describes a particular individual or a group of people who oppose God and His purpose. Quite surprisingly, the word, “antichrist” appears only four times in the New Testament and there only in the Johannine Epistles (1 John 2:18,1 John 2:22;
1 John 4:3;
2 John 1:7). It is a rather late term in Christianity, although its origin can be traced back to the Old Testament book of Daniel. In that Old Testament apocalypse, the term antichrist appears in two forms: 1) an individual who opposes God, or 2) a collective antichrist.
Old Testament The Old Testament, described the antichrist in various ways. Especially in Daniel, there arose the expectation of one who would oppose the Lord and His people Israel. This evil leader was referred to as the king of the north (Daniel 11:40) who would come with a mighty army to crush the nations, to persecute the righteous (Daniel 7:25), to bring death (Daniel 8:10), and to set up his throne in the Temple (Daniel 8:13). This latter event the Jews term the “abomination of desolation.” Many Jews viewed the arrival of Antiochus Epiphanes IV as the embodiment of these verses. Yet in the mind of many Jews, the rule of Antiochus did not meet the full expectations of these Scriptures. There evolved a permanent expectation of an antichrist figure in Judaism. In later Jewish history such Roman figures as Pompey and Caligula were identified with the antichrist.
In Daniel one also finds a collective antichrist. In
Daniel 7:7-28 the Fourth Empire was viewed as a collective antichrist. In later Judaism, the Fourth Kingdom or the collective antichrist was viewed as the Roman Empire (2 Baruch 26-40; 4 Ezra 5:3-4).
New Testament In the New Testament, the only use of the term “antichrist,” is in the Johannine epistles.
1 John 2:18 speaks of the antichrist who is the great enemy of God and, in particular, antichrists who precede that great enemy. These antichrists were human teachers who had left the church. Such antichrists deny the incarnation (1 John 4:3) and Christ's deity (1 John 2:2). In
2 John 1:7, the antichrists are identified as deceivers who teach that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh. The concept of the antichrist appears in the term “false Christ” (pseudo christos) (Matthew 24:24;
Mark 13:22). Mark and Matthew apparently expected a Roman ruler to once again enter the Temple as did Antiochus and Pompey. In
Revelation 13:3, the beast from the sea is often viewed as an antichrist figure. There John may have looked for a return of the emperor Nero.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, the antichrist figure is armed with satanic power and is fused with Beliar, a satanic being. In this passage the Roman government is viewed as restraining its power. In Revelation, the Roman Caesar is the evil force.
Contemporary Concerns Christians today have differing views of the antichrist figure. Dispensationalists look for a future Roman ruler who will appear during the tribulation and will rule over the earth. Those in the amillennialist school interpret the term symbolically. In every age there will be individuals and groups who will oppose Christ.
James L. Blevins