This name introduces to us one of the most solemn and foreboding subjects in the Word of God. An antichrist — one absolutely opposed to Jesus Christ — we are told, shall come (1 John 2:18). The spirit of antichrist is already in the world, denying the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, either in the past (1 John 4:3) or in the future (2 John 7).
This spirit of antichrist, now possessed by many, will culminate in one person, the Antichrist, who will deny both the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22).
That he is a single individual is plainly taught in 2 Thess. 2, where he is called "that man of sin ... the son of perdition" — "that Wicked," the lawless one.
As Christ is the express image of God (Heb. 1:3), so it appears that antichrist is the culminating manifestation of Satan, "the prince of this world" (John 14:30). His coming is "after the working [energy, or inward working] of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness..." (2 Thess. 2:9-10)
He will be a "strong [or inward working] delusion," to them who believe not the truth (2 Thess. 2:3-12).
This mystery of Lawlessness already worked in the days of the apostle, but there has been a hindering power, which, we believe, is the Holy Spirit, in His present manifestation, or office, viz.: as the reprover of the world and gatherer of the Church. When He, the restraining one, is taken out of the way (or out of the midst), at the rapture of the Church, then shall the mystery be unveiled, and the Lawless one be revealed (2 Thess. 2:7-8).
He will be received, even by the Jews (John 5:43), who, having returned to their own land and rebuilt their temple, will make a treaty with him, called by the prophet a covenant with death and an agreement with hell (Isa. 28:14-18). And antichrist will exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God (the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem) and sheweth himself that he is God. 2 Thess. 2:4. Doubtless he is the king described in Dan. 11:36, etc., who shall do according to his own will and magnify himself above every god. Again, he is seen as the beast described in Rev. 13:11-18 whose number is the number of a man, 666, and who performs "great wonders ... and deceiveth them that dwell upon the earth," by means of his miracles, and has the power to kill those who will not worship the image of the beast. And again he is seen in Lucifer, or the day star, of Isa. 14:12-16 of whom the king of Babylon was a type, and who weakens the nations, exalts his "throne above the stars of God," and sits "upon the mount of the congregation."
Such, in brief, is the awful picture which Scripture gives us of this great opponent of Christ. Many think that he has already been manifested in Antiochus Epiphanes — or the Popes of Rome — or Mohammed and his successors, all of which we regard as erroneous. The Popes have received their exaltation and power, as the pretended vicars of Christ, and not as His opponent. It is a great mistake, therefore, to call them the antichrist, or the opposing one. Antiochus was doubtless a type of antichrist. And in his opposition to the worship of Jehovah, his sacrifice of the hated swine in the temple and his merciless treatment of the Jews, he has given us a miniature picture of what the final antichrist will do. But he passed away long before Paul and John wrote of the antichrist to come. Likewise Mohammed may be in some sense a type, but that is all.
No, antichrist is still in the future, and he will not be manifested until the true Church has been taken away, at the rapture, as described in 1 Thess. 4:16-18. For Paul says (2 Thess. 2:1-2; 7), "We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him," — that is, by this very fact of the rapture, of which he had previously written them (1 Thess. 4:16-18), and which must first occur before the apostasy should come to the full, and the man of sin be revealed. This is confirmed by verse 7. The Holy Spirit, who, while he is gathering the Bride (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 4:30), reproves the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8), will, when he is taken out of the way, catch up the Bride to meet the Lord in the air, leaving the apostate church, adulterous Israel and the ungodly world, to believe a lie (2 Thess. 2:11), and then shall the lawless one be revealed. Praise God, that the Church is to be kept from this awful hour of temptation (Luke 21:36; Rev. 3:10). She shall be with her Lord (1 Thess. 4:17-18; 5:9-10), while the world is ruled by antichrist.
But, though antichrist shall so greatly exalt himself and rule over the world with such power, yet "shall he come to his end, and none shall help him" (Dan. 11:45). The Lord shall destroy him "with the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess. 2:8), when He shall come, with His saints, to execute judgment upon the ungodly (Jude 14-15). Yes, he shall "be brought down to hell [sheol], to the sides of the pit." They that see him shall narrowly look upon him and consider him, saying, "is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof?" Isa. 14:15-17.
We would call special attention to the fact that antichrist denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22), and that the Greek words in 2 Thess. 2:7-8 could be rendered "the mystery of lawlessness" — "the lawless one." This, we think, gives an alarming significance to the atheistic and lawless trio of socialism, nihilism and anarchy, so rapidly spreading in our day, and which seeks to wipe out all law relating to marriage, property, etc.
It may be that these are the immediate precursors of antichrist. At any rate, he is surely coming, and sad indeed is the thought of a godless world, rushing on to such a culmination of evil.
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Jesus is Coming by W.E.B. 3rd. rev. New York: Fleming H. Revell, ©1908. Chapter 12.
Selections from Jesus is Coming