Who or What is the Antichrist?

(greeklatinaudio.com   Austin TX December 2003)

What an angst-generating subject! And what magnificent grist for the pens of fictional $pin-mei$ter$! (or, for that matter, the pens of voluable and imaginative e$chatologi$t$!)

As implied here, modern-day interest in the "antichrist" is certainly alive and well. And the current (and lucrative) fictional and escatological presentations of this Biblical entity very commonly suggest that [he * (see boxed note immediately following)] is some incredible personage who, in the "time of the end," presents himself to the world-at-large with such convincing apocalyptic power and dark charismatic authority, that mankind simply folds under his sway and dances off to perdition like mesmerized rats in the wake of the pied-piper - until his ruse is disrupted by the second coming of Christ! - a description presented somewhat less dramatically, but nevertheless, quite reminiscently, in many dictionaries and encyclopedias... So the pressing question on the minds of those contemplating the matter is: Quick! Who is it?!

And for those who just LOVE to have their pants scared off in the wee hours of eerie darkness, apologies are in order here because the answer turns out to be somewhat less than goose-bump titillating - as contrasted with the usual apocalyptic shock-and-horror fare so prevalent today...

* This discussion will incorporate the pronoun "he" with reference to the antichrist. This is for the sake of narrative simplicity only. As will become apparent, this is not to imply that the antichrist is being regarded here as a singular male entity.

The term antichrist (Greek: anticristoV, meaning "instead of Christ," or "against Christ") is officially Biblical, coined by the apostle John two thousand years ago, and used only five (5) times by him with limited discussion in two of his letters found in the Bible at 1st John and 2nd John.  (Note however, that although the Biblical use of the term "antichrist" itself is very limited, the notion of (and pervasive spirit of) the "antichrist" is dealt with frequently and at length in the Bible. Consider, for example, the one-page letter of Jude, in which the term "antichrist" is not used but the allusion to such is very clear.)

To get a feeling for the Biblical meaning and use of the term "antichrist," the five instances of its occurrance in the Bible are presented below with relevant context:

(The translation used here, and in the remainder of this narrative, is the popular Revised Standard Version, (RSV) by virtue of its general acceptance among Bible readers.)

1st John 2:18
Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour.

1st John 2:22
Who is the liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

1st John 4:3
and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming and now it is in the world already.

2nd John 7
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

By considering the above Biblical texts, (the Bible being the definitive word on the matter!) several identifying features of the antichrist come to light very quickly, all of which contrast sharply with the usual character presentation popularly depicted.

For example...
From the expression at 1st John 2:18 ("...so now many antichrists have come...,") we may reasonably surmise the following:

1.) Appreciating that John wrote this about 2000 years ago, we see that the antichrist does NOT debut in the "end-times." He has, in fact, been here all along!  (cf, 1st John 4:3, above)

2.) There are (and have been all along) MANY antichrists!

In addition...
From the expression at 1st John 2:18 ("...therefore we know it is the last hour...,") we understand that the presence of the antichrist relates in some fashion to a "last hour," the meaning of which is not exactly clear, nor is it necessarily temporal (in the usual sense!) inasmuch as John wrote this material in the first century of our common era! Nevertheless, the fact that John mentions a "last hour" suggests that something significant relating to the activities of the antichrist may yet be future(!)

1st John 2:22, 1st John 4:3 and 2nd John 7 help us to appreciate that any person, group, institution, religion, organization, etc., which "...denies that Jesus is the Christ," or "...does not confess Jesus," or "...will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh," may be categorized Biblically as constituting an antichrist! [This concept of an "implied" plurality expressed by means of a singular composite noun (e.g., antichrist (singular) possibly comprised of many entities (plural) ) is a very common linguistic phenomenon. For example, when we think of "the Ugly American," or the "terrorist" threat, or the holiday "shopper," we understand the underlying plurality here, i.e., we do NOT have in mind some specific ugly american, ("my cousin Bubba") or a specific terrorist, or holiday shopper. We mean ALL who fit into the category. This mentality certainly applies to the term "antichrist" as well, and therefore does not, by any means, limit this entity to unique singularity. The fact that the apostle John uses the term in both singular and plural confirms this notion.]

Thus, objectively applying these Biblical criteria to the matter yields some interesting conclusions regarding the identity of the antichrist, which identity could easily constitute a virtual army of known persons or organizations, etc., which, due to the pervasive spirit of political correctness and litigious ferver, would not be expedient to list here - n'est-ce pas, mes chers lecteurs?!

Of course, none of this should really be too surprising in view of the fact that the Bible makes no bones about how utterly alienated the "world" (Greek: kosmoV ) is from primitive Christian principles, i.e., principles such as were taught by Christ himself, who said, "My kingdom is no part of this world..."  (John 18:3)

Not surprisingly, we find also the expansive Biblical indictment that, "...the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one..." (1st John 5:19)   The term used here, "the wicked one" (Greek: o ponhroV ) is a clear reference to Satan himself who, in view of the "whole" extent of his power and unabashed enmity with Christ, may certainly be regarded as the primary contributor to the worldly spirit of the antichrist. (A small example of this may be seen at John 8:44 where Christ told his opposers (i.e., those against him; i.e., those against Christ; i.e., antichrists!)   "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires....")

So then, we see from simple reasoning on this subject...

that the antichrist...
  - is all over the place!
  - has been all over the place for a long time!
  - is satanically inspired,
  - and has many guises, thus manifesting himself as any entity, i.e., person, group,
    institution, religion, organization, etc., which is... "against Christ."

And to extend this list of surprising antichrist guises to yet another level of inclusion, we learn from the Bible that even NATIONS (plural! - Hebrew: "go'yim" (גוים); LXX Greek: eqnh ) may be regarded as antichrists! (e.g., Psalm 2:1-2:  "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD (i.e., Jehovah) and his anointed [one] (i.e., Christ)..." [Christ in Greek is cristoV meaning "anointed one."]

Thus, we see that, although the Biblical antichrist is not accurately represented by the dark and frightening character popularized by current (and historical) fiction, he is, nevertheless, alive and well, and is certainly an infuence to be reckoned with.

Yet Another Face of the Antichrist...
An interesting and very subtle corollary now presents itself. This has to do with the fact that the common use of the Greek preposition "anti" (Greek: anti) as a prefix (in many languages which use Greek derivatives) frequently fails to alert casual readers to the fact that, in dealing with this word, they are actually dealing with a Greek "doppelganger" which may, on occasion, require a bit of linguistic scrutiny and judicious treatment.

For example...
In the English language, words which are prefixed by "anti-" very commonly evoke conceptual notions of inimical, unsavory and obvious opposition to something or someone, e.g., "anti-american," "anti-semitic," "anti-black," "anti-this," "anti-that..." such that, one would certainly not want to be associated with such "anti-ness." Notably, the common (and historic) use of the term " antichrist" causes it to fall into this category, i.e., suggesting inimical, unsavory and obvious opposition to Christ and everything he stands for...

However, it may be recalled that, at the beginning of this discussion, the Greek meaning of the term "antichrist" was shown to be twofold. (i.e., meaning "instead of Christ," or "against Christ.")   And this commentaray has, thus far, dealt with the subject in terms of the latter meaning.

By contrast, (and very interestingly!) the far more common use of the word "anti" in Greek as meaning "instead of" (e.g., Luke 11:11, "...and [will hand him] a snake instead of a fish..."  (Greek: "...kai anti icquoV ojin..." ) ) suggests that the prefix "anti-" in the term " antichrist" likely incorporates this meaning as well! (i.e., [something/anything] "instead of" Christ, hinting at some sort of elective substitution!)

This implies a far more subtle (but no less dangerous!) antichrist intrusion upon mankind than is generally anticipated. For example, if one were to remain admirably on the watch for signs of an inimical and obvious antichrist assault, but were to be oblivious to the more quiet and subtle inroads of worldly influence slowly substituting nobler Christian characteristics in mankind with characteristics far less noble; (by an antichrist spirit which has been here all along!) then masses of humanity could simply and quietly, (and over time) amble over to the dark side, unwittingly and abundantly demonstrating in their lives the latter characteristics "instead of" the former - and this without a wimper!

This effective culling of victims is very reminiscent of the trench warfare of World War I where combatants waited endlessly for an inimical and obvious assault of the enemy "pouring over the horizon, guns ablazing..." when, in fact, on many fronts, combatants were decimated by starvation, disease, hypothermia, etc., never having seen the enemy!

In view of this possibility recurring on the global battlefield of moral goodness, it is not surprising that one of the featured signs of the "last days" given by the Bible, indicates that mankind in general, are in these deadly trenches again...

To wit...
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it..."  (2nd Timothy 3:1-5)

So...How did all of these people get this way?! - if not (as cited above - Biblically...) through the subtle influence of a world ruled by the "wicked one," (thereby pervaded by the spirit of the antichrist) and now, (not surprisingly) nearly devoid of Christian principles? And if all of these unwitting combatants were to be asked whether or not the enemy (i.e., the antichrist) had arrived, they would certainly say, "Not yet!"