False Christ

Will the Antichrist be a global tyrant, or a false messiah sent by Satan to deceive and destroy the Church? 

Most often, popular preaching presents the Antichrist as the ultimate global tyrant and political leader, a dictator bent on subjugating all nations through military and economic means. But New Testament descriptions show far more concern about deceivers working within the church to cause apostasy than with world political developments.

For that matter, in the book of Revelation, the target of the “war” waged by the “Beast from the sea” is the church, the faithful followers of the “Lamb” from every nation, those who have the “testimony of Jesus.”

Ram - Photo by Kasper Lau on Unsplash
[Ram - Photo by Kasper Lau on Unsplash]

The “
Ancient Serpent” is waging war against Jesus on the earth. But he can only do so by attacking the people who belong to the slain “Lamb” who already sits on God’s throne well his beyond his reach. Thus, the church is his primary target.

Moreover, the only New Testament documents to use the term ‘Antichrist’ are two of John’s epistles. As he warns in his first letter:

  • Little children! It is the last hour; and just as you 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 remained with us; but it came to pass in order that they might be made manifest because all are not of us” – (1 John 2:18-19).

MANY ANTICHRISTS


The preceding passage does not deny that an individual “antichrist” is coming before the end. But its point is that many “antichrists” have appeared already within the church.

The term “antichrist” or antichristos in Greek is a compound word formed with the noun christos (“anointed one”) and the preposition anti (“instead of”). It refers to someone who attempts to replace or imitate Jesus, and not necessarily to anyone who openly opposes him - (Strong’s - #G500). In short, a counterfeit.

The “antichrists” to whom John refers are men that “went out from us, but they were not of us.” They are false teachers that originated from and are at work in his congregations.

The Apostle admonishes his churches to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” then warns about “the spirit of the antichrist… which is already in the world.” Thus, the “antichrists” with whom John is contending are false teachers, deceivers, and not national or world political leaders - (2 John 7).

Likewise, the Apostle Paul warns of the coming “man of lawlessness.” While his words might suggest a political figure, his concern is on this figure’s ability to deceive believers - “Let no one in any way deceive you” - (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).

MAN OF LAWLESSNESS


Paul links this deceiver to the coming “apostasy” that will precede the “day of the Lord.” When he is “revealed,” his activities will be “in accord with those of Satan” to deceive men and women, and especially disciples of Jesus - (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 paralyze with the forth-shining of his arrival; whose arrival shall be according to an inworking of Satan, with mighty works and signs 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 stress in 2 Thessalonians is on the Lawless One’s ability to deceive and turn people from the faith, not on his political activity, military prowess, or sovereignty over nations.

He will use “lying works, signs and wonders” to deceive his victims. And only those who cleave to the apostolic traditions will avoid succumbing to his deceptions - (“So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by epistle of ours”).

THE BEAST


In the book of Revelation, the “Beast from the sea” is not explicitly called the “Antichrist.” It possesses the character and authority of the “great red Dragon,” the “Ancient Serpent,” and in chapter 12, Satan does not wage war on the nations of the earth, but endeavors “to make war with the remnant of the woman’s seed, they who have the testimony of Jesus.”

Likewise, in chapter 13, the “Beast” makes war against the “saints and overcomes them.” That is, he kills them. This “war” is reflected in the book’s “letters” to the “seven churches of Asia” as they struggle daily with persecution, deception, and false teachers within the congregations- (Revelation 12:17, 13:7).

FALSE PROPHET


We should not forget the “false prophet” mimics Jesus (“he had two horns like a lamb”) and uses impressive “signs and wonders” to deceive men so they erect an image to the first “beast” and render allegiance to it.

Church interior - Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
[Church Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash]

In his discourse on the Mount of Olives, Jesus makes
repeated warnings about coming “deceivers,” “false prophets,” “false messiahs,” “lawlessness,” and apostasy:

  • Beware lest anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and deceive astray.” - (Matthew 24:4-8).
  • And then shall many stumble, and they will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and deceive many. And because lawlessness will be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold”- (Matthew 24:10-12).
  • For there will arise false Christs and false prophets, and they will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not.”- (Matthew 24:23-26).

His warnings parallel those of Paul about the “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy.” Deceivers will deceive many, while at the same time “being deceived themselves, and as a result, “many will fall away.”

Only disciples that endure “to the end will be saved.” In the interim, deceivers, “false prophets,” and “false christs” will work to hoodwink Christians and churches, not the larger world that already lies in the lap of the “Wicked One.”

Warnings of this kind are common enough in the New Testament, and we ignore them at our peril - (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 1 Timothy 4:1).

Similarly, the Apostle Peter warns of coming deceivers that would work INSIDE the church of God to cause apostasy:

  • 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” - (2 Peter 2:1).

In the end, the “Antichrist” may indeed be a world political leader who uses military and economic might to dominate other nations.  However, considering the many warnings in the New Testament, we should not be surprised if he first appears within the Church causing many believers to apostatize.

As John warns, the “spirit of Antichrist” is working to complete its efforts already underway by his army of deceivers within the church. And his followers are recognizable by their denial that Jesus of Nazareth is the “Christ.” And what better way to foment apostasy than by offering a clever alternative, an imitation, a false messiah.



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