Friday, June 12, 2020

Hard Things in the Bible, Part 2: The Antichrist

The word “antichrist” has become a punchline. People have, with absolutely straight faces, claimed that the Antichrist is:
  • Donald Trump
  • Barack Obama
  • Hilary Clinton
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Bill Gates
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • The current pope
  • Most of the previous popes
... and many, many more.

“Antichrist” clearly makes a handy insult to slap on whoever your current enemy is. But should we be looking for an individual to turn out to be ‘the Antichrist’? Who or what, really, is the antichrist? Since it is a term found in the Bible, it makes sense that we should turn to the Bible to find the explanation. And it really isn’t all that mysterious.

The term is found 4 times in the Bible, all in the letters of the apostle John. Perhaps he coined the word (which is easy to do in Greek) or perhaps it was already in common use in his day. ‘His day’ is something we need to talk about.

John wrote these letters in the year 98 on our calendar. He would have been pretty old by then; perhaps even 100 or more. He addresses those in the congregations to which he wrote as “young children”, which you’re allowed to do at that age. He'd spent nearly 70 years watching the growth of Christianity. He'd also begun seeing a disturbing trend away from the teachings he'd heard directly 'from the horse's mouth', during the three and a half years he'd spent in Jesus' company.

One of those teachings, one of the things Jesus foretold very clearly, was that true Christianity was going to be polluted and watered down almost immediately after his death. Jesus gave a famous illustration about two roads, two gates:   
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad the road which leads to ruin, and many there are who enter by it; But the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14, 15)

He was not here describing the difference between say, Christians and Jews, or Christians and Pagans, or even, as the world is currently divided, Christians and Muslims; no. How do we know? Just a few verses later he said: “On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:22, 23) Jews, pagans and Muslims do not do 'mighty works in Jesus' name'. Jesus was talking about Christians, people calling him “Lord”, who would turn out to be the opposite of Christians – anti-Christians, if you will. 
And, he said the fake Christians would actually outnumber the real Christians. "Many" on the broad road; "few" on the narrow road.

He made the same point in his parable of the wheat and the weeds: 
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also...” 
Jesus knew that after he fell asleep in death Satan would begin diluting Christianity with weed-like, fake Christians, anti-Christians. Furthermore, he warned that this would be the case throughout the history of Christianity. “Let both grow together until the harvest,” he said.  (Matthew 13:24-30)
Though they may not have quickly coined the phrase “antichrist”, his apostles clearly understood the warning. Paul showed he understood it: “That day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) His words harmonize with Jesus’ own, about fake Christians, anti-Christians, being visible, notable on ‘the day’ of judgment.

A person unfamiliar with biblical wording could take Paul’s expression to suggest a single individual, but John makes it clear that “antichrist” is not singular: “. . .Young children, it is the last hour, and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared, from which fact we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us...” (1 John 2:18, 19)

Notice that John repeats the point Jesus made: the antichrists ‘went out from’ Christians. Do you think they called themselves something other than Christians at that point? Of course not! No doubt they contended that they were the real Christians, and John and his friends were the anti-Christians. Jesus’ warning about Christians being misled didn’t say they would start following Buddha or Mohammad; he said, “. . .false Christs and false prophets will arise and will perform great signs . . .” (Matthew 24:24)

So, if you're looking for the antichrist, you need to look among people calling themselves Christians.

Think about the fake ‘Christian’ leaders flying around in their private jets, wearing their royal robes, boasting sacred-sounding titles, claiming that Jesus wants them to have their huge paychecks, pretending to be holy while covering up their decidedly non-Christian behavior and completely undermining Christ’s teachings... those people, individually and collectively, are the real antichrists.

If you follow one of them because, 'She's a powerful speaker,' or because 'His sermons make me feel good,' or 'He heals people', or whatever your reason is, just focus on this: Jesus promised there would be both true Christians and false Christians, anti-Christians, from his death until the end. The Christian groups you see around you all fall into either one class or the other.

If the person or church you're following teaches anything different from what Christ taught, which side do you think they're on? Click here to go to Part Three of this series.

Bill K. Underwood is the author of 3 novels: The Minotaur Medallion, Resurrection Day, and Unbroken, and the non-fiction self-help book 99 Ways to Fire Your Boss, all available on can help support this site by purchasing a book.

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