The Antichrist and the Last Hour
1 John 2:18-22
Times are critical. Some say that there is, somewhere in our world, a man who is on track to fulfilling New Testament end time prophecy. He will become the feared Antichrist and wreak havoc among believers. He is massing his powerbase now and will one day soon make his move. We may already know his name, just not his identity as the Antichrist. He will become a world leader and is going to lead many astray.
Now, back to reality and truth. The Scriptures do not teach that the antichrist is a single person, or that he is a corrupt world leader that will signal the imminent return of the true Christ. Those are merely ideas religious men have come up with. The Bible does not so identify the antichrist.
The truth is that the word "antichrist" occurs only three times in the Bible, and it is never, ever used to describe a world leader, past, present or future. Rather, it is used to identify those who developed an untrue religious system back in the first century.
Note what we know from the Bible about the "antichrists" by looking at the three times it uses the term:
"Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen, by this we know it is the last hour."
"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."
"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist." (1 John 2:18,22; 2 John 7).
From these passages, we see that the"antichrists" are many people, not a single individual at all; that they lived in the first century, and they denied that Jesus is the Christ and that He came in the flesh; and that the term does not refer to a world leader nor only to events of the 21st century.
Concerning the term"the last hour"; in the Greek there is no definite article "the". John is not referring to something that signifies that it is the last hour before Jesus' coming, but rather that this is a pivotal time; a "last chance to act" kind of event where if one is not careful, events can overtake him. False teachers were in the world, and the faithful needed to prepare themselves to deal with it, and not wait; now is the "window of opportunity" or in John's words, "we know it is the last hour".
Since the antichrist was already in the world during John's lifetime back in the first century, when some tell us he is in the world today, it ought to be rather easy to recognize him! He would have to be about 2,000 years old and so if you met him, you would know it!
Signs of Jesus' Coming
So, since the theory of who or what the antichrist is with regard to the end of time is in error, maybe we need to look for some other signs that warn us that Jesus' coming is imminent.
First, Jesus is coming again. His faithful disciples wait in a prepared state for His glorious return. His coming, in fact, may be imminent. It may happen at any time. One of the most prevalent teachings our Lord gives to His disciples is to always be ready because we do not know when He will come (2 Peter 3:11,12; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 24:35,36; Acts 17:31; Acts 1:10,11).
The Signs of Matthew 24
The signs of Matthew 24 are not in reference to the second coming of Jesus at all, but rather to His coming in judgment upon the city of Jerusalem for their refusal to accept Him. This was fulfilled in 69-70 A.D.
The passage uses many metaphors, similar to other apocalyptic prophecies, to describe the temporal judgment to come when Jerusalem would be destroyed. Isaiah, Zechariah, Ezekiel and Daniel had used similar language to describe the overthrow of nations and governments previously.
Also, we must remember the question that Jesus is answering. Jesus had just warned the disciples that Jerusalem would be destroyed and the disciples wanted to know when (Matthew 24:1-4; cf. Matthew 23:37-39).
Jesus does discuss His second coming at the end of the chapter, the pivotal point coming between verses 34 and 35. The things previous to verse 34 would all take place during that generation to whom Jesus was speaking (Matthew 24:34). In verse 35 Jesus begins to talk about the passing away of the heavens and the earth.
One big difference between the judgment on Jerusalem in the first part of the chapter and the final judgment at the end of the chapter is that there would be signs that the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent and disciples were warned to flee to the mountains (vs. 16). Of course, one cannot escape the final judgment by fleeing to the mountains.
But with regard to the final judgment at the end of the chapter, no one knows when it will be, and no one can flee from it. We must simply be ready for it when it occurs (Matthew 24:36,44).
This difference is further seen in the use of the plural phrase "those days" (vs. 29) referring to the days of the tribulation when Jerusalem falls and the use of the singular phrase "that day" (vs. 36) when referring to second coming and final judgment.
So, here's the deal. The antichrist in the Bible is not what many think that he is. The signs that are often pointed to were signs of Jerusalem's coming destruction, not signs of the return of Jesus. But no matter; though faithful disciples cannot name the date, we can still be ready. That is what living by faith is all about.
Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 21.11; November 2014