I’ve been thinking lately about antichrists.
Not the Antichrist per se, who will appear toward the end of history at the behest of Satan to usher in the end of the age, but of the plurality of antichrists in the world (and in the church) today.
“… even now many antichrists have arisen …” (1 John 2:18)
The word “antichrist” (a transliteration of the Greek antichristos) appears only in the writings of John, and that only about five times. It is an interesting word. Originally the prefix anti meant “in place of,” but later it came to mean “against.” Just as in apocalyptic writings where the Antichrist will set himself up one day “in place of” Christ, so too any one who in any way is or ever was “against” Christ, likely could be counted among the antichrists.
So exactly who are these antichrists?
The quick easy answer would be that anyone who does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who thereby rejects the Incarnation, is an antichrist. Such people do not only reject Jesus, but they also reject God Himself, because it was God who showed His love for us by sending His Son (John 3:16). Rejection of the Son equals rejection of the Father, which in turn equals being an antichrist. We could say that an antichrist is an atheist (or at the very least, an agnostic). Ultimately, however, the bottom line is that anyone who claims to believe in God, but rejects the Son, doesn’t believe in the same God that the true Christian believes in, and therefore is an antichrist. There are many gods that the antichrist may believe in, but there is only one true God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“He who is not with me is against me.” (Jesus; Mt.12:30; NIV)
He who is not with Jesus, is an antichrist. What does it mean to be with Jesus? A couple things that quickly come to mind are: belief in, agreement with, and obedience to. At the risk of sounding legalistic, failure on any of those three related points might mean that you’re an antichrist.
You say that you believe in Jesus? That’s great! What do you believe about Him? Was He only a good man or a prophet? Was He a nut-case or demon-possessed? The New Testament records incidents where people thought so. Many today think likewise. But what do you think? Jesus once asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” (Mt.16:13). Who do YOU say that He is? Depending on how you answer that, you may be an antichrist.
Are you and I in agreement with Jesus? Do we think He was right in what He actually said and taught and in whom He claimed to be? Or are we only in agreement with our interpretations and our institutional and denominational biases? Many are in agreement with their religion, even a pseudo-Christian religion, but if their religion doesn’t fully agree with Jesus, then perhaps they also aren’t fully in agreement with Jesus. Depending on whether you do or don’t find yourself in agreement with Jesus, you may be an antichrist.
How obedient are we to Jesus? I’ve often wondered about this question. If Jesus taught on a particular topic and we blatantly disobey that teaching, what does that say about our profession that He is Lord? Can someone consistently disobey Jesus and still claim to be a Christian? Is not such a person really an antichrist? Hmm, I wonder sometimes.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Jesus; Lk.6:46)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Jesus; Mt.7:21)
Those aren’t my words; they’re Jesus’. How do we disobey Jesus? Quite possibly the biggest way that we regularly disobey Him is in our interpersonal relationships with one another. We gossip, we slander, we hate, we threaten, we kill, and ironically, we do so while at the same time calling ourselves Christians. My question is, do these tendencies of ours sound Christ-like? What was the main interpersonal example that Jesus taught? Love, even for our enemies. If you ask me, we often don’t even do a very good job of loving non-enemies, much less loving our enemies. It seems to me that we would rather arm ourselves against would-be enemies than feed them (see Romans 12:20). Still, Jesus wouldn’t have taught principles from the Father that He didn’t expect to be followed, or those that He knew were somehow impossible to be adhered to.
It all comes down to “doing” the will of the Father; it all comes down to obedience, without which, we may just be antichrists. Are you obedient to Jesus? Am I? Probably if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re a lot less obedient than we think we are. Maybe to one degree or another, we’re ultimately all antichrists.
Thankfully, however, it’s not all gloom and doom. Thankfully that is where Grace* comes in, but that’s a topic for another day. Peace.
* "Grace," a basic definition: God's dealing with man in undeserved ways; it is simply an outflow of God's goodness, generosity, and love.