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Anti-Christ

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Anti-Christ

For other uses, see Antichrist (disambiguation).


The Antichrist is a Christian concept based on interpretation of passages in the New Testament. In the New Testament, the term "antichrist" occurs five times in 1 John and 2 John, once in plural form and four times in the singular.[1]

In traditional Christian belief, Jesus the Messiah appears in his Second Coming to Earth, to face the emergence of the Antichrist figure. Just as Christ is the savior and the ideal model for humanity, his opponent in the End of Days will be a single figure of concentrated evil, according to Bernard McGinn.[2]

Origins

Etymology

The word antichrist is made up of two roots: αντί + Χριστός (anti + Christos). "Αντί" can mean not only "against" and "opposite of", but also "in place of",[3] "Χριστός", translated "Christ", is Greek for the Hebrew "Messiah" meaning "anointed," and refers to Jesus of Nazareth[4] within Christian, Islamic and Messianic Jewish theology.

Christian views

New Testament

Whether the New Testament contains a personal Antichrist or not is disputed. The five uses of the term "Antichrist" and "Antichrists" in the Johannine Epistles do not clearly present a single latter-day personal Antichrist. The articles "the deceiver" or "the antichrist" are usually seen as marking out a certain category of persons, rather than an individual.[5]

For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. - KJV (1611): 2 John 1:7

This supposed category of persons is biblically defined by their denial of the God-Son relationship between God and Jesus who in the books of John and Hebrews is termed as God's "only begotten son".

Who is a Liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. - KJV (1611): 1 John 2:22

Consequently attention for a personal Antichrist figure focuses on 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 - though the passage does not use the term - and Paul's picture that the "man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."[6][7] Equation of the False Prophet of the Book of Revelation chapters 16, 19 and 20 with a personal Antichrist is also problematic - medieval commentators more readily identified the figure of the Beast of Revelation as a personal Antichrist as opposed to Satan.

Early Church

Christian eschatology
Eschatology views
Christianity portal

The only one of the late 1st/early 2nd Century Apostolic Fathers to use the term is Polycarp (ca. 69 – ca. 155) who warned the Philippians that everyone who preached false doctrine was an antichrist.[8] His use of the term Antichrist follows that of the New Testament in not identifying a single personal Antichrist, but a class of people.[9]

Irenaeus (2nd century AD – c. 202) wrote Against Heresies to refute the teachings of the Gnostics. In Book V of Against Heresies he addresses the figure of the Antichrist referring to him as the "recapitulation of apostasy and rebellion." He uses "666", the Number of the Beast from Revelation 13:18, to numerologically decode several possible names. Some names that he loosely proposed were "Evanthos", "Lateinos" ("Latin" or pertaining to the Roman Empire). In his exegesis of Daniel 7:21, he stated that the ten horns of the beast will be the Roman empire divided into ten kingdoms before the Antichrist's arrival. However, his readings of the Antichrist were more in broader theological terms rather than within a historical context.[10]

The Ascension of Isaiah presents a detailed exposition of the Antichrist as Belial and Nero.[11]

Tertullian (ca.160 – ca.220 AD) held that the Roman Empire was the restraining force written about by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8. The fall of Rome and the disintegration of the ten provinces of the Roman Empire into ten kingdoms were to make way for the Antichrist.

'For that day shall not come, unless indeed there first come a falling away,' he [Paul] means indeed of this present empire, 'and that man of sin be revealed,' that is to say, Antichrist, 'the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or religion; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, affirming that he is God. Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? And now ye know what detaineth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders must hinder, until he be taken out of the way.' What obstacles is there but the Roman state, the falling away of which, by being scattered into the ten kingdoms, shall introduce Antichrist upon (its own ruins)? And then shall be revealed the wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.'[12]
Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-c. 236) held that the Antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan and would rebuild the Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in order to reign from it. He identified the Antichrist with the Beast out of the Earth from the book of Revelation.
By the beast, then, coming up out of the earth, he means the kingdom of Antichrist; and by the two horns he means him and the false prophet after him. And in speaking of "the horns being like a lamb," he means that he will make himself like the Son of God, and set himself forward as king. And the terms, "he spake like a dragon," mean that he is a deceiver, and not truthful.[13]

