Many people were opposed to Christ during His life on earth. As He said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters .” Mat 12:30 and Lk 11:23. He enlarged on that by including His followers in that rejection of Him, Mar 9:40 “ For he who is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:40. We see that opposition to Jesus continuing right through His ministry on earth. Eventually those who were against Him, were able to have Him put to death. We note though, that the opposition against His cause continued, as His followers were persecuted after His death. His followers have been persecuted throughout human history. They are being persecuted today. They will be persecuted tomorrow and way into the future. Why is that so, in this so-called loving, inclusive, tolerant society?
We get one answer from the record of St Paul’s encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Saul of Tarsus [as he was called at the time] became the great persecutor of the church and was on the way to Damascus to imprison even more believers. The risen Jesus spoke to him as he was journeying and challenged him with these words, Acts 9:4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” In persecuting the disciples of Jesus, he was in fact persecuting Christ Himself. Jesus responded to Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord?” by replying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Acts 9:5. To persecute His followers was in fact to persecute Christ.
Such people were against Christ or were anti-Christ. The word “antichrist” comes from combining the word “anti, αντι” with the word “Christ, χριστος” to make the one word “antichristos, αντιχριστος”. There are many people in today’s world who wonder whether we are seeing the Antichrist in all that is happening around the world. Some wonder whether terrorism directed particularly again the followers of Christ, stems from this influence. Others wonder whether the increasing violence we see on University campuses and in public meetings when conservative speakers are scheduled to speak, also comes from this influence. Others see the Antifa and other violent groups as possibly a manifestation of this influence.
Who or what is the antichrist? The antichrist appears to be the spirit or spiritual attitude at work in those who do not give God the Father or God the Son, their rightful place in their lives. We note the following in the Bible.
1). There were individuals who were called the “antichrist” in the Bible
The apostle John wrote that the antichrist is every person who deceives others by denying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Such people are liars who deceive people by denying the incarnation of Jesus
- 1Jn 2:22 “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.” As Jesus said, to reject Him as God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, was to reject the Father who had sent Him. Their denial of Jesus as the Messiah who had come into the world, was a lie. It was the opposite to the truth revealed in Jesus’ incarnation.
- 2Jn 1:7 “I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” John repeats what he wrote in his first epistle, that each individual who denies the incarnation of Jesus is the antichrist who deceives.
2). John also sees the antichrist as a spirit [the spirit of antichrist] at work in and through people. Such a spirit is not from God and denies the incarnation of Christ.
- 1Jn 4:3 But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” John saw that the antichrist was at work in the world of his day. The antichrist was characterised by the denial of Jesus as the Christ [God’s long-promised Messiah] who had become incarnate in the world.
- However, John encouraged believers by affirming that they were on the victory side and that the One who indwelt them by His Spirit was greater than the powers of darkness at work in the world and through people not committed to God. The believers had victory through Him. 1Jn 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
- John warned his believing readers that because the “antichrist” people were not committed to God, they were of the world and not of God. As such they did not have true spiritual understanding and saw things only from the standpoint of the world. 1Jn 4:5 “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”
- The apostle John saw the people in the world as either belonging to God, or not belonging to God [1Jn 2:23 “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”] Believers were now in the light and no longer remained in the darkness. [John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”] Believers were no longer condemned in the sight of God, [Joh 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”]
- It is no wonder that the (unbelieving) world listens to such deniers of Jesus. They talk the same language with the same darkened understanding having never been enlightened by coming to the light to be able to believe. They have been blinded by the god of this world, as Jesus said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” John 12:40. Or as Paul wrote, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Cor 4:4.
- Those who don’t belong God have darkened understandings, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Eph 4:8. It is sad but true that unbelievers cannot understand the spiritual truths understood by those who have committed themselves to Christ.
3). Such antichrist people do not commit to the people of God
John wrote about the antichrist in the singular and in the plural. He said that at this last hour the antichrist [singular] would come, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming.” 1 John 2:18. But then he added that there had been a number of antichrists [plural] who had come already, “Even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” In one sense, we are living in the last hour or in the last days between Jesus’ first coming [with its attendant death, resurrection and ascension, His sitting down at the right hand of God and His sending the gift of the Holy Spirit on all who believe] and His second coming in glory.
He also added that one characteristic of the antichrists who had already come was that they did not stay within the Christian community. They really did not belong to the people of God. Many had come into the Christian fellowship but had moved away from it, as he explained, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 2:19. True believers would have remained in fellowship with the community of faith. Their withdrawal showed they were not true believers.
4). Such antichrist people have no desire to listen to God or to the Spirit of truth speaking through God’s people. They are characterised by falsehood.
John makes a strong contrast. The people of God listen to true believers like himself. But the antichrist people do not listen to true believers, “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” This unwillingness by the antichrist people to listen to faithful believers showed the difference between truth and falsehood, “This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” 1Jn 4:6.
We see an example of this in Act 7:51 where Stephen challenged his hearers with these words, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” Shortly after, they demonstrated their hard heartedness as they tried to silence him by rushing him whilst covering their ears in order to avoid hearing his words, Act 7:57 “But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.” It is unfortunately true in our world today that if opponents to the Christian message cannot silence the message, they try to silence the messengers by denigrating their integrity, or by issuing threats or by bullying and intimidation. In some cultures, murder is the ultimate weapon used to bring silence.
The above are the references to the term “antichrist” in the New Testament. It would be tempting to go on and compare these verses with similar passages in Daniel where someone is mentioned as opposing the Lord and His anointed. Or to compare Paul’s mentions of the “man of sin” and the “lawless one” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 8 or passages in Revelation. However we will leave that for another time.
