Spirit of Antichrist

The coming Antichrist is presumed by many to be a global political and military leader who will subjugate all nationsHistory provides many examples of national leaders attempting to assert dominion over other nations, though all have failed in that endeavor.

Augustus - Photo by Nemanja Peric on Unsplash
[Photo by Nemanja Peric on Unsplash]

Of course, their failure does not mean the actual “
Antichrist” will not fit the expected model, and even today, we see certain governments hellbent on imposing their will on other nations across the globe. But what do we find when we look up the word “antichrist” in our concordances?

Under that term, surprisingly, not a lot. The word only appears in two of John’s letters and he does not apply it in the way so many prophecy preachers do. And while he does acknowledge that the “Antichrist is coming,” he says next to nothing about that figure.

Instead, John warned his audience how the “spirit of Antichrist” was active already in the world, and that was demonstrated by the false teachers that had originated within John’s congregations, men who “denied that Jesus came in the flesh.” And the apostle described these deceivers as “many anticrhists” - (1 John 2:18-22, 4:1-3).

Conceptually, John’s description of the “spirit of Antichrist” is similar if not parallel to Paul’s account of the “mystery of lawlessness” that is working even now to prepare for the arrival of the “man of lawlessness,” a malevolent figure that the Apostle links inextricably to the coming “apostasy” – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

This does not mean the “Antichrist” will also be a false teacher found in the church, but it would not be implausible to extrapolate from what John wrote that this will be the case. Nevertheless, his words echo the sayings of Jesus about the “many deceivers” that would come in his name and “deceive many,” emphasis on “many.” Moreover, Christ warned that “many false prophets” would appear and “deceive many,” even using “great signs and wonders” to deceive “the elect.”

And the two common elements in his warnings were “many” and “deceivers,” and Church History validates the accuracy of his predictions. And there are significant verbal and conceptual parallels between Christ’s warnings and the description of the “false prophet” in Revelation who also will use “great signs” to deceive men.

And this leads us again to Paul’s warning that before the “Day of the Lord” arrives the “apostasy” will take place and the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed. Jesus also warned of coming apostasy caused by “deceivers,” “false christs” and “false apostles.” And while Paul introduced another term, the “man of lawlessness,” there are striking similarities between this figure and the warnings of both Jesus and John.

Not only will the “man of lawlessness” deceive and cause apostasy, but he will also employ “all power and signs and lying wonders” to do so. And while John described the “antichrists” of his day as having originated within the church, Paul’s description of this figure “taking his seat in the sanctuary of God” may be closer to the same idea than it first appears.

Consistently in his letters, Paul applies the term “sanctuary of God” and related Temple language to the church, the “body of Christ,” and nowhere else does he show the slightest interest in a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem in the final days before Christ’s return.

So, where does this leave us? Certainly, a case can be made from passages in Revelation that the “Beast” will be a global political figure. And if Paul was not referring to the church by the term “sanctuary of God,” then his description begins to fit nicely with the idea of such a global tyrant. And perhaps, in the end, this figure will be both, a false teacher in the church who also becomes the world dictator so many expect.

My own position has solidified after many years spent researching the issue. Tentatively, I have an idea of who, or better, what the final beastly creature will be, and for now, there is an ever-present candidate that fits the bill. Like the "false prophet" in Revelation, it does not hesitate to use its economic power against anyone who dares deviate from its beastly program.

But my theory is only plausible if this present “evil age” ends within the next few years, and God alone knows the “times and seasons.” And if Christ’s return is not for several decades or even centuries, all bets are off. Political regimes rise and fall frequently, and often rather suddenly.

So, what is the point? “Many deceivers” have invaded the church throughout its history, and with today’s communication technologies, a very great “many” are busy even now slithering their way into the lives of Christians. And no doubt, we will see “many” more false teachers and phony prophets down the road. The New Testament warns us repeatedly about coming “deceivers,” so, no surprise here.

But how do we avoid deception, whether from low-level “deceivers” or the “Antichrist” himself when he or it strides onto the world scene?

Paul provided the answer. After describing the “man of lawlessness,” he exhorted the Thessalonians to “stand fast and hold the traditions that you were taught.” By that, he certainly was not referring to any later creeds, church council rulings, or institutional traditions, but instead, to the body of teaching the Thessalonians had received already from him and his coworkers.

Or as Paul warned the Galatians, if anyone, “even an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be anathema.”  Strong words. Paul was deadly serious. Anything that deviates from the apostolic “tradition” must be rejected with extreme prejudice.

Our real safety is in learning and adhering to that body of apostolic teachings, not in church traditions, popular opinions, or what some “prophetess” saw in a dream or “apostle” divined from the latest Hebrew year number. It is by the apostolic tradition that we discern truth from falsehood, good from evil, and true prophets from false ones.

And I know of only one source for discovering just what Jesus and his apostles taught, and that is the New Testament. It is as close as we can get to the original source. Every disciple of Jesus needs to learn it for himself, and every believer must make it his own.

It is not enough to know what your church claims the Bible says, and we certainly ought not to rely on someone else’s interpretation of it. We need to go directly to the source and make it central and foundational to our Christian lives. We may not be able to recognize the “Antichrist” by his appearance, deeds, or miracle-working power, but as soon as he, she or it departs from the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, we will have our first clue.

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