It’s popular to hear folks identify the beast of Revelation (you know, the one whose number is 666) as the antichrist. Or, if not that beast, then the other beast, or the false prophet, or even the dragon. Here’s the point: If you believe or if you refer to anyone or anything in the book of Revelation as the antichrist, you’re doing so from your presuppositions. You’re not doing so from Scripture. And once we discover why, we will see two terrible things that happen when you do call the beast the antichrist.
The word antichrist is found five times in Scripture. And all five can be found in 1 John and 2 John. Therefore, the word antichrist is not in the book of Revelation. If you’ve got a loose view of Scripture, and you think the Bible should change over time based on our interpretations and culture, that’s one thing. However, if you’re like me, and you have a high view of Scripture, and you believe God has a reason for saying what He says in His word, then shouldn’t we pay attention to and honor His words? The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle John to write five books of the New Testament:
- The gospel of John
- 1 John
- 2 John
- 3 John
John is the only one who uses the word antichrist in the Bible, yet he never uses it when discussing the beast or the false prophet. In fact, he never uses it in the book of Revelation at all. Instead, in his epistles, John talks about antichrist as an attitude, teaching, and spirit of the first century. He specifically said that those in the first century who denied Jesus’ coming in the flesh had an antichrist spirit, and that speaking against Christ and His gospel in this way was how many people in the first century were anti-Christ.
But then, when discussing the beasts of Revelation, he talks about symbols, signs, power, authority, blasphemous names, and false worship. If we start calling the beast the antichrist, two terrible things happen:
- We abuse Scripture. In the 1970s, Hal Lindsey sold millions of copies of his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, doing just this. He spent an entire chapter of his book (more than 15 pages long) on the subject of “the antichrist,” using “beast,” “Future Fuehrer,” and “the Antichrist” interchangeably. He knew very well how sensationalism in religion can make millions of dollars. Yet, not once in this chapter did he even reference 1 and 2 John, the only passages in the Bible that actually use the word antichrist. I don’t think I’m being nit-picky about words here. To give a different example, the apostle Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. Then, in Romans 14, he mentions a person who eats vegetables only. If I were to start claiming that the vegetables in Romans 14 constitute the Lord’s Supper, I have committed the same blunder. I have taken a phrase from one book by Paul and applied it to a totally different book and context by the same author. John wrote his epistles for a specific purpose to one audience, and the book of Revelation he wrote to a different audience and purpose. When I take from one context and force it into another, this is reading into the Bible my own interpretations.
- The second and worse terrible thing that happens (which is a byproduct of the first) is we miss John’s point in 1 and 2 John. You see, John had an important point to make in his letters. However, if, while reading 1 and 2 John, and we come across the word antichrist, and we begin thinking of 666 and beasts, then we’ve tragically missed his point. We’ve lost the benefit of a major section of the New Testament. The beast in Revelation is fairly apparent. John says the beast is going to have a blasphemous name. He’s going to demand worship. But the people who had the spirit of the antichrist in John’s letters are subtle, crafty, and disguised. They were people who claimed to be disciples, yet began teaching falsehood about Jesus’ coming in the flesh. Both were warnings to Christians, but two different warnings. Have we missed one of them by trying to combine the two? If we could so easily miss the Holy Spirit’s point by our presuppositions in this case, what other passages might we have abused?
If careful study of Scripture is not important to you, and if you’re okay with using Bible words in unbiblical ways, then ignore what we’ve said in this study. If we’ve missed something, or you disagree with us, please contact us in a spirit of humility.
Otherwise, I hope you’ve understood our plea: Let’s pay attention to the way God talks about things so we don’t miss His point. We are not at all denying the reality of the beast. But because we have paid attention to Scripture, and not what so many folks are saying today, then we will stick with using Bible words in Bible ways. The beast of Revelation is not the antichrist.