Antichrist 2The Antichrist is a popular and dreaded eschatological figure. This has been the case for centuries. But in our day of a dispensational hegemony in evangelicalism, this is particularly significant.

The role of the Antichrist is quite misunderstood though. Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield easily dismantled the populist conception of the Antichrist from Scripture itself. Warfield provides helpful insights into John’s teaching on the Antichrist when he notes that John “makes three declarations concerning Antichrist which appear to traverse its implications. He transposes Antichrist from the future to the present. He expands him from an individual to a multitude. He reduces him from a person to a heresy.” [1]

These three observations by Warfield totally undermine the bulk of modern Antichrist discussion. And ironically his presentation from Scripture is so clear that you would think dispensationalism’s literalism would easily discover the biblical conception.

Antichrist’s Time

John’s readers are hearing that though Antichrist is not yet on the scene, he nevertheless “is coming.” but John informs them that this “antichrist” “is now already in the world” (1Jn 4:3). As Warfield notes “that post-posited ‘already’ [carries] with it the utmost strength of assertion.” John writes: “this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1Jn 4:3b). John clearly warns them that that which they “heard was coming” is “now already in the world.” In addition, he remarks: “As you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come” (1Jn 2:18). Due to the appearing of these antichrists, his readers should understand that “it is the last hour” (1Jn 2:18). They are not harbingers of a distantly future Antichrist, for their presence is the signal that “the last hour” has already “come” (gegonasin). The “even now” emphasizes the presence of that which they fear (“as you heard”).

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An objection from one amillennialist theologian against postmillennialism is postmillennialism’s removal of the antichrist not only from our future expectation but from the very center of time: “more and more that kingdom of darkness comes to manifestation as time progresses. At the very center of time therefore, stands the development of the Antichristian world power. Really, postmillennialism has no room for Antichrist in its thinking. . . . Antichrist cannot be taken seriously.” [2]

Antichrist’s Impersonality

In redirecting his readers’ focus from the Antichrist’s future to his contemporary existence, John points out that the Antichrist is a movement, rather than an individual. In dealing with the idea of “the Antichrist,” he writes: “even now many antichrists have come” (1Jn 2:18). In fact, Antichrist is a “spirit” (1Jn 4:3) that pervades these many “antichrists” (1Jn 2:18), which involve “many deceivers” (2 Jn 7). Such views as Hoekema’s are surely mistaken: “The New Testament also teaches us to look for a single, final antichrist in the future (see 2Th 2:3–4).” [3]

Antichrist’s Tendency

Antichrist really is not a multitude of people, but rather the “spirit” (1Jn 4:3) among them that promotes deception (2 Jn 7) regarding Christ. “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1Jn 2:22). John clearly applies the conception of the one Antichrist (ho antichristos) to the generic tendency to promote lies about the identity of Christ. He repeats this point in his second letter: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and the antichrist [ho antichristos]” (2Jn 7). Thus, “according to 1 John, what is to be dreaded about the Antichrist is not the unleashing of awesome destruction but the fomenting of heresy.” [4]

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On the basis of these four references we learn that Antichrist is not an individual, malevolent ruler looming in our future. John was “not looking to the appearance of some supernatural being in the prophesied future.” Rather, Antichrist is a contemporary heretical tendency regarding the person of Christ, which is current among many in John’s day. Hoekema errs when he writes: “Yet it would not be correct to say that John had no room in his thinking for a personal antichrist, since he still looks for an antichrist who is coming.” [5] As we shall see below, the beast of Revelation and the man of lawlessness are also contemporary realities in the first century — though wholly distinct from Antichrist.



1. Warfield, “Antichrist,” Selected Shorter Writings, 1:358.
2. Herman Hanko, “An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism,” 25–26.
3. Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 70.
4. Robert Fuller, Naming the Antichrist, 17.
5. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 158.



  1. Greg Harvey September 8, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I’m teaching this exact point tomorrow in Bible Study. I’ve been reviewing Kim Riddlebarger’s Amill 101 series to see how he gets a future world leader from these passages and also Daniel 8 and 2 Thess 2. He does agree with clear contemporary fulfillment but then turns them into a photoshopped mixed murky type and shadow of all future leaders who attack Christ, ala Hitler, Mao, Hussein, whatever. He then argues that these type and shadows must have an ultimate fulfillment so with sleight of hand/speech he turns a murky type and shadow into a clear prophecy! Ta Dah!!! Sorry, I don’t see how you did that and this isn’t a magic trick, you have to clearly show how you got there.

  2. Brian September 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Dr. Gentry,

    There are some additional points about the ‘(spirit of the) antichrist’ that I think would be helpful to make, which systematically resonate well with Olivet Discourse (and of course John’s version of that in Revelation pertaining to the false prophet as an antichrist).

    (1.) The antichrists went out from the church, Christians, (1Jn 2:19), but of course were not really of the church/disciples since they did not remain with them.
    (1a.) In Mt 24:10, Christ speaks of those who will “fall away” (i.e. not remain) and betray. Mark and Luke expand on this saying how friends & family members will with hatred and love gone cold betray one another as brothers, parents, and children (Mk 13:12; Lk 21:16) — the antichrists that came out of the church would have close enough relationship to facilitate the betraying of family members (like Judas was able to utilize his special/intimate access to/with the Lord to facilitate his cold, hateful, and lawless treachery).

