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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 the word antichrist. Even many who are not familiar with the Bible have heard of it and tend to wonder about it. This term is very much a part of present day preaching, especially among those who follow the false idea that when Christ returns He will reign on earth for one thousand years. The belief that an antichrist will someday appear to wage war against Christ and devastate the world is commonly held.
There are several other false views regarding the identity of the antichrist. Many claim that it is one specific person. Others say it is a mysterious force that will plague the world. Some 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 vastly different, they all have one thing in common - they all contend that the antichrist is yet to come.
During the first century A.D. various religious movements arose promoting radically false teachings. In time some of these teachings began to influence congregations of the Lord's church. One of these groups held the Docetic philosophy which taught that human flesh is inherently sinful. It is from this false teaching that the antichrist concept emerged, and which became a disturbing issue within the church.
Those who espoused the antichrist doctrine did not deny the existence of God; they were not atheists. Nor did they deny Jesus, in fact, they would even defend Him. And they did not reject Christianity, for they claimed to be Christians. John clearly said, "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 (s)" is mentioned only in the epistles of John. Four times it is found in I John (2:18, 22; 4:3). A fifth mention is in II John 7. Within these passages, John revealed several important facts about the antichrist which many have failed to acknowledge.
First, we learn that in John's day false teachers known by this name were already present. Second, we learn that there were many of them.
In I John 2:18 John writes, "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come . . ." In I John 4:3 he writes, "And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world."
John is clear in showing his brethren that "the spirit of the antichrist" existed among them, hence, the urgent need to warn his brethren of this ever present danger.
He is also clear in showing that there were multiple antichrists, which exposes the false belief that the antichrist is only one specific individual. Over the past one hundred years various men such as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and even J. F. Kennedy have been labeled the anitchrist. Such foolishness!
A Look at II John 7
"For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."
This passage gets to the heart of the matter. John explained that these deceivers denied that Jesus, as God's son, could reside in a human body. Since they believed that flesh was inherently evil, they could not accept the idea of Deity taking a fleshly form. To them, Jesus only seemed to have a body of flesh, appearing rather in some spiritual, illusory form. Such a teaching would obviously lead to controversy.
A Look at John 1:1, 14
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word as God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..."
No doubt, John had the problem of the antichrist in mind when writing these words. First, he established the fact that the Word (Christ) was Deity (V. 1). Then, he specifically pointed out that the Word "became flesh" (V. 14). The truth John recorded here is too clear to misunderstand; Jesus possessed a human body.
John Goes One Step Further
John explained that if this doctrine was true, it would follow that the Father should be denied as well. ". . . He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either . . . " (I John 2:22, 23).
Jesus and the Father held a special Father-Son relationship, being uniquely joined together. They were "one" (John 10:30). Hence, to deny the Father's Son would also require a denial of the Father. So they were trapped in a logical contradiction. On one hand they believed that God was the "Father" of Jesus - yet, on other hand, they denied that Jesus, if possessing a human body, could really be His "Son."
This Doctrine Was Also a Denial Of Jesus' Resurrection
In I John 2:28 John wrote, "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." Here, John assured his readers that Christ would come again.
However, He could not come again if He had not first ascended to the Father. Yet, He could not have ascended to the Father if He had not been raised from the dead. And He could not have been raised from the dead without a body to be raised. Obviously Jesus must have inhabited a fleshly body. Hence, the teaching of the antichrists ultimately denied the great truth of Christ's resurrection.
The evil influence of this false doctrine was such that the Holy Spirit found it necessary to make exposure of it a part of the inspired record. Notice the apostle's strong admonition for his readers to steadfastly guard themselves against this teaching (II John 7-11).