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Antichrist - Alive and Well, Again!

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Is the antichrist alive somewhere in the world today? Cardinal Biffi, emeritus bishop of the archdiocese of Bologna, Italy, thinks so.[1] In addition to wanting to ban Mozart’s music because the composer was a Mason,[2] Cardinal Biffi also believes Italy should stop the flood of Muslim immigrants and protect Italy’s “national identity.” These are just some of his politically incorrect comments about the state of the world. But what lines him up with popular evangelical prophecy writers is his belief that the antichrist is alive and will soon rise to prominence espousing “causes like vegetarianism, pacifism, environmentalism and animal rights.”

Cardinal Biffi is in good company. Since the first century, prophetic pundits have assured an eager and anxious world that the antichrist was just about to come on the scene. In 1632, Tommaso Campanella (1568–1639), a Dominican friar wrote a book with the title De Antichristo, Concerning the Antichrist where he “states that all godless tyrants and all sophistical heretics are heretics.”[3] Coming from this Roman Catholic cleric, this meant Protestant Reformers John Calvin, John Wycliffe, and Martin Luther. Protestants almost universally identified antichrist with the papacy. Antichrist, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder.

The twentieth century saw antichrist become more of a political figure. Adolf Hitler was an obvious candidate. But it was in 1926 that Oswald J. Smith wrote Is the Antichrist at Hand? Smith believed that the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who had ruled Italy since 1922, was the predicted antichrist. Ample biblical evidence was put forth to establish his claim. All the prophetic pieces were in place. Smith was so sure of his views that in subsequent printings of his book, he included the following on the front cover:

The fact that this book has run swiftly into a number of large editions bears convincing testimony to its intrinsic worth. There are here portrayed startling indications of the approaching end of the present age from the spheres of demonology, politics and religion. No one can read this book without being impressed with the importance of the momentous days in which we are living.

But something happened on Smith’s road to prophetic certainty. In April 1945, just before the Allied armies reached Milan, Mussolini was caught by Italian Communist partisans as he tried to escape to Switzerland. He and his mistress, Clara Patacci, were hanged. Oops! Now that's a monkey wrench in a well-oiled prophetic machine. In the 1947 edition of Smith’s Prophecy—What Lies Ahead?, nothing is said about Mussolini in his chapter on the antichrist.[4]

Like Cardinal Biffi and Smith, modern-day evangelical writers have made similar claims. Hal Lindsey wrote in 1970 that he believed the antichrist was alive somewhere in the world. He repeated this belief in 1977 when wrote that it was his “personal opinion” that “he’s alive somewhere now. But he’s not going to become this awesome figure that we nickname the Antichrist until Satan possesses him, and I don’t believe that will occur until there is this ‘mortal wound’ from which he’s raised up.”[5] Dave Hunt voiced a similar opinion in 1990: “Somewhere at this very moment, on planet Earth, the antichrist is almost certainly alive—biding his time, awaiting his cue.”[6]

Conjectures about the who and when of Antichrist could fill a book.[7] Francis X. Gumerlock lists dozens and dozens of candidates—from Caligula and Nero in the first century to Noah Hutchings’ suggestion that Pope John Paul II might be the Antichrist because he recovered from a near fatal wound he received in an assassination attempt. Like everyone before him, Hutchings was wrong. When Ronald Reagan was shot, “many End-time speculators suspected that he was the Antichrist because Revelation 13:3 speaks of a Beast recovering from a fatal wound. Also the names, Ronald Wilson Reagan, each have six letters in them corresponding to the number of the Beast, 666.”[8] Of course, the biblical number of the Beast is not three sixes but six hundred and sixty-six. Reagan was not the antichrist.

All this speculation flies in the face of what the Bible actually says about the who and when of antichrist. John, the only author who uses the term, tells us that while some people in his day were under the impression that a single antichrist would be manifested, there were actually “many antichrists” already alive and well (1 John 2:18). We also know that biblical antichrists are those who do not “acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7) and who deny “the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). These antichrists were religious opponents of Christianity, probably Jews who denied the incarnation and Jesus being one with the Father (John 10:30). They made up the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). Most importantly, John informs us that “many deceivers have gone out into the world” (2 John 7). These antichrists were a first-century reality, so much so that he could write, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arise; from this”—the fact that many antichrists were present—“we know it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The last hour of what? The last hour of the Old Covenant that came to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It was near for that first-century generation.

There are still people who do not believe that Jesus has come in the flesh, and there have been beast-like political leaders in our recent history. The biblical definition of antichrist refers to what was happening in the first century leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/bifi.htm
[2] Mozart was not the only composer with Masonic ties. See Paul Nettl, Mozart and Masonry (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957).
[3] Vincent P. Miceli, The Antichrist (West Hanover, MA: The Christopher Publishing House, 1981), 125. While written nearly 25 years ago, Miceli asks a common question to spur book sales: “Has he launched his final campaign against the Savior?”
[4] Oswald J. Smith, Prophecy—What Lies Ahead? (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1947), 21–27.
[5] “The Late Great Cosmic Countdown: Hal Lindsey on the Future, Eternity (January 1977), 80.
[6] Dave Hunt, Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1990.
[7] Bernard McGinn, Anti-Christ: Two Thousand years of the Human Fascination with Evil (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1994).
[8] Francis X. Gumerlock, The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2000), 290.

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