Origen (185–254) refuted Celsus's view of the Antichrist. Origen utilized Scriptural citations from Daniel, Paul, and the Gospels. He argued:

Where is the absurdity, then, in holding that there exist among men, so to speak, two extremes-- the one of virtue, and the other of its opposite; so that the perfection of virtue dwells in the man who realizes the ideal given in Jesus, from whom there flowed to the human race so great a conversion, and healing, and amelioration, while the opposite extreme is in the man who embodies the notion of him that is named Antichrist?... one of these extremes, and the best of the two, should be styled the Son of God, on account of His pre-eminence; and the other, who is diametrically opposite, be termed the son of the wicked demon, and of Satan, and of the devil. And, in the next place, since evil is specially characterized by its diffusion, and attains its greatest height when it simulates the appearance of the good, for that reason are signs, and marvels, and lying miracles found to accompany evil, through the cooperation of its father the devil.[14]

Post-Nicene Christianity

Catechetical Lecture about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, in which he also lectures about the Antichrist, who will reign as the ruler of the world for three and a half years, before he is killed by Jesus Christ right at the end of his three-and-a-half-year reign, shortly after which the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will happen.

Athanasius (c. 293 – 373), writes that Arius of Alexandria is to be associated with the Antichrist, saying, "And ever since [the Council of Nicaea] has Arius's error been reckoned for a heresy more than ordinary, being known as Christ's foe, and harbinger of Antichrist."[15]

John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) warned against speculations and old wives' tales about the Antichrist, saying, "Let us not therefore enquire into these things". He preached that by knowing Paul's description of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians Christians would avoid deception.[16]

Jerome (c. 347-420) warned that those substituting false interpretations for the actual meaning of Scripture belonged to the "synagogue of the Antichrist".[17] "He that is not of Christ is of Antichrist," he wrote to Pope Damasus I.[18] He believed that "the mystery of iniquity" written about by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 was already in action when "every one chatters about his views."[19] To Jerome, the power restraining this mystery of iniquity was the Roman Empire, but as it fell this restraining force was removed. He warned a noble woman of Gaul:

He that letteth is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near. Yes, Antichrist is near whom the Lord Jesus Christ "shall consume with the spirit of his mouth." "Woe unto them," he cries, "that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days."... Savage tribes in countless numbers have overrun run all parts of Gaul. The whole country between the Alps and the Pyrenees, between the Rhine and the Ocean, has been laid waste by hordes of Quadi, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alans, Gepids, Herules, Saxons, Burgundians, Allemanni, and—alas! for the commonweal!-- even Pannonians.[20]

In his Commentary on Daniel, Jerome noted, "Let us not follow the opinion of some commentators and suppose him to be either the Devil or some demon, but rather, one of the human race, in whom Satan will wholly take up his residence in bodily form." [21] Instead of rebuilding the Jewish Temple to reign from, Jerome thought the Antichrist sat in God’s Temple inasmuch as he made "himself out to be like God." [21] He refuted Porphyry’s idea that the "little horn" mentioned in Daniel chapter 7 was Antiochus Epiphanes by noting that the "little horn" is defeated by an eternal, universal ruler, right before the final judgment.[21] Instead, he advocated that the "little horn" was the Antichrist:

We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings... after they have been slain, the seven other kings also will bow their necks to the victor.[21]

Circa 380, an apocalyptic pseudo-prophecy falsely attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl describes Constantine as victorious over Gog and Magog. Later on, it predicts:

