Written by Paul J. Bucknell on April, 26, 2021
Antichrist in the Bible: What does the Bible say about the Antichrist?
The Antichrist is Coming
Although Muslim and other sources mention Antichrist, our chief focus is on what God’s Word says about the Antichrist. Some individuals are skeptical about one chief Antichrist because the Bible does not speak about an Antichrist but antichrists, or because conflicting eschatological schemes minimize the appearance of an Antichrist.
We applaud those who pull out their Bible concordances and see that the Bible only uses this word antichrist four times. Really! But don’t stop reading because the development of the antichrist theme in the scriptures does bring a much-needed warning. Just as we trace the usage of the term “anointed,” “Christ,” and “Messiah” (all meaning the same thing), there is also a development of antichrist.
The Antichrist theme starts with Satan and ends up in Revelation describing the unholy trinity (Satan, First Beast, False Prophet). The devil empowers these world-renown kings, only sometimes mentioned in the Bible. We can safely conclude Antichrist is an embodiment of the evil one who tries to steal the position and glory of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God Himself.
Moreover, the Bible hints and prophesies about a coming leader who will attempt to conquer the world and eradicate all vestiges of truth—along with the Gospel, bringing much persecution against God’s people. Further descriptions will come to light as we briefly study several critical Biblical passages.
The intensity of Antichrist’s role during the Great Tribulation, especially by those believing in premillennialism, makes this Biblical study more difficult. The good side to popularizing studies of the last times is that Antichrist is no longer a character hiding under the carpet—part of the reason I am writing on this topic. The bad side is that we are so convinced of the dispensationalists’ timeline, that we don’t look carefully enough at the texts themselves (LaHaye has popularized this in the “Left Behind” book and movies).
For instance, Jesus warns us that we are to be aware of the seduction of our faith, “And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them” (Luke 21:8). But Left Behind suggests Christians not worry about Antichrist because the rapture happens before he comes. This creates dangerous false confidence—opposite to what the Bible teaches.
There are other challenges, including the interpretation of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ accounts of the last times. Not knowing how much applies to the future, or whether there is a double fulfillment. Jerusalem’s destruction and the world’s judgment at the end of the age somewhere blend.
But I will avoid such discussion and look specifically at the developing string of allusions and teaching on Antichrist in the Bible. Because Jesus warned of deceivers, we should be extra careful not to leap to the conclusion that the presence of many antichrists rules out one yet coming arch-Antichrist.
We will begin with a discussion on John’s teaching where the term ‘antichrist’ is used and then take a broader Biblical perspective, ending in the Book of Revelation.
John and Antichrist
John the Apostle, the author of Revelation, only used “antichrist(s)” in four verses, three in 1 John and one in 2 John—surprisingly none in the Book of Revelation. A superficial glance at these verses seems to lessen the importance of Antichrist’s coming, seeing that John chiefly speaks of the many then present antichrists. However, this quick conclusion disguises the main point—the appearance of Antichrist; we always need to be wary of antichrist(s).
John forewarns us that an Antichrist is planning, at some point, to actuate his takeover, something I’m suggesting in the following article that might soon happen. Let’s look more closely at what John says in these four verses.
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18 NASB).
“Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
“And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:3).
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7).
The term antichrist
“Antichrist(s),” like Christ, is an English transliteration. The Greek is “αντιχηριστοσ,” simply pronounced “anti-christ.” “Anti” is a Greek preposition, not directly meaning opponent. It has a more basic meaning: in place of, instead of, for, which can subtly carry the meaning “against” or “counter to” because it replaces the original. Christ is the exact transliteration for Christ, meaning Anointed One, or a translation of Messiah from Hebrew. (Transliteration, in this case, means an English representation of the same sounds as in Greek.)
John’s Lessons about Antichrists
John teaches us that believers always ought to be on guard against the many antichrists that rise up to deceive; they are real, numerous in number, and pernicious: “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18). Note how he teaches that these antichrists have been around since the early church (his time).
Believers can detect these antichrists, as John reveals, through their deceptive teaching. Though their teaching has some resemblance to the truth, it sufficiently perverts the Gospel to keep us from saving faith.
These “many deceivers” are aptly named antichrists because they “do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 1:7). The early church faced the Gospel-denying cult called Gnostics because of their assumptions from Greek philosophy (i.e., Docetism), denying God could take on flesh. They denied Jesus Christ was God, became human, suffered, and died for mankind. Gnosticism took on various forms, but though they still claimed Christ as the Redeemer, they distorted the Gospel by teaching that the Spirit came upon a man named Jesus but left him before the cross.
The Gnostics denied the incarnation of God in Jesus. John very clearly warned that the developing cult would spread false thought and belief. The Gospel requires faith in God’s Son, His Servant (Isaiah 53), to die for our sins. So this cult, though seemingly respectful of God’s holiness—unattached to human flesh—was false and deceptive.
