25 January 2022

Spirit of Antichrist

The Antichrist spirit and the mystery of lawlessness are at work already attempting to mislead the followers of Jesus

Country Church - Photo by hoch3media on Unsplash
In many interpretations, the “
Antichrist” is a global political and military leader who subjugates all nations, and history provides many examples of tyrants and demagogues who have endeavored to do just that, though, so far, all such attempts at global domination have failed. But does this expectation fit the character described in the New Testament? - [Photo by hoch3media on Unsplash].

The term “Antichrist” only appears in two of John’s letters. And while he does acknowledge that the “Antichrist is coming,” he says next to nothing about that figure. But he did warn about the “spirit of Antichrist” that is active in the world, and even in his time, and this is demonstrated by the presence of false teachers that disrupt the church, men who “deny that Jesus came in the flesh.” And it was deceivers of this kind that John described as “many anticrhists” - (1 John 2:18-22, 4:1-3).

Conceptually, his reference to the “spirit of Antichrist” is virtually parallel to Paul’s description of the “mystery of lawlessness” that is at work already in the world preparing for the arrival of the “man of lawlessness” – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

These references do not mean that the final “Antichrist” will also be a false teacher working inside the church, but it would not be implausible to assume from what John and Paul wrote that this will be the case.

And John’s “many antichrists” also parallel the warnings of Jesus about the “many deceivers” that would come in his name and “deceive many.” Many “false prophets and false christs” will appear and “deceive many,” even using “great signs and wonders” to mislead “the elect.”

The two common elements in Christ’s warnings are “many” and “deceivers,” and Church History validates the accuracy of his prediction. And there are significant verbal parallels between the words of the Lord and the description of the “false prophet” found in the book of Revelation, a malevolent creature who also will use “great signs” to deceive men into giving allegiance to the “Beast.”

And this leads us again to Paul’s warning that before the “Day of the Lord” arrives the “apostasy” will take place and the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed. Jesus also warned of coming apostasy caused by “deceivers,” “false christs” and “false apostles.” While Paul did introduce another term, the “man of lawlessness,” there are striking similarities between his figure and the warnings of Jesus and John.

Not only will the “man of lawlessness” deceive and foment apostasy, but he will also employ “signs and lying wonders” to do so. John described the “antichrists” of his day as having originated within the church, and Paul’s description of the “lawless one taking his seat in the sanctuary of God” may be closer to the same idea than it first appears.

Consistently in his letters, Paul applies the term “sanctuary of God” and other Temple language to the church, the “body of Christ,” and nowhere does he show the slightest interest in a future rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

So, where does this leave us? Certainly, a case can be made from statements in Revelation that the “Beast” will be a global political figure. And if Paul was not referring to the church as the “sanctuary of God,” then his description begins to fit nicely with the idea of a global tyrant. And perhaps, in the end, the “Antichrist” will be both a false teacher in the church and the world dictator expected in so many interpretations.

Nevertheless, over the centuries, “many deceivers” have invaded the church, and with modern communication technologies, a very great “many” are busy even now deceiving and damaging the lives of millions of Christians. And no doubt, we will see “many” more false teachers down the road, and the New Testament warns repeatedly about coming “deceivers” before the return of Jesus.

So, how do we avoid deception, whether from low-level “deceivers” or the “Antichrist” himself when he strides onto the world scene, whether as the presumptive ruler of the world or as a Church leader?

In warning about the “man of lawlessness,” Paul provided the answer. After describing this deceiver, he exhorted the congregation at Thessalonica to “stand fast and hold the traditions that you were taught.” By that, he certainly was not referring to any later creeds, church council rulings, or institutional traditions, but to the body of teaching the church had received from him and his coworkers - (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).

Likewise, Paul warned the Galatians that if anyone, “even an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be anathema.”  Strong words. But Satan can appear as “an angel of light.” And effectively, he called for such men to be placed under God’s curse. He was deadly serious. Anything that deviated from the apostolic “tradition” must be rejected with extreme prejudice. – (Galatians 1:6-10).

Our safety is found in learning and adhering to that same body of apostolic teachings. It is from that tradition that we learn how to discern truth from falsehood, good from evil, and true prophets from false ones. And the only reliable source for knowledge about what Jesus and his apostles taught is the New Testament. It is as close as we can get to the original source material. Every one of his disciples needs to learn it for himself or herself, and each one must make it his or her own.

And we must go directly to that source and make its teachings central and foundational to our Christian faith and lives. We may not be able to recognize the “Antichrist” by his appearance, deeds, political agenda, or by his miracle-working power, but as soon as he, she or it departs from the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, we will have our first clue about his, her or its identity.