In dealing with today's passage, it is necessary for us to
distinguish between two uses of the same word, Antichrist.
Most of the passages in the Bible referring to the Antichrist
speak of one particular individual who is yet to come. We will examine the
characteristics of this individual so that you will recognize him when he
The apostle John, on the other hand, speaks not only of the
Antichrist but of many antichrists. We will see that the antichrists also have
certain characteristics which we can recognize.
With that, we may proceed to the Scripture.
1 John 2:18-29 NIV
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist
is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the
last hour. (19) They went out from us, but
they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would
have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to
us. (20) But you have an anointing from the
Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (21)
I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do
know it and because no lie comes from the truth. (22)
Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man
is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. (23)
No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the
Father also. (24) See that what you have
heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in
the Son and in the Father. (25) And this is
what he promised us—even eternal life. (26) I
am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. (27) As for you, the anointing you received from him
remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing
teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not
counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (28)
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be
confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (29)
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right
has been born of him.
There are a variety of views about the Antichrist. These
typically relate to the major views of Revelation. We will consider the common
points of these views, and in the individual distinctions.
We begin with the points made in Daniel the 11th chapter:
He exalts himself above every God. We might take this to mean
that he denies the existence of God, or any form of religious system. More
likely, it holds that he is superior to such a system. A contemporary example
of this would be those individuals who believe that science explains
everything, and any form of religion must fit into their particular system of
science and metaphysics.
He says "unheard of things" about God. This could apply
to any number of people today; after all, anyone with a "brilliant
theory" about God can have a hearing today. Because we have rejected the
concept of absolute truth, we hear all kinds of nonsense about God. So this
aspect of the personality would also apply to a large number of people.
He honors the "God of fortresses." Perhaps we might
take this to mean that he believes military power is supreme; as Mao Tse-Tung
would put it, "power grows out of the barrel of a cannon."
The next major section concerning the Antichrist is found in
second Thessalonians chapter 2:
see him as "man of sin" also translated as "man of lawlessness."
This is a man who ignores or defies the law; most probably it means one who
defies what is described as the natural law. It is very common today to deny
the existence of natural law; the absurdity of which is given in the fact that
most of us do feel that murder is a crime. But this person would fit in very
well today with the idea that each of us defines his own reality and his own
are told that he takes his seat in the Temple of God. This would seem to imply
that at least outwardly the person is associated with the church. If you
believe this person is the Pope, this is fairly obvious. As we shall see from
the sequence of events coming up next, it is highly likely that he is a person
in authority over the church.
we see that this man exalts himself to the point of being God. To the best of my
knowledge, no one successfully maintains this status. A look at Revelation gives
you more detail on this. The disturbing fact is this: many will trust this man
as if he is God. We need to take warning about this.
Finally, we may take one point of the book of Revelation:
the Antichrist comes from Rome.
The postmillennial view was very, starting in the Protestant
Reformation up through the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th
century. The view began in the Protestant Reformation, and because of that the
Antichrist is identified with the Pope, or the papacy. The argument is about
whether or not the Antichrist refers to one particular Pope, or the reverse the
papacy in general. You can certainly see characteristics of the Antichrist in
some of the medieval popes, continuing through the Renaissance, or you can
imagine that one particularly wicked Pope will arise at the time of the end.
This view is currently out of favor with most scholars, but is still held by a
number of denominations.
A great deal can be said about this particular theory and
its view of the Antichrist, identified also with the beast of Revelation. One
thing is certain, however: the Antichrist is not identified with the Pope.
Premillennialism is very ecumenical (and evangelical), and such a view would
naturally offend Roman Catholics. Since the rise of the Antichrist is supposed
to happen after the rapture of the church, the point would seem to be one which
is rather academic the most Christians.
This view is the common view of most Christians of most
times. Interestingly, the idea that the Holy Spirit is what holds back the
Antichrist is relatively new and premillennial; the old view holds that what
held back the Antichrist is nothing but the Roman Empire. Thus the prediction
(by both Augustine and Chrysostom) but the Roman Empire had to fall before the
Antichrist could come. The final fall of the Roman Empire occurred in 1453,
with the fall of Constantinople. Other than that, nothing in particular is
predicted other than what is in common with all theories.
Whoops It is an unfortunate fact therefore that the number
of candidates for the Antichrist is quite large. Here's a partial list of those
who have been nominated:
John Paul II
F D Roosevelt
J F Kennedy
King Juan Carlos
Karl Hapsburg ( a dentist in Austria)
Barney the Dinosaur
The reader will no doubt think of other possibilities.
Eventually, if we think of enough of them, one of us is bound to be right.
John the apostle is the only one who mentions these people.
Please remember that John is the last of the apostles; much of his writing
occurs after all the other apostles are dead — long enough in the history of
the church for antichrists to arise. It is therefore not surprising that he is
the only one.
How to Know Them
There are three primary characteristics of these people that
you need to know:
First, he tells us that they "went out from us." These
are not people on the outside the church telling us that were wrong; these are
people who have left the faith, having been part of us, and have now formed
their own new version of Christianity (or what ever else they call it.)
Second, he tells us that they "run ahead." This simply
means that the true Christian knows where doctrine stops, as well as what it
says. It's an important point. Lots of us know that the faith is inspired by
God; we believe it; therefore everything we believe is inspired by God. I leave
the logical fallacy to the reader; but if you push long enough you will
eventually get the point where all that stuff you about Christianity is now
false in light of your new, brilliant logic.
Most important, they want to suck you into their falsehood. These
are not people who are content with their own thought; somehow they validate
themselves with the number of people they can convert from Christianity to
their way of believing. It is therefore important that we know how their
doctrine varies from the truth.
So what is it that they teach, then?
First, they deny that Jesus is the Christ. That is to say, they
deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the long promised Messiah of the Jews. That
carries with it a number of implications. One of the most important is that he
cannot be the atonement if he is not the Messiah. If there is no atonement,
then why would one believe in the resurrection? I hope you can see how
absolutely critical to the faith this concept is.
Second, they deny the Son. This, John tells us, means that they
deny the Father too. In short, by denying the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth
they implicitly deny the divinity of God. By this definition, Mormons are
Third, they deny that Jesus has come in the flesh. That means
they deny the humanity of Christ.
I hope you can see that these are three of the most
important doctrines of the church. They go to the very core of the faith. So we
are not talking about typical dispute at an elder's meeting over the importance
and meaning of Second Hezekiah.
What Shall We Do?
All this may seem to be very interesting — and in fact it
forms the basis for in great deal of Christian literature arguing about things
— but we must come back to the practical question: what are we in supposed to
do about all this? After all, this is of academic interest (particularly if you
are a premillennialist), but not much more. Just what an individual Christian
is supposed to do about the Antichrist doesn't seem to be specified. But the
much more common problem of one of the antichrists is given some thought here.
Know the Truth
Before you can know what to do, you have to know when you
really have the problem.
First, you do know the truth. You have been taught what is
true. So don't go back to the beginning and see if you really want to
re-examine all of Christianity all over again, just because somebody on the
outside is yelling that you got it wrong. If you want to argue about infant
baptism, fine with me. But the doctrine that the antichrists deny is not up for
Second, distinguish between what is important and what is
absolutely vital. It is perfectly acceptable to have a reasoned, polite debate
over doctrine. Doctrine is important. The core of the faith is absolutely
vital. So be polite, know what you're talking about, and know when your
opponent is not one of the antichrists.
Just a word of advice on this: remember the submarine
principle — if you get a ping on the right and ping on the left, you're
probably going down the center of the shipping lane.
The very best way to avoid the antichrists is by obedience.
If you are walking in the light, the path is plain. So how do we do this?
May I give you Saint Augustine's dictum? "Love God, and do
as you please." Those who know the teacher will know well how much he
loves his wife. If you have that kind of love, it is a pleasure and a joy to do
the kinds of things that she wants to do. It works the same way with God. If
you love him, you will do what he wants to do. Following his will is obedience.
It should not be necessary to point this out, but obedience is a
practice — not a theory. If you are not doing obedience, you are not obedient.
Remember that there is a cycle of sin, confession, repentance and
restoration. Use those steps to continue to walk in the light.
John tells us not to associate with these people. That’s
intolerant, right? Right.
Remember that these people will pose as true (but “enlightened”)
Christians trying to correct your ignorant, primitive beliefs. They will look
good – and they will be lying.
If you welcome them socially, John says, you share in their
wickedness. How is this? You lend your good name to their deception in the
name of being hospitable.
Know your enemy!