Who is Antichrist?
Issue No. 314
“Antichrist” is a word used only by one biblical writer. John writes of antichrist five times in two of his epistles. One of these times he writes it as a plural, “antichrists” and another time he refers to “the spirit of antichrist.” John seems to speak of antichrist as an end-time individual, but also as a group of people (“antichrists”) who have “the spirit of antichrist.” But since John himself defines the term for us, let us read 1 John 2:18-23,
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
John’s primary definition of antichrist is “the one who denies the Father and the Son.” He explains this, saying that the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ has not only denied the Son but the Father as well. One cannot claim to worship the Father if he rejects the Son. Jesus was the incarnation of the God of the Old Testament.
This statement appears to be specifically directed at the followers of Judaism who had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, and yet claimed to be worshipping the God of the Old Testament. John disagrees with them, saying, “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father.”
John also gives us certain evidences that help us to put the subject of antichrist into context. He tells us plainly in verse 18 that the fact that “many antichrists have arisen” is proof that “it is the last hour.” John understood that in the “last hour” there would be the rise of antichrist (singular) and antichrists (plural). If there were antichrists already in John’s day, how much more today—for we, too, believe that we are now living in the last hour (of the Pentecostal Age).
John further says that these antichrists had at one time been “of us.” The separation occurred when the religious leaders rejected the rightful Heir to the throne of David and induced the people to demand His crucifixion. In leaving the King, they left the tribe of Judah, starting their own tribe and unlawfully usurping the name Judah, or Jew.
John’s definition of the term “antichrist” would have been understood in his day to be directed at those who called themselves Judahites (“Jews”), claiming to worship the Father, but who had actually rejected the Father by rejecting the Son. John makes it clear that it is not possible to worship the Father while rejecting the Son. To contradict John’s inspired writing is to support the antichrist agenda.
The way John describes it, it is obvious he expected to see a greater manifestation of this return to Judaism in the last days. John says that “from this we know that it is the last hour.” In other words, “the last hour” is apparent when Christians returned to the Old Covenant practices of Judaism and supported the beliefs of the temple priests.
The book of Galatians is proof that Christians were already trying to return to Judaism, thinking that Jesus could be added to Judaism to create a perfect religion. Paul makes it clear that one cannot be under both Old and New Covenants at the same time. In Gal. 4:22-31 Paul shows that one cannot claim both Hagar and Sarah as one’s mother. These mothers represent the two covenants, and only the children of Sarah can be inheritors of the promises of God.
Hence, it was already “the last hour” in the first century. We today are in the last minutes, and we are again seeing the same problem of Christian Judaizers, although now they are called Christian Zionists.
The Literal Meaning of Antichrist
The Greek term, “antichrist,” is composed of two Greek words: anti and christos. In Matt. 2:22 we have an illustration of the meaning of anti. It reads,
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of [Greek: anti] his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
The word anti means “in place of” in the sense of someone replacing another. It is more than just acting on behalf of another, such as a vice president who acts on behalf of the president during his absence. The vice president would not dare to do anything that the absent president would not do, for if he presumed to do so, then the vice president would actually be a usurper.
The word anti, as applied in Matt. 2:22 above, means that Archelaus replaced his father Herod, who had died. If, on the other hand, Archelaus had overthrown his father Herod and then ruledJudea “in place of” his father Herod, men would say that he had usurped the throne unlawfully.
John uses the term “antichrist” in the sense that the Jewish leadership had usurped the throne of the true King, Jesus Christ. They were ruling “in place of” or anti-Christ. Unfortunately, the common people who continued to follow and support the usurpers were implicated in this on a secondary level. Unless they repented and accepted Jesus as the King, they remained the people of antichrist. They are not necessarily “bad” people—just unrepentant in their rejection of Jesus as Messiah.
This is why John describes the antichrist in terms of those who reject the King, denying that Jesus is the Messiah that the Father had sent to rule the earth.
Early Church Writers
Ignatius, bishop of Antiochin the first century, lived from 30-107 A.D. This makes him a contemporary of all the apostles, though he outlived John by about ten years. He was one who said that as a small child, he was one of the 500 who witnessed the risen Christ. He wrote a number of epistles, including one to the Church in the town of Magnesia. His Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter 10, reads,
“It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism.”
Again, Ignatius writes in Chapter 6 of his Epistle to the Philadelphians,
“If anyone preaches the one God of the law and the prophets, but denies Christ to be the Son of God, he is a liar, even as also is his father the devil, and is a Jew falsely so-called, being possessed of mere carnal circumcision.”
