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29 December 2018

The 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 of Jesus Christ from within? 

Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash
Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash
The Antichrist is popularly portrayed as a global political leader, often a militaristic tyrant bent on global domination. Perhaps, in the end, this will prove to be the case.

However, New Testament warnings place far more stress on future deceivers, often ones that originate from within the church. Furthermore, in the book of Revelation, the target of the “war” waged by the Beast on behalf of the Dragon is the church, which is comprised of 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 to use the term ‘Antichrist’ is John in two of his letters. In the first, he warns, “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 does not deny that an individual “antichrist” will come; his point is that many “antichrists” have arrived already from within his churches, even in his day. “Antichrist” or antichristos (Strong’s G500) is a compound Greek word formed with the noun christos (“anointed one”) and the preposition anti, which signifies “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.” That is, false teachers that originated from within the congregations of John 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 whom John contended were false teachers, not national or 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”).

Paul warned of a coming “man of lawlessness.” While his words could suggest a political figure, his focus was on the man’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, 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).

But the description provided by Paul sounds more religious than political, although it could be both. However, elsewhere in his writings, Paul uses “sanctuary” metaphorically for the Body of Christ. This “man of lawlessness” is linked by the Apostle to an “apostasy.” When he 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 by Paul falls on this figure’s power to deceive and turn people from the true faith, not on his political activity, military prowess or sovereignty over nations.

The “Beast” from Chapter 13 of the book of Revelation 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 [Strong’s G2342]) in Greek is neuter and its pronoun, therefore, is always “it,” despite masculine renderings by some English versions. It is one of the seven “heads” of the Beast that was 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 time (Daniel 7:87:21Revelation 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 of the four world empires from the vision of  Daniel about 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 it is a single beast, 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).

The Beast possesses the character and the 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” displayed by the Dragon and the Beast from the sea link them to the fourth beast that ascended from the sea in the vision of Daniel (Daniel 7:7-8, Revelation 12:3, 13:1).

The wrath of the Dragon is not exercised against the “inhabitants of the earth”; he was enraged at the Woman who birthed the son and, therefore, “He went TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REMNANT OF HER SEED, which have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Likewise, the Beast from the sea - “It was given to it TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS and to overcome them.” Both passages allude to a passage from the book of Daniel where the “little horn” speaking great things “MADE WAR WITH THE SAINTS and prevailed against them” (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 12:17).

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

The Olivet Discourse of 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.” They will 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 of Jesus parallel those of Paul to the Thessalonians about the “man of lawlessness” and the coming “apostasy.” In his name, deceivers will mislead many. As a result, “many will fall away” and “many false prophets will arise and mislead many” (Matthew 24:4-242 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

Only the believer that 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 will come to hoodwink disciples of Jesus, not to deceive a world that already lies in the lap of the Wicked. That is, 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.”

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 eventual result of deception and deceivers working INSIDE the church of God (2 Peter 2:1).

The Antichrist may turn out to be a world political leader. Considering the many warnings from the New Testament, perhaps 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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