2 John 7 “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
I believe when apostle John speaks of the anti-christ(s), he is referring to people who claim to be Christian but who deny Jesus Christ in some fashion. In his day many “anti-christ” teachers were arising as the original apostles were dying off. These anti-christ’s taught things that opposed the incarnation, humanity, divinity, character or example demonstrated by Jesus Christ when He lived among the apostles. What I find interesting in John’s implications about the anti-christs is that they were not atheist/pantheist heathens but were religious and/or claiming Christians. The first anti-christ’s were the pharisees and religious Jews who willfully denied the Messiahship/divinity of Jesus. Ever since then there has been a parade of anti-christs, many who are religious but who deny and oppose Jesus’ Way, including the example He set for us.
Another interesting implication in John’s anti-christ mentions is that he does not refer to one anti-christ; he refers to many anti-christs. The term is plural and there will always be a plurality of anti-christs. But modern pre-trib dispensationalism teaches one to focus on discovering the Anti-Christ. Unfortunately Scripture disagrees and warns us about the many anti-christs who have and will arise.
Commentaries on the two ‘anti-christ’ passages written by Saint John also support this notion of more than one anti-christ and in general the anti-christs are religious deniers of Jesus Christ.
While the false Christ is merely a pretender to the Messianic office, the Antichrist “assails Christ by proposing to do or to preserve what he did, while denying Him.” Antichrist, then, is one who opposes Christ in the guise of Christ. Westcott’s remark is very important, that John’s sense of Antichrist is determined by the full Christian conception of Christ, and not by the Jewish conception of the promised Savior. (Vincent’s Word Studies)
[…] adversaries of Christ, as the Arabic version renders it, are meant, who set themselves against Christ, and were opposers of his person, incarnation, and office; who either denied that he was the Christ, or that he was come in the flesh, the truth of his incarnation, or his proper deity, or real humanity, such as Ebion, Cerinthus, and others. The apostle might well say there were many, since in his time were the followers of Simon Magus, the Menandrians, Saturnilians, Basilidians, Nicolaites, Gnostics, Carpocratians, Cerinthians, Ebionites, and Nazarenes, as reckoned up by Epiphanius. And hence we learn, that antichrist is not one single individual, but many; (Gills Exposition of the whole Bible) More commentaries on 1 John 2:18 at Biblios
So who are the anti-christs of our age? Are they european/liberal atheists or neo-pantheist new-agers as taught by ‘prophecy’ enthusiasts or the Left Behind books? In a sense yes, but I believe the better candidates are today’s claiming ‘christians’ who by their life and word deny and oppose all or various aspects of Jesus Christ. I would even suggest that America, as one of the globe’s most “claiming christian” nations, is the modern day hotbed of anti-christs. In other words there are more ‘anti-christs’ in the US than maybe anywhere else on the planet. They are uncomfortably close to home. In fact we all struggle with our own tendency to oppose Christ. But recognizing this and crying out to Jesus for His grace and forgiveness is far from the willful and/or blind denial of Christ practiced by so many in our ‘christian’ culture. So who are the anti-christs of our day?
In opposition to the anti-discernment spirit (“don’t judge others, especially ‘christians’ “) pervading modern evangelicalism, I’m going to identify concrete examples of anti-christ thinking and I’m going to name names. If this bothers you then all I can say is re-read all the Gospels and the epistles and note the times that Jesus and the apostles ‘judge’ others including specific persons.
So who are the anti-christ doctrines and egregious candidates of our time? Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and most conservative talk radio are all anti-christs. Their idolatry of wealth, political power, patriotism and pride that pervades their speech and attitudes openly mock Jesus’ teachings and example. They hate humility, deference and surrender. I, me and myself reign their airwaves. Yet most of these talkers claim to be religious in a christian sense and/or believers/followers of God.
Many so-called christian politicians like Sarah Palin, Rick Santuram and Michelle Bachmann are also anti-christs. Again they claim to believe in Jesus and may even have correct theological thinking in many areas – but they do not promote the ways of Jesus in their policies nor do they often act like Him in their rise to political power. More basic however is their rejection of His way of transforming culture. Jesus and His followers rejected top-down political attempts to bring His kingdom about. American ‘christian’ politicians openly (albeit sincerely) reject His humble, non-public ways of transformation. In doing so they practice in the spirit of an anti-christ.
Joel Osteen and a host of past and recent prosperity, “increase my territory” teachers/preachers are also anti-christs. Filthy lucre becomes the path of God’s blessing rather than the root of all evil. Their self-centered sanctification of western capitalism/consumerism is so far from the model Jesus taught as to become a parody and farce – yet to them it is serious ‘spirituality’ (and seriously profitable!) Other wealthy and wealth-worshipping ‘christians’ include people like the DeVos family, Eric Prince and the Koch brothers. Jesus may be on the lapel pin of their Armani suits but money and power is their shepherd. But it is not necessarily just the money in their pockets, but what they’ve done with that money that makes them anti-christs. This group in particular seems to be on a mission to teach fellow claiming christians the way of an american jesus who blesses lavishness and violence at the expense of other less fortunate humanity.
So who are the anti-christs of our day? I believe primarily they are very public, influential figures in our society who may appear religious in a christian way, but who do not act or sound like Jesus. But they do more than just model a false jesus; they teach a false jesus. They live and teach a jesus that loves redemptive violence. They teach a jesus who loves money and power over others. They teach a jesus who hates humility, repentance and self-examination. They teach a western, uber-capitalist jesus. They teach a jesus who disdains the poor and helpless. They live and proclaim a jesus who seeks publicity.
At the heart of it, I think they live and teach the jesus that the Pharisees wanted: an Old-Testament conception of Messiah as a conquering military/political genius who would return them to earthly glory and power. Jesus emphatically lived and said He was not that expectation. That ticked off the religious leaders of His day and it continues to irk many claiming ‘christians’ of today. And so they reject Him and His way. They become full-fledged anti-christs as they embody and nurture others in following an american jesus; a false christ that is set against the real Jesus Christ and the example He lived.
Like Saint John, I am burdened by the influence these anti-christs of our day have over the flock. John’s words are appropriate as we think about the real Jesus Christ and how to remain in Him. 1 John 2:26 says,
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.