Characters and Themes – The Anitchrist

28Apr11

No single character is more closely associated with modern evangelical eschatology than the mysterious man known as the Antichrist. He has starred in popular movies, been the primary character in the best selling novel series in Christian Publishing history and has been predicted to arrive on the scene every generation since the first century AD.

A quick Google of the subject and it appears the recently installed President has become a leading candidate!

Who is the mystery man? What does the Bible say about him?

Being such a main character it would appear there should be vasts amounts of Biblical exposition on him, right? What we do find, especially in the more modern, Left Behind prognosticators of our day, is a character that is actually a combination of different characters found in the Scriptures. If the story of the Antichrist was to be told by the likes of Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Thomas Ice and Grant Jefferies, it may appear like the bullet point biography listed below.

  • He is known as “the Prince who is to come” (Daniel 9:26)
  • The one who creates the “abomination of desolation” (Matt 24:15)
  • He is also Paul’s “Man of Lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3)
  • He is described by John as The Beast (Revelation 13)
  • After the Rapture he will make himself known during the 7 Year Tribulation
  • He is believed to come from a revived Roman Empire – Europe (Dan 7:7-26)
  • Others say he must be Jewish since he must “come out of the earth” Rev 13
  • He is said to be a charismatic political figure (like John F. Kennedy) who will receive a wound to his head (Rev 13)
  • He will have eloquence of Winston Churchill (Rev 13:5) and the raw emotional and crowd appeal of Adolf Hitler (Daniel 7 & 8 )
  • He will come to power as part of a ten-nation confederacy (Dan 7 / Rev 13)
  • He will originally be seen as a “Man of Peace” (1 Thess 5)
  • He will make a seven year covenant with Israel to establish peace and security and to reestablish the Temple system (Dan 9)
  • He will break that covenant leading to a 3 ½ year “Great Tribulation”
  • He will “sit” in the Holy of Holies in a rebuilt Temple (Matt 24 / 2Thess 2)
  • As a counterfeit Christ the Devil will give him power to perform miracles including resurrecting after receiving a mortal wound to the head (Rev 13)
  • He will proclaim himself to be God and demand worship (Rev 13/2 Thess 2)
  • He will demand a new monetary system that includes a mandatory Mark on everyone’s hand or forehead (Rev 13)

Many have attempted to identify this mysterious embodiment of evil including everyone from the reformers to the latest best selling prophecy expert. Candidates have included;

1. The Pope or the position of Pope
2. Mussolini
3. Hitler
4. John F. Kennedy
5. Henry Kissinger
6. Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6)
7. The Bush’s (Elder and Younger)
8. Prince Charles
9. Bill Gates
10. Barack Obama

The only problem with the biographical information above is that not a single item is directly tied to the character known as the Antichrist in Scripture! These items are either made out of whole cloth, presumed to be true and imported into this character or is about a different character all together. The only passages that mention the term Antichrist make no mention of the characteristics or actions above.

The descriptions above come other characters including; the Beast, the Man of Lawlessness, the False Prophet and the “Prince” in Daniel 9. But one must first make the case that Scripture ties these characters together and that they are, in fact, one in the same. But consider what we have already discussed and what will be dealt with in the bullet points below.

  • The “Prince” in Daniel was shown to be “Messiah the Prince” and not an Antichrist
  • John, the only New Testament author to use the term “Antichrist” never uses the term in the book of revelation, so the character who is the supposed star of the whole book is conspicuous by his absence
  • The Man of Lawlessness, who many have to be assumed the Antichrist, has nothing in the Scriptures that state they are the same

Below is the totality of teaching on this popular character called the Antichrist

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.

John makes the claim that there are many Antichrists! Not one! In fact, John claims the reason he knew it was the last hour (not day, days or times) was that there were so many of them! In fact note how in this passage, which is the ONLY time the term is used in an “individual” sense, John quickly rebukes the popular notion of a single coming Antichrist and argues that there are many and were around during John’s day!

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.

John goes on to explain why there are so many. In this passage we are told that anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ or denies the Father and Son are one is an Antichrist. This is not a very limiting description, it would, in fact, expand the concept of the Antichrist to include a vast number of people who have ever lived.

1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

It is is so plain here that it amazes me how often this is missed by today’s prophecy expert or lay person.If one does not confess Jesus is from God that spirit/person is an Antichrist. In fact John here makes the Antichrist more of a spirit or ideology than a personal one. John again reinforced the idea that whatever the Antichrist is or was, it was present in the first century.

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.

Here the answer is becoming more plain. John is more than likely dealing with the two great heresies of the early Church; the Judaizers and most definitely Gnosticism.

JUDAIZERS

In an attempt to bring converts back under the bondage of the sacrificial system and law, the Judaizers claimed that Jesus did not come from God directly (deity) but rather was a great prophet worthy of following while maintaining the Law and sacrificial system.

