The Identity of the Antichrist

Before I had read the Bible myself, I was under the impression that you can read about The Antichrist all over the Bible. My friends warned me about music that I listened to, because this artist or that artist might be The Antichrist. Others had done calculations and concluded that a certain political figure (in the past or future) was The Antichrist. They would bring up certain prophecies in the books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation.

To my surprise, however, when I read the Bible for myself, I came across the word antichrist only five times in three passages. What was even more surprising, the word antichrist cannot be found in the books of Daniel, Matthew, or Revelation. Instead, it’s found only in two books of the Bible: 1 John and 2 John. The only three passages where you can find the word antichrist are (emphasis added):

1 John 2:18-22: 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. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3: and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

2 John 7-8: For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.

Since these are the only passages the word antichrist can be found, it can safely be said that everything God wants us to know about the identity of the antichrist can be found in these passages. So, what can we learn about this subject from these passages?

There Is not Just One Antichrist

In his epistles, John is writing to a group of people who were already Christians (see 1 John 1:5-10). These people had already been taught about many things, including the subject at hand. John says, "just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared." (1 John 2:18). They knew something regarding antichrist before John even wrote to them. John was also informing them that antichrists (plural) were already in the world. The consensus among biblical scholars is that 1 John was written toward the end of the first century AD. 

If you were to forget what the Bible actually says, and listen to the religious world today, you will get the impression, just as I had, that The Antichrist is a subject and a person (singular) reserved exclusively for a future prophecy. The first major challenge to that idea is that the Bible declares that that there is not just one Antichrist. Instead, there were many that were already in the world when John wrote to the Christians.

Antichrists Are Anti-Christ

The word Christ (Χριστός) simply means "Anointed One." Both in the English and the Greek, antichrist (ἀντίχριστος) means "Against the Anointed One." In a general sense, one who is anti-Christ is one who opposes Christ for who He really is. Naturally, anyone who opposes Christ is against His church, as well. Jesus told His apostles, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).

In 1 John 2:18-29, the first passage in the entire Bible that mentions antichrist, also mentions the Christian's anointing three times (vv. 20, 27). Antichrists are against both the Anointed One and His anointed ones.

What makes an antichrist? We do not have to guess. John gives us God's definition of antichrist.

1 John 2:18, 22: 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[...] Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3: and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

2 John 7: For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

At the end of the first century, the authority of the apostles was being disputed by outsiders (see 2 Cor. 11). A group of false teachers historically known as the Gnostics began to gain some ground among Christians, claiming to know more than what the apostles had revealed through the Holy Spirit. The Gnostics' primary teaching was life in the flesh is inherently sinful, and life in the spirit is the only way to be completely holy. Therefore, it was impossible that Jesus actually came to the earth in the flesh. Such teachings are completely contrary to the teachings of the New Testament.

John 1:14: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Notice the introduction John makes to 1 John using sensory terms, proving that Jesus was among the apostles in the flesh (emphasis added):

1 John 1:1-4: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

Some of John's audience had been listening to the anti-christ spirit of the Gnostics, and John warns them, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward" (2 John 7).

If Jesus did not come in the flesh, He could not have fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him (for example, see Isa. 7:14; 9:6). If He did not come in the flesh, He could not have been God's chosen, anointed One. Therefore, anyone denying His fleshly state is against (anti) the Anointed One and those whom He has anointed.

It is also worth noting here that John talks about spirits that confess and deny Jesus' fleshly state. Looking at the wider context shows us that John equates "spirits" with "teachers" or "prophets" (whether false or true).

1 John 4:1-3: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

Antichrists Are Not Associated With "The End Times"

Most discussions about The Antichrist these days surround the topic of "The End Times." People bring up prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments to identify both The Antichrist and the end times.

Antichrists Existed In the First Century

As noted above, John declared at the end of the first century AD that "many antichrists have appeared." Antichrists have existed for nearly 2,000 years. Remember that 1 John and 2 John are the only books of the Bible that mention the subject of antichrist. There is nothing in those books that instructs Christians to be looking out for signs of any times, especially regarding a single antichrist.

Use Bible Terms in Bible Ways

When many people discuss the subject of antichrist today, they bring up parts of the books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation. In Daniel and Matthew, they point to "the abomination of desolation" (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15). In Revelation, they point to "the beast" featured throughout the book. It is feared that "the beast" is The Antichrist, and he may be on the earth now. The hype is to scrutinize celebrities, political figures, famous religious leaders, and anyone in the world's limelight. If we can simply identify "The Antichrist in Revelation," we can understand the end times better. As noted already, the books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation never even use the word antichrist, so anyone who says that these figures represent The Antichrist are not teaching from the Bible. Instead, they are reading into the Bible and teaching out of speculation and superstition. Moreover, the apostle John authored 1 John, 2 John, and Revelation. If the beast of Revelation were "The Antichrist," we would expect John to explicitly tell us, since he is the only author of the Bible to teach explicitly on the subject. 

Since the Bible never even suggests that there is only one antichrist, nor that "The Antichrist" is the "Abomination of Desolation" or "The Beast," then these would be different subjects for different times. The Bible does not relate them.

With every subject, I encourage you to use Bible terms in Bible ways. We need to be extra careful when discussing subjects that false teachers have confused the world about, like the end times and last days. John says that since antichrists have been around since the first century, it has been "the last hour" since the first century AD.

1 John 2:18: 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. 

Peter similarly refers to the time of Christ, which began in the first century AD, as the last days, even using the Old Testament prophecy of Joel to back up this claim.

Acts 2:14-17: But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
‘ And it shall be in the last days, ’ God says,
‘ That I will pour forth of MY Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams"

In addition, the author of Hebrews also identifies the time of Christ (the first century AD onwards) as "these last days."

Heb. 1:1-2: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

As the Hebrews author reminds us, God used to speak to the fathers in the prophets. He delivered His message through men like Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jeremiah. However, now that He has delivered His final authoritative message through His Son, who has given the Holy Spirit, we are no longer waiting for further revelation. God's word is complete, "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him" (2 Pet. 1:3).

Don't Get Caught Up in the Hype

So, are we in the last days? Certainly! And we have been since the first century! Is that fact indicated by the presence of The Antichrist? No, it is indicated by the presence of Christ! As long as Christ has been around, there have been antichrists, and they have gone out into the world deceiving many. 

Firstly, those who speak against Christ deceive those who have not yet made up their minds about Christ. Secondly, and more common in these days, is that the subject of antichrists has distracted Bible believers from the big picture, which is the glorification of the crucified and risen Christ. The devil has caused people to stray from true Bible terms. They spend their time poring over the papers, waiting for The Antichrist to reveal himself. Let us remember that our job is not to be looking and waiting for "The Antichrist." Instead, those who believe in Christ need to be working and waiting for Him! Do not get distracted from the big picture.

Matthew 25:1-13: Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, "Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him." Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." But the prudent answered, "No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves." And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, "Lord, lord, open up for us." But he answered, "Truly I say to you, I do not know you." Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

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