Another Blog from UK Partnerships for Christ (www.upfc.org.uk)

Who is the Antichrist? by Jason Wright

June 1st WT 2015

Who is the Antichrist? by Jason Wright

“People and organizations still oppose Christ and his teachings. They deliberately spread lies and deceptions with the intent of confusing the identity of the Father, Jehovah God and of His Son, Jesus Christ…Churches propagate the doctrine of the Trinity…The antichrist thus shrouds in mystery the identity of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ…the Churches add confusion by promoting the use of Bible translations that omit God’s name[1]…for centuries the antichrist has kept millions in spiritual darkness…by studying God’s word…we are able to learn the true identity of the antichrist and be set free from the antichrist’s religion lies and deceptions” Watchtower June 1st 2015, Page 14-15.

Wow! That’s some statement. I presume from the rhetoric above that The Antichrist is anyone other than a Jehovah’s Witness, and is specifically Christians who uphold the teachings of the Apostles, as well as subsequent generations of Christians. In other words, 2000 years of orthodoxy. According to the definition above, I must be an Antichrist and all the Church Fathers must have been Antichrists, as were: William Tyndale, John Calvin, John Wesley and the list goes on! What is our collective Antichrist sin, but to believe in the plural unity of Jehovah and accept the revelation of God in Christ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).

This Watchtower article is a classic example of how the organization begins with a presupposition, viz. the Father is Jehovah and he alone is God, Jesus is his created Son the Archangel Michael, the Holy Spirit is the Father’s “active force” or power and therefore Christendom’s teachings, which contradict our doctrines, must be anti-Christ. With this mindset as a platform, The Society forces its bias upon scripture – a practice known as eisegesis. The unsuspecting reader is presented with a plausible argument that affirms these presuppositional errors. Consequently, for Jehovah’s Witnesses this article simply reinforces their metanarrative.

I must admit, I read the article “Who is the Antichrist?” with ever-increasing disbelief and a fair bit of righteous anger (Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:26). This article not only misrepresents the doctrine of millions of Christians, but also misrepresents Jehovah God. A quick glance at the first page of this Watchtower edition reveals this article has an official printing number of 52,946,000 in 204 languages. This is a staggering feat humanly speaking, but spiritually speaking pure poison. You can read the article online here: http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20150601/who-is-the-antichrist/

In this post, I want to exegete (a fancy word for “draw out”) the meaning of the word “Antichrist” in John 1 and 2 in order to ascertain exactly what the theological meaning of the word is and to whom the word applies. Everyone who claims to follow the God of the Bible should be able to “draw out” the truths of scripture. I’m sure you would agree that it is essential that we interpret scripture accurately. Thankfully we do not have to do this alone, but with the illumination of the Holy Spirit to help us.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)

Overall it will be argued that the apostle John when writing about the Antichrist did not have in mind the Trinity doctrine, nor the name Jehovah. Rather as we shall see it is Watchtower doctrine that ironically fits the label “antichrist”.

Word Study.

The word Antichrist (ἀντίχριστος) is found four times in scripture and the plural antichrists (ἀντίχριστος) is found just once. Here are three definitions of the meaning of the word:

Strong’s Concordance: antichrist, either one who puts himself in the place of, or the enemy (opponent) of the Messiah.

HELPS Word studies: antíxristos (from 473 /antí, “opposite to, in place of” and 5547 /Xristós, “Christ”) – properly, opposite to Christ; someone acting in place of (against) Christ; “Antichrist.”

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains ἀντίχριστος, one who is opposed to Christ, in the sense of usurping the role of Christ—‘antichrist.’ 

According to the above definitions an antichrist can be either an individual, group or both, who through their teachings can be identified as in opposition to Christ. This may include human or angelic entities. You may say the Antichrist is a pseudo-Christ or imitation Christ. This begs the question, is the Jesus portrayed by the Watchtower Society the true Jesus of scripture, or do they present an Antichrist look alike? Or is Christendom the real Antichrist as suggested by the Watchtower? Before answering let us note the occurrences of the word Antichrist/antichrists in the ‘English Standard Version’ and comparable ‘Revised New World Translation’.

1 John 2:18:

“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” (ESV)

“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” (RNWT)

1 John 2:22:

“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.” (ESV)

“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.” (RNWT)

1 John 4:3:

“and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (ESV)

“But every inspired statement [every spirit] that does not acknowledge [confess] Jesus [is not from God] does not originate with God. Furthermore, this is the [spirit of the] antichrist’s inspired statement that you have heard was coming, and now it is already in the world.” (RNWT)

It is intriguing to note how much longer and seriously revised the RNWT version is. I have highlighted the extra/different words above in bold type and added the missing words in brackets []. Even antichrist (singular) is made plural in the RNWT. The Greek literally reads:

καὶ    πᾶν     πνεῦμα    ὃ        μὴ          ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν

and  every     spirit   that  does not   confess   the  Jesus

ἐκ   τοῦ      θεοῦ   οὐκ  ἔστιν·  καὶ  τοῦτό  ἐστιν

from the   God     not      is       and   this     is

τὸ                 τοῦ    ἀντιχρίστου        ὃ             ἀκηκόατε

the[spirit]   of the   antichrist     of which you have heard

ὅτι        ἔρχεται,      καὶ  νῦν     ἐν τῷ     κόσμῳ    ἐστὶν      ἤδη.

that   it is coming   and now   in the       world      it is   already

Clearly in the RNWT the original meaning has been tampered with. It appears Watchtower writers have an issue with the word “spirit”, perhaps because it conveys entity/substance. By reinterpreting “spirit” as “inspired statement”, violence is done to the original meaning. Essentially the sense of personality is removed and replaced by a third person concept. However “spirit” must include personality because John explains the antichrist “spirit” cannot confess Jesus. Whatever the reason behind the changes, this is a poor translation.

2 John 1:7:

“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. (ESV)

“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.” (RNWT)

In summary, if one approaches the above verses “cold” without any presupposition then it would be impossible to come up with the interpretation proposed by the Watchtower article. Dr. Ron Rhodes succinctly explains how we should interpret scripture: “when the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense lest you end up in nonsense”.

Exegesis of the “antichrist”.

Having looked at the antichrist pericope, let us now unravel who actually is the antichrist in 1 and 2 John. To do so we must begin by examining the verses within their historical context. Who exactly were John’s audience and what was the (life setting) of the author/audience. Once we uncover the historical situation we can better understand the context of the above verses.

John’s second epistle is a personal one written to a fellowship, which is personified as a “lady”. Many of the ideas found in 1 John spill over into 2 John therefore in this article we will focus on 1 John. Scholars are undecided if this is an epistle or a sermon outline. Whichever, it is clear that as the document unfolds John is concerned about the spiritual welfare of the congregation, therefore we can conclude his audience were his brethren.

John incorporates into his epistle both commendation and warnings employing dualistic language. [2] Germane to our study, pericope 4:1-3 speaks of two opposing forces, these are the spirit of God (Holy Spirit) and the spirit of the Antichrist (demonic forces behind false teaching). So influential are the arguments of false teachers that John records some individuals had left the congregation:

“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 2:19)

Herein John warns the congregation that the ones who had left, reveal themselves to be “antichrists” (1 John 2:18). This is extremely strong language. What were these antichrists teaching? Were they teaching the Trinity doctrine? Were they denying the divine name YHWH by “shrouding it in mystery”? No, in the historical situation these “antichrists” were teaching two falsehoods.

  • Jesus is not the Christ
  • Jesus had not come in the flesh

We shall see later how these two denials embrace the full Christological and soteriological nature of Jesus and lead to denial of the Father. Scholars acknowledge that John and the congregation were facing what we call today proto-Gnosticism. One form of this is known as Docetism. Docetism taught that the material world was corrupt, whereas the spiritual world was pure and holy. Therefore Jesus could not have “come in the flesh” because deity, in their view, could never unite itself with anything material. Note in Docetism proponents did not argue against the divinity of Christ but rather against his full humanity. In other words, God could never become a man. This teaching naturally, denied Jesus bodily resurrection because the “Word of God” could never really have become flesh and corrupt “flesh” could never enter heaven.

A contemporary of the Apostle John named Cerinthus taught his followers similar concepts arguing that a divine Christ had descended upon the human Jesus at his baptism and then ascended back into heaven at his death. Note Docetism forces an alien concept upon scripture; this in turn forces proponents to deny Jesus true nature. Such were the heretical teachings to which John ascribed the spirit of the Antichrist.

“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. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father… And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.” (1 John 2:22-26)

What is interesting in the above pericope is that the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ essentially denies the Father as well. But how could we deny Jesus is the Christ? Certainly Jehovah’s Witnesses acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ in an historical way. However to “believe” or “confess” is far more than a cerebral acknowledgement of a fact. For John to believe “that Jesus is the Christ” is to have “saving faith”. John confirms this by saying “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” (1 John 5:1a) True belief involves participation in an existential experience of saving faith, a combination of heart and mind resulting in a personal relationship with Jesus and the Father. John calls this being “born” or “Fathered” by God, thus to be “born again” (John 3:3, 7) is a salvation experience through “faith alone” in “Christ alone” (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8).

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-13)

John underscores that God the Father has provided testimony about his Son, viz. he who believes in the name of the Son of God (not the name Jehovah) and in what that name encompasses [3] receives an inner witness; God testifies that he has given to those who believe “eternal life”. How wonderful! How simple! This strikes a death blow to the Watchtower’s two class system of works salvation (144,000 and Great Crowd). [4] John understands that eternal life in heaven is for “whoever” believes, salvation is open to all. Such truths needed defending; hence John encourages his brethren with these words:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1-3, 6)

Here we have the contrast between the “spirit of truth” and the “spirit of error”. The latter “does not confess Jesus” and therefore has an “antichrist spirit”. Spirit (πνεῦμα) is a fluid word which can refer to: an “attitude or disposition”, the supra-physical human spirit as well as to supernatural non-material spirits. In this pericope, John is not necessarily suggesting a supernatural spirit misleads each false prophet, but rather every manifestation of the spirit of error emanates or characterizes the ultimate source, Satan. This fallen angel is the source of the “spirit of error”. Therefore, John encourages his brethren to “test the spirits”, that is to test the claims of the false teachers in order to ascertain which spirit lies behind their teachings. To test any utterance we must consult scripture (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).[5]

Our LORD Jesus said that “false prophets” appear to the unwary as “sheep” but inside are “ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). It is important to understand that it is not enough to evaluate “fruit”, because many “wolfish” organizations and individuals actually do many “good works” – just ponder the colossal output of literature produced by the WT. However, Jesus encourages his followers to test the “words” or “message” spoken by the prophet, not just the works. Speaking to the Pharisee’s Jesus said:

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37)

We must test the “message” not just the fruit! What is the test? The“willingness or unwillingness to confess Jesus Christ incarnate”. The only way a person can confess “Jesus is LORD” is by the Spirit of God. It is thus the Holy Spirit whom enlightens and motivates confession.

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

However, you might argue that anyone can verbally express, “Jesus is the Christ” or “Jesus is Lord”. This is true, however John is not talking about cheap words, he is talking about heartfelt Holy Spirit inspired confession. If a person were to hold a gun to your head, could you still “confess” Jesus is Christ your Lord? You see John’s primary theological concern is that of Christology. Paramount to true confession is acknowledgement of both the full humanity and full divinity of Christ. Every person who cannot confess Jesus as come in the flesh exemplifies the spirit of the Antichrist. “If a religious movement or leader cannot speak loud and clear about the fundamental Christological and soteriological truth that Jesus is the Christ, then that source” [6] of unwillingness to confess originates with Satan the superlative Antichrist. In this way we can “know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (v.6)

