It all started with comments that Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur made where he “warned that today’s world is ‘perfectly suited for the Antichrist to come’ amid the chaos and ‘lawlessness’ stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
MacArthur went on to say:
Now we are a global world. And that is a setup that we’ve been waiting for through redemptive history since the Lord promised that there would come, in the future, an Antichrist who would have a global government.
The person who referenced the article wrote, “For Pete’s sake.” I have to agree. It seems that every time the world is about to fall apart (plagues, influenza, world wars), it’s time to dust off the prophecy charts and change the names and dates to fit the latest headlines.
Charles Wesley Ewing, writing in 1983, paints a clear historical picture of how prophetic interpretation based on current events turns to confusion, uncertainty, and in some people unbelief when it comes to predicting an end that disappoints:
In 1934, Benito Mussolini sent his black-shirted Fascists down into defenseless Ethiopia and preachers all over the country got up in their pulpits and preached spellbinding sermons that had their congregations bulging at the eyes in astonishment about “Mussolini, the Anti-Christ,” and to prove their point they quoted from Daniel 11:43, which says, ‘And the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.’ Later, Benito, whimpering, was [shot and later] hung by his own countrymen, and preachers all over America had to toss their sermons into the scrap basket as unscriptural. (Charles Wesley Ewing, “The Comedy of Errors,” The Kingdom Digest (July 1983), 45.)
Ewing goes on to mention how Hitler’s storm troopers took Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, North Africa, and set up concentration camps where millions of Jews were killed in what has become the modern-day definition of “holocaust.” Once again, preachers ascended their pulpits and linked these events to Bible prophecy and assured the church-going public that Hitler was the antichrist and the rapture was just around the next bend. When the allies routed the Nazis and drove them out, sermons were once again tossed out or filed away to be revised at some future date hoping people’s memories would fade.
Last Days Madness
The end is here...again. At every calendar milestone, self-proclaimed modern-day 'prophets' arise to stir up a furor rivaled only by the impending apocalypse they predict. This doom-and-gloom prognostication is not only spread by a few fanatics, but millions of Christians, including some of the most recognized names in mainstream Christianity who are caught up in the latest 'last days' frenzy.Buy Now
The next end-time-antichrist candidate was Joseph Stalin, the leader of godless Communism, a movement hell-bent on conquering the world. “But on March 5, 1953, Stalin had a brain hemorrhage and preachers all over America had to make another trip to the waste basket.” (Ewing, “The Comedy of Errors,” 45–46.)
One person objected to the criticism of MacArthur’s comments about the antichrist and the end times:
I see nothing wrong with this statement. The church has believed in the return of a literal antichrist, during a time of worldwide trouble, since before the time of Ireneaus.
And that, my friends, is the problem. Prophecy enthusiasts have been claiming for nearly 2000 years — “since before the time of Irenaeus” (c. 130–c. 202) — that events in their day were signs that the antichrist was about to come. It’s obvious as we near the end of the first quarter of the 21st century that they were wrong.
All a person has to do to see how many times the antichrist has been the topic of discussion in history is to read Francis X. Gumerlock’s book The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World to see that pinning the tail on the Antichrist has a long and failed history: Antichrist Suspects in the Early Church (10), Antichrist Suspects in the Middle Ages (89), Antichrist Suspects in the Sixteenth Century (115), Various Antichrist Suspects, A.D. 1600–1900 (231), and Twentieth-Century Antichrist Suspects (286).
The Day and the Hour
In The Day and The Hour, Gumerlock spans two thousand years of conjecture on the last days, disclosing the dreams and delusions of those who believed that their sect was the 144,000 of Revelation 7; that the 1290 days of Daniel 12 had expired in their generation; that the 'Man of Sin' of II Thessalonians 2 was reigning in their time; that a Rapture of the saints, a Great Tribulation, a Battle of Armageddon were just around the corner; or that a Millennial Kingdom was about to dawn.Buy Now
Benjamin B. Warfield (1851–1921), Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1887 to 1921, had this to say about the modern attempt to construct a biblical antichrist from unrelated Scripture passages:
We read of Antichrist nowhere in the New Testament except in certain passages of the Epistles of John (1 John ii. 18, 22; iv. 3; 2 John 7). What is taught in these passages constituted the whole New Testament doctrine of Antichrist. It is common, it is true, to connect with this doctrine what is said by our Lord of false Christs and false prophets; by Paul the Man of Sin; by the Apocalypse of the Beasts which come up out of the deep and sea. The warrant for labeling the composite photograph thus obtained with the name of Antichrist is not very apparent. (Benjamin B. Warfield, “Antichrist,” The Expository Times, XXXII (1921), 358. Reprinted in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield — 1, ed. John E. Meeter (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), 356.)
