The Concept of Antichrist

In my recent study of Revelation 13 I have noticed that the multiple ways in which the sea beast counterfeits the life and work of Jesus Christ has caused many scholars of Revelation to identify the sea beast with the Antichrist. This is the first in a series of blogs where I will review what I know about the Antichrist concept in Revelation 13, the rest of Scripture and in the ancient world.

The word “Antichrist” does not occur in the book of Revelation. Within the Bible it is found only in the letters of John (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). The term “Antichrist” is a compound word in the Greek. It is made up of “anti” and “christ.” The Greek preposition “anti” means “against” or “in place of.” It often expresses the idea of substitution, one is taking the place that belongs to another.

The “Christ” portion of the term, of course, is the Greek equivalent of “Messiah,” the “anointed one.” When used in certain circumstances with a definite article; “the Christ,” it is a title rather than a name for Jesus (Matt 11:2; 16:16, 20; 22:42; 24:5, 23 and parallels in Mark and Luke; also Luke 24:26, 46; John 1:20, 25, 41; 3:28; Acts 2:41; 17:3; Rev 11:15; 12:10, etc.). One could simply translate “the Christ” into English as “the Messiah.” More often, especially without the article but sometimes with it, it can be translated simply “Christ.” In other words, the title became so commonly used for Jesus that it became simply another name for Him (Acts 3:6; 8:12; 10:48; Rom 3:22, 24; 1 Cor 1:10, 13, 17; Gal 3:13-14; Rev 1:1-2, etc.). So at its root in the New Testament, the Antichrist would be someone who substitutes for Christ. He undermines or takes the place that belongs to the Messiah of Christian faith.

Since the term “antichrist” is fairly rare in the New Testament, a full understanding of the concept requires the examination of synonyms within the Bible and narratives in the ancient world outside the Bible in order to reconstruct a full portrait of this personage. In Revelation 13 itself, however, it is clear that the Antichrist figure has worldwide impact and influence, especially at the end (Rev 13:7-8, 14, 16). The final spiritual fraud will be global in extent. No one will be excluded from the final test of true versus false worship. With the help of his friend, the beast from the earth, the Antichrist will enforce a global economic boycott (Rev 13:16-17) and a death decree against all who refuse to worship the image of the beast (Rev 13:15). In a sense he offers the attractive appeal: “Come with me, if you want to live.” According to Revelation 13, those who believe that the persecutions of the Middle Ages are forever gone are in for a big surprise.

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