The Bible says in the last days “perilous times” shall come (2 Tim 2:3). The word “perilous” is packed with imagery, picturing a ferocious beast pouncing on its defenseless prey tearing the catch to pieces. We are living in such times, as we witness the spread of mayhem in the streets and the seeds of moral confusion, social unrest, financial uncertainty, overt Marxist activism and spiritual deception being sown throughout society. We are witnessing the widening of the crack in the dam that had once held back the flood of evil, man’s heart spilling forth unrestrained lawlessness. John in his first epistle writes that the “spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:1-3).
The aged Apostle writes that we can know we are in the last hour because of the existence and activity of the spirit of antichrist permeating society. John writes, “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know that it is the last hour” (2:18). Now what did John mean by the last hour? The “last hour” (called the “last days” by Paul) is the entire period of time between the first coming and second coming of Christ. However, as the Second Coming of Christ draws nearer, evil will escalate and grow worse and worse (2 Tim. 3:13). There is no question that is happening before our very eyes.
What is meant by the “spirit of antichrist” permeating society? What are the characteristics of the “spirit of antichrist?” Interestingly, the only place in the NT where the word “antichrist” is found is the epistles of John (I John 2:18 (twice), 2:22, 4:3, 2 John 7). The word “antichrist” (Gk ἀντίχριστος/antichristos) is a combination of two Greek words “anti” meaning against or instead of and “Christos” meaning Messiah, Christ, the Anointed One. It is clear from the books of Daniel and Revelation there is coming a day when there will be a person who will rise to power who will oppose Christ, who will be against all that Christ stands for, who will portray himself as a “savior” but will be a counterfeit Christ. Before the personage of the Antichrist will be revealed and accepted by the masses, there must be a “spirit of antichrist” that pervades society in order to pave the way for the Antichrist to ascend to power. Today we are witnessing the unfolding of the “antichrist spirit” which is paving the way for his revealing.
How do we recognize the antichrist spirit that is already working among us? John points out several distinguishing characteristics of the antichrist spirit.
First, the spirit of antichrist rejects the deity of Jesus and that He was God in the flesh. The antichrist rejects the incarnation of Christ. John writes, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). He further writes in I John 4:3, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3). While society can’t deny the historical reality of Jesus, the antichrist spirit portrays Jesus as a mere man who held high ideals, leaves us an excellent example of how we should live, a wonderful teacher, but He was not God become a man. Of course, if Jesus is not the God-Man, He is incapable of providing for us salvation and deliverance from our sins.
Second, the spirit of antichrist rejects the existence of sin. John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us… If we say that we have not sinned we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1: 9, 10). The antichrist spirit seeks to convince man that he is not a sinner alienated from his Creator and in rebellion against a holy God, but he is capable of summoning innate good within him and by his own power and reason bring about the utopia the human heart desires. Of course, if man is not a sinner the message of the cross is unnecessary. If there is one truth human history has proven is that man is a sinner whose heart is desperately wicked, that man is out of tune with his Creator, and man left to His own power and reason divorced from God only creates a chaotic mess. If one thinks otherwise, just watch the news, read the newspaper, and look in the mirror. The evidence is overwhelming from experience and Scripture that man is a sinner and to contend otherwise is to deceive one’s self.
Third, the spirit of antichrist rejects the moral and ethical precepts of the Bible. John writes, “If…we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1:6). The antichrist spirit seeks to promote the fallacy that truth is relative and changing according to the whims of society, and the moral and ethical precepts of the Bible are archaic, outdated and those who proclaim those truths are out of touch with reality. The antichrist spirit seeks to convince man that he is smart enough to create his own morality a part from any Divine influence. The antichrist spirit seeks to silence those who promote biblical morality as necessary for an orderly society. It is clear today the rejection of biblical morality and ethics has plunged society into a slide toward implosion and self-destruction.
Fourth, the spirit of antichrist rejects that salvation is found only in Christ. John writes, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (4:14-15). The antichrist spirit is not altogether against “religion” as long as it is a Christless and crossless “religion.” The antichrist spirit opposes the teaching that Christ is the only “Savior of the world” and the only path to a restored relationship with God. The antichrist spirit promotes there are many ways to God and for one to think Jesus is the only way one is considered to be narrow minded.
Fifth, the spirit of antichrist seeks to combine “worship” of the state with “religion.” John’s wording in 1 John 4:14 is deliberate and pointed when he writes that Jesus is “Savior of the world.” The Greek phrase σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου (sotera tou kosmou), has reference to the Roman Emperor who was called σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου, savior of the world. Emperor worship was the state religion of the Roman Empire and Roman citizens were expected once a year to acknowledge and give their allegiance to Rome and the emperor. The Roman Empire and the Emperor were seen as supreme. John in calling Jesus “Savior of the world,” σωτῆρα τοῦ κόσμου (sotera tou kosmou), was committing a capital offence, as he is clearly teaching that salvation is not wrapped up in the supremacy of the state or the emperor, but only in Jesus Christ who alone deserves our worship and allegiance as Savior of the world. When the Antichrist appears, he will combine the state with a christless religion to form a one world system and will expect the masses to swear their allegiance to both. One would have to be blind not to see the antichrist spirit is quickly moving society in the direction of combining both the state and a christless religion into a one-world system where the state is supreme and the Antichrist is worshipped (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Rev. 13:8).
Sixth, the spirit of antichrist in opposing Christ seeks to silence the voice of the church. As has already been seen, the word antichrist means that which opposes or is against or instead of Christ (I John 2:18 (twice), 2:22, 4:3, 2 John 7). Today the radical progressive left and most left-wing groups and movements are clearly opposed to the Christ of the cross and the Christian faith. Christianity is a barrier to their agenda of fundamentally changing America and ushering in a godless and Marxist culture. They are coming after the church. The spirit of antichrist has attached itself to many well-meaning “social justice” groups, the ultimate goal being to silence the church, rid society of Christian influences and create a culture devoid of a Christian voice. The rush to remove every statue, the changing the names of buildings, businesses, logos, etc. that are deemed to be offensive, is nothing more than the insidious undercurrent of the spirit of antichrist eventually labeling the church as being offensive. The ultimate goal of the antichrist spirit, like the advancement of the ocean’s evening tide, is to remove from culture the voice of the church; thus, clearing the path for the Antichrist to step into power without significant opposition. One would have to completely shut their eyes to the reality of the day not to see this unfolding.
Yes, the spirit of antichrist has clearly permeated our culture today. Some may say, “You are overreacting.” My friend, the alarm needs to sound even louder, not less. Everything in our culture today, from the news media, the economy, much of academia, much of professional sports, Hollywood, leftist politics, the apostate churches, has been infected by the spirit of antichrist and opposes the spiritual, moral and ethical teachings of Christ and Scripture. These avenues of communication desire to deceive people into a false view of who Jesus is and what He taught.
The clock is ticking toward the unfolding of the Great Tribulation as found in the Book of Revelation. As the spirit of antichrist spreads at an alarming rate, the person of the Antichrist is waiting to step forth from the shadows as soon as all the pieces of the puzzle are put in place (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8). Yes, the spirit of antichrist is here. It must be recognized that we are in a spiritual war today. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, our noses in the Word and our ears attuned to hear the trumpet sound. Let us pray for a discerning spirit that we will not become vulnerable to the deception of the spirit of antichrist that is among us.
A final word, even with the pervasive spread of the spirit of the antichrist today, there is no need for the Christian to fear. John reminds us that the Spirit of truth indwells every believer and that we “are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is [Christ] who is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). May our confidence rest in that assuring truth.