Any false teaching that undermines the Gospel teaching is from the “spirit” of the antichrist, not just what those false teachers taught. The ancient cult denied Jesus was human while a major modern cult today contaminates many denominational seminaries and theological schools, denying Jesus is God.
The appearance of many antichrists, even up to today, proves it is the last hour—the significant period before Jesus Christ returns and forms the new heavens and earth.
John and One Antichrist
Because John speaks much about these antichrists, some conclude that John denies the fact of one arch-Antichrist. However, this conclusion would be premature. John, in two ways, here affirms the coming of the evil one in Antichrist.
(1) The spirit of Antichrist
John states, “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus, is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3). The phrase “spirit of Antichrist” implies that one arch-Antichrist’s spirit influences others across the world and time to carry out his grand deceptive purposes. The Antichrist sponsors these false teachings, and though his schemes remain yet hidden, the devil is waiting for the right time to perch Antichrist on top of the world governments.
Proponents of false teachings operate by a false spirit from Satan, influencing them to varying degrees. Therefore, the presence of many antichrists does not preclude the existence of an Antichrist but instead proves his reality.
We can think of a similar situation when the Spirit of God came upon Old Testament prophets. God’s existence can be detected by the way He inspired His prophets. Satan, contrastingly, inspires the spirit of Antichrist which equally stirs up false teachers and antichrists through their easily observed deceptive and untrue character.
These four verses teach one arch-antichrist along with the fact that many antichrists were even then popping up in the early church period: “even now many antichrists have appeared.” Evil spirits influence antichrists; their mission as deceivers is to carry forth the deadening darkness of falsehood, even Gospel-denying teaching counter to sound doctrine. Like animal droppings, we know a dog or cat has been around by their waste, so it is with the Antichrist and his false teaching. But John makes an even more straightforward assertion of Antichrist’s coming.
(2) The Antichrist is coming
Pay careful attention to John’s statement, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming” (1 John 2:18). Do you see how John the Apostle stated, “That Antichrist is coming?” Don’t miss it! The early church heard it and was accepted as a doctrine by then.
You might wonder why John uses a small ‘a’ (antichrist), and I use a capital ‘A’ (Antichrist). In the end, it is up to the reader to capitalize or not, depending on the context. The original Greek manuscripts were composed of all capitals (i.e., Uncials).
I confidently capitalize this usage of Antichrist because John speaks of one Antichrist’s coming. True, the Greek does not have the article preceding it here—“the,” but equally clear uses a demonstrative pronoun—“that antichrist” (ὅτι ἀντίχριστος) to designate a certain understood entity, different from the antichrists, is still coming.
“The author of 1 Jn. can speak of the awareness of the community that antichrist will come, 2:18; 4:3. Antichrist is here a coming apocalyptic figure. This figure is connected with the opponent of God in Jewish apocalyptic…. The opponent of God increases his power and dominion on earth just before the apocalyptic end; he is then judged and destroyed.” (TDNT, Vol ix, p. 571).
The teaching of a coming Antichrist must have been so clear that John did not need to introduce or further clarify who he was. They already knew this, just like many understand the coming of Antichrist today.
Though John speaks of antichrists, he makes sure they remember that Antichrist is still coming for he will bring a more extraordinary wave of deception.
The spirit of antichrist actively works behind the scenes whenever a teacher uses false teaching to confuse and cover up the genuine Gospel. His main purpose is to deceive; the Antichrist uses people and false prophets to propagate his deceptive ideals, but one day he himself will come.
The spirit of antichrist proves that the arch-enemy, seen in one chief Antichrist, is still strategizing and biding his time until everything is set for his grand coming. (One might think of the magician who secretly prepares the set to conduct his dazzling magic tricks.)
The Book of Revelation and other passages from Paul teach that he is an incarnation of the devil and very deceptive, deceiving even the elect if it wasn’t for God’s grace. Jesus openly said, “For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (Mark 13:22). If this is true with a false prophet, surely Antichrist’s deception will be all the more devious.
The Bible’s General Theme of an Antichrist
There are legends and stories in the apocalyptic books about a coming Antichrist, not just in Christian literature but also in Jewish and Moslem teachings. However, we limit our discussion to carefully select the most relevant Old and New Testaments to see how the theme of an Antichrist grows until his full disclosure in the Book of Revelation.
Remember, though, no matter how terrifying and powerful Antichrist appears, God watches over all of His people. If you do not know Jesus, this work of the powerful Deceiver is good enough reason to fear your sin and call upon Jesus Christ to save you now.
The Old Testament Teachings on Antichrist
In the form of the serpent, Satan shows up early in the Garden of Eden to charmingly deceive and steal mankind’s allegiance for himself. They fell for his trick and listened to this deceiver rather than to their Maker.
