As a teenager growing up in church in the 1980s, I saw a lot of focus on Jesus’ return. People would look at the events happening in the world and try to see how they fit on the prophetic calendar. They expected Jesus could come at any moment; many believed it would happen during that time (and I was one of them). One aspect of Bible prophecy which people especially focused on was trying to figure out who the antichrist was. There were all kinds of rationales and speculations about who he could be. I got caught up in some of the speculations. As I have matured in my faith, I no longer focus on figuring out who the antichrist is but on knowing what the Bible says about the antichrist. I would recommend you take this same mindset too. As you read this article, remember this one mandate. We should not spend our time looking for the coming of the antichrist. We should look for and be ready for the coming of Jesus Christ.
What Does the Word Antichrist Mean?
The word antichrist means either against Christ or instead of Christ. This word only appears in scripture four times. However, the antichrist gets defined by other names. As you look at the prophetic calendar, the Bible speaks about a period on the earth known as the tribulation. During this period, the antichrist becomes the dominant figure on the earth.
I want to make a distinction because when you learn about the antichrist, there are two aspects you must consider. The Bible refers to the spirit of the antichrist and the person of the antichrist. As we go forward, I will clarify this distinction.
Why Does John Say There Have Been Many Antichrists?
1 John 2:18 helps us both understand the spirit of the antichrist and the person of the antichrist. John says the antichrist is coming, which points to the person. However, he says many antichrists have come, which points to the spirit. Before the antichrist’s arrival, the spirit of being against Christ (or instead of Christ) will be present on the earth. It is present now. This has been happening since Christ came. Many carry this spirit with them. They are not the antichrist as in the person. However, they are against Christ and look for ways to remove or replace Christ. This spirit is present in our age and will remain even after the person of the antichrist is revealed.
Where Else Does the Bible Mention the Antichrist?
Here are a few verses where the Bible distinguishes between the spirit and the person of the antichrist.
The Spirit of the Antichrist
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 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.” (1 John 4:1-3)
“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.” (1 John 2:22)
“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.” (2 John 1:7)
If you want to dive deeper into understanding the spirit of the antichrist, you can refer to this article, 8 Things to Know about the Spirit of the Antichrist.
The Person of the Antichrist
You can find information about the person of the antichrist in Daniel. Among other things, Daniel describes the antichrist creating alliances, and “at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (Daniel 9:27).
There are two other passages I want to refer you to—one in 2 Thessalonians and the other in Revelation.
What Do We Know about the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians?
Second Thessalonians 2 gives us insight into this person known as the antichrist. I encourage you to read the chapter, but here are two verses I want to highlight.
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
In the End Times prophecy position I ascribe to, it’s believed the antichrist will be revealed after the church’s rapture of the church. In this passage, the antichrist is referred to as the man of lawlessness or the man of sin, which again speaks to him being a person. He will be revealed or released during this time of tribulation. He will bring destruction while also being subject to destruction. His reign will be short, but during this time, he will exalt himself and set himself up as God to be worshipped. He will be empowered by Satan and do his bidding, which means he will come to deceive and destroy. He will most likely be a leader who comes out of relative obscurity and presents himself as the world’s hope. Though he will present himself as a savior, he will operate in deception. He will use counterfeit displays of power, signs, wonders, and miracles. The purpose of these signs and wonders will be to deceive people and cause them to follow him. Read the full second chapter of 2 Thessalonians for more about these details.
What Do We Know about the Antichrist in Revelation?
The Bible also refers to the person of the antichrist in Revelation 13. Revelation 13:1-4 describes the antichrist as the beast that comes out of the sea. The sea represents a place of evil, wickedness, chaos, and resisting God. It also represents the Gentiles. The antichrist will be an evil, wicked, Gentile leader who stands to resist God. Satan will empower him, and he will even seem to have been killed and risen to life again, prompting many to follow him. His goal is for people to follow him instead of Christ, leading to their destruction along with his own. Again, read Revelation 13:1-10 for full details on the antichrist.
Final thoughts about the antichrist
When you think about the world today, one of the cries and hopes of the world is peace. The world is ripe and ready for a leader to step onto the stage and bring peace. The person who can apparently do that would immediately rise in stature. When the time is right, that person on the earth will be the antichrist. Though we know the true hope for the world is Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, many desire the antichrist.
I will end with the same mandate I gave at the beginning. While it is good to know information about the antichrist, we are not called to look for him. Don’t spend your time trying to figure out who he is or will be. Instead, let’s be busy doing our Father’s business (Luke 12:42-43) with our eyes fixed and hearts ready for Jesus Christ’s return.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
This article is part of our larger End Times Resource Library. Learn more about the rapture, the anti-christ, bible prophecy and the tribulation with articles that explain Biblical truths. You do not need to fear or worry about the future!