The Christian Belief Concerning the Antichrist

The concept of the Antichrist is a relatively new concept in Biblical terms. The appearance and mention of the Antichrist is restricted to the New Testament where reference is specifically associated with the Second Coming of the Messiah. The Antichrist is not found in Jewish traditions, however, it exists not only in Christian- ity, but also found abundantly referred to by the founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). The beliefs surrounding the Antichrist including the Second Coming are all in constant debate amongst the various Christian denominations as to the precise method of their fulfillment. Some assume the Second Coming to be spiritual and therefore prophecies that are all linked with it are to be fulfilled in the same spiritual sense. While some assume that the coming of the Messiah will be physical and all prophecies that surround his coming should be considered literal in their scope. The third viewpoint denies the validity of the Second Coming and all such prophecies and signs that are associated with them. The Holy Bible in its entirety reveals less than ten verses that speak of the Antichrist and although there is a vast variety of subjects present within it, only a select few verses discuss future events. An innate quality of predicting future events is that they cannot be confirmed until and unless such events actually take place. Since they are from the very onset ambiguous to the level of testing the faith of the faithful, it is, therefore, vital to have an open mind when analyzing the meanings and interpretations of such prophecies.

The very first instance in which the term Antichrist appears is by the pen of the Disciple John. Although there is some speculation as to whether or not the author of the First and Second Epistle of John is in fact the same apostle John during the life of Jesus (as), nevertheless majority of modern day scholars agree that John himself was the author of both (1). To understand the context in which it appeared, it is necessary to read the various excerpts beforehand:

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false Prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (2)

He further writes:

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the begin- ning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” (3)

And finally it mentions:

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” (4)

The context of this reference is a philosophy that was born at the very infancy of the Church’s development. There was a concept known as ‘Decotism’ which although today is rejected by all denominations, at that very beginning, it began to take shape and people were being pulled towards it. What Decotism represented was that ‘Jesus did not appear in the flesh and bones, but was either an illusion or appeared only as a spirit’. Because this concept was damaging to the reality of the events that occurred, it is a blessing that Jesus’ (as) disciple himself made this fact clear that Jesus (as) was a human being, living and breathing and therefore, shattered this new ideology before it became the central belief of Christianity.

The reason to highlight this context is that here John uses the term ‘Antichrist’ in a very loose term by classifying not only those who were preaching this ideology, but that anyone who even desires to utter such claim should be considered the Antichrist. The implication here is that anyone who rejects the original doctrine and historical truth surrounding the first coming of the Messiah, Jesus (as), is in fact the Antichrist and an enemy to the teachings of Jesus (as). With the words “whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” makes it plain that his use of ‘Antichrist’ was referring to those of his present day to be the personification of the Antichrist by their mere interpolation of the faith and teachings of Jesus (as). Therefore, anyone who teaches anything that is against the very core of fundamentals that were not only taught but practiced by Jesus (as) is classified by John to be an Antichrist.

Now concerning the other instance in which the words of Antichrist and his description appear are related to future events that were foretold to occur. As stated earlier, each prophet that foretold of the coming of another would leave the faithful with signs that were to be taken metaphorically and not literally so as to enhance their faith when they in fact recognize such signs. If the signs were explicit with details such as names, date of birth, and place of birth, no faith would be required and there would not be a distinction from those who possess faith and those who do not. Therefore, in the spiritual system of God that surrounds prophecies of coming events, they always retain a hint or two while the rest becomes manifest at the time of their fulfillment as a means to heighten the faith of the believers. With that in mind, we find three separate descriptions of the future event of the appearance of the Antichrist from Biblical references. The first that should be considered is found in 2 Thessalonians which although amidst much debate over the true identity of its author, many scholars assume its attribution to Paul (5). Whether it is Paul or another author is irrelevant in the discussion at hand.

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”(6)

What is highlighted for our need is that the return of the Christ would be linked with the appearance of what is known as “the man of sin.” Although these signs are not credited to be directly from Jesus (as), yet Paul in this particular case portrays the Antichrist to appear in the form of a man. Whether that is to be taken metaphorically or literally is another discussion. What becomes clear is that according to Paul, the Antichrist would only truly appear when the coming of the return of the Messiah is to be manifested. And he adds that the fate of that wicked one will be ultimately defeated by the words, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” (7)

The next reference which indicates characteristics of the Antichrist is mentioned with great detail in the Book of Revelation. Regarding the authorship of the Book of Revelation there is great uncertainty. Although some attribute it to the same author of the Gospel of John and refer the author to be John of Patmos, while others do not find agreement in his authorship. It is an ongoing debate as to who the author of the Book of Revelation is. His precise identity remains unknown. However, the contents of this last book consist of the most futurist references by comparison to the rest of the books contained in the New Testament.

