Easton's Bible Dictionary
against Christ, or an opposition Christ, a rival Christ.
(1) The word is used only by the apostle John. Referring to false teachers, he
says ( 1
John 2:18 , 2:22
John 1:7 ), "Even now are there many antichrists."
(2) This name has been applied to the "little horn" of the "king of fierce countenance"
7:24 , 7:25
(3) It has been applied also to the "false Christs" spoken of by our Lord ( Matthew
24:5 , 24:23
(4) To the "man of sin" described by Paul ( 2
Thessalonians 2:3 , 2:4
(5) And to the "beast from the sea" ( Revelation
13:1 ; 17:1
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
an adversary to Christ
Smith's Bible Dictionary
This term is employed by the apostle John alone, and
is defined by him in a manner which leaves no doubt as to its intrinsic meaning.
With regard to its application there is less certainty. In the first passage--
John 2:18 ) --in which it occurs, the apostle makes direct reference to the
false Christs whose coming, it had been fore-told, should mark the last days.
2:22 we find, "he is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son;" and
still more positively, "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is
come in the flesh is of antichrist." Comp. ( 2
John 1:7 ) From these emphatic and repeated definitions it has been supposed
that the object of the apostle in his first epistle was to combat the errors of
Cerinthus, the Docetae and the Gnostics on the subject of the Incarnation. (They
denied the union of the divine and human in Christ.)
The coming of Antichrist was (believed to be foretold in the "vile person" of
Daniels prophecy, ( Daniel
11:21 ) which received its first accomplishment in Antiochus Epiphanes but
of which the complete fulfillment was reserved for the last times. He is identified
with "the man of sin, the son of perdition." ( 2
Thessalonians 2:3 ) This interpretation brings Antichrist into close connection
with the gigantic power of evil, symbolized by the "beast," ( Revelation
13:1 ) ... who received his power from the dragon (i.e. the devil, the serpent
of Genesis), continued for forty and two months, and was invested with the kingdom
of the ten kings who destroyed the harlot Babylon, ( Revelation
17:12 , 17:17
) the city of seven hills. The destruction of Babylon is to be followed by the
rule of Antichrist for a short period, ( Revelation
17:10 ) to be in his turn overthrown in "the battle of that great day of God
Almighty," ( Revelation
16:14 ) with the false prophet and all his followers. Revelation
19. The personality of Antichrist is to be inferred as well from the personality
of his historical precursor as from that of him to whom he stands opposed. Such
an interpretation is to be preferred to that which regards Antichrist as the embodiment
and personification of all powers and agencies inimical to Christ, or of the Antichristian
might of the world.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The word "antichrist" occurs only in 1 John 2:18 , 22 ; 4:3 ; 2 John 1:7, but
the idea which the word conveys appears frequently in Scripture.
I . In the Old Testament.
As in the Old Testament the doctrine concerning Christ was only suggested, not
developed, so is it with the doctrine of the Antichrist. That the Messiah should
be the divine Logos, the only adequate expression of God, was merely hinted at,
not stated: so Antichrist was exhibited as the opponent of God rather than of
His anointed. In the historical books of the Old Testament we find "Belial" used
as if a personal opponent of Yahweh; thus the scandalously wicked are called in
the King James Version "sons of Belial" (Judges 19:22 ; 20:13), "daughter of Belial"
(1 Samuel 1:16), etc. The the Revised Version (British and American) translates
the expression in an abstract sense, "base fellows," "wicked woman." In Daniel
7:7,8 there is the description of a great heathen empire, represented by a beast
with ten horns: its full antagonism to God is expressed in a little eleventh horn
which had "a mouth speaking great things" and "made war with the saints" (Daniel
7:8 , 21). Him the 'Ancient of Days' was to destroy, and his kingdom was to be
given to a 'Son of Man' (Daniel 7:9 - 14). Similar but yet differing in many points
is the description of Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel 8:9 - 12 , 23 - 25.
