Why is it so that this guy, the so called Antichrist often occupy Christians?
Over the years this subject over whom he might be, could easily fill an ocean with movies, books, articles, teachings, sermons and speculations. This was now again the case when UN had its latest conference, and speculations that Antichrist is pulling the threads in the background to establish his global government came up amongst Christians, questioned by Stefan Swärd in his blog, rightfully so, after he wrote an article about it in Världen idag. But also same week a friend asked me about a new Indian prophet that claims God has told him who Antichrist is, 4 years back!
Martin Luther meant it was the pope that lived during his lifetime, and then people have appointed him out to be Muhammed, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and even Obama. I asked in a FB thread, whom it might be, and not a single one could agree on the same person, why I asked them to make up their mind and decide now who it was 🙂
It is not wrong to search the scripture, trying to understand what might happen in the future based on a sincere longing for Gods Kingdom to be established, but all these speculations is taking the focus from our mission to share the gospel of the Kingdom with all people, and is a result, as I have posted earlier, of an eschatology that is born out of the Futuristic view of the book of Revelation, that can lead to an escapism away from our mission, to fill this earth with His Glory.
Again, the way to approach difficult texts in the bible, is to ask the questions: what did it mean “there and then” and to “whom did the text adress”. Basically what is the exegetic understanding?
Did you know that Antichrist as a definition is only mentioned in 4 verses in the epistles of John. He is not mentioned, in the old testament, nor by Jesus and not in the book of Revelation.However, Futuristic interpretations claim that Antichrist is the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 – “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction…”and the beast in Revelation 13 – “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads…” and the one that stops the offerings in Daniel 9:27 – “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” And finally referred to in Matthew 24:15 –“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place let the reader understand”.
Let´s try to exegete each text, if we can come to another understanding or not. Let´s start with the letters of John.
1 John 2 – 18 “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”
1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already”.
2 John 17 – “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
- It is the last hour – back then, not now!
- Many antichrists have come – Plurals.
- Went out from us – members of the church.
- He who denies the Father and Son as God.
- Every spirit that denies Jesus coming in the flesh – Gnosticism.
- Now is in the world already – back then.
- Such a one – Meaning everyone holding that position.
Just based on these verses, we understand that it is one or more persons, coming out from the church there and then, believing in a different gospel, Jesus not being God and not coming in the flesh. But at the same time it is also a spirit.
This is the reason why John in his gospel starts with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” As you can see, it relates not at all to any beast or the man of Lawlessness.
Lets then look at 2 Thessalonians 2 – “3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
Important when we read this scripture is to understand as per “When” this man of lawlessness should enter the scene.
- what is restraining him now – not our time, but their time;
- already at work – their time;
- he who now restrains him – again, then in their time.
Paul also told the Thessalonians “you know what restrains him…” meaning, this was not some odd person far away in the future, but someone that they have talked about, happening around them in their time. Note that Paul died about year 68 AD, so it had to be someone close to that time period.
So who was this man of lawlessness then?
Both John Chrysostom and Augustine believed it was Nero the emperor. Others claim he was John Lewi a Zealot leader who was trying to overthrow the Roman government. Another interesting explanation claims it is the carnal man within us all. I would not be suprised if it was Nero, but I do not really know. My point though is that it most probably was someone living back then, that the Thessalonians knew who it was, and that it is neither Antichrist or the beast that John is talking about in his writings.
I understand that this view does not fit with today’s need of a conspiracy amongst Christians in the west to have a common enemy, but my sincere longing is that we need to have a correct exegesis as our today understanding will determine how we see the Advancing Kingdom as something now that we work for or something to come that we wait for.
I will further try to outline Daniel 9 and Revelation 13 in next part of this post. Until then Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere!