Summary: Who, according to Scripture, is the antichrist? Instead of being a coming evil dictator, the Bible says the Antichrist was and is anyone who denies the incarnation and humanity of Christ Jesus!
Many, today, teach that we are to expect the appearance of an individual, the embodiment of evil, who will rule the world and be the ultimate persecutor of the true Christian Faith and those who continue to adhere to it. They identify this person as the coming ’Antichrist’.
The trouble with this viewpoint concerning "antichrist" is that it cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures.
The title "antichrist(s)" is only used in the Bible by the Apostle John in his First and Second Epistles. By looking at those passages, which deal with ’antichrist’, I think we can come to a Scriptural understanding of this subject.
We can gather three important facts about ’antichrist’ from John’s Epistles:
1.Their Origin - 1 John 2:18-19.
Clearly, John reveals that the future coming of a single ’antichrist’ is foolishness by asserting that there were "many antichrists" that had ALREADY arisen. John states that these ’antichrists’ came from within the Church.
These ’antichrists’ did not believe that Jesus came "in the flesh"; that is, they denied the incarnation and humanity of Christ.
In John’s day, these individuals were taking their new gospel message and preaching it out in the world. No doubt, their teaching was a "doctrine of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). In their doctrine and work, they were anti-Christ!
Comparing what John states about the origin, beliefs, and activities of the ANTICHRISTS with the extensive historical knowledge we now have of the various religious elements and movements of the 1st and 2nd Centuries, I think we can identify John’s ’antichrists’ as being adherents to Christian Gnosticism.
Fully developed Gnosticism was not evident until the Second Century. However, in the latter part of the First Century, most scholars agree that there were Gnostic movements which were posing a serious threat to true Christianity.
This early Gnosticism made a sharp division between light and darkness, good and evil, spirit and flesh. They reasoned that God was light, He was good, He was spirit; therefore, He could not be represented in flesh which was itself evil. All flesh was sinful. If Jesus had flesh, he would have had to be sinful. Jesus was of God and was not sinful; therefore, he could not have had a human, flesh and blood body. Jesus may have seemed to have a body but, in reality, he had no humanity. GOD DID NOT BECOME FLESH!
The most well-known Christian Gnostic of John’s day was a man named Cerinthus. Cerinthus, who was educated in the ’wisdom of the Egyptians’, actually lived and ministered in the same area where the Apostle John worked - in Asia Minor near Ephesus. Before his death, Cerinthus had acquired quite a following....including many from the Church, itself.
Gnosticism was expounded, in the early part of the Second Century, by men such as the heretics Valentinus and Marcion. In his ’Gospel of Truth’, Valentinus states: "Jesus, the Christ ... came in a similitude of Flesh, although nothing could obstruct its [the phantom-body] course, because it was incorruptible and uncoercable. All beings which have emanated from the Father are Pleromas [purely spirit beings]."
Marcion, born to an elder of the church in AD 85, broke from the Church in AD 144, denying the reality of Jesus’ earthly, physical, flesh and blood body.
Shockingly, Christian Gnosticism (along with its denial of Christ’s incarnation and humanity) really did take hold and become significant in Christendom’s first three centuries. As Church historian Roland H. Bainton writes in his book ’Early Christianity’, "The great fight of the early Church was not for the divinity but for the humanity of Jesus."
The incarnation and humanity of Jesus Christ finally became an accepted orthodox doctrine among the vast majority of those who profess the Christian Faith. However, through the centuries, there have been the minority exceptions: the Abyssinian and Coptic Churches of Africa, the Armenian and Gregorian Churches of Asia, the Jacobite Church of Syria and sects of the Anabaptist Church of Europe.
Certainly, all who deny the incarnation and humanity of Christ are ’antichrists’; that is, against Christ. They and their blasphemous doctrine were and are dangerous.
There are many Scriptures that clearly speak of Jesus Christ’s incarnation and humanity:
HEBREWS 10:5,"Wherefore when he [the Son of God] cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:"
JOHN 1:1, 14, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
PHILIPPIANS 2:6-8, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."