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Series 3 - The Great Teachings of the Bible and What They Mean for You: Bible Prophecy and You

This sidebar article is part of Lesson 12: The Beast, the False Prophet and the Antichrist

What Does the Bible Say and Not Say About "Antichrist"?

Almost everyone has heard the term "Antichrist," but very few know what the Bible says about "antichrist." Many assume it refers to some kind of terribly evil and miraculously powerful apocalyptic archenemy of Jesus Christ. Those somewhat familiar with Bible prophecy know that a Satan-possessed tyrant called "the beast" will lead the world's armies in fighting against Christ in the battle of Armageddon—more accurately called "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:13-16; 19:19). But the Bible doesn't call that tyrant "the Antichrist."

Another end-time evil leader is called "the false prophet," but the Bible doesn't specifically use the term "the Antichrist" for him either.

That raises the question: Should we be referring to either the Beast or the False Prophet by the term Antichrist?

What is important is that we read the Bible for what it actually says and believe it—and not make a big issue of whether the word antichrist applies to a specific prophesied figure or not.

In the Bible, "antichrist" (Greek: antichristos) is mentioned in only four places, all in John's epistles. The word "anti" means "against" or "adversary of" or "in place of." John wanted to make clear that any teaching that contradicts Christ's identity or teaching is "antichrist," and the false teachers are "antichrists," meaning enemies of Christ.

Soon after the Church of God was founded, heretical deceivers began trying to interject their own ideas into it. One influential and diabolical heresy was gnosticism.

The gnostics taught the lie that spirit is always good and matter (including the human body) is always evil. Docetism, one branch of gnosticism, taught that Christ only seemed to have a body. Cerinthianism, another variant, taught that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and then left him before he died. Ebionism, a third variant, taught that Jesus was only a man and not God. All these ideas rejected the truth that God actually came "in the flesh" (became a mortal man and therefore capable of death) and then actually died. But the only way the death of Jesus could pay for the sins of all mankind is for Christ to have been both God and man when He died.

Following are explanations of the four verses in John's epistles:

In 1 John 2:18, John says, "Many antichrists have [already] come" (emphasis added throughout), indicating that already "it is the last hour"—that the age of false teachers and counterfeit Christianity was already well under way. Jesus had warned, "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24).

John also speaks of the singular word "antichrist." When antichrist is singular, the original Greek gives us no indication as to whether or not, in English, we should capitalize antichrist.

Also in 1 John 2:18, John said, "You have heard that the Antichrist is coming." John gives no indication as to how this idea got started. Was it just a rumor? Or did one or more apostles teach it? The idea does harmonize with the prophecy in Daniel 7:8, 20 and 25 that prophesies a "little horn" who will speak "pompous words against the Most High."

Perhaps "antichrist" had become the popular terminology for what Paul had prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-6. Paul wrote that "the day of Christ…will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin…who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God" (verses 2-4). The Greek verb translated "opposes" is antikeimai—literally, "be against." In Galatians 5:17 and in 1 Timothy 1:10, it is translated "contrary to." This is likely why the False Prophet is most often associated with the Antichrist, as we mentioned in the lesson.

In 1 John 2:22, we learn that any liar who denies the central truth that Jesus was and is the Christ—the prophesied Messiah and Savior—is an antichrist, an enemy of both the Father and the Son.

In 1 John 4:3, John again acknowledges that "you have heard [the Antichrist] was coming." But John goes on to say that antichrist is "already in the world." John's main point is that "every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist"—the spirit from Satan that is in the "false prophets" (verse 1). It is evil to deny either Jesus' full deity or His humanity during His earthly ministry and at the time of His death. (Also see 1 John 1:1-3.)

In 2 John 1:7, John says, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming [being incarnated] in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."

The ultimate Antichrist, of course, is Satan the devil. He has tried many schemes to destroy Christ and to thwart God's plan of salvation for mankind. He was the tempter of Eve and Adam and still "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). He led Herod to try to kill Jesus while He was a baby. He tried to tempt Jesus to sin. He stirred up hostility toward Jesus and finally succeeded in getting Jesus killed. (God and Christ allowed that because it was a part of God's plan of redemption for mankind.) And it will be Satan who possesses the Beast and the False Prophet at the end of the age and lures the world's great armies to fight against Christ (Revelation 13:4; 16:13-14).