I grew up going to a King James Only, dispensational, fundamentalist, Baptist church from the age of five to the age of eighteen when I went to college at a King James Only, dispensational, fundamentalist, Baptist college. Though it wasn’t talked about a whole lot, when the book of Revelation and the topic of eschatology came up there was a lot of discussion about the Antichrist and his coming one-world government. Depending on who you read, the Antichrist is the “beast…out of the sea” (13:1) who has a deadly head wound that is miraculously healed, at which the world marvels (13:3). He receives worship and he persecutes the faithful (13:4, 7). And you better not take his mark! (13:16-18)
For some, this series of events is already unfolding. I’ve heard preachers speculate on whether the Antichrist is alive here on earth today. Yet there is one small problem with all this talk of the Antichrist in the book of Revelation: there is no “Antichrist” in the book of Revelation.
Now before you object I want you to take a look and try to find it for me. Read through the entirety of the book and you will not see it. In fact, the only places where the word “antichrist” appears are in 1 John (2:18, 22; 4:3) and 2 John (1:7). To be sure, the author of 1 John fully expected there to be an eschatological Antichrist – “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) But John does not leave us unsure as to what an “antichrist” is; it is anyone who “denies the Father and the Son” (2:22) and “every spirit that does not confess [that] Jesus” has come in the flesh (4:2-3; cf. 2 John 7).
“But,” you object, “that doesn’t mean that the Antichrist as a concept isn’t in the book of Revelation!” I agree but therein lies the problem. Who is he? If the Johannine criteria for being an antichrist is that you deny the Father and the Son and deny that Jesus came in the flesh, who exactly does that apply to in the book of Revelation? No one explicitly denies the Father and Son or rejects the notion that Jesus came in the flesh. And if you assume that it is the beast from the sea (13:1) then how do you exclude the dragon that he serves (12:3) or the beast from the earth (13:11)? Aren’t these antichrists as well?
Now, all this may seem quite pedantic, and it may very well be, but the point stands that such attempts by certain Christian groups to designate this or that character in the book of Revelation as “the Antichrist” just do not hold up. Given that whoever wrote the Johannine epistles (i.e. 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) likely did not write the book of Revelation, the fact that “the Antichrist” does not appear anywhere in the apocalyptic book is not surprising. For if the same John wrote the epistles and the Revelation, why would he not employ the word he apparently coined?
Featured image By Edal Anton Lefterov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17811630