Final Antichrist

The “spirit of antichrist” already is raising up deceivers within the church, though a final “antichrist” will also appear in the world  1 John 2:18-22

Photo by Frans Ruiter on Unsplash
The only New Testament author who uses the term “
antichrist” is John, and only in two of his letters. He applies the term to “false prophets” that have been active in the congregations addressed by his letters, false brethren he charges with denying that “Jesus is the Christ” and “come in the flesh.” Such men are of the “spirit of antichrist” that already is operating in the world - [Photo by Frans Ruiter on Unsplash].

Before discussing the “antichrist,” John warns his audience not to “love the world or the things in the world.”  Anyone whose heart remains fixated on the present world order does not have the “love of the Father in him.” He next uses a description of the “world” that alludes to the temptation of Adam:
  • (1 John 2:16) – “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of lifeis not of the Father, but is of the world.
  • (Genesis 3:6) – “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
Thus, by “world” John does not mean the planet earth, but instead, humanity under the dominion of sin and Satan, mankind in its fallenness, the existing order that is condemned to eventual destruction.

Vainglory” translates the Greek word alazoneia, from a root having the sense “boasting, braggadocio,” hence, the term denotes ideas like misplaced “self-confidence,” hollow pride. In Adam’s case, he desired “wisdom” from the “tree of knowledge,” which would make him self-legislating and no longer dependent on God for guidance, wisdom, and insight. That is the way of the “world” separated from God, the old order that is even now “passing away.” The only human activity that will stand the test of time is “doing the will of God.” This exhortation leads into the discussion about the many “antichrists” infiltrating John’s churches - (1 Corinthians 7:28-31).

The term “antichrist” is formed with the Greek noun christos, or “anointed one,” and the preposition anti, signifying “instead of,” not “against.” Thus, in its strictest sense, it refers to someone who attempts to replace Jesus, a substitute or imitation, even a counterfeit. Someone or something that appears to be the genuine article but is not.

The term does not occur in ancient Greek document prior to John’s first epistle. In the fourth chapter, he also associates his opponents with “false prophets.” Taken together, and considering his warning about deceivers, this usage suggests the source for the term “antichrist” was the warning by Jesus in his ‘Olivet Discourse’:
  • (Matthew 24:24) – “Then, if any man sayto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs [pseudoxristoi] and false prophets [pseudoprophétai], and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
John does refer to a coming end-time “antichrist”; however, he provides no additional information about that figure. Whether he meant the same person that Paul called the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians, or the “beast from the sea” or the “false prophet” from Revelation, there are no direct verbal links between John’s “antichrist” and those passages.

What is of concern to John are the “antichrists,” plural, causing problems in his congregations. As he writes:
  • Little children, it is the last hour: and, as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even nowmany antichrists have arisen, whereby we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of usWho is the liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, even he that denies the Father and the Son – (1 John 2:18-22).
John affirms that the “antichrist is coming”; that is a given. However, already, many “many antichrists” have infiltrated the church, and their disruptive activities is his immediate focus. But their very presence demonstrates that it is the “last hour.” This last statement reflects the belief of the early church that the “last days” began with the death and resurrection of Jesus – (Hebrews 1:1, 1 Peter 1:5, Revelation 1:1-4).

Nonetheless, John labels both these deceivers and the coming end-time figure as “antichrist,” and in chapter 4, he associates them with “false prophets” and attributes their activities to the “spirit of antichrist.” It is reasonable to assume the “antichrists” active in John’s churches are of the same character as the “coming antichrist.” Put another way, from the information provided we can plausibly garner some clues about the final “antichrist.”
The first thing John tells us is that these deceivers “went out from us.” They originated from within his congregations. Therefore, at some point, they must have been Christians, or at least, appeared to be.

The same warning is found in John’s second epistle, where he labels the false teachers “deceivers.” As in his first letter, they denied that “Jesus came in the flesh”:
  • (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.”
Regarding doctrine, these false teachers denied that Jesus is the “Christ,” and that he “came in the flesh.” The two charges must be related. To deny that he “came in the flesh” amounts to denying that he is the “Christ,” the Son of God.
  • (1 John 4:1-3) – “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesses not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it is coming; and now it is in the world already.
Precisely how these men denied that Jesus came in the flesh” the epistle does not say. In biblical usage, the meaning of “flesh” is somewhat fluid. It often refers to the human tendency to sin, to man’s carnality. But historically, terms like “flesh” and “flesh and blood” were used to refer to man in his weakened state due to sin, to man in his mortal state. As Paul argued, “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the kingdom. In their present bodily state, humans are subject to decay and corruption.” Therefore, they “must be raised incorruptible, and they will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” – (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

With this background in mind, a strong possibility is that the deceivers were denying the genuine humanity of Jesus; that, in every way, he participated fully in human nature, though “apart from sin,” including human mortality. In short, that Jesus died a genuine human death. But if he did not, then he did not also rise from the dead, and therefore, men and women remain unredeemed, still “dead in their sins.” To deny his humanity, including his mortality and death, is tantamount to denying that he was the “Christ,” the Son of God – (1 Corinthians 15:12-28, Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:15).

John contends that their false teaching is the product of the “spirit of Antichrist” that is working in the world, present tense. Conceptually, this is close to Paul’s teaching that the “mystery of lawlessness” is, even now, working in the world to prepare for the “revelation of the man of lawlessness.” The terminology may differ, but the idea is the same, that of a satanic force working to produce the final malevolent figure, whether called the “antichrist” or “man of lawlessness” - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7).

In 2 Thessalonians, the “man of lawlessness” is inextricably linked to a coming “apostasy,” and the stress is on his deceptive activities, especially his ability to use “all power and signs and wonders of a lie.” Believers remain safe from deception only as they “hold fast to the traditions” received from the apostles -(2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

Similarly, in Revelation, the “beast from the earth,” the “false prophet,” performs great signs” to deceive “them that dwell on the earth,” causing them to render homage to the “beast” and to take its “mark.” The “saints” overcome these challenges in the same way that Jesus overcame the “Dragon,” by persevering in faithful testimony, and “because they love not their lives unto death” – (Revelation 1:4-6, 3:21, 12:11).

For that matter, beginning with the words of Jesus, the New Testament repeatedly warns believers about end-time apostasy and deceivers - (Matthew 24:3-13, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Peter 2:1-2Revelation 13:11-15).

Again, John’s information about THE “antichrist” is cryptic. However, both the deceivers in his churches and the coming end-time figure are energized by the same “spirit of Antichrist.” If anything, the “antichrists” in John’s time were forerunners of that final malevolent figure.

Based on the “antichrists” that were troubling John’s churches, and the tenor of related scriptural warnings, Christians should be watching for a final “antichrist” who will be a master deceiver, one who will target believers for deception, “even the very elect,” and may very well originate from within the church.

While John is short on details, what he does not do is portray the “antichrist” as a global political or military leader. While that man may also be a powerful and deceitful politician, John expresses no interest in that direction. His concern lies closer to home.




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