The Antichrist?

Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. By this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son.
-1 John 2:18-22

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

-1 John 4:1-6

Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

-2 John 1:7

There is a belief or a teaching of some Christians, that there is a singular person called the antichrist, who will appear on the world’s stage.  They say this person will rule people, deceive many, and persecute Christians.  The Bible does not teach this anywhere.  

To arrive at the belief about the singular person of the antichrist, you have to conflate other scriptures with the word antichrist and speculate wildly and then promulgate a teaching which is so exciting that it becomes dogmatic in the minds of its devotees.

There are three scripture passages that are conflated with ‘the antichrist’ of John’s letters.  Antichrist there is plural and the singularity is only there to describe what the antichrist spirit is like in an individual, and is not a particular (one) singular person.

The only place in the Bible that has this word, antichrist, is in the epistles of John.  He might be speaking of a person singularly, but the context is that there is more than one (people, persons).  The person is a type of people: a heretical movement of false teachers.  

John describes antichrist as a spirit of falsehood and deception and goes opposite of Christ.  Every heretical, false teaching about Christ is antichrist.  In addition, spirits that speak, teach, or lead people is a direction without Christ may also be antichrist.  John is saying that there is a spirit that lives in or comes out of the world that is not Christ or does not testify to the truth about Christ and this spirit or what is behind the false teaching for the deceiving is what he calls the spirit of antichrist.

John’s words about the antichrist were for the church in his day, not a prophecy about a person to come much later.  John opens his teaching by saying that it is the last hour, antichrist is coming and antichrists are already here.  Is this a spirit or a person?  Why didn’t John say “The Antichrist”, the singular person?  And how could it be “the last hour”, but two thousand years later, we are still here?

Could the antichrist be a spirit and a type, more of a description than a singular person?  Could John be saying that while antichrist teacher/deceivers are already here, that person or persons with a bigger platform or more power to deceive is/are coming soon?

What are the big events in the Christian timeline that ‘the clock’, so to speak, is governed by?  I would say the first and second coming of Christ.  When John and Paul and the other Apostles wrote the NT, these are the two big events they taught about.  In a nut-shell, the events of the book of Revelation are about events in the near future and then the big event of the second coming of Christ.

John may have used a new word, antichrist, to describe something and someone or someone’s, that Jesus and Paul spoke about.  Jesus spoke about false prophets and false messiahs that will deceive many: even the elect (Matthew 7:15, 24:11 & 24; Mark 13:22).  Peter mentions false teachers who will infiltrate the church who will bring destructive heresies and deny the Master who bought them (2 Peter 2:1).

A person is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians.  Is this person the (singular) Antichrist?  The most generous answer is “maybe”.  We can only speculate.  It’s not a good idea to be dogmatic about speculations, like it is, ‘a hill to die on’.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God.

Don’t you remember that when I was still with you I used to tell you about this? And you know what currently restrains him, so that he will be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way, and then the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and will bring him to nothing at the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with every kind of miracle, both signs and wonders serving the lie, and with every wicked deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe the lie, so that all will be condemned—those who did not believe the truth but delighted in unrighteousness.

-2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Paul is saying here that the second coming of Christ has not come yet and will not come until “the apostasy” and the reveal of “the man of lawlessness”.  And Paul says that something or someone is restraining him before he can come onto the scene.  Paul does not say what the restraint is, but he infers that the Thessalonians know, because they heard about this already.  We are left to speculate.  Some say that it is the church or the Holy Spirit on the earth that restrains.  But Paul writes that the reveal will happen before the second coming (the day of the Lord) and ‘the rapture’ is actually what happens to believers living on the earth when Jesus comes back at his second coming.  So, the church or the Spirit being removed is not the restraint Paul is referring to.

The best guess would be that the restrainer is The Roman Empire, and “the man of lawlessness” being the corrupt papacy.  This is what the early Church Father, Tertullian  (c. 160 – c. 220 AD) believed.  John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) warned against speculating about the Antichrist, saying, “Let us not therefore enquire into these things”. He preached that by knowing Paul’s description of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians, Christians would avoid deception.[ Chrysostom Homily 1 on the 2nd Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians].

Here we have Paul mentioning “the man of lawlessness” whom some Christians say is “The Antichrist”.  Calvin and Luther thought that this person was the papacy.  Also, the temple he sits in is not a physical temple in Jerusalem, but sitting over or among Christians.

Were the Church Fathers or Calvin and Luther correct?  We can’t be certain, but their postulations are sound.

I think we can say with certainty that this man is hard to identify.  We have theories and we speculate just like great Christians have for the past two thousand years.  We do know that antichrist is a term only found in John’s letters and not Revelation and that while it could refer to a person, that person is among persons that began in the first century.

Daniel

“After this, while I was watching in the night visions, suddenly a fourth beast appeared, frightening and dreadful, and incredibly strong, with large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and it trampled with its feet whatever was left. It was different from all the beasts before it, and it had ten horns.

“While I was considering the horns, suddenly another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. And suddenly in this horn there were eyes like the eyes of a human and a mouth that was speaking arrogantly.

-Daniel 7:7-8

Is Daniel’s little horn The Antichrist?  It is possible that it refers to the papacy.  The fourth beast seems to be Rome and the papacy came out of Rome (the Roman Empire that fell).  The protestant historical perspective and even some before Protestantism has been that the little horn is the papacy, the institution of the papacy.

The papacy argument fits with history, chronologically.

Revelation

And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. On its horns were ten crowns, and on its heads were blasphemous names. 

-Revelation 13:1

There is something called ‘a beast’ or ‘the beast’, mentioned in Revelation 13.  The whole chapter describes it or it’s activities.  The word antichrist is never used in the whole book of Revelation and the beast is never described as a singular man.

Even if this beast is antichrist, it is not described as a person, but an animal; a seven headed animal.  This is a political, government system or pagan empire(s).  The beast in Revelation is a composite, conglomerate of the beasts in Daniel, and those beasts were not people.

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