The Antichrist Exposed
HOW would you protect yourself if you knew that a deadly epidemic was raging in your area? You would likely build up your immune system and stay away from people who are contagious. We must do the same in a spiritual sense. The Scriptures tell us that the antichrist “is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3) If we want to escape “infection,” we must identify the “carriers” and avoid them. Thankfully, the Bible sheds considerable light on the subject.
“Antichrist” means “against (or instead of) Christ.” So in its broadest sense, the term refers to all who oppose or lyingly claim to be the Christ or his representatives. Jesus himself said: “He that is not on my side is against me [or is antichrist], and he that does not gather with me scatters.”—Luke 11:23.
Of course, John wrote about the antichrist over 60 years after Jesus died and was resurrected to heaven. Hence, the antichrist’s activities must be understood in the light of how they affect Jesus’ loyal followers on earth.—Matthew 25:40, 45.
The Antichrist Is Anti-Christian
Jesus warned his followers that the world in general would hate them. He said: “People will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name. And many false prophets will arise and mislead many.”—Matthew 24:9, 11.
Because Jesus’ disciples are persecuted “on account of [Jesus’] name,” the persecutors are clearly antichrist, against Christ. The “false prophets,” some of whom were once Christians, are also in that category. (2 John 7) These “many antichrists,” wrote John, “went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us.”—1 John 2:18, 19.
The words of both Jesus and John plainly indicate that the antichrist is not a single person but is made up of many individual antichrists. Moreover, because they are false prophets, one of their main objectives is religious deception. What are some of their devices?
Spreading Religious Lies
The apostle Paul warned his fellow worker Timothy to beware of the teachings of apostates, such as Hymenaeus and Philetus, whose “word will spread like gangrene.” Paul added: “These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:16-18) Apparently, Hymenaeus and Philetus taught that the resurrection was a symbolic one and that Christians had already been resurrected in a spiritual sense. Granted, becoming a genuine disciple of Jesus brings one to life from God’s standpoint, which Paul himself plainly stated. (Ephesians 2:1-5) Nevertheless, the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus disregarded Jesus’ promise of a literal resurrection of the dead under God’s Kingdom rule.—John 5:28, 29.
Ideas of a purely symbolic resurrection were later developed by a group called Gnostics. Believing that knowledge (gnoʹsis in Greek) could be derived in a mystical way, Gnostics combined apostate Christianity with Greek philosophy and Oriental mysticism. For instance, they held that all physical matter is evil, and for that reason, Jesus did not come in the flesh but only seemed to have a human body—a belief called Docetism. As we have seen, this is precisely what the apostle John had warned against.—1 John 4:2, 3; 2 John 7.
Another fabrication, concocted centuries later, is the doctrine of the so-called holy Trinity, which makes the assertion that Jesus is both Almighty God and the Son of God. In his book The Church of the First Three Centuries, Dr. Alvan Lamson states that the doctrine of the Trinity “had its origin in a source entirely foreign from that of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; that it grew up, and was ingrafted on Christianity, through the hands of the Platonizing Fathers.” Who were these “Platonizing Fathers”? They were apostate clerics who were infatuated with the teachings of pagan Greek philosopher Plato.
The engrafting of the Trinity was a masterstroke of the antichrist, for this doctrine shrouded God in mystery and blurred his relationship with the Son. (John 14:28; 15:10; Colossians 1:15) Just think, how can one “draw close to God,” as encouraged by the Scriptures, if God is a mystery?—James 4:8.
Adding to the confusion, many Bible translators have taken God’s name, Jehovah, out of their translations, even though it occurs over 7,000 times in the original text! Clearly, attempting to turn the Almighty into not just a mystery but a nameless mystery is an act of gross disrespect for our Creator and his inspired Word. (Revelation 22:18, 19) Furthermore, replacing the divine name with such titles as Lord and God is a violation of Jesus’ model prayer, which says in part: “Thy name be hallowed [or, made holy].”—Matthew 6:9, The New English Bible.
