Who is the Antichrist?
Through the centuries, thousands of different individuals have been designated as 'the antichrist'. In each generation we are confronted with sensationalists who label some contemporary as 'the antichrist'.
Is the antichrist one specific person or a class of people portrayed as one person?
The word 'antichrist' appears five times in Scripture, twice in 1 John 2:18, and also in 1 John 2:22; 4:3 and 2 John 7. The prefix 'anti' means 'against'. The word refers to someone who is against Christ, the opponent of Christ or the opposite of Christ.
The identity of the antichrist is described in these and related passages.
"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" (1 John 2:18).
Although this is the first time that the word 'antichrist' appears in the New Testament, readers are expected to be familiar with the concept. They knew he would be coming.
Jesus had warned: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4, 5); "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:11, 12); "For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand" (Matthew 24:24, 25); "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them" (Luke 21:8).
We are warned about "false christs and false prophets" and Jesus says their coming will be accompanied by lawlessness.
Peter gave a similar warning: "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words" (2 Peter 2:1-3).
From these warnings of Christ and Peter, which were written down many years earlier than John's letters, Christians knew there would be an apostasy. There would be many false teachers and many would follow them. Lawlessness would be prevalent among those who claimed to be Christians!
In 1 John 2:18 we also notice that John was able to draw a conclusion: "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."
This prevalence of false teachers was proof that the last hour had come.
We can better understand John's conclusion by comparing this statement (written about 90 AD) with what Paul wrote some 40 years earlier. In his letter to the Thessalonians in about 53 AD he says: "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
In 53 AD there were certain predictions that still had to be fulfilled before the return of Christ. The "falling away" had to occur and "the man of sin" would be revealed, the "son of perdition, who opposes." Paul speaks of the "mystery of lawlessness". Christ had foretold that lawlessness would abound (Matthew 24:12). Paul also calls this "man of sin" the "lawless one" and alludes to a Messianic prophesy in Isaiah 11:4. Some at Thessalonica thought Christ was returning immediately. Paul explains that a large-scale apostasy among Christians would occur first.
Forty years later, when John wrote, the situation had changed. John's readers knew about the prophecy of an apostasy (Matthew 24:4,5,11,23-26; Mark 13:6,21- 23; Luke 21:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). In the meantime, this prophecy had been fulfilled: the antichrist had come (1 John 2:18; 4:3; 2 John 7), apostasy had occurred (1 John 2:19), and Christ could come at any moment. It was the last hour.
Since then, Christ can come at any time. Whoever denies this is a false teacher.
John continues: "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22). One can deny with his mouth, but also through false doctrines and unauthorized practices, as indicated in 2 John 9: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son."
John also mentions the spirit of the antichrist. "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 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" (1 John 4:2, 3). Notice the movement from the plural to the singular. Every spirit who does not confess Christ, is the spirit of antichrist. In other words, the antichrist spirit represents all spirits who are against Christ.
We find the same movement from plural to singular in 2 John 7. "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" (ASV). Some translators change "the" to "a" in this last sentence. In the original Greek text, however, it is literally, word for word: "This is the deceiver and the antichrist." In other words, the many deceivers are the deceiver and the antichrist.
Who is the antichrist? According to John, "the antichrist" represents the many false christs and false prophets whom Jesus said would arise and deceive many. The antichrist stands for all the false teachers in the world, people who are opponents of Christ or who put themselves in the place of Christ.
Let us beware of the antichrist spirit, the spirit of lawlessness, the spirit that contradicts the word of God.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise. Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive