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29 December 2018

Antichrist - What Kind of Leader?

SYNOPSIS - Will the Antichrist be a global political leader or the ultimate deceiver sent by the Dragon to destroy the Church from within? 


Augustus - Photo by Nemanja Peric on Unsplash
By Nemanja Peric on Unsplash
The Antichrist is portrayed in popular preaching as a global political leader - A militaristic tyrant bent on global domination over all nations. In the end, perhaps this will be the case. However, the New Testament warnings consistently stress the ability of this figure to deceive and the saints as the targets of his nefarious plans.

In the book of Revelation, the target of the “war” to be waged by the "Beast from the sea" at the command of the Dragon is the church, the "saints," a group comprised of the faithful followers of the Lamb:
  • (Revelation 13:7-10) – “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and there was given him authority against every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all they who are dwelling upon the earth will do homage unto him — every one whose name is not written in the scroll of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any-one hath an ear: let him hear. If anyone carrieth into captivity, into captivity, he goeth away. If anyone with a sword doth slay, he must with a sword be slain. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The only New Testament author who used the term ‘Antichrist’ was John (in his first two of his letters). In the first, he warned - “It is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come to pass” - (Compare – 1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7):
  • (1 John 2:18-19) – “Little children! it is the last hour; and, just as ye have heard that an antichrist is coming, even now, antichrists have become many, whence we perceive that it is the last hour: From among us, they went out, but they were not of us; for if of us they had been, they would in that case have abode with us; but it came to pass in order that they might be made manifest, because all are not of us” – (The Emphasized Bible).
John did not deny that an individual “antichrist” would come. His point was that many “antichrists” had arrived already and from within his congregations. “Antichrist” or antichristos is a compound word formed with the  Greek noun christos (“anointed one”) and the preposition anti - “instead of” - not “against.” It refers to someone who attempts to replace or imitate Jesus, not to one who openly opposes him.
The “antichrists” (plural) to whom John referred were men that “went out from us, but they were not of us; …but they went out that it might be plain that they all are not of us” - False teachers that originated from within his churches and denied the true humanity of Jesus, among other things.
John admonished his churches to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” then warned about “the spirit of the antichrist of which you heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” Thus, the “antichrists” against which John contended were false teachers, NOT national or global political leaders - (2 John 7 - “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in flesh; this one is the deceiver and the antichrist”).

Likewise, Paul warned of a coming “man of lawlessness.” While his words might suggest a political figure, his focus was on this figure's ability to deceive believers. Thus, he began, “Let no one in any way deceive you.” He described one event that could point to a public political act when the man “takes his seat in the sanctuary of God” to opposes every so-called god - (“Proclaiming himself to be God”) - (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).

However, the description provided by Paul is more religious than political, although it could be both. Elsewhere in his writings, he uses “sanctuary” metaphorically for the Body of Christ. This “man of lawlessness” is linked by the Apostle to an “apostasy.” When this figure is revealed, his activities will be “in accord with those of Satan” - (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21):
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10) - “And, then, shall be revealed the lawless one — whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth, and paralyse with the forthshining of his Presence: — Whose presence shall be according to an inworking of Satan, with all manner of mighty work and sign and wonders of falsehood, And with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves, because the love of the truth they did not welcome, that they might be saved” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The stress falls on this man's power to deceive and turn people from the true faith, not on his political activity, military prowess, or sovereignty over nations.

Similarly in the book of Revelation, the “Beast from the Sea” appears to have the characteristics of a powerful political leader; however, the text does not explicitly identify it with the “Antichrist,” to use John’s term.

The grammatical gender of “beast” (thérion) in Greek is neuter and, consequently, its pronoun is always “it” (Despite the misleading masculine renderings by many English versions). It is one of the seven “heads” of the "Beast" that is given a “mouth speaking proud things and slander” against the saints, not the "Beast" as a whole. Later, the seven heads are identified as seven “kings” spread out over history - (Daniel 7:8, 7:21, Revelation 13:3-6, 17:9-11 [“They are seven kings; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come”]).

The “Beast from the sea” combines features from the four world empires pictured in the vision of Daniel of four “beasts” that ascended out of the sea (“The beast was like a leopard, and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion”), although in Revelation, the image is of a single beast "ascending from the sea," not four. Possibly, this “Beast” represents a political system rather than an individual man since it is based on this vision from Daniel of four kingdoms - (Daniel 7:1-8).

John's single "Beast from the Sea" possesses the character and authority of the "Dragon" - “Behold a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns”; “A beast ascending out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns…they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast.” The “ten horns” of the "Dragon" and of the "Beast from the sea" link them to the fourth beast in the book of Daniel that the prophet saw "ascending from the sea" - (Daniel 7:7-8, Revelation 12:3, 13:1).

The wrath of the "Dragon" is NOT vented against the “inhabitants of the earth,” the Israel or any other nation-state. Instead, he is enraged at the Woman who birthed the messianic "Son" and, unable to destroy the Messiah, “He went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who have the testimony of Jesus Christ" - (Revelation 12:17).

Likewise, the "Beast from the sea" launches its "war" against the "saints" - “It was given to it to make war with the saints and to overcome them” - (Revelation 13:7).

Both passages use language from a verse in the seventh chapter of Daniel - The “little horn” that spoke great things and “made war with the saints and prevailed against them” - (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 12:17).

In Revelation, the Devil wages war against the seven churches of Asia by means of persecution and deception. Consistently in this book, Satan wages war against the Lamb by attacking men and women who follow him and "have the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 2:10, 2:18-29, 12:17, 13:6-10).

Similarly, the Olivet Discourse by Jesus is threaded with dire and repeated warnings to disciples about coming deceivers - “Beware lest anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and lead many astray.” Said deceivers point to “wars and rumors of wars… famines, earthquakes,” and the like as purported signs of the end. Disciples must not be disturbed - Such things must come but are not signs of the end - “But the end is not yet” - (Matthew 24:4-8).

The warnings by Jesus parallel those of Paul to the Thessalonians about the “man of lawlessness” and the coming “apostasy.” In his name, deceivers mislead many. As a result, “many will fall away,” and “many false prophets will arise and mislead many” - (Matthew 24:4-24, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

Only the believer who endures to the end will be saved. “False anointed ones and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” Deceivers come to hoodwink disciples, NOT to deceive a world that already lies in the lap of the Wicked One. They work to cause apostasy from the true faith. Warnings of this kind are common in the New Testament:
  • (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) - “False apostles and deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”
  • (1 Timothy 4:1) - “The Spirit explicitly warns that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
In the same way, the Apostle Peter warned of coming “false teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality and because of them, the way of the truth will be maligned.” Apostasy is the intended result of deception and deceivers who work INSIDE the church of God - (2 Peter 2:1).

The Antichrist may turn out to be a world political leader. However, considering the many warnings from the New Testament, we should not be surprised if he appears within the Church of Jesus Christ in order to lead many of his disciples astray.

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