12 Comments

Antichrist: One or Many?


Few words bring to mind such fear as those who look for an “Antichrist” to lead the forces of Satan against the Son of God in a great apocalyptic conflagration in the final days. The dramatists of the left behind religions of our day predict the terrible end of the world in a horrific battle of the “Antichrist” seeking to destroy the people of God. Pews fill with trembling hearts at the sound of him who is called the “Antichrist”. Minds are void of what the true nature and teaching of the antichrist really means in the Bible.

The apostle John is the only writer to use the term “antichrist” and he never mentions him in the Revelation. In his first epistle, he refers to the antichrist four times.

“Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18). “Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son” (I John 2:22). “And every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already” (I John 4:3).

John writes about the antichrist again in his second epistle. “For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (II John 1:7).

Was John writing about a single individual who bore the mark of 666 on his forehead? Was he the incarnate image of Satan who would take humanity into a world of destruction and fear? An examination of the Bible will quickly dispel any accepted wisdom of the modern day prophets as nothing more than human philosophy and deceit.

John introduces the reader to the antichrist in I John 2:18 when he warns of the “last hour.” The disciples of the early church believed the Lord would return at any time (see I Thessalonians 4:13-18). John exhorts the saints to be faithful in the face of the trials faced by those who did not believe that Jesus had come in the flesh as the Son of God. John recognizes that MANY antichrists were in the world. In I John 2:22, John defines the character of the antichrist – anyone that denies that Jesus is the Christ. Again in I John 4:3 he declares that any who would deny that Jesus is not of God is antichrist. The final reference to the antichrist is found in John’s second epistle when he again affirms that those who deny that Jesus did not come in the flesh are antichrist or deceivers.

Jesus told the Jews in John 8 that He was the son of God. “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). They rejected Jesus as the Messiah and killed Him. The foundation of salvation is stated by John in his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-2,14; see also I John 1:1-3).

The antichrist is the majority of the world that even today do not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. There is no single person who is the antichrist. The antichrist is every person who refuses to believe Jesus was with God, was God and came in the flesh. If you do not believe Jesus is God’s Son and refuse to obey him, you are “against-Christ”, hence, “antichrist.” The only means of salvation is to believe Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life (John 14:6). There is no other means of salvation. (link)

Identifying the Antichrist

On page 181 of a book entitled World War III, John Wesley White writes, “The prime mover in the events that will march man into World War III will be the Anti-Christ…a terrible personification of evil who will work more wholesale havoc than any other human being in the history of the world.”

White, Hal Lindsey (author of The Late Great Planet Earth, There’s a New World Coming, et al.) and other dispensational premillennialists have done their work well in convincing a religious, but biblically illiterate, “Christian” community that such a person as described above will indeed torment the world and hasten the start of the much-feared Battle of Armageddon. Let us examine these claims under the perfect light of God’s word.

Antichrist in the Bible

Following is every occurrence of “antichrist” in the Bible:

* “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18).

* “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (I John 2:22).

* “And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (I John 4:3).

* “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (II John 7).

In my experience I have noticed that when most people discuss the antichrist they confine their discussions to wild misunderstandings of the imagery in the book of Revelation. Even when I have shown others the above passages, they scurry back to Revelation–a book that never uses the term!

It is also interesting to note the glaring differences between the premillennialist’s description of the antichrist and the Bible’s description.

(1) According to the Bible there were many antichrists, not just one.

(2) Those antichrists already existed in John’s day, as opposed to being yet future to us.

(3) These antichrists were false teachers in the church, not political dictators.

(4) Anyone that denies that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the son of God, and/or that he came in the flesh can rightly be called “antichrist”.

Antichrists and Gnostics

There is little doubt that John had some specific people in mind as he wrote, else he would not have warned the brethren as thoroughly as he did. John may well have been warning his readers about the early signs of a system of thought that would plague the church in the latter part of the first century and into the second. This doctrine would come to be known as Gnosticism.

Space will not allow an exhaustive treatment of the origin and teachings of Gnosticism. However, its basic tenets were these: all things spiritual were wholly good, while all things material were wholly evil. Because God is spirit, he is unable to have physical contact with matter (since matter is evil). To create the world, then, God sent out emanations (spirit beings) from himself, each one more ignorant of and hostile to Him. Finally, one of these emanations was so far removed from God that he could make physical contact with evil matter. This emanation was responsible for the creation of the world.

From these beliefs, two views of Jesus emerged: some Gnostics viewed him as one of the emanations that came from God. In this view, therefore, Jesus was not divine. Others among the Gnostics believed that he was divine, but never actually took upon himself human form. In fact it was impossible for him to become human, for humans are made of evil matter. To them, Jesus was merely a “phantom”. (Consult any standard Bible dictionary or encyclopedia for more information on Gnosticism.)

