𝘛𝘩𝘦 Antichrist.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 February 2024

When I write about antichrists, I of course mean people who are anti-Christ. They’re not just pagans who apathetically want nothing to do with Christ Jesus if they can help it; these folks actively oppose Christ and fight Christianity.

But when I write about antichrists, your average Evangelical gets confused. Because antichrist is a word they’re very familiar with… but they regularly define it wrong. They don’t mean just any individual who’s anti-Christ. They mean the Beast.

Θηρίον/Thiríon is the word the apostle John used to describe various animals in the visions Jesus gave him in Revelation. There are multiple thiría in his visions, same as there are weird animals in Daniel and other biblical apocalypses. None of them are literal animals; they only represent a literal being. Like the lamb with seven horns and seven eyes who looks like he’s been killed. Rv 5.6 That’s Jesus, who doesn’t literally have seven horns and eyes in his heavenly form; he’s been human since 7BC. Likewise this Beast isn’t literally as John described him below. (My translation. The dragon, by the way, is Satan. Rv 12.9)

Revelation 13.1-10 KWL
1 I see a Beast rising up from the sea,
which has 10 horns and seven heads,
and on its horns, 10 diadems;
and on its heads, slanderous names.
2 The Beast I see is like a panther;
its feet like a bear’s,
its mouth like a lion’s mouth.
The dragon gives it its power,
its throne, and great ability.
3 One of the Beast’s heads is as if maimed to death,
and its deadly wound is cured.
The whole world admires the Beast,
4 and worships the dragon which gives its ability to the Beast,
and worships the Beast, saying,
Is anyone like the Beast?”
and “Is anyone able to fight it?”
 
5 A mouth is given to the Beast
to speak great and slanderous things,
and it’s given power to do things
for 42 months.
6 The Beast opens its mouth to slander God,
to slander his name and his tabernacle
—the one in heaven he encamps in—
7 and the Beast is allowed
to make war with the saints and conquer us.
It’s given ability over every tribe,
people, language, and ethnicity.
8Everyone who dwells on earth will worship it—
everyone whose name wasn’t written
when the world was founded
in the life-book of the Lamb who was slain.
 
9 If one has an ear, hear:
10 If one is going into captivity,
they’re going into captivity.
If one is going to be stabbed to death,
they’re getting stabbed to death.
So should be the endurance and trust of the saints.

John then describes a Second Beast which gets everyone to worship both this first Beast, and an εἰκόνα/eikóna, “ikon,” of the first Beast; Rv 13.13-15 and forbids trade among everyone who isn’t personally marked with the Beast’s name or number. Rv 13.16-17 And so many people are fixated on the number, 666, I gave it its own article.

How’d the Beast become called Antichrist?

Ah, that’d be because of Irenaeus, the second-century bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon, France). He write a book series entitled Adversus Haereses, in which he rebuked every kind of heretic teaching he’d ever heard of. Took five books! But in it, Iraenaeus referred to the Beast as the Antichrist, and took a few guesses as to what name 666 might be.

Tons of ancient Christians read Adversus Haereses (in English, Against Heresies), and picked up the practice of referring to the Beast as Antichrist. Irenaeus predates the church councils and the Roman Catholic Church, so every church considers him a saint—and refers to the Beast as Antichrist. It’s not just Evangelicals.

Problem is, the only time Evangelicals use the term Antichrist is to talk about the Beast. Never to talk about antichrists, nor the spirit of antichrist which we see worming its way into our churches, as Christians are regularly tricked by partisans into doing the opposite of what Jesus teaches, in the pursuit of wealth and political power. If Antichrist is simply another person, instead of a rotten attitude which corrupts us, warps our churches, poisons the gospel, and destroys our testimony, then “being on your guard against antichrist” means we needn’t look out for our own fleshly tendencies. We needn’t police ourselves. It’s always political opponents. Not guys in our own party who’d love to gain Christian votes… and hope we never notice (or even make excuses for!) their own godless behaviors.

Thing is, if we’re in the bad habit of overlooking the spirit of antichrist in ourselves, we’re not gonna recognize the Beast. When somebody Beast-like steps into the spotlight, and claims, “No no; I’m totally one of you; I hate everything you hate, so you should hate everything I hate!” we’ll believe him instead of looking at his fruit, good or bad, and correctly identifying him by it. We’ll embrace what we should shun, support what we should fight, and reject what we should adopt. We’ll be the antichrists, and ripe for the Beast’s plucking.

The Beast in Christian mythology.

This Beast fascinates certain Christians. Particularly End Times “prophecy scholars,” who regularly turn this Beast into the great antagonist of Revelation and humanity. Instead of, duh, Satan.

Although some of ’em claim the Beast is Satan. Even though Satan is the dragon who grants the Beast its power, and clearly is a different being than the Beast, plenty of ’em insist at some point in the End Times timeline, Satan is gonna possess the Beast. Human exterior, devilish operator.

Probably the most popular form of Christian End Times mythology in American popular culture is the Left Behind novels, produced in the 1990s by End Times prognosticator Tim LaHaye and novelist Jerry Jenkins. (Whose son Dallas, incidentally, is the showrunner of The Chosen.) It’s based on typical Darbyist teachings: Because the Holy Spirit is holding back evil, he has to leave the world before the Beast can appear, but since he’s in every Christian, it means Christians first have to get raptured. Problem is, Revelation describes Christians getting persecuted. So Darbyists try to eat their cake yet have it: All the Christians first get raptured, but some pagans will be convicted and convert after the rapture (even though the Holy Spirit left the earth?) and now the Beast has Christians to persecute. And that’s the premise of the Left Behind books: It’s about what those left-behind Christians go through.

Anywho, without Christians, no one could identify the Beast and stop him. (Falsely presuming Christians would never get successfully conned by the Beast and eagerly join him, like Jesus forewarned, Mt 24.24 and like they regularly do today.) The Beast turns the United Nations from a diplomatic non-governmental organization into the world government; takes over the Roman Catholic Church now that the pope and all the actual Christians in the church have been raptured away; and becomes king of the world before Jesus does.

And gets assassinated by the guy who later becomes the second coming of Moses. (Yes, that’s a thing some End Times prognosticators actually believe in.) Three days later the devil fakes a resurrection, takes over the Beast’s body, and from that point forward it’s really Satan in the Beast’s body, working him like a meat puppet.

The Beast is depicted as the opposite of Jesus. That’s what many Evangelicals think the anti- in Antichrist means: If Jesus would go right, the Beast’ll go left. If Jesus would say up, the Beast’ll say down. If Jesus likes soccer, the Beast likes FIFA. If you know your Superman comic books, the Beast is basically Bizarro Jesus, and every day is Opposite Day.

Well not entirely Opposite Day. The prognosticators imagine the Beast is gonna try to mimic everything Jesus does, or will do after his return. He’ll preach a gospel, though it’s completely corrupt and carnal. He’ll assemble apostles, and prophets who work on his behalf and proclaim his message. He’ll go to Jerusalem, travel the Via Dolorosa for some reason, and claim the city as his capitol, and the temple as his throne. (And sometimes he’ll die, then rise on the third day.) He’ll claim to be Messiah, and Master, and God, and demand humanity’s allegiance and worship.

Why do they claim the Beast will do all this? ’Cause Revelation tells us very, very little about what the Beast will do, so the prognosticators fill in the blanks with what they think are reasonable ideas. Problem is, they and their predecessors have repeated these ideas so often, and Evangelicals have never bothered to crack open the bible to confirm these ideas have any validity at all, and now Evangelicals think this is exactly what the Beast will do. It’s foretold by scripture!… except it’s not at all.

If you think these are fringe beliefs, just because you haven’t heard ’em before, no they’re not. Lots of Evangelicals have read these Left Behind books and think it’s approximately how the future is gonna happen. They think Tim LaHaye knew how to interpret Revelation—and he’s not far different from other guys with similar End Times timelines.

Those other guys have also written End Times novels, and scraped together money to make End Times movies, and regularly forewarn the faithful that this is what we should expect the Beast will do. Many a sermon has been preached in which some nationalist will point to his political opponents and claim this looks Beast-like, and that looks Beast-like—and all this stuff lines up perfectly with everyone’s favorite End Times novels! But does it line up with bible? Only if you really stretch the biblical text to fit. Usually no.

The spirit of antichrist.

But I remind you we need to be on our guard, not so much against the Antichrist (although let’s certainly not dismiss anybody who shows up and acts Beast-like!), but against the spirit of antichrist. Same as the apostle John wrote about in his other letters.

1 John 2.18 LSB
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared. From this we know that it is the last hour.
 
1 John 2.22 LSB
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
 
1 John 4.2-3 LSB
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, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
 
2 John 1.7 LSB
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

John specifically zeroed in on people who claimed Jesus isn’t physical, but only a spirit pretending to be human; or people who claimed Jesus isn’t real, but a fraud or mass hallucination. And you’re gonna find people who claim to be Christian, yet claim the important thing in Christianity isn’t the person and work and teachings of Jesus, but the vibe of Jesus; the way he makes us feel spiritual and righteous and right, and makes us better people—despite not being good like he teaches us to be good. In other words, a whole lotta rubbish which feels good and requires no growth, obedience, nor fruit on our part. In a word, Christianism.

There have been plenty of emperors, kings, and dictators who have garnered followers who worship them as if they’re Messiah, and fly their flags instead of the national flag. Plenty of guys who’ve claimed to be sent by God, but their character indicates they don’t follow the Holy Spirit whatsoever; they’re not just fruitless, but deliberately evil. And plenty of apologists who claim no, they really are sent by God; exactly like the Second Beast in Revelation 13 who convinces people to worship the first Beast.

Revelation consists of apocalypses, not literal people and things. So who’s to say John isn’t describing the archetypes of leaders who claim divine prerogatives, and their toadies who get us to blindly follow them? Okay yeah, the guys who write End Times books who insist these have to be literal people and things… but all their predictions have proven wrong so often, why are we following them again?

Nah. Let’s be on our guard against leaders of low character, especially the ones who try to lead us Christians astray. And let’s be on our guard against people who treat Jesus like he’s an archetype, instead of our living Lord and God.