The Antichrist seeks to become the King-Priest to counter Jesus Christ as the genuine King-Priest. So throughout the Old Testament, we see a large scattering of many, in and out of Judaism, world leaders who dominate the world governments and religions.
The Book of Daniel speaks of the demonic forces behind the world powers like Babylon and Persia, but later, starting in chapter 7, Daniel introduces a little horn “possessed eyes like the eyes of man and a mouth uttering great boasts” (Dan 7:8; 8:9).
After clear prophecies of Christ’s coming are made (Daniel 9:24-27), the theme of Antichrist becomes further described.
“So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah (literally Anointed One) the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (Daniel 9:25).
Right on the heals of this prophecy of Christ the Messiah comes the Antichrist. Note his descriptive work bringing desolation.
“And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (Daniel 2:27).
Are we to suppose, as many do, that the “he” in verse 27 “he will make a firm covenant” is the Antichrist? We should remember others see this “he” as pointing to the Messiah who would come and stop all sacrifices when He came to judge Jerusalem in 70 AD.
But even if this is true, verse 27 causes us to speculate on another one who would come and bring destruction (i.e., “makes desolate”). While some believers see this as a conclusive prediction of the Antichrist, others not so. But Daniel’s words on Antichrist importantly continue, such as in Daniel 11.
“34 Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. 35 Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time. 36 “Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all” (Daniel 11:34-37).
These passages point to the Antichrist. He exalts himself above all others, even god. History has confirmed how Antiochus Epiphanes (the little horn), to a degree, fulfilled this in history, but apocalyptic literature allows one to extend, if not merge, its meaning to depict the coming of a great Antichrist in the final times.
They appear correct in this interpretation as Daniel 12 continues to direct our thoughts to the very end of time and beyond, filled again with cryptic statements, and more importantly, helping to confirm our interpretation of chapter 9 and possible movements of Antichrist.
“11 From the time that the daily sacrifice is removed and the abomination that causes desolation is set in place, there are 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits and attains to the 1,335 days. 13 But you should go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will arise to receive what you have been allotted” (Daniel 12:11-13).
Summary of the Old Testament
The Old Testament strangely introduces the Antichrist. It’s hard to be convinced of Antichrist’s coming from the Old Testament. We should honestly state that any confidence in the theme of Antichrist in the Old Testament comes from the New. Be careful not to be too dogmatic on what are some very cryptic verses.
The New Testament Teachings on Antichrist
However, the New Testament will bring further clarification that made the coming of “that Antichrist” into commonly accepted teaching along with the second coming of Christ. Let’s glance over what the New Testament teaches.
The different schemes of eschatology (study of last times) admittedly influence what Christians think about an Antichrist, but we will glean directly from the Scriptures.
From our study of 1 John, we should, at the minimum, accept and guard ourselves against the coming of Antichrist—whatever form it takes. But let’s look at what Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John, in Revelation, say. Though I try to be representative, I acknowledge I am not introducing all the scriptures connected to Antichrist.
Jesus on Antichrist (Mark 13:14-27)
“20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christ’s and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance” (Mark 13:20-23).
Just as in Daniel, Jesus allows overlapping of historical events (i.e., destruction of Jerusalem and its horrific events) to merge into a collection of threats to the world, ending up with Christ’s return for His people (Mark 13:27). Jesus speaks of “false Christ’s and false prophets.” Though not using the term antichrists, Jesus, like John, uses a variant—false Messiahs (pseudo-Christs, ψευδόχριστοι) with very similar meaning.
Jesus leaves the subject open so that others will anticipate false christs and be warned rather than allowing them to get preoccupied with the coming of one Antichrist. Fostering ongoing alertness was precisely John’s point in his epistles. However, Jesus does say that the days will get more intense with the manifestation of evil, even assaulting the elect (Mark 13:20). The deception will increase, and therefore, all saints, everywhere, of each generation, need to pay heed lest they get caught up in the schemes of the evil one.
Paul on Antichrist (2 Thes 2:3-10)
“3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thes 2:3-4).
Paul joins others from previous generations to warn of an exceptionally deceptive period. The Thessalonian believers mistakenly thought that Jesus had already come the second time. Paul corrects them by establishing the coming of Antichrist as a sign of Christ’s soon return. The “it will not come” in verse 3 refers to verse 1, “with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.”
Paul links up some of Daniel’s esoteric language to identify this self-exalting “man of lawlessness.” The clarity on interpreting Daniel is affirmed by Paul’s own words here. Antiochus Epiphanes served as a pre-cursor to the evil one, just as some thought Hitler to be the Antichrist when pursuing the extinction of the Jews.
Paul does not use the term (A)antichrist, but directly alludes to Daniel 11 and the titles “man of lawlessness” and “son of destruction,” again depicting the early church’s beliefs. John summarized it by saying the community had a strong expectation that Antichrist would, at some time, flaunt himself above all by making himself visible and worshiped.
