It is written:
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18)
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22)
“and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (1 John 4:3)
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” (2 John 1:7)
in our studies of Daniel 11:36-12:13, we have learned that many ancient writers refer to the person described in this text as “the antichrist.”
Likewise, many in our day and age refer to “the antichrist” who will come into the world before the Second Coming.
Are these descriptions accurate?
What exactly does the Bible teach us about “antichrist?”
Before we return to our study of Daniel 11:36-12:13, this seems like the proper time to investigate the Bible understanding of the word “antichrist.”
Is this biblically accurate?
The only times that the word “antichrist” are used are in the Epistles of John. I have listed all of the references here in this article.
What can we learn from them?
The Word “Antichrist”
The first thing to notice is that John speaks about “antichrist.” The word is a combination of the words “anti” and “Christ.” Christ, of course, has reference to the Messiah, the Chosen One of God, Jesus of Nazareth. But the word “anti” can have different meanings, depending on the context.
“IN this verse, we meet the conception of antichrist. Antichrist is a word which occurs in the New Testament only in John’s letters (1 John 2:22, 4:3; 2 John 7); but it is the expression of an idea which is as old as religion itself. From its derivation, antichrist can have two meanings. Anti is a Greek preposition which can mean either against or in place of. Stratēgos is the Greek word for a commander, and antistratēgos can mean either the hostile commander or the deputy commander. Antichrist can mean either the opponent of Christ or the one who seeks to put himself in the place of Christ. In this case, the meaning will come to the same thing – but with this difference. If we take the meaning to be the one who is opposed to Christ, the opposition is plain. If we take the meaning to be the one who seeks to put himself in the place of Christ, antichrist can be one who subtly tries to take the place of Christ from within the Church and the Christian community. The one will be an open opposition, the other a subtle infiltration. We need not choose between these meanings, for antichrist can act in either way.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters Of John And Jude, 68 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)
So, one who is “antichrist” who either opposes Jesus directly, or one who pretends to be the Christ.
The Singular Future Antichrist About Which The Christians Had Heard
Next, consider that John uses the word “antichrist” in both a future singular sense, and in a present plural sense.
“This term antichristos is found only in the epistles of John (2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7) and was likely coined by John himself.264 The term is unique, and it bears different nuances of meaning. It is singular and plural, personal and impersonal. “Antichrist” carries a similar meaning to terms used both in the Synoptics265 and Paul266 to describe the situation that would precede the return of Jesus to earth. The focus in this verse is not the antichrist (singular) but the antichrists (plural) that had arisen to tear apart the community.“ (Daniel L. Akin, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture Volume 38-1, 2, 3, John, 115 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)
The future singular idea (i.e., “the antichrist” who would be coming into the world) is the first thing which John stresses here. Indeed, is clear from the study of 1 John 2:18 that the Christians had heard that “the antichrist” was coming (in the future).
“Notice in 1 John 2:18 that John refers to antichrist (antichristos, singular) who is coming in the future and antichrists (antichristoi, plural) who are already present.6 John’s use of the singular for the Antichrist—in stark contrast to the plural antichrists—clearly denotes a single individual. By using both the singular and the plural, John teaches that the contemporary antichrists in his day, who were the false teachers, embodied the denying, deceiving spirit of the future Antichrist. They were forerunners of the final Antichrist, and powerful evidence that his spirit was already at work in the world.” (Mark Hitchcock & Larry Ice, The Truth Behind Left Behind, 115 (Kindle Edition); Sisters, Oklahoma; Multnomah Books)
The text does indeed speak of “the” antichrist. The definite article (“the) is present in the Textus Receptus (the Greek text underlying the KJV and NKJV).
παιδια εσχατη ωρα εστιν και καθως ηκουσατε οτι ο αντιχριστος ερχεται και νυν αντιχριστοι πολλοι γεγονασιν οθεν γινωσκομεν οτι εσχατη ωρα εστιν
It is also present in the other Greek texts, and in the Syriac translation (one of the oldest translations of the Greek New Testament, dating back to the late first century A.D.) as well.
1 John 2:18 (Syriac)-My children, it is the latter time; and as ye have heard that a false Messiah was to arise, so there are now many false Messiahs; and from this we know that it is the latter time.
