Rev. Dr. B. Varghese Principal Emeritus Faith Theological Seminary Manakala
‘Antichrist’ or ‘false messiah’ is generally regarded as a mythical- historical figure controlled by Satan, who will falsely claim to be the Christ ( Messiah). He will be demonic human adversary of Christ who will appear as the oppressor and persecutor of both Christ and His followers but will definitely be defeated and overcome by Christ in His second return. The prefix ‘anti’ itself shows the nature and work of antichrist. It comes from the Greek term, aνti which is used in two senses : ‘opposed to’ and ‘in the place of’. Primarily he is in opposition to Christ , against his people as well as against his teachings. At the same time he is an evil substitute for Christ. He will be acting in the place of Christ by being seated in the holy temple claiming to be God. In the N.T the expression, antichrist, appears only in the Johannine epistles (1 Jn. 2:18, 22, 4:3 2 Jn. 7) although the concept occurs elsewhere.
1. Jewish Prototypes
There are few antecedents of false messiah (christ) in the Jewish writings. In Book of Daniel we read about Antiochus IV, a cruel persecutor of God’s children (Jews) depicted as little horn (8:9), appears as a demonic figure, who magnifies himself against God. Similarly in the Testament of Twelve Patriarchs there is a reference to Beliel, a demonic figure from the tribe of Dan, causing Israel to turn aside from the worship of God. However, the Messiah of the tribe of Levi will bind him and cast him into the eternal fire (Test. Dan. 5:10-11). According to Jewish perception, antichrist is a false messiah who will appear in the end against God’s children but he will totally be vanquished by our Lord from the face of the earth.
2. His Identity
How do we identify antichrist as false christ? Jesus has already warned that in the last days counterfeit (false) christs would arise claiming to be the messiah and savior of the world. Jesus answered ,
“Watch out that no one deceives you. ‘ For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘ I am the Christ ‘ and will deceive many’.(Matt. 24:4,5 NIV)
Also he said , “For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect- if that were possible” ( Matt. 24 : 24).
One of the ways we may identify false christ as the one claiming to be Christ, performing signs and wonders and deceive many, even the elect ones (Mk.13:6; Lk.21:8).
3. His Nature
False christ is indeed an imitation of antichrist, a pseudo-christ , who will deceive and lead many astray by his pretensions to be the original Christ , by his super natural performances and by his false teachings. Jesus says that the deceptions of these false christs are so carefully planned and skillfully carried out , even God’s elect would be deceived if possible. Who is behind these false christ? We all clearly know that it is the work of Satan in the end days. No doubt, he is absolutely controlled and motivated by Satan as he remains as the embodiment of evil forces. Apostle Paul writes, “ And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light . It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve”. ( 2 Cor. 11: 14, 15 NIV). In other words, the false christ masquerade as ‘servant of righteousness’ just as Satan masquerades as an angel of light (Christ). It may be true to say that as Christ is the incarnation of God, he may be a kind of incarnation of Satan. He appears as pseudo-christ, a demonic imitation of Christ. Apostle John describes him as a spirit ( 1Jn.4:3) or collective force of evil in the last days (1Jn.2:18).
4. His Activities
In the Synoptic Apocalypse (Mk. 13; Matt.24; Lk.21) Jesus has forewarned that false christs and false prophets will appear in the last days. They will perform signs and wonders and lead people astray even the elect ones. At the same time, there will be wars, famines, tribulations and persecutions.
Paul says “Do not let any one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed , the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called or is worshipped so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2; 3,4 NIV).
It says that there is going to be a rebellion, an apostasy, a great falling away from the faith. In conjunction with these events, man of lawlessness will appear in great power . He will oppose every one including the Almighty God. Empowered by Satan , as said earlier, he will perform signs and wonders. Both Jesus and Paul maintain that performing signs and wonders is his chief business This man is truly false christ of the greatest magnitude . He will set up himself in God’s holy temple and assume worship from people claiming to be so called God.
5. His Destiny
What would be the destiny of false christ? Bible clearly explains the destiny of this evil force. In 2 Thessalonians Paul says,
“ And then the lawless one will be revealed , whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming . The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance of the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” ( 2:8-10 NIV).
Paul ascertains that when our Lord returns , he will slay the false Christ or man of lawlessness with the very breath of his mouth. The Jewish people have also affirmed in the same way that Messiah will appear at the end of the age and vanquish the force of peudo- messiah (false christ) and establish the Kingdom of God on the face of the earth( Dan.11:36, Ez.28:2).
Of course this sort of study is quite relevant today because many so called gods or self-claiming gods are appearing today. Like false christ they too claim that they are certain god- incarnate with extravagant supernatural power. Hence, many followers blindly turn in and surrender their lives to such heroes. How shockingly we listen to certain news that these self-claiming gods are indulged in sexual abuse and corruption, hence locked up in prison. They will, however, gather to themselves deplorable miseries and heinous shame. In this context, how privileged we are to call upon a Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is perfect in everything. He is no more a man- incarnate to be so called god but God -incarnate in the form of a perfect man for the salvation of entire humanity. He is the most holy and the Son of living God who never indulged in any form of corruption or impurities. He was never locked up in any prison of this world. He has exclusive authority over sin, sickness, death and even every evil force. He is the one who has claimed victory over any form of evil force at work and he will ultimately defeat and vanquish the force of even false christ in the end. We, the children of God, have always victory through Christ Jesus, our Lord.