“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 3:23)

“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

The Apostle John forewarned his brethren concerning the proto-Gnostic and Docetism heresies. Moreover, John was aware that to stand against error one must be close to the source of truth viz. the Lord Jesus. This is a vital truth and one worth exploring. The introduction to 1 John emphasizes John’s overall theme of fellowship with the Father & Son. You cannot be in fellowship with the one true God unless you know Jesus and confess him:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

Who had John and the Apostles (v.1 ‘we’) “seen from the beginning”? Who was it that they had “seen, and touched?” Was it not the Lord Jesus Christ? John is reminding his brethren that the apostolic testimony went back to the beginning of the Christian revelation (Mark 1:1). John then elaborates stating that this message is the very “Word of Life”. Since Jesus himself is the “life” (1 John 5:20) the message of life cannot be effectively distinguished from God’s Son who is eternal life! John states the “eternal life” – Jesus, was with the Father and has been made “manifest to us”. Clearly eternal life and the ability to give eternal life confirms Jesus deity, after all is any angel eternal? Or can any angel give eternal life? No, angels are creatures with limited capacity designed and created by God to serve him, whereas Jesus is the Father’s eternal Son, very God of very God.

After laying down the facts, John invites his brethren to share in fellowship “with the Father and his Son” – “we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).[7]

This is an invitation to intimate union and fellowship with Father and Son, the eternal God. This is the apostolic truth that John conveys to his audience from the start of his epistle through to its conclusion; Jesus is the Son of God, the “Word of God” manifest in the flesh, the “eternal life” appearing on earth in which we mere mortals can have fellowship. Amazing! This is a far cry from the Jehovah’s Witness portrayal of Jesus as the “incarnate angel Michael” the “Greatest man who ever lived”. Such statements are not only farcical, but also blasphemous. John knew exactly who Jesus was – God the Son.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. No one has ever seen God; the only God [Jesus], who is at the Father’s side, he [Jesus] has made him [the Father] known.” (John 1:1; 18)

Conclusion

“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.” (1 John 2:7)

wolf-in-sheeps-clothing

Who then is the deceiver and antichrist? Having exegeted the word ἀντίχριστος what can we conclude? Firstly the source of antichrist teaching is Satan (1 John 5:19). The message of antichrist is a Christological denial of Jesus full humanity and full deity. These were the heretical teachings John was fighting:

  • Denial that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22).
  • Denial that Jesus is the divine Son of God (1 John 4:2-3; 3:23.)
  • Denial that Jesus is “God the Word” come in the flesh (2 John 1:7).
  • Inability to confess Jesus as LORD [8] (1 John 4:3; cf. Romans 10:9).

With the above in mind we might ask who best fits the antichrist definition, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christians? Jehovah’s Witnesses mask their teaching well, yet by failing to affirm the above pivotal truths, they prove themselves in opposition to both the Father and his Son. Consequently, the allegations made in the June 1st Watchtower claiming that those who teach the tri-unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and who fail to use the name Jehovah are “antichrists” is patently false.

Let us ask some uncomfortable questions. Which religious organization is misleading its flock? Who stands in opposition to the full revelation of Jesus? Who misrepresents Jesus and spreads lies and deceptions about his nature? Who reduces Jesus the incarnate Son to an angelic creature? Who denies that God made a visitation of earth in bodily form? Who denies that Jesus was resurrected “in the flesh”? Who is this ravenous wolf that holds millions in spiritual darkness? You know perfectly well. The “spirit of error”and the “antichrist” is none other than the Watchtower Society. The source of their teachings is the Devil. This satanic harlot spreads a false Gospel about a false Jesus. In simple language, Jehovah of the Watchtower is not the God of scripture.