It seems from what we have looked at above, that the spirit of antichrist can work through those who are opposed to Christ [“anti Christ”] in any way. They can become an agent of the antichrist even as Peter became an agent of Satan by trying to stop Jesus going to the cross, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mat 16:22-23. What seemed to be genuine concern on the part of Peter was counter-productive to the cause of Christ.
Could that be happening in today’s world? Could there be those who are opposing the purpose of God because they are blinded to spiritual realities and are seeing things only from a human perspective? Could there be those who think they are serving God by trying to silence opinions that they disagree with? Could the spirit of antichrist influence people in today’s world?
Only God truly knows! But it is a mark of Christian love to question why there are those who seem to want to mock and even silence traditional church teaching and replace it with another gospel. How could that happen in the world of today? How might the spirit of antichrist or the antichrist attitude be seen today where some appear to be against Christ or anti Christ in what they are saying?
People appear to be anti Christ or opposed to Christ in the following ways.
- When they deny that Jesus was God’s agent in creation. The Bible teaches that He was the Creator of the universe. Col 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” To deny that truth is to be anti Christ!
- When they arrogantly think they can “save the planet” whilst ignoring Jesus as THE sustainer of the whole universe. As believers in our Creator-Redeemer-Saviour, we see ourselves as stewards of what He has given us. That means we are motivated to care for His creation [including humans] as best we can. We are not movers and shakers who think we can control the world apart from Him. To deny that He is the sustainer of the universe is to be anti Christ!
- When they deny that Jesus was and is the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners. To deny that truth is to be anti Christ!
- When they deny that Jesus died on a cross to bear the penalty for the sin of the world. For such people to teach that such a truth is ugly or unpalatable is an affront to Him and a denigration of His sacrificial death. To fail to appreciate His sacrificial death for sinners is to be anti Christ!
- When they suggest that humans are basically good, whereas Jesus said we are evil by nature but can be transformed by His power. Mat 15:18 “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” To teach the opposite of what Jesus said, is to be anti Christ!
- When they deny that He is the only Saviour, and teach that there are other ways to God in addition to Jesus. Jesus clearly taught, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Jn 14:6. To teach there are other ways to God is to be anti Christ!
- When people say that Jesus’ teaching is no longer relevant today, is to be anti Christ!
- When people ignore His teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jesus went back to the origin and purpose of marriage when He said in Mat 19:4-6, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” To teach that marriage can be between people of the same sex, is to be anti Christ!
- When people deny that there will be a future judgment by Jesus, is to deny what Jesus said, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” Jn 5:22. To deny what He affirmed about judgment is to be anti Christ!
Summing up, it can be said there appears to be little indication in the verses we have looked at regarding the Antichrist that such a figure will appear at the last days. That may be because the spirit of antichrist is always present in every generation when people become “anti Christ” in their attitudes and beliefs.
One of the saddest things I see happening in the world today is that there are many folk who are desperately trying to be as loving and accepting and as tolerant as they can possibly be, who may caught in the same dilemma Peter faced above in Matthew 16. Here is the situation. Peter had been the recipient of a wonderful revelation from heaven, namely that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah or Christ. In answer to Jesus’ question about who people thought Him to be, Peter had blurted out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mat 16:16. Jesus accepted that title and told Peter that this truth didn’t come from human reasoning. Rather it had been a revelation from God Himself, “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’” Mat 16:17. What a privilege Peter had been given. He was the first among the disciples to verbalise this truth about Jesus that He was indeed the Messiah.
Now comes the dilemma. Jesus told them about the future. His future. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” How would Peter respond? He responded with grace and courtesy. He took Jesus aside privately. He wanted to rebuke Him, but not publicly, “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’” Mat 16:22. Peter was going to make sure that such a tragedy would never happen to His friend Jesus.
Was Jesus impressed with Peter’s declaration of loyalty? Let’s see! “But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mat 16:23. Peter had at one moment been a spokesman from God in declaring that Jesus was the Christ. Moments later as he responded in what seemed to be human love and compassion, he had inadvertently become a spokesman for Satan. How? In tempting Jesus to depart from the will of God for Him by avoiding the cross. Peter’s apparent love and compassion had been misplaced. He had got it right in proclaiming the person of Jesus. But he had got it very wrong in trying to divert Jesus from His God-given role as the Messiah, to suffer for sinners.
The will of God is described in the scriptures. It is what God wants, not necessarily what we want. We want others to be happy and fulfilled. But it has to be in accord with the plan and purpose of God for His creatures. No matter how much we admire, love and respect those wanting to be joined in same-sex marriages, such a relationship is not part of God’s purpose for His creatures according to the Bible. In fact as we have seen in previous articles, same-sex activity is contrary to His purpose and will. Not just same-sex marriage but same-sex activity! To encourage same sex couples to marry [even by voting ‘Yes’ in the plebiscite], would seem to be a loving thing to do in the eyes of some people. But if same sex activity is contrary to the will of God then encouraging the acceptance of such relationships as marriage is not a loving act but could be seen as a cruel one! How cruel it may be for anyone to encourage another person to contravene the will of God for any purpose whatsoever! Christian love [agape] seeks the best interests of all people everywhere at all times. It means telling the [gospel] truth at all times and not seeking to win support for ourselves by seeming to be loving, accepting and tolerant but in fact being unwise, unloving and dare I say it, anti Christ!
There has to come a time in the lives of all of us when we repent of all sin and commit ourselves to do the will of God, no matter what. There is no ultimate joy and fulfilment is acting outside the will of God. To affirm something as lovely when God Almighty calls it something entirely different is not only unwise. It is also unloving. True fulfilment for us as humans, is ceasing in every way by our words and deeds to be anti Christ and humbling ourselves to believe in Him, to trust in Him and to obey Him, in all things. And in a loving way, to encourage others to do the same. To His glory! And for the benefit of all humankind!
Blog No.243. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 28th September 2017