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023 Kernels of Wheat — Will the Real Antichrist(s) Please Stand Up?

Show Notes by Jim Kerwin for Kernels of Wheat Podcast Episode 023 – Will the Real Antichrist(s) Please Stand Up?

A Short History of Antichrist

A closeup of the entry for the word 'antichrist' in Strong's ConcordanceThe entry for antichrist in Strong’s Concordance. These five entries–four verses–are the only places where the word ever occurs in the entire Bible. Note the plural in 1 John 2:18. Click on the image for a larger view.

Intro: In the old TV game show, To Tell the Truth, several panelists asked questions of three mystery guests.  One guest had a unique story or occupation or claim to fame; but the other guests were decoys, whose presence and answers were meant to deceive the panelists.  The panelists were allowed to ask questions of all three guests, and in the end had to guess which one had told the truth.  After they had guessed, the moderator would say, “Will the real [mystery guest] please stand up?” and the truth would be revealed.  Seeing the truth “stand up” in 1 John is our goal, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  In this episode, we will be looking for history and the Scriptures “To Tell the Truth” about what has — and should be — taught about the subject of antichrists.  “Will the real antichrists please stand up?”

Review of 1 John 2:18-29

  • Anointing
  • Abiding
  • Antichrist (this episode and next)

Speculation Started with the Early Church Fathers (a sampling)

  1. Polycarp (A.D. 69-155); bishop of Smyrna; knew the Apostle John and Irenæus.
    1. …being zealous as touching that which is good, abstaining from offenses and from the false brethren and from them that bear the name of the Lord in hypocrisy, who lead foolish men astray. For every one who shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist… (from Polycarp’s Letter to the Ephesians, translated by J. B. [Joseph Barber] Lightfoot)
    2. This church father, one who sat under John’s teaching, is the last one to say only what the Apostle said about antichrist.
  2. Tertullian (c. 160-c.220): equated the “wicked one” of 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 with antichrist — over 100 years after John’s death.
  3. Athanasius (c. 293-373) – described the heretic Arius as “Christ’s foe and harbinger of antichrist.”  Here is one of the first instances where the antichrist is pinned to an individual.
  4. John Chrysostom (c. 327-407) in his Homily on 2nd Thessalonians:
    1. “…delivered from childish fables and from old women’s fooleries. And have you not often heard, when you were children, persons talking much even about the name of Antichrist, and about his bending the knee? For the devil scatters these things in our minds, whilst yet tender, that the doctrine may grow up with us, and that he may be able to deceive us. Paul therefore, in speaking of Antichrist, would not have passed over these things if they had been profitable. Let us not therefore enquire into these things.…”
    2. But note that, following Tertullian’s lead, Chrysostom is now associating antichrist with a passage outside of 1 John and 2 John.

The Pope or Papacy as Antichrist (another sampling)

  1. Not a teaching started by Protestants, but by various Roman Catholics
    1. Around A.D. 1000 — a French archbishop labeled Pope John XV as antichrist.
    2. Toward the end of the 11th century — Cardinal Benno labeled Pope Gregory VII the same.
    3. A.D. 1241 — Pope Gregory IX was called antichrist by Eberhard II, the prince-archbishop of Salzburg.
  2. From the 1500s onward, Protestant Reformers held as one of their tenants that the Papacy was the Antichrist.  Those who taught this included Martin Luther, Thomas Cranmer, John Calvin, John Knox, and William Tyndale.  This view was strongly held in many Protestant quarters through the late 1800s, and even has adherents today.
  3. Catholic Counter-Reformation (about 1550 to 1650): the idea that the Antichrist is in the future, yet to come…
    1. Posited by the Jesuit Francisco Ribera (1537-1591)
    2. Further developed by another Jesuit, Robert Bellarmine (later, Cardinal; eventually “sainted”):
      1. Temple would be rebuilt in Jerusalem; associated it with the future Antichrist
      2. Basis of modern Dispensationalism
  4. The Antichrist of modern Dispensationalism (the view most evangelical Christians now hold)
    1. Plymouth Brethren in England
    2. Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921) and the Scofield Bible
    3. Dallas Theological Seminary
  5. Another view from Edgar Parkyns — Islam is the Antichrist, on the basis of
    1. 1 John 2:22-23: “…He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son. Whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father…”
    2. Since the Koran denies that Jesus is the Son of God, Parkyns claimed that Islam could qualify.

