Antichrist - Final Incarnation

The spirit of the antichrist is raising up deceivers in the church, but a final Antichrist will also appear at the end of the age

The Apostle John applies the term “antichrist” to false teachers who are disrupting his congregations, false brethren who deny that “Jesus is the Christ” and “came in the flesh.” Such men are inspired and led by the “spirit of the antichrist” that is operating in the world.

And, in the process, he does refer to a future “Antichrist,” presumably one with the same character as the deceivers in his churches, a final incarnation of the “spirit of antichrist.”

But before discussing these “antichrists,” 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.

And he describes the “world” with an allusion to the temptation of Adam. By “world” John does not mean the planet earth, but humanity under the dominion of sin and Satan, the existing order that is condemned already to eventual destruction because of its rebellion against God.

  • (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 life, is 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.

THE WORLD


The Greek term translated as “vainglory” is alazoneia. It is from a root word with the sense “boasting, braggadocio,” hence, the term denotes ideas like misplaced “self-confidence” and hollow pride.

In Adam’s case, he desired “wisdom” from the “tree of knowledge” that would make him self-legislating and no longer dependent on God for guidance and wisdom. And, to this day, that is the way of a “world” separated from God, the old order that, according to the Apostle Paul, is even now “passing away” – (1 Corinthians 7:31).

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” that are infiltrating the church.

The term “antichrist” is formed with the Greek noun christos or “anointed one” and the preposition anti, and the latter signifies “instead of,” NOT “against.” Thus, it refers to someone who attempts to replace Jesus, a substitute, a counterfeit.

The term does not occur in ancient Greek documents 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” is the warning of Jesus given on the Mount of Olives:

  • (Matthew 24:24) – “Then, if any man says to you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs [pseudoxristoi] and false prophets [pseudoproph├ętai], and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

John does refer to a coming “antichrist,” but he provides no additional information about that figure. Whether he means the same person that Paul calls the “man of lawlessness” or the “Beast from the sea” in Revelation there are no direct literary links between John’s “antichrist” and those passages.

MANY ANTICHRISTS


Of immediate concern to John are the “antichrists,” plural, who are 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 now, many 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.” But already, “many antichrists” are infiltrating the church, and their disruptive activities are his immediate concern. Moreover, their very presence demonstrates it is the “last hour.”

John labels both the deceivers in his congregations and the coming final figure as “antichrist,” and in chapter 4, he associates them with “false prophets” and attributes their activities to the “spirit of antichrist.” And it is reasonable to assume that the “antichrists” active in John’s time are of the same character as this “coming antichrist.”

The first thing John tells us is that the deceivers “went out from us.” They originated in his congregations, and therefore, at some point, they must have been followers of Jesus, 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 deny that “Jesus came in the flesh” - (2 John 7).

DENYING JESUS


Regarding doctrine, the false teachers deny that Jesus is the “Christ,” the Messiah, 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 deny 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 - man’s carnality.

But historically, terms like “flesh” and “flesh and blood refer to man in his weakened state due to sin - man in his mortality and fallenness. As Paul argues, “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the kingdom. In their present bodily state, humans are subject to decay and corruption - (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

With this background, quite possibly, the deceivers are denying the genuine humanity of Jesus, that he participated fully in human nature though “apart from sin,” including human mortality.

SPIRIT OF ANTICHRIST


John attributes this false teaching to the “spirit of Antichrist” that even now is in the world. Conceptually, this parallels Paul’s teaching that the “mystery of lawlessness” is working in the world to prepare the rise of the “man of lawlessness.” The terminology may differ, but the idea is the same - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7).

And in 2 Thessalonians, the “man of lawlessness” is inextricably linked to the coming “apostasy.” The stress is on this man’s deceptive activities, especially his ability to use “all power and signs and lying wonders.”

Disciples of Jesus will remain safe from this deception as long as they “hold fast to the traditions” received from the apostles -(2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

Again, John’s information about THEantichrist” is brief. But both the deceivers in his churches and the coming final figure are energized by the same “spirit of Antichrist.” If anything, the “antichrists” in John’s time are forerunners of this final malevolent figure.

Based on the “antichrists” that are troubling John’s churches, and the tenor of related passages, believers must remain vigilant as they watch for the final “antichrist” who will be a master deceiver, one who will target believers for deception, “even the very elect.”

What John does not do is portray the “Antichrist” as a global political or military leader who wages war against other nation-states. While this figure 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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