Peter and the Antichrist
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).
Peter, in his letters, does not speak of one Antichrist but many false prophets. John called false prophets antichrists, but Peter is content to speak of them as false teachers and prophets (2 Peter 2:1), focusing on the immediate challenge he and the church faced. As John mentioned, they would introduce heresies, denying Jesus Christ, but their end will be sure judgment, which we see John conclusively articulating in the Book of Revelation.
John and the Revelation
“Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3 I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast…?” (Rev 13:1-4)
The seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 look like what Peter, Paul, and John wrote of the early church. The Book of Revelation, however, steps into the last moments of the church on earth. The many false teachers retreat behind the scenes and join the other worshipers of the Beast—no doubt the Antichrist. The dragon (i.e., Satan) stands on the seashore, evidently, instrumental in raising the Beast from the sea with all the power of the earth, wearing ten crowns and matched with great, unsurpassed earthly powers. “The dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.”
So, though we do not see the word Antichrist used here or in Revelation, we see the personification of evil. The Dragon is likened to the serpent of old and so animates this beast, giving him all sorts of power and authority. (This no doubt is a person who controls the world governments.) I’ll return to this point in my follow-up article discussing whether we are now on the verge of this terrifying period.
Regardless of one’s eschatological bent, we ought to agree that a world figure, empowered by the devil, will have a voracious appetite for our devoted worship. The believers’ reluctance to worship will be the reason for him to make them his prey.
That worship will be directed towards the Beast (i.e., Antichrist), but it will reach the devil who, from his departure from God, lusted for mankind’s worship. “They worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast.” And so, our statement that the Beast is the incarnation of the devil seems to be accurate.
Before leaving Revelation, let us note that there appears to be another Antichrist—the second Beast.
“11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed” (Rev 13:11-12).
We have seen all along Satan’s manifestation in one arrogant person, seeking the worship of the world. This Beast is the Antichrist that John and the early church speaks. But who is this second Beast, the one which comes up out of the earth? Are there two Antichrists?
There is such a close intertwining of the two, that they appear to be one. I like Wilcock’s suggestion that the second Beast refers to Christendom’s compromised religious head (The Message of Revelation by Michael Wilcock, pp. 157-158). Note how he causes those on the earth to worship the first Beast. In Revelation 19:20, he is called the False Prophet, and so, perhaps, he is the leader of the apostatized Christian church.
“20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).
The Scripture works together to depict Antichrist as Satan’s incarnation, he who seeks and secures the world’s worship for a moment. Again, though there only be one Antichrist, they work together to decide God’s people. The second Beast, the False Prophet, makes the earth worship the first Beast! These two beasts (government and religious leader), then, together, attempt to undermine the true Christ, who is the king and priest.
I hope this study does not conclude your research into Antichrist in the Bible! There is so much more to discover, but, never get so preoccupied in the imposter that one loses focus on discovering the riches and glory of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let me conclude with John’s words in Revelation, briefly mentioning the final moments of Satan, Antichrist (beast), and false prophet before the commutation of their sentences to the everlasting Lake of Fire.
“And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20:10).
As time moves forward in the scriptures, we get a clearer picture of one Antichrist. At first, his spirit is submerged within powerful world leaders, but at the end of the world, when God’s redemptive program is about completed, Jesus, the King of Kings, allows the evil one to show his true hateful spirit towards God. It will be but for a brief moment. The devil will reveal himself in Antichrist, and the world will worship him until Jesus comes again, who will then, once for all, judge the devil, Antichrist (Beast), and the false prophet along with all his worshipers and the earth.
At no time are things out of God’s control; they are perfectly predicted; all come to fruition. This whole perspective strengthens the peace and resolve of believers everywhere to stay faithful to the end, despite the threats that antichrists and the Antichrist might bring.
Discussion Questions on the Antichrist
- Where does the term antichrist derive?
- What characterizes the Antichrist?
- Why do some Christians conclude that John speaks of many antichrists and false teachers rather than one?
- What two points does the author use to demonstrate that John and the early church still believe in the coming of an Antichrist?
- Though the Old Testament presents many prophecies of Christ’s coming, it also hints of a coming Antichrist. Identify the location(s).
- Did Jesus speak of an Antichrist? Explain.
- Why do you think we should assume Paul’s described “man of lawlessness” is the Antichrist?
- Why should we conclude that the first Beast is the Antichrist?
- Why do you think that God repeatedly warns His people to beware of the deception from antichrists and the Antichrist? Pray for protection from this deception.
- What might deceive and tempt you? Miracles? Power? Fear? Sex?
- State aloud your unreserved loyalty to God and Jesus Christ and your willingness to follow Him no matter what you might face.
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