Antichrists in the Church

In popular interpretations, the Antichrist is viewed as a political tyrant intent on world domination. Whether this proves to be true, Jesus and his Apostles expressed more concern about the false teachers who ply their trade in the assembly. In passages that use the term Antichrist, it is applied in the PLURAL number to false teachers who infiltrate the church and distort the apostolic teachings, especially those concerning the Son of God. Thus the “Spirit of Antichrist” manifests itself in the church through deceivers and deception.

The only New Testament author to employ the term “antichrist” is John in his first two letters. In them, he warns that “it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.”

John does not deny that an individual and final “antichrist” will come, but in the meantime, many “antichrists” already are penetrating the church and deceiving many followers of Jesus - (1 John 2:18-22).

Church Pew - Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
[Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash]

The Greek term commonly translated as “
antichrist” is a compound formed with the noun christos (“anointed”) and the preposition anti. The latter denotes “instead of” rather than “against.” Thus, an “antichrist” is someone or something that attempts to replace or counterfeit the true Christ. And the “antichrists,” PLURAL, to whom John refers are those who—:

  • Went out from us, but they were not of us… But they went out that it might be plain that they all are not of us.”

Moreover, he admonishes his churches to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” and he warns of “the SPIRIT OF THE ANTICHRIST of which you heard that it is coming, and now, it is already in the world.”

The “antichrists” of immediate concern in the Letter are false teachers in John’s congregations, NOT national, military, or political leaders of the larger world- (2 John 7).

The term “antichrist” does not appear in the Book of Revelation. While John may view the coming antichrist” as identical to Revelation's Beast from the Sea,” there is no direct literary link between them.

Like John’s “Spirit of Antichrist,” the Apostle Paul warns of the coming “Man of Lawlessness” and the “Mystery of Lawlessness” that already is working to bring this figure onto the scene. Paul’s concern is about a future individual with the ability to deceive Christians, including the use of “signs and wonders,” and thereby cause their “apostasy” – (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12).


Thus, Paul warns the church in Thessalonica to “let no one in any way deceive you.” He then pinpoints the event when this figure will be unveiled for who and what he is – When he “seats himself in the Sanctuary of God,” a description that is more religious in tone than political.

Elsewhere in his letters, Paul uses the term “Sanctuary” or naos metaphorically for the Body of Christ, the church - (2 Thessalonians 2:1- 12, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Furthermore, he links the “Man of Lawlessness” to the final “Apostasy.” When he is revealed, his activities will be “in accord with those of Satan,” and this will include “lying signs and wonders” intended to deceive believers--:

  • “…With all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth but took pleasure in wickedness” -(2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).


In the Book of Revelation, after his failed attempt to destroy the messianic “Son,” the “Great Red Dragon” departed to “wage war against those who have THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST” - (Revelation 12:17).

Likewise, the “Beast from the sea” was authorized to wage “war” against the “saints and to overcome them.” In both images, Satan persecutes the saints, and his earthly agent, the “Beast,” is the instrument for doing so - (Revelation 13:6-10).

Whether this “Beast” is a world leader or not, the Devil’s purpose is to use him to destroy the church, not to foment wars between nation-states - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7).

In the seven letters to the “churches of Asia,” Satan attacks the congregations with persecution AND deception, in fact, far more often with the latter. Consistently, the Devil and his servants conduct warfare against the “Lamb” by attacking anyone who follows him - (Revelation 2:10, 2:18-29).

In his 'Olivet Discourse,' Jesus began with a dire warning about coming deceivers who would be intent on deceiving the very “elect of God” - “Beware lest anyone deceive you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and deceive many … and many will fall away… and many false prophets will arise and deceive many… False anointed ones and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect” - (Matthew 24:4-23).

False prophets work to hoodwink disciples of Jesus, not to deceive an already deceived world that lies “in the lap of the Wicked One.” Furthermore, warnings of this kind are common in the New Testament - (1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Peter 2:1-2).

In the end, the “Antichrist” may prove to be a global political leader.  However, considering the warnings in the New Testament, we should not be surprised if this creature appears first within the Church hellbent on deceiving the “elect.” Already, many “antichrists” are working to mislead and victimize as many believers as possible, and to derail the church from its mission.


Destruction of Babylon

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