Is the antichrist visible today in Iraq, or Africa, or China, or any of the terrorists in the Middle East? Many ideas are extant, some believing that a specific person matches the Scripture prophecy. What can we logically conclude from a study of Scripture?
The word “antichrist” occurs only in John’s letters in the New Testament (see 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). The word is derived from a combination of two Greek words, anti and Christos. Anti is a Greek preposition meaning “against.” Christos is the Greek word for “the anointed, i.e., the Messiah, an epithet of Jesus Christ” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Antichrist is literally anyone opposed to the Messiah, His teachings or His plan of action.
The term “antichrist” may imply, from its root words, either an opponent of Christ or one who seeks to put himself in the place of Christ. In this latter case, antichrist might be one who subtly tries to take the place of Christ from within the Church, or open opposition.
We do not see any reason to attempt to identify a specific person as the antichrist. All through history there have been individuals opposed to Christ, some quietly, some violently.
The “Last Hour” or “Last Days”
In 1 John 2, the elder begins by stating that “this is the last hour” (verse 18). Why? Because Jesus had come, and His coming was the fulfillment of some four thousand years of prophecy. In this perspective, the time between His first and second advents becomes the end time, or final age, a period of unknown length. The first verses of the book of Hebrews use the term in this sense: “God…has in these last days spoken to us by his Son.”
Other passages suggest that the “last days” is the final days of the period between Christ’s first and second advents (see 2 Tim. 3:1; Jas. 5:3; 2 Pet. 3:3).
The apostle John issues a warning to believers to remain steadfast against any opposition. John foresaw a great “sifting” in the Church, and his heartfelt warning is, “this is the last hour.” The true Church is not true unless it is united. And the true Church permits no heresy of delayed action discipleship.
What is the purpose of the symbol of the antichrist in such a context? It is a warning, always needed, always timely. In essence, the antichrist is any idea or person that denies or opposes Christ.
Antichrist = False Brothers
John’s passage adds another thought about the antichrist: that it may refer to false brethren from within the Church itself. The apostle Paul warned against the same problem (Acts 20:29-30). Every false idea, untrue belief, or spirit of error or heresy is really “antichrist.” Says John, “even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour…. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:18-19).
The fiercest opponents of Christianity have often been not its declared enemies but its false friends, those opposed because of petty jealousies, bitter differences, or general weariness in living the Christian life. They “go out” because they never really grasp the truth and power of the life that Christ came to show them. And in so doing they become the worst enemies of the cause.
“They went out” describes many modern believers whose faith has lapsed because their original commitment was too shallow or their loyalty was too weak. Contrast the costly demands Jesus imposed on those who would follow Him with the easy going, no-cost religion being marketed by many churches today.
The antichrist is the liar who denies that Jesus is the Christ, and in so doing denies the Father also. “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23). To oppose Christ is to oppose God and the whole Divine scheme, and can only end in disaster.