To embrace the whole truth we must affirm Jesus full humanity and his full divinity. Jehovah’s Witnesses along with: Unitarians, Christadelphians, Mormons, Christian scientists, Muslims and indeed all who cannot confess Jesus as LORD (YHWH) have an antichrist spirit. In the book of revelation, chapter 13, the final antichrist is an individual that facilitates the embodiment of Satan and will claim to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Throughout history, fledgling antichrists have been waiting in the wings, anticipating this eschatological scenario.

Thus the Watchtower Society by its own indirect confession is exposed as one of “many antichrists” employed by the Devil to distort the nature of God and the salvific message of his Son. This excursus into “Who is the Antichrist?” is far more than an academic exercise. Our discovery is heartbreaking because a Jehovah’s Witness is denied the opportunity to confess Jesus as their personal LORD and savior. “This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son(1 John 2:22). You see if you cannot confess Jesus as Christ and LORD, by default you deny him and in so doing you also deny the Father. However, all is not lost. If you are held in bondage by Watchtower theology rest assured you can escape, you can be set free and “born again” as a “child of God” (John 3:3. 7). You do not have to live any longer in darkness, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). If you are confused and feel trapped or duped we are here to help. Please contact someone on the “Watchtower Investigated” team.

In conclusion the June 1st Watchtower article on page 15 ends with this ironic truth “by studying God’s word, the Bible, we are able to learn the true identity of the antichrist and be set free from the antichrists religious lies and deceptions” (John 17:17) – Amen to that! Yet how bizarre that the Society is unaware that it is writing about itself! The “pot calling the Kettle black” – if only the Society would allow scripture to speak for itself, but alas they cannot, for they are trapped in a world of self-delusion (Job 5:13) refusing the revelation of God in Christ (cf. Isaiah 42:8; 48:11; Revelation 5:12-14) consequently while they yet remain in this state of spiritual blindness the Society and all its adherents undeniably remain antichrists.

If you are a born-again Christian please continue to pray for Jehovah’s witnesses to find the real Jesus. To HIM belongs all glory and power forever and ever…

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb [Jesus] be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:13-14)

“Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life…to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:21, 25)

As scripture encourages us may the children of God draw close in fellowship to the Father, Son & Holy Spirit and may we continue to earnestly intercede for Jehovah’s witnesses. God’s will be done – Amen, Amen.

Shalom,

Jason Wright

FOOTNOTES

[1] For a detailed study of the name Jehovah see this article: https://watchtowerinvestigated.co.uk/2015/01/12/the-name-jehovah-by-jason-wright/

[2] Contrasts are made between light and darkness (1:6-7), love of world and love of God (2:15-17), children of God and children of the devil (3:4-10), love and hate (4:7-12, 16-21).

[3] This would include Jesus full deity (Son of God) and full humanity (Son of Man) as well as his role as Messiah/Christ.

[4] Cf. John 3:15-18, 21; John 5:24; John 6:47.

[5] Hodges:1999 page 175

[6] Hodges:1999 Page 178

[7] This is one of the most straightforward announcements of Jesus deity referring back to “His Son Jesus Christ” and yet at the same time encompassing the Father within the term “God” consequently John never falls into the trap of equating Father and Son as though they were one person which would be Modalism nor does he reduce Jesus to a creation which would be Arianism the antecedent to Watchtower theology. He identifies the personality of Father and Son yet acknowledges they share the same nature.

[8] Please note to confess Jesus as LORD is a direct reference to the Tetragrammaton.

Bibliography

Harris, W. H., III. (2010). The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament: SBL Edition. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Hodges, Z. C. (1999). The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (The Grace New Testament commentary). Grace Evangelical Society.

Kostenberger, A. J. (2007). John (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary). (C. E. Arnold, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Thompson, M. M. (1992). NTC: 1-3 John (IVP New Testament Commentaries). Inter-Varsity Press.

Constable, T. L. (2012). Notes of 1 John http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes.htm

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3 Responses »

  1. Thanks Jason . You made some great points .

  2. Brilliant article Jason! Please keep up the good work, helping former JW’s like myself break free…. 🙂

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