together a few scriptures that give some light on this topic about which there are so many differing opinions.
The English ‘antichrist’ translates the Greek antichristos. The prefix anti, which our English minds assume means ‘against’ – meaning antagonistic to, in the Greek means more like ‘over against’, ‘in place of’. The antichrist is an alternate ‘Christ’ figure, which is in contrast to, and substituted for, the real Christ. Obviously, any substitute Christ is against the real Christ; however, the antichrist is not only against Christ, but is also a spurious or counterfeit ‘Christ’.
It is clear from the apostolic letters, and from John’s Gospel, that even in the first few decades of the Church spurious ‘Christs’ were being preached and the apostles endeavoured to call the Church to believe in the real Jesus who is both God and man. John in his Gospel seriously stressed the true and full deity of Jesus. Paul referred to those who preached ‘a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached’ [2Corinthians 11:4], and in Colossians repeatedly refers to Jesus in terms confirming his true and full deity. The first two chapters of Hebrews stress the real deity and real humanity of Jesus. John’s first and second letters directly address the denial of the two natures of Christ.
While such diminished concepts of Jesus were present in the perceptions and teaching that threatened the apostles and the early church [and indeed persist to today], Jesus spoke of alternate ‘Christ’ figures – real people who would come and claim to be Christ:– ‘many will come in my name claiming, “I am the Christ” and will deceive many’ [Matthew 24:5]; ‘For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles …’ [24:24].
Neither of the above references to alternate Christs suggests that there will be one individual person who will be known as ‘the antichrist’.
Where does the Bible use the term ‘antichrist’?
The only place where the Bible mentions ‘antichrist’ is in two of John’s letters. There we are told:
John referred to the time he was living as ‘the last hour’, and in that context referred to the fact that his readers already knew that ‘the antichrist is coming’. The inference is an association between ‘the last hour’ and the coming of ‘the antichrist’. As proof that it was ‘the last hour’ John stated that ‘even now many antichrists have come’.
John describes these ‘antichrists’ as people who used to associate with the saints, but who ‘went out from us’, and by that apostasy revealed that they did not actually belong to the Church.
John identifies as ‘the antichrist’ whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. That person denies both the Father and the Son. Note that John does not say ‘an antichrist’, but ‘the antichrist’.
John states that ‘every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which … even now is already in the world’. The context refers to ‘false prophets’ [verse 1] who are ‘from the world’ and ‘speak from the viewpoint of the world’ [verse 5], and to ‘the spirit of falsehood’ [verse 6]. In this passage John is identifies the ‘spirit’ behind false teaching as the spirit of the antichrist, already in the world.
John identifies as ‘the antichrist’ the ‘many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh’. They have already ‘gone out into the world’. He states clearly: ‘Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist’. Note: the deceiver, and the antichrist.
These are the only places where the words ‘antichrist’ and ‘antichrists’ appear in the biblical text. On the basis of these texts alone it is not at all necessary to identify ‘the antichrist’ an individual human person. From these texts it could be legitimately concluded that, ultimately, ‘antichrist’ is Satan himself – ‘the deceiver’, and that all who deny Jesus Christ, or set themselves up in the place of Christ, are, like Satan, ‘the antichrist’.
Note that John’s main point about ‘the antichrist’ and ‘the spirit of antichrist’ is the denial of the real incarnation of Jesus – God in human flesh.
In this chapter Paul refers to ‘the rebellion’ and the revelation of ‘the man of lawlessness’ that must occur before Christ returns [verse 3]. Some Christians believe that this is a reference to the antichrist.
About this ‘man of lawlessness’ Paul says:
He is ‘doomed to destruction’ [verse 3].
He will ‘oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped’ [verse 4].
He ‘sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God’ [verse 4].
His coming is ‘in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing’ [verse 9,10].
There is a proper time at which he is revealed [verse 6].
There is something/someone currently restraining the expression of lawlessness [verse 7].
Only after this something/someone is removed will ‘the lawless one’ be revealed [verse 7,8].
Then the Lord Jesus will overthrow him with the breath of his mouth and the splendour of his coming [verse 8].
The detail above makes ‘the lawless one’ sound very much like a combination of the two ‘beasts’ of Revelation 13, both of which are manifestations of Satan as he works through the governments of the world and the ideologies of men.
The ‘battle’ in which this lawless one is overthrown is not a physical battle. It is a spiritual battle. He is overthrown by the ‘breath’ of Jesus’ mouth and ‘the splendour of his coming’. It is not a heavenly army that destroys the armies of evil governments and evil ideologies and all who follow them. It is not a physical battle that destroys ‘the lawless one’.
It is the Word of Christ:
It is the sharp, double-edged sword coming out of the mouth of Christ [Revelation 1:16; 2:12].
It is this with which he fights against the unrepentant [Revelation 2:16].
It is this with which he strikes down the nations in the final battle [Revelation 19:15,21].
It is as Jesus himself said that at the last day it would be his words that would exact judgment on unbelievers [John 12:48].
And the splendour of Christ:
He overcomes them ‘because he is Lord of lords and King of kings’ [Revelation 17:14; 19:16].
Because he is who he is nothing that is evil can stand before his all-consuming justice and his divine glory [Revelation 19:11-16].
With his coming ‘fire’ [judgment] comes down from heaven and devours them [Revelation 20:9].
The enemies gather, expecting to do physical battle. The Lord Jesus Christ conquers them with his word – the fire of his judgment.
This destruction of ‘the lawless one’ by the word and the splendour of Christ points to the real possibility that the lawless one, like the antichrist, is a reference to every manifestation of Satan. This is supported by the fact that ‘the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; [2Thessalonians 2:7]. Just as antichrists are already at work in the world [John’s letters]. Just as Jesus indicated that many would come, claiming to be him during an undefined period of time prior to the end [Matthew 24].