A Literal ‘Antichrist’

An excerpt taken from my book Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord:

There is a broad and narrow sense of the term “antichrist.” The broad theological sense is defined by the apostle John, who writes, “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). 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). Thus for John there is now (at the present time) the spirit of antichrist, and in the future an embodiment of the Antichrist in a literal figure, not merely a symbolic one.

There is more evidence for a literal, personal Antichrist figure. 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” (Matt. 24:15). In Mark 13:14, the writer uses the masculine participle hestēkota (“standing”), which indicates that a person is in view. The apostle Paul also explicitly describes the Antichrist figure as a person.

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. 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, emphasis mine).

The early church believed that the Antichrist would be a literal person, as well. This is attested by the earliest Christian document outside of the New Testament called the Didache, “The Teaching” (pronounced DID-ah-kay). In chapter 16:4, it reads,

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. (emphasis mine). Michael W. Holmes, ed. and trans., Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd ed., electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007).

Both Scripture and the early church show clear evidence that the Antichrist will be a real person.



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