To Listen to Some Prophecy Pundits, Antichrist Seems Bigger and More Important than Jesus
When the film Die Hard came out, the poster had a picture of the Nakatomi Tower nearly taking up the entire poster. Bruce Willis, the star of the film, was nowhere to be found. The image of Willis was only added later.
I sometimes get the same type of mixed message when the end times is being discussed; it’s all about what the antichrist is going to do, not about what Jesus has done.
There are whole books written on the topic. He’s supposedly going to take center-stage in an end-time shoot out with Jesus. This has always amazed me since the antichrist is said to be energized by Satan who is a defeated fallen angel and a minor nuisance in the grand scheme of redemptive history. Jesus crushed him at the cross at Golgotha, the place of a skull (Gen. 3:15; Matt. 27:33; Rom. 16:20). Satan is a creature. Like all creatures, he has certain limitations.
The Bible informs us that if we “resist the devil he will flee from” us (James 4:7). The only power Satan has over the Christian is the power we give him and the power granted to him by God (2 Cor. 12:7–12). Scripture tells us that Satan is defeated, disarmed, and spoiled (Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7; Mark 3:27). He has “fallen” (Luke 10:18) and was “thrown down” (Rev. 12:9). He was “crushed” under the feet of the early Christians, and by implication, under the feet of all Christians throughout the ages (Rom. 16:20).
He has lost “authority” over Christians (Col. 1:13). He has been “judged” (John 16:11). He cannot “touch” a Christian (1 John 5:18). His works have been destroyed (1 John 3:8). He has “nothing” (John 14:30). He was “bound” (Mark 3:27; Luke 11:20). Finally, the gates of hell “shall not overpower” the advancing church of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:18).1
With this background, we’re suppose to believe that Satan is the power behind a future global antichrist. All five rapture positions contend that he is the focus of history for a short period of time that will result in the deaths of millions of Jews (Zech. 13:7–9) and billions of everyone else around the world. For what purpose? So God can rescue Israel, but only after letting the antichrist kill two-thirds of them? It makes no sense.
The doctrine is built on Daniel 9:24–27. The “prince who is to come” is said to be the antichrist even though the word antichrist is not found in any of the four verses. One would think that if Messiah the Prince and just “Messiah” are used (9:25-26), which is translated as “Christ” in Greek, that the unidentified “prince” in verse 26 and “he” in verse 27, should be “anti-messiah,” the opposite of Messiah. There is “Christ” in the New Testament as well “antichrist.” It seems to me, if someone is going to make a case that the antichrist is in Daniel 9:26 and 27, then he should be so identified. But he isn’t.
There is much more to this topic. As you may know by now, I will be debating the rapture doctrine with Kent Hovind on January 21. Some of these issues will come out then, hopefully in more detail.
In this article, I want to respond to Alan Kurschner’s book Antichrist: Before the Day of the Lord. He criticized me for not dealing with Luke 16:8 when I argued that every time the Greek word genea is translated in the New Testament it means “generation” and not “race.” As I pointed out in my response article, I mentioned the fact that some translations do translate genea as “race.” You can read my response to Kurschner’s article here.
In order to prepare for my debate with Hovind, I ordered a copy of Mr. Kurschner’s book to familiarize myself with the pre-wrath rapture position. He also has a website and podcast devoted to the subject. Kurschner, unlike Kent Hovind, has not restricted himself to the KJV translation. In addition, he holds an M.A. in biblical languages, something that Kent Hovind does not seem to support in debates since most people do not have access to the original languages. For Hovind, the KJV is as authoritative as the original languages. There’s no need to reference the Hebrew or Greek. I’ll let Kent and James White fight that one out.
Now back to Alan Kurschner and his book Antichrist. As soon as I get a book or read an article about “The Antichrist,” I look to see if the authors actually define the term using the Bible. The first verse to use the word antichrist is 1 John 2:18. Here’s what it says:
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (KJV)
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. (NASB)
There’s a slight difference. The KJV translates the Greek word ὥρα (hōra) as “time,” while the NASB translates it as “hour.” The KJV is inconsistent in its translation of hōra (e.g., Luke 24:14, 53; John 2:4; 17:1; etc.). Are we to assume that “last hour” can mean nearly two millennia?
It’s not a big deal, but it’s important to note. Kurschner translates hōra as “hour.” He mentions 1 John 2:22 and 4:3. He does not mention 2 John 7. The passages that he quotes, that use the word “antichrist,” get a scant half-page of discussion (12).2
He writes the following:
So John recognizes an already-not-yet sense of antichrist (“the antichrist is coming [not yet], so now many antichrists have appeared [already]).”
John does not say “the antichrist is coming” in 1 John 2:18 as Kurschner claims.3 antichrist is coming.” And John does not say that because of the antichrist coming at some point in the distant future that that’s the reason there were “many antichrists” alive and well (physically speaking) in John’s day.
Anyone who denies the “Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22), and as John says in his second short epistle, “those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7), is an antichrist.
John writes: “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:3). The spirit of the antichrist, according to John, “is already in the world.” It was “now” and “have come” for John and other Christians. It’s the spirit of the antichrist that was coming (“it is coming”).
While 1 John 2:22 does include the article—“the antichrist” (in Greek and English translations), “it is clear,” Joel McDurmon writes, “that since John has already established ‘antichrist’ as a general group in verse 18, he is now providing criteria by which his audience can judge specific (definite) cases of heresy among them. Thus he individualizes the language to correspond.”