If one compares the basic doctrines of Gnosticism with John’s description of the antichrists, one finds compelling similarities. There were many, not just one. They existed in John’s day. They were religious false teachers. They denied the humanity and/or the deity of Christ. Therefore, it is this writer’s conclusion that John was cautioning his readers to watch for those who brought with them some of these early Gnostic tendencies.

Conclusion

The antichrist is not a political dictator that starts World War III. When John wrote of the antichrist, he was addressing something that his readers could and would recognize — something that was a threat to them. Anyone who denies that Jesus is God’s Son, or the Messiah, or that he came in the flesh could rightly be called an antichrist. May we not be swayed or frightened by the voices of error as the vast reaches the religious community that seem to be working overtime to “draw away disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30) by “wresting the scriptures to their own destruction” (II Peter 3:16). (link)

Related: Origin and Meaning of Antichrist

12 comments on “Antichrist: One or Many?

  1. I’d point to some Scriptural antidotes to curb the poison fear that seems to be spreading?

    First, doing the math, Jesus said at one time during His ministry He could call down in an instant twelve legions of angels.

    Isaiah prayed one time the scripture teaches and one angel slaughtered 185,000 people in one night.

    If one angel can do that doing the math twelve legion of angels killing each 185,000 people, they would kill about 2.4 billion in one night.

    There being only about 7.2 billion living right now it doesn’t take much to realize how many days would suffice to have no one living!

    As for anti-christs, Jesus dealt with them and told us to be aware of them. Remember John 10? Of course there will be thieves and robbers coming in among the sheep, even coming inside the sheepfold. Also at that times John and the rest of the gang didn’t understand what he was saying. Apparently John began to understand since we are reading about just how many anti-christs he writes about in his epistles. Also Peter writes about them. The real classic is Paul, Saul of Tarsus, he was a chief anti-christ if ever there was one?

    Listen or rather read this and understand his understanding about them in these verses: Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30 ESV)

    So, with the powerful mighty angels ready on command to strike down human souls and the fact that Jesus and the Apostles write about them it gives me pause just what this scheme is that is behind this fear mongering ?

    Whatever it is, this fear mongering, it doesn’t seem to add up to be very much at all in light of those facts now does it? We certainly should not ignore these things though as long as we walk obediently according to the Word, as in this: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11 ESV)

  2. Both of these articles are excellent! I remember how stunned I was when I realized that the term “antichrist” doesn’t appear in Daniel, Matthew, II Thessalonians, or Revelation. I was equally stunned to see that John spoke of many antichrists, and that their presence in his own day was evidence that it was already “the last hour.”

    I had to leave behind the “composite antichrist” I had come to believe in: the 21st century beast/man of sin/king of the north/prince who is to come/one world leader/____________.🙂

    • I find it truly amazing how much widely accepted doctrine is defined by cutting and pasting Bible verses or even fragments of Bible verses in order to derive the desired results. People will insist that they ONLY read the Bible. But then you find they are reading OTHER books ABOUT the Bible which selectively line up verses, often out of context, in order to produce a convincing case for a particular teaching. The teaching of scripture is very simple … until people start applying human logic and work at “connecting the dots”. Somewhere there has to be a place for an AWESOME God who surpasses human understanding. Somewhere there has to be a place for a degree of mystery in the spiritual realm. These are concepts that are clearly supported by scripture. And yet believers become obsessed with understanding CORRECTLY every jot and tittle when it comes to doctrine. And they will all but fight to the death over their own private interpretation or that of their own little sect. And nowhere do these battles rage more furiously than on the subject of eschatology. Really! Does one have to understand every detail of the end times in order to be saved or in order to live a fruitful Christian life? Or does one simply need to be READY for the Lord’s coming every moment of their lives? What has happened to our spiritual priorities as believers?

    • Amen, Amen George!

  3. Good teaching. You hear very little about this.

    I questioned “The One Antichrist” teaching, wondering if it was part of the dispensational package. I believe it is. Wanted to see if others were questioning it also but couldn’t find anything.

  4. As one who would have claimed being a dispensationalist for 25 + yrs i too can remember how surprising it was to find the actual word (antichrist) is only mentioned in 4 verses. And especially that the books of Revelation and Daniel do not include the word!

    If i recall correctly Polycarp was the first disciple to apply the word specifically…and that was to apply it to Rome in the 2nd century. Am i right?

    I questioned “The One Antichrist” teaching, wondering if it was part of the dispensational package. I believe it is.

