During the second half of the twentieth century, self-proclaimed psychic Jeane Dixon managed to make such an impact on American culture that former President Richard Nixon and former First Lady Nancy Reagan each consulted her for political decisions.
As a prophetess, Jeane Dixon, a Roman Catholic, was less impressive, though she claimed to receive her oracles from God. Had she had not been taken so seriously, her utterances would have been deemed comical, illustrated by what she said just before her death on January 25, 1997 at 93 years of age. She said these words: “I knew this would happen.” A cynic might observe that that pronouncement was a safe “prediction” to make.
One of her more memorable predictions was given in 1962 when she wrote,
“A child born somewhere in the Middle East shortly before 7:00 A.M. (EST) on February 5, 1962 will revolutionize the world. Before the close of this century, he will bring together all mankind in one all-embracing faith. This will be the foundation of a new Christianity, with every sect and creed united through this man who will walk among the people to spread the wisdom of the almighty powers.”
The twentieth century closed without mankind being united in one all-embracing faith, or the anticipated revolutionary religious figure appearing on the stage of human history. Nevertheless, the idea of a mighty man of political, military, and religious power did increase in popularity during the last century due to the prophetic writings of Dispensational advocates Lewis Sperry Chafer, Hal Lindsey, Jay Vernon McGee, Oliver B. Green, John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, and many other sensational, but misguided eschatological preachers and teachers. Their destructive theological legacy lives on in the twenty-first century.
In responding to the invention of a fantastical futuristic Antichrist by Dispensationalism, based mainly on the book of Revelation, the first point to be noted is the issue of timing. When John gave the Revelation, he spoke to a contemporary audience to tell them of things that must “shortly” come to pass.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Rev. 1:1).
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3).
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10).
“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).
Biblically, the word antichrist appears only four times in two of John’s epistles. “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18).
In this passage John corrects an inaccurate teaching that a singular antichrist shall come. John did not have a particular individual in mind. Instead, he referred to many individuals who taught that Jesus Christ is not what the Bible says He is—God manifested in the flesh. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
For John, antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. For John, antichrist is anyone who denies the Father and the Son. “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3).
For John, antichrist is every spirit that does not confess Jesus. “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 John 7). For John, antichrist is someone who denies that Christ has come in the flesh. A denial of the doctrine of the Incarnation is the biblical interpretation of antichrist.
According to the Bible, antichrist is not a single individual. Just because Christians today have heard there is coming a single antichrist, does not make it so. Believers in the first century had heard the same thing, and John wrote to challenge what had been heard, just as Jesus had corrected people who had heard certain teachings based on a misreading of the Bible.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt. 5:21).
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Matt. 5:27).
“Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths” (Matt. 5:33).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt. 5:38).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy” (Matt. 5:43).
In summary, an antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, thereby denying the Father and the Son, and so the Incarnation. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). This simple, and biblical view of antichrist takes the fear out of the future, and also saves a lot of name-calling, such as thinking that Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6) was the antichrist!
If the biblical Antichrist is a historical figure, and if there is no future Antichrist to fear as Dispensationalism teaches, then why do so many believe in the Antichrist?
Some people believe in a singular Antichrist because they wanted to divert attention from doctrinal impurity. This charge is made specifically against the Roman Catholic Church, who during the days of the Reformation wanted to redirect popular attention from inward corruption, to an outward common enemy, much like Republicans and Democrats found a common enemy in Muslims after 9/11.
Some people believe in the Antichrist because they want to discredit the papacy, and prove the papacy as an institution is evil.
Since the Middle Ages there has been many powerful voices declaring the papacy is the Antichrist organized. The voices include those of Dante, John Wycliff, John Huss, and Savonarola. During the Reformation men such as Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, John Bradford, and John Foxe denounced the papacy. In the 17th and 18th centuries, by John Bunyan, the translators of the King James Bible, and by the men who published the Westminster and Baptist Confessions of Faith; Sir Isaac Newton, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley added their voices. In more recent times, Charles Spurgeon, Bishop J. C. Ryle and Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones have all said the papacy was the Antichrist.
Some people believe in the Antichrist because they do not know church history, and have little idea about the rise and power of John Levi of Geschala, during the seize of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Josephus, ii: xxi:1). Now, as Josephus was thus engaged in the administration of the affairs of Galilee, there arose a treacherous person, a man of Geschala, the son of Levi,
“whose name was John. His character was that of a very cunning and very knavish person, beyond the ordinary rate of the other men of eminence there, and for wicked practices he had not his fellow anywhere. Poor he was at first, and for a long time his wants were a hinderance to him in his wicked designs. He was a ready liar, and yet very sharp in gaining credit to his fictions: he thought it a point of virtue to delude people, and would delude even such as were the dearest to him. He was a hypocritical pretender to humanity, but where he had hopes of gain, he spared not the shedding of blood: his desires were ever carried to great things, and he encouraged his hopes from those mean wicked tricks which he was the author of. He had a peculiar knack at thieving; but in some time he got certain companions in his impudent practices; at first they were but few, but as he proceeded on in his evil course, they became still more and more numerous. He took care that none of his partners should be easily caught in their rogueries, but chose such out of the rest as had the strongest constitutions of body, and the greatest courage of soul, together with great skill in martial affairs; as he got together a band of four hundred men, who came principally out of the country of Tyre, and were vagabonds that had run away from its villages; and by the means of these he laid waste all Galilee, and irritated a considerable number, who were in great expectation of a war then suddenly to arise among them.”
Some people believe in the Antichrist because they have been persuaded by a particular theological bias.
Some people believe in the Antichrist in order to concentrate all of their fears, and have a physical enemy to fight. The real battle is with the world, the flesh, and the devil, all of which are spiritual in nature.
Some people believe in the Antichrist because there is money to be made in the market place by scaring God’s people.
When will the belief in the Antichrist end? At the second coming of Christ, for only then will all false teaching cease. There will be a new heaven, and a new earth wherein is righteousness. Final truth will be known when Jesus comes the second time for all who believe.