Monday, February 27, 2012

Identifying the Antichrist

I was doing a radio show, answering questions about the historical problems with biblical texts, when a woman phoned to call me the antichrist.  I told her that antichrists should be taller (I’m average height) and have some significant powers.  My only ability is to really annoy religious people.   Then, recently, I saw a television show on the antichrist, who, I can assure you, didn’t resemble me in the least.

 “He’ll be worse than Hitler and Stalin (left) combined,” one religious professor gushed.  That’s definitely not me.  I avoid stepping on ants outside my house.

Nevertheless, I understand the continued fixation on this loathsome creature.  The expectation is that the antichrist is coming in the near future – along with the end of the world, which is forever being postponed for one annoying reason or another.

Unfortunately for people who revel in such beliefs, the future existence of an antichrist contradicts religious teaching that one was already born 2,000 years ago. The Revelation of St. John, which engendered the concept but never used the term antichrist, isn’t specific on the exact day of his appearance, but does detail the cataclysm he’ll unleash.  However, epistle writers John and Paul insist the antichrist was on Earth during their lifetimes.

The line, "You have heard that Antichrist cometh," appears in I John 2:28 and is emphasized with "This is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh" in 1 John 4:3.

In fact, John believes there are many antichrists – anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus: “For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an antichrist.” (I John 4:3)  Considering the two-thirds of the world still don’t believe in Jesus, the number of antichrists must be legion.

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes the antichrist as a person  who will " sit in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God; he will work signs and lying wonders by the power of Satan; he will seduce those who received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved…” (2-10)  

Of course, early Christian fathers aren’t the only ones hung up on the antichrist concept.   In Jewish legend, the antichrist was named Armilus and was to be countered – as in Christianity – by the messiah. 

And, of course, many such individuals have appeared in history.  News about them naturally drew commentary from local residents.  "In the year 1599, a rumor circulated with prodigious rapidity through Europe that the antichrist had been born in Babylon, and that already the Jews of that part were hurrying to receive and recognize him as their messiah." according to historian Baring-Gould. 

A year later, people were talking about an antichrist supposedly born near Paris to a Jewess named Blanchefleure ("white flower") and conceived by Satan.  The child was baptized.  A "witch" who was tortured to learn the truth, confessed that she had rocked the infant antichrist on her knee and that he had "claws on his feet, wore no shoes, and spoke all languages,” Baring-Gould noted.  That’s more than 340 years before I was born. 

In 1623, the tales started again.  This time, brothers of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, residing on Malta, claimed that their spies in Babylon had seen the infant antichrist born there on May 1.  The birth was marked by an eclipse of the sun, swarms of flying serpents and a shower of precious stones.

The antichrist Churchill
No such signs were necessary for other antichrists.  In fact, almost every famous person in history in the last 2,000 years has been identified as an antichrist by someone else.  I’m in good company.  The list includes popes, emperors, kings and such Western leaders as Winston Churchill (left) and Franklin Roosevelt.   Actually, all presidents right through Obama have gotten that label, freely distributed by opponents and proponents of the antichrist theory. 

You’d figure that, by now, someone would realize that the antichrist is a figment of an overactive imagination.  He appears simply to provide a foil for the “true God.”  Of course, if God is all powerful, you might wonder why an antichrist would have much success.

People pushing the antichrist concept weren’t crazy.  They recognized that there are lots of problems in the world.  So, they invented an antichrist for Jesus to defeat.   In modern parlance, that’s a “straw man.”  Build up a mirage and knock it down.   One sect went further and insisted the true God didn’t create the Earth and its negative aspects.  Instead, that was the demiurge, the evil god, who must be overcome for peace and justice to prevail.

Good luck with that idea, too.

The truth is that there is no antichrist, not now, not in the past and definitely not me.

I’m just anti.

Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment