part of the what is truth? series

So much is made today about the Antichrist (capital “A”). A search on YouTube for prognosticators about the person of the Antichrist – his appearing, his personality, his birthplace, etc. etc. – will garner videos with hundreds of thousands, even millions of views. We’ve linked one such purveyor here.

The doctrine of the Antichrist (capital “A”) is based in and centers around Revelation 13:1-10. Given these eleven verses and the corresponding amount of publications on the topic, to say it’s “unbalanced” is an understatement.

Let’s forget the prognosticators, and simply consider what God has said.

How Scripture answers "Who is the Antichrist?"

A purely Scripture-based definition of antichrist2,3,4,5 requires no human speculation or pontification. It would not be a proper name (capital “A”), but rather a concept or classification – literally, “every spirit that does not confess Jesus”4,5 or anyone that “denies the Father”3. John clearly defines this and tells us that antichrist is “in the world already”4 and was “many”2. We also have Jude’s testimony7 about false teachers, written during the same time period and mirroring John’s definition of the antichrist.

Determining what Scripture has made clear, we can review other, less-clear passages that may apply. These would include what John sees in his vision1 and what Paul writes to the Thessalonians6 (and possibly Jesus’ statements provoked by the Temple visit7). To be clear, these do not speak of “the Antichrist” and numerous shortcomings for anyone to definitively interpret in that way have been noted.

However, what is unequivocally clear in these passages1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 is that while opposition to God exists and will exist, He remains sovereign and in due course will be triumphant over evil…as will all those that remain faithful to the end1,6,7.

Yes
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1

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

I saw a beast rise from the sea with ten horns and seven heads.  The horns had ten diadems the heads had blasphemous names.

The book of Revelation is what John saw and was told to write down (1:1-2). Using “in the Spirit” as a structural marker, the book can be sectioned into four visions in particular:

  • Vision One (1:9-3:22) – Jesus speaking to the seven churches
  • Vision Two (4:1-16:21) – Seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath; “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls” introduces the last two (and therefore possibly connected):
    • Vision Three (17:1-21:8) – Babylon the Harlot
    • Vision Four (21:9-22:5) – Jerusalem the Bride

The rising of this beast from the sea is immediately preceded by visions in heaven of:

  • a woman giving birth (12:2) to a son,
  • a red dragon (12:3) wanting to devour the child,
  • the child (a son) that’s taken to heaven to his throne (12:5),
  • the woman flees into the wilderness to a place that is prepared by God and where she will be nourished (12:6).

Unsuccessful at destroying the son, the dragon (identified as Satan in 12:9) is thrown to earth where he seeks to destroy the woman (12:13).  Still unsuccessful, he seeks to destroy (“make war”) with her offspring (“those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus”).

As we transition to chapter 13, the beast was given authority from the dragon (e.g. Satan) and many worshipped the dragon/beast (vs 4)….in spite, as it were, a mortal wound on its head that healed (vs 3).  The beast goes on to utter blasphemies against God and is permitted to “make war on the saints and to conquer them.” (vs 7)

How does it apply here?

Based on chapters 12 and 13 in full context, the beast appears to be illustrating the way in which Satan wages war against the “woman’s offspring.” Here is a summary of what John sees:

  • The child: Jesus (but we are not told this explicitly)
  • Dragon: Satan (we are told this)
  • The woman: Christ’s church (we are not told this explicitly but John does address the church this way5; we know Satan cannot triumph over it)
  • The woman’s offspring: All Saints (we are told this and note: they would be Jesus’ brothers/sisters by birth and they “held to the testimony”)

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

So what/who is the beast? We are not told except that he, like Satan, waged war on the saints. Also that he, like Satan, was worshipped by all (that weren’t saints). Within all the parameters of John’s vision, including the likely time of writing and its practical usefulness to his audience, it is more than reasonable to conclude John is describing Rome and its active crusade and persecution against Christians of that day.

2

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Brothers, it is the last hour, and many antichrists have come just as you heard would happen.  This is how we know it’s the last hour.

The Apostle John is writing to Christians to remain steadfast.  After reminding them that they are “not of this world”, he calls to their attention those that are personally antagonistic to Jesus (“antichrist”) and His teaching.  He marks those false teachers and implores his “children” to “let what you heard from the beginning abide in you” (vs 24).

How does it apply here?

John identifies the antichrist as having already come.

3

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

The liar is the antichrist – anyone that denies Jesus is the Christ by denying the Father and the Son.

The Apostle John is writing to Christians to remain steadfast.

How does it apply here?

John defines the antichrist as anyone who denies (e.g. blasphemes) the Father and the Son.

4

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

The Spirit of God is known by the spirit (could be either a person or superhuman) that confesses Jesus Christ is from God.  Conversely, every spirit that doesn’t confess Jesus is not from God but is of the antichrist which was foretold and is now here.

The Apostle John is writing to Christians to remain steadfast given many false prophets are in the world.  He gives them guidance about how to determine the “Spirit of truth” from the “spirit of error” by  listening to “us” (the apostles) (vs 6).

