Antichrist

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Antichrist

(ăn`tĭkrīst), in Christian belief, a person who will represent on earth the powers of evil by opposing the Christ, glorifying himself, and causing many to leave the faith. He will be destroyed by Jesus at the time of the Second Coming. 1 John 2.18–22; 4.3; 2 John 7; and Rev. 13. Similar ideas are expressed in Judaism (e.g., Ezek. 38.1–39.29) and in Zoroastrianism. Christians have often identified enemies of their faith with the Antichrist; e.g., with early Christians it was Nero, with some Protestants the pope.
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Engraving entitled “The Reign of Antichrist” by Michael Volgemuth from Liber Chronicarum, 1493. Fortean Picture Library.

Antichrist

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

For all the coverage in movies, television shows, books, and sermons, the Antichrist gets surprisingly little space in the Christian New Testament. Popular conservative theology paints a detailed picture of the mysterious being who will appear at the end of time to mimic and challenge Jesus Christ before his Second Coming. Antichrist is "the man of sin" who, along with his sidekick, "the false prophet," will rule over a tenkingdom federation of nations that will introduce worldwide governmental control, forcing all who wish to "buy and sell" to receive "the mark of the beast" on their hand or forehead. His mystical number is 666. Although he will eventually be destroyed at the battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ, many conservative students of prophecy believe he will first deceive the nations of the earth. This deception will occur during the seven-year period of Tribulation following the Rapture, or "snatching away," of the faithful who are still living "at the sound of the trumpet" of God. Following their disappearance, the Antichrist will deceive the nations, causing three and a half years of peace, followed by three and a half years of deception and warfare called the Great Tribulation. Then Christ will return at the Second Coming and destroy him, along with the false prophet. Satan, the power behind Antichrist, will be imprisoned for a thousand years. This is the Millennium, during which the earth will be recycled for use during a time of peace, when "the lamb will lay down with the lion and a little child will lead them." Although his destruction is predetermined, Satan will be given a brief period of time to live following his release. But, along with the Antichrist and his false prophet, the devil is doomed to failure.

This view of coming attractions begins with only four verses in the Bible, all found in 1 and 2 John, in which the Antichrist is depicted as a "spirit [that] shall come." This spirit will "deny the Father... and is a deceiver." John even says, "there are many antichrists."

These verses are the only ones in which the word "antichrist" appears in Christian scripture. The rest of the story comes from interpretations based on differing opinions coaxed out of the book of Revelation, perhaps the most disputed book in the New Testament.

Although he wasn't the first, Hal Lindsey was perhaps the most popular modern exponent of Antichrist lore. His book The Late Great Planet Earth, first published in the 1970s, sold millions of copies and led the way for the best-selling "Left Behind" series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins that occupied the top of the fiction charts beginning in the mid-1990s.

Antichrist lore is a modern phenomenon. There is no tradition of antichrist legend, except for the occasional labeling of perceived enemies as "antichrist" when disagreements arose. Martin Luther, for instance, called the Pope "antichrist."

This fact does not deter modern writers. They point to Daniel 12:9, which says, "these things will be sealed up until the time of the end." Because the "elect" now understand the truth of the Antichrist, that is only proof that we are living in "the time of the end" when "all these things must come to pass."

People have long tried to decipher the mysterious sign of the Antichrist, the numbers 666. Some, using a form of numerology, have assigned numerical values to letters to derive the number 666 by adding up the values of the letters in certain words, names, or phrases. One result of this formula was the Greek word Latéinos for "Latin Kingdom," referring to the Roman Catholic Church. During the "shuttle diplomacy" of the 1970s it was discovered that the last name of Henry Kissinger, through a formula in which A=1x6, B=2x6, etc., added up to 666. This conclusion was presented by some as "proof" that Dr. Kissinger was about to design a Middle East peace treaty ushering in the time of deception that would prepare the way for the Antichrist and his one-world government. Later, some observers considered the birthmark on the forehead of Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary and president of the U.S.S.R., the "mark of the beast," which pointed to him as a potential Antichrist candidate.

Since then new candidates have appeared from time to time. Following the field of eschatology (end-time theology) requires a breadth of biblical knowledge. Events are strung together from Genesis to Revelation. Single verses from separate books of the Bible are placed out of their local context into a bigger scheme. Because many people don't have this kind of background, it is easy to be convinced of the truth of the story without realizing that the only references referring to the Antichrist by name are found in 1 John 2:18, 2:22, and 4:3, and in 2 John 2:18.

Antichrist

For many Christians, the greatest conspiracy of all will be the one that the antichrist conducts against the followers of the returning Christ.

Although commonly associated with the apocalyptic New Testament book of Revelation, the word antichrist is nowhere to be found within that text. In 1 John 2:18 the epistle writer declares that the “enemy of Christ” has manifested and that many false teachers have infiltrated the Christian ranks. In verse 22, John names as the antichrist anyone who would deny Jesus as the Christ and the Father and the Son, and in 2 John 7 he declares that there are many deceivers already at work among the faithful.

