The Antichrist (PH)

By Paul Hayden

The Bible teaches that the visible church is going to be contaminated from within by an “Antichrist.” Only John actually uses the term “Antichrist,” Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2, uses several different names: “that man of sin” and “the son of perdition” (v.3) and “that Wicked” (v.8), but he’s obviously referring to the same person.

The prefix “anti-“ is used today to mean “the opposite of,” but it really means “in the place of,” in other words someone who will come into the church and set himself up in the place of Christ, demanding the worship of Christ. So we’re not looking for a world leader. The world leaders are leading people far from Christ already, and they will continue to do so until the end. They don’t profess to be Christian. They’re not in the place of Christ at all, they’re always there and obviously evil. The Antichrist will be a man from within the visible church who rises by deceit and leads people astray. Paul says he:

2 Thessalonians 2:4

.... opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God 

He sits in the visible church receiving the worship that ought to be given to Jesus Christ. So, who is this person? There are two main ideas within evangelical circles as to who he is. One is that he’s the pope, the other is that he’s a leader who is still to come just before Christ returns. Which one is correct? My answer is that both are correct, and, not only that, but there are many more antichrists than just these two. John tells us that there are “many antichrists”:

1 John 2:18

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.

The danger with looking for just one person, is that we’ll miss all the others. In 1 John 4:3, John mentions a “spirit of antichrist,” and it is this that we should be watching for, on our lookout for antichrists in the church. 

So what are the characteristics of an antichrist? Well, we’ve already seen one. He’s going to lead people astray after himself, and away from Jesus Christ:

2 Thessalonians 2:4

... sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

Paul also tells us that the Antichrist will deceive with false signs and wonders:

2 Thessalonians 2:9

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.

John tells us that he:

(1.) denies Jesus is the Christ.

(2.) denies the Father and the Son.

and (3.) confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh:

1 John 2:22

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 4:3

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.

2 John 7

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.

Now, does this apply to the pope? Well, yes. He sits in the Roman Catholic church and is worshipped by millions as the vicar of Christ. People cry in the streets when he’s driven past. He sits in the temple of God (i.e. the church) accepting from his followers the worship which ought only to be reserved for God. He also accepts false signs and wonders, and elevates to sainthood anyone who can “prove” to his satisfaction that they have performed miracles. But surely, he doesn’t deny Christ, does he? Well, yes he does. He denies the finished work of Christ on the cross, because he tells his followers that the way of salvation is through sacrificing Christ again and again in the Mass, whereas Christ’s work was once for all:

Hebrews 10:10

We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

So the pope has all these characteristics. He has the “spirit of antichrist.” 

But Scripture also seems to suggest that just before Christ comes again there will be a similar figure deceiving the visible church. This may still be the pope of the day, or it may be some other infiltrator in the visible church. Paul indicates that an antichrist will be destroyed by Christ’s second coming 

2 Thessalonians 2:8

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

But we don’t stop at these two. John says that there are “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18) and that they are “even now already in the world” (1 John 4:3). Paul tells us that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (v.7). There will be many who display these characteristics, and we should always be on the lookout for the “spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:3) wherever it may be found.

So, I’m not just criticising Roman Catholics for following the pope here. Protestant churches abound with such men and organisations. If an organisation requests unswerving obedience to them and not to Christ alone, look out! If a tele-evangelist, who already owns a mansion and a helicopter, asks you for even more money to support his “ministry,” look out! If anyone, anywhere, tries to make a reputation for themselves from stupid people blindly following them believing that they are some great prophet or apostle or man of God, look out! All of these phenomena display the “spirit of antichrist” and should be avoided. The lesson to learn is that we should NEVER follow men. Follow Christ alone.

Isaiah 2:22

Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

I want to look now at two verses in particular:

2 Thessalonians 2:6-7

6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 

7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

I believe that these two verses have generally been misinterpreted. We have five pronouns here. A “what,” a “he” and a “his” in verse 6, and two “he’s” in verse 7. We need to know exactly who these pronouns refer to.

Those who believe the pope is the Antichrist interpret the passage in this way:

6 And now ye know the Roman Empire withholdeth that the pope might be revealed in the pope’s time. 

7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only the Roman emperor who now letteth will let, until the Roman emperor be taken out of the way.

The idea behind this is that the papacy came to prominence as the Roman Empire declined.

Those who believe in an end-times Antichrist interpret the passage in this way:

6 And now ye know the Holy Spirit withholdeth that the antichrist might be revealed in the antichrist’s time. 

7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only the Holy Spirit who now letteth will let, until the Holy Spirit be taken out of the way.

The idea here is that the Holy Spirit normally guides the church, but just before the end of time, His influence will decline as the Antichrist appears.

It is interesting to note that the New King James Version of the Bible capitalises the two “He’s” in verse 7, thus referring them both to deity, which would only fit this latter interpretation. Bible translators should translate, not try to interpret 

However, both of these interpretations I have difficulty with. Both interpretations equate the “revealing” of the antichrist with his rising to power. That’s not the case. The rising to power of the antichrist is with deceit:

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 

Deceit, by definition, is hidden. Nobody knows they’re being deceived. That’s the whole point. A “revealing” is exactly the opposite. To reveal something is to show what was previously hidden. 

We’re told of Christ being “revealed” at His second coming:

Luke 17:30

Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

When He came the first time, God chose to send Him in a hidden manner. Currently, He is reigning on His throne and working in the world, but only Christians recognise this. Most of the world can’t see that at all. When He comes again in glory however, He will be “revealed,” and “every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:7).

Similarly, these antichrists reign in a hidden manner, most people won’t recognise their presence. But when God chooses to reveal them, they will be seen for who they are.

To “reveal” the antichrist means that his reign of deceit is over. It’s the end of his reign, not the beginning. So I would interpret the above verses as follows:

6 And now ye know God’s providence withholdeth that the antichrist might be revealed in God’s time. 

7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only God who now letteth will let, until the antichrist be taken out of the way.

It is the Lord who allows antichrists to reign in deceit, but only ever for a limited period of time, until He chooses to “reveal” them. All is done for the Lord’s holy and just ends:

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 

The antichrist’s “revealing” I equate with his being “taken out of the way,” not his rise to power. Note in verse 7 we are told “the mystery of iniquity doth already work,” in other words, the antichrist is already at work, long before his “revealing.” The word “mystery” meaning something that is hidden for a time, and which is later revealed, such as “the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11), or “the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:9), or “the mystery of the faith” (1 Timothy 3:9) 

The man of sin is only “revealed” as the man of sin when the deceit is exposed. 

So, if antichrists come in deceit, how can we recognise a “spirit of antichrist” at all? The only way is to stay close to “the spirit of his [Christ’s] mouth” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), in other words the Word of God. Staying close to God’s Word is the only way not to be deceived. We know that many people will be deceived. Many will blindly follow these people. So don’t trust in men, don’t trust in a church, however many are blindly following it, but trust in the Lord and stay close to Him.

Antichrists will come and go, and as the Lord in His providence removes the “withholding” they will be “revealed” for who they are, men of sin, and their time of deceitful influence will come to an end. Ultimately, all these deceitful men of sin will be finally “revealed” and fully exposed once and for all when Christ comes again:

1 Corinthians 3:13

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

 2 Thessalonians 2:8

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

So the message is to look out for the “spirit of antichrist” wherever it may be found, and keep close to the Lord and His Word at all times, because this spirit of deceit “doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) in the church, and is deceiving many right now.

Mark 13:33

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.