I use the term “Antichrist” since it the most common term to refer to the eschatological antagonist who will oppose God and his people just before the Lord returns. Biblical writers have used other terms to describe this figure, to name a few, “beast,” “little horn,” and “abomination of desolation.”
As a futurist, I believe the natural reading of Scripture intends a literal, personal manifestation of an Antichrist figure. In contrast, the presupposition held by historicists requires them to deny a literal Antichrist figure. They believe the Antichrist symbolically refers to a human institution or the principle of evil, which finds its fulfillment during the interadvental age (i.e, throughout church history, not just at the end of church history).
But the natural reading, in my judgment, demonstrates the Bible intends to convey a literal, personal, Antichrist figure. The following reasons are given to make this case:
1. There is a broad and narrow sense of the term “Antichrist.” The broad theological sense is defined by the apostle John writing, “Who is the liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the person who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). But a few verses earlier John prophesied of an eschatological Antichrist, “Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18).
So John recognizes an already-not-yet sense of Antichrist: “the antichrist is coming [not yet], so now many antichrists have appeared [already].” Two chapters later he restates this already-not-yet sense, “but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3).
So for John there is now the spirit of Antichrist, and in the future there will be an embodiment [i.e., literal, personal] Antichrist.
2. In Matthew 24:15, Jesus personifies the “abomination of desolation” that will be “standing” (histēmi) in the holy place: “So when you see the abomination of desolation—spoken about by Daniel the prophet—standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” (Matt 24:15). And Mark 13:14 uses the masculine participle hestēkota (“standing”), which indicates that a person is in view.
3. The apostle Paul explicitly describes the Antichrist figure as a personal figure:
“(3) Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. (4) He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God” (2 Thess 2:3–4).
How could Paul describe a personal Antichrist figure any more explicitly!
4. And for good measure, the early church interpreted Jesus’ teaching in terms of a literal, personal figure. Many church fathers could be given, but here is one of the most important from the first century:
“For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another. And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and will perform signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before.” (Didache 16:4).