Ignatius shows his acquaintance with John’s teachings, not only about Judaism, but also he refers to John 8:44, where Jesus said to the Jews who rejected Him, “You are of your father, the devil.” Likewise, when Ignatius refers to “a Jew falsely so-called,” it is apparent that he is referring to Rom. 2:28, 29, where Paul says,
28 For he is NOT a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise [Judah means “praise”] is not from men, but from God.
John agrees, saying in Rev. 2:9,
9 I know . . . the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
So we see that Paul and Ignatius not only reject Judaism, but also put a great gulf between Judaism and Christianity. John calls Judaism “the synagogue of Satan.” Both Paul and Ignatius also plainly believed that those who rejected Jesus, for all their claims, are not the true Judahites (Jews) at all. They are only Jews “falsely so-called.” These are strong words, and they make manifest the great wedge between the good figs and the evil figs.
The Two Fig Trees
One of the most important signs of Christ and antichrist is found in Jeremiah 24. In that chapter the prophet goes to the temple and sees two baskets of figs, each brought by a different farmer as a first-fruits offering.
This became an occasion of divine revelation. God said that the good figs were those men of Judah who submitted to the judgment of God against the nation. These submitted to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, recognizing him as the one to whom God had given authority to rule.
The evil figs, on the other hand, were those who refused to submit to God’s judgment and decided instead to fight against Babylon.
This same difference in attitude was seen again in Jesus’ day. Many did not want to submit to the beast nation of their day (Rome), though God had spoken through Daniel that the “iron” kingdom of Rome would receive divine authority to rule. Jesus, however, preached peace toward Rome, following the command of the prophet.
The Judean nation produced many “messiahs” trying to deliver them from Rome, but each time the weight of oppression only got worse as those false “messiahs” were executed. After the nation’s rejection of Jesus, the Jewish leaders began to manifest the “evil fig” mindset more and more, until finally, Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
In essence, the Christians who followed Jesus were the “good figs” of their day. The majority of the others were the “evil figs,” yet they fought to the bitter end, thinking God would come and save them at the last minute.
It is the same today. The evil figs still rule the state of “Israel,” and they are of the opinion that Jerusalem will be the capital of the Kingdom in the Age to come. But Paul says that Jerusalem is Hagar, not Sarah, and the Christian solution is to “cast out the bondwoman and her son” (Gal. 4:31). Christian Zionists who side with the Israeli leaders against God are acting as Judas, the betrayer of Christ.
Absalom Usurps the Throne of David
One of the most important Old Testament stories is found in 2 Samuel 15-18. It tells how Absalom usurped the throne of David with the help of Ahithophel, who was David’s friend and counselor. The New Testament reran this story with new players on the scene. Jesus played the part of David. Judas played the part of Ahithophel. The high priest played the role of Absalom.
In the original story, Ahithophel hanged himself shortly after his betrayal of David (2 Sam. 17:23), even as Judas also hanged himself (Matt. 27:5). Later, when the apostles met to decide upon Judas’ replacement, Peter identified Judas as the one fulfilling the role of Ahithophel, saying in Acts 1:16,
16 Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus… 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it;” and “his office let another man take.”
Peter quoted two passages which David had written about Ahithophel, the first from Psalm 69:25 and the second from Psalm 109:8. There are other psalms he might have quoted, such as Psalm 41:9,
9 Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Peter’s insight shows that he had come to understand Judas’ role in his connection to Ahithophel. That alone shows us that Jesus was David, and that the high priest was Absalom in the rerun of this prophetic story.
In the end, as David returned to reclaim His throne, Absalom was killed (2 Sam. 18:15). What does this tell us about the Zionists today? Will they be promoted to Christ’s cabinet as “chosen people”? Will the antichrist be given the throne to rule with Christ? I do not think so.
Casting away the Man of Sin
Paul speaks of two entities in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, the man of sin (or lawlessness) and the son of perdition,
3 Let no man in any way deceive you; for it will not come unless the apostasy [apostasia, “casting away’] comes first, and the man of lawlessness [anomia] be revealed [apokaluphthe, “unveiled”], the son of destruction [“perdition”], 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
Paul spoke of this event as taking place in the future. He links it to the “day of the Lord,” which, Paul says, will not take place until the apostasia first takes place and the man of lawlessness is exposed, who has usurped the throne of Christ in the temple.
But the word apostasia literally means “a casting away,” not a “falling away,” as if someone passively fell. We see this in Acts 21:21, where Paul was accused of teaching the people to reject or “forsake” (apostasia) Moses. The word means to “cast away” (reject) Moses. Paul denied the charges, for he had only forsaken the Old Covenant, not the law of God that was given through Moses. But the point is that the word apostasia means to reject or cast away.
2 Thess. 2:3 says that the “man of lawlessness” must be cast away, or dislodged from the throne in the temple that he has usurped from Christ. The conflict in the New Testament was over the right to rule in God’s throne. Jesus came as the Son of David, the One anointed as Christ to claim the throne. However, the man of lawlessness—that is, the religious leaders themselves—had killed the King and had usurped the throne for themselves. (See Matt. 21:38.) Jesus said in Matt. 23:2, “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.”
The Son of Perdition
Judas supported the Jewish leaders and betrayed Jesus. Judas is thus called “the son of perdition” in John 17:12. The “son of destruction” in 2 Thess. 2:3 is also a reference to Judas. He is the disciple who betrayed Jesus by helping the men of lawlessness kill the King and usurp the throne. In Acts 2:23 Peter says in his Pentecostal sermon,
23 this man [Jesus], delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless [anomos, “lawless”] men and put Him to death.
This same Greek word anomos (“lawless”) is used again in 2 Thess. 2:8, where Paul says that “the lawless one will be revealed” or unveiled by Christ’s coming.
I do not know why the NASB (quoted above) used the term “godless” instead of lawless. Their mistranslation makes little sense. The Greek word for “godless” is atheos. This word is used in Eph. 2:12, where it speaks of the “gentiles” as “having no hope and without God [atheos, “godless”] in the world.” On the other hand, the Greek word anomos comes from the word nomos, which means law. The “a” makes it negative, “lawless.”
The role of the “son of destruction” is no longer played by a single individual such as Judas. It is today a role played by “friends” of Jesus (i.e., Christians) who support those who usurped Christ’s throne. The difference today is that these same usurpers have now usurped the Birthright name, Israel, which Jacob gave to Joseph’s sons in Gen. 48:16. Judas is now found in Christian Zionism, for it supports the Jewish claim to Joseph’s Birthright by using the name Israel in the name of that state.
Likewise, most Christian prophecy teachers today see the rise of antichrist as really a new thing, with very little biblical precedent. They generally do not see (or choose to ignore) the story of Absalom and Ahithophel and how this was a prophetic allegory of the New Testament events. Very few understand how these things have been repeated in the twentieth century with the rise of Zionism and the “State of Israel.” For this reason, much of Church teaching has misled the people into becoming one with Judas, betraying their Friend and Master.
So Paul was drawing upon his knowledge of the events in Jerusalem surrounding Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion when he penned the letter to the Thessalonian Church. He saw the man of lawlessness as a corporate body of evil figs led by the chief priests of the temple.
Paul saw the son of destruction, or son of perdition, as Judas, the betrayer who helped them usurp the throne and the dominion mandate from Jesus, the rightful King. John said that they had originally believed in Christ but had gone back to Judaism (1 John 2:19), thus forsaking Christ and the New Covenant. The book of Galatians spoke of this in greater detail, showing how the Judaization of the Church was a big problem in the first century.
Exposure and Destruction of Antichrist
Paul says this in 2 Thess. 2: 7, 8,
7 The mystery of lawlessness is already at work, only He [God] who now restrains [the evil figs] will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 And then that lawless one will be revealed [“unveiled”] whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.
Paul is saying that the evil figs who have usurped the throne of God in His temple will be exposed, revealed, or “taken out of the way” at the time of Christ’s second appearance. I believe this refers to the final destruction of Jerusalem as prophesied in Jer. 19:11.
Is this the downfall of the antichrist? Yes, of course it is, but it refers specifically to the leaders of Zionist Jewry who lawlessly usurped the throne of David and the Birthright of Joseph.
Many are expecting a “rapture” to remove the Church from the earth at the beginning, middle, or end of a seven-year tribulation. During this tribulation, they say, The Antichrist will appear as a world leader and will set up his headquarters in a newly-rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. We show in our book, The Laws of the Second Coming, that the concept of the “rapture” needs to be re-defined in terms of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is NOT an escape from the earth, but a transformation of the body. The overcomers who fulfill this feast will have the ability to do as Jesus did after His resurrection. They will be able to “travel” freely between heaven and earth, first teaching people on earth and then ministering to the Father in heaven.
Whether or not a single Jewish leader will emerge as the Antichrist or not, we must wait and see. It makes little difference, though. The important thing to know is that the entire evil fig tree deserves no Christian support, either financial or political. For the Scriptures to be fulfilled, the lawless ones had to usurp the dominion and fruitfulness mandates, but we ought to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and be willing, if necessary, to live with David in the wilderness, rather than in a usurped palace under Absalom.
At this end of the Pentecostal Age, we are presented with a choice that is similar to that which was given to the people of Jesus’ day. Let us make the right decision, choosing to follow Christ, rather than antichrist.