The Apostle John introduced a character into his gospel message that none of the other apostles seemed to be aware of. John referred to him as antichrist. John said, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:18-19). The Greek word that is translated antichrist, antichristos (an-tee´-khris-tos) means “an opponent of, an imposter for the Messiah.” Antichristo can mean either “against Christ” or “instead of Christ,” or perhaps, combining the two, “one who, assuming the guise of Christ, opposes Christ and takes His place” (G500). “This noun is only found in John’s epistles, and there is defined to be, “collectively, all who deny that Jesus is the Messiah and that the Messiah is come in the flesh (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). What class of person the apostle had in mind is unknown; probably Jewish adversaries” (G500). Paul seems to have been referring to the same person or class of person in his second letter to the Thessalonians when he said, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For the day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
John indicated that antichrists had already appeared on the scene in the first century and were attempting to disrupt the spread of the gospel in the church’s early stages of development. John said, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7). The Greek word that is translated deceiver, planos (plan´-os) means “an imposter or misleader” (G4108). John and Paul’s descriptions agree in that both men identify the antichrist/man of lawlessness as one who deceives others. The key evidence we are to look for in identifying Antichrist is that he will attempt to take the place of Christ and will proclaim himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Paul said, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception, for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). “Two words in this verse refer to supernatural occurrences: ‘signs’ (semeion [G4592]) and ‘wonders’ (teras [G5059]). These ‘counterfeit miracles’ are accomplished by the power of Satan. Miracles are not necessarily evidences of God’s power (Acts 19:13, cf. Exodus 7:22)” (note on 2 Thessalonian 2:9). According to Paul, “the Holy Spirit is the restraining force in this world, holding back the power of lawlessness and the many ‘antichrists’ existing today (1 John 2:18)” the removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraining power will allow Satan and the Antichrist “to exercise dominion on the earth, but God will use whatever happens to further his plan in accordance with his own timetable” (note on 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7).
God’s covenant with King David (2 Samuel 7:4-16) specified that he would establish an eternal kingdom through one of David’s offspring, a son that would come from David’s own body. “The Jews recognized that the Messiah would come from David’s descendants (cf. John 7:42). One of the titles applied to Jesus during his earthly ministry was ‘Son of David’ (Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22)), emphasizing his heirship of all David’s royal prerogatives as well as his fulfillment of the messianic promises to David (2 Samuel 7:8-16, cf. Matthew 22:41-45; Luke 1:32, 33, 69)” (note on 1 Samuel 16:13). God didn’t specify which of David’s sons would inherit his throne, but implied there would be a special relationship between him and the Messiah. God said, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 2:14) indicating he always intended Israel’s Messiah to be both the Son of David and the Son of God.
Antichrist’s plot to usurp the throne of God is revealed in detail in the book of Daniel. Daniel stated:
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things…As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:7-8, 21-22)
“The coming Antichrist is represented as a ‘little horn,’ who eliminates three of the original ten horns. The mouth that speaks boastfully correlates to the description of the beast that will campaign against God and the saints for forty-two months (Revelation 13:5-7) but will finally be destroyed and cast into the lake of fire (v.11, cf. Revelation 19:20)” (note on Daniel 7:1-28).
Absalom’s conspiracy against his father, King David (2 Samuel 15-18), to a certain extent, depicts the struggle between Antichrist and Christ, and also provides us with a valuable lesson in how God defeats the purposes of Satan. David left Jerusalem without a fight and allowed Absalom to take over as the reigning King of Israel. A loyal servant of David’s, Hushai the Archite, was instructed to “return to the city and say to Absalom, I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant in time past, so now I will be your servant’” (2 Samuel 15:34). David did this so that Hushai could interfere with the counsel that Absalom received from Ahithophel, his co-conspirator and former advisor of David. After Ahithophel had advised Absalom to pursue David immediately and throw him into a panic while he was weary and discouraged (2 Samuel 17:1-3), Hushai said to Absalom:
“This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.” Hushai said, “You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people. Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men. But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left. (2 Samuel 17:7-12)
The battle strategy that Hushai proposed to Absalom is similar to what we see in Revelation 19:19 where Antichrist was preparing to fight against Christ and his army, and 20:7-8 where Satan gathered the nations, and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city (Revelation 20:9). The anticlimactic end to each of these situations (2 Samuel 18:14-15; Revelation 19:20; 20:9-10) demonstrates the invincibleness of God’s covenant with David and ultimately, the Messiah that is expected to rule and reign over the kingdom of heaven. John’s warning to first century believers about Antichrist was not so much about the possibility of being defeated, but about losing the reward that Jesus promised to his faithful followers (Matthew 10:40-42). John advised them, “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward” (2 John 1:8).
Jesus states in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” The Greek word that is translated recompense, misthos (mis-thos´) means “pay for services” G3408). Paul talked about the recompense that believers will receive in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul identified two groups of Christians, “spiritual people” and “people of the flesh,” and differentiated these two groups by the type of spiritual nourishment they required, milk or solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). Paul went on to explain that the work he was doing to help the Corinthians mature spiritually would be rewarded based on the motive behind it (1 Corinthians 4:5). Paul said:
He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:8-15).
Paul indicated that a person could be saved and yet, receive no reward for serving God. John’s caution to believers, “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward” (2 John 1:8), suggests that even if we have earned a reward, it could be lost afterward. Paul admitted that he was vulnerable to human error and stated, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Paul’s concern about being disqualified had to do with how he was perceived by others. The Greek word dokeo (dok-eh´-o) “refers to a person’s subjective mental estimate or opinion about something…It always signifies a subjective estimate of a thing, not the objective appearance and qualities the thing actually possesses” (G1380). Paul knew that he was definitely saved and had been tasked with preaching the gospel, but he referred to himself as “the very least of all the saints” (Ephesians 3:7-8). Paul’s estimate of himself was likely based on his behavior before he became a Christian, rather than afterward, but it reveals an important point about the attitude Paul had about himself. Paul knew that he had failed in the past, and was capable of failing again, therefore he didn’t think of himself as being invulnerable to the influences of Antichrist or as being beyond the reproach of God. When Shimei cursed King David as he was fleeing from Absalom, David responded, “’If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, “Curse David,” who then shall say, “Why have you done so?”’ And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, ‘Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjamite! Leave him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today’” (2 Samuel 16:10-12). Instead of thinking that he deserved a reward for all the things he had done for the LORD, David hoped the LORD would repay him with good for the wrong that was done to him. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told his followers, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).