    Cathy i also believe the way its taught today is part of the dispensational package too. Like many doctrines associated with dispensationalism, it seems to come from reading “into” the scriptures things which are simply not there!

    “The” last day antichrist that they see in the writings of Daniel 9 is one example of seeing something which doesn’t exist.

    “25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

    26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

    27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

    The “he” in verse 27 is taught by dispensationalists to be “the” antichrist. But is that true? I say its not.

    -Who, confirmed the covenant with many (not just with Israel, but with MANY)?

    -Who, (by his death and resurrection) and the instituting of the NEW covenant caused the temple sacrifices and oblation to cease?

    -Who, because of the overspreading of abominations (read Josephus’ account: War of the Jews) made it (Jerusalem-in 70AD) desolate?

    A last-day furture antichrist or “THE” CHRIST?

    • Amen. Jesus confirmed a covenant with many, through His blood for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28). His sacrifice fulfilled all the old covenant sacrifices, which were types and shadows pointing forward to Him.

      I’m not personally aware of a quote from Polycarp where he mentions the word “antichrist,” but I’m interested to know what he might have said. I really appreciate the story of his martyrdom.

      I’m aware that Clement of Alexandria [150-215 AD], Tertullian [160-220 AD], Lactantius [260-330 AD], Chrysostom [347-407 AD], Jerome [347-420 AD], and Augustine [354-430 AD] taught that the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2) was the Roman Emperor Nero.

      Augustine and Jerome, rightly or wrongly, spoke of Nero as “antichrist” or “the antichrist”:

      [1] Augustine said this regarding II Thess. 2: “Some think that these words refer to the Roman empire, and that the apostle Paul did not wish to write more explicitly, lest he should incur a charge of calumny against the Roman empire, in wishing ill to it when men hoped that it was to be everlasting. So in the words, ‘For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work,’ he referred to Nero, whose deeds already seemed to be as those of Antichrist.

      [2] Jerome said this: “There are many of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity.”

    • I’m not personally aware of a quote from Polycarp where he mentions the word “antichrist,” but I’m interested to know what he might have said. I really appreciate the story of his martyrdom.

      I’m aware that Clement of Alexandria [150-215 AD], Tertullian [160-220 AD], Lactantius [260-330 AD], Chrysostom [347-407 AD], Jerome [347-420 AD], and Augustine [354-430 AD] taught that the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2) was the Roman Emperor Nero.

      Thanks Adam. I was hoping you might know if my recollection was correct. I may have actually confused Polycarp with one or more of those you mentioned.

      Augustine and Jerome, rightly or wrongly, spoke of Nero as “antichrist” or “the antichrist”:

      [1] Augustine said this regarding II Thess. 2: “Some think that these words refer to the Roman empire, and that the apostle Paul did not wish to write more explicitly, lest he should incur a charge of calumny against the Roman empire, in wishing ill to it when men hoped that it was to be everlasting. So in the words, ‘For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work,’ he referred to Nero, whose deeds already seemed to be as those of Antichrist.”

      [2] Jerome said this: “There are many of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity.”

      That did seem to be the common thought among the early church. And rightly so! If we are to accept that antichrist refers to any and all (from the time of Christ until His return), who denies the Father and the Son, then the Roman government would “fit” at the time of the early church. Right?

      Antichrist is therefore anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is divinity or denies that Jesus Christ of Biblical history has not come. This idea of limiting antichrist to one person [i.e. a particular person in history is without Biblical support. Because of these facts we conclude that antichrist is [1] any person who denies the Biblical – historical Jesus Christ [i.e. God’s Divine son] in any age or [2] any group of any size consisting of a movement that denies the biblical Jesus Christ and His divinity

    • PJ: Yes, I would agree that the Roman government fit the description of antichrist during the days of the early church, as far as they denied the Father and the Son. The religious leaders of Israel, the place where Jesus ministered for 3.5 years, also fit the description of antichrist and “many antichrists.”

    • The religious leaders of Israel, the place where Jesus ministered for 3.5 years, also fit the description of antichrist and “many antichrists.”

      Amen.

