The Great Apostasy
Seven proofs History of Christianity History part 2 A non-LDS view
'Antichrists' Matthew 24 Heresies Other theories

the "last days"

For more commentary on the epistles of John, see "are you saved?"

The individual called the antichrist, and other myths
See also: "The Beast" | "The little horn"

Most churches have a problem with the prophecies of the Great Apostasy.

To explain away the awkward prophecies, they have invented a character called "the antichrist". Any uncomfortable scriptures are piled onto this mythical person and said to be "still in the future". The Bible does use the word "antichrist", but look what it actually says:

"Antichrist shall come"? What does he mean?

So "Antichrist who will come" refers to those people (plural) who denied Christ, beginning in the first century. What could be clearer?

Those are the only four times that the word "antichrist" appears in the Bible. Yet despite what John says, many people believe that Antichrist is one individual to come in the last days. Where do they get that idea? A clearer example of opposing the scriptures is hard to imagine. As one non-LDS commentator observed, the reason they invented the antichrist theory was that "It has the convenient advantage of not admitting of being tested in actual history". Because once we do look in actual history, the fulfillment of all the "antichrist", "beast" and "horn" scriptures becomes clear.

How the single "Antichrist" theory was invented

Quotations are from the Elwell Evangelical Dictionary.

  1. The second century was a time of speculation and numerous false theories.

    When the apostles died, the church lacked direction. Extreme ideas were more common, and apocalyptic literature was popular. This happens whenever prophecy ceases. When the prophets are dead, the believers need something to cling on to. Great apocalyptic theories are a sign of apostasy. The last time that people had this great interest in theories of a single Antichrist was in the previous major apostasy - after the deaths of the Old Testament prophets. The inter-Testament period was the golden age of apocalyptic literature. Apocryphal texts appeared that focused on great battles between good and evil. When people were thinking of great and exciting events, they were not thinking of the real tragedy. The real tragedy was..." The Cessation of Prophecy. Throughout these times of unparalleled evil God did not speak to explain this historical enigma. The voice of prophecy was stilled. No prophet appeared to announce "Thus saith the Lord" and to interpret to the afflicted people of God the riddle of the suffering of the righteous. The apocalypses arose out of this milieu to provide an explanation of the sufferings of the righteous and the delay of the kingdom of God. "

  2. When the apostasy scriptures were fulfilled, the churches didn't like it.

    The idea of a single antichrist owes its revival to the Spanish Jesuit, Ribera. He was writing in the year 1591. This was when the Protestants had begun to realise that the 1260 "days" of prophecy referred to the church in the dark ages. The Catholic church did not like this being pointed out. So Ribera invented the idea of a final tribulation yet to come. It became very convenient to take any unwanted apostasy prophecy, and dump it on the imaginary Mr. Antichrist.

  3. Without prophecy, Bible scholars sometimes jump to conclusions.

    Since one of Daniel's many horns represented a person (Alexander, the great horn of Grecia), some people assume that a horn is always a person, and thus the little horn is a person too. This ignores everything the Bible says about horns - horns mean power, not people. This is discussed in the pages on horns and kings, and elsewhere.

  4. Then Darby came along...

  5. Pagan elements are introduced.

    Academics sometimes attempt to trace the gospel to pagan sources, and this adds to the 'single antichrist' myth. "W. Bousset, Antichrist Legend, holds that the battle of Antichrist and God stems from the Babylonian legend of Marduk's struggle with Tiamat"

  6. Without prophecy, Bible scholars get confused.

    There is confusion between the apocryphal references to Satan and the New Testament references to antichrists. In the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, "Belial (Beliar) is personified as a satanic spirit. The "lawless one" (II Thess. 2:8) has been connected with Beliar, which rabbinic tradition interpreted as 'without yoke' (beli'ol), i.e., refusing the law's yoke. This connection seems strengthened by the LXX translation of belial by paranomos, 'lawbreaker' (Deut. 13:13, etc.). However, though Paul's description may partially reflect the Beliar tradition, he distinguishes Beliar from the lawless one: Beliar is a synonym of Satan (II Cor. 6:15), while Satan and the lawless one are differentiated (II Thess. 2:9)."

  7. Naturalistic elements are introduced.

    Academics sometimes attempt to trace the gospel to local conditions. In II Thessalonians. 2:1-4 , "His (Paul's) model may have been the blasphemous emperor Gaius (A.D. 37-41)." But Paul's listeners knew that he did not refer to Rome (see discussion of 2 Thess. 2 here)

  8. And thus we have the evolution of the full blown idea of a single person called "Antichrist" - an idea that does not appear in the Bible, yet is believed by a perhaps majority of Christians today.

