How to Be An Antichrist
A Humorous Title to an Interesting Subject
After misreading the image of a book cover I saw in a friend’s post, this humorous title, How to Be An Antichrist, popped into my mind and it spurred me to address this very interesting subject of the antichrist spirit as found in John’s letters. This is in some ways, a reiteration of my last post https://sparktogether.blogspot.com/2020/04/antichrist-or-identity-crisis.html, but more of a compliment to it.
Let's leave the fear and dread of the antichrist behind as we learn John's true purpose in his admonition, that we know how to hear the Spirit of God.
If you actually want to become an antichrist, don’t forget to take notes! :)
Who is this Antichrist?
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3 NIV).
Who is this antichrist? The answer to this question has been the pursuit of many an end-times aficionado—professional and amateur alike. John, however, seems less interested in identifying a single personality but in presenting the extent of this spirit’s influence upon many people.
“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18 NIV).
Many antichrists, or as John also refers to them, false prophets, have come into the world (1 John 2:18). There have been, are, and there will always be, many antichrists in the world as long as it is called “the last days.” And so, John’s purpose was not that we would spend the ages, from that time til this, attempting to identify a personal antichrist. Clearly, John’s purpose was that we would simply “test the spirits” of those we hear to see if they’re words come from God (1 John 4:1). But who are these false, antichristical spirit’s John warns us against and where did they come from?
Those operating under the spirit of the antichrist find their origin in two places. First of all, they come from the world’s perspective and so, the world listens to them (1 John 4:5). Interestingly, their origin, in some respects, is related to the Church for John tells us that they “went out from us,” seeking the world’s voice, for “…they did not really belong to us” (1 John 2:19 NIV).
These antichrists, those influenced and captivated by the spirit of the antichrist are those throughout history who have embraced some form of godliness, the positive effects of Christian influence, possibly even appreciating and acknowledging the deity of God, without actually knowing him in truth. While it might be an over-simplification, we might define those attracted to the voice of the spirit of the antichrist as those who have reaped the benefits of living in a Christian-influenced society, without reaping the benefits of a deep relationship with Christ himself.
These are those, whether in extreme or casual adherence, gravitate towards the voice of the world and feel like they are hearing from, and therefore, speaking the truth of God. Their love is not for the voice of God, but the very voice John tells us not to love—the voice of the world (1 John 2:15).
Identifying the Spirit of the Antichrist
We need to stop looking for false prophets as those who simply get it wrong, or those with which we don't agree. While wrong or immature teaching could be a sign of a false prophet, John's truth detector is not based on doctrine alone. Instead, he prescribes testing the spirits of those speaking by the inward barometer of the anointing of Christ, anchored in the depth of our relationship with Christ.
“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth….As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him” (1 John 2:19-20, 24-27 NIV).
John outlines two anointings available to a human heart and only one is able to detect truth. There is the real anointing from the Holy One—Jesus Christ, and a counterfeit anointing from the spirit of the antichrist. If we have the true anointing it is possible for us to test the spirits to see if they are from God or not. As John says, “…the anointing you have received remains in you…[and] teaches you” (1 John 2:27 NIV).
Accessing and growing in this anointing is at the heart of John’s warning for it is the spirit of the antichrist who challenges Christ’s position within us.
Setting the Scene
John battled philosophies in his day which challenged the identity and role of Jesus as Immanuel—God with us. Two of these philosophies, given the high-sounding names of Docetism and Gnosticism, each sought to separate the flesh from the spirit, and therefore, separate the understanding and practice and administration of God’s presence within the heart of believers.
Simply put, Doecetism held that while his deity was intact, Jesus’s physical, earthly body was only an illusion. To further this thought, early Gnosticism which began to appear even in John’s day, saw the spiritual as good, but the natural and fleshly as evil. It’s easy to see how these drastic modes of thought could be supported theologically, to some extent, by reason of Paul’s teaching and even by the words of Jesus presented by John himself.
“…We who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh…” (Philippians 3:3 NIV).
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63 NIV).
In their proper context, these passages and many like them hold true. We cannot generate one good thing out of our own selves (Romans 7:18 ESV). And yet, that’s not the whole story, is it?
Christ in the Flesh
“Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3-4 NIV).
Doecetism denies that Jesus actually came in the flesh, only that he appeared to have come in the flesh. But why is this important? Because if Jesus did not come into his own earthly body, then he did not come into ours either. That is the background for John’s statement.
While we may easily dismiss the false notion that Jesus did not live in a real, earthly body, we are still subject, from time-to-time, to doubt that he lives in ours. This is despite the fact that God promised long ago through Ezekiel that he would redeem our flesh for the singular purpose that he himself might dwell there.
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Why would God give us a heart of flesh if that flesh is inherently evil? It’s because God came to redeem that flesh—his own creation. What the fall tainted and therefore condemned as evil was purchased back again through the sacrificial act of the Son. This heart of flesh that he gives us is none-other than the heart of Jesus, the one who came in the flesh.
“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” Romans 8:3-4 ESV).
“Do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple, and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV)
He condemned the sin IN the flesh, so that we are no longer bound by its nature so that we might be able to live in it by the Spirit.
Our redeemed flesh is the storehouse for his spirit and anointing, just as he promised through Ezekiel.
“…God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 NIV).
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV).
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1 NIV).
Paul put it all into perspective when he said:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).
While we fight to walk in the Spirit over and above the desires of the flesh, it is in the flesh that we live. This truth is a part of walking out our redemption and is the same truth that the spirit of the antichrist wishes to dispel.
Turn on the Barometer!
“…The spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” (1 John 4:1-5 NIV)
The reason John warned us to test the voices we hear by means of the anointing within, as opposed to what we think is right, is because we are innately wrong. That is, unless we allow the anointing within us to teach us, we will go about our lives agreeing with our own thoughts, fueled by the voices of the world around us. If this were not true, why would the scriptures say that we have not been given a spirit of fear, yet fear in believers is at an all-time high during the current crisis? It’s because we’re listening to voices we have not tested.
If terms like “the anointing within us,” sound strange, then we are in all the more need to listen to what John and the rest of Scripture has to say about our standing in Christ. Jesus cautioned us to “be careful how we listen,” telling us that if we do, we’ll gain more of what that anointing within can teach us. If we don’t, we’ll lose even what we thing we have based upon other voices (Luke 8:18).
How do we draw upon the anointing within us? John finishes his letters with the following conclusions from which we can glean promises for our forward motion and away from deception.
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:13-15 NIV)
“…Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work” (2 John 1:7-11).
“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (3 John 1:11 NIV).
So here's John's prescription:
- Ask according to his will, for he hears us and therefore, we will receive
- Continue in the teaching found in Scripture and affirmed by the teacher within us. Those who run ahead (proagó) of that teaching—which means to go forward, or go before as in a court of judgment, without that teaching—is making judgments outside of what God is doing
- Know that God seeks to reward us, not leave us in fear of unknown evils
- Imitate what God is doing. Do not imitate the voices swirling around us, showing that our eyes have been on the world more than they’ve been on God
Keep in mind that first and foremost, John wants us to recognize the voice and workings of the Spirit of God as he moves among us, while discerning false voices along the way. It was never John's intention that we perform fearful, antichrist witch-hunts.
"This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God (1 John 4:2-3 NIV).
It is Christ working and speaking through believers which the spirit of the antichrist means to thwart. We must continue moving forward, trusting and relying on the anointing within us while recognizing and tuning out voices that don't agree—not with the way we think—but with the Spirit of God within our hearts.