Q&A: Anti-Christ a Human?

Anti-Christ a Human?

Question

Is the antichrist human as in flesh and blood or is he a spirit being?

Answer

Only John mentions the idea of antichrist (1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7), and his letters antichrist does not seem to be any particular individual. There are also some textual variants that confuse the issue, some texts provide "the antichrist" in certain verses while others provide only "antichrist." Without the article "the," the idea of "antichrist" appears to be a generic description rather than the title of an identifiable entity.

Assuming the correctness of the most current versions of the Greek New Testament (UBS 4th edition), John mentions "the" antichrist in 1 John 2:22; 4:3 and 2 John 7. However, all of these texts describe "the" antichrist in terms that can be applied to many different people simultaneously:

  • "The" antichrist denies that Jesus is the Christ, and denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22).
  • The spirit of "the" antichrist does not confess that Jesus is from God (1 John 4:3).
  • "The" antichrist denies that Jesus came in the flesh (2 John 7).
Moreover, in every verse which mentions "antichrist," the numerically singular idea "antichrist" relates directly to a multiplicity of individuals, not just to one person:

  • "Many" antichrists have arisen (1 John 2:18), to whom John refers as "they" (1 John 2:19).
  • The antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, or who denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22). John makes this clear by referring to these people with the Greek word pas (all) in 1 John 2:23. Most translations render this with "no one" or "whoever." In so doing they are attempting to capture the flavor of the language in English. But a more literal translation of the opening words of 1 John 2:23 would be "everyone who denies."
  • "Every" (pas) spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is "the spirit of the antichrist" (1 John 4:3).
  • The antichrist includes "many" deceivers (2 John 7).
The fact that each verse refers to a multiplicity of persons who may be called "antichrist" indicates to me that the textual variants are not terribly significant. Even if 1 John 2:18 should be translated "the antichrist is coming," the idea of "antichrist" still refers to "many" even in that verse.

Thus, I don't think there is an individual, or even a visibly united group of individuals or an institution, that is "the" antichrist to the exclusion of all others. Rather, it seems to me that John uses the term "antichrist" to refer to a sentiment or stance against the fundamental truths about the person of Christ.

It is also important to keep in mind that John assumed his audience already knew about antichrist (1 John 2:18), and that we don't know how they came to know about it. If a prophecy existed fortelling the coming of "antichrist" or "the antichrist," John may simply have been clarifying for his readers that this prophecy could be fulfilled many, many times, whenever someone adopted the position characterizing "antichrist."

In any event, it appears from the ways that John introduced the idea in his letters that he was attempting to clear up misconceptions regarding the concept of "antichrist." In my opinion, his clarifications indicate that "antichrist" is not an individual or institution. Rather, it seems to be a term characterizing those who deny basic truths about Christ, especially those who have previously professed faith in Christ (1 John 2:18-19). Perhaps we might equate "antichrist" in some sense with "apostate."

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.