The apostle John saw a great vision of what was going to happen in the last days and he wrote of that time saying, "And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed…. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast … and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six" (Revelations 13:12-18)
The mark of the beast has been one of Christianity's most talked about and speculated stories for centuries. During that time many people have sought to discover who this person will be and have speculated how he will come to have so much power. However, all have described him as being the anti-Christ spoken of in the Bible. According to what many believe, the scriptures teach that this anti-Christ will rise up and persecute the believers in Christ shortly before Jesus returns in glory to destroy all the wicked and rule over the earth for a thousand years. It is generally agreed that this person will be filled with the spirit of Satan and will seek to make war upon the saints.
Since Jesus has not yet returned, for centuries Christians have been watching for this anti-Christ to rise up and stamp out Christianity as he takes over the world. Throughout the past two thousand years, each generation of Christians has believed that they were living in the last days and therefore, each generation has looked for signs of the coming of this anti-Christ.
This is perhaps even truer today than it has been in the past. Today there are endless books purporting to explain to faithful followers of Christ the true meaning of John's symbolic and mysterious revelation. However, they very much disagree with one another on the interpretation of who this person will be. Some say that this is the "man of sin" or "son of perdition" that is mentioned of by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Others disagree. Saying he is a separate person known as the Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, or the Whore of Babylon.
In the gospel of Matthew, we read where Jesus warns His disciples about false Christs who will come and deceive people by claiming that they are the Messiah (Matthew 24:5,24; 24:24). In the eighth chapter of the book of Daniel there is a prophesy that many biblical scholars view as referring to the last days and therefore feel it is the same event that is found in Revelation. Most end times biblical writers agree that this false prophet, who will be the anti-Christ, will be a man with such great charisma and "a mouth speaking many things" (Daniel 7:8; Revelations 13:5) uttering blasphemies with such eloquence that he will be able to sway tens of millions of people to follow him.
However, every writer has their own theory of how this will happen. One writer has said that the anti-Christ will "rise to power on a wave of world euphoria as he temporarily saves the world from desperate economic, military, and political problems with a 7 year plan for economic stability, religious freedom, and world peace. Ezekiel names him as the ruler of Magog which many have interpreted as being modern-day Russia. His power base will include the leading nations of Europe whose leaders, the Bible says, will 'give their power and strength to the Beast' (Revelation 17:13)."
Another book purports to present an accurate portrayal of the anti-Christ and offers detailing information regarding the type of government he will impose upon nations. Another book turns to Scripture to supposedly discover the truth about this master deceiver, claiming to avoid speculation to show who he is and what he will do. It tells of how powerful forces will pull us toward a one-world government and a one-world religion by an international leader. Yet another book claims that the coming anti-Christ will be from Assyria rather than from America, Russia, Britain, Germany or any other ethnicity to be found inside or outside of Europe. This book makes its claims through a close study of the Bible to show that the coming of the anti-Christ is inextricably linked to the study of Assyria. Still another book claims that the anti-Christ is not a man outside the church but rather is a corporate body "in the midst" of the visible church itself. Using God's Word it takes a look at the history of the church up to our current day to reveal that the church has been in bondage, laboring under an anti-Christ world system
Over the years many different people have been labeled as being the anti-Christ, including the Pope, Hitler, Stalin, Henry Kissenger, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and even Barack Obama. However, what the Bible has to say about the anti-Christ paints a completely different picture than what today's writers what us believe
As surprising as this may seem, the term "antichrist" appears only five times in the Bible and four of them are in one short letter of the apostle John. The fifth mention of this word is found in 2 John 1:7. However, John also wrote the book of Revelation and what biblical end-times writers have done to make their case is to pair a scripture from one book and paste it together with a scripture from another book in order to give their theory credibility. But, the truth of the matter is that what the apostle John has to say about the anti-Christ in his two short letters is not the same as what he depicts in Revelation concerning Satan, the Dragon, the Beast, or the false prophets.
Before we can understand John's use of the word "anti-Christ" we first need to understand the context of John's epistles.
John was the last of the apostles to die and historians say that he died somewhere between 97 A.D. and 102 A.D. While there is some dispute as to the date John wrote the book of Revelation, most biblical scholars put it during the reign of Nero around 68 A.D. At that time Nero had embarked on a campaign to rid his empire of all Christians. The apostles Paul and Peter were put to death during his reign.
It wasn't until close to 90 A.D. that John wrote his gospel account. By this time he was the last living apostle. When Jesus first met him he was already an experienced adult, very likely about the same age as was Jesus. All scholars are agreed that Jesus died when He was thirty-three years old in the year 33 A.D. Therefore, when John died he was a very old man, somewhere around one hundred years of age. Considering that there was still quite a lot of persecutions against Christians and considering John's age, in 90 A.D. he couldn't travel very much to help strengthen the church. Therefore, the only thing he could do at that point was to write letters giving one last bit of counsel, exhortation, and direction to the saints.
The gospel of Matthew was written primarily to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah they had been looking for. Mark, as Peter's interpreter, directed his gospel account to convincing the Romans that Jesus was God. Luke, who was Paul's traveling physician, directed his gospel account to convincing the Gentiles that Jesus was God's son. As the last living apostle, John directed his gospel account specifically to the members of the church to strengthen their faith and to teach them correct principles. His gospel contains more doctrine than all the other gospels combined.
Being old and unable to travel much, in the last ten years of his life John watched the church splinter into various factions, each teaching a different doctrine about Christ. The worst of these was a strain of Christianity called Gnosticism. It taught that all physical matter was evil and that only spiritual matter was good. They therefore reasoned that since God is good then God had to be a spirit. However, Jesus was a man made of physical flesh and bones, therefore, Gnosticism taught that Jesus could not be God. More than that, Gnosticism taught that God was incapable of feeling pain, therefore, they reasoned that if Jesus was in pain on the cross this proved he wasn't God.
But to be a Christian means to believe in Jesus, so the way they got around this dilemma was to say that God (or the Christ) dwelt inside the man Jesus. In other words, Jesus was nothing more than a man whom God used to fulfill His purpose. But, before Jesus was nailed to the cross God left his body. They said this is why the man Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" This doctrine denied that God came down to live on earth in the flesh or that the death of Jesus on the cross had any effect upon removing our sins.
However, since the gospel taught that we are saved from our sins, one branch of Gnosticism taught that it was all right to engage in the lusts of the flesh, such as fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins that were common practices in those days, because, they taught, that once we die our spirit would be released from its physical body. Since the spirit is good, Gnosticism taught that those who believed in "the Christ" (not Jesus) would go to heaven despite what they did in the flesh while the physical flesh of that man would rot in the grave. (It goes without saying that they did not believe in the resurrection of the body.)
It was this false doctrine that John sought to correct in both his first and second epistle and it was in this context that he uses the term anti-Christ. With this understanding, let's look at what John wrote. To make it easier to understand I have put his words into modern English, adding clarifying words where necessary.
Beginning in 1 John 1:1 we read, "He who has existed from the beginning, we have heard Him with our own ears and have seen him with our own eyes and have looked upon Him and even handled Him with our own hands. This person is known as the Word of life. 2. He was plainly visible to us and we have seen Him and bear witness of Him and show unto you that He (who offers us eternal life) was with God, the Father and He appeared unto us.
3. We declare unto you that which we have both seen and heard so that you may also know what we know and therefore you can have fellowship (companionship, partnership, friendship) with those who call themselves believers in Christ. Not only that but you will also have your companionship with God, the Father as well as with His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. 4. Therefore, we write to tell you of these things so that you may be filled with joy.
5. This then is the message that we heard Him teach and we declare and deliver that message to you. The message is that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6. If we claim to love God and to be associated with Him and yet we continue to walk in darkness then we are liars because we are not being truthful. We can't say we love God while continuing to disobey His instructions.
7. On the other hand, if we walk according to His light (His instruction, His commandments) then we truly are in fellowship with one another and then the blood which Jesus, the Christ, God's Son, shed for us on the cross, will be able to cleanse us of the sins we commit. 8. However, if we go around saying that whatever we do is not sinful, we're deceiving ourselves and that makes us liars because we are not telling the truth."
Continuing in 1 John 2:1, "Those of you who call yourselves Christians, I call you my little children and I am writing to tell you to cease from sinning. And if any of you do commit sin, we have someone who will excuse our sins before God, the Father and that person is Jesus Christ, the righteous one. He is the one who can appease God's anger and win us back into God's favor despite our sins because of the blood He shed for us, which was shed not only for the sins of those of who believe in Him but for the sins of everyone in the entire world.
3. But the only way we know that we have our fellowship with Him is if we keep His commandments. 4. He who says: I know him, yet does not keep His commandments is a liar and does not possess the truth. 5. But he who keeps His commandments truly has a love for God and God's love is perfected in him. That is how we know that we are in fellowship (companionship) with Him. 6. Therefore, he who says he believes in Jesus should himself conduct themselves the same way Jesus did.
15. Do not love the things of the world or the sensual lusts of your bodies or the lustful thoughts you have when you look upon others. If you love the evil things of this world you do not really love the Father 16. Because all the things of the world - the lusts of your bodies, the lusts of what you see, the pride and vanity that the world encourages - these things are not feelings that come from God, our Father but come from the philosophies the thinking, the beliefs, and the values of the world. 17. Don't you know that the things of the world will some day pass away and perish, as will the body along with all of its lusts? 17. But he who does what God commands will live forever.
18. My little children, we are living in the last days and you have heard that in the last days the antichrist will come. But I say unto you that even now - today - there are many antichrists, therefore we know we are living in the last days. 19. They have gone out from among us, claiming they are Christians but they are not one of us because if they had truly been believers in Christ they would have no doubt continued believing as we do. But they have departed from the faith and it has now become obvious that they were never really one of us. Even though they mingled among us they had no real fellowship and companionship with the true believers of Jesus.
22. It is a lie to deny that Jesus is the Christ. And anyone who denies the truth about the Father and the Son is an antichrist. 23. Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Son of God does not believe in the Father. Only he who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God has fellowship with the Father.
24. Therefore, cling to and remain steadfast in that which we have taught you from the beginning. And if you do that then you will continue to have your companionship with the Son and with the Father. 25. And if you will always do that He has promised us eternal life.
26. The reason why I have written these things to you is because I'm concerned about those who seek to seduce you with their false doctrines concerning Jesus. 27…. Therefore, remain steadfast in your belief of Jesus as we have taught it to you. 28. Now, my little children, keep your faith in Jesus so that when He comes again and appears to us in great glory we may be glad and not be ashamed to be in His presence."
In 1 John 4:1 he continues this theme saying, "My beloved brethren, do not believe every person who comes telling you things but rather try them to see whether they are from God because there are many false prophets going about in the world. 2. Here is how you can know if they are from God. Every person who confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, 3. And every person who does not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God. That person is the antichrist, whom ye have heard should come and he is even now already in the world.
6. We are believers in God and he that knows God hears us but he that does not believe in God doesn't hear what we say. In this way we can discern who is telling us the truth and who is telling us error. 14. We have seen Him and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God has God dwelling in him and he belongs to God."
And finally in the fifth chapter of 1 John he concludes by saying "9. We can receive a witness of the truth from both men and God but the witness we receive from God is greater. And this is the witness that comes from God which is that He has testified of His own Son. 10. He that believes on Jesus, the Son of God, has the witness of that truth within him but he that does not believe the testimony of God has made God a liar because he does not believe the record that God has given of His Son.
11. And this is the record, that God has given us eternal life and this life is in and comes from His Son, Jesus. 13. These things I have written to those of you who believe on the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe on the name of the Son of God. 20. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding so that we may know that He is true and that it is true that we are in Him, even His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and this is through whom we have eternal life."
There are several important things we learn from this epistle. The first is that John gives a strong testimony that he knows from first hand personal experiences that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and the author of eternal life. He tells us that he can testify of these things because he has physically seen, heard, and even touched Jesus.
The second thing we learn is that only through believing on Jesus and keeping His words can we gain eternal life. John testifies that this was the message Jesus delivered to His disciples and later commanded them to take to the world and then reminds his readers that this is what was preached to them from the very beginning by all the apostles.
Third we learn that those who deny that Jesus is the Son of God and that salvation comes only through obedience to His words is an anti-Christ. Thus, John's definition of an anti-Christ is someone who not only teaches false doctrines but who teaches that the man Jesus was not really God. The further implication of such a doctrine is that, since Jesus isn't divine, then it is not necessary to follow His teachings.
The fourth thing we learn is that these anti-Christs were members of the Church of Jesus Christ. They were people who professed to be Christians but were not following the teachings of the church. Worse yet, they were seducing other members of the church to stray from the doctrines that the apostles had taught from the beginning.
The fifth thing we learn from John's teaching is that the anti-Christ is not one individual but can be many people. According to John, anyone who denies the divinity and the reality of Jesus in an anti-Christ. It is an attitude of the heart or a belief of the mind that makes someone an anti-Christ.
The sixth thing we learn is that back around 90-95 A.D. John taught the saints that they were currently living in the last days and that the anti-Christ were already at work trying to destroy the Christian faith. And, in fact, in every generation when there have been those who sought to destroy the Christian faith by replacing Jesus or His teachings as the center of their religion there have been anti-Christs. And from that we learn yet another thing which is, we don't need to look forward to the coming of the anti-Christ because such people have always been among us.
If that is true, then who are the anti-Christ among us today?
Throughout John's epistles, he testifies many times that eternal life comes only through keeping the commandments of God. At the beginning of his gospel John also testified that Jesus "was God" and that "all things were made by [Jesus] and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life" (John 1:1,3,4).
Jesus is not only the provider of eternal life but, if He made all things and in Him is life, then He is also the provider of all life on earth. If Jesus is divine and in Him is life, then life itself is sacred. Thus, when anyone seeks to take life, especially in the name of religion, whether it is in the eternal realms or on this earth, then they are acting in the spirit of the anti-Christ.
In America there is a group of Christian denominations that are referred to as "the religious right." Sometimes they are also referred to as Evangelicals or Fundamentalists. A number of years ago they called themselves the silent majority because they had sat quietly, saying nothing as their religious beliefs came under attack and efforts were made to have their religious liberties taken away. Eventually, however, they fought back by becoming politically active and refusing to remain silent any longer. But this hasn't stopped them from being maligned, criticized, impugned, mocked, and slandered.
However, lately another group of Christians have come forth, refusing to remain silent about their beliefs as they had done in the past. They call themselves the "religious left" and claim that they are the real majority of Christians who have been overshadowed by the vocal minority of Evangelicals. Many of them come from the thirty-five different Protestant denominations that comprise the National Council of Churches that has a combined membership of over forty-five million believers.
The message they preach centers mostly around the need for social justice, primarily focusing on caring for the poor. However, rather than emphasizing the need for individual responsibility they tend to advocate the use of government subsidies to alleviate these problems. Therefore, they are supportive of such programs as universal health care, government welfare, school lunch programs, child care, minimum wage, affirmative action, etc.