The "Last Days" and the New Testament

The Bible is quite plain about the last days of the world. After New Testament times there was to be a great apostasy (see 7 proofs of the apostasy). The worst part was to last 1260 years, and finally the church would triumph in the last days. Yet some people try to say that the last days started 2000 years ago. Why? Because if that was the last era of the world, there could not be another one (see NIV footnote to 1 John 2:18). By twisting just that one concept, they have an excuse to reject the apostasy and all further prophets.

Why the "last days" of the world did not begin in New Testament times

The idea that the last days of the world started in New Testament times is plainly absurd, for a number of reasons:

Scriptures that the traditional churches use

It may be helpful to look at the verses that are always cited whenever someone wants to claim that the last days of the world began thousands of years ago:

Acts 2:17 mentions the last days

The context of a prophecy is always important. Here Peter is speaking at the day of Pentecost, when people received the spirit and prophesied. Others accused these people of being drunk. So the issue here is not whether or not this was the last days, but whether or not it was appropriate to see visions and prophesy. So Peter responded by quoting a scripture that said God's servants would do the same thing - therefore the actions cannot be evil. Peter made clear that the prophecy referred to a future date by also quoting the next few verses, regarding the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood.

Hebrews 1:2 and 1 Peter 1:20 and someone's last (i.e. recent) days

Here we have another example of looking for hidden meanings when there are none. The Bible is simple! Why must we make it more complicated? Some people seem to think that "last days" is always a code word for "last days out of the entire life span of the world". But why? "Last" is just an ordinary word, and "last days" is an ordinary term. Why must we make the Bible difficult?

What gives the word "last" its meaning is the context. For example, my last few days were spent at work. But they are not my last days before I die (I hope)! My last meal was two hours ago, but that does not mean it was the last meal of my whole life! So the context reveals the meaning of "last". In the scriptures cited, both writers are looking backwards over their history, so "the last days" simply means "the most recent days".

1 John 2:18 and the last hour before antichrist

John warns that antichrists are coming, and that is how they know it is "the last hour". I will use NIV translation and notes here, since it is the NIV that boldly claims that this verse refers to the last hour of the world. Why the world? Is John talking about the world? No, John is talking about antichrists. When we look a little more at the context, the meaning becomes tragically clear.

John was writing in the last years before the end of the first century and the loss of the last apostle. For how the church coped (or rather, did not cope) in the second century, without leadership, see seven proofs of the Great Apostasy.

The tragic final books of the New Testament

John was the last surviving apostle. His epistles were written very late in his life, according to the NIV. (Many commentaries date them after the book of Revelation.) These were the very last writings of the New Testament before the heavens were closed for over a thousand years.

John could see the apostasy coming. He had warned of it with the most powerful language possible in his Revelation. These three tiny epistles are the last desperate plea from the last apostle before the lights went out. Just read them to see the tragic plight of the church:

John's last epistles - conclusion

What is happening to the churches?? Both of his final letters end with John saying that he must speak in person. John, you will recall, is elderly. Travel is not easy. What is the message that is so serious that he cannot write it down? It cannot be the message of hope and love - he has already written that. He puts the best slant on his reasons ("that our joy may be full" - 2 John 12), but his actions speak louder than his words.

No wonder he referred to that period as "the last hour" before the coming antichrists. These three short epistles are among the most poignant, and sad, books that I have ever read.

What this means

So the New Testament times were not the last days of the world. Which means that they did not fulfil all the "last days" prophecies regarding Jesus and his church. Which meant that another final dispensation was still to come. This should be familiar to anyone who has read Daniel chapter 2.

So what happened in the meantime? Between the first coming of Jesus and the last days of the world? History would suggest that the original Christian church died, and the world fell into a Dark Age. But is that what the Bible said would happen before the final triumph of the saints?

The great apostasy

History shows that after the apostles died, the Christian church slowly declined, and declined, and declined... did the Bible prophesy of this? Did it indicate that the truth would be lost, and have to be restored again ready for Jesus to return?

Whichever way you look at it, the early Church was falling from grace, and the prophets and apostles knew it.

the bottom line

After nearly 2000 years of apostasy, angels restored the gospel of Jesus Christ in 1830. Are you on the side of the angels?


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