No end times’ sermon is complete without a reference to that eschatological bogeyman, the antichrist. For those who came in late, the antichrist is evil incarnate. He’s in league with the devil, and he is your worst nightmare. According to some, he will be responsible for the deaths of two out of every three people in these terrifying last days.
Who is he? The antichrist is widely believed to be a charismatic figure who will take control of the one world government before persecuting Christians in a great tribulation.
When I was a kid, everybody knew the antichrist was Henry Kissinger. It was obvious. But then Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols said he was the antichrist. So did Marilyn Manson.
Some say the antichrist is Harry Potter or that freaky kid from The Omen. But those are fictional figures. The real antichrist is the pope. At least that’s what Protestants have been saying ever since the Reformation.
And who do the Catholics think it is? Obama, apparently, although I imagine his stock has fallen since he left office. I guess now it could be Trump. Or Putin. Or that new Austrian leader.
According to one movie I saw, the antichrist is a smooth-talking blond and blue-eyed political maestro. At first, he seemed like a nice guy. But in the end, his true colors were revealed as he unleashed hell on an unsuspecting world.
One thing these antichrist candidates all have in common, is they all sound like generic Bond villains!
The antichrist in popular culture
The antichrist has a huge grip on our imagination, both inside and outside the church. I did a search for products related to the antichrist on Amazon, and this is what I found:
Number of books about the antichrist: 4,893
You could fill a school library with books about the antichrist. Indeed, there are more books about the antichrist than there are on the Apostle Paul. And there are more books on the antichrist than the gospel of grace!
What’s wrong with that picture?
I also searched the top three Christian magazines to see how often they mentioned the antichrist:
- Christianity Today: 452
- National Catholic Register: 5,520
- Charisma Magazine: 7,440
In online news sites such as CharismaNews, there are literally hundreds of articles about the Antichrist. (And they always describe him with a capital A even though the vast majority of Bibles do not. I follow Biblical practice here.) The articles deal with questions such as, Who is the antichrist? What is his agenda? How do we avoid worshipping the antichrist? How can we fight the antichrist? How is the antichrist spirit active in global politics?
Read these magazines and you will conclude that the antichrist is about to be revealed and that the great tribulation is about to begin. But what if you read the Bible instead? How would that shape your views of the antichrist?
The antichrist in scripture
I’ve given you some numbers to show how the antichrist figures prominently in the modern mind. Now I want to give you some numbers to show how often he appears in the Bible:
Number of times Jesus spoke about the antichrist: 0
If you’re a red-letter Christians who only preaches what Jesus preached, you’ll never mention him.
Number of times the Apostle Paul mentions the antichrist: 0
Number of times Peter, James, and Jude mention the antichrist: 0
Number of times the antichrist appears in the Book of Revelation: 0
Isn’t that interesting? The antichrist casts a huge shadow over the modern church, yet he barely rates a mention in scripture. Altogether, the label “antichrist” appears in just four verses. Four verses!
Is it possible that we have blown things out of proportion (4,000 books for 4 verses)? Have we mythologized someone who barely rates a mention?
Four things the Bible does NOT say about the antichrist
Myth #1: The antichrist is someone we need to talk about. He’s hugely influential.
Fact: The Bible says little about him. There are 31,102 verses in the Bible and 99.99% of them say nothing about the antichrist.
If the antichrist was so important, don’t you think Jesus would’ve mentioned him? And don’t you think the man who wrote most of the New Testament would’ve said something?
Myth #2: The antichrist is a world leader, probably with nukes.
Fact: According to the only person who wrote about him, an antichrist is someone who denies Jesus is the Christ come in the flesh from God (1 John 2:22, 2 John 1:7).
Given the context, John was most likely addressing the demonic spirit behind Gnosticism, a false teaching that infiltrated the first-century church. It takes a huge leap to connect the antichrist of scripture with the bogeyman of modern eschatology.
Myth #3: The antichrist will play a major role in these last days.
Fact: John said the antichrist, or many antichrists, were at work in his generation: “Even now many antichrists have appeared… (and are) now already in the world” (1 John 2:18, 4:3).
If you think the antichrist is a uniquely 21st century personality, your thinking doesn’t align with scripture.
Myth #4: The antichrist is the little horn of Daniel 7 and the prince of Daniel 9. He’s the lawless man Paul spoke of and he will bring about a great tribulation that kills many.
Fact: The great tribulation is past, not future.
Space precludes me dealing with the little horn of Daniel and the lawless man of 2 Thessalonians. (I cover them in my book.) But according to Jesus, you have as much to fear from a great tribulation as a great flood. They have both happened; they will never happen again.
There are many other traditions about the antichrist – he will make peace with Israel, he will rebuild the temple, etc. – but such a figure is so far removed from scripture, I am reluctant to spend any more time on him. In this article I have already written more words about him than the entire Bible.
Time to move on.
But let me leave you with this: even if the antichrist turned out to be all the things the Bible said he isn’t, I fail to see why we should fear him. Greater is he that is in you, than he that is a figment of an over-excited eschatological imagination.
Will there be a world leader who opposes Jesus and his church before the Final Coming? I suppose so. There have been many such leaders throughout history. There will be more in the future.
But if you have been living in fear of the antichrist and what he might do, renew your mind and be set free by the truth of God’s Word.
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