Within western Christianity the concept of an antichrist is often linked to the political views of those within the church. This is especially evident among evangelicals. Many think of an antichrist as a world leader, a politician, or possibly a wealthy person who uses their wealth for evil and political purposes.
These ideas are often the breeding ground for conspiracies, false prophecies and belief that there is a deep state influence among those who have differing political views. Such ideas often create fear and hysteria, and have led some sincere people to do foolish things as they engage in a kind of “political/religious holy war”.
Does the Bible teach us to embrace such ideas about antiChrist? Notice that I did not say “the antichrist” but, antichrist. This is because the Bible mentions antichrist and antiChrists (pural), but never once does the Bible use the description of the antiChrist.
Why is this important?
It is important because we must approach any truth in scripture from the clear texts which mentions the truth we are seeking to correctly understand. It is from the clear texts that we glean understanding from the not so clear texts. Yet many attempt to cast interpretations on unclear texts while completely ignoring what is said in the clear texts. When our interpretations of unclear texts are not aligned with what is revealed in the clear texts, we can be sure that our interpretations are very bad at best.
The clear texts which specifically mention an antiChrist have nothing to do with anyone outside the church (i.e., the household of God). In every instance it is always a reference to apostasy within the church. Thus apostasy within the church should guide our understanding regarding antiChrist.
In scripture, the apostle John is the only writer who uses the term antiChrist. He uses it three times in his first epistle and once in his second epistle. Each time it has to do with apostasy. If we rightly understand John’s message about antichrist, we will better understand Paul’s reference to apostasy and the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians.
So with that said, lets begin with John’s first epistle:
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. ~ 1 John 2:18-24
Notice that John is not warning his audience against political leaders or influential wealthy people in the world. He is warning them against those who come from within – “they went out from us, but were not all of us.” In his letter to the Galatians, Paul mentions false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily (secretly) to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage (Galatians 2:4). Peter warns that there would be false teachers among you, who privily (secretly) shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. ~ 2 Peter 2:1-2
In John’s mention of those who went out from us, and Paul’s mention of false brethren, and Peter’s mention of false teachers, there is deceit and falsehood involved. This is what antiChrist is – it is the deceitfulness of false Christianity and apostasy from the truth which leads those who are seduced away from the truth in Christ.
In his second epistle, John says, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” ~ 2 John 2:7
Notice that John specifically references deceivers against the gospel as being antichrist.
John continues: Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. ~ v. 8-11
Again, John is not referring to politicians in the world, he is referring to deceivers in the church who have crept into the household of God to lure God’s people away from the truth in Christ. If we would simply give this some thought, we would remember that the theme of warnings against apostasy runs throughout the entirety of the New Testament. In the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus repeatedly warned against such deceivers and the New Testament writers repeatedly warn also.
Consider that John says in his first epistle, “as ye have heard that antichrist shall come”. What had they heard? Nowhere in scripture can we trace that they had heard that a political leader would be an antichrist. However, we can see over and over again the repeated warnings in the New Testament to be on guard against false apostles, false prophets, and false teachers who lead God’s people into apostasy.
And this line of thinking matches John’s description of antichrist.
Notice again John’s use of the word antichrist in his second epistle: For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. ` 2 John 2:7
Notice that in his second epistle, John uses the description, antichrist, as a reference to deceives who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. What does it actually mean in John’s writings that Jesus Christ came in the flesh?
Jesus Christ coming in the flesh is a reference to God manifested in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul refers to this as “the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16). It is important to point out that John opens his first epistle claiming that Jesus is the eternal life which was with the Father from the beginning, and Jesus is the one through whom we are called into fellowship with God.
In his warning against the many antichrists, John says, Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. ~ 1 John 2:24-26
John’s statement “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you”, is a reference to the many antichrists which he mentions just a few verses earlier.
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. ~1 John 2:27-29
John mentions the anointing (a reference to the Holy Spirit) in context to the truth of Christ abiding in us. Interestingly, one of the tactics of modern day false teachers is their continual misrepresentation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The real Holy Spirit from God causes God’s people to be rooted and built up in Jesus Christ and in him alone! The Holy Spirit exalts Christ and glorifies him. The one who truly has the Spirit of God leading them will find their joy in fellowship with Jesus and the Father in accordance with the gospel.
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. ~ 1 John 1:3-4
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: ~ 1 Peter 1:8
It is Jesus who brings joy that is full of glory to our lives and this is how we know the Spirit from God.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try 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 confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. ~ 1 John 4:1-3
First, notice that John says we are to try the spirits. How do we do that? By the message they bring. The more we are grounded in the message of Christ given to us by the apostles (not those claiming to be apostles in our time but the apostles appointed by Jesus) who gave us the New Testament. John is adamant about this when he says:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us; ) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. ~ 1 John 1:1-3
Our fellowship is with the one that his apostles declared to us.
Peter says something very similar when he says, For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. ~ 2 Peter 1:16
After Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, Peter gathered the disciples together to select Judas’s replacement because the scripture had declared of Judas, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. ~ Acts 1:20
From this scripture Peter concluded, Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. ~v. 21-22
Since the inception of the church, there has been a need for the true witness of Christ because of impostors who bring another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel other than the one delivered to us by those whom Jesus chose.
Consider that Jude begins his epistle by saying, Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 1:3-4
Those who are antichrist do not deny a concept of a Jesus created in their deceiving, another Jesus of another spirit, and another gospel. They deny the original, who is the Living Christ and the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God.
Shortly after Peter mentions that they were eyewitnesses of his majesty (2 Peter 1:16), he tells his audience that the holy scriptures are a more sure word of prophecy and that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation.
But what does it mean that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation? I will get to that in a moment, but before I do, allow me to point out that Peter goes on to say that the prophecy of the scriptures did not come from the will of men, but holy men of God spoke as they moved by the Holy Spirit.
It is in this context that Peter writes, But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. ~ 2 Peter 2:1-2
False teachers do not testify of Jesus. They testify of themselves and of another gospel. They claim to have spiritual revelation from the Spirit as they twist scripture to support their claims. They employ private interpretations to seduce and make merchandise of God’s people. They spawn damnable heresies which ultimately deny the Lord Jesus Christ.
John tells us to try the spirits. False prophets, false teachers, false apostles, are all antiChrists. They will not stir your heart for Jesus. They will not lead you to have your entire affection set on Christ your Savior. An antichrist will always make himself a kind of mediator so that you follow him and not Jesus. Believing that Jesus Christ has come is the flesh is much more than an acknowledgment of a man named Jesus who came into the world. It is the entire message of the gospel that Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son, and God is revealed to us in Christ, and the Father has made Christ alone to be to us his wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
Finally, notice that John uses very similar language in chapter 4 as he does in chapter 2
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. ~1 John 2:18
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. ~ 1 John 4:3
In John’s writings antichrist is apostasy, deception, and the falsehood of seducers who lead God’s people away from the true faith in Christ.
What about Paul’s man of sin? That will have to wait till my next post on this topic.
Keep your eyes on Jesus!