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Gentry Theology: The Antichrist Matter

These articles come directly from e-mail "studies" from Kenneth Gentry.  

Perhaps more than any other evil figure in Scripture, Christians most fear the Antichrist. After all, "in premillennial eschatology the final world ruler who opposes God and his Christ (particularly in relation to his deity), oppresses God’s elect (especially the Jewish people), and seeks to usurp the place of divine worship through desecration of the holy (especially Jerusalem and its temple) is known as the Antichrist" (Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, p. 43).

Many dispensationalists believe he is alive today. In an interview in Eternity magazine in 1977 Hal Lindsey responds to a question regarding the Antichrist: "In my personal opinion, he’s alive somewhere now" (Lindsey, "The Great Cosmic Countdown," 80). This reminds us of Tertullian’s statement 1700 years ago that Antichrist "is now close at hand" (Tertullian, De Fuga 12). One poorly timed 1988 book was Gorbachev: Has the Real Antichrist Come? Best-selling author Dave Hunt writes that there "is strong evidence indeed that the Antichrist could appear very soon — which means that the rapture may be imminent"(Peace, Prosperity, and the Coming Holocaust, 256). He is convinced that "somewhere, at this very moment, on planet Earth, the Antichrist is almost certainly alive" (Global Peace, 5). Mark Hitchcock’s 2002 book asks: Is the Antichrist Alive Today? He titles chapter 8: "Antichrist is Alive and Well."

The dispensational Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy even includes a heading: "Is the Antichrist Alive Today?" In so doing it struggles to correct fellow dispensationalists who "tragically" are "guessing dates and selecting possibilities for the Antichrist" (p. 26). Of course, this sort of belief has for generations been the tendency among dispensationalists, who constantly point out numerous possible Antichrist candidates.
Amillennialists are not so excitable, but they generally concur with Cornelis Venema that: "the Bible does teach that the Antichrist will appear prior to Christ’s return at the close of this present age. This Antichrist will likely be a person in whom the growing opposition to the gospel and truth of God’s Word will be concentrated" (The Promise of the Future, 178). D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones holds that "we can, I think, be certain that the Antichrist will ultimately be concentrated in one person, who will have terrible power, and will be able to work miracles and do wonders in a way that will almost deceive the elect themselves" (The Church and the Last Things, 118).

Amillennialist Anthony Hoekema states that "we can thus expect to continue to find antichristian powers and persons in every era of the church of Jesus Christ until his Second Coming," consequently, "it would not be correct to says that John had no room in his thinking for a future personal antichrist, since he sill looks for antichrist who is coming" (The Bible and the Future, 158). Robert Reymond, citing others, holds that Antichrist is "a distinct personage who will appear on the scene of this world just prior to the advent of Christ," and states that he "will be revealed and will oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even set himself up in the God’s temple (the church), proclaiming himself to be God" (A New Systematic Theology, 1032).

Ironically, the least helpful verses for developing the dispensational, premillennial, and amillennial views of the Antichrist are the only ones that expressly mention him. "Antichrist" appears only four times in all of Scripture: in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; and 2 John 7. (John Walvoord in his comprehensive Prophecy Knowledge Handbook does not even mention these verses in his treatment of "Prophecy in 1, 2, and 3 Jn and the Epistle of Jude" — or anywhere else in his 800-page work.)

Many writers argue that other figures, such as Daniel’s Little Horn, Paul’s Man of Sin, and John’s Beast, refer to a personal, end-time Antichrist: One writes that the "organic development of sin finally culminates in the ‘man of sin’ (II Thessalonians 2:3–12). That is the kingdom of Antichrist." "Plainly the idea [in Rev 13:18] is that the world . . . ultimately will bring forth the antichrist, who is here called the beast." "Now let me give you my proof that Daniel 7, 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 all refer to the Antichrist." "The New Testament also teaches us to look for a single, final antichrist in the future (see 2Th 2:3–4)."

Under "Titles of the Antichrist," the Popular Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists "the beast," "the man of lawlessness, and Daniel’s "little horn." But these associations are surely mistaken. Not only do none of the contexts of these titles mention the word "Antichrist," but they actually contradict the explicit references to Antichrist. This is all the more remarkable in that the word "Antichrist" does not even appear in the context of the beast of Revelation, despite the fact that Revelation’s author, John, is the only New Testament writer who does employ the word "Antichrist" elsewhere.

The origin of the doctrine of Antichrist in the first century is obscure. It does seem that many Christians think of the Antichrist as a particular individual. John mentions this widespread belief: "You have heard that the Antichrist is coming" (1Jn 2:18b). John’s point in mentioning him, however, is to correct the false views that are confusing his audience. Early Christians are picking up many false eschatological concepts. John even corrects a false notion regarding his own living until Christ’s second advent (Jn 21:22–23). Paul uses a false teaching regarding baptism for the dead to drive a point home regarding the resurrection (1Co 15:29). Paul often urges his followers to hear him and preserve those things he teaches (Php 4:9; 1Th 2:13; 2Ti 1:13; 2:2). We should expect this sort of confusion, for the Lord himself taught his disciples that within his own generation (Mt 24:34) "many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many" (Mt 24:5); "many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many" (Mt 24:11); and "false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Mt 24:24).

What is the Antichrist, then? I will show —from Scriptures, not the newspapers — what the Antichrist is really all about in my next email. Stay tuned. I doubt the rapture will intervene to disrupt this study.

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