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.


Scars of Service

Ministry for the Lord has great rewards, but also leaves scars. Some years ago, Max Smith shared this story in the Christian Standard.

When he was a young boy, Estal Taylor wanted a pair of roller skates. When he got a pair on his birthday, he had no place to skate on his family’s farm in rural Indiana. So he begged his parents to allow him to skate around the old farmhouse, and they finally agreed. As he was first learning, he circled kitchen table, holding on all the way around. Finally, he decided to venture out with no handholds. But he slipped and went skidding toward the kitchen’s pot bellied stove. At the last instant, his father dived between Taylor and the stove, but the momentum pushed his father’s hand against it. When he pulled his hand away, some of his flesh remained on the stove. For the rest of his life, the elder Taylor bore an ugly scar from the incident.

When Taylor’s father died, the mortician, in an act of kindness, positioned the hands so that the “good” hand covered the other. Taylor asked him to change this. He wanted everyone to see what his dad had done for him. The scar spoke of his dad’s suffering love for him, and it was beautiful and meaningful to him.

Paul puts it this way when he reflects on his career in ministry:

. . . we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Character is built through trials. But successfully navigating these trials gives us hope, and Paul ties this directly to the Holy Spirit in our hearts. When we suffer, we should not fixate on the scar the suffering left, but on the God who walked with us through the trial.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College