In the Twentieth Century (and in my lifetime), people “conclusively proven” to be “the Antichrist” by prophecy “experts”

  1. Kaiser Wilhelm II (World War I)
  2. Benito Mussolini (Italian dictator during World War II)
  3. Adolf Hitler
  4. Josef Stalin
  5. President John F. Kennedy
    1. “deadly wound that was healed” (Revelation 13:3, 12)
    2. Why Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis
    3. “Seen” on one of Onassis’s Greek islands
  6. King Juan Carlos I of Spain
  7. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
  8. Saddam Hussein
  9. Barney the purple dinosaur
“Sometimes it seems that there are more Christians looking for Antichrist than are looking for Christ.” — Rev. P.H.P. “Percy” Gutteridge

Will the Real Antichrists Please Stand Up?

  1. All that we can know and need to know about antichrist is found in 1 John 2:15-29; 4:2-3; 2 John 7.  These are the only places the words antichrist or antichrists are used.  (See graphic from Strong’s Concordance above.)
    1. John is the only one who uses the word, and only in two of his epistles.
    2. Although John is the author of the Book of Revelation, he never uses the word in Revelation.
    3. It’s reasonable to assume that the epistles provide everything we need to figure it out.
  2. Hints and clues in the epistle passages of John
    1. Many antichrists (plural) have already appeared (2:18-19)
    2. The antichrists “went out from us” (2:19) — out from where?
    3. The key determination — Has “Jesus Christ come in the flesh?” 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7
  3. Other considerations:
    1. In 1 John 4:3, the words “spirit” in the phrase “the spiritof the antichrist” do not appear in the Greek text.
      1. Young’s Literal Translation: “…this is that of the antichrist…”
      2. NET Bible marginal note: “ ‘spirit’ is not in the Greek text” [fact] “but is implied” [questionable]
    2. The preposition/prefix anti never appears in the New Testament with the meaning of “against”:
      1. Anti is one of the prepositions whose use goes back to the Hellenistic period. In its basic meaning of ‘over against’ it does not occur in the NT, but is mostly used in the sense of ‘in place of’…it makes little difference whether the word denotes an actual replacement, an intended replacement, or a mere equivalent in estimation…” — Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Kittel) [emphases mine]
      2. Anti — “in order to indicate that one person or thing is, or is to be, replaced by another instead of, in place of…in order to indicate that one thing is equiv. to another for, as, in place of…” — A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, & Danker)
  4. Working from the context of 1 John: What has John already taught us that provides the context for understanding the word antichrist?  You can review the various points in previous Kernels of Wheat episodes:
    1. What is the purpose for John writing the entire epistle? — Intimate fellowship with the Godhead.  See:
      1. #1: Words We Think We Know (1 John 1:1-3)
      2. #2: Asking the Right Question (1 John 1:1-4)
      3. #3: No “God Bag” Needed
      4. #4: God Is Light (1 John 1:5)
    2. What keeps us in — or removes us from — that fellowship with God?
      1. #6: When Is Walking More than Walking? (1 John 1:6-7)
      2. #7: Walking in Freedom (1 John 1:6-7)
      3. #8: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! (1 John 1:62:6)
      4. #9: That Uncomfortable Word, Part 1
      5. #10: That Uncomfortable Word, Part 2
      6. #13: The Love Meter (1 John 2:1-5)
      7. #14: A New Gift from Jesus (1 John 2:6-11)
    3. What constitutes the highest level of maturity?
      1. #15: Walking into Maturity (1 John 2:12-14)
    4. What is mutually exclusive to the love of God in us and our ability to love God?
      1. #16: If “God So Loved the World,” Why Am I Not Allowed To? (1 John 2:15-17); and especially…
      2. #17: Why the Impossible Is Impossible (1 John 2:15-17)
    5. What did we learn about the heresies that John might have been facing?
      1. #18: An Unhappy Heresy (1 John 2:18-21); but note…
      2. …that the variant of these that will come to light in the next episode about antichrist is more subtle and widespread.
    6. What did we learn about “the anointing” and the Anointed One?
      1. #19: What We Don’t Know About the Anointing (1 John 1:18-29)
    7. What did we learn about abiding?
      1. #20: Do You Have Indoor Plumbing? (1 John 1:18-29)

This isn’t a “game show.”  We want to know what the Bible really says about this subject, stripped of all of its historical baggage.  Will the real antichrists please stand up?  We will look to the Bible “To Tell the Truth” about antichrist in a whole new light in the next episode.


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Podcast theme music: “Steam Train” from the John Williams album Dusty Porch, under license from Magnatune.com.  Graphic was created by the author.

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