McDurmon expands on this principle:
He uses typifying “proverb”-type language to create a test case for determining between “he who tells the truth,” and “he who is ‘the liar’” in that given case: “He who denies that Jesus is the Christ, he is the antichrist.” But it is clear that his categories set up in the previous verses should determine the context of this one. For this reason, the King James translators went so far as to exclude “the” from this second passage—“He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son”—even though it existed in their Greek text (that ought to bug the KJV-only crowd a bit).
The same principle is at work in 1 John 4:3. Here John further explains the criteria for judgment: “And every spirit that does not confess [literally “speak the same”] Jesus is not of God, and this is that of the antichrist, which you heard that comes, and now is in the world already” (McDurmon [translation]).
The phrase “and this is that of the antichrist” is a description of the spirit that denies Jesus. In other words, it means “this denying spirit is the spirit of the antichrist.” This is why so many translations can’t stand not adding the word “spirit” a second time even though it is not in the text (see KJV, NAS, NIV, NJB, NRS, ESV). Here again, the article “the” appears, but clearly applies to criteria for determining definite, individual instances of the heresy. This was the practical ecclesiastical issue built on John’s earlier general teaching about “antichrist”: testing teachers for heresy. Thus: “Test the spirits” John said, introducing the fourth chapter, “because many false prophets [like the “many antichrists” in 2:18] have gone out into the world” (4:1).
The remaining instance appears in 2 John 7. It further solidifies and reinforces what we have said so far. John repeats his former teaching almost verbatim, warning that “Many deceivers, who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in flesh, have gone out into the world. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
Again the definite article appears, but it is clear that the phrase applies as a general description for a group including “many deceivers.” At most it could point to the sole supernatural force behind these many deceivers, many false prophets, and many antichrists; but even then it still could not be a single individual that shall come in the future. It would simply mean that just as the Pharisees, for example, were children of the devil, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), so these many antichrists are children of spiritual antichrist, the devil. This is a possible interpretation, but not necessary.4
Kurschner does not explain who these “many antichrists who have appeared” were (1 John 2:18). It’s the key to everything. John is not describing a political person or a world leader of some kind; he’s identifying the immediate enemies of the cross. He writes, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; in order that it might be shown that they are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
Notice that there is no mention of Daniel 9:24-27. John’s antichrist is not described as a “prince” because Daniel is not prophesying about an antichrist. Jesus is the Prince (Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:15; 5:31). Jesus says, “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30; KJV). In what way and to what end?: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:27-31, KJV). Those who claim that Daniel 9:26–27 is describing that antichrist as a major end-time prophetic figure have to deny what Jesus said about the “prince of this world.”
Who could these “many antichrists” be? They were the Judaizers, the almost constant enemies of the gospel in the book of Acts: “and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).
This is part of the apostasy that futurists claim is going to precede the coming of the end-time antichrist. It was a reality in John’s day. It fits well with the “abomination” that causes desolation the disciples would see (Matt. 24:15; Luke 21:20) before their generation passed away (Mt. 24:34). The man of lawlessness was most likely associated with the apostate Jewish priesthood. The temple was still standing when Paul wrote his second epistle to the Thessalonians: “you know what restrains him now” (2 Thess. 2:6), the same “now” of John’s “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18; 4:3). The following is from Johann Christian Schoettgen’s Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:
Indeed about this Antichrist, concerning whom Paul has spoken, I understand that he intends Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism, not Judaism itself, which God wanted to be buried with honor as a religion established by himself. But, as I have said, he means the Judaism of the Rabbis, which surely deserves the name of “Anti‑christianism.” Who resists Christ more, who resists the apostles more than the Pharisees, the Rabbis, the Scribes, those learned in the Law, in Judea and outside it? It was necessary that these be destroyed, since their malice would continually increase until the end of the Jewish Republic.5
These “many antichrists” might be what John is describing in the book of Revelation:
“I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:9-11; 3:9).
Revelation is describing what was about to happen. This is not some far off warning. It was to happen “soon” (Rev. 1:1) because the time was “near” (1:3; 22:10) for them.
Today’s prophetic antichrist is manufactured from bits of verses here and there and cobbled together to create a Frankenstein-like monster that ends up frightening, immobilizing, and neutralizing Christians.
- The material on Satan was taken from Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1973), 126–127. [↩]
- I haven’t read the entire book, so he might discuss these verses elsewhere. I have not checked his website. [↩]
- In the KJV and NASB, an italicized word does not appear in the Hebrew or Greek text. It’s added for clarity. I don’t know if Kurschner has added it for clarity, for emphasis, or he assumes it’s in the Greek text. He may be applying the “Colwell’s Rule.” The KJV and NASB do not add “the.” Kurschner uses the New English Translation, described by Stephen M. Thurstan as “a dispensational influenced translation,” that adds “the.” [↩]
- Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2011), 181-182. [↩]
- The full title reads, Johann Christian Schoettgen’s Hebraic and Talmudic Background on the Entire New Testament [Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae in universum Novum Testamentum] Supplemented by The Background of John Lightfoot on the Historical Books With the Epistles and the Apocalypse Similarly Illustrated. Also Included are Select Discussions on Sacred Theology, and Indices of Scripture References, Significant Words and Important Topics (1733). Barry Hofstetter produced the above translation. You can read the entire English translation of 2 Thessalonians 2 here. [↩]