daily bible readings

The Anti-Christ - 1 John 4:1-6

Jan 27 2020

The following is copied from James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 68–70.

The word “antichrist” occurs in the Bible only in the letters of John, and that only five times in four verses (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7); but though the word is infrequent the idea of antichrist is frequent and is an important one. It is part of a widespread belief in John’s day that at the end of history there was to be a final struggle between the forces of good, focused in God, and the forces of evil, focused in a being of superior intelligence and cunning. John’s manner of referring to antichrist indicates that his readers were already familiar with these concepts.

In the Bible the idea of antichrist is first seen in Daniel. In Daniel 7, for example, there is a vision of four great beasts, in the context of which antichrist is described as “a little horn” who destroys three other horns. In the language of these visions, a horn is an earthly king or world ruler. So the vision means that this last evil figure will be a king who is able to overcome three other kings. When the vision goes on to say that this horn possesses “a mouth that spoke boastfully” (v. 8), it means that he will have great oratorical ability. The activity of this figure in profaning the temple, an act partially fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168C, is described in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11.

If Daniel alone were consulted, one might think that Antiochus Epiphanes had fulfilled the prophecies regarding antichrist completely. But this is not the case in that the Book of Revelation both amplifies upon Daniel’s prophecy and looks for a further fulfillment. Thus, in Revelation 13 Daniel’s vision of the beasts and horns reappears; only here the beasts are fused into one, thereby suggesting that antichrist will combine the strengths of each of three former world kingdoms in his own.

Similarly, in Mark 13:22–23 Jesus also prophesied concerning a future fulfillment: “False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 the concept occurs again. Here the apostle Paul writes of antichrist as “the man of lawlessness,” who, we are told, “opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (v. 4). These references are all related to each other, as a careful reading of the passages in question shows. Moreover, they seem to picture antichrist filling a religious function as well as a political role.

The names given to this terrifying figure in these prophecies point to his totally evil nature and demonic goals—a horn, a beast (even the beast), the man of lawlessness or perdition, and antichrist—but we need not think, just because these names are used, that antichrist must therefore be repulsive. Here the meaning of the word “antichrist” is important. It is formed of two words: “Christ” and the prefix “anti,” which can mean either “the opposite of” or “instead of.” Those who have taken the former meaning tend to view antichrist as the total counterpart to Jesus and have therefore sometimes identified him with the worst tyrants of history. Some support for this is found in the fact that if John had not meant “the opposite of,” if he had meant rather “a substitute Christ,” he could have used the word “pseudochrist” as he does “pseudoprophet” in 4:1. On the other hand, the word “antichrist” may have been a fixed term, rather like a popular name, with the consequence that John was really not at liberty to alter it. Besides, in the context of the chapter it is surely significant that the antichrists are identified, not as those who are outside the church, but as those who at least for a time were within it. In other words, they are not the outright pagan opponents of Christianity but rather those who were attempting to destroy the faith from within by pretending to be Christians.

When John writes that “many antichrists have come,” he is not saying, then, that the final singular figure of antichrist is in the world, though, of course, that could have been a possibility. Rather, he is saying that the spirit that will characterize the final antichrist is already working in those who have recently left his readers’ congregations. The future antichrist will be a substitute for Christ, as much like Jesus as it is possible for a tool of Satan to be. Similarly, these Gnostic teachers appear to be angels of light but are actually satanic in both their works and outlook.

Prayer: 

Adoration:

· Adore God that He is sovereign and in total control, even as the false prophets and false Christs seek to destroy His church.

Confession:

· Take time to confess your sins to the Lord and to ask for His forgiveness.

Thanks:

· Thank God that the true saints will persevere through the trials because of God’s grace.

Supplication:

· Pray for ongoing discernment for you and your church.

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