The Antichrist is the ultimate opponent of Christ. The Antichrist is associated with the Second Coming and the Apocalypse. Originally a man, the Antichrist in more modern times is seen as half-human and half-Demon, the son of Satan, brought forth into the world by a woman.
The only references in the Bible specific to the Antichrist are found in the epistles of John. The term is ambiguous and could mean “opponent of Christ,” “false Christ,” “against Christ,” or “instead of Christ.” The references assume the Antichrist to be an existing tradition, knowledge that the opponent will precede the Second Coming in an effort to seize control of the world. The verse 1 John 2:18:22 states,
“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”
In 4:3, the author says that “every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.” The verse 2 John 7 states,
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
Here the Antichrist seems more like a spirit or attitude that infects many people, the disbelievers (and thus heretics), and not a single individual.
Other passages in the New Testament mention opponents of Christ without using the term Antichrist. The Gospels of Mark and Matthew refer to false prophets, and Paul’s 2 Thessalonians 2:3–12 refers to the “Lawless One” or “the man of lawlessness” who will precede the Second Coming:
Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all the power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
REVELATION makes reference to other opponents, chiefly the Beasts of the Land and the Sea, and the Dragon or Serpent, the Devil himself.
The concept of the Antichrist was more fully developed in the second century C.E., chiefly by the church father Irenaeus, who argued that the best defense against the Devil is Christ. Christian prayers and the uttered name of Christ cause Demons to flee. However, the Antichrist, a human, will appear as an apostate, murderer, and robber. He will have “all the Devil’s power,” Irenaeus said, and will attract followers and worshippers. The Antichrist ultimately will be defeated, and Satan and his Demons will go to everlasting torments in Hell.
Origen, another father of the early church, termed the Antichrist “the son of the evil Demon, who is Satan and the Devil.” He will be supported in his final confrontation with Christ by Satan and his Demons, who were imprisoned at the time of the Passion. Augustine, one of the most influential early fathers, assumed the Antichrist to be a single individual rather than groups of wicked men. By early medieval times, the Antichrist was increasingly regarded as a person rather than a personification of evil.
The Antichrist would be fostered by Lucifer or would be the form that Lucifer himself would take, at the end of the world. This form became more and more entrenched in theological writings, in folklore, and in theater and literature. One common story line held that Lucifer would beget the Antichrist with a Babylonian whore.
After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the pope was often called the Antichrist, while Catholics said MARTIN LUTHER would beget the Antichrist. In 1848, the Blessed Virgin Mary, appearing in apparitional visions at La Salette, France, predicted that the seat of Rome would serve the Antichrist: “How I warned and warned that Satan would enter into the highest realms of the hierarchy in Rome. The Third Secret, My child, is that Satan would enter into My Son’s Church.” In 1928, Lucifer was a principal Demon possessing a woman in Earling, Iowa (see EARLING Possession). Father Theophilus, the EXORCIST, became convinced that the hour of the Antichrist was near. However, he did not think that the Antichrist would be a son of the Devil, but Lucifer himself, who would fashion a body out of earthly matter in order to operate in the world. The Antichrist as son of the Devil is the most popular view in modern times, represented in fiction and in films such as ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE OMEN, and THE Devil’S ADVOCATE.
- Augustine. The City of God. Translated by Marcus Dods, George Wilson, and J. J. Smith; introduction by Thomas Merton. New York: Modern Library, 1950.
- Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2nd ed. Edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1999.
- Russell, Jeffrey Burton. The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity. Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell University Press, 1977.
- ———. Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages. Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell University Press, 1984.
- ———. Satan: The Early Christian Tradition. Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell University Press, 1981.
- Vogel, Rev. Carl. Begone, Satan! A Soul-Stirring Account of Diabolical Possession in Iowa. Rockford, Ill.: TAN Books and Publishers, 1973.