The Spirit of Antichrist
The Antichrist is viewed as a political tyrant intent on world domination in many interpretations. Whether this proves to be true, Jesus and his Apostles expressed more concern about the deceivers who will ply their trade in the Assembly. Where the term Antichrist is found, it is applied to false teachers who were infiltrating the Body of Christ, distorting apostolic teachings, and raising false expectations about the future. The “Spirit of the Antichrist” manifests itself in deceivers, false prophets, and their deceptive activities.
The only New Testament author to employ the term “antichrist” is John in his first two letters. In them, he warns: “It is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.”
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John did not deny that an individual and final “antichrist” will come, but in the meantime, many “antichrists” already were penetrating the church and deceiving followers of Jesus - (1 John 2:18-22).
The Greek term commonly translated as “antichrist” is a compound formed with the noun christos (“anointed”) and the preposition anti. The latter denotes “instead of” rather than “against.” Thus, an “antichrist” is someone or something that attempts to replace or counterfeit the true Jesus. The “antichrists,” plural, to whom John refers are those who, “Went out from us, but they were not of us… But they went out that it might be plain that they all are not of us.”
Moreover, he admonished his congregations to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” and he warned of “the spirit of the antichrist of which you heard that it is coming, and now, it is already in the world.” The “antichrists” of immediate concern were the false teachers disrupting John’s congregations, NOT national, military, or political leaders of the larger world- (2 John 7).
Similarly, the Apostle Paul warned of the coming “Man of Lawlessness.” His concern was about a future individual with the ability to deceive the Elect, including the use of “signs and wonders,” thereby causing the abandonment of their faith.
Thus, Paul warned the Assembly in Thessalonica to “let no one in any way deceive you.” He then pinpointed the event when this figure will be unveiled for who and what he is – When he “seats himself in the Sanctuary of God,” a description that is more religious in tone than political.
Elsewhere, Paul uses the term “Sanctuary” or naos metaphorically for the Body of Christ, the church, the “Assembly” - (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).
Furthermore, he links the “Man of Lawlessness” to the final “Apostasy.” When he is revealed, his activities will be “in accord with those of Satan,” and this will include “lying signs and wonders” intended to deceive believers:
- “…With all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness” -(2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
BEASTS AND DECEIVERS
In the Book of Revelation, after his failed attempt to destroy the messianic “Son,” the “Great Red Dragon” departed to “wage war against those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ” - (Revelation 12:17).
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Likewise, the “Beast from the Sea” was authorized to wage “war” against the “saints and to overcome them.” In both images, Satan persecutes the saints, and his earthly agent, the “Beast,” is the instrument for doing so - (Revelation 13:6-10).
Whether this “Beast” is a world leader or not, the Devil’s purpose is to use him to destroy the Church, not to foment wars between nation-states - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7).
In the seven letters to the “Assemblies of Asia,” Satan attacks the congregations with persecution AND deception, and far more often with the latter. Consistently, the Devil and his servants conduct warfare against the “Lamb” by attacking anyone who follows him - (Revelation 2:10, 2:18-29).
In his 'Olivet Discourse,' Jesus began with a dire warning about coming deceivers hellbent on deceiving the very “elect of God”:
- “Beware lest anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and deceive many … and many will fall away… and many false prophets will arise and deceive many… False anointed ones and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect” - (Matthew 24:4-23).
False prophets strive to hoodwink the disciples of Jesus, not to deceive an already deceived world that lies already “in the lap of the Wicked One.” Furthermore, warnings of this kind TO THE CHURCH are common in the New Testament - (1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Peter 2:1-2).
In the end, the “Antichrist” may prove to be a global political leader. However, considering the New Testament warnings, we should not be surprised if this creature appears first in the Church where he works to deceive the “Elect.”