The Antichrist is a deceiver intent on destroying the church through deception, apostasy, and if necessary, persecution.
In many interpretations, the Antichrist is a global political leader bent on world domination. In the end, that may be the case. However, Jesus and the Apostles expressed far more concern about the many deceivers that would practice their trade within the church. For that matter, in passages about the Antichrist, the concern is about his deceptions that target believers.
The only New Testament author who used the term “antichrist” was John in two of his letters. He warned that “it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.” He did not deny that an individual and final “antichrist” would come, but in the interim, many “antichrists” would infiltrate the church and deceive many Christians – (1 John 2:18-22).
“Antichrist” is a compound noun formed with the Greek term christos (“anointed”) and the preposition anti. The latter signifies “instead of” rather than “against.” Thus, “antichrist” is someone or something that attempts to replace or imitate the true Christ. The “antichrists, plural, to whom John referred were those who:
- “Went out from us, but they were not of us… But they went out that it might be plain that they all are not of us.”
John admonished his churches to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” and he warned especially about “the spirit of the antichrist of which you heard that it is coming, and now, it is already in the world.” The “antichrists” of immediate concern to the Apostle were false teachers, NOT national, military, or political leaders (2 John 7).
Similarly, the Apostle Paul warned of the coming “man of lawlessness.” His concern was about a future individual with the ability to deceive Christians and to cause their “apostasy.” Thus, he warned, “let no one in any way deceive you,” and then described an event when this figure would “take his seat in the sanctuary of God to oppose every so-called god,” a description that is more religious than political. And elsewhere in his letters, Paul uses “sanctuary” metaphorically for the Body of Christ – (2 Thessalonians2:1-12, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).
Furthermore, Paul links the “man of lawlessness” to the final “apostasy.” When he is revealed, his activities will be “in accord with those of Satan,” including “lying signs and wonders” designed to deceive:
- “…With all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness” -(2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
In Revelation, after his failed attempt to destroy the messianic “Son,” the “Great Red Dragon” departed to “wage war against those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Likewise, the “beast from the sea” waged “war” against the “saints and overcame them.”Both passages employ language from the vision of Daniel describing the “little horn” that “made war with the saints, and prevailed against them” – (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 12:17, 13:7).
In the seven letters to the “churches of Asia,” Satan attacked the congregations with persecution AND deception. Consistently in Revelation, the Devil and his vassals conduct warfare against the “Lamb” by attacking anyone who follows him – (Revelation 2:10, 2:18-29).
In his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus began with his dire warning about coming deceivers intent on deceiving the very “elect of God”:
- “Beware lest anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and deceive many … and many will fall away… and many false prophets will arise and deceive many… False anointed ones and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect” – (Matthew 24:4-23).
False prophets work to hoodwink Christ’s disciples, not to deceive the already deceived world that lies “in the lap of the Wicked One.” And warnings of this kind are common in the New Testament, for example:
- (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) – “For such as these are false apostles, deceitful workers, transfiguring themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel! For Satan himself transfigures himself into an angel of light! No great thing, therefore, if his ministers also are transfiguring themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.”
- (1 Timothy 4:1-2) – “Howbeit, the Spirit expressly declares, that in later seasons some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and to teachings of demons, in hypocrisy, speaking falsehoods, of demons cauterized in their own conscience.”
- (2 Peter 2:1-2) – “But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, men who will stealthily bring in destructive parties, even the Master that bought them denying, bringing upon themselves speedy destruction. And many will follow out their wanton ways, by reason of whom the way of truth will be defamed.”
In the end, the “Antichrist” may prove to be a global political and military leader. However, considering the warnings of the New Testament, we should not be surprised if this creature appears first within the Church where he will use his words and ability to perform supernatural “signs and wonders” to deceive the “elect,” leading many away from the Jesus who is revealed in Scripture and to something or someone very different from the Christ of Calvary.