When the Roman empire shall have ceased, then the Antichrist will be openly revealed and will sit in the House of the Lord in Jerusalem. While he is reigning, two very famous men, Elijah and Enoch, will go forth to announce the coming of the Lord. Antichrist will kill them and after three days they will be raised up by the Lord. Then there will be a great persecution, such as has not been before nor shall be thereafter. The Lord will shorten those days for the sake of the elect, and the Antichrist will be slain by the power of God through Michael the Archangel on the Mount of Olives.[22]

Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) wrote "it is uncertain in what temple [the Antichrist] shall sit, whether in that ruin of the temple which was built by Solomon, or in the Church."[23]

Pope Gregory I wrote to Emperor Maurice A.D. 597, concerning the titles of bishops, "I say with confidence that whoever calls or desires to call himself ‘universal priest’ in self-exaltation of himself is a precursor of the Antichrist."[24]

Western Church–Pre-Reformation

Archbishop Arnulf of Rheims disagreed with the policies and morals of Pope John XV. He expressed his views while presiding over the Council of Reims in A.D. 991. Arnulf accused John XV of being the Antichrist while also using the 2 Thessalonians passage about the Man of Sin, saying, "Surely, if he is empty of charity and filled with vain knowledge and lifted up, he is Antichrist sitting in God's temple and showing himself as God." This incident is history's earliest record of anyone identifying a pope with the Antichrist (See Antichrist (historicism)).[25]

Pope Gregory VII (c. 1015 or 29 – 1085), struggled against, in his own words, "a robber of temples, a perjurer against the Holy Roman Church, notorious throughout the whole Roman world for the basest of crimes, namely, Wilbert, plunderer of the holy church of Ravenna, Antichrist, and archeritic."[26]

Cardinal Benno, on the opposite side of the Investiture Controversy, wrote long descriptions of abuses committed by Gregory VII, including necromancy, torture of a former friend upon a bed of nails, commissioning an attempted assassination, executions without trials, unjust excommunication, doubting the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and even burning it.[27] Benno held that Gregory VII was "either a member of Antichrist, or Antichrist himself."[28]

Eberhard II von Truchsees, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg in 1241 at the Council of Regensburg denounced Pope Gregory IX as "that man of perdition, whom they call Antichrist, who in his extravagant boasting says, I am God, I cannot err."[29] He argued that the ten kingdoms that the Antichrist is involved with[30] were the "Turks, Greeks, Egyptians, Africans, Spaniards, French, English, Germans, Sicilians, and Italians who now occupy the provinces of Rome."[31] He held that the papacy was the "little horn" of Daniel 7:8:[32]

A little horn has grown up with eyes and mouth speaking great things, which is reducing three of these kingdoms--i.e. Sicily, Italy, and Germany--to subserviency, is persecuting the people of Christ and the saints of God with intolerable opposition, is confounding things human and divine, and is attempting things unutterable, execrable.[31]

Protestant reformers

Many Protestant reformers, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Thomas, John Knox, and Cotton Mather, identified the Roman Papacy as the Antichrist.[33] The Centuriators of Magdeburg, a group of Lutheran scholars in Magdeburg headed by Matthias Flacius, wrote the 12-volume "Magdeburg Centuries" to discredit the papacy and identify the pope as the Antichrist. The fifth round of talks in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue notes,

In calling the pope the "antichrist," the early Lutherans stood in a tradition that reached back into the eleventh century. Not only dissidents and heretics but even saints had called the bishop of Rome the "antichrist" when they wished to castigate his abuse of power.[34]

William Tyndale, an English Protestant reformer, held that while the Roman Catholic realms of that age were the empire of Antichrist, any religious organization that distorted the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments also showed the work of Antichrist. In his treatise The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, he expressly rejected the established Church teaching that looked to the future for an Antichrist to rise up, and he taught that Antichrist is a present spiritual force that will be with us until the end of the age under different religious disguises from time to time.[35] Tyndale's translation of 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2, concerning the "man of sin" reflected his understanding, but was significantly amended by later revisers,[36] including the King James Bible committee, which followed the Vulgate more closely.

