Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Antichirst: Alive and Well - Part Two

People have thrown the term Antichrist at many people over the centuries. Today, if you go to you can even see an entire article debunking the claim that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. He is not the only one that has been branded with this title over the years. Here are some more . . .

1. Antiochus Epiphanes - The little horn of Daniel who is a type of Antichrist and did many of the same things that a future Antichrist is likely to do (like desecrate the temple and outlawing the true religion).

2. Nero - Nero was a Roman Emperor who persecuted the church like crazy. After his death, people didn't believe he was dead. Many thought he left Rome and went over to their enemy and was going to lead an army back into Rome to destroy it. Many Christians today still believe that Nero was the Antichrist.

3. Many Popes - Many Protestant believers have assumed that the Antichrist will come from this powerful Christian denomination. Although, from even a superficial reading of 2 Thessalonians and Revelation 13 it appears that the Antichrist is more of a political figure who will push down ALL religions and make himself out to be God.

4. Emperor Charlemagne - He lived mostly in the 8th century. He conquered much of Europe feeding the idea that he was the Antichrist, whom some believe will gather together a revived roman empire.

5. Napolean - Same thing as Charlemagne. He loved war and tried to conquer Europe.

6. Aleister Crowley - A English male witch who was so evil that he was called "the beast" by his contemporaries. Many rock and roll singers have immortalized him in their tunes like the Doors and Ozzy Osbourne.

7. FDR - If you add up the letters of his name by Gematria, his name equals the number 666. The same thing is actually true for Nero. Many thought FDR was the Antichrist because of his power hungry ways, including trying to add Justices to the Supreme Court so that he could push through his New Deal.

8. Mussolini - A dictator of Italy, the seat of the former Roman Empire. He was arrogant, which fits the picture of Antichrist that we get from 2 Thess. 2 and Rev. 13.

9. Hitler - Just because he was evil incarnate

10. Stalin - Killed 30 million people. Believed to be the biggest mass murderer of all time.

11. JFK - He was slick and everybody loved him, which many people believe will be a character trait necessary to deceive the masses. He was also the first Roman Catholic president, and at the Democratic Convention he received 666 votes to acquire the nomination. After he was shot in Dallas, many Christians waited for his head wound to be healed, but of course it never was.

12. Henry Kissinger - Because of his constant work in the Middle East

13. Ayatollah Khomeini - Just another evil dude

14. Gorbachev - Have no idea why! But people still have their beady eyes on him

15. Reagan - What? Reagan? Please no!!! He has six letters in all three of his names: 666.

16. Barney the Dinosaur - a beast who is definitely evil

Also, Sun Myung Moon, Yassir Arafat, Farrakhan, Clinton, Bill Gates, Prince Charles, and Chirac. All this to say that Christians have guessed and been wrong so many times, I wonder why we keep guessing. Is it really that important? Let's hold fast to what is clear and let God worry about the rest.

Last time we looked at 2 Thessalonians 2 and saw a number of things we should clearly believe about this guy. He will exalt himself above every god, set up an abomination of desolation, perform false miracles, and deceive many. Now I want to look at the only other references to the Antichrist in the NT that aren't in Revelation. They can be grouped into two: (1) the Synoptic references to false messiahs, and (2) the Johannine reference to small "a" antichrists.

Let's start with John (1 John 2:18-22; 4:3; 2 John 7). 1 John 2:18 says, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come." John points out that a big "A" Antichrist will come in the future, or at least he acknowledges that this is a generally accepted truth. The big "A" Antichrist will come in the last hour.

Then, he moves on to point out what seems to be a more important truth for him, that many small "a" antichrists have already come. These are men (or women) who were once part of the church, but have moved away from orthodox doctrine and are now trying to lead others into their heresy. The small "a" antichrists of John's day were Proto-Gnostics, holding to a Docetic view of Christ. In other words, they rejected the humanity of Christ, believing that his body was an illusion or that the spirit of Christ was separate than the human Jesus. In John's mind these false teachers are antichrists. Why worry about a future big "A" antichrist, when these small "a" guys are running around. In John's mind then the last hour is already here because of these small "a" guys.

I think this is instructive for us because we need to stop worrying so much about a future big "A" guy and who he is, and instead worry about the small "a" guys that we deal with day in and day out. That is the more pressing concern, keeping God's people from fatal heresies.

Finally, let's look at the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and their references to the Antichrist (Mark 13 par. Matt. 24 and Luke 21). In these passages we find Jesus talking about the future destruction of the temple, but is he talking about a third temple during the period of the end (?) or the destruction of the second temple (66-70 CE)? Some of the language points in each direction. As I have studied these sections, I have concluded that Luke refers mainly to 70 CE (i.e. "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies"), Matthew refers mainly to the end (i. e. "At that time the Son of Man shall appear in the sky. . . coming on the clouds with power and great glory"), and Mark seems to point in both directions. I think that what happened in 70 CE, like what happened with Antiochus in 167 BCE, is a pattern for what will again happen in the end. So, I believe in a both/and approach. But . . . interestingly, we have a mention of the abomination of desolation here in the Synoptics but no specific mention of an Antichrist. Our attention is directed again to small "a" antichrists which pop up and try to deceive the many, including the "elect".

It seems to me that these two portions of Scripture are trying to discourage us from worrying about identifying the large "A" Antichrist, and instead focus on safeguarding God's people from the false doctrine of the small "a" guys. But . . . that's just not as much fun is it? What do you think? Who do you think our big small "a" guys are today?

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