GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 586 • November 25, 2020
LIVING IN THE AGE OF ANTICHRIST
QUESTION: Do you think the Antichrist has appeared and the great tribulation will begin soon? Do you think the Antichrist could be a woman rather than a man? Could a nation, such as our own, be the Antichrist?
ANSWER: Although one might be inclined to affirm the question as stated, it would be perilous indeed to say yes to all or any parts of it. I am rather certain that the questioner expects and wants an unequivocal yes or no response. At the risk of being thought an equivocator I am going to say yes and no to each of the three particulars in the question. I would like to rephrase the question by inserting does the Bible teach into each segment of the question. Clarifying the biblical teaching and avoiding the myriad opinions, theories, and misconceptions of current theology should lead us to proper answers to all questions on the subject.
Does the Bible teach that the Antichrist has appeared and the great tribulation is soon to come? Yes and no. First, antichrist (no capitalization) is present but the Antichrist is never mentioned as a title in scripture. Antichrist is not a singular person but rather a pervasive attitude and description. There are only four passages in the Bible which use the word antichrist and they are all from the same author, the apostle John. Read them for yourself in their own context. Here they are (from the New American Standard Version and The English Standard Version, which differ slightly in choice of words from the King James/Authorized Version):
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18).
“Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:2–3).
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7).
It is a little surprising that the word antichrist does not appear in the book of Revelation, the book that theologians desperately try to fit into their “end time” doctrine of the man of the Antichrist or man of sin, the tribulation and rapture, battle of Armageddon, and the millennial (1,000 year) kingdom of Christ on earth cribbed from relevant chapters in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and various writings of apostle Paul. If these things were to be in future during Biblical time itself you would certainly expect that John would bring all the prophetic bits together in Revelation, his own final writing and the last part of the Bible to written – the final prescient look at events yet to come.
If, as some prefer to think, everything in the Revelation was already past, surely John would have summarized and stated that conclusion. But, since the Revelation presents principles existing in the world at that time, cyclic principles, attitudes, and events that would be repeated at various times before the true and final end of the world, no particular person or event is presented as “the prophetic and portended one” which could be delineated as “the end.” Are you aware that “the Antichrist” is never mentioned in scripture? If you read the four references mentioned above, the only places in the Bible where antichrist is mentioned is not a reference to a The Antichrist, not to a single person. Antichrist simply means against or in opposition to Christ. It is an attitude or disposition displayed in actions or in words in denial of or opposition to Jesus Christ. John speaks of a plurality, a multitude, of persons who deserve to be called antichrist. He said they were present then, at that time, and should be recognized and rejected whenever and wherever they appeared – note 1 John 4:1–6 where John urged that everyone be tested to determine whether they were or were not of Christ. Those who preach anything other than the true doctrine of Christ are always to be resisted and rejected, individually and/or collectively.
The Antichrist is sometimes conflated with Paul’s mention in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 of the man of sin, the son of perdition, that wicked one with the power of Satan who would usurp the place of God, set himself forth as God and seek to be worshipped as God, was/is prevented from taking that place now, but would take it, and would finally be destroyed at the return of Christ.
There have been many, far too many, efforts to identify some notably wicked person in history (even in the present time) as “The Antichrist,” the man of sin, etc. who usurps the place of God. It is documented that the Roman emperor Domitian sought the title of Lord God Domition, perhaps other emperors have done the same. In the Roman Canon Law of the Catholic Church (1580 and 1685) it is affirmed that it was heretical not to believe that the Pope did not deserve and should not use the title Dominum Deum Nostrum Papam – Lord God our Pope. There have been occasion claims of religious leaders to be an incarnation of God or Christ. But this is not the intention of John’s references to antichrists in the world. He does not refer to one person but rather to any anti-Christian attitudes or challenges to the words and ways of Jesus Christ. That attitude was present then and has never been absent since that time.
Is the great tribulation near at hand? The “great tribulation” of which Jesus spoke (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and mentioned in other places (Luke 11:46–52; 13:34–35; 17:22–37; 19:41–44) was a great prophetic event was going to take place before that current generation passed away. Jesus this generation will not pass until all these things come to pass – some of you standing here now will be alive to see it. In writing about it John was describing the antichrists (plural) in that time as evidence that it is now the last hour (1 John 2:18). The great and notable tribulation and destruction did take place during the lifetime of those to whom Jesus spoke. It came in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, in AD 70. It was near when he wrote. He did not use now the last hour to describe an event that covered thousands of years of history culminating far from the land and people of which Jesus spoke. The great tribulation is a long past event that took place before the generation to whom Jesus spoke passed away. John himself was a “fellow-partaker in the tribulation” (Revelation 1:10).
Could The Antichrist be a woman or women? If it were a person there is no reason to think it could not be a woman. Women can be usurpers of power as much as men. There are more powerful women leaders in business, medicine, education, politics, and religion than ever before. Their influence, presence, and power seem to grow exponentially. The current upsurge of women as local and national leaders with a thirst for world dominance may signal that we are in “The Age of the Woman” and may not be able to go back to the historical patriarchy which women now oppose and profess to despise. Let me say, on the record and for the record, I am not misogynist or anti-feminist – I just believe both men and women should keep their proper place and relationship with each other and with God. Those who feel, whether justly or not, that they have been repressed and oppressed may be inclined to demand reparations and tribute from those whom they are able to control. Could such a change in the course of history be called antichrist?
Could a nation, such as our own, be the Antichrist? A nation can seek to be the dominant authority in the world, especially if it could garner a united coalition of nations serving under it to enforce its universal hegemony. Has it been tried before, with any degree of success? In ancient history look at the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires predicted by the prophet Daniel – look at the history of the world when it was ruled, especially by Rome. Other aspiring world rulers have generally failed to achieve what Greece and Rome did but it was not for lack of desire or lack of effort. The dreams of a One World Organization today should certainly give us cause to wonder if it can happen now.
Racial or ethnic supremacy can be antichrist. True whether it be white, non-white, urban, suburban, rural, elitist or commoner, rich or poor, formally educated or homeschooled, etc. There is but one race: the human race, a completely homogenous grouping that includes all sub-groups without labeling them as sub-species.
Religion can become antichrist and seek world domination. Islam seems to aspire to that position. Christianity has some modified goal, but for the salvation not domination of mankind. However, there have been times in history when Catholicism masquerading as the religion of Christ raised armies and sought domination and subjugation of nations and empires with a visible head of the church and aspiring head of the world’s people as Vicar of the Son of God. The true goal of true Christianity is and must be to establish the Lordship of Jesus under the sovereignty of God. Anything other than that is antichrist.