GNOTICISM

This is more than likely the issue to which Paul is addressing. Gnostics held to many heretical and unBiblical ideas:

  • They believed in salvation through gnosis, or knowledge, not through faith.
  • Gnostics believed there was a hidden deposit of secret knowledge that only the most enlightened could obtain
  • Gnostics denied the divinity of Christ
  • Some Gnostics believed that the soul and spirit were good and that physical things were evil. Thus Christ only appeared to have come in the flesh, but was actually only a Spirit. This has vast implication on issue like atonement and resurrection. This also lead to hedonism as since only the spirit was good and the flesh would eventually perish it didn’t matter how you lived “on the outside.”
  • The Gnostics believed that there was revealed truth to be found in many religions
  • Gonstics also taught different level of human beings with the more enlightened receiving a greater afterlife and those at the bottom receiving eternal punishment

With this in mind the words of john begin to make more sense. He was not warning about a soon coming embodiment of evil that would obtain world rulership. In fact, using exclusively Scripture as our guide, the term Antichrist cannot refer to an individual at all! Let alone the one pictured in modern evangelical prophetic systems. It just isn’t there!

Now how do we apply the passage today? The Reformers attempted to apply the passages regarding the Antichrist to the position of the Pope. I’m not the kind of guy that wants to stand up against the giants of the faith, and I, in fact, understand where they were coming from. When you look at the characteristics of the Antichrist in John’s Epistle’s it would make sense to come to this conclusion. That is why I wont argue against the use of the passage in that way. I would only state that it goes much deeper and wider than just a single man in a single time in history or several men throughout history.

In review this is what we know exclusively from the Scriptures:

  • There are many that were already around during John’s time?
  • John uses the term once to describe a person, denies that this was accurate,  and immediately states there are many
  • The one that denies Jesus is the Christ
  • The one that denies the Father and Son
  • A spirit (ideology) that denies Jesus came from God
  • Currently in the world at John’s time
  • Deceiver
  • One who denies Jesus came in the flesh

The main characteristic that is missing would be “end times world ruler.” The characteristics, though, described by John can include false ideologies from New Age to Word of Faith to Dualism, etc. These Antichrist ideologies continue today and it would behoove the Church to refer to these ideologies in such a way as to confirm that they are truly Antichrist positions and cannot and should not ever be tolerated in or out of the Church!

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7 Responses to “Characters and Themes – The Anitchrist”

  1. 1 Yehoshuamyking

    Should those who hold to the dogma known as Eternal Generation be considered antichrist? Doesn’t this dogma actually deny that the Son is co-eternal with the Father and that he ever existed… While attempting to defend his deity?

    • 2 low5point

      I have only a very limited understanding of the concept…It’s beyond me…kind of like the New Perspectives on Paul and some other “semantics” driven ideologies…so sometimes i just shrug my shoulders…I know my “job” appears to make the difficult things understandable, but sometimes i wonder if the proponents of some ideas know what they mean themselves.

      • 3 low5point

        Maybe my good friend the Right Reverend Kent Moorlach could respond to this better than I…he’s really smart!

  2. 4 Yehoshuamyking

    Hey D.L.
    Forget about the question above…I re-read the lesson and the passages… I see that the group that i was thinking of do not fit the criteria of antichrist… [off topic again,huh?] Like you said the Apostle John was speaking of Judiazers and Gnostics…

    On a side note though… I would like to know SOMEDAY what you think about the Dogma called ” Eternal Generation” and what it was that the Apostle John intended to convey about the Son of God with the use of the term ” Only Begotten “…

  3. 5 Yehoshuamyking

    Hey ! Dont say that…Your’e really smart! I have Less than an eigth grade education and i understand what you write… Besides the “smart ones” make my scalp itch! Sometimes their intellect overwhelm their reasoning…

    But me thinks if you like the REV,he must be okay!!! Nevertheless i am sticking with you! LADIE’S choice you know …

  4. The relationship of the Trinity is at the heart of this phrase and trying to conceive how the Father and the Son relate to each other specifically. In the Trinity, do we have 3 autonomous eternal “persons” that form the relationship of the Trinity, or do we have some eternal connection but with distinctions?? Greek philosophical thought influenced Trinitarian debates and brought us the phrase, “eternal generation of the son.” Evidently, if you’re orthodox, you use the phrase to stay orthodox. If you’re a heretic, the phrase can be used to argue something else.

    So yeah Dave, semantics! But still important to ponder…

    For another treatment: http://www.theopedia.com/Eternal_generation_of_the_Son#Westminster_Confession_of_Faith

  5. 7 Yehoshuamyking

    I read the West minister confession too… I wonder if free Presbyterians hold to this too?

    I do believe that the Apostle John was lead by God the Holy Spirit to write the phrase “Only Begotten” [Greek# 3439] to convey that there is a unique relationship between the first to members of the trinity…However,this phrase tells us that the Son is the same kind [Deity] as the Father…Which distinguishes him from Angels and man who are CREATED beings…This phrase used by the Apostle John was not meant to state that the Son was eternally begotten or born…This phrase was also used by the writer of Hebrews to distinguish Isaac the promised son from Ishmael the first born and the other children of Abraham…

    Instead of they chose to follow another and make a creed or confession that agrees that the Son is true God FROM true God…This confession actually denies that the Son before his incarnation was a self existent infinite Spirit…It is no wonder that the modern day cohorts of Arius the JWs,still deny the deity of Christ…This confession or creed does not help.It just supports the position of the Catholic Church…


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