There is an interesting dichotomy between the WT view of "AntiChrist" and how it is viewed in non-WT circles. For the WT, the AntiChrist is more or less a religious entity that has existed for centuries, represented by the clergy of Christendom. For those of non-WT persuasion, "AntiChrist" seems to be more of an end times politico-religious world leader. An individual who takes over rulership of the world and leads it into the great tribulation at Christ's return.
I hope, in this starting post, to lay out what the Bible specifically says about this subject, as well as possibly related - or mistakenly related - ideas on this topic.
What the Word AntiChrist Means
The word AntiChrist is Strong's # 500 and is a compound of anti (Strong's # 473) and Christos (Strong's # 5547). AMG's The Complete Word Study Dictionary ─ NT defines it as, "literally an opposer of Christ or one who usurps the place of Christ, found only in John's epistles and collectively meaning all who deny that Jesus is the Messiah and that the Messiah is come in the flesh (1Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2Jn 1:7).
I think some feel it must mean "in place of" rather than "against" or "opposing." But Jesus' words at Lu 11:23 make the difference somewhat moot. Someone trying to 'replace' the real Christ would be acting 'against' the real Messiah's interests. And John's description of "antichrist" and "many antichrists" does not emphasize the idea of 'replacing' so much as 'denying' the real Christ and 'deceiving' Jesus' followers. (1Jn 2:19, 22; 4:3; 2Jn 1:7) The discussion in 1Jn 2:18-27 may also be seen as describing the "many antichrists" as false anointed ones. In those verses, being anointed is put in contrast with those who "went out from us." And the 'anointing' teaches truth, whereas, the antichrists spread lies about the Christ.
What John Had to Say
The apostle John is the only Bible writer who specifically mentions the term "antichrist." So it would be interesting to see what he actually says about the topic. The following verses are the only ones that use the term antichrist in the NT:
18 Young children, it is the last hour, and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared, from which fact we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But they went out so that it might be shown that not all are of our sort. (1Jn 2:18-19 NWT)
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. . . 26 I write you these things about those who are trying to mislead you. (1Jn 2:22, 26 NWT)
But every inspired statement that does not acknowledge Jesus does not originate with God. Furthermore, this is the antichrist’s inspired statement that you have heard was coming, and now it is already in the world. (1Jn 4:3 NWT)
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 2Jn 1:7 NWT)
Those are all the specific Biblical statements about "antichrist." Although acknowledging that there are related verses on this topic, what can we pick out about "antichrist" from just these verses? Several things can be derived:
1. "You have heard that [the] antichrist is coming." (1Jn 2:18a) Although, Biblically speaking, John's readers only first saw the term "antichrist" in John's letters, they obviously had heard the topic discussed before John wrote. So this lends itself to the idea that earlier NT (and possibly OT) writings were considered to have discussed this idea. We'll come back to that later. (Incidentally, "antichrist" in 1Jn 2:18 is anarthrous. This is why I put brackets around "the." Here are a number of renderings that render it both ways. The older NWT does not have "the." The newer one does. But see my comments on this post regarding variations in the published texts.)
2. "Even now many antichrists have appeared." (1Jn 2:18b) This phrase shows that what they heard was "coming" had, by then, already begun to arrive. This also touches on the definite article that I bracketed in point "1." "The antichrist" might suggest or allow for an individual who was expected to fulfill this role. But John leaves off the article, suggesting, or at least allowing for, "antichrist" to be a collective term under which many individuals would operate in that role. 1Jn 4:3 also carries the idea that they knew antichrist was coming, and was already in the world.
3. "From which fact we know that it is the last hour." (1Jn 2:18c) This phrase shows that the appearance of these many "antichrists" was indicative of a particular era or time frame. Regarding "the last hour," Constable's Notes says,
Throughout the New Testament the writers regarded the present inter-advent age, after the Incarnation and before the Lord’s return, as the last hour or the last days. This is the final period before the Lord Himself breaks into history again.
Similarly, Paul G. Hiebert (An Introduction to the New Testament, Vol I), as quoted in Constable's Notes, posits that "the last hour" is equivalent to "the last days":
For Peter [in Acts 2:17], this outpouring of the Spirit began the period known in Scripture as the ‘last days’ [Ac 2:17] or the ‘last hour’ (1 John 2:18), and thus the whole Christian era is included in the expression."
On John's use of the term "hour," Robertson's Word Pictures points out that this is a "common idiom in John's Gospel (Jn 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 7:30 etc.)" (Vol VI, p. 411) In all these places the term "hour" has a similar meaning to how we would use the word "time." Thus, John's "the last hour" would be equivalent to Jude's "the last time" (Jude 1:18), which also equates with Peter's "the last days." (2Pe 3:3)
The upshot of all this is that John was expecting the appearance of "antichrists" to be a significant development of the inter-advent era. An era that now stretches across nearly 20 centuries. (For a listing of various phrases having a similar meaning to "last days," see this post.)
4. "They went out from us."(1Jn 2:19a) "They," agreeing with "many antichrists," would again suggest that John understood, not some particular individual, but many individuals that would be a part of an 'antichrist class,' as it were, just going by what John has written so far. The fact that "they went out from us," that is, from Christianity, would also locate this phenomenon as an inter-advent development. It would also mean that John saw this development as an apostasy from what he considered to be the true Christian faith.
5. "They went out so that it might be shown that not all are of our sort." (1Jn 2:19b) This phrase shows that there was some divine purpose in allowing this situation to develop. Not only was the situation foreseen, but God and Christ foresaw something useful that would come out of it. (Compare 2Th 2:10-12)
6. "Those who are trying to mislead you." (1Jn 2:26) And, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world." (2Jn 7) These two phrases help show that this apostasy was not simply disaffected people leaving John's religion, but that there was an intelligent and malevolent purpose behind the operation of "antichrist." It suggests that there was a mastermind, and a master plan, behind this development. And that it was intended to adversely affect the main body of true Christians. (Compare 2Th 2:9-10)
All these factors should help us to identify other scriptures that form the prophetic description of this development. (Ac 20:29-30)
Before concluding this post, it seemed appropriate to mention that there is at least one other individual that rightly deserves the term "antichrist." In fact, he could correctly be seen as "The AntiChrist." And yet, based on the verses quoted from 1 John, this person would not be included among the "antichrists" that John talks about. Who would this be?
It would be none other than Satan the Devil. From the very beginning of his rebellion he was foretold to be a staunch opponent of "the seed of the woman." (Gen 3:15) He is described as having been continually bent on eliminating that seed. (Rev 12:3-4) And when he failed in that endeavor (Rev 12:5), he went after those who became the 'seed of the woman' via their faith in the Christ. (Rev 12:13, 15, 17)
I mention this because this leaves open the possibility for some to confuse the activities of the foretold "antichrist" and "many antichrists" that John speaks of, with some of the foretold activities of this spirit 'antichrist.' Indeed, the two are very much related. (Compare 2Th 2:9)
This post is continued in post # 6 in this thread (here).