Does the Bible refer to only one antichrist? 1 John 2:18: “Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” 2 John 7: “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.” (Notice that the “many antichrists” of 1 John 2:18 are here referred to collectively as “the antichrist.”)
Is the coming of the antichrist reserved for some future time? 1 John 4:3: “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.” (That was written near the end of the first century C.E.) 1 John 2:18: “Even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” (By “last hour” John evidently meant the end of the apostolic period. The other apostles had died, and John himself was very old.)
Some of those identified as antichrist— Persons who deny that Jesus is truly the Messi 1 John 2:22: “Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ [or, Messiah, anointed one]? This is the antichrist.”
All who deny that Jesus is the unique Son of God 1 John 2:22: “This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son.” Compare John 10:36; Luke 9:35.
Apostates 1 John 2:18, 19: “There have come to be many antichrists . . . They went out from us, but they were not of our sort.”
Those who oppose Christ’s true followers John 15:20, 21: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also . . . But they will do all these things against you on account of my name.”
Individuals and nations that oppose Christ as King or that themselves falsely claim the Messianic role Ps. 2:2: “The kings of earth take their stand and high officials themselves have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one [Christ, or Messiah].” See also Revelation 17:3, 12-14; 19:11-21. Matt. 24:24: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” http://www.watchtower.org/e/20061201/article_01.htm
- Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985 (1989) WTB&TS
What characteristics identify apostates as distinct from true Christians?
An apostasy among professed Christians was foretold by the apostle Paul at 2Thessalonians 2:3. He specifically mentioned certain apostates, such as Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus. (1Ti 1:19, 20; 2Ti 2:16-19) Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of faith (Heb 3:12), lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Heb 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2Pe 2:15-22), the heeding of the “counterfeit words” of false teachers and “misleading inspired utterances” (2Pe 2:1-3; 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 2:16-19; compare Pr 11:9), and trying “to be declared righteous by means of law” (Ga 5:2-4). While still making profession of faith in God’s Word, apostates may forsake his service by treating lightly the preaching and teaching work that he assigned to followers of Jesus Christ. (Lu 6:46; Mt 24:14; 28:19, 20) They may also claim to serve God but reject his representatives, his visible organization, and then turn to ‘beating’ their former associates to hinder their work. (Jude 8, 11; Nu 16:19-21; Mt 24:45-51) Apostates often seek to make others their followers. (Ac 20:30; 2Pe 2:1, 3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the “antichrist.” (1Jo 2:18, 19) As with the apostate Israelites, destruction is likewise foretold for apostates from the Christian congregation.—2Pe 2:1; Heb 6:4-8
During the period of persecution that the early Christian congregation experienced at the hands of the Roman Empire, professed Christians were at times induced to deny their Christian discipleship, and those who did so were required to signify their apostasy by making an incense offering before some pagan god or by openly blaspheming the name of Christ.
It is evident that there is a distinction between a ‘falling’ due to weakness and the ‘falling away’ that constitutes apostasy. The latter implies a definite and willful withdrawal from the path of righteousness. (1Jo 3:4-8; 5:16, 17) Whatever its apparent basis, whether intellectual, moral, or spiritual, it constitutes a rebellion against God and a rejection of his Word of truth.—2Th 2:3, 4
The Bible’s Viewpoint Who Is the Antichrist?
“YOU HAVE HEARD THAT ANTICHRIST IS COMING.”—1 JOHN 2:18.
IF YOU were warned that a dangerous criminal was seen heading toward your neighborhood, what would you do? You would likely search out accurate details about his appearance and methods. You would be on the alert.
A similar situation exists today. We have been warned by the apostle John’s words: “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) Is there such an antichrist, an enemy of God and deceiver of men, now threatening the well-being of all humanity?
John used the term “antichrist” five times in two of his epistles. It refers to an entity that opposes what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ and includes impostors who present themselves as Christ or as sent by him. The Bible gives reliable information about the antichrist. But as sometimes happens with felons, unfounded reports regarding this enigmatic entity have received more notice than the truth.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
Since the days of the apostle John, men have claimed that John’s words about an antichrist designate one specific individual. People have proposed various candidates. Centuries ago many thought that Roman Emperor Nero was the antichrist. Later, the flood of hatred and terror let loose by Adolf Hitler convinced many that he was the antichrist. The term was even applied to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Yet others believe that the antichrist is still to come and that he will appear as a shrewd, ruthless politician who is out to rule the world. They believe that the wild beast of Revelation chapter 13 is a specific reference to the antichrist mentioned by John. They say that its mark of 666 will somehow identify this future champion of wickedness.
Those promoting these ideas assume that John pointed to just one antichrist. But what do his words show? Consider 1 John 2:18: “Just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists.” Yes, “many antichrists,” not one, were responsible for the spiritually troubled situation back in the first century. Today there are, not one, but many antichrists who form the antichrist class. Collectively, they have heaped spiritual ruin upon mankind. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) Who make up the antichrist?
Let us look at the wild beast of Revelation chapter 13 as a possibility. The apostle John wrote: “The wild beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were as those of a bear, and its mouth was as a lion’s mouth.” (Revelation 13:2) What do these elements signify?
Bible scholars have noted a connection between Revelation chapter 13 and Daniel chapter 7. God gave Daniel a vision of figurative beasts, including a leopard, a bear, and a lion. (Daniel 7:2-6) What meaning did God’s prophet assign to them? He wrote that those wild animals symbolized earthly kings, or governments. (Daniel 7:17) So we can logically conclude that the wild beast of Revelation represents human governments. Since these governments oppose God’s Kingdom, they constitute a part of the antichrist.
Who Else Make Up the Antichrist?
When the Christ, the Son of God, walked the earth, he had many enemies. Although he is now beyond physical reach, he has modern-day opponents. Note who are included among them.
The apostle John stated: “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) Apostates and leaders of false worship twist the clear teachings of Jesus into knots of religious deceit. Such ones reject Bible truth and spread lies in the name of God and Christ. They deny the true relationship of the Father and the Son by their Trinity doctrine. Therefore, they too are a part of the antichrist.
Jesus forewarned his disciples at Luke 21:12: “People will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons . . . for the sake of my name.” Since the first century, true Christians have endured savage persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) Fomenters of such treatment work against Christ. They too are a component of the antichrist.
“He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23) Here Jesus proclaims that all who oppose him and the divine purposes he supports fall into the category of the antichrist. What end awaits these?
What Awaits Antichrists?
“[God] will destroy those speaking a lie. A man of bloodshed and deception Jehovah detests,” says Psalm 5:6. Does this apply to antichrists? Yes. The apostle 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.” (2 John 7) For their lies and deception, Almighty God will bring ruin upon antichrists.
As the time of executing that sentence draws near, true Christians must not allow anti-Christian deceit and pressure, especially from apostates, to weaken their faith. John’s warning is urgent: “Look out for yourselves, that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward.”—2 John 8.
- August 8, 2001 Awake, WTB&TS