In our English Bibles the only place the exact word "antichrist" is found is in the epistles of the Apostle John and here are the texts:
1 John 2
Deceptions of the Last Hour
18 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. 19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
22Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
1 John 4
2By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and 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.
2 John 1
Beware of Antichrist Deceivers
7 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. 8Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 9Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
There are other references I believe that are speaking of the Antichrist without using that exact name such as the beast power in Revelation also written by the Apostle John as far as we know. Anyway, it is the concept that we are dealing with and what that means and the exact word is not essential as you will see.
From the above quoted verses we may note the following:
As I understand it the word "antichrist" in the Greek may mean against Christ, opposed to Christ, opposite to or contrary to Christ or instead of or in place of Christ. I believe that the truth of the antichrist comes very close to home to each one of us, especially in the sense of the meaning "instead of or in place of Christ."
At the very beginning of the Christian movement many specific personages were identified as being the Antichrist. Some of the Roman emperors were absolute monsters in their persecution of Christians, trying to force them to deny Christ and to worship the state and declare Caesar as Lord and deny Jesus as their Lord. Multitudes went to their death for remaining loyal to "the doctrine of Christ" that the Apostle John is talking about in the above cited verses. Throughout Christian history and right up until the present time many wicked people have arisen and still do exist who are megalomaniacs of the most severe kind who kill and bring suffering to multitudes.
During the time of the Reformers the attention was specifically drawn to the Papacy as being the Antichrist because of the utter confusion concerning and the masking of the pure gospel that had taken place over the centuries as the Papacy rose to power and the corruption of the church continued to increase. There are those to this day that still feel that the Papacy is the Antichrist and that we must hold to this Protestant Reformation belief or be in danger of rejecting the one and only true gospel for these last days. I think this view is very limited and is missing out on the real point of what the spirit of Antichrist is really all about. We must keep in mind what the Apostle John said in his day about there being many antichrists as well as using this in the future tense. Why limit it to just one person or one entity such as the Papacy? Could it be that while we are obsessing our attention on some entity already in existence or to come in the future we could miss out on the Antichrist that is at our very doorstep, yea, within each one of us? We do need to keep on mind that the same Protestant Reformers who were pointing the finger at the Papacy as being the Antichrist also bitterly persecuted and sometimes put to death those who disagreed with them. A classic example of this is the persecution of the Anabaptists in which the state, the Catholics, and the Protestants all joined together. Many Anabaptists were martyred for their desire to return to a more simple kind of faith and their protest against the church/state establishments of the time. Were not the Reformers who participated in this persecution showing the very same spirit of Antichrist as were the Papists? So I think it is a very big mistake to make the classical Protestant doctrine of the Papacy being the Antichrist normative for today. There is much more to consider in this regard that nearly all discussions of the Antichrist totally overlook.
First of all, let us take a good look at what the spirit of Antichrist really is. As far as the human race is concerned, it all started in a perfect environment, the Garden of Eden.
8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
9Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"
10So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."
11And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"
12Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."
13And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
You will note here how both Adam and Eve were totally wrapped up in themselves, trying to justify their disobedience and blaming God for it. Adam was in effect saying, "You gave me this woman and she tempted me and I ate. Therefore, God, you are to blame. If you hadn't given me that woman I wouldn't have sinned." Eve was saying, "God, you allowed that serpent to come into the garden to deceive me so you are to blame for my disobedience." Adam and Eve were setting themselves up above God in deliberately choosing to disobey His specific command. They somehow felt they knew more than God did, chose to disobey His clear command, and then turned around and blamed him for their disobedience. This surely is the spirit of Antichrist, is it not? Has not the human race been doing the same ever since? Why did God allow such and such to happen? Why did God do this to me? The accusations against God go on and on. Do not all of us struggle with this very issue in our lives all too often?
The self-centeredness that came in after Adam and Eve sinned is easily seen by the repetition of the pronoun "I" in the above cited conversation. This is what antichrist is all about, i.e., being centered in ourselves instead of in glorifying and worshipping our Creator God. Notice the words of the prophet Isaiah which succinctly summarize the sin problem:
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Yes, each one of us has turned "to his own way" instead of God's way. We still do this and so the spirit of Antichrist exists in all of us. Let us continue to look at this principle more in depth as it is so clearly taught in the scriptures.
In the Genesis 1-11 record we have the sad story of a perfect creation, a fall which involved rebellion against a specific command of God, and the downward spiral which resulted. Man's wickedness got so great that God sent a flood and destroyed all humankind except for Noah and his family but things started downhill again very rapidly after the flood and we see how utterly defiant human beings finally became:
The Tower of Babel
1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
Human beings became so blatant in their defiance of God that they hoped to reach heaven by their own works and at the same time make a name for themselves and I suggest this very same thing is what has been going on ever since and much of it in the name of religion and of God. The plan of salvation that God has given to us does not exalt man but gives all the glory to God. But yet humankind has built many towers of religion to reach heaven by man's own works and at the same time to glorify man and his works. So we see the spirit of Antichrist being clearly unfolded in Genesis, the book of beginnings.
Let us back up just a minute even before the creation of the earth and see what happened in Heaven, in an absolutely sinless, perfect, and eternal environment. Here we have Lucifer, the covering cherub, rebelling against God and what was this rebellion really all about?
The Fall of Lucifer
12 "How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13For you have said in your heart:
"I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.'
[Read Ezekiel 28 also in connection with the Fall of Lucifer].
Notice the "I" centeredness of Lucifer. He wanted to exalt himself above God! He wanted to "ascend above the heights of the clouds" which would have meant to supplant God which would have involved getting rid of God. This is the spirit of Antichrist, i.e., to exalt oneself above God or to seek to take the place of God. Lucifer turned to his own way. Adam and Eve turned to their own way. All of us since that time have turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). That is what Antichrist is all about. Can we limit this self-centeredness to some one entity or person and not face the danger of overlooking the very spirit of Antichrist is in each of us? In fact, is it not sometimes a very subtle way of avoiding the truth of the Antichrist to put so much emphasis on something outside of ourselves when the real problem is within?
Is there a possibility that we may feel more righteous about ourselves sometimes by pointing the finger so much at this or that person or evil in the world? Yes, there are terribly evil people in the world but we can't change them and berating them so much of the time does not change ourselves nor does it help us to deal with our own ego issues! I have heard far too many conversations about the horrible things that are being done here and there by this person and that one but I have heard few conversations about issues in the everyday practical lives of each one of us that we need to be thinking about and correcting. Also I find it very depressing to constantly be bombarded with the evils of this present world and so I pay as little attention as I can to the details of all the bad news of the world. Ultimately we can only repent of our own sins and short-comings and make the necessary corrections and focusing so much on the evils of others can sometimes be a way of avoiding our own unchristlike issues that need our attention.
The apostle Paul does not use the term Antichrist specifically but it is clear of what he is speaking:
2 Thessalonians 2
3Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Notice here that the "man of sin" [the Antichrist] exalts himself above God and tries to take the very place of God. The "falling away" from the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and what this really means is to be more clearly revealed before the return of our Lord. We have much more to learn yet in this regard. I think to apply these words of Paul in a crassly literalistic way to a rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, a very unlikely possibility at best, and some "antichrist" power dwelling there, is to miss the deeper meaning of what Paul is talking about. We need a clearer understanding of the nature of sin (Antichrist) and of its terrible self-centeredness and rebelliousness against God. This must be more fully developed and understood in these "last of the last days" as some put it so well. There is a lot of very pious appearing spirituality today that is in reality extremely shallow, self-centered, and only prolongs this process of human beings exalting themselves instead of the Creator God and His wonderful work that He has done for us, is now doing in us, and will do for us in the future. The work of God, past, present, and future is what we want. We need to be on guard against religious counterfeits that lead to self-exaltation under the guise of piety. There is a great deal of popular religiosity and very little true godliness patterned in the likeness of the Savior.
How do we know the difference between Antichrist religion, Antichrist experience, and the true religion and experience that comes from God? I would remind us of these all important words of Paul in one of my absolute favorite verses in all of the Bible:
20I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
With Lucifer and with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden and ever since it has been "Not Christ but myself, my ideas, my plans" etc. The true experience with God is "Not I but Christ" from beginning to end. Our salvation begins, continues, and ends in Jesus Christ and in following His Spirit, not the self-centered and egoistic ways of the world. What is the Spirit of Jesus all about? Let us read a summary in these simple verses:
42But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (See also John 13:1-17)
In the world we have all of these "power trips" which are manifested at virtually every level of human existence--in our homes, workplaces and even in religious organizations and churches. Over the centuries we have had far too many "power brokers" in religious hierarchies that have used piety as a way of controlling other people. Just as the house of God had become a den of thieves in Jesus' time so today much that goes under the cover of religion is very ego-centered and totally opposite to the spirit of the meek and lowly One. I think if He were on earth today that Jesus would have some of the same strong words to say to many religious leaders as He said to some of the leaders of His day who were big on outward religious displays and little on meekness and lowliness. (See Matthew 23).
Jesus came to this earth, not to exalt Himself, but (1) to serve and (2) to give His life to ransom us from sin and self-centeredness. The essence of sin (antichrist) is to be centered in oneself instead of in the Creator God.
Jesus, in His teachings and by His example of service, unmasked the true nature of sin and also made the atoning sacrifice necessary for us to be restored once again to the Father's House. The fact that Jesus came to this earth as "God with us"--or God fully manifest in the flesh and humankind put Him to death fully proves what sin is really all about and perfectly proves what Lucifer's rebellion was really all about when he wanted to exalt himself above God. Human beings tried to murder God in the person of His Son Jesus the Christ. The terrible nature of sin itself was revealed at the cross. We need to always remember this! If we fail to see the true nature of Antichrist (sin) we shall continually be crucifying the Son of God ourselves by our ego-based ways of thinking and acting.
Antichrist includes the meaning "instead of" or "in place of." If we allow even the good pursuits in life to occupy first attention are we not manifesting Antichrist? (See Matthew 6:33). If religious beliefs become more important than the Savior is not that Antichrist? Of how much value are doctrines that are not in and of themselves some unfolding of Jesus, following Him, and walking in daily fellowship with Him?
I think we can see that Antichrist means far more than some one entity be it past or future. Antichrist is something within each of us and can only be overcome by daily vigilance, waiting upon God, and walking in close fellowship with Jesus everyday. We need to constantly watch and pray. Antichrist is ever at our doorsteps and there is no end to the need for spiritual vigilance in this present life.
We need to ever remember that Jesus is the full and final revelation of God to the world and therefore I believe that time spent in contemplating the Savior as revealed in the four gospels and asking for the help of the Holy Spirit so that we can understand and apply to our lives that Spirit of Jesus is absolutely essential in overcoming the Antichrist. If the spirit of Antichrist is governing our lives we shall be easily deceived by any delusions that may that may come in the future. If we are walking daily under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be able to discern the difference between the genuine and the true and have an anchor for our souls.
Written by Tom Durst of Spokane WA