The Real Antichrist
an often misunderstood challenge
by Bob Burridge ©2018
There have been many books, movies, and sermons about the future coming of the ultimate enemy of the church they call “the Antichrist”. He’s presented as leading a final attack on the church before the final judgment of the world. The only problem is that this is not the way it’s reported in the Bible.
The term “antichrist” is a term only used by the Apostle John in just two of his epistles. The Greek word he used in his original writing of those letters is “antichristos” (ἀντίχριστος) which literally means “against Christ“. It’s only found in the following verses.
1 John 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”
1 John 2:22, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he 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, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”
2 John 1:7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
These verses tell us that the attitude of being “anti-christ” was already in the world at the time of John. He states that directly in 1 John 2:18 and 4:3, and implies it in 1 John 2:22 and 2 John 1:7. It refers to all those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ) as the Bible presents him. It’s never used to identify some specific future character who becomes God’s arch-enemy aspiring to destroy God’s church and plan in the days of the final judgment.
In 1 John 2:18 John speaks of “many antichrists” who had already come, not just one. In 2 John 1:7 the use of the definite article “the” for “the deceiver and the antichrist” does not mean they are just one particular individual. In the same verse he says there were “many deceivers”. After describing the offense, he says that “such a one” (each “not confessing the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh”) is the deceiver and antichrist. The definite article particularizes each person who has this attitude of being “against Christ”, not some single individual.
Some have often linked the expression “The Antichrist” with “The Beast” introduced in Revelation 13. There are many thoughts about who or what the “Beast” actually refers to, but that’s a topic for another study. This Beast is obviously “against Christ” as are all those who oppose our Savior, but the term “antichrist” is never directly attached to this symbolic creature, and is never used in the Bible as a name or title of any one specific person.
The “last hour” which John said had come was obviously not a literal hour. Sixty minutes after he wrote those words that hour had not passed. It’s obvious that he’s using a common expression which means “a period of time”. A new era had come, the last period of time in God’s plan, particularly for the Jewish dominance of his Kingdom.
In this context the concern of John in these warnings was not limited to some future event many thousands of years away. The last stage of God’s plan had come with the completion of the work of Jesus. The previous Jewish era of symbolic sacrifices and purification rituals was coming to an end since it was all now fulfilled. Soon, in 70 AD, the Temple in Jerusalem would be torn down by invading Roman armies. The Temple system would end because Jesus had fulfilled what it stood for when he died on the Cross in his people’s place.
The promises of God would spread to include large numbers of Gentiles expanding the church into the far corners of the world. Judgment would fall upon the apostate Rabbis and Priests who were against Jesus Christ. In the First Century the anti-Christ forces were already engaged in deadly persecutions and wanted to put an end to the Christian movement, but they would not succeed.
In every era there have been such enemies. Some were overtly pagan persecutors like the enemies of Christ in the Roman Empire. Some at that time were the Jewish religious leaders, Rabbis and Priests, who were against the idea that Jesus Christ had fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament. In the ages after Pentecost there were false teachers who slipped into the church to spread a false understanding of who Jesus Christ was. All of these are “anti-Christ”. We need to be on the lookout for them in every era, and turn to God in prayer that his people would be cared for and encouraged by the Holy Spirit and by the fellowship of their brothers and sisters in the Lord.
As it was in the days of the Apostle John, so also today there are still many in the world who are against the Christ of the Bible. There will always be those who are anti-Christ all the way until God’s final judgment. The spirit of antichrist can be applied to all those who promote a false religion that does not present Jesus Christ and his redemptive work as the way to be brought back into fellowship with the God who made us.
Today a false substitute Christ is often presented in TV shows, movies, and social media. A distorted Christ is taught from the pulpits of many churches that are more concerned about big crowds and big budgets, than teaching the true promises of God fulfilled by the true Christ. All those who fail to teach that Jesus Christ is God in human form who came to die to redeem unworthy and undeserving sinners, are by definition “antichrist”.
Central in the mission of the church is to inform it’s people about the true Christ and what he accomplished. Christian Pastors, Elders, and teachers need to make sure that their people are learning what God has spoken in his word, and they should seriously take that message to those who have not yet heard it. This is how we respond to those who are “Anti-Christ’ – we become actively “For-Christ”.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)