Theological Mistakes: Antichrists, False Christs, and False Prophets

When Christians discuss the end times, a certain prophetic view seems to pervade most discussions. This is an interpretation of the book of Revelation we call the “futurist” view, that beginning with chapter 4, the book speaks of future realities, things yet to come. The advocates of this view may be further divided into dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists. A very basic way of understanding this would be to say that a dispensationalist sees a comprehensive view of the end times based on texts from many different books of the Bible. The most extreme forms see this as the primary purpose of the Bible: to reveal what will happen in the future drama of God’s actions in human history. This includes such things as a first resurrection, a second resurrection, rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, a time of tribulation, the second coming of Christ, and the final judgment.

Central to many of these systems is the role of a great, evil eschatological figure who will deceive the nations of the world and establish himself as a world ruler. The defeat of this person and his forces of evil will be the final battle, the Armageddon prophesied in the book of Revelation.

This evil personage is often called the Antichrist, even the Antichrist of Revelation. Further study of this, though, reveals some interesting things. For one, the term “Antichrist” is never used in the book of Revelation. It occurs only in 1 John and 2 John. There it is used in the plural (antichrists) and the singular (antichrist). In these letters of John, this “antichrist” seems to be something present in his day and influencing the church he pastors.

Another thing we should notice is that the Greek prefix “anti” is not the same as the English prefix “anti.” This is another problem caused by transliteration. The Greek preposition “anti” has the sense of “substitute” or “replacement” and not so much “against” as the English “anti” does. A more literal translation of the Greek word antichristos would be “False Christ” or “False Messiah” or “False Anointed One.”

Scripture does predict a person who plays a decisive role in the end of time as a leader of the forces of evil. Both Revelation and Paul speak of this person:

  • Man of Sin/Lawlessness, Son of Perdition (2 Thess 2:3)
  • The Beast (Revelation 13:1-4), also known as Mr. 666 by some

But this person is never called the Antichrist in Scripture. Is this important? Probably not, but the misuse of this term in prophecy formulations and in Hollywood productions has long bothered me. I guess I am getting old. Next I will be yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn. Those meddlin’ kids!

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

BTW: I am speaking as the Bible Lecturer at the Week of Mission Conference at Camp Wi-Ne-Ma on the Oregon coast July 29-August 3. My topic is “The Everlasting Gospel” and the lessons will be from the book of Revelation. I’m sure this topic will come up.

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