Antichrists Reject God’s Kingdom
Antichrists have become particularly active during “the last days,” the time in which we now live. (2 Timothy 3:1) A key objective of these modern-day deceivers is to mislead people in regard to Jesus’ role as King of God’s Kingdom, a heavenly government that will soon rule over the entire earth.—Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15.
For example, some religious leaders preach that God’s Kingdom is a condition in the heart of men, a view that finds no basis in the Scriptures. (Daniel 2:44) Others claim that Christ works through human governments and institutions. Yet, Jesus stated: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) Indeed, Satan, not Christ, is “the ruler of the world” and “the god of this system of things.” (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4) This explains why Jesus will soon eliminate all human governments and become earth’s sole Ruler. (Psalm 2:2, 6-9; Revelation 19:11-21) People pray for this outcome when they recite the Lord’s Prayer, saying: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth.”—Matthew 6:10, King James Version.
Because they support the political systems of the world, many religious leaders have opposed, even persecuted, those who proclaim the truth about God’s Kingdom. Interestingly, the Bible book of Revelation mentions a symbolic harlot—“Babylon the Great”—who is “drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” (Revelation 17:4-6) She also practices spiritual harlotry by lending her support to earth’s “kings,” or political rulers, receiving favors in return. This symbolic woman is none other than the false religions of the world. She is a major part of the antichrist.—Revelation 18:2, 3; James 4:4.
The Antichrist ‘Tickles Ears’
Besides rejecting Bible truth, many so-called Christians have renounced Bible standards of conduct in favor of popular morality. God’s Word foretold this development, saying: “There will be a period of time when they [people professing to serve God] will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled.” (2 Timothy 4:3) These religious frauds are also described as “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” The Bible goes on to say: “Their end shall be according to their works.”—2 Corinthians 11:13-15.
Their works include “loose conduct,” which is a brazen disregard for high moral principles. (2 Peter 2:1-3, 12-14) Do we not see an increasing number of religious leaders and their followers adopting—or at least condoning—unchristian practices, such as homosexuality and sex outside of marriage? Please take a moment to compare these widely accepted views and lifestyles with what the Bible states at Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Hebrews 13:4; and Jude 7.
“Test the Inspired Expressions”
In view of the foregoing, we should heed the apostle John’s words not to take our religious beliefs lightly or for granted. “Do not believe every inspired expression,” he warns, “but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.”—1 John 4:1.
Consider the good example of certain “noble-minded” people who lived in the city of Beroea in the first century. They “received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things [spoken by Paul and Silas] were so.” (Acts 17:10, 11) Yes, while eager to learn, the Beroeans made sure that what they heard and accepted was firmly rooted in the Scriptures.
Today, too, genuine Christians are not influenced by the ebb and flow of popular views but cling firmly to Bible truth. Wrote the apostle Paul: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment.”—Philippians 1:9.
If you have not already done so, make it your aim to acquire “accurate knowledge and full discernment” by learning what the Bible really teaches. Those who imitate the Beroeans are not deceived by the “counterfeit words” of antichrists. (2 Peter 2:3) Instead, they are set free by the spiritual truth of the real Christ and his true followers.—John 8:32, 36.
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WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE ANTICHRIST
“Young children, it is the last hour [evidently the end of the apostolic period], and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists.”—1 John 2:18.
“Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son.”—1 John 2:22.
“Every inspired expression that does not confess Jesus does not originate with God. Furthermore, this is the antichrist’s inspired expression which you have heard was coming, and now it is already in the world.”—1 John 4:3.
“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.”—2 John 7.
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A DECEIVER WITH MANY FACES
The word “antichrist” applies to all who deny what the Bible says about Jesus Christ, all who oppose his Kingdom, and all who mistreat his followers. It also includes individuals, organizations, and nations that falsely claim to represent Christ or that improperly ascribe to themselves the role of Messiah by presumptuously promising to achieve that which only Christ can do—bring about true peace and security.
Augustine: ©SuperStock/age fotostock
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Like the Beroeans, we should ‘examine the Scriptures daily’