In the past several centuries of Christian history there have been certain groups that have advanced various individuals as being the “antichrist.” Attempting to identify a particular antichrist comes from a theological disposition that believes that a certain antichrist is the first link of a chain of end-times events. Typically, a ruthless or dictatorial ruler, like Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin receives the label of “antichrist.” For some Protestants, the papacy continually gets set apart as being the antichrist. As recently as a few days ago, Pope Francis received the dubious title from a group of end-times watchers because they claimed he allowed people to treat him as if he were Jesus, accepting worship and praise.
But the term “antichrist” has not typically been used as a title for one person setting-off a bomb of world-ending trauma. The earliest church, following the teaching of the Apostle John, understood antichrist not as an individual, but a class of people who deny that Jesus is the Christ. Indeed, John plainly said the antichrist is anyone who forsakes the Father and the Son. What is so disturbing about John’s talk of antichrist is that these persons arise from within the church, not outside of it.
It has become much too vogue in some circles of Christian evangelicalism to identify and label enemies outside their small groups, leading to a xenophobic attitude of distrust and finger-pointing of all kinds of people. The fingers, however, must first be directed within our own house. It behooves us all to take up the instruction of John: “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.” In other words, embrace the basic cardinal truth given to you. Then you will not be deceived by anyone coming along denying the fundamental reality of God.
It is the last hour – but not because of some politician, tyrant, or even religious figure. It is the last hour because Jesus has accomplished redemption for us, and the only event left is the return of Jesus to judge the living and the dead. Therefore we must all live with the possibility and tension that it could be today, and be prepared through proclaiming Jesus in all we say and do.
Mighty God, you sent the Son to this earth to fulfill all your good promises. Let me embrace Jesus so fully and completely that the truth of his reality comes pouring out of me in every area of my life. In his name I pray. Amen.