Identifying the Antichrist
Who or what is the antichrist—a person, an organization or merely an evil principle? When did the antichrist first appear, what are the characteristics of antichrist, and what will mark the end of antichrist?
THE term antichrist has been applied to various persons, organizations and teachings. Some called the dissolute and murderous Roman emperor Nero, who so cruelly persecuted Christians and is believed to have caused the death of the apostle Paul, antichrist. Others applied the term to Domitian, who banished the apostle John to the isle of Patmos. Some termed Mohammed the antichrist, while many of the reformers, such as the Waldenses, the Hussites and the Lollards, applied the term to the papacy.
Higher criticism today discredits the reality God’s Word gives to the antichrist. Thus Harper’s Bible Dictionary (1952), under the heading “Antichrist,” states: “The concept of a conflict between the forces of good and evil appeared in a very early Babylonian myth, became a dominant part of Persian thought, and made its way into Jewish beliefs and Christian doctrine concerning the Second Advent.” However, those having faith in the Bible as God’s Word do not trace the antichrist to a Babylonian myth but to the garden of Eden where God said that he would put enmity between the seed of his organization, “the woman,” and that of the serpent, Satan the Devil.—Gen. 3:15.
The term “antichrist(s)” is found but five times in the Bible and only in the writings of the apostle John. Identifying the antichrist of his day, John wrote: “Many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” And also further identifying the antichrist: “Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist.”—2 John 7; 1 John 2:22, 18, NW.
Jesus foretold the coming of antichrist: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” And so did the apostle Paul: “Let no one seduce you in any manner, because [the day of Jehovah] will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.” Like John, Paul showed that “the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work,” in his day, and that it was “according to the operation of Satan.”—Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:3, 7, 9, NW.
ANTICHRIST IN A TWOFOLD SENSE
Before we can properly identify the antichrist, however, it is necessary that we first properly identify Christ. Just who was Christ? Christ, like its Hebrew equivalent, Messiah, means “anointed one.” It calls to mind the high priests and kings of the nation of Israel who were anointed with a specially prepared oil to serve in their official capacities as representatives of Jehovah God. The prophet Daniel had foretold the coming of the Anointed One, and the apostle Peter identified him as Jesus, saying to him: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”—Matt. 16:16, NW; Dan. 9:25.
It appears that “antichrist” has a twofold meaning. As its name indicates, it is anti or opposed to Christ. And it also has the thought of false or pseudo Christ, in the place or stead of Christ. While, as we have seen, some have attempted to apply the term to a certain individual, or organization, the foregoing scriptures, together with the physical facts, indicate that all persons, organizations or groups that falsely claim to represent Christ, that arrogate to themselves the Messianic role or that oppose Christ and his followers can properly be termed antichrists, even as Jesus said: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Matt. 12:30, NW) Interesting in this connection is the observation made by McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopædia that “the just conclusion seems to be that Antichrist is not to be confined to any single person or power, but is essentially a great principle or system of falsehood having various manifestations, forms of working and degrees.”
Incidentally, let it be noted that the truth regarding the antichrist is not mere milk but is solid spiritual food; strong meat that can be assimilated fully only by those who have advanced to maturity, only by “those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Heb. 5:13, 14, NW.
Christ Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in a unique way, distinctive from all other humans. Said he: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” “I am God’s Son.” And God himself repeatedly bore testimony to the same, as at the Jordan when Jesus was baptized, and when Jesus and three of his apostles were on the mount of transfiguration.—John 8:58; 3:13; 10:36, NW; Matt. 3:17; 17:5.
It follows that all who deny this claim of Christ Jesus, be they devotees of Oriental religions, atheists, deists or agnostics, are antichrists. Regarding all such, Christians are warned that they “cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons,” and that there is no harmony between Christ and Belial. (1 Cor. 10:21; 2 Cor. 6:15, NW) Included also would be all professed Christian clergymen who say, as did one Boston, Massachusetts, Congregational minister: “I make bold to say that Jesus claims nothing for himself that is not universally true of the ideal or divine nature inherent in all of us,” and that Jesus was no more a son of God than were such pagan philosophers as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.
Further, since all those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh are antichrists, it follows that all who claim that Jesus was incarnated, merely clothed with flesh, are antichrists, for such deny that Jesus actually came in the flesh. Plainly we are told that “the Word became flesh,” and that he was “produced out of a woman.” Had he been merely incarnated he could have dispensed with a human mother. And had he been both human and divine upon the earth he would not have hungered after fasting, nor would he have needed rest after a journey or after a strenuous day; neither could he have died as man’s ransomer, for what is divine is immortal.—John 1:14; Gal. 4:4, NW.