II. In the New Testament.
1. The Gospels:
In the Gospels the activity of Satan is regarded as specially directed against
Christ. In the Temptation (Matthew 4:1 - 10 ; Luke 4:1 - 13) the Devil claims
the right to dispose of "all the kingdoms of the world," and has his claim admitted.
The temptation is a struggle between the Christ and the Antichrist. In the parable
of the Tares and the Wheat, while He that sowed the good seed is the Son of Man,
he that sowed the tares is the Devil, who is thus Antichrist (Matthew 13:37 -
39). our Lord felt it the keenest of insults that His miracles should be attributed
to Satanic assistance (Matthew 12:24 - 32). In John 14:30 there is reference to
the "Prince of the World" who "hath nothing" in Christ.
2. Pauline Epistles:
The Pauline epistles present a more developed form of the doctrine. In the spiritual
sphere Paul identifies Antichrist with Belial. "What concord hath Christ with
Belial?" (2 Corinthians 6:15). 2 Thessalonians, written early, affords evidence
of a considerably developed doctrine being commonly accepted among believers.
The exposition of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 - 9, in which Paul exhibits his teaching
on the 'Man of Sin,' is very difficult, as may be seen from the number of conflicting
attempts at its interpretation. See MAN OF SIN. Here we would only indicate what
seems to us the most plausible view of the Pauline doctrine. It had been revealed
to the apostle by the Spirit that the church was to be exposed to a more tremendous
assault than any it had yet witnessed. Some twelve years before the epistle was
penned, the Roman world had seen in Caligula the portent of a mad emperor. Caligula
had claimed to be worshipped as a god, and had a temple erected to him in Rome.
He went farther, and demanded that his own statue should be set up in the temple
at Jerusalem to be worshipped. As similar causes might be expected to produce
similar effects, Paul, interpreting "what the Spirit that was in him did signify,"
may have thought of a youth, one reared in the purple, who, raised to the awful,
isolating dignity of emperor, might, like Caligula, be struck with madness, might,
like him, demand Divine honors, and might be possessed with a thirst for blood
as insatiable as his. The fury of such an enthroned maniac would, with too great
probability, be directed against those who, like the Christians, would refuse
as obstinately as the Jews to give him Divine honor, but were not numerous enough
to make Roman officials pause before proceeding to extremities. So long as Claudius
lived, the Antichrist manifestation of this "lawless one" was restrained; when,
however, the aged emperor should pass away, or God's time should appoint, that
"lawless one" would be revealed, whom the Lord would "slay with the breath of
his mouth" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
3. Johannine Epistles:
Although many of the features of the "Man of Sin" were exhibited by Nero, yet
the Messianic kingdom did not come, nor did Christ return to His people at Nero's
death. Writing after Nero had fallen, the apostle John, who, as above remarked,
alone of the New Testament writers uses the term, presents us with another view
of Antichrist ( 1 John 2:18 , 22 ; 4:3 ; 2 John 1:7). From the first of these
passages ("as ye have heard that antichrist cometh"), it is evident that the coming
of Antichrist was an event generally anticipated by the Christian community, but
it is also clear that the apostle shared to but a limited extent in this popular
expectation. He thought the attention of believers needed rather to be directed
to the antichristian forces that were at work among and around them ("even now
have .... arisen many antichrists"). From 1 John 2:22 ; 4:3 ; 2 John 1:7 we see
that the apostle regards erroneous views of the person of Christ as the real Antichrist.
To him the Docetism (i.e. the doctrine that Christ's body was only a seeming one)
which portended Gnosticism, and the elements of Ebionism (Christ was only a man),
were more seriously to be dreaded than persecution.
4. Book of Revelation:
In the Book of Revelation the doctrine of Antichrist receives a further development.
