(Gr., an·tiʹkhri·stos) [against or instead of Christ].
This expression, singular and plural, occurs five times, all of them in two of John’s epistles.
The subject was not new among the Christians when John wrote his letters (about 98 C.E.). 1 John 2:18 states: “Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” John’s statement shows that there are many individual antichrists, though all together they may form a composite person designated “the antichrist.” (2 John 7) The use of the expression “hour” as referring to a period of time, either relatively brief or of undetermined length, is exemplified in other writings of John. (See John 2:4; 4:21-23; 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27.) He thus does not restrict the appearance, existence and activity of such antichrist to some future time only but shows it as then present and due to continue on.—1 John 4:3.
Although there has been much effort in the past to identify the “antichrist” with an individual, such as Pompey, Nero or Mohammed (this latter person being suggested by Pope Innocent III in 1213 C.E.), or with a specific organization, as in the Protestant view of the “antichrist” as applying to the papacy, John’s inspired statements show the term to be broad in its application, embracing all those who deny that “Jesus is the Christ,” and who deny that Jesus is the Son of God who came “in the flesh.”—1 John 2:22; 4:2, 3; 2 John 7; compare John 8:42, 48, 49; 9:22.
Denial of Jesus as the Christ and as the Son of God of necessity embraces the denial of any or all of the Scriptural teachings concerning him: his origin, his place in God’s arrangement, his fulfillment of the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures as the promised Messiah, his ministry and teachings and prophecies, as well as any opposition to or efforts to replace him in his position as God’s appointed High Priest and King. This is evident from other texts, which, while not using the term “antichrist,” express essentially the same idea. Thus, Jesus stated: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23) 2 John 7 shows that such ones might act as deceivers, and hence the “antichrist” would include those who are “false Christs” and “false prophets,” as well as those who perform powerful works in Jesus’ name and yet are classed by him as “workers of lawlessness.”—Matt. 24:24; 7:15, 22, 23.
In view of Jesus’ rule that what is done to his true followers is done to him (Matt. 25:40, 45; Acts 9:5), the term must include those who persecute such ones, including the symbolic “Babylon the Great,” and those described as the “evil slave” in Jesus’ parable.—Luke 21:12; Rev. 17:5, 6; Matt. 24:48-51.
John specifically mentions apostates as among those of the antichrist by referring to those who “went out from us,” abandoning the Christian congregation. (1 John 2:18, 19) It therefore includes the “man of lawlessness” or “son of destruction” described by Paul, as well as the “false teachers” Peter denounces for forming destructive sects and who “disown even the owner that bought them.”—2 Thess. 2:3-5; 2 Pet. 2:1.
In all the above cases those composing the antichrist are shown to be headed for eventual destruction as a recompense for their opposing course.—See MAN OF LAWLESSNESS.