Others identify themselves as antichrists by their denying Jesus’ office as Ransomer and High Priest. John the Baptist termed Jesus “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus himself said that he came “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” John tells us that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Peter states that Christians were ransomed “with precious blood,” “even Christ’s.” And Paul’s letters are replete with references to Christ’s sacrificial merit, such as, “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved.” Yes, even the Hebrew prophets foretold that Jesus would bear the sins of many.—John 1:29; Matt. 20:28; 1 John 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rom. 5:8, 9, NW; Isa. 53:12.
Yet in spite of the fact that God’s Word so magnifies the atoning work of Christ, many professed clergymen of Christendom deny that the blood of Christ has any saving power. Thus one Denver, Colorado, Baptist clergyman said, at the turn of the century, that the teaching of the atonement is “repugnant to the moral sense,” that “strictly speaking, the death of Christ was not necessary to human salvation,” and that “the Bible nowhere says that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believers.” Certainly all who subscribe to such theories are antichrists, even though they may claim to be Christian ministers.
Further, all professed Christians who have apostatized, who exalt themselves, who manifest the spirit of rebellion or who show hatred to their Christian brothers are properly termed antichrists. Regarding such Paul said: “Oppressive wolves will enter in among you . . . and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” He also referred to such as “the man of lawlessness,” “the son of destruction,” who “is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god.” Jesus foretold that in our day some of his professed followers would beat their fellow slaves and eat and drink with the drunken, and called such the “evil slave.” The facts show that all such antichrists have manifested themselves, for much false doctrine is being taught in the name of Christianity, there is much self-exaltation and creature worship and there is much ill will manifested toward sincere followers of Christ by some who profess to be their brothers.—Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thess. 2:3, 4; Matt. 24:48-51, NW.
Just as there are religious antichrists there also are political antichrists. Among such is godless communism. It also is one of the “false Christs” that Jesus foretold would come and deceive many. How so?
Communism is an antichrist in that it seeks to supplant Christ and his kingdom as earth’s rightful Ruler and mankind’s only Hope. Thus we are told that “it is the Messianic character of Communism that gives it dynamic power to command allegiance.” Its leaders such as Lenin and Stalin have been not only idolized but deified, termed saviors and the ones chosen by God to lead their people.
Then, too, Jesus, in his illustration of the sheep and the goats stated that whatever had been done to his followers had been done to him, which fact he also called to the attention of Saul of Tarsus when that one was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians. Since all Communist lands bitterly persecute Christ’s true followers, they are in fact persecuting Christ and therefore are antichrists.—Matt. 25:40; Acts 9:5.
Not that the spirit of antichrist is limited to Communist lands, for, even as Jesus foretold, his followers today are being hated by all nations. In fact, what is true of communism’s being the antichrist is also true of the United Nations. It also, even as was its predecessor, the League of Nations, is being given a Messianic role to play by the clergy of Christendom, as the world’s savior, its only hope and the only light, whereas the Bible plainly shows that in Christ shall the nations hope and that he is mankind’s Savior and the Light of the world. The United Nations therefore also is an antichrist.
Jesus referred to this scheme of modern man in his great prophecy as “the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place.” It is disgusting in God’s sight because all that is “lofty among men is a disgusting thing in God’s sight.” In that it presumes to stand in the place that should be occupied by God’s kingdom it stands in a holy place where it ought not to stand. Truly it also is an antichrist.—Matt. 24:15, 16, NW.
The apostle John had a prophetic vision of the final form of this antichrist: “And I caught sight of a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored wild beast that was full of blasphemous names and that had seven heads and ten horns. The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is destined to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.”—Rev. 17:3, 8, NW.
In this vision we see Babylonish religion pictured as a wicked woman, even as the true Christian congregation is represented in the Scriptures as a chaste virgin. The numbers seven and ten, denoting completeness, indicate that this beast represents all the nations of the world that are united for the purpose of accomplishing what only God’s kingdom can accomplish. As the League of Nations, this beast “was” from 1920 to 1939; it was not during World War II, from 1939 to 1945; after which time it ascended out of the abyss as the United Nations organization. At Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” it is destined to go off to destruction.
And in that religious leaders in the United States hail their land as one with a Messianic mission, it also becomes a manifestation of the antichrist. And concerning the end of all modern-day manifestations of the antichrist the apostle John wrote: “And the wild beast was caught, and along with it the false prophet that performed in front of it the signs with which he misled those who received the mark of the wild beast and those who render worship to its image. While still alive, they both were hurled into the fiery lake that burns with sulphur.”—Rev. 19:20, NW.
Thus we see, in summing up, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of Jehovah God, God’s High Priest and earth’s rightful Ruler, and that all who set themselves in opposition to him or who presume to take his place as the ruler of the world and the one to bring lasting peace, are antichrists. Since the destiny of all who comprise the antichrist is destruction at Armageddon, it follows that all who would escape that end must separate themselves from antichrist. The way to do that is to heed the prophetic command: “Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Zeph. 2:3, AS.
The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of Jehovah; and what manner of wisdom is in them?—Jer. 8:9, AS.