The Apostle John: Antichrist and Antichrists
by Monte Sahlin
by Borge Schantz, May 1, 2014
The apostle John in his epistles is the only Bible writer who uses the words antichrist and antichristians. In 1 John 2:18, 1 John 4:3 and 2 John 7 he reveals that in the end time antichrist and antichristans will appear. These texts make it clear that (1) there will not only be one Antichrist, but many antichrists; (2) their presence is a warnings about the end of time; (3) they reject the Trinity as they do not accept the Father/Son relationship; and (4) they do not recognize the incarnation. In other words, the only information we get from John about the antichrist and the many antichrists, is that Jesus is not recognized as part of the Godhead.
The Great Antichrist
The expression antichrist has, through the Bible commentaries, interpreters and preachers of various Christian traditions, become a common title used for all forces, religious or secular, who in a visible often violent way go against the Word of God, the plan of God or the people of God. The Protestant reformers in the late Middle Ages as they studied prophecies in both the Old and New Testament, found passages that pointed directly to the abuses of the papacy, and aptly applied the term The Great Antichrist to the institution. The reformers had no major problems with interpreting the medieval history of Rome as a fulfillment of prophecy.
The most notable Bible descriptions of the Great Antichrist included (1) it will speak against the Most High, Daniel 7:25; (2) it will oppress the saints, Daniel 7:25; (3) it will change times and laws, Daniel 7:25; (4) it will speak blasphemous words against God and His people, Revelation 13:5-6; and (5) it will exercise power over tribes, tongues, peoples, Revelation 13:7. The Reformers also found Bible texts that defined a time frame for the dominance of the papal institution in Christendom; 1,260 years (usually understood to be from 538 to 1798) was the time prophecy for the Antichristian based on Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 11:2, 12:14, 13:5.
Seventh-day Adventists in their seminal Bible studies after the 1844 Great Disappointment, found in the prophecies important references to the end of history. They predicted, based on prophecies in Revelation, that the papacy in alliance with a major political power in the New World and apostate Christian churches would resume the political dominance that it once had. The historic disregard for the authority of God and the oppression of the true followers of Jesus, which existed for 1,260 years, would be repeated. The papal institution with its allies would resume oppressive power. In this move the Sabbath/Sunday question among other things would become an important factor.
Other Antichristian Powers
The western Christian world is for the present reasonably undisturbed in terms of religious freedom. Wars among nations did, unfortunately, not stop in 1798. Napoleon, however, did dis-establish the political power of the papal institution. A a period of religious tolerance had its beginnings. It will, however, according to prophecy come to an end with the predicted future religious/political alliances. For the present we experience no significant limitations on religious freedom in the West and much of the rest of the world. It is an era with the opportunity to proclaim "the everlasting gospel to all kinds of people" in many places.
However, in the present Christian practice of tolerance and peacefull coexistence among denominations, another problem has arisen. In the recent decades adherents of Islam, a monotheistic, non-Christian world religion, have for various reasons in considerable numbers immigrated to Western countries. And here they gradually become more visible and change in the established religious patterns.
Muslims Among Christians
Most of the Muslims in the West immigrated from Islamic kingsdoms and republics, often due to oppression they encountered. They found a haven in societies where hospitality is part of a culture largely shaped by Christian values. However, some Muslim Fundamentalists have behaved in ways that seem to suggest the abusive antichristian regime from the Middle Ages. Observations of the lifestyle and activties of some Muslim immigrants brings to memory the abuses of the papacy hundred of years ago. A relatively high percentage of Muslims in the West are attempting to live a life dictated by the Koran and Sharia law. Some are also trying indirectly to impose their religous laws, culture and lifestyle on their new context.
These efforts have gradually become key themes in the secular news media. They include Islamic control of speech, dress, diet, holidays in schools and neighborhoods, rules on marriage/divorce and inheritance, early marriages, oppression of young women, etc. Negotiations on these controversial relationships have, on occasion, led to threats, terror tactices and even violence in the name of Allah. A small number have even joined terrorist groups.
It must be clearly stated that most Muslims living in Western countries are good citizens who wish to make a contribution to a free society. Some appreciate the liberty of Western culture and want to practice their faith privately, within their families. But an aggressive minority of Islamists feel that their religion allows them to use severe threats and punishments on fellow believers in their own ranks who do not follow the strict ways of Shari’ah.
At the same we in the West hear what is going on in the Muslim world. The presence of missionaries and proclamation of the Gospel is forbidden in areas with a billion Muslims where Islam is the absolute and autocratic religion. There are reports from Muslim countries where a minority of Christians are treated as second class citizens and exposed to increasing persecution and sometimes even murder. Churches are raided and burned down. One tragic result of these atrocities is that the few confessing Christians living in a number of Muslim kingdoms and republics are immigrating to safer countries.
To these persecutions of Christians must be added that many types of Islamic belief allow Muslims to commit brutal attacks on other muslims belonging to other Islamic sects. All these incidents reveal a religious power that speaks against the highest, oppresses and enslaves Christians, changes times and laws, and seeks to have dominion over tribes and peoples.
Islam: Congenial Monotheistic Religion
The Koran has several, although usually very distorted, references to stories and personalities also found in the Bible, from Adam to Christ. The Koran and Hadiths (traditions) quote biblical prophets by their names. In theory, Islamic literature places Jesus in line with Abraham and Moses and he is regarded as a great religious leader and prophet, even compared with Muhammad. But Christ is not recognized as the Son of God, and the doctrine of the Trinity is labeled polytheism.
The interesting point in this connection is that not only does the apostle John in his epistles use the term antichrist and antichristian , he also outined the definition of antichrist as a religious power that does not accept the Father/Son relationship. In the course of history, Christians have been able to identify apostate Christian churches, secular governments as well as clerical orders and dictatorial leaders as antichrists. Adventists have to some extent and rightfully identified the papacy as the Great Antichrist. Does the apostle John suggest that Fundamentalist Islam could be added to the list of antichristian powers?
As a world movement Adventists have members and congregations in Muslim areas where there is oppression and even persecution of Christians. They often have Catholic neighbors who also are persecuted. Many of these unfortunate regions are places where Catholic influence is, if not completely absent, very minimal. For these isolated, vulnerable and often persecuted Christians, the Bible's words confirming that their persecutors are antichristian powers could be a sign that God has not forgotten them.
In their Bible study these persecuted Christians find comfort in the rewards they are promised after the final tribulations under an antichrist powers. They will experience the ultimate victory. The words of Revelation 7:14-17 expresses their consolation.
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,“they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Response to Comments by the Author
Dr. Schantz wrote this May 9 in response to the comments posted below:
John the apostle no doubt had the proto-Gnostics in mind when he, as the only Bible writer, coined the title Antichrist. Writers in the first century later gave Nero the title. It has since been applied by reformators, theologians, church leaders and others to any power that "will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws" (Dan 7:25). Personally I have even heard Germans after WWII call Hitler an antichrist. And Russians in 1953 after the death of Stalin gave him the same title.
The hostile actions of extreme fundamentalist Muslims in the world, remind us of the history of the papacy in the Middle Ages. And we have been keen to be reminders of the facts about the papacy. If some Catholic group today were to be guilty of just a fraction of the terrorist acts performed in the name of Islam, it would get the front covers of the newspapers and Adventist magazines in the West. My experience, however, is that the Opinion article would not have been published in a European Adventist magazine. The official reason for refusing to publish the article could be that the content would make matters worse for the few Adventists living in the Muslim world. That is definitely a valid argument. But perhaps the main reason would be a fear that “terror” would be aimed at the editor or the building where the office is?
On this silence: Due to a general Western Christian faintheartedness, Islamists feel safe and prosper.