Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (New International Version)
Throughout Christian history there have been churches, ministers, and individuals who have advanced certain persons as being the “antichrist,” enemies of Christ and his followers.
Attempting to identify a particular enemy comes from a theological disposition that believes an antichrist is the first link in a chain of end-times events. Typically, a ruthless or dictatorial ruler, like Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin received the label of “antichrist.”
For some Protestants, the papacy continually gets set apart as being the antichrist. Seems like, ever since the Reformation, the Pope has received the dubious title from anti-Catholics. Today, it is standard fare for some evangelical end-times watchers to bemoan the state of the world and lay the blame in a particular person who is outside their own little group.
Yet, the term “antichrist” has not typically been used as a title for one enemy 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 as a class of people who deny 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.
The fingers, however, must first be directed within our own house. It behooves us all to take up the instruction of John to internalize and remember sound teaching. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
We are to embrace basic core cardinal truth given us. Then we will not be deceived by some supposed enlightened teacher who detracts from Trinitarian theology.
It is the last hour – but not because of some politician, tyrant, or even religious figure. It is the end-times because Jesus has accomplished redemption for us, and the only event left is the return of Christ to judge the living and the dead.
Therefore, we must all live with the possibility and tension that it could be today. We are to be prepared. That preparation comes through proclaiming Jesus in all we say and do – not by obnoxiously foaming at the mouth, fearmongering, or pointing fingers at those we don’t like. Rather, we emulate our Lord in the way of loving God and neighbor.
When a person or group gets labeled by us as “enemy” or “antichrist” then our hate for them seems divinely justified and sanctioned. God, however, is the judge; not us. We are to follow the ethical instruction of Jesus to love our enemies, not curse them through slapping a moniker of “monster,” “devil,” “animal,” or some other non-human label on them.
Weaponizing words in a verbal war which supposedly defends Christianity only shifts the focus off Jesus and onto how horrible another is. One of the great problems of our world, including many corners of Christianity, is the assumption we already know what another believes. So, we fail to listen. We do not care as we ought because we’ve already formed our judgments.
“The moment someone attaches you to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you. And when you want to have a conversation, they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association. And that’s not the way to have a conversation.”Neil deGrasse Tyson
Within Christianity, there is much more we have in common with one another across the various traditions than that which is different. Yes, spiritual charlatans exist. Let’s just make sure we have done our due diligence in listening to another and being curious before we form our opinions.
Despite our differences, the exchange of ideas and debate among various Christian groups in the early centuries of the church helped to clarify and form orthodox Christology. While it may be difficult to avoid labeling individuals in an increasingly complex society, we must act in good faith.
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.