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Article 14 - What Is The Antichrist?
What Is the Antichrist?
Jon Gary Williams
Every student of the Bible at some time will come across this word. Even many who are not familiar with the Bible have heard of it and tend to wonder about it. The word "antichrist" is very much a part of present day preaching, especially among those who follow the idea that Christ will return and reign on earth for one thousand years. The idea that an antichrist will someday appear to wage war against Christ and devastate the world is commonly held.
There are several false views about the identity of the antichrist. Some have claimed that it is one specific person. Others say it is a mysterious force that will wage war with Christ in some gigantic fashion. Others believe it is anyone who opposes Christ. And even others feel it is the "beast" mentioned in the book of Revelation. Though these views are all false and vastly different, they all have one thing in common - they all teach that the antichrist is yet to come.
During the first century A.D. there were several religious movements which held differing false ideas. Some of the ideas became slowly interwoven into Christianity. These movements had their own peculiarities which set them apart. One of these groups held the Docetic philosophy which taught that all flesh is inherently sinful. This idea became a disturbing element within the church. It is from this view that the false antichrist concept was spawned.
Those who espoused the antichrist doctrine did not deny the existence of God; they were not atheists. Nor did they deny Jesus. They believed Jesus was a real person. In fact, they would defend him! And they did not reject Christianity; they claimed to be Christians. John wrote that they "went out from us" (I John 2:19). So they were not anti-Christian, as they are often made to appear.
Meaning Of The Word Antichrist?
The word "antichrist" is mentioned only in the books of I and II John. Four times it is found in I John (2:18,22; 4:3). A fifth mention is II John 7. From the context of these chapters several important things are learned.
First, there were "many" antichrists (I John 4:4,5). However, the impression left by a great many preachers today is that the antichrist will be only one individual. Over the past one hundred years various men such as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Kennedy and even Obama have been tagged as the anitchrist.
Second, they were already present - "even now there are many" (I John 2:18). Hence, Christians of the first century had already been warned of their presence.
Third, they denied that Jesus was Deity in the flesh! This ultimately and logically led to a denial of the Father as well.
This passage gets to the heart of the matter. John explains that these deceivers denied Jesus could actually be God's son in a human body of flesh. Since they felt that flesh was inherently evil, they could not accept the idea of Deity being in the flesh. To them, Jesus was only in a spiritual form, thus creating a great controversy.
A Look at John 1:1-4, 14
John, no doubt, had this same issue in mind when he wrote his gospel. First, he establishes the fact that the Word (Christ) was Deity (vv.1-4). Then, he specifically notes that the Word became flesh (v.14). This is something simply too clear to misunderstand.
John Goes One Step Further
John inferred that if this doctrine were true, it would logically follow that the Father (the Fatherhood of God) was to be denied as well. After all, Jesus was the Father's only begotten Son. Hence, to deny the Son meant also a denial of the Father. They were caught in a logical contradiction. On one hand they were saying "God is Father" - yet, on other hand, they were denying his "Son."
This Doctrine Was Also a Denial Of Jesus' Resurrection
If Christ was not the son of God in the flesh, then where was the logic in his resurrection - which ultimately led him back to the Father? In I John 2:28 John assures his readers of the coming of Christ. He is coming to raise the dead. However, he could not return if he had not first left. And he could not have left if he had not been raised. And he could not have been raised without a body. So, the religion of the antichrists ultimately affected the grand theme of Christ's resurrection.
The serious effects of this doctrine were such as to cause the Spirit of God to make this information a part of the inspired record. Note John's strong admonition for his readers to avoid this heretical teaching (II John 7-11).