  5. My view is that there will be an embidied antichrist wile there are many spirits of antichrist.

  6. Very interesting. Ignatius also makes some comments regarding “antichrist”:

    “Whosoever, therefore, declares that there is but one God, only so as to take away the divinity of Christ, is a devil, and an enemy of all righteousness. He also that confesseth Christ, yet not as the Son of the Maker of the world, but of some other unknown being, different from Him whom the law and the prophets have proclaimed, this man is an instrument of the devil. And he that rejects the incarnation, and is ashamed of the cross for which I am in bonds, this man is antichrist. Moreover, he who affirms Christ to be a mere man is accursed, according to the [declaration of the] prophet, since he puts not his trust in God, but in man. Wherefore also he is unfruitful, like the wild myrtle-tree.” – Ignatius Epistle to the Antiochians Ch 4

    “Every one that teaches anything beyond what is commanded, though he be [deemed] worthy of credit, though he be in the habit of fasting, though he live in continence, though he work miracles, though he have the gift of prophecy, let him be in thy sight as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, labouring for the destruction of the sheep. If any one denies the cross, and is ashamed of the passion, let him be to thee as the adversary himself. “Though he gives all his goods to feed the poor, though he remove mountains, though he give his body to be burned,” let him be regarded by thee as abominable. If any one makes light of the law or the prophets, which Christ fulfilled at His coming, let him be to thee as antichrist. If any one says that the Lord is a mere man, he is a Jew, a murderer of Christ.” – Ignatius Epistle to Hero

    And then there is Irenæus. Irenæus wrote a virtual book on all things regarding antichrist and Antichrist. It would seem to be, in many ways, a foundation for modern day premillenialism, going into great detail and tying together certain familiar OT passages with the NT and the book of Revelation in particular.

    Some brief excerpts from Against Heresies Bk 5:

    “And not only by the particulars already mentioned, but also by means of the events which shall occur in the time of Antichrist is it shown that he, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God; and that, although a mere slave, he wishes himself to be proclaimed as a king. For he (Antichrist) being endued with all the power of the devil, shall come, not as a righteous king, nor as a legitimate king, [i.e., one] in subjection to God, but an impious, unjust, and lawless one; as an apostate, iniquitous and murderous; as a robber, concentrating in himself [all] satanic apostasy, and setting aside idols to persuade [men] that he himself is God, raising up himself as the only idol, having in himself the multifarious errors of the other idols.”

    ‘For when he (Antichrist) is come, and of his own accord concentrates in his own person the apostasy, and accomplishes whatever he shall do according to his own will and choice, sitting also in the temple of God, so that his dupes may adore him as the Christ; wherefore also shall he deservedly “be cast into the lake of fire:” [this will happen according to divine appointment], God by His prescience foreseeing all this, and at the proper time sending such a man, “that they may believe a lie, that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but consented to unrighteousness;” whose coming John has thus described in the Apocalypse: “And the beast which I had seen was like unto a leopard, and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion; and the dragon conferred his own power upon him, and his throne, and great might.”

    “For when he (Antichrist) is come, and of his own accord concentrates in his own person the apostasy, and accomplishes whatever he shall do according to his own will and choice, sitting also in the temple of God, so that his dupes may adore him as the Christ; wherefore also shall he deservedly “be cast into the lake of fire:”

    “And [Antichrist] also sums up every error of devised idols since the flood, together with the slaying of the prophets and the cutting off of the just.”

    “Moreover, another danger, by no means trifling, shall overtake those who falsely presume that they know the name of Antichrist. For if these men assume one [number], when this [Antichrist] shall come having another, they will be easily led away by him, as supposing him not to be the expected one, who must be guarded against.”

    “But, knowing the sure number declared by Scripture, that is, six hundred sixty and six, let them await, in the first place, the division of the kingdom into ten; then, in the next place, when these kings are reigning, and beginning to set their affairs in order, and advance their kingdom, [let them learn] to acknowledge that he who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number, is truly the abomination of desolation.'”

    The above in particular sounds a lot like what one might read in any number of modern prophecy novels. From there Irenæus proceeds with all sorts of humble speculations as to who or what the Antichrist might be. Some things never change.

    “For if it had been declared by Him, he (Antichrist) might perhaps continue for a long period. But now as “he was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the abyss, and goes into perdition,” as one who has no existence; so neither has his name been declared, for the name of that which does not exist is not proclaimed. But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that “many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.””

    “For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the
    resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one.”

    And this is but a mere taste of Irenæus on the subject of Antichrist. He wrote a veritable systematic theology on the subject. Irenæus was a faithful defender of the faith and fought courageously against the heresies of his day, but on the subject of eschatology, he did a lot of speculating. His writings date to around 180AD, so he is a very early church father and theologian. He was a great Christian teacher, but not infallable by any means. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Rooted and Grounded In Christ

Teaching Sound Doctrine & Glorifying Christ

Music from Broken Chords

Down in the human heart, crush'd by the tempter, Feelings lie buried that grace can restore; Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness Chords that were broken will vibrate once more. From the Hymn "Rescue the Perishing" by Fanny J. Crosby

Lead Me

"Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully."

I Was a Teenage Dispensationalist

It's the end (of the end) of the world as we know it...

Disrupting Culture

A blog by Dr. Jonathan Welton

%d bloggers like this: