by Eddie via The Beacon of Brown Trail
Identifying the Antichrist
On page 181 of a book entitled World War III, John Wesley White writes, "The prime mover in the events that will march man into World War III will be the Anti-Christ...a terrible personification of evil who will work more wholesale havoc than any other human being in the history of the world."
White, Hal Lindsey (author of The Late Great Planet Earth, There's a New World Coming, et al.) and other dispensational premillennialists have done their work well in convincing a religious, but biblically illiterate, "Christian" community that such a person as described above will indeed torment the world and hasten the start of the much-feared Battle of Armageddon. Let us examine these claims under the perfect light of God's word.
Antichrist in the Bible
Following is every occurrence of "antichrist" in the Bible:
- "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour" (I John 2:18).
- "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son" (I John 2:22).
- "And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (I John 4:3).
- "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" (II John 7).
In my experience I have noticed that when most people discuss the antichrist they confine their discussions to wild misunderstandings of the imagery in the book of Revelation. Even when I have shown others the above passages, they scurry back to Revelation--a book that never uses the term!
It is also interesting to note the glaring differences between the premillennialist's description of the antichrist and the Bible's description.
- According to the Bible there were many antichrists, not just one.
- Those antichrists already existed in John's day, as opposed to being yet future to us.
- These antichrists were false teachers in the church, not political dictators.
- Anyone that denies that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the son of God, and/or that he came in the flesh can rightly be called "antichrist".
Antichrists and Gnostics
There is little doubt that John had some specific people in mind as he wrote, else he would not have warned the brethren as thoroughly as he did. John may well have been warning his readers about the early signs of a system of thought that would plague the church in the latter part of the first century and into the second. This doctrine would come to be known as Gnosticism.
Space will not allow an exhaustive treatment of the origin and teachings of Gnosticism. However, its basic tenets were these: all things spiritual were wholly good, while all things material were wholly evil. Because God is spirit, he is unable to have physical contact with matter (since matter is evil). To create the world, then, God sent out emanations (spirit beings) from himself, each one more ignorant of and hostile to Him. Finally, one of these emanations was so far removed from God that he could make physical contact with evil matter. This emanation was responsible for the creation of the world.
From these beliefs, two views of Jesus emerged: some Gnostics viewed him as one of the emanations that came from God. In this view, therefore, Jesus was not divine. Others among the Gnostics believed that he was divine, but never actually took upon himself human form. In fact it was impossible for him to become human, for humans are made of evil matter. To them, Jesus was merely a "phantom". (Consult any standard Bible dictionary or encyclopedia for more information on Gnosticism.)
If one compares the basic doctrines of Gnosticism with John's description of the antichrists, one finds compelling similarities. There were many, not just one. They existed in John's day. They were religious false teachers. They denied the humanity and/or the deity of Christ. Therefore, it is this writer's conclusion that John was cautioning his readers to watch for those who brought with them some of these early Gnostic tendencies.
The antichrist is not a political dictator that starts World War III. When John wrote of the antichrist, he was addressing something that his readers could and would recognize -- something that was a threat to them. Anyone who denies that Jesus is God's Son, or the Messiah, or that he came in the flesh could rightly be called an antichrist. May we not be swayed or frightened by the voices of error as the vast reaches the religious community that seem to be working overtime to "draw away disciples after themselves" (Acts 20:30) by "wresting the scriptures to their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16).