Friday, November 09, 2012


18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him (1 Jn 2:18-27).

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 Jn 4:1-3).

The immediate inspiration for the post is in answer to a question about Joel Richardson’s popular books, which claim the Antichrist will be a Muslim.

But the identity of the Antichrist is a more general question, so I’m treating that separately.

Richardson takes the generic premillennial view that the Antichrist a single human being who comes to the fore at the end of the church age. Richardson has his own idiosyncratic variations on that theme, but that’s a basic presupposition of his argument. I don’t share that presupposition.

Take John’s treatment of the Antichrist motif.

i) In modern parlance, we sometimes use “spirit” in a figurative sense, where “spirit” is synonymous with an attitude, principle, or tendency. For instance the “spirit of the age” or zeitgeist has reference to a particular ethos.

However, I don’t think that’s how John is using the term.

ii) John is using “spirit” literally. He’s describing divergent types of spirit-possession.

He draws an antithetical parallel between the Spirit of God and the spirit of the Antichrist.

He also differentiates between Christians, whom the Holy Spirit possesses, and false prophets.

iii) This usage also has a general background in Scripture. Various demoniacs in the Gospels and Acts, as well as OT counterparts–where an “evil spirit” takes possession of a man (1 Sam 16:14; 1 Kgs 22:19-23).

BTW, in OT usage, an “evil spirit” doesn’t necessary mean a spirit who is evil; it may simply mean a spirit who has a malign influence, by leading someone astray. This would represent a type of judicial hardening.

So I think John is talking about demonic spirits (cf. Rev 16:14) in contrast to the Holy Spirit. False prophets are inspired by demons.

iv) On this interpretation, the Antichrist and the spirit of the Antichrist are not one and the same person. Rather, the spirit of the Antichrist is a demon (perhaps a particular demon) who takes possession of a human being. This type of demonic possession is what makes the demoniac an antichrist (or “the Antichrist”).

So, on this view, the Antichrist is a demoniac while the spirit of the Antichrist is a demon who takes possession of the Antichrist–thereby making him the Antichrist.

v) Distinguishing the Antichrist from the spirit of the Antichrist accounts for John’s plural usage: antichrists.

For John, Antichrist(s) can denote false prophets or messianic pretenders. And you have a one-to-many correspondence.

vi) Apropos (v), men are mortal, but demons are immortal. Men live for a few decades (give or take) in a particular century (or between parts of two centuries), but the same demons exist from one century to the next.

vii) On this view, the spirit of the Antichrist is a bodyswapper. The spirit of the Antichrist jumps from person to person. He possesses different individuals at different times and places throughout human history. You can have a succession of antichrists. The Antichrist could be Antiochus Epiphanes, a pope, a Roman Emperor, Hitler, Stalin, Ayatollah Khomeini, &c.

The Antichrist and the spirit of the Antichrist don’t have to pair off. Rather, various human beings can be vehicles for this demonic spirit. When they serve their purpose, he may abandon them, to leave them holding the bag.

The spirit of the Antichrist takes possession of different individuals at different stages of history in the furtherance of a diabolical stratagem. Since the devil has limited foresight, I expect he improvises. The devil must adapt to unforeseen contingencies. He manipulates certain humans to advance his nefarious schemes. Uses them, then discards them.

viii) This would also fit with the elusive and evasive nature of the dark side. Just when you think you have the Adversary by the tail, he slips away. He travels under a number of different aliases: “ancient serpent, the devil, Satan, the deceiver” (Rev 12:9). Like a spy with a suitcase full of counterfeit passports containing different identities. Satan is the past master of identity theft.

ix) I think that when some Christians try to pin down the identity of the Antichrist to one historical figure–past, present, or future–they ironically play into the Devil’s hands. Surely Satan uses decoys to divert our attention from the real danger. I think it’s more likely that the Antichrist pops up where we don’t expect to find him. Like a dictator who uses body doubles. Catches the unwary off-guard. They are training their guns in the wrong direction. 

x) This doesn’t preclude the possibility of an endtime figure who represents the culmination of the Antichrist motif.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. If this post was a partial response to my comments Here, then I want to say that I agree with most everything you said in this post. I used the concept of the "spirit of antichrist" to refer to 1. teaching that is "anti-Christ"-ian in the denial of the incarnation (which affirms both Christ's divinity and humanity) and/or 2. the spirits that specialize in promoting that denial of the incarnation.

    For a few years now, I've leaned toward preterism and Amillenialism (or possibly Postmillennialism) and so agree that there have been many manifestations of "anti-Christ". Also, I suspect that there is more than one anti-Christ demon and that in specific manifestations of anti-Christ, those human beings might be possessed by more than one anti-christ demon. Unless, Satan is a one of those demons and might prefer not to share a human host with other demons (being the proud person that he is).