In the verses of the Book of Revelation there are many accounts of such demons and characters that fulfill the overall expectation and mission of the Antichrist in terms of his deception, denial and destruction of true faith against the Messiah. The dragon, the Beast, and the Serpent seem to all point to the metaphorical appearance of Satan. This point is highlighted when after describing the events surrounding those three creatures, it states: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon – that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan – and bound him in chains for a thousand years.” [8]

If the appearance of the Beast or what is also known as the serpent has two distinct manifestations both separated by the span of a thousand years points to what John the Apostle was hinting at when he referred to contradictory dogmas that were appearing at his time and that would again appear later. Therefore, the mention of the thousand years is in fact direct correlation to the already established fact that the Antichrist would appear twice, the second appearance being of a striking nature relating to the last combat between good and evil. There are countless other imageries contained in the Book of Revelation, for which reason only a select few were underlined.

The final take on the appearance of the Antichrist must be by the words of Jesus (as) himself. Although Jesus (as) has never been reported to have coined the phrase ‘Antichrist’ or that he ever used it yet it was through the various descriptions that he himself revealed about the end days which later developed into the common use of this term. We first read from the book of Mark.

“And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken [9].”

The Gospel of Matthew mentions a similar account regarding the Second Coming [10]. What is quickly noticed is that amongst the various characteristics mentioned by Jesus (as) about his return, one of those characteristics is the appearance of false Christs and false prophets. This is in direct agreement to the statements made by John about false teachers. Another subtle characteristic lies in the elusive indication made by John in that the future Antichrist will be deeply rooted in his opposition to the original teachings of Jesus (as). While maintaining an opposition to the original teaching, it will be masked in the name of the Christ. While the gift presented to the faithful will be contrary to the words of Jesus (as), the wrapping paper will have the seal of Jesus (as). This subtle fact makes the threat of the Antichrist all the more perilous. Additionally, the words of Jesus (as) mention clearly that the true Messiah would appear at the very time when false Messiahs and false prophets would announce their claim. Meaning, false Messiahs will appear during the same time the true Messiah will appear. The triumph and victory destined for the truth and light of God’s true servant while destruction and devastation to be the end of the Antichrist.

In conclusion, what can be drawn from the various descriptions and mentions of the Antichrist is that the Antichrist has a vast meaning within the New Testament having been referred to as ‘religious teachers’, (11) ‘a Man’, (12) ‘a Beast, Devil and Satan’, (13) and finally ‘false prophets and false Messiahs’. (14,15) This leaves the door wide open for interpretation on the accurate fulfillment of the prophecy of the Antichrist. Will it be manifested in the form of religious teachers, a single man, a beast or false prophets? That is the wide variety of possibilities that is presented in the Holy Bible. Additionally it becomes clear that there will be two separate manifestations of this evil force, the second manifestation ending in utter destruction and defeat. What can be said without any doubt is that the Antichrist, possessing its evil force, will battle against the Second Coming of the Messiah and while the battle will be fierce, it will not be short lived instead the faithful will have to undergo an immense amount of persecution (15) after which their steadfastness and patience will declare them an ultimate victor. To reveal more intricate details of the Antichrist, a further study of the signs and fulfillment of the Second Coming will have to be examined so that the reality of prophecies and his signs can be made apparent. The fact is that as Prophet Jesus (as) himself did not fulfill the literal prophecies that were demanded by the Jews of his time, similarly, the coming prophecies whether about the Antichrist or the coming of the Messiah himself were also destined to be fulfilled metaphorically.

This article appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the Muslim Sunrise.

References:

  1. Burgess, Henry. A Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature. N.p.: A. and C. Black, 1856. 10 Jan. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
  2. John 4:1-3
  3. John 2:22-24
  4. John 1:7-9
  5. MacArthur, John. 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Titus. N.p.: Thomas Nelson, 2007.
  6. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5
  7. 2 Thessalonians 2:8
  8. Revelation 20:1-2
  9. Mark 13:18 – 25
  10. Book of Mathew, Chapter 24, Verses 20-27
  11. John 4:1-3
  12. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5
  13. Revelation 20:1-2
  14. Mark 13:18 – 25, Matthew 24:20-27
  15. Matthew 10:2

Last modified: February 2, 2019

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