Now, it is possible that the Christians had heard about “antichrist” from an unreliable source, and John was pointing out to them that there was not “an antichrist” who “was coming” into the world, but that there were actually “many antichrists” who “were already” in the world. Indeed, this used to be my personal belief.
However, upon further more in-depth investigation, at least three things argue against this interpretation.
First, a study of the use of the word “heard” in John shows that the events he is writing of which the recipients had previously “heard” were Divinely inspired, being from the Apostles themselves.
1 John 1:1-That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—
1 John 1:3-that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:5-This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
1 John 2:7-Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.
1 John 2:18-Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
1 John 2:24-Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
1 John 3:11-For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,
1 John 4:3-and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
Thus, the Christians to whom John was writing had “heard” from the Apostles of Jesus that “the antichrist” would be coming in the future.
Second, the Greek tenses of this passage seem to bear out this interpretation as well.
In his commentary on this passage, Gareth Reese makes this intriguing point:
“See on the word “heard” at 1 John 2:7. The aorist tense refers “to a definite point in their instruction in the faith.” Plummer, op. cit., p.107.” (Gareth Reese, New Testament Epistles: James, 1, 2, 3 John-A Critical And Exegetical Commentary, 720 footnote 7 (Nook Edition); Moberly, Missouri; Scripture Books LLC)
Going back to that text, Reese has this:
“The context speaks of “you have had” and “you have heard,” so “from the beginning” seems to point to the beginning of the readers’ Christian experience.7 The Gnostics were teaching new (neos) things; John was doing something exactly opposite. John’s instructions were as old as the gospel itself. He was reminding them of truths that had regularly been part of the Christian message. John affirms there never was a ‘gospel’ that did not have this command at its heart. If the Gnostics leave it out of their doctrine and lifestyle,their doctrine and lifestyle differs markedly from what the apostles taught, and that makes their doctrine to be in error!…Heard” says that the readers learned the gospel by oral instruction. John has changed verbs from “had” to “heard.” “Hearing” is how they came to “have” it. They have heard this commandment from the beginning of their instruction in Christian doctrine and lifestyle.” (Gareth Reese, New Testament Epistles: James, 1, 2, 3 John-A Critical And Exegetical Commentary, 657 (Nook Edition); Moberly, Missouri; Scripture Books LLC)
Third, the testimony of the early Christians outside of the apostolic age should be considered as especially relevant. Consider a few of their commentaries on the subject of antichrist:
“Once this Antichrist has devastated everything in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem. And then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.560.)
“The deceiver seeks to liken himself in all things to the Son of God. . . . Christ is a king, so the Antichrist is also a king. The Savior appeared as a lamb. So he, too, in like manner, will appear as a lamb, though within he is a wolf. The Savior came into the world in the circumcision, and the Antichrist will come in the same manner. The Lord sent apostles among all the nations, and he in like manner will send false apostles. The Savior gathered together the sheep that were scattered abroad. And he, in like manner, will bring together a people who are scattered abroad. . . . The Savior raised up and showed His holy flesh like a temple, and he will raise a temple of stone in Jerusalem.” (Hippolytus (c. 200, W), 5.206.)
The second century Christians definitely believed that John (and other passages of Scripture) indicate a powerful and wicked antichrist who will rise to power before the Second Coming of Christ.
When all these things are considered, I believe it is clear that Scripture teaches that there will be one great and terrible antichrist figure who will arise before the Second Coming.
Many Antichrists Since The First Century
It is also very clear from these passages that there were many antichrists around in John’s day. The Apostle specified that they were at one time Christians who have departed from the Apostolic truth and have embraced many heresies. He is surely speaking of the Gnostics who arose near the end of the first century and tried to combine pagan Greek religion with the teachings of Scripture. One of the results of this was the creation of several strange teachings about Jesus. Some taught that Christ was Divine and had a different personality then Jesus. Others taught that Jesus did not have a physical body since they embraced the Gnostic idea that everything material is evil and incapable of redemption (a teaching which sadly found its way into the Catholic church by means of Augustine and was later embraced by John Calvin).
These antichrists have existed since the apostolic age, and do even now flourish. These are all powerful indicators of “the antichrist” which will one day arise to full power.
Yet even this raises more questions for us.
While the Bible does teach that there will be a great and power antichrist to arise before the Second Coming, does this necessarily tie in with the personage described in Daniel 11:36-12:13?
Further, if so, what does Daniel teach us about this person?
Finally, how do Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38-39 apply?