Who or What is the Antichrist?

The question about the antichrist has fascinated Christians for centuries. Here’s the most common current theory:

  • At some point in the future a child will be born who is Satan’s version of Jesus, perhaps even possessed by Satan or another demon from the time of his birth.
  • He will grow in power through his life eventually suffering a mortal wound of some kind.
  • He will survive the mortal wound, possibly even appearing to have come back from death.
  • He will team up with another individual who will be his spokesperson, and they will gain power.
  • Through miraculous works, they will convince moderately spiritual people that they are somehow worthy of worship, and people will worship them.
  • Through political power, they will convince the rest of the world to give them authority, and the whole world will honor them.
  • Once they have attained global power, they will declare the antichrist to be the only one worthy of worship, and they will launch a time of persecution against all those who attempt to stay faithful to God.
  • Those who follow the antichrist (sometimes called the Beast) will receive a mark on their body that identifies themselves with him.
  • Those who have the mark can participate in society, and those who don’t will be prevented from all commerce before eventually being killed.

Each of those bullet points has some connection with something in the Bible. However, there is no part of the Bible that explains all of that all at once. Rather, the only way to get this idea is to combine the concept of “the Beast” from Revelation (written by John) with the word “antichrist” from the letters of John even though John himself doesn’t connect them in his writings. Additionally, you have to include the concept of the “man of lawlessness” described by Paul and add that to the vision of the “little horn” from the book of Daniel and the “abomination that causes desolation” from both Daniel and Jesus.

If you add all those things together, you kinda get the picture of the antichrist painted above.

However, if you don’t add them all together, if you keep them all in their separate prophecies in their own contexts, they all still make sense. No one in the Bible links all these prophecies together, and as I said, John himself doesn’t link the prophecy of the “Beast” with any of the other prophecies even though he certainly knew of Daniel’s prophecy, and he certainly knew of Jesus’ predictions, and he certainly knew of his own use of the word antichrist.

Therefore, if you really want to know who the antichrist is, you should pay closest attention to the only one in the New Testament who uses that word and see how he used it:

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. 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.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 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. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

As for you, 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. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
1 John 2:18-25 NIV

According to John, “antichrist” doesn’t refer to one specific person but to a category of people. People who started out as Christians, but then moved away from the true teaching about Christ to something else. According to John anyone who denies the work of the Father in the life of the Son, anyone who denies the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, that person is the antichrist. Literally, every unbeliever qualifies as an antichrist according to John’s definition, but he was probably mostly meaning the false teachers who were pretending to be Christians but who didn’t actually believe that Jesus was the Son of God or that they should follow him as Lord. Bottom line, the antichrist is any person who is “anti” Christ. What should we do about it? Stick with what you have learned about Jesus, and remain in him.

Dear friends, 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. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:1-4 NIV

Once again, John is concerned about the false teaching and the false prophets of his day. These people were claiming to have spiritual knowledge from spiritual beings, but John says there is an easy way to test their spiritual claims. If they claim that Jesus is the Christ, that he really came to earth in the flesh, and that he really came from God, then that person is speaking with the authority of the Spirit of God. However, if they do not recognize the identity of Jesus, that person is speaking with the “spirit of the antichrist.”

Pay attention to the last phrase of that first paragraph: “…the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” This phrase completely invalidates the idea that there is an “antichrist” figure who is yet to show up on the scene of human history, because there is an interesting grammar thing going on here. If “which” refers to “antichrist,” then according to John, the antichrist was already in the world during his day. However, if “which” refers to the “spirit of the antichrist” (more likely), then according to John, there is a general attitude of “anti-christ-ness” that is present in the world.

But don’t miss the final phrase either. John literally says that the Christians of his day had already overcome the antichrists in the world because the Spirit who was in them is greater than the spirit who is in the world.

Finally, just to put a pin in it, John also mentions the antichrist in his next letter:

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. — 2 John 1:7 NIV

Once again, he simply says that any person can be the antichrist, and in fact, everyone who doesn’t recognize that Jesus is the Christ who came in flesh is the antichrist.

According to John, there isn’t one antichrist. Everyone who isn’t following Christ is anti-Christ especially those who use their voice to disparage or deny the identity of Jesus.

Not to put too blunt a point on it, but the antichrist could be you.

But I believe better things for you. I believe you are a person who has received the truth of Christ, and you want to live in that truth, representing him well in this world and living by his Spirit in you. If that is you, you have nothing to fear from any antichrist because:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. — 1 John 4:4 NIV

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