    (2.) The antichrists have spirits that are “not to be believed” and are thus “false prophets” that have gone out into the world – even from the church per 1. above.
    (2a.) After mentioning those who will fall away and betray, Christ says how “false prophets will arise” in the context of betraying friends & family in love that grows cold unto hatred (1Jn 2:9,11; 2Jn 1:5,7), “deception” (1Jn 2:26; 3:7; 2Jn 1:7), and lawlessness (1Jn 2:29; 3:4,7; 2Jn 1:11)); cf. the lawlessness in the context of deceiving false prophets Mt 24:11-12).
    (2b.) John’s warning which the church undoubtedly already “heard of ” (1Jn 2:18) over and over regarding the antichrists/false prophets, echos Christ’s warning “not to believe them” (Mt 24:23,25,24; 1Jn 4:1,3).

    (3.) The spirit of the antichrist (1Jn 4:3) that John mentions is a particular type of spirit with common attributes, rather than only a single individual spirit or only a single individual as antichrist — similar to how the wise (foolish) man who builds (or doesn’t build) his house on the rock is a type of man (vs. one particular wise or foolish man/individual in all the earth).
    (3a.) The false prophet is thus a type/category of individual that is able to use deceptive signs and wonders (Mt 24:24; Rv 13:13-14) empowered by some set of evil spirits of Satan, not to be believed, but to be tested to see if they (i.e., plural) come from God (1Jn 4:1,3).

    (4.) The antichrists as deceivers are to be watched out for by the elect (2 Jn 1:7).
    (4a.) The church has heard/read that false prophets that arise and will mislead many (Mt 24:11) even as false prophets even as false Christs (Mt 24:23-24) having the form/”horns” of a lamb (Rv 13:11), but speaking the deceptive/misleading words of an evil spirit/Satan, a dragon (Rv 13:11), not to be believed (1Jn 4:1; Mt 24:23,24).

    (5.) John’s epistle of 1Jn serves to guard the church from being deceived by idols (1Jn 5:21). (5a.) Then, John associates the deceptive sign performing false prophet / antichrist with a deceptive miraculous idol/statue in his epistle of Revelation (Rv 13:15) which had one result of dooming Jerusalem with false hope of false messianic salvation from the Roman siege (Mt 24:23-28) rather than listening to Jesus Christ’s word to leave Jerusalem/Judea (Mt 24:15-21) — just as the false prophets deceived idolatrous Jews in Jerusalem over against the true prophecy of Jerusalem/temple’s destruction/siege in Jeremiah’s/Ezekiel’s day.

  3. Don Strickland September 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Barney, the cute purple dinosaur, is the antichrist, and I can prove it.

    Barney is a CVTE PVRPLE DINOSAVR (written in Roman letters).

    If you take the Roman numerals from the description, you have the following:

    Now add those together = 666

    Barney is the AntiChrist. . . .
    (With my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.) 😉

  4. Kathy Kelley March 31, 2015 at 7:46 am

    You are absolutely right Kenneth, in regard to what the Scriptures
    have to say about the “antichrist”. I do not hold to most views on eschatology
    as I believe there are far too many these days whose exposition of Truth is
    nothing more than their limited view of truth. The errors in most “end of days”
    teachings tend to be of the elephant in the living room variety, rife with
    problems, yet most prefer just to walk around these problems and pretend they
    aren’t there.

    Sitting through an hour long YouTube video of John Hagee’s
    preaching, proves how true this scenario is. I have counted 10 errors in just 15
    minutes of one of Hagee’s sermons, and many of the things he says are blatant
    Scriptural contradictions. They’re so appalling that I wonder why people aren’t
    jumping up yelling “foul”. Yet when the camera scans the audience and you
    observe their faces, they appear to be clueless. Sadly, they seem to thrive on
    the excitement of his methodic, ride the wave style of preaching (trough and
    peak cycles ending in crescendos).

    From all I’ve heard and studied, most of
    the current doctrines of dispensationlism and pretribulationalism are at best,
    illogical, and at worst are blatant heresies that are not just Biblically
    inaccurate, but secularly and historically as well. It truly boggles my mind
    that so many could be so easily deceived, and it saddens me when I start to
    wonder where all these people are going to be, spiritually, when their “Left
    Behind” theologians have left them behind to pick up the pieces of their
    shattered view of Christianity.

    God bless you, Kenneth, in all the hard
    work you do for the sake of the Gospel.


  5. Kyle Truman December 3, 2022 at 7:24 am

    Dear Dr. Gentry, I’ve been swimming in amillennialism for 4-5 years but am beginning to embrace postmillennialism as I study OT prophecy. This article was extremely helpful and I thank you for it. I have one question.

    If the antichrist is only a spirit and not a particularl person that is yet to come in the future why is it that 2 Thes. 2 clearly refers to the antichrist as a man?

    Thank you!

  6. Kenneth Gentry December 7, 2022 at 10:06 am

    You will notice the word “antichrist” does not appear in 2 Thess. 2. The “man of sin” is not “the antichrist.” Rather this is a moral description of Nero Caesar. Check out this series:

  7. Kyle Truman December 9, 2022 at 10:15 am

    Dr. Gentry, oh I still have so much to unlearn. Thank you for your reply.

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