A few days ago while driving my daughter Glory back from a soccer game, shooting the breeze like fathers and daughters do, she asked a pretty wild question:
“Dad, who is the antiChrist?”
Traditionally, the antiChrist is seen as an end-times figure, the personification of pure evil who ushers in the one-world government and hastens the final return of Christ himself. So, not the kind of person you’d invite over for board games. Throughout history, Christians have anticipated the rise of this shadow figure and repeatedly given in to fruitless speculation. Zealous end-time pundits, unaware they are blindfolded, have mistakenly pegged the devil’s tail on Popes, dictators, and false teachers aplenty over the centuries. None of these have turned out to be “the” antiChrist.
Funny enough, the Apostle John weighs in on this issue half way through his first Epistle. He says, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come” (I John 2:18).
So first of all, John says, we’re in the end times already. Second, stop thinking of a singular person. There are many anti-Christs. Many of them had already set up shop in John’s lifetime. In fact, we could say, anti-Christs always come. There are anti-Christs walking the earth today, in fact. Lots of them.
“I knew it,” you’re thinking. “My math teacher, he…”
But wait. Two chapters later, John explains himself.
Who is the AntiChrist?
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every sprite that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of anti-Christ, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (I John 4:1-3).
He also says, “he denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the anti-Christ” (I John 2:22).
In other words, the ant-Christ is first and foremost a spirit—a spiritual posture set against God’s Son inspired by evil spirits (demons). Wherever that spirit, that posture, manifests itself, it can rightly be called “anti-Christ.” Anti-Jesus.
Now, this is important: The essence of the anti-Christ spirit is to deny who Jesus Christ is. This denial can happen doctrinally, as we’ve seen. John’s simple creed (sprinkled throughout his book) is this: Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, came in the flesh as an atoning sacrifice for our sins and for the sins of the whole world so that we could live through him both now and eternally. Any doctrine that scuttles that truth even one iota is anti-Jesus because it denies who Jesus is and what he’s done.
But the lying, deceiving, antiChrist spirit in the world doesn’t just manifest through doctrinal heresy. It manifests through lifestyle heresy as well:
“The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (I John 2:3-7). In other words, we walk in the light and love of God. In fact, John says, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness, but whoever loves his brother lives in the light…” (I John 2:9).
Again and again, John comes back to love. God is love. Live in love. Be completed by love. Love, love, love. Why? Because life heresy is just as serious as doctrinal heresy. This is critical, because I’ve noticed a resurgence of doctrinal defenders in our culture lately. Unfortunately, they often bomb the love test. Their doctrine affirms Jesus, but their lack of love denies him. Standing up for Jesus without the love of Jesus is just as demonic as any false teaching because it embodies the anti-Christ spirit. It denies who Jesus Christ is.
No light (John’s basic creed) = antiChrist.
Love-less = Christ-less, because God is love.No love (the proof of God living in us) = antiChrist.
One day, there the real live antiChrist may manifest pure evil in the end times. But for now, maybe the best place to look for the antiChrist, before I look anywhere else… is in the mirror.
Lord Jesus, I believe you are God’s one and only Son, that you came in the flesh as an atoning sacrifice for my sins and for the sins of the whole world so that we could live through you both now and eternally. So let there be light. Certainly. But Lord Jesus, don’t let me deny you through my attitudes, actions, and words. You say “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” that without love, I am nothing.
So I want to be a love and light factory.