The identify of “the Antichrist’ has been speculated upon by folks in the religious world for a long, long time. What does the Bible say about “the Antichrist”?
There’s no shortage of teaching about the antichrist in religious circles, though the validity of what is taught is certainly questionable. Antichrist theories come and go with major world events or leaders. Generally, folks are looking for “a great antagonist expected to fill the world with wickedness but to be conquered forever by Christ at his second coming.”1 Suggestions in the recent past have included Pope Benedict XVI, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, and Saddam Hussein, among others. In fact, a 2011 survey by Public Policy Polling found that 13% of Americans believe President Obama is the antichrist, and another 13% are unsure.2
The teaching of a world leader known as the antichrist is prevalent in the religious world, but the Bible says nothing about it. This is a doctrine of man, not God. We need to be concerned with what the Bible says about the antichrist.
Our English word antichrist is transliterated from the Greek antichristos. It literally means against Christ or opposed to Christ. The word only appears four times in the Bible, and contrary to what some think, it is never used in the book of Revelation. That is not to say there is no antichrist in Revelation; but it is not portrayed there or anywhere else as an individual who dominates the world in wickedness until deposed by Christ. The Lord revealed what it means to be antichrist by saying:
He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. (Matthew 12:30)
Folks will link the antichrist to “the man of sin” from 2 Thessalonians 2, “the little horn” of Daniel 7, and “the beast” of Revelation 13. Are these antichrist? Absolutely, if they are contrary to the way of Christ, then they are antichrist. But none of them are exclusively antichrist. Any who stand in opposition to the way of Christ are antichrist. That would include, but is not limited to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the Roman empire in the early days of the church, and atheists of today. If one is opposed to Christ and His will, they are antichrist.
Let’s notice the four occurrences of the word 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 it is the last hour. (1 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. (1 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. (1 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. (2 John 7)
Present since the first century. Many speak of the antichrist as coming in the future. That is not how John spoke of the antichrist. It appears he had warned the saints opposition would come, but not 2000 years in the future—it was a present reality. Antichrists have existed from the time of Christ, and will continue until He comes again.
Anyone who is against Christ is antichrist, but John has a particular antichrist in mind:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us… (1 John 2:19)
What made these who had once been with the disciples turn antichrist?
Denial of Jesus. Two distinct ways of denying Jesus are mentioned by the apostle. In the immediate context, John speaks of those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, and in so doing, not only deny the Son, but also the Father who sent Him. Some in the first century were compelled to renounce their faith. To do so was the spirit of the antichrist. The same is true today—if our faith is challenged, may we stand in faith, not bow in shame. It is the difference between being with Christ and being antichrist.
Others partook of the spirit of the antichrist through a tenet of Gnosticism, the denial of Jesus’ fleshly existence. It had been taught by some that the Lord could not come in fleshly form, since flesh is evil. This was a false doctrine and a denial of the nature of Christ, that He was God come in the flesh (John 1:1, 14).
Whether it be a denial of Jesus’ divine nature, His humanity, His doctrine, His church—any way that one sets themselves against the way of Christ is the spirit of the antichrist. There are many antichrists in the world, and they will continue until Jesus comes. Our duty is to guard our faith, to proclaim Christ, and to serve Him diligently until He comes.