Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Easter: Not one, but many

Opening Sentence
On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Collect of the Day
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 63, 98

Lessons: Exodus 28:1-4, 30-38; 1 John 2:18-29; Mark 6:30-44

He is the ultimate end times villain: a monstrously evil one-world dictator who rules in the final days before the end of the world. Depending on your theological persuasion, believes are either severely persecuted during his reign or safely whisked away in the "rapture" before he rises to power.

That is the "antichrist" of popular Christian folklore. The real "antichrist," as actually described in Scripture, is a a little less threatening, but far more subtle, presence.

The term "antichrist" itself appears only in the first and second letters of John. It does not appear in Daniel, Revelation, or any other apocalyptic or prophetic books. Paul does not use the term, and neither do any of the Gospel writers. When John uses the term in his epistles, he is referring specifically to schismatic elements who "went out from us [the gathered faithful], but they were not of us" (1 John 2:19). They are possessed of a spirit that does not confess Jesus as having come in the flesh, that is, they deny the Incarnation, the Word made flesh (cf. 1 John 4:3). The term "antichrist" is, for John, primarily of theological, not political, import.

It is significant to note that John refers not only to "the antichrist" but to "many antichrists" (cf. 1 John 2:18) who had already come at the time he was writing. Antichrist's name is Legion. He is not one, but many. 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. For 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 has the Name above every name, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.

(JAG)

Crown Him With Many Crowns/All Hail King Jesus/We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise