Spirit of Antichrist

SYNOPSIS - The Antichrist is a deceiver intent on leading the elect of God away from the Christ revealed on the Cross of Calvary - 1 John 2:128-22.

By Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash
By Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash
Popularly, the Antichrist is a global political leader, a militaristic dictator bent on global domination. In the end, this may prove to be correct. However, the New Testament shows far more concern about deceivers working within the church than it does any political upstarts or world tyrant wannabes. Furthermore, in the book of Revelation, the targeted victims of the Dragon’s “war” are the “saints," those who "follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (Revelation 13:7-10).

The only New Testament author to use the term “antichrist” is John in two of his letters. In the first one, he warns, “It is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come to pass.” He does not deny that an individual “antichrist” will come, but his point is that many “antichrists” are active already within his churches (1 John 2:18-22).

Antichrist” is a compound word formed with the Greek noun christos (“anointed one”) and the preposition anti. The latter signifies “instead of,” not “against.” Thus, “antichrist” refers to someone who attempts to replace Jesus, not to anyone openly opposed to him.

The “antichrists” (plural) to whom John refers were those who “went out from us, but they were not of us; …but they went out that it might be plain that they all are not of us” - False teachers active within his congregations that denied the true humanity of Jesus, among other things.

John admonished his churches to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” then warned about “the spirit of the antichrist of which you heard that it is coming, and now, it is already in the world.”  The “antichrists” with whom John is concerned are  false teachers, NOT national or political leaders:
  • (2 John 7) - “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in flesh; this one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
Likewise, the Apostle Paul warned of a coming “man of lawlessness”.  While his words could suggest a political figure, his focus was on a man with the ability to deceive Christians.  Thus, he began, “Let no one in any way deceive you,” then described a future event when this person will “take his seat in the sanctuary of God to oppose every so-called god” - (2 Thessalonians2:1-12).

This description is far more religious than political, though it could be both. However, elsewhere in his letters, Paul uses “sanctuary” metaphorically to describe the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:166:192 Corinthians 6:16Ephesians 2:21). He links the “man of lawlessness” to an “apostasy.” When he is revealedhis activities will be “in accord with those of Satan”:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12) - “…with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness.”
The stress is on the ability of this figure to deceive and turn people from the true faith, NOT on his political activities or authority.

The “Beast” from Revelation Chapter 13 appears to have the characteristics of a powerful political leader. However, the text does not identify it explicitly with the “Antichrist,” to use John’s term. The grammatical gender of the Greek noun for “beast” is neuter, as is its pronoun (“it”), despite the masculine renderings in some English translations.

The "Beast from the sea" combines features of the four world empires from Daniel’s vision of four beasts from the sea, although in Revelation it becomes a single beast. Possibly, the “Beast” does represent a political system, not an individual man. After all, it is based on Daniel’s vision of four kingdoms. And the "Beast from the sea" possesses the character and authority of the Dragon:
  • (Revelation 12:3) – “Behold, a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns.
  • (Revelation 13:1) - “A beast ascending out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns…they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast.”
However, the Dragon’s wrath is not unleashed against the fallen “inhabitants of the earth.” He is enraged against the Woman who gave birth to the messianic "son." Failing to destroy her or her child, he “went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Likewise, the Beast from the sea - “It was given to it to make war with the saints and to overcome them.” Both passages from Revelation allude to the book of Daniel when the “little horn” speaking great things “made war with the saints and prevailed against them” (Daniel 7:21Revelation 12:17, 13:7).
In Revelation, the "Dragon" makes war against the seven churches of Asia by means of persecution and deception. Consistently in the book, through his earthly agents, Satan conducts warfare against the Lamb and all who follow him (Revelation 2:102:18-29).
The 'Olivet Discourse' of Jesus began with a dire warning about coming deceivers - “Beware lest anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and lead many astray.” These deceivers will point to “wars and rumors of wars… famines, earthquakes,” and the like, as purported signs of the end. However, Jesus commanded his disciples not to be disturbed - Such things must come to pass but are not signs of the end (“but the end is not yet”). Many deceivers and false prophets would come in order to deceive the “elect.”

Wolf - Photo by Jeroen Bosch on Unsplash
Photo by Jeroen Bosch on Unsplash

The repeated warnings of Jesus parallel the words of Paul - "On the basis of his name, deceivers would deceive many.” As a result, “many will fall away,” and “many false prophets will arise and deceive many”.  Only the man or woman who endures to the end will be saved.  “False anointed ones and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:4-23).

False prophets and deceivers come to hoodwink the followers of Jesus, not to deceive a world that already lies in the lap of the Wicked One. They are intent on causing apostasy from the true faith. Warnings of this kind are common in the New Testament:
  • (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) - “For such as these are false apostles, deceitful workers, transfiguring themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel! For Satan himself doth transfigure himself into a messenger of light! No great thing, therefore, if his ministers also are transfiguring themselves as ministers of righteousness!—whose end shall be according to their works.”
  • (1 Timothy 4:1-2) - “Howbeit, the Spirit expressly saith—that in later seasons some will revolt from the faith, giving heed unto seducing spirits and unto teachings of demons—in hypocrisy, speaking falsehood, of demons cauterised in their own conscience” [Citations from the Emphasized Bible].
Likewise, the Apostle Peter warned:
  • (2 Peter 2:1-2) - “But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false-teachers,—men who will stealthily bring in destructive parties, even the Master that bought them denying, bringing upon themselves speedy destruction; And many will follow out their wanton ways—by reason of whom the way of truth will be defamed.
In the end, the “Antichrist” may prove to be a global political leader.  However, considering the warnings of the New Testament, we should not be surprised if he first appears within the Church where he will work to deceive the elect and lead them away from the Jesus revealed in Scripture.

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