They use as the basis for their doctrine the many instances in the biblical accounts of Christ's life where He showed concerned for the poor and took time out of His preaching to heal the sick, feed the masses, and give compassionate service to the downtrodden. They point to the parable of the good Samaritan as exemplifying the core of Christ's message. At the same time they point to those scriptures that show how Christ condemned the rich and powerful for taking advantage of the poor, as illustrated in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. They also point to the many times Jesus condemned the powerful Pharisees and Sadducees. Therefore, they see a government that is run "by the people for the people" as being the best means for keeping rich and powerful corporations from exploiting the poor, as they say was done in the days of Jesus.
But that is not their only belief. Citing the words of Jesus to "turn the other cheek" and "thou shalt not kill," the Christian Left often preaches pacifism and tends to oppose any action that involves a military solution. As such, many of them are against war and tend to be part of anti-war movements. Yet, at the same time they favor abortion, which is a form of killing, claiming that such a practice doesn't violate the teachings of the Bible.
According to the Alan Guttenmacker Institute, which monitors abortions in the United States, there have been 32.5 million abortions performed in the United States alone, from 1973 to 1998. That is 32.5 million people who were purposely and deliberately denied receiving the gift of life by their Creator. Rather than being alarmed by this practice, many on the religious left actually complain that the number of yearly abortions has recently declined, the lowest number being performed was in 2005 which still amounted to 1.2 million babies who were prevented from living. Their lament is not for the unborn child but for the mother who might now turn to the unsafe practice of "back alley abortions."
Another teaching of the religious left is homosexuality. One such prominent clergyman pointed out that the closest friends of Jesus were all men and that one of them, who laid his head on the bosom of Jesus, was known as "the beloved." He further pointed out that Jesus never condemned homosexuality therefore he concludes it is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle.
However, if we remove the "sexuality" from the relation between two men then we no longer have a homosexual relationship. But that is not what the gay community wants. They demand that they be allowed the right to have sex between two men or two women and are bitterly opposed to anyone who wants to deny them that right. They point to the words of Jesus when He said we are to love one another. Since He didn't make any distinction of which gender we are to love, they take this as an implicit approval that they can "make love" to whomever they want. Since "making love" is understood as having sex they therefore excuse all of their physical lusts by claiming they are merely "loving" their neighbor. Thus, in their own eyes, they are not committing sin and, as such, firmly believe that when they die, they will still go to heaven.
As for the Bible, most people from the religious left tend to "spiritualize" its message. That is to say that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally but conveys truths through allegories. For example, they don't take the story of what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden as fact. To them it is a symbolic story that illustrates a principle rather than one that recounts actual history. With such a view of the scriptures that leaves them more latitude to interpret its message in a way that fits what they want it to mean.
That is why, to the religious left, the concept of morality and sin means something completely different than it does to an evangelical. To the religious left taxing the rich (as well as the middle class) by government edict is the moral thing to do if it helps the poor. To them, it would be a sin to not make the rich pay their "fair share" to provide this service. At the same time they consider it immoral to force a woman to have a child that she doesn't want. Therefore, in that case, having an abortion is the morally right thing to do. If two unmarried men want to have sex together because they have fond feelings for each other, the religious left doesn't see anything morally wrong with that situation, in which case they feel no sin has been committed. On the other hand, they do feel it's a sin for someone to condemn the act of homosexuality claiming that Jesus taught that we should not judge others. Therefore, they feel it is immoral for someone to impose their morality on anothers.
The apostle John testified as to the reality of Jesus Christ, that He wasn't a spiritualize myth or someone who was a symbol of God's goodness as some false prophets taught in his day. The apostle John exhorted the saints to follow the teachings that had been taught from the beginning and not to follow those who came later with new doctrines. He accused those who taught a different gospel than what the apostles had preached as being against Christ and he denounced them for seducing others into follow their beliefs. He condemned those who committed sexual acts outside of marriage, who taught that such behavior was not a sin, and warned the saints to remain steadfast to his teachings.
When we see someone in our day doing the very things that John criticized in his day then we will know who is the anti-Christ.
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