In Matthew 24:3–44 Jesus speaks to his disciples at great length concerning false messiahs and prophets who will deceive many people with rumors about the end of the world. He makes reference to the prophet Daniel and his warnings concerning the endtimes, and he admonishes the disciples not to follow false teachers who will produce great miracles and signs to trick God’s chosen ones. No one knows when the Son of Man shall appear again coming on the clouds of heaven, Jesus tells them, not even the angels.

The earliest form of the antichrist is probably the warrior king Gog, who appears in the book of Ezekiel and reappears in Revelation along with his kingdom of Magog, representing those earthly minions of Satan who will attack the people of God in a final great battle of good versus evil. Jewish writings about the “end of days” state that the armies of Gog and Magog will eventually be defeated and the world will finally be at peace.

Throughout the Bible the antichrist bears many titles: Son of Perdition, Man of Sin, Man of Lawlessness, Prince of Destruction, and Beast. The prophet Daniel describes the man in great detail: He shall be an evil king who will “exalt himself and magnify himself above every god and shall speak outrageous things against the God of gods. But in his estate he shall (secretly) honor a god of forces and a god whom his fathers never knew. Thus shall he do in his fortress with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory; and he shall rule over many and shall divide the land for gain” (Dan. 11:36–39).

In the prophecies of both Daniel and John the Revelator, the evil king, the antichrist, is associated with ten rulers who give their power and allegiance to him in order to form a shortlived empire of bloodshed and destruction: “And the ten horns of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them, and he shall be diverse and speak great words against the most high God and shall wear down the saints of the Highest One and think to make changes in times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand for three and one half years” (Dan. 7:24).

Although Jesus makes it very clear that no one knows the hour or day of his Second Coming, Christian scholars have steadfastly viewed the rise of the antichrist to earthly power as a kind of catalyst that will set in motion Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil, the ultimate clash between the armies of Jesus Christ and Satan. Throughout the centuries, Christians have attempted to determine the antichrist from among the powerful and ruthless leaders of their day, such men as Nero, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. Nominations for the role have often been influenced by politics or religious prejudices: ever since the Protestant Reformation, the pope has been a favorite of evangelicals for the ignominious title.

The association of the number 666 with the antichrist is derived from Revelation 13:18, which states that the number of the Beast is 666 and that this number stands for a person. In John the Revelator’s world of the first century, the Beast who ruled the earth would have been the emperor, the caesar, of the Roman Empire, Nero. Using the Hebrew alphabet, the numerical value of “Caesar Nero,” the merciless persecutor of the early Christians, works out to 666.

On May 1, 2005, scholars revealed that a newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating from the third century, indicates that later copyists got it wrong: the number of the Beast is 616. David Parker, professor of New Testament textual criticism and paleography at the University of Birmingham, England, says that the numerical value of 616 refers to another nemesis of the early Christians, the emperor Caligula.

However, those who maintain that the number 666 is still a potent predictor of the antichrist will continue to name their contemporary candidates for the role. The numerical value of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s name reportedly added up to 666, and since he held the office of president of the United States for twelve years—and during the Great Depression and World War II—many of his conservative Christian critics began thinking of him as the antichrist. And even Ronald Wilson Reagan, who in the estimation of many political analysts was one of our nation’s most popular presidents, had certain dissenters calling attention to the fact that he had six letters in each of his three names—666.

In recent decades, the term antichrist has been applied to so many individuals in popular culture that it has lost much of its meaning and sense of menace. However, those fundamentalist Christians who believe strongly in the coming time of the Tribulation, the Apocalypse, the Rapture, and the great final battle of good versus evil at Armageddon firmly believe that the title of antichrist maintains its fear factor and that we must pay serious heed to those signs and warnings of the Beast as prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Antichrist

 

Christ’s antagonist in Christian mythology. Supposedly, the Antichrist will appear shortly before the “end of the world” and lead the struggle against Christ, but ultimately he will be defeated. Early Christianity borrowed the image of the Antichrist from Judaic mythology, in which the Messiah was to have been victorious in the struggle with the Antimessiah. As proved by historical research, in John’s Book of Revelation the Antichrist image contains allusions to the Roman emperor Nero (54–68). During the Middle Ages the idea of the Antichrist frequently revived at times of natural disasters and extreme social unrest, when believers expected the end of the world. The Church used the myth of the Antichrist in combating its opponents. Thus, in the 13th century the Roman pope Gregory IX declared Frederick II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, to be the Antichrist. During the Reformation, Protestants declared the Roman popes to be Antichrists. During the Great October Revolution and Civil War the counterrevolutionary clergy declared the leaders of the Revolution to be Antichrists.

Antichrist

principal antagonist of Christ. [Christianity: NCE, 117]
See: Enemy

Antichrist

1. New Testament the antagonist of Christ, expected by early Christians to appear and reign over the world until overthrown at Christ's Second Coming
2. an enemy of Christ or Christianity