All the world’s troubles have repeatedly been dumped into the antichrist doctrine, and yet when we study the subject from Scripture, we see that the word is found only in four verses of the NT (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7), has a specific definition (related to the incarnation and nature of Jesus as the Christ) and time of appearing (“even now” meaning then, not our “now”), and that there were many of them (“many antichrists have arisen”).
It is remarkable that a word so “characteristic of the School of John” does not appear in the Apocalypse, where it might have served the writer’s purpose in more than one passage. That the conception of a personal Antichrist existed among the Christians in Asia in the ﬁrst century is certain from I John ii. (Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St John: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes, and Indices (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1906), lxxv.)
The definition, number, and timing of these antichrists fit the period between Pentecost and the fulfillment of what Jesus said would happen before that generation ended (Matt. 24:34). Read the book of Acts and the historical record of Josephus. (See Morrison Lee, “Jesus and Josephus: Prophecy Meets History. All the Signs of Matthew 24 Fulfilled in the First Century.”) David Chilton’s Paradise Restored has a handy abridgment of the events surrounding Jerusalem’s destruction.
As the New Testament makes clear, apostasy was rampant almost from the church’s inception. The apostasy about which John wrote was operating in his day. Paul had to counter a “different gospel” that was “contrary” to what he had preached (Gal. 1:6–9). He had to battle “false brethren” (2:4, 11–21; 3:1–3; 5:1–12). He warned the Ephesian church leadership that “men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30). There would be wolves among the sheep (20:29). Theological insurrection came from within the Christian community.
Many people prior to Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 questioned and disputed basic Christian doctrines like the resurrection (2 Tim. 2:18). Some even claimed that the resurrection was an impossibility (1 Cor. 15:12). Strange doctrines were taught. Some “Christians” prohibited marriage (1 Tim. 4:1–3). Others denied the validity of God’s good creation (Col. 2:8, 18–23). The apostles found themselves defending the faith against numerous false teachers and “false apostles” (Rom. 16:17–18; 2 Cor. 11:3–4, 12:15; Phil. 3:18–19; 1 Tim. 1:3–7; 2 Tim. 4:2–5). Apostasy increased to such an extent that Paul had to write letters to a young pastor who was experiencing these things ﬁrsthand (1 Tim. 1:19–20; 6:20–21; 2 Tim. 2:16–18; 3:1–9, 13; 4:10, 14–16). In addition, entire congregations fell to apostasy:
One of the last letters of the New Testament, the book of Hebrews, was written to an entire Christian community on the very brink of wholesale abandonment of Christianity. The Christian church of the ﬁrst generation was not only characterized by faith and miracles; it was also characterized by increasing lawlessness, rebellion, and heresy from within the Christian community—just as Jesus foretold in Matthew 24. (David Chilton, Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), 108.)
The book of Revelation recounts heretical teachings that affected the churches: “evil men” (2:2), “those who call themselves apostles” but who are found to be “false” (2:6), a revival of “the teaching of Balaam” (2:14), those “who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (2:15), the toleration of the “woman Jezebel … who leads” God’s “bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacriﬁced to idols” (2:20). The apostasy was alive and well on planet earth in the ﬁrst century (2 Thess. 2:3).
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not dismissing the evil in the world and the potential for the success of what people are calling the Great Reset. The problem is linking all of what’s going on today to Bible prophecy. It’s been done and overdone for centuries. It’s long past time for a Great Eschatology Reset.
Eschatology 101: Bible Prophecy Essentials
In this course, Gary DeMar strips Bible prophecy of all of its mystical and magical interpretations and sets the record straight. Complete with audio, video, and text, Eschatology 101 is the next best thing to sitting in a classroom with Gary himself. It is a lifetime of study and research packed into a comprehensive and eye-opening collection. Christians of all ages and levels of experience will learn to study Bible prophecy with confidence.Buy Now