By Al Stoner
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them” (I Jn. 4:4).
The Lord Jesus Christ warned about "false christs" and "false prophets", and both Peter and Paul gave admonitions regarding "false teachers" and "false prophets", but the Apostle John is the only inspired writer who specifically uses the word antichrist, or antichrists. Those words only appear in John's first and second epistles. That consideration alone ought to provoke men in our day to make a fresh inquiry as to whether what they have been taught about this matter, and what the Word of God declares are actually one and the same. It shall be very beneficial and instructive to our spirits to consider the way these words are used by the Holy Spirit. With all the inordinate and perverted attention that is given to the subject of antichrist in the “Christian” bookstores and on the airwaves, it shall be very profitable for us to devote our minds and hearts to “what saith the Scripture” (Rom. 4:3) about this all-important matter.
A Religious, Not a Political Phenomenon. Contrary to popular religious views and notions almost universally taught, it shall be seen that antichrist is not a political ruler who shall rise up to persecute the people of God sometime in the future. Neither the Lord, nor His Apostles instructed believers in Christ to tremble before political despots. But they consistently warned and admonished with regard to false prophets and false teachers.
Antichrist, in Scripture, is consistently represented as a religious phenomenon where the assaults are against the truth and, for the most part, they amount to a slandering, de-emphasis, or even a deliberate obscurement of the Person of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in and from the minds of men. The attacks are made by false teachers and false prophets, who are being driven by lying spirits.
Antichrist, as the word is used by the Apostle, is not by a political despot or world ruler, as is commonly taught! With regard to the objective of antichrist, who Christ really is, what He has accomplished, and what He is presently doing at the right hand of God in the behalf of men, salvationally, is being slandered and obscured by the perpetration of corrupted views of Him. It, thus, ought to be readily seen that it is the work and intention of antichrists to blind the minds of them which do not believe (cf. II Cor. 4:3-4), or to seduce men away from a love of the truth that they might be saved (cf. II Th. 2:7-12).
False Christs Foretold by the Savior. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before” (Mt. 24:24-25). “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things” (Mk. 13:22-23). In both of these texts the foremost jeopardy that is posed by the false christs is not that of physical harm, but rather of deception and spiritual seduction (cf. I Jn. 2:26). The real danger that results from the presence of antichrists and false christs in the world is that men are often found to cease from their fervent seeking after, and pressing into, the kingdom of God (cf. Lk. 16:16). Satan’s objective in the sending of false christs and antichrists into the world is to hinder men from entering into the world to come, not merely to cause them to have a miserable and unpleasant stay while they are here in this world.
The Witness of John. “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. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (I Jn. 2:18-20).
It is evident from this word of the Apostle that the antichrists mentioned here were false teachers who once companied with the Apostles, but finally went out from their presence and favor. In John’s day some of those false teachers were known as “gnostics,” who, among other things, denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh (cf. I Jn. 4:1-2). Some classic examples of this sort of phenomenon in our day would be Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and such like. In each of these groups we find not merely a slight difference in views regarding points of doctrine, but rather a complete and thorough corruption of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3)! Each of these, by their doctrines, represents a blatant assault on either the Person or the salvational work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
An Anointing from the Holy One. Another important consideration here is that believers in Christ “have an unction (anointing) from the Holy One,” which serves as armor to the believing ones against the seductions of false teachers. This “anointing” or “unction” has reference to the Holy Spirit, which comes to dwell in those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, having obeyed the gospel. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in His capacity as “the Anointing” is not only to assist the believer to perceive what is truth and what is error. It is also to persuade men of the exceeding preciousness of the truth, so that the truth is preferred and delighted in, and the lie is hated and thus rejected.
The very nature of this situation tells us that antichrist does not primarily have to do with political oppression, but rather with spiritual seduction and deception. As we have said, antichrists are being used by the Devil to seduce men away from the great salvation in Christ Jesus and to bring them down to condemnation! Satan will be successful in this evil enterprise wherever men have “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (II Th. 2:10).
Denying the Father and the Son. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also” (I Jn. 2:22-23). Those who deny or obscure the Person of Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the very words of Scripture, or who deceitfully becloud the relation between the Father and the Son, those are the liars to watch out for. Their lies have the potential of making men twofold more the child of hell than they once were. Their lies, when believed, will cause men to suffer harm, not in this life only, but for all eternity.
Denying the Father and the Son is an example of the kind of error that is being propagated by antichrists. It amounts to a blatant rejection of “the things which are most surely believed among us” (Lk. 1:1). As we have said, we are not speaking here of slight differences in viewpoints or opinions that are held by men. Any religious teacher or teaching that casts a shadow upon the relation of Christ with the Father, or of the Father with the Son, or upon who the Son actually is, or upon the purpose for which He came into the world, is antichrist!
The Spirit of Antichrist. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 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. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (I Jn. 4:1-6).
This is a wonderful and comforting consideration. Those who are believing in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ are presently overcomers and have already overcome the antichrists and spiritual seducers of their day. If men are yet believing it is evident that the antichrists of their time were not successful in overthrowing their faith. That was the objective of the “old serpent” (Rev. 12:9) in the employment of antichrists.
A Deceiver and an Antichrist. “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. 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” (II Jn. 6-7). Here again we see the association of antichrist with deception. All men who are finally cast into the lake of fire shall be there because they were deceived, and were demonstrated to be despisers of the truth and of God’s salvation in Christ. The prince of this world successfully enticed them into believing a lie, instead of them wholeheartedly believing the truth! Herein is a marvelous thing!
A Closing Word. In closing, here is a word of caution to men and women who do not love, and delight themselves in, the truth. Such ones have made themselves vulnerable and available to the antichrists of the present generation. Make no mistake about it! There is something very tantalizing and appealing about false teaching to those who are not continuing “in the faith, grounded and settled,” and who have been “moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23). Every generation has been cluttered with the wreckage of souls that have made shipwreck of the faith (cf. I Tim. 1:19), and who have subsequently gone after the lie!
But for those who continue to “cleave unto the Lord” “with purpose of heart” (Acts 11:23), there is good and wonderful news! We can say to all such ones: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the antichrists and false teachers): because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Thus, if men and women are believing the record which God gave of His Son, such ones “have overcome them” (the religious seducers). The “truth of God” (Rom. 3:7) has presently won the heart’s affection in the believing ones, so that the error being perpetrated by the antichrists and false prophets is able to make no lasting and effectual appeal to their hearts. Let us, therefore, see that we have received a love of the truth!
The Spirit of Antichrist in "the Church." As a final consideration, it should be very apparent to those who are fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life, that the spirit of antichrist has also pervaded much of what calls itself the church today. The typical religious professor of our day is "carnally minded" (Rom. 8:6) and minds earthly things (cf. Phil. 3:18-19). The vibrant anticipation of the world to come (cf. Heb. 2:5) is virtually unknown. Many professing faith in Christ do not speak like the Bible speaks. They are ignorant of the Scriptures, and even offended when the Words of God are spoken to them, or in their presence (cf. Isa. 30:10-11).
The professing church, for the most part, has made friends with the world, even takes delight in that friendship, and therefore is constituted the enemy of God (cf. Jas. 4:4). Such ones have not given heed to the Divine injunction: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (II Cor. 6:17-18). In the diction of the Lord Jesus, the salt has indeed lost its savour, and is therefore good for nothing (Mt. 5:13), but to be trodden underfoot of men. The "light" that is in the professing church of our day is, for the most part, darkness, and "how great is that darkness" (Mt. 6:23)!