Counter-Reformation

The view of Futurism, a product of the Counter-Reformation, was advanced beginning in the 16th century in response to the identification of the Papacy as Antichrist. Francisco Ribera, a Jesuit priest, developed this theory in In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij, his 1585 treatise on the Apocalypse of John. St. Bellarmine codified this view, giving in full the Catholic theory set forth by the Greek and Latin Fathers, of a personal Antichrist to come just before the end of the world and to be accepted by the Jews and enthroned in the temple at Jerusalem — thus endeavoring to dispose of the exposition which saw Antichrist in the pope. Most premillennial dispensationalists now accept Bellarmine's interpretation in modified form. Widespread Protestant identification of the Papacy as the Antichrist persisted in the USA until the early 1900s when the Scofield Reference Bible was published by Cyrus Scofield. This commentary promoted Futurism, causing a decline in the Protestant identification of the Papacy as Antichrist.

Some US Futurists hold that sometime prior to the expected return of Jesus, there will be a period of "great tribulation"[37] during which the Antichrist, indwelt and controlled by Satan, will attempt to win supporters with false peace, supernatural signs. He will silence all that defy him by refusing to "receive his mark" on their right hands or forehead. This "mark" will be required to legally partake in the end-time economic system.[38] Some Futurists believe that the Antichrist will be assassinated half way through the Tribulation, being revived and indwelt by Satan. The Antichrist will continue on for three and a half years following this "deadly wound".[39]

Old Believers

After the reforms of Patriarch Nikon to the Russian Orthodox Church of 1652, a large number of Old Believers held that czar Peter the Great was the Antichrist[40] because of his treatment of the Orthodox Church, namely subordinating the church to the state, requiring clergymen to conform to the standards of all Russian civilians (shaved beards, being fluent in French), and requiring them to pay state taxes.

Age of Enlightenment

Bernard McGinn noted that complete denial of the Antichrist was rare until the Age of Enlightenment. Following frequent use of "Antichrist" laden rhetoric during religious controversies in the 17th century, the use of the concept declined in the 18th century. Subsequent eighteenth-century efforts to cleanse Christianity of "legendary" or "folk" accretions effectively removed the Antichrist from discussion in mainstream Western churches.[2]

Mormonism

In Mormonism, the Antichrist "is anyone or anything that counterfeits the true gospel or plan of salvation and that openly or secretly is set up in opposition to Christ. The great antichrist is Lucifer, but he has many assistants[41] both as spirit beings and as mortals." Latter-day Saints use the New Testament scriptures, 1 John 2:18, 22; 1 John 4:3-6; 2 John 1:7 and the Book of Mormon, Jacob 7:1-23, Alma 1:2-16, Alma 30:6-60, in their exegesis of the Antichrist.[42]

Other Christian interpretations

As "Man of sin"

The Antichrist has been equated with the "Man of sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2, even though commentaries of the Man of sin's identity greatly varies.

As "being in league with other figures"

Several American evangelical and fundamentalist theologians, including Cyrus Scofield, have identified the Antichrist as being in league with (or the same as) several figures in the Book of Revelation including the Dragon (or Serpent), the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Whore of Babylon.[47] Others, for example, Rob Bell, reject the identification of the Antichrist with any one person or group. They believe a loving Christ would not view anyone as an enemy.[48]

As Satan

Bernard McGinn described multiple traditions detailing the relationship between the Antichrist and Satan. In the dualist approach, Satan will become incarnate in the Antichrist, just as God became incarnate in Jesus. However, in Orthodox Christian thought, this view was problematic because it was too similar to Christ's incarnation. Instead, the "indwelling" view became more accepted. It stipulates that the Antichrist is a human figure inhabited by Satan, since the latter’s power is not to be seen as equivalent to God’s.[2]

Non-Christian views

Judaism

There are warnings against false prophets in the Hebrew Bible, but no personal anti-Messiah figure.[49]