If the traditional date of the Apocalypse is to be accepted, it was written when
the lull which followed the Neronian persecution had given place to that under
Domitian--"the bald Nero." The apostle now feels the whole imperial system to
be an incarnation of the spirit of Satan; indeed from the identity of the symbols,
seven heads and ten horns, applied both to the dragon (Revelation 12:3) and to
the Beast (Revelation 13:1), he appears to have regarded the raison d'etre of
the Roman Empire to be found in its incarnation of Satan. The ten horns are borrowed
from Daniel 7, but the seven heads point, as seen from Revelation 17:9, to the
"seven hills" on which Rome sat. There is, however, not only the Beast, but also
the "image of the beast" to be considered (Revelation 13:14 , 15). Possibly this
symbolizes the cult of Rome, the city being regarded as a goddess, and worshipped
with temples and statues all over the empire.
From the fact that the seer endows the Beast that comes out of the earth with
"two horns like unto a lamb" (Revelation 13:11), the apostle must have had in
his mind some system of teaching that resembled Christianity; its relationship
to Satan is shown by its speaking "as a dragon" (Revelation 13:11). The number
666 given to the Beast (Revelation 13:18), though presumably readily understood
by the writer's immediate public, has proved a riddle capable of too many solutions
to be now readily soluble at all. The favorite explanation Neron Qecar (Nero Caesar),
which suits numerically, becomes absurd when it implies the attribution of seven
heads and ten horns. There is no necessity to make the calculation in Hebrew;
the corresponding arithmogram in the Sib Or, 1 32830, in which 888 stands for
Iesous, is interpreted in Greek. On this hypothesis Lateinos, a suggestion preserved
by Irenaeus (V, 30) would suit. If we follow the analogy of Daniel, which has
influenced the Apocalyptist so much, the Johannine Antichrist must be regarded
as not a person but a kingdom. In this case it must be the Roman Empire that is
III. In Apocalyptic Writings.
Although from their eschatological bias one would expect that the Jewish Apocalyptic
Writings would be full of the subject, mention of the Antichrist occurs only in
a few of the apocalypses. The earliest certain notice is found in the Sibylline
books (1 167). We are there told that "Beliar shall come and work wonders," and
"that he shall spring from the Sebasteni (Augusti)" a statement which, taken with
other indications, inclines one to the belief that the mad demands of Caligula,
were, when this was written, threatening the Jews. There are references to Beliar
in the XII the Priestly Code (P), which, if the date ascribed to them by Dr. Charles,
i.e. the reign of John Hyrcanus I, be assumed as correct, are earlier. Personally
we doubt the accuracy of this conclusion. Further, as Dr. Charles admits the presence
of many interpolations, even though one might assent to his opinions as to the
nucleus of the XII the Priestly Code (P), yet these Beliar passages might be due
to the interpolator. Only in one passage is "Beliar" antichristos as distinguished
from antitheos; Daniel 5:10 , 11 (Charles' translation), "And there shall rise
unto you from the tribe of Judah and of Levi the salvation of the Lord, and he
shall make war against Beliar, and execute everlasting vengeance on our enemies,
and the captivity shall he take from Beliar and turn disobedient hearts unto the
Lord." Dr. Charles thinks he finds an echo of this last clause in Luke 1:17; but
may the case not be the converse?
The fullest exposition of the ideas associated with the antichrist in the early
decades of Christian history is to be found in the Ascension of Isaiah. In this
we are told that "Beliar" (Belial) would enter into "the matricide king" (Nero),
who would work great wonders, and do much evil. After the termination of 1,332
days during which he has persecuted the plant which the twelve apostles of the
Beloved have planted, "the Lord will come with his angels and with armies of his
holy ones from the seventh heaven, with the glory of the seventh heaven, and he
will drag Beliar into Gehenna and also his armies" (Daniel 4:3 ,13 , Charles'
translation). If the date at which Beliar was supposed to enter into Nero was
the night on which the great fire in Rome began, then the space of power given
to him is too short by 89 days. From the burning of Rome till Nero's death was
1,421 days. It is to be noted that there are no signs of the writer having been
influenced either by Paul or the Apocalypse. As he expected the coming of the
Lord to be the immediate cause of the death of Nero, we date the writing some
months before that event. It seems thus to afford contemporary and independent
evidence of the views entertained by the Christian community as to Antichrist.
