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Antichrist

The Antichrist is a Biblical figure of consummate evil, one of the most important personages of Christian eschatology. The Antichrist is an idea developed from the New Testament. The Antichrist is variously understood as being Satan himself, a son of Satan, or a human being under the liege of Satan. This figure is one of wickedness, with a deep hatred of God.

In a more general use of this term, an antichrist (lowercase A) is a false messiah who teaches untruths about God and Jesus; such a person is seen as an opponent of God and a corrupter of Christian religion. 1 John (the only book in the Bible that actually uses the term) uses the term in this more general sense; for example: "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:22 ESV[?]; see also 2:18, 4:3, 1:7)


In the "small apocalypse" of St. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, a "man of sin", "the son of perdition" is expected to set himself up in the temple of God, on the false pretense that he is God himself. This portrait of the Antichrist is reminiscent of the acts of Antiochus Epiphanes[?], who around 170 BCE[?] commanded Jews to sacrifice pigs on the altar, four times a year on the Shabbat, in tribute to him as the supreme god of the Seleucids. Paul appears to be warning his readers by this allusion to events in the past, to anticipate similar trouble in the future. Some Christians believe that the events warned of in this passage have already taken place soon after Paul warned of them. Many others believe that the Antichrist has yet to appear.

The expectations of what will happen, and in what order, vary according to the many diverse versions of Christian eschatology. There is general consensus among those who expect the Antichrist to arise in the future, that sometime prior to the expected return of Jesus, there will be a period of "trials and tribulations" during which the Antichrist, inspired by Satan, will attempt to win supporters, and will kill anyone who refuses to worship him ("receive his mark").

In this view, an event termed the "White Throne Judgment" will take place, at which time both the living and the dead will be resurrected, some for everlasting life, and some for everlasting death. All those who worship God and Jesus will be admitted to the presence of God; but everyone who would not repent of their sin will be sent to an outer darkness. Finally, the "Dragon" (Satan), the "Beast" (Antichrist?) and the "false prophet" (Antichrist?) who compels the world to worship the Beast, and all who received his mark, will be cast into a lake of fire together with death and Hell. These events are foretold in the Apocalypse of John (the Book of Revelation).

These enigmatic prophecies concerning the Antichrist are of less importance to Christianity than they are to apocalyptic literature[?], which is a genre of morality fables concerned with the end of the world, often loosely (usually very loosely) based on Christian eschatology. The Antichrist, often conceived as the offspring of the Devil (to mirror the Christian belief that Jesus is the son of God), is a central figure of fascination in several popular movies with occult themes, such as Rosemary's Baby, the Omen series, and The Exorcist III[?]. In the movie, The Seventh Seal, the idea of the Antichrist is tangentially referred to as a child conceived without a soul, whose birth will signal the end of all life.

At various times in Christian history, a number of people, nations or movements have been thought by some to be the Antichrist. The Roman emperor beginning with Nero (despised by Jews and Christians alike, as a vile boaster and enemy of God), sometimes together with the four emperors who succeeded him in the year following his suicide, until the elevation of Nero's general Vespasian to emperor, have been interpreted from very early times, either alone or collectively as the Beast of the Apocalypse. In this tumultuous period, superstitious fear and mob violence grew against Christians, and the Roman wars against the Jews intensified (C.E 66 - 70), ending with the destruction of the Temple in C.E. 70 under the command of general Titus (later emperor}, and the maniacal slaughter of the Jews who were living at Jerusalem. According to tradition, Nero ordered the crucifixion of St. Peter and the beheading of St. Paul. Both Jewish and Christian literature survives, referring to Emperor Nero as the Antichrist. A more detailed descripton of this interpretation can be found in the entry on the Book of Revelation.

Another idea that began appearing early in the history of the Christian church, is the opinion that the Antichrist will be an apostate priest or Christian secular ruler, perhaps a Pope or other high leader of the Christian church, or a pretender to the Papacy. Some Christian sects have made it an issue of faith to identify the Bishop of Rome and the papal system as the Antichrist. Virtually all popes have been called the Antichrist by their enemies, and many popes have applied this title of "Antichrist", "son of perdition", or "man of sin", to their enemies as well. Even St. Peter, the first Pope according to Roman Catholic tradition, was called "Satan" by Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 16, the same chapter of the gospel in which Peter is told by Jesus, "on this rock [Greek: petra] I will build my church".

Bellarmine gives in full the theory set forth by the Greek and Latin Fathers, of a personal Antichrist to come just before the end of the world and to be accepted by the Jews and enthroned in the temple at Jerusalem -- thus endeavoring to dispose of the Protestant exposition which saw Antichrist in the pope.

Identifying the Antichrist has become a hobby of the internet age, and a body of literature in its own right. Some have taken seriously the suggestion made by the the Left Behind series, that the Antichrist may be the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Since the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, the theory has become popular that Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein are likely suspects.

Various numerological methods of calculating the number of the name of the Beast ('666' in most manuscript sources, '616' in a minority), and other methods are used to identify the Antichrist before he has the chance to lead astray. Candidates for the Antichrist have been men in virtually all positions of public influence, including Napoleon Bonaparte, George W. Bush, Aleister Crowley, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle, Vladimir Putin, Rasputin, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, Rush Limbaugh, and Ariel Sharon. A nice example is the case of Adolf Hitler, where numbering the letters A=100, B=101, etc, produces H+I+T+L+E+R=666. A search of the Internet for "name_of_nemesis is the Antichrist" will likely produce a range of proofs, ranging from whimsical to zealous conviction, to condemn your favorite nemesis as incarnate evil, provided only that the person has enough enemies to warrant attention.

See also: Great Apostasy; end times; Whore of Babylon; Number of the Beast (numerology)



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