Jewish antecedents

The term antichristos originates in 1 John.[50] The similar term pseudochristos ("False Messiah") is also first found in the New Testament, and, for example, never used by Josephus in his accounts of various false messiahs.[51] The concept of an antichristos is not found in Jewish writings in the period 500 BC–50 AD. However, Bernard McGinn conjectures that the concept may have been generated by the frustration of Jews subject to often-capricious Seleucid or Roman rule, who found the nebulous Jewish idea of a Satan who is more of an opposing angel of God in the heavenly court insufficiently humanised and personalised to be a satisfactory incarnation of evil and threat.[2]

Medieval Judaism

In the 7th Century CE Sefer Zerubbabel, and 11th Century CE Midrash Vayosha, an anti-Messiah type figure, influenced by Christian and Muslim interpretation, Armilus appears in some schools of Jewish eschatology. He is described as bald, partially maimed, and partially deaf.[52]

Islam

Masih ad-Dajjal (Arabic: الدّجّال‎, literally "The Deceiving Messiah"), is an evil figure in Islamic eschatology. He is to appear pretending to be God at a time in the future, before Yawm al-Qiyamah (The Day of Resurrection, Judgment Day). He will travel around the globe entering every city except Mecca and Medina obliging people to believe in him as a God. Then Isa (Jesus) will descend from the sky to the White Minaret east of Damascus (as referred to in Ahadith), placing his hands on the backs of two angels, at the time of Fajr (dawn). This will happen at the time of the Dajjal and Isa (Jesus) will be the one to eventually defeat the Dajjal, killing him with his spear.[53][54]

Ahmadiyya

The Ahmadiyya teachings interpret the prophecies regarding the appearance of the Dajjal (Anti-Christ) and Gog and Magog in Islamic eschatology as foretelling the emergence of two branches or aspects of the same turmoil and trial that was to be faced by Islam in the latter days and that both emerged from Christianity or Christian nations. Its Dajjal aspect relates to deception and perversion of religious belief while its aspect to do with disturbance in the realm of politics and the shattering of world peace has been called Gog and Magog. Thus Ahmadis consider the widespread Christian missionary activity that was aggressively active in the 18th and 19th centuries as being part of the prophesied Dajjal (Antichrist) and Gog and Magog emerging in modern times. The emergence of the Soviet Union and the USA as superpowers and the conflict between the two nations (i.e., the rivalry between communism and capitalism) are seen as having occurred in accordance with certain prophecies regarding Gog and Magog.[55] Ahmadis believe that prophecies and sayings about the Antichrist are not to be interpreted literally and hold deeper meanings. Masih ad-Dajjal is then a name to given to latter day Christianity and the West.[56]

Use in popular culture

The term "Antichrist" is widely used in popular culture, and most prominently in punk subculture. This trend was spurred by the Sex Pistols' song "Anarchy in the UK", in which lead singer Johnny Rotten proclaimed that he was an antichrist. After the release of the song, adherents of the punk culture began to use the word as a term to describe someone who is very vulgar, crude, or rebellious. However, after Johnny Rotten's denunciation of useless violence in his years with Public Image Ltd, this trend began to subside with those who had used it for the sheer sake of being "punk". It is now used in the fringe groups of anarcho-punks and is most commonly used to describe those who practice violent and sensational forms of anarchy. The term Antichrist also features heavily in the earlier work of Marilyn Manson with the 1996 album titled Antichrist Superstar being most famous.

The Antichrist was a character in American Dad!, shown to be the polar opposite of the handsome, strong and craft-handy Jesus; weedy, screechy and "Not handy at all." He was killed by Jesus, who threw a small cross into his forehead.

See also

References

Bibliography

Further reading

External links

  • Acacia John Bunyan Online Library: Of Antichrist and His Ruin
  • Catholic Encyclopedia: Antichrist
  • Encyclopædia Britannica: Antichrist—full article
  • Jewish Encyclopedia: Antichrist
  • Lutheran Scholarly Works on the Antichrist
  • OrthodoxWiki: Antichrist

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