IV. In Patristic Writings.
Of the patristic writers, Polycarp is the only one of the Apostolic Fathers who
refers directly to Antichrist. He quotes John's words, "Whosoever doth not confess
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is Antichrist" (7), and regards Docetism
as Antichrist in the only practical sense. Barnabas, although not using the term,
implies that the fourth empire of Daniel is Antichrist; this he seems to identify
with the Roman Empire (4:5). Irenaeus is the first- known writer to occupy himself
with the number of the Beast. While looking with some favor on Lateinos, he himself
prefers Teitan as the name intended (5:30). His view is interesting as showing
the belief that the arithmogram was to be interpreted by the Greek values of the
letters. More particulars as to the views prevailing can be gleaned from Hippolytus,
who has a special work on the subject, in which he exhibits the points of resemblance
between Christ and Antichrist (On Christ and Antichrist, 4.14.15. 19.25). In this
work we find the assertion that Antichrist springs from the terms of Jacob's blessing
to Dan. Among other references, the idea of Commodian (250 AD) that Nero risen
from the dead was to be Antichrist has to be noticed. In the commentary on Revelation
attributed to Victorinus of Petau there is, inserted by a later hand, an identification
of Genseric with the "Beast" of that book. It is evident that little light is
to be gained on the subject from patristic sources.
V. Medieval Views.
Much time need not be spent on the medieval views of Antichrist in either of the
two streams in which it flowed, Christian and Jewish.
The Christian was mainly occupied in finding methods of transforming the names
of those whom monkish writers abhorred into a shape that would admit of their
being reckoned 666. The favorite name for this species of torture was naturally
Maometis (Mohammed). Gregory IX found no difficulty in accommodating the name
of Frederic II so as to enable him to identify his great antagonist with "the
beast coming up out of the sea": this identification the emperor retorted on the
pope. Rabanus Maurus gives a full account of what Antichrist was to do, but without
any attempt to label any contemporary with the title. He was to work miracles
and to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. The view afterward so generally held by
Protestants that the papacy was Antichrist had its representatives among the sects
denounced by the hierarchy as heretical, as the Kathari. In various periods the
rumor was spread that Antichrist had been already born. Sometimes his birthplace
was said to be Babylon, sometimes this distinction was accorded to the mystical
The Jewish views had little effect on Christian speculation. With the Talmudists
Antichrist was named Armilus, a variation of Romulus. Rome is evidently primarily
intended, but Antichrist became endowed with personal attributes. He makes war
on Messiah, son of Joseph, and slays him, but is in turn destroyed by Messiah,
Son of David.
VI. Post-Reformation Views.
In immediately post-Reformation times the divines of the Romish church saw in
Luther and the Reformed churches the Antichrist and Beast of Revelation. On the
other hand the Protestants identified the papacy and the Roman church with these,
and with the Pauline Man of Sin. The latter view had a certain plausibility, not
only from the many undeniably antichristian features in the developed Roman system,
but from the relation in which the Romish church stood to the city of Rome and
to the imperial idea. The fact that the Beast which came out of the earth (Revelation
13:11) had the horns of a lamb points to some relation to the lamb which had been
slain (Revelation 5:6). Futurist interpreters have sought the Antichrist in historical
persons, as Napoleon III. These persons, however, did not live to realize the
expectations formed of them. The consensus of critical opinion is that Nero is
intended by the Beast of the Apocalypse, but this, on many grounds, as seen before,
is not satisfactory. Some future development of evil may more exactly fulfill
the conditions of the problem.
Bousset, Der Antichrist; "The Antichrist Legend," The Expositor T, contains an
admirable vidimus of ancient authorities in the subject. See articles on subject
in Schenkel's Biblical Lex. (Hausrath); Herzog's RE, 2nd edition (Kahler), 3rd
edition (Sieffert); Encyclopedia Biblica (Bousset); with Commentaries on 2 Thessalonians
and Revelation. A full account of the interpretations of the "Man of Sin" may
be seen in Dr. John Eadie's essay on that subject in his Commentary on Thessalonians.
J. E. H. Thomson
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