Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday in Epiphany 6: A quick primer on the antichrist

Opening Sentence
Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:3

Commemoration: Janani Luwum and the Martyrs of Uganda
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Janani Luwum and his Companions boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 105:1-22

Lessons: Genesis 32:3-21, 1 John 2:18-29, John 10:19-30

The long standing popularity of books which exploit fears of the "end times" suggests there has always been an audience for authors who devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Popular eschatology and biblical eschatology, however, are not necessarily one and the same. A quick primer on what the Bible actually teaches about "the antichrist" might be in order here.

John wrote of "the antichrist" as "he who denies that Jesus is the Christ" (1 John 2:22). He was referring specifically to schismatic elements who "went out from us [the gathered faithful], but they were not of us" (1 John 2:19). They were possessed of a spirit that did not confess Jesus as having come in the flesh, that is, they denied the Incarnation, the Word made flesh (cf. 1 John 4:3). The term "antichrist" was, for John, primarily of theological, not political, import.

It is significant to note that John referred not only to "the antichrist" but to "many antichrists" (cf. 1 John 2:18) who had already come at the time he was writing. Unlike the truth, which is singular, falsehood comes in many forms. Thus, while the fullness of the truth is embodied in the one Lord Jesus Christ, falsehood cannot be embodied in a singular entity. Attempting to identify one person as "the antichrist," the embodiment of all that is false, is a futile endeavor. Just as "many antichrists" had come in John's day, so many more have come in our day. Their names, however, are of little significance. In the end, they will all be brought to nothing by him who is the Name above every name, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.


He Reigns