How does it apply here?

John again says that the antichrist is anyone that denies Jesus/God and already among them. In this context, he makes “antichrist” and “false prophet” synonymous.

5

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Many deceivers, or antichrists, have gone out into the world.  They deny Jesus Christ in the flesh.

The apostle John’s second letter addressed the “elect lady with her children.”

How does it apply here?

John again identifies the antichrist already present and as anyone that denies Christ. Interestingly, he also addresses this letter using the same imagery from Revelation 12-13. In this case, the “elect lady” is obviously the church and “her children” are the Christians.

6

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

The mystery of lawlessness is already at work.  The one restraining it will do so until he is out of the way, at which point the lawless one will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth at his coming.

Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonica sometime before for the First Jewish-Roman War when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.  Between Paul’s first and second letters, it appears the people had begun to believe some teaching that Jesus had already returned (vss 1-2).  He is assuring them that “the day of the Lord” has not come yet, and won’t before two things happen: “the rebellion” and the revealing of the “man of lawlessness” (vs 3).
How does it apply here?

A difficult passage is made more difficult by the fact that there are things that Paul had already shared with them about these two signs. We don’t know exactly what the rebellion is/was that Paul was referring to. It could have been a general, spiritual rebellion against God or it could have been a physical, political rebellion. We also don’t know who the man of lawlessness is – whether an actual individual or a metaphor. What/Who it was restraining is also a question.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Jumping to the conclusion that Paul must be speaking about the Antichrist is tenuous at best, since:

  1. We don’t have answers from Paul in the immediate or broader context of his letters to the Thessalonians (which he addresses in a way by revealing that there were things he shared with them in person).
  2. It would be based on an uncertain interpretation of Revelation 13 of the same (putting us squarely into the realm of Presupposition Scripture Weighting).
  3. It would leave questions regarding how it really applied to the Thessalonians at all (remember, Paul is sharing two signs with them so they know that Jesus has not come already).
  4. Historical events of that time that might shed light on these things (e.g. the First Jewish-Roman War) and supply a very ready explanation to all of these questions.

7

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

These people are like unreasoning animals that blaspheme what they don’t understand by insticnt and are destroyed as a result.

Jude is writing a scathing letter about the false teachers that have “crept in unnoticed.” (vs 1) In a preceding verse, he says, “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.” (vs 8)

How does it apply here?

While there are many other passages that describe the nature of false teachers, Jude is likely written later in the first century — around the same time as John’s letters and vision. His descriptions of anyone teaching falsely fit well with John’s warnings of the already present antichrist….and also correlate to John’s vision and description of the beast in Revelation 13.

8

For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

False messiahs and prophets will come with intentions to deceive the elect, and they will do so with seemingly God-given powers.

This chapter documents a discussion between Jesus and his disciples.  Upon leaving the temple, Jesus comments on its destruction (vs 2).  Subsequently, they wanted to know about three things from Jesus: 1) the timing of the temple’s destruction, 2) the sign of His coming, and 3) the end of the age (vs 3).

Jesus begins His answer, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.” (vs 4-5) He continues foretelling terrible natural events (e.g. wars, famine, etc.) but also a spiritual “tribulation” (persecution) where many saints will “fall away” (vs 10).  Despite this, He warns again that “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (vs 13) and the “gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world” after which “the end will come” (vs 14).

The preceding seems to be an overview before beginning to speak about a specific “great tribulation” (vs 21) that they would experience.  He refers to this as “the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (vs 15) and prays that their “flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath” (vs 20).

As is typical with prophecy, which this chapter is, sequencing is difficult as events and their timing (near-term/long-term) are very fluid. Remember, the disciples had asked about both the timing of the destruction of the temple and His return.  Jesus shares events (vss 15-28) that will take place in their generation (vs 34) regarding the destruction of the temple (in fact, taking place about forty years later in 70AD).  He then speaks about what will happen “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (vs 29), namely His return (vss 29-44), but it too is a mixed timeline.

Summary of sequence:

  • vss 4-14 – A broad review of events during the ‘end times’ (both near-term and long-term) when “lawlessness is increased”.
  • vss 15-28 – A near-term description of events that they would experience relating to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Something that in fact, would happen about forty years later (70AD).
  • vss 29-31 – A long-term description of the events of the second coming, the final judgment.
  • vss 32-34 – The near-term timing that He relates and explains with a parable about the fig tree for how they would identify the occurrence of “these things” (vs 33) and says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (vs 34).
  • vss 35-44 The long-term timing, transitioned by contrasting things that will and won’t pass away (vs 34-35) and with “But…” (vs 36). This timing “no one knows” – not even Himself (vs 36).
How does it apply here?

Jesus foretells times and events revolving around great tribulation and persecution – even a “falling away” – of the saints that include “false christs” (e.g. false teachers). However, He does not mention an individual “Antichrist,” therefore this passage doesn’t apply here.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

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