Question: Who Or What Is Antichrist?
Answer: In the New Testament we find the term “Antichrist” used. What does it refer to? Is it a person or an impersonal force? If it is a person can we know his identity? What can we learn about Antichrist from the Bible?
The Meaning Of The Word Antichrist
The word “Antichrist” is actually made up of two Greek words. The word “anti” can mean either, “in place of,” “instead of,” or “in opposition to.” The Greek word “Christos” means the “Messiah,” or “Anointed One;” it is the Christ. Therefore, the term Antichrist indicates someone, or something, that attempts to take the place of, usurp the authority of, or be in opposition to, the genuine Messiah, Jesus Christ. In other words, Antichrist is, in many ways, the opposite of Christ.
The Term Antichrist Is Only Found In The Writings Of John
The specific word “Antichrist” is only found in the New Testament writings of the Apostle John. He uses the term five different times in two of his letters, First John and Second John. They are as follows.
There Are Many Antichrists, Yet One Final Antichrist Is To Come (1 John 2:18)
In this verse, we have two different references to Antichrist. We discover that there are many Antichrists who will come and go as well as one final Antichrist who is yet to appear. John wrote.
Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such Antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come (1 John 2:18 NLT).
This first reference in this verse is singular, not plural. It is “the Antichrist” who is coming. This seems to be referring to something or someone very specific who has not yet arrived on the scene.
There is also a plural reference in this verse. John says “many Antichrists” have appeared. From this we can conclude that many Antichrists have appeared and will continue to appear until the final Antichrist arrives.
Antichrist Denies The True Christ (1 John 2:22)
John later said that anyone who denies Jesus is the Messiah, or the Christ, is “an Antichrist.” He put it this way.
And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an Antichrist (1 John 2:22 NLT)
If a person denies God the Father and God the Son, then they are considered to be an Antichrist; one who is opposed to the God of the Bible.
The Spirit Of Antichrist Was Already Present (1 John 4:3)
Though Antichrist was coming, we are also told that the spirit of Antichrist was already present at the time of John. He wrote.
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 (1 John 4:3 ESV).
There is such a thing as the “spirit of Antichrist,” and we are told that this particular spirit was in the world when John wrote.
Present-day Deceivers Are Linked To Antichrist (2 John 7)
In the Second letter of John, he warned about deceivers, or Antichrists, who are already in the world. He linked them to the final Antichrist. We read the following.
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 (2 John 7 ESV).
Anyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ, is called the deceiver, the Antichrist.
Observations About What The Bible Says Concerning Antichrist
From these writings of John, we learn the following things from the five times that he uses this expression “Antichrist.”
1. The Final Antichrist Is Yet To Come
The first use of the term is to designate someone or something which will rise up and oppose Christ in the future. At the time John wrote, this final Antichrist had not yet appeared. Therefore, Antichrist was still to come.
What is interesting to note is that the people to whom John was writing had already heard about this coming Antichrist. John himself may have been the one who taught them about this personage. The subject was well-known to the people at that time in the early church.
2. Presently There Are Many Antichrists
Although there will be a final Antichrist, the second usage of the term informs us that many Antichrists have come and will continue to come before the appearance of the final one. In other words, every generation has “an Antichrist.” This is what John is emphasizing in his letter. Many types of this future Antichrist have already appeared and are still appearing. Believers need to be aware of this.
These truths about Antichrist are in harmony with what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the spirit of lawlessness which was already at work. He wrote.
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:7,8 NIV).
This lawless power of Antichrist has been at work since the beginning of the Christian church through many individual Antichrists which have come and gone. This same spirit of Antichrist will continue until the arrival of the final Antichrist.
3. Antichrist, By Nature, Is A Liar
The third use of the term Antichrist by John points out one of the basic qualities of this adversary of the Lord; Antichrist is a liar. It is one who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. Therefore, the Antichrist denies both God the Father and God the Son.
4. The Message Of Antichrist Is A Denial Of Jesus
The fourth usage informs us of the message of Antichrist. The spirit of Antichrist will not confess that Jesus Christ actually came in human flesh. It is a denial that God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is crucial to understand. Antichrist denies the very reason for which Jesus Christ came into our world.
5. Antichrists Deny The Christ Has Actually Come Into The World
The fifth usage of the term Antichrist also emphasizes the denial of this personage that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Some attempt to find a denial of Jesus’ Second Coming in this statement. They translate 2 John 7 as a future tense, “Jesus Christ is coming.” This would have Antichrist denying the Second Coming of Christ as well as his First Coming.
While this is possible, it seems more likely that Antichrist is denying the fact that God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thus, the specific denial of Antichrist is the denial of the coming of Christ the first time around; a key truth of the New Testament.
This sums up some basic truths we learn about Antichrist from John’s use of the term.
Is Antichrist A Person, Religious System, Or Influence?
The term Antichrist has been subject to a number of different interpretations among Bible believers. Some see it as referring to a false religious system while others believe it refers to an evil influence or spirit that is against Jesus Christ.
There is also the view that Antichrist refers to an actual person who has already will come upon the scene of history or will come in the future. We will examine each of these possibilities as we look at what the Scripture has to say about this important topic.
Antichrist Is Prominent In Scripture
While John is the only biblical writer to use this particular term “Antichrist,” we will discover that the subject of the coming “Antichrist” is actually found throughout the entire Scripture. Indeed, one may be surprised to learn that there are over one hundred references to the future Antichrist in the Bible.
Thus, Antichrist is a very important subject. This being the case, the entire scope of biblical teaching on this subject should be thoroughly examined. This is exactly what we plan to do.
Summary To Question 1 Who Or What Is Antichrist?
The word Antichrist is made up of two Greek words; anti and Christos. The word “anti” can mean, “in place of,” “instead of,” or “in opposition to.” The Greek word, “Christos” means “the Messiah,” or “Anointed One.” It refers to the Christ. Therefore, the term Antichrist indicates something or someone who attempts to take the place of, or be in opposition to, the genuine Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The specific term Antichrist is only found in the New Testament and only in the writings of the disciple John. It is used in both the singular and in the plural. Four references are in the letter of First John while there is one reference in Second John. These five times in which this term is used tells us much about Antichrist.
For one thing, when John wrote his first letter the final Antichrist had not yet arrived although many Antichrists had already appeared. This indicates a single final Antichrist will come on the scene. However, before this personage does appear there will be many individuals who will exhibit similar traits to the final Antichrist. They too can be rightfully labeled “Antichrists.”
Consequently, we must distinguish between the many Antichrists which have appeared throughout the history of the church and the final Antichrist who is yet to appear. We also find that Antichrist is a liar who denies Jesus is the Messiah. By denying Jesus Christ, one denies both God the Father and God the Son.
The message of Antichrist is that Jesus was not God in human flesh. In other words, he denies the very central message of the gospel. This is crucial to understand. Antichrist denies the biblical truth that God the Son came to our world in the Person of Jesus Christ.
These are some of the basic facts regarding the subject of Antichrist from the use of the term in John’s writings. Much more could be added.
There is a question as to whether Antichrist should be identified with a person, an influence, or a religious system. Believers have debated this through the ages. As we shall see, it will be obvious that John, as well as the other biblical writers, was writing about an evil individual who will eventually come upon the stage of history, a final Antichrist.
While John is the only biblical writer who uses this specific term “Antichrist,” this subject is found over one hundred times in Scripture. Both testaments contain references to this final Antichrist. Therefore, it is not an obscure topic. Antichrist is one of the main characters of the Bible.
This question is from my forthcoming book “The Final Antichrist”