The biblical portrait of the Antichrist has evoked much interest not only in Christian circles but in secular culture, being grist for the mill of Hollywood movies and bizarre novels. The Antichrist is the ultimate villain, the supreme “black hat” who embodies to the nth degree all that is evil.
The New Testament portrait of the Antichrist is somewhat enigmatic. There is much confusion and debate that focuses upon his role and nature. The term anti- that is used to describe him (or it) can mean either “against” or “in place of.” The Antichrist is one who not only opposes Christ, but seeks to usurp the rightful place of Christ. He seeks to substitute himself for Christ. The Antichrist, therefore, is a false Christ, who seeks to deceive people into thinking that he is the true Christ.
Debate has ensued about the identity of the Antichrist. Is the Antichrist a person, a power, or an institution? Is the Antichrist a religious or a political figure, or both? Is there only one Antichrist, or are there many? The Antichrist has been identified at times by Christians as a particular person in history such as Nero, Hitler, and Mussolini, just to name a few. Many Protestants have identified the papacy of Rome as the institution of antichrist, while others look to a yet unrevealed figure or power to be the Antichrist.
John speaks of “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18) and of the “spirit of Antichrist” that was “already in the world” (1 John 4:3). We can conclude from this that during the period between the apostolic age and the return of Christ there are to be many manifestations of antichrist, at least in spirit and power.
The apostle Paul indicates that a special manifestation of antichrist will appear before the final coming of Christ. This “man of sin” will come in accordance with the working of Satan and will have his seal of power in the “temple of God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12). Some believe this can only occur if temple worship is restored to the nation of Israel, others interpret it as a reference to an appearance in the New Testament “temple,” the Christian church.
The coming of the Antichrist is linked with a great apostasy in the church. Perhaps an alliance between secular government and religious institutions is in view. The goal of the Antichrist is to make war on the people of God and to seek the destruction of Christ and His Kingdom. The Bible assures us, however, that despite the tremendous power and influence of the Antichrist, his defeat, judgment, and doom are sure. He is no match, in the final analysis, for the true and living Christ.
- The Antichrist works both “against” and “in place of” Christ.
- Antichrist has been manifested throughout church history in persons and institutions.
- The Bible foretells a special manifestation of antichrist with extraordinary power and influence at the end of the age.
- The Antichrist will be defeated by Christ.