In my previous email I began dealing with the question of the Antichrist and how it affects eschatology. In this article I will finish my brief study with some extremely important observations. Observations that wholly undermine the dispensational view — and many others.
Warfield provides helpful insights into John’s teaching on the Antichrist: "he makes three declarations concerning Antichrist which appear to traverse its implications. He transposes Antichrist from the future to the present. He expands him from an individual to a multitude. He reduces him from a person to a heresy" (Warfield, "Antichrist," Selected Shorter Writings, 1:358). As we will see, these three observations undermine the bulk of modern Antichrist discussion.
John’s readers are hearing that though Antichrist is not yet on the scene, he nevertheless "is coming." but John informs them that this "antichrist" "is now already in the world" (1Jn 4:3). As Warfield notes "that post-posited ‘already’ [carries] with it the utmost strength of assertion" (Warfield, "Antichrist," Selected Shorter Writings, 1:358). John writes: "this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1Jn 4:3b). John clearly warns them that that which they "heard was coming" is "now already in the world." In addition, he remarks: "As you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come" (1Jn 2:18). Due to the appearing of these antichrists, his readers should understand that "it is the last hour" (1Jn 2:18). They are not harbingers of a distantly future Antichrist, for their presence is the signal that "the last hour" has already "come" (gegonasin). The "even now" emphasizes the presence of that which they fear ("as you heard").
An objection from one amillennialist theologian against postmillennialism is postmillennialism’s removal of the antichrist not only from our future expectation but from the very center of time: "more and more that kingdom of darkness comes to manifestation as time progresses. At the very center of time therefore, stands the development of the Antichristian world power. Really, postmillennialism has no room for Antichrist in its thinking. . . . Antichrist cannot be taken seriously" (Herman Hanko, "An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism," Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, 25–26).
In redirecting his readers’ focus from the Antichrist’s future to his contemporary existence, John points out that the Antichrist is a movement, rather than an individual. In dealing with the idea of "the Antichrist," he writes: "even now many antichrists have come" (1Jn 2:18). In fact, Antichrist is a "spirit" (1Jn 4:3) that pervades these many "antichrists" (1Jn 2:18), which involve "many deceivers" (2 Jn 7). Such views as amillennialist Hoekema’s are surely mistaken: "The New Testament also teaches us to look for a single, final antichrist in the future (see 2Th 2:3–4)" (Anthony Hoekema, Bible and the Future, 70).
Antichrist really is not a multitude of people, but rather the "spirit" (1Jn 4:3) among them that promotes deception (2 Jn 7) regarding Christ. "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son" (1Jn 2:22). John clearly applies the conception of the one Antichrist (ho antichristos) to the generic tendency to promote lies about the identity of Christ. He repeats this point in his second letter: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and the antichrist [ho antichristos]" (2Jn 7). Thus, "according to 1 John, what is to be dreaded about the Antichrist is not the unleashing of awesome destruction but the fomenting of heresy" (Robert Fuller, Naming the Antichrist, 17).
On the basis of these four references we learn that Antichrist is not an individual, malevolent ruler looming in our future. John was "not looking to the appearance of some supernatural being in the prophesied future" (Fuller, Naming the Antichrist, 17). Rather, Antichrist is a contemporary heretical tendency regarding the person of Christ, which is current among many in John’s day. Hoekema errs when he writes: "Yet it would not be correct to say that John had no room in his thinking for a personal antichrist, since he still looks for an antichrist who is coming" (Hoekema, Bible and the Future, 158).
Despite televangelists and pop-prophecy experts, naming the Antichrist is not something the modern Christian should attempt. It has been and will be as fruitless as predicting the date of the rapture — no matter how many earthquakes or tsunamis we experience. Biblical exegesis should be used in eschatological discussions, not newspaper exegesis.